St. Louis Birthright’s Shirley Ducey Retires

By Jim Day


    After 33 years of faithful, dedicated service to the pro-life movement, Shirley Ducey, Administrative Director of Birthright Counseling of St. Louis, has

retired. Her legacy is astonishing: serving over 100,000 women; saving thousands of babies that may have otherwise been aborted; establishing six area Birthright offices; creating fundraising guilds to help support the offices; overseeing hundreds of volunteers and staff; setting up home-visiting operations; networking with doctors and hospitals to donate care, including ultrasounds; and establishing Birthright’s “Heaven and Earth Programs,” which allow groups or individuals to financially ‘adopt’
a mother confidentially to meet her needs.

    For those not familiar with Birthright, Birthright is an agency that provides an alternative to abortion which offers women free and confidential pregnancy testing, referrals, professional counseling, baby clothing and equipment, maternity clothing, ultrasounds, home visits, financial assistance, and even tuition for them to attend school.

    When Shirley was asked what had been her greatest challenge over the years, she answered, “Never having enough money to really advertise and let women facing a crisis pregnancy know they have a place to come to for help. Its been painful for me to even think that a woman would choose to abort her baby without knowing Birthright was here to help her in any way we could.”

    During our interview, I asked Shirley how Birthright got started here in St. Louis. Shirley stated that she and a neighbor,

Shirley Ducey

Marge Prunty, had been lamenting the growing trend in acceptance of abortion in 1971, which was two years before the Supreme Court decision that made abortion on demand legal during all nine months of pregnancy.  Shirley’s teen-aged daughter, Kate said, “Why don’t you do something about it?”
    That was all the encouragement they needed and with that they contacted Betsy Mullins, a prominent community leader within the St. Louis Catholic Church, and started contacting churches for support.  They also contacted Louise Summerhill the Founder of Birthright in Toronto and became affiliated with Birthright International, which today has agencies in Canada, Great Britton and Africa. The first office was in a local St. Louis Catholic Church basement and their advertising budget only allowed them to advertise in the classified sections of the newspapers. 

    Birthright Counseling of St. Louis differs from Birthrights in other nations in that professional counselors are hired to meet with their clients.  This was a condition of financial support from the St. Louis Archdiocese at the time. I asked Shirley the reasoning behind this policy and she stated, ”We have seen that the skilled counselors have been invaluable through the years and have determined that most of the time the pregnancy is the least of a woman’s problems. In this ‘throw-away’ society it has been even more difficult to save a baby, but if a woman comes in to talk with us and sees the very real alternatives that we offer, she almost always carries to term. We offer what we can, and leave the rest up to God.  I always say that God doesn’t ask us to succeed, He asks us to try.” 

    In asking Shirley what brought her the greatest satisfaction while she was the director of Birthright, she was quick to answer, “Every time we saved a baby from destruction!”  “Just think of it, not only were we able to save a child, we potentially saved generations of children that may have come from that child!  It humbles me to think God would use me, use Birthright, use one of the volunteers for His express purpose of that child being born!  After all these years, that still does something to me!” she continued.

    In conclusion I asked Shirley what the future held for Birthright now that she was retired?  “We have an excellent staff and Ruth Bradberry has been in training for five years. She’ll make an outstanding leader now that I’ve I retired. This ministry will continue because it’s God’s ministry, not Shirley Ducey’s.”

    Shirley is now retired and living in Florida with two of her daughters and their families.  She has one daughter in St. Charles and one in Cedar Rapids, IA.

    For more information about Birthright Counseling Centers of St. Louis visit their web site at or call (314) 962-5300.