By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
INDEPENDENCE — Three small children played on the floor while several adults watched a video on the flat-screen TV mounted on the wall in the waiting area of The Women’s Clinic on Noland Road. There was a comforting, comfortable feeling in the air as a nurse opened the door to the clinic and called a name. A young man and woman rose and followed her. The children played on, watched over by another woman.
Since its founding in 2004, The Women’s Clinic (TWC) has served more than 44,000 women and men through the clinic and school-based educational programs. It works to build healthy families by providing free medical crisis intervention, including free ultrasounds and abortion alternative information, prevention education and family development support. Men and women of different faith traditions have worked together to defend life and lend support to developing families. And it all started with prayer.
In 1993, Sister of St. Francis Catarina da Silva moved to the Franciscan Prayer Center in Independence from Brazil. While she was being shown the sights of her new home, she recalled, she wasn’t really excited until she spotted a Planned Parenthood clinic in a strip mall just blocks from the prayer center. She began to pray.
It became a daily mission for Sister Catarina. In good weather, she would walk to the clinic, about 15 minutes each way, and pray Hail Mary’s to save babies, while in bad or cold weather she would drive to the clinic, pull into the parking lot and pray.
Her prayers were answered in 2004. The Women’s Clinic found available space next door to the Planned Parenthood Clinic; in fact The Women’s Clinic shares a wall with Planned Parenthood.
Sister Catarina volunteered at TWC from 2005 to 2011. “While I was working there, cleaning or doing other jobs, I had the opportunity to talk to the girls,” she said. “They would come into the clinic very scared, scared about what was happening to them and scared to tell the truth. I could always see the fear. I prayed for them, that the Lord would give them courage. Sometimes I would put my hand on the wall between the clinic and Planned Parenthood and pray.”
Often young girls and women, most between the ages of 12 and 21, make mistakes because they don’t have confidence in themselves, Sister Catarina said. “Because they don’t have that confidence, they make mistakes with drugs, alcohol, manipulation by other teenagers and sex. They don’t have a strong faith yet and they’re afraid. A strong faith helps a person not be afraid.”
The Women’s Clinic is a good model, she said, because “it brings together people from different religious traditions — Catholic and Protestant — pro-life people working together to save babies. Being pro-life is inclusive, it crosses all barriers of religion or politics,” Sister Catarina said.
Last year, the clinic opened a second location in Grandview. Deborah Neel, Executive Director of The Women’s Clinic, feels that “God’s fingers are over our community,” partly because both clinic locations are next door to Planned Parenthood clinics.
“A good portion of society only knows about abortion,” she said, adding that this year is the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade. “Nine men decided 39 years ago that life in the womb doesn’t matter,” she said. “But think about it, does the fact that abortion is legal mean that God condones it? No! That baby is God’s gift, it says so in Psalm 139: ‘You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.’ The beauty of ultrasound means that what is in the womb is no longer hidden. Science is discovering the works of God.”
The Women’s Clinic paired with Vitae Foundation to get the word out about the clinic and its mission. Vitae Foundation is a non-profit, educational organization based in Jefferson City, Mo., that uses research-based advertising and messaging to educate the public about the value and sanctity of human life; restore this value as a core belief in the American culture, and reduce the number of abortions.
Anne Carmichael of Vitae said, “The Women’s Clinic’s two locations are part of the six local pregnancy help centers that Vitae ads direct pregnant women in need to for help. As a result of just eight months of media between 2009 and 2011, more than 150 lives have been saved … many from women that were considering or even had already scheduled an abortion. The majority of scheduled abortions were canceled after visiting the pregnancy centers like The Women’s Clinic.”
Carmichael continued, “The Vitae Foundation is blessed to have the opportunity to work with The Women’s Clinic which now has two locations in Greater Kansas City. Deborah Neel’s leadership has brought about a very impressive outreach for pregnant women in need.”
Neel said TWC on Noland Road is supported by St. Ann’s and St. Mark’s parishes in Independence and St. Cyril’s Parish in Sugar Creek. The relationship the parishes have built up with TWC is strong and ongoing, said Bill Francis, diocesan director of the Respect Life Office. Over the course of the years since the clinic opened, Deacon Jim Reynolds, pastors and administrators of St. Ann’s, St. Cyril’s and St. Mark’s have been “instrumental in informing and inspiring their parishioners to become involved in supporting pro-life,” she added.
“St. Ann’s had one of the biggest baby bottle drives of all our participating churches. A baby bottle drive is when a church or other group distributes empty baby bottles to its members and for several weeks or a month they toss their spare change in the bottle. At the end of the drive, they turn the bottles in and the clinic receives the spare change,” Neel said. “St. Cyril’s had a Christmas party exchange and brought baby gifts for TWC new moms. Both parishes have helped us in raising awareness and directing clients through our doors. Their youth held a car wash to raise funds for the clinic. St. Mark’s held ‘Christmas in July’ baby showers for new moms for the past several years. The showers are now ‘Christmas in August,’ but they still provide hundreds of young moms with much needed clothing, diapers and other baby needs for their newborns.”
Although Neel is a non-Catholic Christian, she praised other Catholic organizations that have also supported the clinic. “The Lay fraternity of the Sisters of St. Francis purchased thousands of diapers and delivered them. Over the past three or four years,” she said, “the Student Pro-Life club at St. Mary’s High School has grown in size, helping raise awareness of TWC and raising money for the clinic through baby bottle drives. And the Knights of Columbus!”
