Shoemaker, Freeman voice concerns about social services funding

Washougal City Councilors generate attention for their views on abortion

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Comments made by two Washougal City Council members two weeks ago have generated a lot of attention regarding their views on abortion.

Dave Shoemaker said during the Nov. 18 council meeting he wanted to delete the $7,500 in the 2014 proposed city budget, earmarked for the East County Family Resource Center, and Connie Jo Freeman echoed that thought.

Shoemaker mentioned that providing social services is a county mission, and the city already provides the building at 1702 “C” St. rent-free, with maintenance, utilities and janitorial services.

“I discovered this year that East County social services refers people to health care providers who provide abortions,” he said. “I’m definitely not in favor of that on the basis that some of the people that are paying the taxes that would support this effort have a conscience issue with that sort of thing.”

Freeman recalled asking Cathy Garland, interim director of Children’s Home Society, during the Nov. 4 workshop, what they do when young women who think they might be pregnant and want a pregnancy test visit the social services center.

Garland said the women would be referred to Sea Mar Community Health Centers.

“With some investigation with some people in the community, I learned that Sea Mar — if an individual does not want to keep their child — they refer them for an abortion,” Freeman said.

She mentioned that Pathways, formerly known as the Community Pregnancy Clinic of Camas-Washougal, provides free pregnancy tests.

“We want to do everything local,” Freeman said. “Why are we sending people to Vancouver to a place that does not take care of the women and the unborn children in the fashion that should be done?

“This is not a place for the city to be funding, when they are sending folks down the road past our local clinic,” she added.

Since then Freeman has taken a tour of the East County Family Resource Center, and she has changed her mind about funding after determining that referrals are made to the pregnancy clinic.

“Cathy sent confusing messages at her presentation and didn’t appear to have solid personal experience with the Community Pregnancy Clinic,” Freeman wrote in an email Monday. “My tour seems to have resolved that, but I want to definitely build a relationship between the city, Children’s Home Society and community.”

Luana Nery, Clark County Maternity Support Services manager of Sea Mar, said most patients come to maternity support with a clear sense that they are planning to parent their child.

“A very few pregnant women might be conflicted about their options, and in that case the social worker or nurse will provide reflective listening and therapeutic counseling that allows the woman to explore for herself how she is feeling about the pregnancy,” she said. “Due to professional ethics and boundaries, the staff at Maternity Support Services is at no time permitted to direct the woman towards any one option over the other.

“If the woman is not sure that she wants to be a parent, then adoption and abortion are both mentioned as options,” Nery added. “Most women who are uncertain about their ability to adequately parent a child have already considered both options before seeking support.”

In addition to Maternity Support Services and the Women, Infant Child program, the East County Family Resource Center offers parenting groups and education, play and learn groups, mental health services and a computer lab to connect to employment and other services.

According to Garland, the center served 300 families from July 1 to Oct. 31, this year. That included 1,521 emergency food bags, 198 children received clothing and other items, and 91 children received backpacks stuffed with school supplies.

“Twenty-five children per week participate in the weekend backpack food program, which provides food to children who are at risk of hunger on days when school meals are not available,” Garland said.

If a pregnant woman calls or visits the East County Family Resource Center looking for resources, Garland said they could assist with food, clothing and other baby items that are ordered through Northwest Children’s Outreach.

If the woman did not have medical coverage, she could apply for that on the Washington State Department of Health and Social Services kiosk at the center.

“If she is interested in women’s health resources, we give her the number for the Community Pregnancy Clinic of Camas/Washougal and lists of health and other resources provided by the Council for the Homeless and local churches,” Garland said. “She would also receive information on rental and utility assistance in Camas and Washougal and a parenting education resource list.”

Garland said the $7,500 that the Children’s Home Society receives from the city goes to providing the salary and benefits for the East Count Family Resource Center Coordinator, Renee Law.

“We could not continue to provide the current hours of operation for the East County Family Resource Center if this funding is cut,” Garland said.