Birthright was founded in 1968 in Toronto by Louise Summerhill to help pregnant women in distress. The guiding principle for Birthright is: “It is the right of every pregnant woman to give birth … and the right of every child to be born.” The nonprofit organization is not affiliated with any religion or political group. The purpose of Birthright is simply to help mothers in need to have their babies.
Birthright opened a chapter in Burlington in 1972. Aside from a brief closure in the 1980s, the organization has been a fixture in the Burlington area since 1990. The needs of clients have varied over the last few decades ranging from providing free pregnancy tests and adoption referrals to providing homemade blankets and layettes.
Today, Birthright works with caseworkers from organizations such as the University of Vermont Health Center, Howard Center, and the Department of Health to meet the needs of their clients before and after childbirth. Other times a parishioner may refer a woman to Birthright who is pregnant and in need of baby items.
Clients are seen weekly who have needs for clothing, diapers, and wipes. Other times there is a need for a referral for childcare or transportation to a doctor’s appointment. The need varies from client to client, and Birthright does what it can to meet those needs.
Birthright can help a woman work around obstacles that may be a source of stress and anxiety regarding pregnancy or motherhood. Knowing someone is there to walk with them can be of great comfort and relief in an environment where abortion is widely supported, particularly if the pregnant woman’s situation is not “ideal.”
Birthright also offers education in reproductive health. Young girls wait anxiously for their first menstrual period unsure of what to expect and perhaps ashamed or embarrassed by it. Mothers might feel insecure about how to broach the subject with their daughters or unsure themselves about ovulation or when a woman can become pregnant. It can be empowering for a young girl to have a healthy appreciation and understanding of what goes on in her body.
Birthright recently received a grant of $3,300 from the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation to sponsor Guiding Star’s Cycle Show for girls aged 9-12. The Cycle Show is an interactive, five-hour workshop that explains in a fun way what happens inside a woman’s body from hormone functions to ovulation, to menstruation to fertilization. There is also a workshop to help parents have a clearer understanding of reproductive health for themselves so they can have further conversations with their daughters.
Thanks to the VCCF grant, Birthright will be sponsoring Guiding Star on Nov. 4 at St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington. This event has limited seating.
To register or for more information about Birthright and how you can help or to receive the newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, call 802-865-0056.
—Valerie Parzyck has been the director of Birthright in Burlington since 2021.