By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Three decades ago — long before our phones were gateways to the Internet and all of its resources — Kentucky women who found themselves in unplanned pregnancies used the phone book to explore their options and look for services. Some of them found the Opportunities for Life hotline, a toll-free 800 number.
It was answered by a trained volunteer who offered a listening ear and pointed the caller to resources that could help her on her journey.
This ministry was established in 1986 by the bishops of Kentucky, just 13 years after abortion on demand was legalized in the United States. The annual Opportunities for Life collection, which will be taken up in parishes statewide this weekend, supports the ministry.
But instead of the telephone hotline, this year’s collection will be invested in other ministries to support the culture of life around Kentucky.
The hotline officially ended with the close of 2018.
“After careful consideration, the bishops have determined that operating the OFL hotline is no longer the best stewardship of funds collected in support of the mission to promote a pro-life culture in Kentucky, in the hopes of reducing (if not eliminating) abortions in the Commonwealth,” said a press release issued by the four bishops of Kentucky.
The release noted, “In the 1980s, operating a hotline was a wise, efficient and accessible way to offer support to a woman who found herself dealing with an untimely pregnancy. At that time, pregnant women had fewer options for support, and fewer ways to access information about the resources available to them.
“Undoubtedly, many lives were changed and indeed saved through the devoted effort of OFL volunteers over the decades,” the release noted. By the end, 40 volunteers were still active in the ministry. In the late 1990s, at least 150 volunteers were involved.
In the hotline’s place, each of Kentucky’s dioceses “will adopt its own plan to use OFL funds collected within the diocese,” the press release said. The funds will be used to serve “the needs of pregnant women in crisis, in light of specific needs and other supports available within that community,” the release said.
In the Archdiocese of Louisville, Catholic Charities will administer funds from the collection, which has typically yielded
about $47,000 in recent years.
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher, CEO of Catholic Charities of Louisville, outlined three ways the funds will be used initially.
First, the agency will establish a “lifeline fund,” a designated fund to provide financial assistance to expectant mothers and new parents. The fund may provide such things as a deposit for an apartment, a car seat, medical bills or cash assistance on an emergency basis.
The agency will also provide referrals to its programs or its partners offering services parents might need.
The fund will begin with about $15,000.
Catholic Charities also plans to award grants to other pro-life agencies, depending on funding each year.
In 2019, the Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center will receive a grant to help manage its after-hours calls. The center directed its phones to the Opportunities for Life hotline until it closed at the end of last year.
Finally, the collection will provide programming through the Family Ministries Office. The office plans to offer a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, a weekend retreat for healing after abortion.