After Roe, Gabriel Project serves more mothers in need

May 23, 2023

Baby supplies at a mothers' assistance ministry are seen at St. John Vianney Parish in Houston. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald).

HOUSTON — With the reversal of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, the Gabriel Project has seen in influx of pregnant women seeking assistance.
Niki Sikinger, co-coordinator of the Gabriel Project ministry at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, said that, before the ruling, the program would average around 40 women annually. Last year, the ministry helped more than 100 women, most of them migrants from South America.

“Our mission is to bring them closer to God and help them navigate the government red tape,” to access assistance and healthcare, she said. “When they come here they usually have nothing, and that is the main contributing factor to their ‘crisis’ pregnancy.”

While most mothers are often looking for immediate assistance, Sikinger said when a longer relationship grows between the two, it’s a “huge blessing.”

“Our most inspiring stories are when the moms keep in touch with us after the baby is born,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of our moms baptize their children in the Catholic faith, and we helped one mom send her two older daughters to CCE and they had their First Communion at St. Thomas More. It is a huge blessing when we get moms who want to have a relationship with us, but more importantly, a good relationship with God.”

The Gabriel Project is a pro-life parish-based ministry of the Archdiocese supporting women experiencing difficulty during pregnancy. Gabriel Project volunteers provide advice and help, as well as spiritual support.

Sikinger said their first mom, Mirielle, came from Haiti, pregnant and afraid. She went to an abortion clinic, and on her way in she saw someone from St. Thomas More’s Gabriel Project praying outside. She went over and asked her why she was praying and what was she praying for.

“The woman praying was our leader at the time, and she said, ‘I am praying for you and your baby,’” she said. Mirielle didn’t follow through with the abortion and had a baby girl who recently graduated from college and works in New York City’s financial industry.

Sikinger said they have a great support system through St. Thomas More and their Knights of Columbus, and a group of Strake Jesuit students gathered diapers and wipes.

“We couldn’t help all the women we do without our parish support,” she said.

“The Gabriel Project is a very important pro-life mission, and it’s especially relevant today because it actively works to help and support pregnant mothers in need,” Father Clark Sample, pastor of St. Thomas More said. “It can and does bring these mothers a sense of hope.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Other abortion legislation is pending.

According to Julie Fritsch Dumalet, JD, director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities, said for now the abortion pill can still be used in states that do not prohibit abortion outright (states may still ban abortion generally).

“Texas, and similar states still prohibit the abortion pill, although we believe Texas women are still accessing the pill via internet sites,” she said.

The legal proceedings concerning the abortion pill involved concerns about the way the FDA extended its use, while not following its own administrative procedures, which are designed to adequately evaluate drug safety.

“One example involves FDA’s extension of the period of ‘safe’ use of the drug from seven weeks gestation to 10 weeks gestation,” Dumalet said. “In another instance, the FDA allowed prescriptions of the pill via telemedicine; without a physical exam, accurate estimate of gestational age, evaluation for ectopic pregnancy, etc, becomes more difficult. As a result, it appears emergency room visits are four times as likely following use of the abortion pill than with a surgical abortion, often for bleeding and infection issues.”

Dumalet said she’s following recent legislation that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers from two months to a year postpartum.

“This will help vulnerable moms... and hopefully contribute to better outcomes for them and for their kids,” she said.

In the middle of the legislation are mothers seeking resources to help answer questions about pregnancy, childcare and parenting. The Gabriel Project works to fill that need.

Cathie Lobpries, co-coordinator of the Gabriel Project ministry at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Katy, said they also saw an increase in pregnant mothers seeking car seats, strollers and bedding and other assistance that their ministry provides.

The group’s volunteers invite the families to Mass, as well as meet and pray with them and to include them and offer a caring community at the parish.
“We encourage them to return to the church and also to have their babies baptized. Most of our (volunteers) have formed a long-term friendship with the mothers they have assisted,” she said.
Lobpries said the stories of moms coming from Mexico and other countries are inspiring to her.
“Their struggle from leaving their home country, the difficulty getting here, having nothing when they get here, in many cases they have very little hope,” she said. “Then, we are able to provide them with all the material needs for their baby, and the friendship of their Angel. It is wonderful to see renewed hope and faith in the Lord.” †