By Sara Kraft
Special to the Catholic Key
In November 2013, Gwen Knowles, Executive Director and Heather Archer, R.N., Director, began discussing the possibility of opening a crisis pregnancy center in Maryville, Missouri. On August 26, 2014, their dream became a reality as they held the ribbon cutting ceremony for the center.
During the inaugural fundraising dinner of the brand new Crisis Pregnancy Center, Inc., St. Andrew the Apostle parishioner Melissa Ohden spoke of the scars abortion has left in her family.
“Thirty-one weeks or 31 days – what is the difference in God’s eyes?” questioned Melissa to the 220 banquet attendees. Melissa is a survivor of a failed saline infusion abortion in 1977. Her gestational age was 31 weeks at the time of the failed abortion attempt.
On August 29, 1977, Melissa was born alive at 2 pounds and 14 ounces. Like 64 percent of women who have abortions, Melissa learned her mother had also been coerced into having an abortion. In Melissa’s mother’s case, it was her grandmother, a prominent nurse, who forced the abortion. When Melissa was delivered five days following the abortion procedure, her grandmother gave the demand that her first grandchild be left to die. Thankfully, two nurses on staff interceded for her, and Melissa was able to receive medical care.
“I don’t fault my grandmother,” Melissa explained. “That is what abortion does to our society.”
Melissa explained there was no medical reason why someone like her would survive. Despite doctors predicting a multitude of medical issues if she happened to make it out of infancy, Melissa is perfectly healthy and whole today. Melissa was adopted by a loving family, and was able to leave the hospital after three months.
Melissa always knew she was adopted and loved, but it wasn’t until her older sister faced an unplanned pregnancy that Melissa learned the truth of the horrors of her birth. After more than ten years of searching, Melissa found her biological mother and father when she received her medical records in which the names of her parents were not blacked out.
Melissa said many people approach her and tell her how wrong it was her mother had an abortion at 31 weeks.
“Abortion complicates things instead of simplifying them,” Melissa said. Her birth mother and maternal birth grandparents’ relationship was forever changed, as they were no longer speaking to each other. Melissa’s birth mother had spent over 30 years believing Melissa had died during the abortion. She was physically, mentally, and spiritually changed. It wasn’t until she learned that Melissa lived that she could begin to heal.
Melissa applauded the three pronged approach of the brand-new center. The center focuses on prevention, intervention, and extension of pregnancies in the area they serve. Maryville was specifically chosen for a location due to the proximity of two abortion clinics within a 90 minute drive.
The center is grateful to be equipped with an ultrasound machine which was provided through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus Meet Life Campaign. The Missouri State Council raised half of the necessary funds, and the Supreme Council paid for the rest. Since the program began 3 years ago, it is the 35th ultrasound machine the Knights of Columbus State Council has placed in the state of Missouri. The Maryville Knights of Columbus Council held a fish fry to complete the Missouri State Council portion of the funds. A private donor paid for the installation and staff training for the machine.
“Between 80 to 93 percent of women who view an ultrasound will choose to keep their child,” said Mike Grudzinski, Knights of Columbus State Program Director. “It is an awesome tool to hopefully get a mother to choose life.”
In the 2013 calendar year more than 1,600 babies were saved from abortion as a direct result of the Meet Life Campaign.
“It’s a very important tool to have for women who are looking for answers for their pregnancy,” explains Gwen Knowles. Women at the Crisis Pregnancy Center question how far along they are, is their pregnancy viable, and who the father might be. “Our ultrasound machine helps us provide them with some answers. It empowers them to make the best decision for themselves.”
“From the beginning, our community has reached out with support, including financial, donating items for the baby store, and prayer,” Gwen added. “We are really encouraged by the event and support and phone calls from people wanting to donate time and goods since the event. It’s really uplifting to have a lot of the community behind us.”