The Missouri Knights of Columbus are strongly pro-life, and “Meet Life,” an initiative begun in 2011, raises funds through local councils which are matched by the state council to purchase sonogram machines for approved pregnancy centers throughout the state. District deputies Tom Caffrey and Stan McClatchey and several local Knights councils worked to raise a portion of funds for the new sonogram machine installed at TWC-Independence last summer.
Bill Francis agreed, “The Knights of Columbus councils from the Independence/Raytown area have basically adopted TWC and have sponsored a number of fundraisers for them. It is truly a great story of not only how our parishes and Knights have rallied around The Women’s Clinic but also a great story about how Catholics and Protestants have come together to defend life. Last fall, the TWC Banquet raised more than $300,000 in pledges, and a large number of the attendees were from our local Catholic parishes and pro-life organizations.”
Carla Johnson has worked at TWC about seven years and wears several hats. She helps with communication development, emphasizing partnerships with churches, both Catholic and non-Catholic Christian.
She does in-house training with new advocates – women and men who bond with, counsel and mentor abortion-minded women. “My heart is with our clients and with the advocates,” she said, “and I’m glad we can show them a little bit of God’s love.”
Johnson also works with staff nurses who do case management for girls at a crossroads — helping them with resumes and job-search skills.
She is also involved in training volunteers to answer phones and office work.
“A lot of people are involved with each client,” she said. “It’s like a network: people want to help, to pray, to teach classes, do sonograms, even pick up clients to bring them to TWC. With the support of the Catholic Church, we can keep the doors open for the girls. The Catholic Church and other churches are so supportive!”
The Women’s Clinic in Grandview opened last year and, in Bill Francis’s words, “Father Steve Hansen, pastor of Coronation of Our Lady Parish, is building the same type of a relationship as the Independence and Sugar Creek pastors and parishes have with TWC on Noland Road.”
Knights of Columbus councils from St. Thomas More and surrounding parishes are planning fundraisers to benefit TWC-Grandview, Francis added. The Knights of Columbus – Jackson County Council #3430, Knights of Columbus – Father James L. Wallace Council #6794, and the Knights of Columbus – Santa Fe Council #7055 all worked to raise funds locally for the purchase of a digital sonogram machine, which was matched by the Missouri State Council and the Supreme Council of the United States.
Neel said, “Father Hansen and the parishioners at Coronation of our Lady’s held a TWC baby shower that provided hundreds of baby items for the baby closet in our new Grandview clinic and hosted a ‘Family Fun Day’ to help in raising funds for the new sonogram machine.”
The Knights councils and the parishes were able to raise enough money that, coupled with the matching grants from the Missouri State Council and the Supreme Council, allowed the purchase of a sonogram machine for the Grandview TWC. A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house is planned for Feb. 7.
“Now there is another resource in the Kansas City area for pregnant women in crisis,” Francis said. “The Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City, Kan., is unique because it is the only clinic in our area founded by the Catholic Church, but TWC is without a doubt the most successful clinic in our own diocese.”
Neel said the two clinic locations serve about 150 people each month. “We see 10 or 11 clients each day and each appointment or walk-in takes about 2 hours.”
She said that TWC helps open the spiritual door for its clients. “For many girls and women, the belief in life is there but the hope isn’t there. The Lord gives them hope. When a girl comes to the clinic, she’s often in a black hole — a girl or woman in crisis needs comfort and hope, and we work to help give her comfort and hope. We’re ministering to women, and we give love to the moms as well as to their babies.”
Neel said, “There are two main reasons a woman considers abortion: no husband or no money or resources. We can’t give her a husband, but we can address the finances and resources.”
She explained that advocates and other staff at TWC offer behavior and abstinence education, crisis intervention and support while speaking the truth and love of Christ. “We want girls and women to know they are not alone, and address the cause, not just the ‘problem.’ We don’t create the need for abortions then wait for women to come in. We work to connect with the women first, we don’t condemn.”
And TWC’s approach to women and girls, and guys too, is working. Of 752 abortion-minded women who visited pregnancy resource centers like TWC in 2009 (the latest year statistics have been compiled in the Kansas City metropolitan area), 732 changed their minds and chose life after seeing their baby through the sonogram.
Just last week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recommended full funding for the Alternatives to Abortion (ATA) program ($1,583,561) for fiscal year 2013 beginning July 1, 2012. Through this program, pregnancy resource centers located throughout the state are given funds to assist women facing crisis pregnancies. Services provided include ultrasounds, prenatal care, counseling, adoption referrals and basic assistance with daily living expenses. As Neel said, “Love is an action word.”
The Women’s Clinic of Kansas City (TWC) is elated to announce the arrival of the Esaote My Lab 20 Plus, a state of the art ultrasound machine, at its Grandview Clinic. TWC is grateful for the benevolence of the local Knights of Columbus councils. The Knights of Columbus — Jackson County Council #3430, Knights of Columbus — Father James L. Wallace Council #6794, and the Knights of Columbus — Santa Fe Council #7055 raised funds locally for the purchase. The new ultrasound machine offers a fully digital platform. It comes equipped with a 17” high-resolution monitor to deliver expectant mothers the clearest visual image possible of their child. The Knights of Columbus have pooled their efforts and resources to reach out and assist pregnancy resource centers nation-wide in meeting a great need for more updated technology. Their goal is to dramatically reduce abortion rates across the country in the coming years. The local donations were matched by the Missouri State Knights of Columbus Council and the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus to total the amount needed to purchase this revolutionary piece of equipment for TWC.
TWC is hosting a Ribbon Cutting ceremony and Open House at our Grandview Clinic on February 7th, 2012, from 6:00PM to 8:00PM to celebrate this exciting arrival. Come join in the celebration, tour our clinic, and take a close-up look at this amazing technology.