Women’s Care Center opens next to Peoria abortion facility

Photo Caption: Jody Pitcher, director; Ann Manion, national president; and Christine Dennis, promoter and fundraiser, stand in the room where ultrasounds will be performed at the new Women’s Care Center in Peoria.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Women with unplanned pregnancies now have two very clear choices in Peoria and they sit side by side.

One offers love, a shoulder to lean on, and support for them and their babies for as long as they need it. This new outreach at 7319 N. University St. is called the Women’s Care Center.

The other offers abortion on demand. It is estimated that 1,500 are performed each year at National Health Care Inc., 7405 N. University St.

Ann Manion, national president of Women’s Care Center, said there’s no doubt in her mind which option women will choose.

“We unconditionally love and serve women facing problem pregnancies. Women respond to that and when they feel loved they end up making very good decisions. The end result is life,” she said when she visited central Illinois to oversee the opening of the organization’s 21st center on May 16.

“There’s no judging, there’s no agenda, just love,” added Christine Dennis, a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights who has been working to get a Women’s Care Center in Peoria since 2006. “It’s the Mother Teresa model — we love them right where they’re at, not where we think they should be.”

That support has never been more needed, according to Dennis.
“We have been inundated from the first day,” she told The Catholic Post on May 21. “On Saturday, the first procedure day (at the clinic) next door, we had six wrong-door clients. Three stayed inside for counseling. One is coming back. One left.

“Nobody had a clue that we’d be this busy this fast. They’re walking in off the street,” she said. “The immediate, immediate response without advertising is enormous. . . . Volunteers are being trained.”

What the center can offer the women in crisis is free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Both will be available whenever the center is open, according to Jody Pitcher, a registered nurse and director of the center.

All ultrasounds will be reviewed by Dr. David Kindred or Dr. Jillian Stalling, who are serving as medical directors.

Dennis said these ultrasounds, which will be displayed on a 50-inch screen, are vital in helping a mother choose life for her child.

“Even if she’s very early she will be able to see the baby. Next door they turn the screen and there’s no sound,” she said, referring to consultations at National Health Care Inc.

“The hearing is even more important than the visual. There’s something about the beating heart that makes the baby theirs,” Dennis explained.

To help them prepare for baby, mothers-to-be can attend parenting classes at Women’s Care Center, if they choose to parent.

“We also have supportive programs here if they want to make an adoption plan. We have that option as well,” Pitcher said.

By attending parenting classes and going to their doctor’s appointments, mothers can earn coupons to redeem at the Crib Club, which has baby necessities such as clothes, diapers, cribs, strollers and car seats. Two coupons can be exchanged for 10 diapers, for example.

Self-sufficiency training is also available, so women can set goals and then map out how to achieve them.

All services are free and confidential, Dennis said.

“By offering all these services it helps women choose life, because they can see that it’s real and it’s something tangible and there’s going to be step-by-step support,” said Manion.

Based in South Bend, Ind., Women’s Care Center was founded by Dr. Janet E. Smith, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, in 1984.

“She had a pregnant student and there was just no place in the community that would support life, but you could go to the abortion clinic,” Manion said. “She needed to do something about that.”

Women’s Care Centers can now be found not only in Indiana and Illinois, but in Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Next month a center will open in Vero Beach, Fla.

Dennis learned of the organization when her husband was sent to Fort Wayne by Caterpillar. She volunteered at the center there and was determined to get one started in Peoria when the family returned in 2006.

While the centers are designed to be ecumenical, “we follow the teachings of the Catholic Church in that we don’t promote abortion, sterilization or birth control,” Dennis said. “Anyone who walks in the door, regardless of what they believe, is loved and served.”

The Peoria center was made possible, in large part, by the Kress family of Brimfield, which purchased the building. Support has also come from The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, which donated some of the equipment and furniture.

Offering prayer support were Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, and Father Joseph Mary Brown, prior of the Community of St. John in Princeville, who conducted a short prayer service before the center opened May 16.

“We ask God’s special blessing to bring life out of the culture of death we have had here on North University Street for so long,” Msgr. Showalter said, before sprinkling holy water throughout the facility — and in the parking lot as he faced the abortion clinic next door.

“Hopefully they will realize we are over here and will be converted,” Father Joseph Mary said.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will be present for the center’s official opening on Thursday, Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption. It will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. and include an open house and reception.

The Women’s Care Center of Peoria will be open during regular business hours Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 7 to 11 a.m. The phone number is (309) 689-0200. Someone will be available to take calls 24 hours a day.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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