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 | By Joey Reistroffer

Upstate crisis pregnancy center supports women and men

Women often bring their boyfriends into the center for support when undergoing a pregnancy test or an ultrasound.

These women need that backing from their men. They are often scared and not prepared for the change in direction their lives are about to take, and neither are the boyfriends. 

This is why the Carolina Pregnancy Center has brought Eric Starks and Bruce Hoppes on board.

Starks has been with this center in Spartanburg for about four years, and he plays many roles.

He oversees the mobile unit that traverses the county with a nurse manager, who performs pregnancy tests and ultrasounds for women.

“My role is to drive it, maintain it and handle the logistics of it,” Starks said of the mobile unit. “Our goal is to get a little closer to them and expand our reach.”

Their reach extends from Landrum in the north to Woodruff down south.

The mobile unit even goes to Laurens County, where Brenda Stewart helped organize the nonprofit Upstate Pregnancy Center and monthly drive-through diaper drives.

“She saw the need there,” Starks said of Stewart, chairwoman of the Upstate Pregnancy Center. “And she connected with Alexia.”

Alexia Newman is the executive director of the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg. Newman also sees the need there, so she sends Starks and his mobile unit to Laurens and Clinton.

“I go once a month … to give away diapers and wipes,” Starks said. “We’ve been partnering with them for a little over a year.”

Starks, however, does so much more than delivering diapers and wipes and making ultrasounds and pregnancy tests more convenient.

“I work with the men that come to the Carolina Pregnancy Center,” Starks said.

He calls it dad-to-dad counseling.

“If a lady comes in, we encourage the man to come,” Starks said. “Most of the time, the girlfriend drags them in, and they don’t want to be here.”

“He meets them when they first come in,” Newman explained, saying that Hoppes helps break the ice. “He’s a counselor.”

“About two-thirds of them come in with their partner,” Starks said of couples seeking pregnancy tests. “It’s a really good thing when they come to us. Most of the time, [the pregnancy] is unplanned. Most of them are nervous.”

He said some men try to figure a way to get out of it. Dr. James Dunn, MD, said this is due to today's culture.

Dunn was helping at the Carolina Pregnancy Center’s Spring Gala and fundraiser in April.

“Our society has been so harsh on young mothers,” he said. “What about the guy? It takes two to tango, and he gets off scot-free.”

Well, the Carolina Pregnancy Center is working to change the hearts and the minds of these guys. Dunn sees the center encouraging men and women to give their children a chance. 

Starks is running point for the guys.

He said he will greet them and engage in small talk during the pregnancy test to build a little trust and get to know them. That banter gets a bit more in-depth after the pregnancy test.

“A lot of times they have a fear of inadequacy,” Starks stated. “A lot of them didn’t have dads, and they don’t know what to do.”

According to Starks, many of them are struggling financially, but many still show initiative.

“They want to be involved,” he added.

The ultrasound is pivotal. That is when the couple can see the heartbeat of their child.

“A mind-shift occurs,” Starks continued. “When they come out of the room, holding the ultrasound picture, and he says, ‘This is my baby,’ we know he wants to be involved.”

Starks remembers one man who came in and said he did not want to be there. That changed after the ultrasound.

“I was so scared. I was rude to you,” the man told Starks. But after the ultrasound, he wanted to learn everything he could about becoming a father.

“He was part of this baby’s life no matter what,” and he embraced it. “For the men who take that next step, I am a coach,” Starks said. “They like that term.”

As a coach, Starks gets them the resources that they need. They have homework to do, books to read and videos to watch. They have online resources that they can pour over.

And Starks becomes more than a coach. He becomes a mentor.

“With the men, I’ll say, ‘I’m here for you. You can always call me; text me,’” Starks explained. “A lot of times there are tears. There’s a life change.”

The men take responsibility and know that someone is in their corner rooting for them. They are not alone.

“If they don’t have anybody to call, they’ll reach out to us,” Starks said. “We want to be the people that they can call, and we will be there for them.”

That is important, even if there is “a little of that freakout. But for the most part, they get excited,” Starks said.

Those dad-to-dad talks help.

“We’re looking at what it means to be a dad,” Starks added, and counseling can go a long way for first-time fathers.

The Carolina Pregnancy Center has earn-while-you-learn programs called Mommy Money for women and Daddy Dollars for men where they earn money by studying to be good parents. The more they learn about raising their baby, the more money they earn. They can only spend that money at the Carolina Pregnancy Center’s shop, which stocks needed baby items.

And when the big day arrives, the Carolina Pregnancy Center hopes that both mothers and fathers will be ready to tackle parenting — it’s a partnership, and fathers are a crucial part of parenting.

Joseph Reistroffer is a long-time writer who teaches religious education classes at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg. Email him at