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Jason Olson, Deseret News
Jolee White, left, and Vicki Silva look at models of fetuses at the Pregnancy Resource Center in Orem.

OREM — Yes, young unmarried girls get pregnant in Utah County.

But that doesn't mean they have to turn to abortion, say officials of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Utah Valley, a nonprofit clinic that teaches girls and women about positive options for their pregnancies.

"A lot of our clients are (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), they don't want to bring embarrassment on their family, community or church," said Shelly Ver Steeg, executive director of the center. "And just because they're in this crisis, they're considering abortion, just to make it all go away. We try to get them to just stop and take a breath and realize that their life is not over. It's different, but it's not over and there are better options for them."

Employees of the nondenominational center, which has seen 191 clients this year, celebrated its new location at 1367 S. 740 East in Orem Friday with tours of the facility and discussions about the clinic's focus.

At the center, volunteers trained in peer counseling meet with young women who are worried they might be pregnant but are too scared to talk to parents or a doctor.

If the free pregnancy test is positive, the counselors talk with the girl to encourage her to approach her family, religious group and friends to set up a support system, "just like Sarah Palin and their family are doing," Ver Steeg said.

Republican vice-presidential nominee Palin has a 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, who is expecting a baby.

"Girls like Bristol are exactly (the type) we work with," Ver Steeg said. "The young unmarried need a place where they can come and get good advice, positive life-affirming, family-friendly advice. And that's what we're here for."

The group doesn't arrange adoptions nor provide health care, but they connect girls and women with those who do. The group does not refer for or otherwise condone abortions.

If the pregnancy test comes back negative, it becomes a teaching opportunity as the volunteers emphasize abstinence and the importance of making healthy choices in the future.

Jolee White, client services director, said when she tells people about the clinic she gets a familiar response: "There's not really a need for that in our community."

She cringes, then works even harder to educate young women about their bodies, teach them to make good choices and assure them that there are things worth waiting for.

The 191 clinic visits this year also include newly married women with pregnancy questions or mothers who feel overwhelmed dealing with a second or third pregnancy and little children.

The center offers classes on parenting and pregnancy and has a post-abortion counseling and education class for those who are struggling with a previous abortion. There's also a maternity shop where women can get free gently used baby clothes or maternity clothes.

The nonprofit group, a Care-Net affiliate, draws all its funding from private donations and is always open to in-kind and financial donations as well as volunteers.

There are four pregnancy centers in Utah; Ogden, Salt Lake, Orem and St. George.

Visitors to the Orem center are greeted with a wooden plaque proclaiming "Love is Spoken Here," and "Worth Waiting For" posters. Pamphlets encouraging clients to consider "Twelve Questions To Ask Before Becoming a Father" and "Am I Ready To Become a Mother?" sit within easy reach of plush couches.

Amber Thomsen was a volunteer at the clinic for nearly two years, working with clients. She even worked part-time for a bit.

"It was a really neat experience for me," she said. "I got to meet other people in the community ... and encourage girls to choose life."


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