By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
PARKVILLE — For Angela Clark, the moment that her job pays off as administrative assistant for the Parkville Women’s Clinic is when she receives that call from a client in a crisis pregnancy who tells her that she has changed her mind — she won’t abort her baby. She will carry it to birth.
“It feels like the heavens have parted and the angels are singing,” Clark said. “And God himself is also singing to you.”
For Lisa Murphy, a registered nurse who offers women their first look at their babies developing inside them with ultrasound technology, that moment often comes on the examination table.
“I can see them change their minds,” Murphy said. “We want to save lives. I know we are.”
“For me,” said nurse Amanda Senter, “it’s when you show them the heart beat. When they (the babies) are that young, you can see the heart beat clearly.”
The Parkville Women’s Clinic opened just last spring in a new commercial and residential development just west of Interstate 29 and south of heavily travelled Northwest 64th Street (Missouri Highway 45) at 6326 N. Lucerne Ave.
But it dates back to 2004 as Hands of Hope, a Christian outreach that offered women in crisis pregnancies material support, such as diapers and clothing, and referrals to medical care to show women that abortion isn’t the only choice.
“They’ve kind of stolen that word ‘choice’ from us,” said executive director Sonya Rice, speaking of the “pro-choice” movement that advocates keeping abortion legal.
“We’re all about choice. That’s why we must continue to educate about abortion,” Rice said.
Take for example the woman who called Rice in August, thinking that the women’s clinic might provide abortions. The woman already is mother to two children, and had an abortion just six months earlier.
Rice quickly told the woman that the Parkville clinic won’t do abortions, nor would they refer her to any clinic that would do abortions. Instead, she invited the woman to the clinic for a pregnancy test, and ultrasound evaluation, and a full discussion of her options, which strongly favored birth — not only for the sake of the baby, but for the sake and health of the mother as well.
“She called back and told us that she has chosen to parent,” Rice said. “So that was a life we saved.”
One woman, one baby at a time, if that’s what it takes, Rice said. And always knowing that God is in full command.
Rice, who has led the service for eight of its nine years, knows full well that God’s ways are only mysterious when humans think too much and don’t act enough.
Last year, she said, the then Hands of Hope board of directors discerned a call to expand more into medical areas — offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasound evaluations — in addition to the material support they were already providing to women.
But that meant moving out of their tiny Platte City office, and expanding their budget enormously.
They hemmed and hawed for sometime over that major leap of faith until they brought in a trainer to advise them on establishing a full-care clinic.
Rice said the board set out for him a rather modest plan, and he shot right back them:
“I don’t think you are praying or thinking big enough,” he said. “I’ve seen God bless pregnancy centers with more than they could ever dream of.”
So they prayed harder. And thought bigger.
“We began praying for God to show us where he wanted this ministry to go,” Rice said.
The blessings began flowing, not the least of which was the commitment from parishioners from St. Therese Parish in Parkville, its Knights of Columbus chapter and its pastor, Father Joe Cisetti.
“We had members on our board who were from St. Therese who made the contacts with Northpoint Development. They offered us a deal we couldn’t refuse,” Rice said.
It was for a suite of offices with examination rooms, counseling rooms, a conference room and storage space, all tucked away in an easily accessible corner of the easily accessible development, but still with the privacy that clients would need.
“We pay rent,” Rice said. “But Northpoint gave us an amazing deal.”
“Then another parishioner from St. Therese, Ken Karr, stepped up and said, ‘I’ll be your project representative,’” Rice said. Karr oversaw the entire move into the new southern Platte County space.
Then came the Missouri Knights of Columbus, who donated the key piece of equipment — a $24,000 ultrasound with a full screen. That was vital, Rice said.
“Ninety-three percent of women who are shown an ultrasound will choose life,” she said.
“The ultrasound is a very powerful tool. You put that with great client advocacy, and they can’t get that anywhere else.”
A member of the Church of Christ, Rice said she has come to appreciate deeply the Catholic theology of life.
“I am astounded at how the Catholic Church has taken such a firm stand on life in its teachings, but it doesn’t stop there. They take it to the next level. They just don’t do it a little bit. When the Catholic Church says it is going to do something, they do it top-notch,” she said.
Rice said she would like to share credit for the miracle that is Parkville Women’s Clinic among herself, the army of volunteers and her staff. But she can’t. She knows who did it.
“When you pray and your open yourself up to God, then you see how he uses us as his instruments,” Rice said. “I never could have dreamed that God could do what he has done.”
Rice said that the biggest thrill she gets is when a client brings their newborn child to show off to the clinic staff.
“That’s the ultimate,” she said. “That makes everything we are about worth it. When they bring that baby back, you think that baby wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for us.”
And that is when she is reminded once again of who is in charge.
“God has a plan and a purpose for that life,” Rice said. “He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s the creator of all life.”
And that is a deeply personal experience for Rice.
Right after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, a 15-year-old girl became pregnant by her 17-year-old boyfriend. That girl chose life. She was Sonya Rice’s birth mother.
“Yeah, my birth mother is a hero,” Rice said. “I was adopted to a very loving, strong Christian family at three months old.”
Before taking her job with Hands of Hope and now the Parkville Women’s Clinic, Rice also served as an addiction recovery counselor.
“God has given me a heart for helping people who are hurting, to give them hope, and the ultimate hope is Jesus Christ,” she said.
“Combining ministry with saving lives, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Rice said.
The Parkville Women’s Clinic survives on donations, some as little as $25 a month, and two annual fundraisers. One of them, a banquet, will be held Sept. 26 at the Embassy Suites Hotel near Kansas City International Airport,
The featured speaker will be Rebecca Kiessling, a family law attorney whose mother was a victim of rape who chose life for her daughter.
For more information on the Parkville Women’s Clinic and the services it offers, visit www.parkvillewomensclinic.com