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Archives Respect Life: Called to serve moms in need
Plattsburgh Birthright looks to expand services

October 26, 2022

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

PLATTSBURGH – Birthright held an open house on Wednesday, October 19. They invited people from human service agencies and community leaders.

“We regularly receive referrals from the Department of Social Services, WIC, and Stop Domestic Violence. The open house was for people who were interested in taking a tour to see what Birthright is about and a luncheon was provided,” shared Mary Skillan, who officially became Birthright’s director at the end of the summer.

“I really feel we all need to step up the game (of helping the woman and baby after the birth too) – not that we don’t provide services – parenting classes, diapers, wipes, formula,” Skillan commented. “Women can come in every week and pick outfits out for their little ones.”

“Birthright’s foundress Louise Summerhill’s philosophy was that we need to be a friend, love, and continue beyond birth,” Skillan noted. “Our motto is ‘It is the right of every pregnant woman to give birth … and the right of every child to be born.’”

Skillan mentioned that sometimes women need help with more than supplies. A young mother, she related, may contact them any say: “‘This baby has had me up all night crying. What do I do?’ Unfortunately, not everyone is raised in a positive environment and with parents who have good parenting skills. We have parenting classes and a lot of it is providing mentoring, being a friend. Parenting classes go on to age two here, but many of our mentors and clients keep in touch as friends.”

“I want to educate and be proactive,” Skillan added. “Honestly I’ve been trying to read both sides of the coin to try to understand where people are coming from. Some don’t understand that we are non-denominational, non-judgmental, loving, and non-political. That’s what drew me to this organization. It’s all about loving the mom and dad, being there for parents and children. When a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy, she thinks it is a problem to be taken care of and quickly. Her boyfriend and family might tell her that if she doesn’t have an abortion, there will be a blot on their reputation. Her boyfriend may say ‘If you love me, you’ll do this.’ We need to be there for them, help them to take a breath.

“Terminating a pregnancy is an invasive medical procedure that has risks to the mother. Any procedure does. The long-term effects are physical as well as emotional.”

Skillan has more ideas to grow the organization in the future. Skillan said Birthright is constantly asking, “What else can we do to help those in need, to offer them love and support?”

Presently, clients are able to earn points simply by attending a parenting class and doing the assignments. They use the points to choose new items for their baby from Birthright’s Blessings Boutique.

One of their board members did the Birthright Ambassador Program at a local Church.

“We are happy to talk to Confirmation programs and speak to groups,” Skillan said.

Years ago, Birthright talked to Plattsburgh State University (PSU) health classes at the Newman Center, focusing on the life perspective.

At one of the classes, a former PSU couple was present, Skillan recalled. The wife shared about how she used to sun bathe on the roof next to the Newman Center. Then, she told the students how she got pregnant, went to Planned Parenthood, and terminated the pregnancy. Later, the couple married and had kids. They told their children about the abortion. One said, “You mean we could have had another sibling?”

Skillan emphasized the importance of youth getting involved in Birthright’s work.

“People could see this young woman as a peer, so they listened to what she had to say,” she said. “Peer to peer is so important in getting young people to respond.”

One of Birthright’s new board members is a young woman.

“It is good to get a fresh perspective, especially from somebody younger,” Skillan said.

When she was working as Campus Minister at the Newman Center, Skillan brought Birthright and Project Rachel brochures to the college. She and some other students were trying to begin a pro-life group there.

“It is tough for college kids on campus,” she said. “A student came over and said he supported us but couldn’t get involved because it would hurt his career.”

When he spoke up in class, his professor confronted him.

Prior to the pandemic, some nursing students volunteered at Birthright and hoped to work with them in organizing a blood drive.

Skillan recently attended a mini-conference on human trafficking and immigration at St. Joseph’s Outreach Center, Treadwells Mills.

“I87 is a major corridor for possible victims,” she stated. “It’s important that we be part of the team to support these people. If something doesn’t seem quite right, they can contact me.”

Birthright continues to work with other churches and agencies in the area to further help women and families.

“It is great to have connections and collaborate with other agencies,” Ms. Skillan reflected. “The Catholic faith community has always been wonderful about supporting Birthright. Evangelical communities send monthly donations, volunteer, and are very on fire for life. We continue to give layettes to mom’s expecting babies. We are just trying to make our presence known, to make people aware of who we are and the services that we offer. We want to expand our reach so that more people in Clinton County know we exist.”

Birthright of Plattsburgh also has a Facebook page and is advertising with Sun Community News under their activities calendar. Birthright accepts monetary donations and material donations, especially items for new babies. Hours are Monday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Birthright is hoping to have Saturday hours soon and expand their hours on other days.

For more information, to visit, or volunteer, call 518-324-2010. Birthright also operates a 24-hour help line at 1-800-550-4900.

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