Compassion in crisis: Pregnancy hotline counsels the doubtful, fearful

Brenda Thomson
Brenda Thomson, co-director of Opportunities for Life, a 24/7 hotline for those experiencing crisis pregnancies, speaks on the phone in her Owensboro office.

By Elizabeth Wong Barnstead | WKC

Brenda Thomson knows that her job is often a thankless one – but fortunately she’s not in it for the thanks.

As co-director of Opportunities for Life, a statewide program initiated by the Kentucky bishops to provide a 24/7 hotline for those with crisis pregnancies, Thomson and her volunteers have answered countless phone calls for help.

Year of Mercy series logo
The Jubilee Year of Mercy was established by Pope Francis to last from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016. The Western Kentucky Catholic is celebrating this holy year by featuring a series highlighting individuals who live the Works of Mercy around the Diocese of Owensboro. This month’s article, inspired by “counseling the doubtful,” explores Opportunities for Life, a Kentucky bishop-sponsored 24/7 hotline for those experiencing crisis pregnancies.

“Often when we talk to them they’re upset and crying,” said Thomson, explaining that the hotline does not try to persuade the callers toward a certain option – the goal is rather to provide a compassionate, empathetic person on the other line.

“Our goal is to help her see how choosing or not choosing life will impact her,” she said.

Thomson said that Opportunities for Life does not make decisions for the callers, but rather, hopes to show “God’s love through us over the phone in a non-judgmental manner.”

That means never getting into an argument with a caller who is contemplating abortion, she added, though if the caller is interested, the hotline will provide resources for prenatal care and even adoption information.

But once the conversation is over and the caller has hung up, Opportunities for Life doesn’t know what happens next.

“We try to educate people, empower them to make an informed choice,” said Thomson.  

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Pregnancy resources fill the shelves in the Opportunities for Life office in Owensboro.

She said that some callers have grown up never feeling loved or valued, which the hotline takes into consideration when providing as much empathy as possible.

One option provided is adoption through A Caring Connection, an adoption network formed out of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro and three other Catholic Charities adoption agencies in Kentucky.

A Caring Connection can usually meet with birth mothers within 24 hours after initial contact, and can even assist with housing through the Owensboro-based St. Gerard Life Home, a house for pregnant women who need shelter.

For women who don’t wish to completely lose contact with their babies after birth, A Caring Connection is willing to walk them through the open adoption experience.

Rita Heinz, director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Owensboro, said it is good to let women in crisis pregnancies know that “there is support out there.”

“Brenda was a (hotline) volunteer for many years before becoming co-director of Opportunities for Life,” said Heinz. “She’s very passionate about this.”

Thomson said that women experiencing crisis pregnancies are not the only callers to Opportunities for Life.

“We often talk to fathers, spouses, aunts, grandparents, mothers and fathers,” she said.

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“God danced the day you were born” reads a framed design hanging in Brenda Thomson’s Opportunities for Life office in Owensboro.

Thomson admitted it can be challenging to identify as pro-life and speak to someone who is set on choosing abortion, but uses the opportunity to speak in “an adoption-positive way” if the caller does not want to parent their baby.

Thomson said that the callers’ situations can be “very complicated,” so showing love and compassion is crucial.

“If they’ve encountered us they’ve experienced empathy and compassion and talked to someone non-judgmental about their situation,” said Thomson.

“It’s definitely a ministry where you don’t know the outcome,” she added. “I know that it’s not in my hands; it’s in God’s hands.”

For crisis pregnancy help, contact Opportunities for Life at 1-800-822-5824, email [email protected] or visit opportunitiesforlife.org

Interested in adoption? Visit A Caring Connection at kycaringconnection.org or call (270) 852-8328.

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