Making ‘Room at the Inn’
Side-by-side on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, two buildings are in a life and death standoff. In the brick Planned Parenthood building, patient services center around impairing a woman’s reproductive system. Six recovery rooms remain vacant awaiting a license to perform abortions. “We definitely built this so we can provide abortions,” CEO of the abortion giant, Cecile Richards, announced last year.
Immediately beside it to the east, standing taller and brighter is the shiny glass building, Hope Woman’s Clinic, offering a full range of health care for the entirety of the woman, mind, body and soul. And in the heart of the building is the St. Clare Blessed Sacrament Chapel where daily Mass is offered and the power of Jesus Christ emanates to the staff to treat women of any faith and to build a culture of life.
Planned Parenthood opened for business last May, over a year later than projected, thanks to construction delays that Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans helped create. He had warned that any person or business helping with the Planned Parenthood building would not work for the Archdiocese. “We cannot cooperate with evil,” he stated.
Prime Location – Beside Planned Parenthood
The Hope Woman’s Clinic opened directly next door in October of this year. They do not want to just steal customers; they want to care for women in a way to prevent them from ever turning to Planned Parenthood.
According to the chief executive officer and attorney Angie Thomas, “The Hope Woman’s Clinic is unique in that we have paired together a full-service women’s clinic with an outreach to women in unplanned pregnancies.”
She explained that it is an extension of the Woman’s New Life Center (WNLC), which has expanded and flourished in large part due to the support of many Legates. “We can’t do this work without their help,” she said. “We don’t get half a billion dollars in government funding, and this is not a lucrative business.”
Helping Women and Children Thrive – A Brief History
In 2001, WNLC opened in New Orleans around the corner from an abortion facility, offering counseling and resources to women in unplanned pregnancies. When Hurricane Katrina shut down the abortion business in 2005, WNLC relocated right next to another abortion business in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.
The new center proved that location, location, location, is key. Many babies survived because their abortion-minded mothers took a detour after seeing signs for counseling and information, or they were handed brochures explaining the truth. That same formula for success continued when a second WNLC opened in Baton Rouge immediately next to another abortion provider.
In 2015, WNLC expanded their health care services to open Hope Woman’s Clinic in the Metairie location. The expanded services included routine wellness exams and reproductive health solutions, even teaching natural family planning. When the Metairie abortion business closed and Planned Parenthood began building in New Orleans, the Hope Woman’s Clinic followed close behind. The land adjacent to Planned Parenthood was donated for the Hope Woman’s Clinic 5,800-square-foot building, and $2.2 million was raised through a fundraising campaign.
Better Care Promotes Total Well-Being
“By meeting women where they are at and becoming their medical provider, we help them to understand their bodies and to flourish,” Thomas said. “Everything we do is in line with the Church. She explained that the clinic’s doctor, Susan Caldwell, is a primary care physician trained in NaPro Technology which stands for Natural Procreative Technology, a new way to diagnose and treat reproductive and gynecological health that is effective, scientific and moral.
Caldwell previously worked for 10 years in an outpatient clinic. Once she learned that hormonal contraception–whether prescribed for birth control or a physical problem— was bad medicine, she became committed to helping women find a better way. “NaPro gives us a way to read a women’s signs to design a diagnostic strategy to bring healing for things like polycystic ovarian disease and endometriosis,” Caldwell said.
She explained that women are cared for beyond their reproductive cycles to include the whole person—from cholesterol and blood pressure to anxiety or depression. “We are focused on showing other doctors and patients that this is better care,” she said. “It can be done.”
There are certainly challenges to thinking, such as when mothers bring their teenage daughters in for birth control, women needing treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, or the case of an exotic dancer worried about her health since she had relationships with multiple partners but with no pregnancies. “We invite the women to think differently about themselves and about sex,” Caldwell said. “We give them the message: ‘You can make a better choice. You can better understand your body and your dignity and decide not to let someone hurt you with an STD or unplanned pregnancy.’” She also helps women to understand that sex and babies go together and that the well-being of the baby is important.
Father Joseph Doyle is the rector of the Josephite seminary in Washington, D.C. but had served as one of three chaplains for the New Orleans Legatus Chapter for 15 years, was the principal of the all-black St. Augustine High School, and also volunteered with WNLC and
Hope Woman’s Clinic.
“Often women came to see us instead of going into the abortion clinic and then came back later with their babies,” Father Doyle said. He recalled a woman who came out of the abortion facility in tears because they would not accept her credit card. “A prayer warrior asked her why she was crying and invited her to our clinic,” Father Doyle said. “She ended up keeping her baby.”
Legate Advocacy and Support
Father Doyle described abortion as the defining issue of our time and credited Legatus as being an organization with a passion for life offering important support. Many from the New Orleans chapter have been involved.
David Lukinovich, president of the Baton Rouge Chapter and owner and president of Lukinovich Law (APLC), a law firm specializing in wealth conservation planning, said that he and his wife Kim first listened to Susan Mire, the founder of the WNLC, at a Legatus chapter meeting. “She talked about how entrepreneurship is part of the Gospel message,” he said. “She also shared her vision for crisis pregnancy centers.”
Lukinovich explained that things quickly fell into place from the start. “For instance, Susan prayed to the Blessed Mother for a phone system and the next day, Legate Steven Hubbell offered her a phone system that he no longer needed.” Lukinovich helped set up the WNLC as a 501(c)3 and was instrumental in land and building purchases.
Legates Jack and Anne Dardis have opened their home to a woman who comes to train natural family planning instructors and they had a group of medical professionals from Costa Rica stay with them during their training. According to Jack, advocating for life is a core value. “If we get a change there, we will have more people and more opportunity for money and help going to social justice causes.”
Gordon and Ann Stevens were involved with WNLC from the very beginning. Ann, a former Right to Life president of New Orleans, met Susan Mire while WNLC was still just an idea.
“This is a grassroots movement,” Ann explained. “There are so many people committed to life in New Orleans because the Catholic faith is strong here, although it crosses to other faiths.”
To her, a sign that God is supporting their pro-life efforts is that despite the expense and scarcity of land in the areas where the abortion businesses have located, they have been able to move right next door. “God knows this problem is far greater than we can solve, but he wants us to be there to represent hope,” Ann said. “It’s His plan; we just have to show up.”
PATTI MAGUIRE ARMSTRONG is a Legatus contributing writer.