Informing and Learning About Unplanned Pregnancies: Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center
By Cannon Miller and Amy Williams
About the center
The Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center is an organization in Cullowhee whose primary goal is “to give options and to educate and help women who are pregnant in difficult situations,” according to the Outreach Director, Cherry Martin. The first pregnancy care center in the area started in Franklin. There was a problem with unplanned teen pregnancies, so a local pastor’s wife decided in 2001, as a response to the hopelessness and despair of this problem, that there should be a place where all ages of women could go for help. Finally, in 2003, the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center was founded. The Cullowhee location was added shortly after. This location has an average of over 200 visitors per year.
Where it is located
The location was chosen for its close proximity to the Western Carolina University campus. The center is down Little Savannah Road. This road intersects with Highway 107; Huddle House and Exxon are on the corner. The building is located on the left side of the road, next to the post office.
What the center does
The center is designed to help those with unplanned pregnancies. Visitors are given a free, laboratory-quality pregnancy test, and an on-staff registered nurse provides an ultrasound and prenatal vitamins to those who test positive. They are then given information regarding their various options including parenthood, adoption, and abortion. They also offer information on the Morning After Pill and RU-486 abortion pill. Women are also told about community resources available for anyone who needs them. Women are given life skills and knowledge so they know how to get in the right direction, including what to expect during the different stages of the pregnancy, how to care for themselves during pregnancy and what is to come after the baby is born. They receive specifics on feeding and nutrition, helping the baby to sleep through the night, and ensuring car seat safety, and they learn about certain safety issues such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The center also provides post-abortion counseling for those needing support and healing. The center helps take the burden of unplanned pregnancies off of the community.
The first meeting
When a woman comes in for the first time and might be pregnant, she is offered a free pregnancy test. From there, she is given an ultrasound by a registered nurse who is employed full-time at the center. She hears about all options: parenthood, adoption, and abortion. She may also be provided with information regarding the risks of premarital sex, including STDs. She receives resources to help with her pregnancy. Women can participate in the “Earn While You Learn” program where they come in for free lessons on pregnancy and parenting and are given “baby bucks” which can be exchanged for things needed for the baby or maternity clothes for the mother. Everything the center provides has been donated by someone in the community. All services are free.
Volunteers are given free training. They are always needed to assist with answering phones and organizing the baby and maternity closet. Volunteers also help with the Baby Bottle Campaign, which is a fundraiser held in local churches and businesses where workers and members of the congregation fill baby bottles with money to support the center. Volunteers help keep track of the bottles. In the fall, the center holds a catered fundraising dinner in Franklin with a guest speaker. Volunteers are needed to help sell tickets and set up the dining area. The center also occasionally holds concerts and other events, and volunteers can help with these events.
A student organization called Random Acts has been starting on campus to raise awareness of unplanned pregnancies and the risks of premarital sex. This group goes to local schools and churches, talking to younger kids about abstinence and the risks of premarital sex, including pregnancy and STDs. An example of an activity this group would do is showing a film to a group of kids and then letting them ask any questions about the situations in the movie. For example, they recently showed a film titled “Come What May” to residents in a university dorm. This film dealt with the question of when life begins. This activity was done in order to clear up misconceptions that students have about the center, such as the untrue assumption that they show pictures of aborted babies.
If you have any questions or would like more information you can visit www.smpcc.org or call (828) 293-3600.