Smith makes stop at Cape Girardeau's Birthright organization

Southeast Missourian

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Washington, DC, September 23, 2015 | By Katie Lamb | comments
(Photo)
Barb McKeon, an assistant director at Birthright of Cape Girardeau, shows donated afghans to Congressman Jason Smith during his tour of Birthright on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Jason Smith on Tuesday took a tour of Birthright of Cape Girardeau, which offers alternatives to abortion, and asked questions about the not-for-profit's services and funding.

Smith, R-Salem, co-sponsored two bills that would block taxpayer dollars from supporting Planned Parenthood or other organizations that perform abortions or contribute to abortion providers.

During his tour Tuesday morning, Barb McKeon, an assistant director at Birthright, told Smith the Hopper Road location serves more than 400 women monthly and totals about 5,000 visits each year.

Birthright does not receive government funding, she said, but relies on donations from the community. About 30 people serve as volunteers for the organization, which is interdenominational and nonpolitical.

McKeon said when a woman visits Birthright, the first step is to take a pregnancy test.

"If the pregnancy test is positive, we're here to support them and help them through their pregnancy," McKeon said. "Our volunteers take those moms on as a friend and call them on a monthly basis to check in and make sure the pregnancy's going OK, if they're having any problems, that kind of thing."

Kathy Mattes, who has volunteered for Birthright for 25 years and serves as president of the board, said volunteers mostly hear the women's concerns and decide how the organization can help.

"You get so much out of it," Mattes said of volunteering. "We don't give away near what we get."

Birthright also helps the women earn their high-school equivalency, loans maternity clothes, makes referrals when needed and provides a gift basket filled with items such as bottles, diapers, wipes, clothes, blankets and bath towels.

"After that, we tell them we'll follow them until the little one is 3 years old," she said.

People in the community also donate afghans that are given to the children.

"Most girls are very appreciative of what we do," McKeon said. "They come back and show us their babies, or they come back and bring us clothes after their little ones have outgrown them. You really get the feeling of how much they appreciate all the care that's given and the love and support."

Earlier this week, Smith also visited a women's clinic in Bloomsdale, Missouri, before his tour at Birthright of Cape Girardeau.

"Neither receive federal funding, and they provide such a service to so many when it comes to women's health, women's emotions, everything," he said. "The priority in spending needs to be right." 

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