‘Prayers are powerful’: Peoria abortion provider planning to close its doors

Sister Mary Jo Yutt, OSF is pictured in prayer outside Whole Woman's Health of Peoria in this 2018 file photo. Sister Mary Jo and the area's pro-life community are reacting with joy and gratitude to an announcement that the abortion provider has announced plans to close. Seen in the background is the pro-life Women's Care Center, which will continue to serve and support pregnant women in need. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Even as legislation to expand access to abortion was making quick progress through the Illinois House and Senate last week, respect life advocates took heart from the announcement that a Peoria abortion provider would be closing.

In a statement sent to The Catholic Post on May 30, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said “it is no longer sustainable to keep our doors open in Peoria.” Details about what that means or a closing date were not provided.

Whole Woman’s Health of Peoria has done business at 7405 N. University St. for four years. The building previously housed National Health Care Inc., which also offered abortions.

Sister Mary Jo Yutt, OSF, has been standing in front of the clinic to pray and picket for 30 years, ever since it was located just down the street in Pioneer Square. She often goes after morning Mass on Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday, alone or with others, in all kinds of weather.

“I’m joyous, joyful — I couldn’t be happier,” she told The Catholic Post as she was preparing to attend a Holy Hour for the “Rights of the Unborn Child” in the chapel of her motherhouse, Immaculate Conception Convent in West Peoria.

“I thank God that they are closing,” Sister Mary Jo said. “Prayers are powerful and they work.”

Longtime pro-life advocate Karen Guth, former director of 40 Days for Life in Peoria, cried when she heard the news.

“Part of me says I’m going to believe it when I see it, when I see they’re closed on whatever the signs are going to be. . . . We’ll see what happens.” — Karen Guth

“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it,” she said as she sat at the Family Resources Center in Peoria, where she volunteers one day a week. “Part of me says I’m going to believe it when I see it, when I see they’re closed on whatever the signs are going to be. . . . We’ll see what happens.”

She said extreme abortion legislation in New York, as well as Illinois, seems to be motivating people to bring their children, friends and relatives to the sidewalk outside Whole Woman’s Health to pray. Quoting Msgr. Philip Reilly, founder of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, Guth said, “We need to bring Jesus to the place of darkness.”

He also noted that laws won’t end abortion. Only a change of heart can do that, Guth said.

“I’m just grateful for the hours I’ve been there, all the other people that have been there, the people who have seen what’s happening and said, ‘That’s it,’” she said.

STRENGTH AND DIGNITY

Guth said having Women’s Care Center next door to Whole Women’s Health might have played a role in the abortion clinic’s closing.

Opened in 2013, Women’s Care Center is one of 32 centers in 11 states that provide support for mothers and their babies. They seek to build strong families by offering education on parenting, among other things.

“We really want women in Peoria to know that we will continue to be there, we will continue to serve them, we will continue to offer all of the help and care and support they need if they find themselves potentially pregnant.” — Jenny Hunsberger, vice president, Women’s Care Center

Jenny Hunsberger, vice president of Women’s Care Center, said 30,000 women come through their doors each year, with 895 of them assisted at the Peoria location in the last 12 months alone.

“We really want women in Peoria to know that we will continue to be there, we will continue to serve them, we will continue to offer all of the help and care and support they need if they find themselves potentially pregnant,” Hunsberger told The Post in a telephone interview from the organization’s headquarters in South Bend, Indiana.

She said more than nine in 10 women who come to one of their centers choose life for their children.

“Here they are met without judgment. Here they are met with hope. And here they recognize their own strength and dignity and from that they make decisions for life,” Hunsberger explained. “So we know that the work that we are doing is life affirming and empowering, and we are proud to offer that to the women in Peoria.”

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