Gabriel Project still fighting for life

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Jan. 12, 2018 at 3:21 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2018 at 6 a.m.

A Victoria Gabriel Project sign stands outside Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Glass Street.

A Victoria Gabriel Project sign stands outside Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Glass Street.   Angela Piazza for The Victoria Advocate

When Barbara McCain Williams helped launch the Gabriel Project in 2002 in Victoria, she knew it would provide a safe haven for young mothers in need.

If the nonprofit opened, she said, she knew she could help some young pregnant mothers realize there were options beyond abortion, if they were considering it.

As a Catholic organization, the Gabriel Project provides alternatives for pregnant women, such as baby supplies and hygienic items, rides to and from doctor's appointments or work, adoption support, prayer and someone unbiased to talk to.

McCain has always said the Gabriel Project "angels," or the volunteers who help the pregnant moms with counseling and support, are vital to the women considering abortion.

Indeed, that's the mission. The ministry operates in faith and hope that young mothers will realize abortion isn't the only way out, and there is support from a community if they will allow the organization's angels to step in.

Under the umbrella of the Diocese of Victoria, the Gabriel Project exists to save lives and defend the lives of the unborn, speaking on their behalf when they cannot.

"Our work begins with a phone call. The mothers call in and that begins a conversation. And it just depends on what the situation is as to how we help them," said McCain Williams, who has seen the Gabriel Project grow to help hundreds of married and unmarried pregnant women in the Crossroads. "We never know if it's going to be an ongoing need or a one-time need. But we have heard mothers tell us they were considering abortion before the Gabriel Project, and now they're keeping the baby."

As the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches Jan. 22, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case allowing women the right to an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, McCain Williams is very aware the work of her ministry is making an impact.

A 2017 report published by the Guttmacher Institute states legalized abortions fell to their lowest level since Roe v. Wade passed. The abortion rate is currently about 14.6 per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 years old.

At its peak in 1980 and 1981, the rate was 29.3.

Roe v. Wade continues to be lobbied against by many in the pro-life campaign, which includes many denominations of Christianity, especially Catholics, many of whom believe their advocacy and prayer will overturn the law.

"I don't know if it will be in my lifetime; it depends on how long God lets me live," McCain Williams said, laughing. "But it's a real possibility. I think we're getting closer."

The case was filed by Dallas resident, Norma McCorvey or "Jane Roe," against Dallas County district attorney Henry Wade, who then was the enforcer of the Texas law previously prohibiting abortion.

Despite her win in court, McCorvey did not seek an abortion. She carried her baby to term and gave it up for adoption. She later converted to Catholicism and joined the pro-life movement until her death in February 2017.

Stephanie Spears, Gabriel Project's director of communications, said she remembers when Roe v. Wade passed into law, she was a newly graduated high school student, and he remembers life before legal abortions.

Girls in high school who became pregnant were allowed to attend until a certain week in the pregnancy and were then sent to a home for women where they could have their baby or give it up for adoption.

Some of the mothers got married, she said.

After the law passed, Spears knew she wanted to get involved.

"There weren't as many opportunities to do something as there are now," she said, mentioning she believes the efforts of ministries like Gabriel Project nationwide have been driven down the abortion rate. "And ultimately, I wanted to speak for the babies. They do not have a voice, and we want to be there."

Both women feel there is much more work to do in the Crossroads and many more women to help.

They want all women to know there is a place to go if they need help and that a phone call to the Gabriel Project may be the best place to start if they're considering an abortion.

"The main thing we want to do for the moms is help them stay in touch. That's our focus. We never want them to call and no one answers the phone," McCain Williams said.

Sunday, the Gabriel Project board voted to approve a Maternity Home Committee that will move forward with researching the viability of a home for pregnant mothers in Victoria. During the next several months, they will prepare a report, including costs and items necessary for opening a short-term residence for pregnant women in need.

McCain Williams, a real estate agent, already said she is aware of several properties that would work well for such a home.

"There's a similar home in Austin that last year had to turn away more than 600 women," she said, mentioning Victoria's maternity home, if launched, could serve a wider area of Texas.

Until they learn more about whether Gabriel Project can expand to include a maternity home, the women are doing all they can to maintain services for those already reaching out.

And they will continue to do all they can to educate women away from legal abortions.

"There is so much information out there trying to convince women their pregnancy is not a baby and that's simply not true. It's a baby at conception, and that's what we're fighting for," Spears said. "It's my feeling that we're very close to abolishing this."


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