By Malie Hudson
For over 40 years, Riverside Life Services has been helping women with unintended pregnancies in Riverside make well-informed decisions about their pregnancy.
Nearly two years ago, nursing student Jenn Lundy and her boyfriend were faced with an unplanned pregnancy. She recalled feeling very sick the night she learned she was pregnant and checked herself into the emergency room at Riverside Community Hospital. With her boyfriend by her side, she asked the ultrasound technician if she could see her baby. She said that she was told that it wasn’t a baby yet and that at five weeks and five days gestation, it was just a clump of cells.
“Everyone had convinced my boyfriend that our baby was, in fact, a clump of cells and that I should have an abortion,” said Lundy. “He was not ready to be a dad and left me. I was alone and so scared.”
Lundy was raised Catholic in a small town in East San Diego County and says she was taught that abortion is wrong. But the reality of being young and pregnant and facing her family terrified her.
“I called Planned Parenthood and hoped to get an ultrasound because my obstetrician couldn’t see me for weeks,” she said. “They asked me if I was calling for an abortion and I said no. They told me they couldn’t help me and hung up.”
She spent hours online searching for a pregnancy center that could help her. Riverside Life Services appeared in the search results and she set up an appointment.
“I went there in tears, praying they would help me,” she said. “They sat with me for over an hour assuring me it would be okay. They offered counseling and a free ultrasound. When I saw my baby on the screen, I knew there was no way I could have an abortion. It was definitely a baby, even at such an early stage.
“They offered to have my boyfriend come in and they could show him that it was definitely not a clump of cells. He reluctantly came and they showed him the baby, his developing body and let him listen to the baby’s heartbeat. He took the ultrasound photos with him and kept them. We ended up getting back together and he was so happy once we found out we were having a baby boy. I continued to go to Riverside Life Services for counseling my entire pregnancy.”
Brayden Lundy was born on June 24, 2016 and he was baptized into the Catholic faith the following October.
“He was beautiful,” said Lundy. “I cried and cried and couldn’t believe it had even crossed my mind to have an abortion.”
Since Brayden’s birth, Lundy has taken a semester off college to stay home and enjoy her son. She plans to return to school in the summer to work on her Bachelor’s in Nursing and hopes to someday become a pediatric registered nurse.
Lundy is one of thousands of women helped by Riverside Life Services. The clinic offers free or low cost prenatal care, free pregnancy testing, free ultrasound, pregnancy counseling, referrals, adoption information, pre abortion counseling, where women are provided with a complete detail of what a woman’s body goes through and what a baby endures during the procedure and post abortion counseling for women experiencing grief. The clinic also has an expanded evening clinic that offers all the services provided during the day and well woman appointments, sexual transmitted infections (STI) testing and more.
Recently, the clinic expanded its reach with a new mobile clinic they call “the stork bus.” The bus goes out every Monday and is set up at public sites with high visibility like malls and colleges. Clients are offered free pregnancy tests, STI testing and counseling for pregnant women.
“We would like to take it somewhere like Moreno Valley because it’s an STD hotspot and there is no pregnancy counseling center there,” said Casey Angulo, Riverside Life Services Executive Director, who has been with the organization since high school when she served as a volunteer. “The clients that come to us from Moreno Valley take the bus and it takes a couple of hours by bus even though it’s only a few miles away.”
The brick and mortar clinic’s online appointment calendar is constantly booked. According to Angulo, the clinic serves over 120 people each month.
The clinic is located within walking distance from St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside. For several years, the parish has coordinated an annual “White Crosses” event on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Rows of white crosses are set up on the lawn in front of the entrance of the church and across the street.
“Parishioners are welcomed to our table after Mass to get a piece of ribbon and tie the ribbons around the cross of their choice,” explained Maggie Meyer, Coordinator of the parish’s Respect Life Ministry. “As they’re tying that ribbon, they are supposed to be spiritually, in their hearts and minds, taking a baby for nine months and praying for that child that their parents would choose life. We call it a spiritual adoption.”
Donations are welcomed during the event and divided between Riverside Life Services and two other pro-life organizations.
The Diocesan Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care also supports Riverside Life Services and a number of other pregnancy counseling centers in the area through its annual Mother’s Day Rose Sale. Thirty-eight parishes around the Diocese participate in purchasing the roses.
“I think that all women should know what an abortion looks like or what the morning after pill is no matter where they stand on the issue,” said Mary Huber, Director of Respect Life and Pastoral Care for the Diocese. “That’s always been the problem. Women aren’t given the proper information so basically people are making decisions based on inaccuracies.
“It’s too often that I get a call later on from women crying because they didn’t understand what was going to happen. So these centers try to show the reality of what these abortions do.”
Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.