By Anthony Barich
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart has opened a Pregnancy Assistance (PA) centre in Frankston after extensive consultation with organisers of the Perth agency of the same name.
On October 7, the day debate began in Victoria’s Upper House for the Abortion Reform Bill that has now legalised abortion up to 24 weeks and will force doctors to refer patients to other doctors if they have a conscientious objection, Archbishop Hart opened Pregnancy Assistance in Frankston. “I went there to open it as I’m deeply conscious that where ever there is an unplanned pregnancy, people are very much on their own and they are in need of good advice, compassion and someone to walk with them and remind them that abortion isn’t the only solution, as it brings sadness and anxiety,” Archbishop Hart told The Record.
“This centre will remind people of the options and help them to work through the pregnancy with love.”
He said it started with “very energetic and capable” mothers and grandmothers who have been wanting to establish a pregnancy help centre in a shop front in Frankston for a number of years.
The Committee of Management is headed by president Elizabeth Ransom and vice president Denise Den Bakker, who have received PA’s monthly magazine Abundant Life for years and consulted extensively with Miriam Peachey and her husband Brian, who has chaired PA since its inception in September 1996.
After years of discussing the possibility of opening up such a centre, Mr Peachey addressed a group of 14 women and two men, including the Frankston parish priest, on February 4 detailing PA’s history, how it was started and operated and its effectiveness, and fielded many questions.
After attending World Youth Day in Sydney in July, Lydia Fernandez – who manages Perth’s PA which runs on fundraised money – briefed the Frankston group further, and by October 7 it opened, using Perth’s constitution and mode of operation.
Archbishop Hart praised the “very successful” work that PA has done, and at the opening, he said the centre will “fill a critical gap on the Mornington Peninsula and beyond, especially for young and needy people who’ve been seeking information and resources about the various challenges of pregnancy.”
He said Frankston PA will also provide free pregnancy tests along with financial, family and relationship support.
“At a time when our State parliamentarians are debating changes to our abortion laws, communities will welcome the establishment of centres such as these which very much identify with the anxiety of single mothers, mums with several young children and those who’ve also been abandoned by partner or families,” he said.
“One may be forgiven for suggesting that to live in the womb or old age should be considered endangered areas. Unplanned pregnancies don’t have to be regarded as crises to trigger alarm or despair. Environments like this will provide emotional support, assistance and advice without pressure. Women and girls in such distress, and their partners, will be particularly welcomed here.”