Women who experience unplanned pregnancies use technology and the internet to find help, and for more than 22 years, StandUpGirl.com has served as the interface to provide hope, courage, and assistance.
“We have had 60 million unique visitors to the website since 2001,” said Dawn Marie Pérez, executive director of StandUpGirl.com.
That doesn’t include the women who return to the website, which often happens, she said.
“The goal of StandUpGirl was, really from the beginning, to reach those girls who are considering an abortion and show them that there are other options and that their life is not over,” Pérez said.
An affiliate of the pregnancy help network Heartbeat International; the organization doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar location to meet in-person with young women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. Instead, Pérez and her team use technology, such as online chat, texting, and email. They also partner with Heartbeat’s Option Line to offer resources, including referrals to pregnancy resource centers.
“We have developed this interactive (internet) site that not only has stories and videos,” Pérez said, “but the girls can e-mail us, they can text and chat with us, and they can connect to pregnancy help organizations around the world.”
History of the organization
StandUpGirl was founded in 1999 by an engineer in Oregon who read a study indicating that generation X was spending more time on the computer than watching TV, Pérez said. A pro-life advocate, he considered ways to bring a pro-life message via computer to that generation. About 18 months later, a website was launched under the name of StandUpGirl.com.
“They started getting traffic to the website, and then they were getting messages being sent in on the website to the Webmaster,” Pérez said.
The messages requested someone to talk to. A young woman who attended church with the web designer and had experienced an unplanned pregnancy in college volunteered.
“She was the perfect person to come on the site,” Pérez said. “Becky started answering these letters that were coming in from girls. We've had 20-some thousand letters over all the years. I mean, that's probably not even an accurate count. That's how many we have kept copies of.”
The website also serves as a resource.
“We have a ton of resources, including the Bright Course videos,” Pérez said. “The goal was, ‘Look, there's another way through this other than having an abortion, so let's show you these ways, let's give you the resources and help you however we can.’”
When Google gained popularity, the founder decided to use the platform for advertising.
“They were getting about 3,000 visits a year on the website, and then when they started doing Google ads, it jumped to like 3,000 a month,” said Pérez. “Fast forward 22 years … we get about a million interactions on Facebook every month (alone).”
Young women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy are not the only ones who reach out.
“We have women who have had an abortion that are coming to us and we're referring them to Rachel's Vineyard and other post-abortive counseling programs,” Pérez said.
Reaching women today
Although Google, Facebook, and other online platforms seek to put up barriers to organizations in the pro-life movement, StandUpGirl.com continues to reach women in need of pregnancy services and resources. K-LOVE, a Christian radio outlet, featured the work of StandUpGirl.com in an A Closer Look segment.
Pérez told host Marya Morgan: “We spend close to $10K a month through advertising on internet search engines so that if a woman is out there looking for information -- even if she’s searching for information about abortion -- she finds StandUpGirl.”
Pérez advertises the organization on K-LOVE and other Christian radio stations. She is also refocusing her marketing and advertising funds from internet platforms to streaming services. For example, an ad can now be found on Hulu, and another is being planned for Amazon Prime.
“I am trying to find ways to reach girls outside of having to give so much money to Google and Facebook,” she said.
Other endeavors to reach today’s generation include hiring a company of 20-somethings to create social media posts, said Pérez.
“Our target is 12 to 24-year-olds and so you know there's going to come a time when we answer an e-mail and it will be evident we are older than the target age group,” she said. “So one of the things that we are working on right now is our social media – it’s always been run by our volunteers, and I am now working with a new organization, and they are going to take over our Facebook and Instagram because I really feel like we are getting to an age where we are trying to post what's relevant to kids but we can't think that way anymore. Our social media specialist used to work at a pregnancy center in Virginia, so she is very much in tune with what we do and the clientele that we're talking to.”
The organization also funded seven billboards around the country, including one in Oklahoma not far from a Planned Parenthood, said Pérez.
“That's some of the things I'm really trying to do to change the way we get our information out,” she said.
Beyond U.S. borders
After more than two decades the organization remains a viable online resource for women considering abortion, who are post-abortive, and those desiring to continue their pregnancies but need resources – no matter where they live. Resource materials from the organization have been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. Plans are also being made to translate them into Hebrew, and several women in Africa found the website and received assistance. In October, Pérez helped a woman in Nigeria who was expecting her second child.
“She is in school but has no job, and she said, “I don't have clothing, I don't have anything for this baby. I don't know what to do,” Pérez said. “The father is out of the picture.”
Such cases are not unusual, even in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau reports nearly 11 million households headed by single parents, with almost 80 percent being women. The StandUpGirl team hopes to make a positive impact on men as they have done for women.
“We've even gone to the extent to create this little niche on our website called Stand Up Guy,” she said. “We’re trying to reach out to some of these young men and say, ‘Look, you are a piece of this puzzle, and so being a piece of the puzzle, you need to step up and have some responsibility. So, we have a complete video series on the website and letters written directly to new dads. We had a young gentleman who really felt he wanted to reach out to these guys, and he started writing letters for us to post on the website to guys who are in that position.”
Partnering with pregnancy centers
A service for women, men, and families, StandUpGirl.com and its foundation works in partnership with many organizations, including Heartbeat International and its affiliates. Technology continues to evolve, and so does the organization. However, the affiliation with the pregnancy help movement remains strong and steady.
Tweet This: StandUpGirl.com works in partnership with many organizations, including Heartbeat International and its affiliates.
“We are here to work as a partner with everybody,” Pérez said. “We run ads and then direct the girls to the pregnancy centers, and our materials are available for free to pregnancy centers around the world.”
Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.