Courtney Garaguso became pregnant with her first child in 10th grade.

Ashamed and embarrassed, she worked up the courage to tell her parents and they responded with compassion and support. As pro-life Christians, abortion was not an option, Garaguso wrote in a column published this week at the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Then, at age 19, she became pregnant again. And what was once unthinkable crossed her mind.

“How could I — still single and still living at home, with a 4-year-old — do this to my parents again, who had sacrificed everything for me and experienced so much pain already?” she wrote.

Garaguso said she felt paralyzed with fear as she thought about raising another child as a single, teenage mom. She thought about things she wanted to give her daughter, Eliana, but couldn’t afford, like nice clothing and birthday parties.

In the moment, her fears and worries outweighed the overwhelming support she had received from her parents, her church and her local pregnancy resource center, Choices of the Heart in Turnersville, during her first pregnancy.

So one day, Garaguso said she left Eliana at home with her parents while she secretly drove to an abortion facility.

Laying on the cold table, she felt “inner turmoil and anguish” as she listened to the nurse typing on the computer keyboard and tried to make up her mind.

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Then, the ultrasound that she had requested made it up for her.

“Rolling over, I strained to view the ultrasound,” Garaguso continued. “… then I caught a glimpse of my baby on the screen. In a single moment, the small, yet undeniable image paused the fear that had prompted me to turn to an abortion clinic without my family’s knowledge, and in spite of leaving my preschooler at home with them. What am I doing, I panicked. How did I end up here?”

Garaguso said seeing her unborn baby girl changed everything, and she quickly left the abortion facility. Crying in the parking lot, she decided to do what she knew she should have done in the first place – go back to Choices of the Heart.

“It was the hardest decision I had ever made with all the fears and unknowns that accompanied it,” she said.

But it was the right one. In the eight years since then, Garaguso said she received help raising her two daughters and eventually bought a home. Then, about four years ago, she married a man who has been a wonderful husband and father for their family.

Now, she works at Choices of the Heart as a financial advisor, assisting and encouraging mothers who are struggling with the same things that she once did.

“I know the feeling of being so terrified that you have nowhere to turn but an abortion clinic,” Garaguso said. “I never in a million years thought that I would be that girl, as I was so against abortion my entire life.

“So today, I work with women in the same situation at the very center that lifted me out of my despair: Choices of the Heart,” she concluded. “As a financial advisor in client services, I am honored to walk hand in hand with mothers in need, calming the same fear and uncertainty in these women’s hearts that I once felt myself.”

Pregnancy resource centers exist to support families like Garaguso’s and save babies from abortion. They serve hundreds of thousands of families every year across the U.S., providing material, financial, emotional and spiritual support.

According to an analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, pregnancy resource centers have helped save more than 800,000 unborn babies from abortion since 2016. The research found the charity organizations served about 2 million people in 2019 alone, providing more than 730,000 pregnancy tests, nearly half a million ultrasounds, 1.3 million packs of diapers and more than 2 million baby outfits, all for free.

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