Q&A With Debra Wehmeier, Heart of Texas Pregnancy Research Center founder

What inspired you to take on founding these centers?

“Well I worked in the apartment industry since was 19 you can do the math here.. I kept getting promoted without really asking for promotions but you know I was over a lot of younger women. And women would come to me with their stuff that was going on in their life. As a supervisor I wanted them to be happy at home and at work and happy coming to work. So I would just help them in any way I could. And then i got the opportunity; Someone came and talked to me about opening a pregnancy resource center at 12th and Chicon in East Austin. I went and looked and talked to the person who owned the building and thought “you know this is what I’ve been wanting really my entire life.” I knew I would have the opportunity to help women. Babies were kind of like the icing on the cake. A lot of the women. that come to us are scared. They don’t know what to do. They’re looking for help. I just wanted to be there to love on them and make sure that they know all of their options. All of them. What it looks like to parent, what it looks like to adopt, what it looks like to have an abortion if that’s what they are leaning towards. We’re just wanting to make sure they go into whatever they’re deciding to do with knowledge of what everything might look like.”

What kind of void do you think that these types of centers can fill in our society?

“It’s almost like a one stop shop, you know. So, where is there a place where a women can come and find emotional support? I really don’t know. Where they can just come and talk, hang out as long as they want to visit? There are a lot of lonely women out there, and it is just such a blessing to offer those things. Everything we offer is free. And we don’t take state funding. We’re just funded by people who see what we’re doing here at the fruit of it. I don’t know places that offer that type of physical support and emotional support and classes. Being able to just come take classes in a sweet environment, and get stuff for it. It’s kind of like a one stop place of support. “

So you get your funding through donations soley, how did you save up to get all of this?

” didn’t save up. The center that we started in East Austin, I didn’t have a desk, a dime, a diaper- all my d words. I left this really awesome job that had a lot of money coming in my pocket to go and do this crazy thing that I just stepped out in faith. There was no saving up, it was just going for it.  It’s just funny how whenever you do this I’ve found, and I’m just gonna say cause I’m a christian and I believe in god. And god loves mommas and babbies and daddies. And i have found that whatever I need just shows up. I mean i don’t go out begging for money or things. A momma walked in and needed a double stroller for her twins. And I was like “I’m so sorry we don’t have that right now.” And my husband went and picked up our donations from some consignment shops in the area . And I’ll be darned if he didn’t walk through that door right then and there with a sturdy double stroller. I was like, “yup yeah this is what happens here.” It just happens.”

So what pushed you to open a second location in the hill country?

“Well I live in driftwood, and I have a lot of friends that live in dripping and that kind of the area. They were just saying that there is nothing like this in Dripping. So I just kind of mulled it over for a while. I started looking at the demographics of the people coming into the area and how it was growing. And honestly it just kinda happened. I had been thinking about it for a couple years, and one day I just ran into the lady that was running chamber of commerce one day and she talked about the growth in Dripping and it felt like a confirmation to start looking into it. I asked if she knew I place for rent, and she pointed to this one. Within a week I had the years rent.”

So why dripping springs? Why this area?

“I guess because this [area] is kind of like the stomping ground. I was familiar with it and I knew the growth here. Lots of friends of mine are involved in nonprofits here and said that they needed [a resource center] here. It took a while to pray about it and make sure if I was supposed to do it or not. Just stepping out in faith, and it’s been so rewarding. I can’t believe I get to do this. It’s just so sweet that I get to help women it warms my heart. “

So both of your locations are located within walking distance to high schools, why is that?

“That was not on purpose, so not on purpose. It totally just happened. I’m not kidding you. Well the first location was not [located near a high school], but we outgrew that space in five years. We were so cramped and seeing so many mommies so we moved to a space that would be easy to find. We wanted the moms to be able to find us easily. We didn’t want to loose them and didn’t want them to lose us. It was unintentional. Here that lady just pointed me to this house. I found out later; I really didn’t know where the high school was. It wasn’t long till I realized ‘oh my golly were just across the street from the high school.'”

Do you get a lot of teenagers in do you think?

“No, not a lot. Just a handful. Mostly moms 18-20s and 30s-40s.”

Would you walk me through like a typical appointment?

“They would talk to me or Valerie, come in and fill out a little intake. No ID or anything like that. Just general information like their name, if they have kids, where they are living, what’s going on in there life. If she’s coming in for a pregnancy test, basically she gets a pregnancy test that’s what happens. It’s a self administered urine test. And we look if she’s pregnant, and then we talk to her see what she’s thinking. We kind of get their ideas in what they want to do we don’t want to push anything. We just really do talk to them about if they want to parent, what that looks like? Is the daddy involved? Just to see where they are what they’ll need. If their parents are supportive? If they’re possibly not ready for a baby and want to adopt we have several adoption agencies that we work with. And if they are going ‘no way jose Im not having this baby, I’m having an abortion,’ we make sure they know what that looks like. We’ll give them a pamphlet it’s called “a women’s right to know”, it’s required by the state and abortion centers are supposed show them this when they come in.”

So, let’s say they came in and were certain about having an abortion. I know a lot of pregnancy resource centers get the reputation that they will try to push a potential parent away from the abortion. What’s your take on that?

“You know, we are pro-life, but we’re also pro-women. Its funny because last year we had a big fundraiser and had testimonies from moms about how we’ve helped them. And [one client is] like “you know what, I had heard a lot of stuff about pregnancy resource centers and I believed it. I honestly don’t know what i would’ve done without this.” Because there is so much junk out there about what we do and who we are. I can just tell you that we are pro life, totally pro life. But I know that a woman will sometimes choose abortion. One out of there women will have an abortion. I have family and friends who have chosen an abortion whose heart is broken because they have done that. Do I talk to the moms about that? No I don’t. But it’s interesting because some moms have chosen abortion and come back to us the next time they are pregnant because they know they can come here and find love and support. If they walk out the door and say they’re going to planned parenthood we make sure they know they are loved and they can come back and talk to us afterwards. We actually do have an abortion recovery support group, we don’t tell them about that at the time. Basically it’s just a support group where women come together for chit chat.”

That’s all my questions, do you have anything you would like to add?

“I wish that we could get into the high schools. I think [the students] all deserve to know their choices. I think society does pressure women. I just want them to know we are here. I mean really that’s it . If you want to talk about it, talk through your feelings, if you’re pregnant and don’t know where to go, or think you might be pregnant. I just want to say “hey we’re here to offer unconditional no judgement love.” When you walk out of here you will know that you’re loved. Weather I ever see you again or not, but most people come back. It’s a sweet thing. There’s just a lot of talk about a lot of pregnancy resources that’s not true and it breaks my heart because women deserve to know and have all their options. I mean we are pro choice too we want women to know all of their choices and options.”

Written by Tessa Stigler, Opinion Editor

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