Her expression is pensive. Her eyes downcast. She looks frightened, ashamed, and scared. She is only a face on a billboard, but she could be any one of thousands of American women who face an unexpected pregnancy and do not know where to turn.

A cross section of clergy from Houston churches are anticipating that they can help women like her and prevent abortions at the same time. Working with the national crisis-pregnancy network Care Net, Houston pastors hope to raise $250,000 to finance billboard advertising for "A Campaign of Compassion."

The 22 billboards, to be erected this summer, show a toll-free number, the young woman's face, and a simple message: "Pregnant? Free pregnancy tests. Caring and confidential."

The churches' goal is straightforward. They hope that raising money to advertise crisis pregnancy centers will convince women facing unforeseen pregnancies to allow their babies to live rather than be aborted. They like the idea of providing such information in a concerned, direct, and apolitical way. A test campaign in southeast Florida suggests the strategy may work.

CHURCHES COOPERATE: In Houston, the campaign started in January with a meeting of 150 clergy, including megachurch pastors Ed Young of Second Baptist Church, William Hinson of First United Methodist Church, John Bisagno of First Baptist Church, and John Osteen of Lakewood Church.

"So many young people do get pregnant, and they're simply afraid and desperate," Hinson says. "They need a good friend to simply say there are options available. That's what this program is all about."

A key to making such projects work is alerting women that the services are available, says Marcella Colbert, director of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston's Respect Life ...

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