By Marissa Romero
SAN DIEGO — The Association for Life is celebrating 30 years of becoming “better together” at saving unborn lives, helping moms in need, and supporting women’s healing after abortion. It’s made up of 20 life-affirming organizations in San Diego and Imperial counties.
Representatives of the association’s member organizations, which include pregnancy resource centers and clinics, gathered Aug. 9 for a 30th anniversary celebration at the Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Diego. The ecumenical event included remarks by pioneer members of the association, a prayer session, lunch, and lively Christian music.
Thirty years ago, most pro-life, pregnancy-support organizations worked in “silos,” making them susceptible to vandalism and at risk of being shut down.
At that time, Dr. Michaelene Fredenburg, currently president and CEO of the Institute of Reproductive Grief Care in San Diego, approached the diocesan Office for Social Ministry with the idea of arranging a meeting of all pregnancy centers in San Diego County.
These organizations discovered that they became “stronger together,” Fredenburg said, explaining the origins of the Association for Life.
Now a united front, most of the pregnancy support centers not only survived but flourished. In fact, some became accredited medical clinics.
“When we transitioned from a center to a clinic, people who had already walked that road helped us and shared what they learned,” said Sharon Pearce, one of the association’s pioneer members. She is the executive director of Silent Voices, a pro-life pregnancy support clinic in Chula Vista.
“Those interactions have been invaluable over the years,” she added.
Through cross-functional training and shared activities, the association helps the pro-life organizations.
This is a place where experienced directors enjoy mentoring and collaborating with the emerging ones, “making everyone stronger,” Fredenburg said.
Anita Krisik, another pioneer member and the executive director of the Ramona Pregnancy Clinic, agreed.
Without much experience 30 years ago, Krisik said she benefited from the training she received through the Association for Life’s meetings. On a personal level, she said, they also helped her daughter endure the loss of her terminal child back in 2000.
“To be able to walk into a room full of ‘friends of life’ is a blessing,” Pearce added.
Josh McClure, executive director of the Pregnancy Care Clinic in Santee, led the 30th anniversary celebration’s prayer and reminded attendees to stay vigilant in the public policy arena.
First, there is AB-602, a California Assembly bill that relates to false advertising involving pregnancy-related services. McClure said the bill could allow abortion advocates to target pro-life pregnancy centers based on their own interpretations of what constitutes false information.
Second, AB-1720, involving prenatal screenings, limits the provision of ultrasounds, which is “a key part of what we do to help women understand what is going on with their pregnancy, to remove the veil, to remove the lies they are being told,” McClure added.
Hannah Oliver is executive director of Alternatives Medical Clinic in Escondido, which provides free, confidential educational and medical services to empower pregnant women to make life-affirming choices.
“I’m so encouraged by the community in San Diego County that has pro-life warriors. We are not alone,” she said.
“Women that walk through our door are always surprised to know that there is a community of people that walk along their side … to equip them not just to choose life but as moms,” she said. “Not just one clinic, but there is a whole community of believers that want to see them thrive.”
“The benefit of being in the Association for Life is the cohesiveness of different pregnancy resource centers and pro-life organizations helping one another,” said Michael Brault, a board member of Silent Voices and a member of the Knights of Columbus’ San Diego Diocese Chapter. “That is not the case everywhere … (but) here in San Diego, we are unified in helping to serve God by saving lives.”