Since its inception 17 years ago, the Oregon-based website StandUpGirl.com has drawn more than 39 million visitors from all over the world.
Since its inception 17 years ago, the Oregon-based website StandUpGirl.com has drawn more than 39 million visitors from all over the world.

CORVALLIS — Kate Dillon googled “local unplanned pregnancy help” trying to figure out what her options were. That’s when the senior at Oregon State University saw a Google advertisement for StandUpGirl.com and clicked.

StandUpGirl.com, a website based out of Keizer, houses letters from women throughout the world who are struggling with unplanned pregnancies or have survived them.

“It became almost a counseling site for me,” says Dillon. “I never wrote any letters but I read almost every single article and letter that was on the site.”

Dillon clung to the stories for hope that maybe she could in fact keep the child she was carrying. She saw so many people in similar situations and decided to keep her son.

It was a year before Dillon got in touch with StandUpGirl.com to tell the organization her story. Many women who’ve been impacted by the website don’t make contact right away and some may never.

Letters to Becky

“We don’t know how many babies we’ve saved,” said Dawn Marie Perez, executive director of StandUpGirl.com. “Some girls write us back and sometimes it’s a couple of years later.”

Considering that StandUpGirl.com reaches about 400,000 visitors each month, it’s likely that some women never write.

“We are helping more girls than ever before right now,” says Perez, adding that there are 12 girls answering letters on the website each night. Since its inception 17 years ago, more than 39 million visitors have come to StandUpGirl.com, averaging 22 minutes spent browsing it.

The website has been up and running since 2001 and it has evolved over the years. Women long have been able to write letters to Becky, a woman who was the original letter writer when StandUpGirl.com launched. Becky had an unplanned pregnancy when she was a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville. When a woman wrote letters to Becky, Becky herself responded. Now, many girls respond to the letters.

But letters are no longer the only support StandUpGirl.com provides. Eventually, the organization added geolocation to connect visitors with nearby pregnancy resource centers that advertise on the website. Then three years ago, the organization began using text counseling. Women can send a text to the organization at any time on any day and a counselor will text back.

“We’re averaging about 140 text counseling sessions a month,” says Perez. Forty-five percent of women using text counseling are referred to a pregnancy resource center.

For a predominantly volunteer-run website, 4.2 million visitors a year is substantial. Oregonians account for a small percentage of the 10,000 visits to the site each day. The organization spends much of its budget to advertise on search engines like Google and Bing. This means that when a woman, whether in Medford or Texas or Saudi Arabia, types in something like “pregnancy symptoms” or “teen pregnancy” or “Am I pregnant?” into her search bar, she may very well see an ad for StandUpGirl.com at the top of her search results.

The StandUpGirl.com website doesn’t push a pro-life message, but the organization is pro-life. Not blasting visitors with the message is intentional.

“We’re trying to reach the girl where she’s at that exact moment in time,” says Perez. “They’re in self-preservation mode, right? When they first find out they’re pregnant, you can’t talk to them about having an adoption because all they can think about is ‘I’m pregnant. I thought I was going to school. Everyone’s going to know I’m pregnant. How am I ever going to become this nurse I was going to become and get married?’”

“All they’re thinking about is how all of their dreams have just collapsed,” she says. “So we try to get them thinking around that.”

That’s where the letters come in.

Saving lives

The organization is making a difference. Women regularly get in touch with StandUpGirl.com to talk about the babies they kept because of the support they received from the website.

“The mission of StandUpGirl.com is to change hearts and save lives, and they do it through a strong, pro-life internet and social media presence that effectively reaches even abortion minded young women and men,” wrote Todd Cooper, director of special ministries for the Archdiocese of Portland, in a recent letter of support for the organization.

“In their nearly twenty years in existence, StandUpGirl.com has contributed mightily to building a culture of life,” he adds.

After her son was born, Dillon decided to connect with StandUpGirl.com. She knew that God was working in her life and she was meant to share that.

“God used me becoming a mom to do crazy things in building up my identity and [knowing] who I was and who God is and how he sees me and how I was living.”

It’s easy to think that ‘I’m the only one whose gone through something like this’ or ‘I’m the only one who this could possibly happen to,’” she says. But so many women have faced similar situations.

“He can make any story, no matter how dirty and hopeless and dark it is, and make something beautiful out of it,” she says.

To this day, Dillon, who is now married with a second child, still talks with young women in college about her pregnancy.

“I know that God wants me to tell my story,” Dillon concludes. “I might give someone hope or encouragement. Or, [I might] just tell them that there is redemption in situations that start out so hard or so hopeless. “

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org



Find out more

To learn how you can get involved with StandUpGirl.com, visit the StandUpGirl.com Foundation website at standupgirlfoundation.org