Volunteers needed to reopen Birthright of Charleston


CHARLESTON — For two former volunteers with Birthright of Charleston, two years is too long for the Lowcountry to be without this emergency pregnancy service offering positive alternatives to abortion.

Mary Register and Ann Davis are both working to find new volunteers to come forward and reopen a Birthright facility in this See City. The previous office was closed in 1996 after a 22-year tenure in Charleston.

Birthright was founded in 1960 in Toronto, Canada, by Louise Summerhill, a housewife and mother. After working in other pro-life efforts, Summerhill began her own program, whose founding she chronicled in the book The Story of Birthright: The Alternative to Abortion.

There are now over 700 chapters in the United States and Canada and several other foreign countries. Each chapter works independently of one another, except where the policies and charter of Birthright are concerned.

The Lowcountry chapter was established in Charleston in 1974 by a group of volunteers dedicated to following Summerhill’s policies.

Now, Register and Davis, both former leaders in the Charleston Birthright office, are looking for new staffers to follow Summerhill’s creed to “love in advance every woman who calls for help.”

Birthright is an emergency pregnancy service that offers help to distressed, confused and lonely young women. It gives free pregnancy tests, medical and community referrals, maternity and baby clothing and cribs when available, and above all help to those who are distressed by an unplanned pregnancy.

All services are confidential and non-judgmental. Birthright also pledges complete confidentiality to all clients, regardless of age.

Referrals are made to doctors when necessary, the Department of Social Services, adoption agencies, shelter homes and even professional counseling.

In Charleston, Birthright was funded by church affiliated groups and concerned members of the community.

Two offices were eventually staffed, one on St. Andrews Boulevard in Charleston and another on Remount Road in North Charleston, to better serve women in the Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Summerville and Ladson areas.

At its peak, 25 volunteers staffed the offices of Birthright of Charleston, handling everything from crisis telephone calls, providing refreshments, arranging transportation for clients, picking up donated goods, typing up newsletters and attending speaking engagements.

Parishioners from Church of the Nativity on James Island, Stella Maris on Sullivan’s Island and Christ Our King in Mount Pleasant constituted a large number of the volunteers, said organizers.

The Birthright telephone number was advertised daily in newspapers and in the Yellow Pages of the phone book.

For the telephone volunteers, perhaps the first service offered was arranging an anonymous free pregnancy test. Then assistance was offered in obtaining what further help was needed, be it legal assistance, advice on continuing education, facilities, a place to live, maternity clothes, baby clothes or furniture.

Davis said she could remember “making a quick intercession to the Lord” when handling her first phone call, which dealt with inquiring about an abortion.

Staffers were trained to know the operative community resources and have at their fingertips the names and phone numbers of professionals who made themselves available to Birthright in the medical, legal and ministerial fields

Office hours were from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and evening hours were available Monday through Thursday from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., although both Register and Davis said the vast majority of clients were seen during the daytime hours.

In July of 1996, Birthright was down to half a dozen volunteers, less than a quarter of its peak number, and the decision was made to close the Charleston office. “The primary reason is that our office volunteers are just worn out, and we have not been able too recruit enough replacements,” stated the last newsletter mailed to the supporters of Birthright on July 20.

However, “If you or someone you know would like to try to bring Birthright back to life, please have them get in touch with us,” continued the letter.

After a two-year hiatus, the quest has begun anew to reach individuals who are motivated by a deep reverence for life and concern for all expectant mothers.

“Just saving one little baby, that’s what its all about,” said Register. “And bring comfort to the girls’ in a trying situation.”

Added Davis, “It’s the baby’s right to life. It’s every child’s right to be born.”

For more information concerning reopening Birthright of Charleston or to volunteer in any way with the effort, contact Mary Register at (843) 852-0206.