Chris Veteto said she hears the stories all the time when she’s in the checkout line at Sam’s Club or Walmart, and she’s overwhelmed by God’s mercy every time.
“If I use my Birth Choice card to pay for something for the clinic, someone will notice it and tell me their own story or the story of someone they know,” said Veteto, who serves as clinic director for Birth Choice, a pregnancy resource center in Jackson, Tennessee.
“I hear things like, ‘My daughter gave birth to my granddaughter after coming there,’ or ‘Here’s a pic of my 10-year-old son, the light of my life,’ or ‘I don’t know what I would’ve done without all the material assistance you gave me.’”
The clinic, which turns 34 in March, has now been open long enough that the staff and volunteers aren’t just seeing babies born because of the ministry — they’re seeing those babies grow up and have babies themselves.
“When a woman changes her mind about abortion and chooses life, every generation to follow that baby is saved as well,” Veteto said. “We have gotten to see it play out now because we’ve been here so long.”
Birth Choice is one of more than 2,500 pro-life pregnancy resource centers across the U.S. focused on helping mothers have the information and practical support they need to deliver and parent their children.
Initially Birth Choice began by offering free pregnancy testing in a time when pregnancy tests weren’t as affordable or readily available, Veteto said. That resource, along with practical helps and counseling, was enough to encourage and support many women to deliver their babies. But in the 1990s, the numbers of women choosing life began a downward slide both at Birth Choice and at other centers.
So as Birth Choice crossed into the 2000s, its staff — along with around 100 other clinics across the country — began offering ultrasounds to allow the mother to see her baby and hear his or her heartbeat.
“We found out if a woman can see her own baby in her womb and hear that baby’s heartbeat, it can make all the difference,” Veteto said. “The impact was unbelievable.”
That impact spread to other clinics over the years, and it has continued. In 2022, Birth Choice saw 134 mothers choose life over abortion — 137 babies total, as three mothers had twins, Veteto said.
That was during a year when a “stunning” move happened — the federal protections for abortion offered through Roe v. Wade were overturned in June by the Supreme Court after nearly 50 years and more than 63 million abortions.
“It’s an awesome thing, and we want to try to be what God would have us to be in light of it,” Veteto said.
Birth Choice’s numbers in 2022 are on pace with years prior, so Veteto said they haven’t seen a big change thus far. But she said she has noticed a difference in the mindset of women who are calling the clinic.
New kind of client
In the past, Birth Choice has typically had two kinds of clients — those who are life-minded and those who are abortion-minded. Both feel hopeless and are looking for help when they call or come by, Veteto said.
But in the aftermath of the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Veteto said they’re seeing a third type of client — women who may routinely go to abortion clinics and are angry or panicked now that the option isn’t available in Tennessee.
The Monday after the Supreme Court decision, one woman who called told Veteto she was absolutely getting an abortion, even if that meant she had to drive to another state.
But another woman who called that day looking for an abortion ended up coming in and, in the end, decided to deliver her baby. She told Veteto she was surprised to find that the clinic was a peaceful place where she felt safe.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is share hope. When we love them and give them truth, it’s remarkable how they’ll change their minds and choose life,” Veteto said.
People who offer hope
That’s who the staff and volunteers of Birth Choice want to be — people who offer love, help and hope, she said, adding that sometimes people who haven’t met them have preconceived notions that aren’t true.
Veteto said she remembers being part of a panel discussion in the ’90s where a woman pointed her finger at Veteto and said, “You’re out there telling women they shouldn’t have an abortion, but then what do you do for them?”
Veteto calmly began to describe what that looks like.
“We walk through the pregnancy with them. We have parenting classes, childbirth and breastfeeding classes and offer anything they need materially,” she told the woman, who responded, “Well — that’s you.”
Veteto told her it wasn’t just Birth Choice.
“There’s a lot of me out there. The pregnancy clinics are doing that. They’re on the front lines, and we’re doing everything we can to meet those needs,” she said.