by Julie Conrey
to Emergency Pregnancy Services in Jacksonville, Eydie Millwood
decided to carry her son Braydon to full term. He is now 14 months
old and Eydie is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marketing
at the University of North Florida.
Joshua Brayden Millwood can only say about four words. He is not
yet toilet-trained, and the chubby 14-month toddler has a tendency
to run around and away from his mother Eydie.
dirty diapers and messy finger foods not included, the
Millwood family makes a perfect picture. And it’s one that
the Catholic community hopes will be repeated over and over again.
And with your help it can. Money raised from the Respect Life collection
that will be taken up in all parishes on Jan. 20-21, will be distributed
to numerous crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes throughout
the 17 counties of the Diocese of Saint Augustine. With funds collected
in past years, a few of these crisis pregnancy centers have already
been able to purchase ultrasound equipment. Pictures of a baby go
a long way towards turning an abortion-minded client, like Eydie
once was, into one who carries a pregnancy to term.
Brayden, as his mother calls him, is the product of a relationship
Eydie had when she was just 18, and not quite ready for the responsibilities
of motherhood. When she found out she was pregnant, she decided
to have an abortion. End of story. Get on with the details of college
and career goals - or so she thought.
At work one day, Eydie got sick, and felt something was not quite
right. She took a home pregnancy test and it was positive. She called
the abortion clinic that she had gone to and asked to be seen again.
They told her that she would have to pay again before she could
be examined. Eydie called a friend for help and was referred to
Emergency Pregnancy Services (EPS).
Upon coming to the center, she took another pregnancy test. The
staff confirmed she was pregnant. But she new it couldn’t
be a new pregnancy. With her consent, EPS staff performed an ultrasound
examination in which they dated the pregnancy at 15 weeks. Her baby,
a boy, survived an attempted abortion.
Worried about the baby’s health and condition, the ultrasound
eased Eydie’s fears. She was able to count her baby’s
fingers, toes and even saw him sucking his thumb. She immediately
connected with the picture on the screen. And after seeing her baby
up close and in person, Eydie decided to carry the pregnancy to
“It was difficult to know what a miracle he is,” Eydie
said. “His dad isn’t in the picture and we live with
my parents. If it wasn’t for EPS and seeing my baby on the
ultrasound, he wouldn’t be here today.”
EPS is just one of several crisis pregnancy centers the diocese
supports through the Respect Life collection. And it’s one
of the few that are able to afford ultrasound equipment.
“Ultrasounds aren’t 100 percent effective but they
take what the mother might consider only a blob of tissue -
a product of conception - and turn it into a heartbeat. The
mother gets to see the baby. For her, it creates a life that she
can connect with,” said Lorraine Allaire, coordinator of the
Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Saint Augustine.
“We try to help them (crisis pregnancy centers) with their
work,” said Lorraine. “Our office doesn’t deal
directly with clients.” The staffs at crisis pregnancy centers
are in the trenches doing that work day to day, she added.
Tracie Cox Loftis is on the front lines of crisis pregnancies.
She is the director of EPS located in the Riverside area of Jacksonville.
Although EPS has been around 32 years, it’s only had ultrasound
technology for about 10 years. The equipment is expensive, (even
a used machine can cost $25,000) a center needs technicians to operate
it. And then there’s liability insurance, plus finding a medical
director and a doctor to oversee the program to ensure quality care.
But even with all of the efforts it takes to incorporate this technology
into a center, ultrasound is worth it.
“Ultrasound is the most powerful life-saving tool,”
said Tracie. “The scan is a powerful bonding tool for a woman
and her baby. You can show a young lady a brochure or a model, and
she may not have a connection to it. Ultrasound helps her transform
the concept of a pregnancy into a baby. That’s the moment
that minds are changed and life is chosen.”
According to Tracie, national research has shown that as of 2003,
crisis pregnancy centers that had ultrasound available report 83
percent of abortion-minded women chose life after seeing their baby
on the screen. In centers using counseling alone, just 53 percent
of clients who had been abortion-minded chose to carry a pregnancy
An abortion-minded client is one who indicates on an intake form
that she is considering an abortion, or has asked what an abortion
At EPS, the typical client is a single woman in her 20s with no
health insurance. About 57 percent of the women are African American,
35 percent are white and the remaining 8 percent are from various
ethnic cultures. “The girls sitting in crisis pregnancy centers
are the same ones sitting next to you in church,” said Tracie.
“This is not someone else’s issue.”
Judy Timby is an ultrasound technician at Women’s Help Center
located on Emerson Street in Jacksonville. She is a retired surgical
nurse who has worked at the center since 1999 and has been performing
ultrasounds since 2004. “We need the baby to do a sales job
on the mom,” she says of her work. “When they (the girls)
see their baby it makes all the difference in the world.”
Making a difference for these women and the difficult decisions
they face is something Judy is used to. Clients come from diverse
backgrounds, many may not be in committed relationships, or they
may have other complicating factors in their lives that make abortion
an attractive alternative to carrying a pregnancy to term. Changing
minds is an uphill battle. “We have to have written permission
from the girls to conduct ultrasounds,” Judy said. “We
always get her permission to talk about the baby. Our goal is to
fully inform our clients. We try to get them in early. We talk about
the development of the baby; we do mention sexually transmitted
diseases, natural family planning and recommend abstinence until
And when clients choose life, Judy and other volunteers help the
mothers through their pregnancy and afterwards when the baby is
born. Like EPS, the Women’s Help Center provides the mother
with diapers, formula, maternity clothes, clothes for young children
up to size 3T and recycled baby furniture.
Volunteers refer clients to community programs for women, infants
and young children, and they help them get started on paperwork
so that if needed, they can qualify for Medicaid.
“We don’t judge them. We may not be able to make a
difference for this baby, but maybe for others, or maybe we can
enable her to be a better mom. We want them to know that there are
people in this community who care for them,” said Tracie.
There have been times when Eydie, who at the age of 20 attends
the University of North Florida full-time and works in a restaurant
part time, hasn’t had money for diapers. EPS helps her out.
And she helps them out by speaking about her journey to motherhood
at various community functions and fundraisers for the center.
“God just doesn’t do these things to people so that
they can keep it a secret. Brayden has a special purpose. God has
a plan for him,” said Eydie.