Tag Archives: pro-life pregnancy centers

Touching The Nurturing Heart Of A Mother

Before Legate Bobby Williams set out to open a new pro-life Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, he did what he always does: he asked the local bishop for permission – and for help.

The help came in the form of names of three key people in the Indianapolis Archdiocese who might aid in kick-starting the project. As it happened, they turned out to be fellow Legates — the late Tom Spencer, and Joan and Bob Smith. With their assistance and that of countless others, the Indianapolis center opened in 2014 next to the nation’s fifth-largest Planned Parenthood facility and since has become the fastest-growing pro-life pregnancy-resource center in the country.

It also is the largest of the 32 centers in Women’s Care Centers’ rapidly expanding network spanning 11 states. The 6,000-square-foot facility provides more than 3,000 3D/4D ultrasounds annually and now serves one in seven babies born in Marion County. In just three years, it has saved more than 6,000 babies from abortion.

Each Women’s Care Center offers free pregnancy tests, ultrasound imaging, counseling, and parenting and child development classes in a homey, accessible setting with eye-catching signage and full- time hours.

Williams, who serves as director of the WCC Foundation, credits the involvement of Legatus members with the success of the Indianapolis facility as well as the care center network’s remarkable growth over the last few years. Although the first Women’s Care Center dates to 1984, much of the network’s development has come more recently, thanks in large part to the prayers, volunteer service, and financial support of Legates, who have caught the vision of Women’s Care Centers and in some cases, have worked to bring them to their communities.

“There is no question that Legatus members have been the prime movers behind Women’s Care Centers’ national success,” Williams said. Last year alone, he added, the centers performed 21,365 ultrasounds and saved 15,052 babies with 94 percent of the pregnant women served choosing life for their babies. “It is no overstatement to say that one of the biggest factors in this success is the quiet, effective, behind-the-scenes support and counsel of Legatus members.”

For example, before he died unexpectedly Feb. 23 at the age of 64, Spencer served on the Indianapolis center’s board and had been among the first to support the project when it was proposed. He also was effective in attracting other supporters, making him someone who will be remembered as one of the center’s “founding fathers,” Williams said.

Likewise, the Smiths were early supporters, contributing a major gift that was instrumental in moving the project forward. “Their boundless generosity gave us the momentum we needed to purchase the property and get the construction well underway,” Williams said. “We were honored to name our main reception room in their honor.”

Bob Smith, who prays daily for the work of WCC, said he and his wife were impelled to help the center primarily through their daughter, Meg Ryder, who serves on the Indianapolis center’s board.

“They’re not only saving babies, they’re also saving mothers, and I think that’s a very crucial difference,” said Smith. Before becoming involved with Women’s Care Centers, he said he and his wife had marched outside a Planned Parenthood facility. “That was quite an experience, but it didn’t do anything to change minds or hearts. What this does is it changes hearts.”

Unlike other organizations seeking to stop abortions, Smith said, Women’s Care Centers go directly to the source – the mother – persuading her with the help of ultrasound technology. “Once a mother can see what’s living inside her – that it’s actually a human being, not just a blob of flesh – she is going to be very much committed to maintaining that life and nurturing it.”

Legate Marianne Price, a WCC supporter whose husband, Frank, is on the board of the Indianapolis center, agreed. “Once women see their baby, it really helps them form a bond.” She said what she and her husband found exciting about the Women’s Care Center approach is that it offers women an attractive and affirming option that can help them make a good choice. “So much of the debate about abortion is vitriolic. People are saying a lot of negative things about both sides. Women’s Care Center is very positive and tries to provide an appealing alternative.”

That the approach works is evident from statistics showing every community with a Women’s Care Center has seen exceptional abortion declines, Williams said. Where centers are more established, abortions have declined an average of 65 percent and abortion clinics have closed. But even communities where centers have opened more recently are seeing decreases.

For instance, in Milwaukee, where the Women’s Care Center was founded in 2010, abortions have already declined 36 percent.

Although there is no shortage of cities that could benefit from having a Women’s Care Center, the organization does not choose where to locate new facilities without an invitation. “There needs to be a committed and passionate person leading the effort for it to be successful,” Williams said.

In South Bend, Ind., where the first Women’s Care Center opened more than 30 years ago, that person was Dr. Janet Smith, then a young professor at the University of Notre Dame. From her efforts and humble beginnings in a little blue house has emerged a nationwide network that includes three new centers opened this year in Berea, Ky.; York, Pa., and Chicago. In just two months, the Chicago center has saved more than 100 babies, indicating there may be a need for additional centers in that city to meet the demand. An existing pregnancy center with three locations in North Dakota also is working to convert its sites into Women’s Care Centers. Future expansion plans include centers in the states of Texas, Virginia, Connecticut, and Florida.

Once an individual or group invites Women’s Care Centers to a community, an assessment is conducted to determine the need for services that would be provided. Next, the local bishop’s permission is sought and, if granted, a location, preferably one next to an abortion provider, is identified. Currently, 22 Women’s Care Centers are near or adjacent to abortion clinics.

“We don’t locate next to abortion clinics to picket or protest, to provide confusion to young women, or to somehow trick them or deceive them into coming into our place by mistake,” Williams said, “but rather, we choose to be there because that’s where the women are.” Generally, he added, if a pro-life facility and an abortion clinic are near each other, pregnant women will go to both facilities. “More than 9 of 10 times, when they go to both, they stay at our facility and choose life . . . All we do is provide choice – life-affirming choice – and it works.”


JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Fighting the abortion giant

Legate Kathleen Eaton goes toe-to-toe with abortion giant Planned Parenthood . . .

Kathleen Eaton remembers everything about that day in 1980.

She was 28, going through a divorce, and pregnant with another man’s baby. Unwilling to face her parents, Eaton opted for an abortion. The Planned Parenthood clinic she visited didn’t do an ultrasound. They said she had a “blob of tissue” inside her. The abortion itself, performed at another clinic, was the worst experience of her life.

“I had no medication and felt horrible pain,” Eaton said. “I went out the back door afterwards, sat down on a curb and cried. Part of it was the pain, and part of it was thinking, ‘What have I done?’ I began to pray to God to allow me to stop other women from doing this.”

Healing and reconciliation

Fast forward to 2012. Eaton is now the president of seven Birth Choice Health Clinics in California with another in the works. Founded in 1981 (Eaton took over in 1986), these pro-life community care clinics provide medical consultations, pregnancy tests, STD and HIV/AIDS testing, and prenatal care.

Eaton’s journey from the curb outside an abortion clinic to pro-life activist is packed with grace-filled coincidences — or as she calls them “God-instances.”

“There were many things that my abortion was supposed to save, including my job and my marriage,” she explained. “My husband saw the paperwork on the abortion and the marriage was over. I ended up walking away from my job and my parents found out.”

The year after the abortion, Eaton hit rock-bottom.

“I didn’t go back to church that whole year,” she said. “I was stumbling along, numb, all out of focus. Nothing connected. I was depressed and I drank.”

Eaton got married within that year and moved to Oklahoma. She spent the entire first night looking out the kitchen window and crying. She finally decided to pray. She looked up a Catholic Church in the phonebook and went to Mass the next morning.

“The moment I walked in, I realized this was God’s house. I felt I didn’t belong,” she said.

Eaton found herself sitting between two old ladies who refused to move throughout the Mass, not even for Communion. She couldn’t leave even if she wanted to — the first of many “God-instances.”

“At the end of the Mass, the priest announced that there was a speaker,” Eaton explained. “I was still stuck between the two ladies when a woman went up and said, ‘My name is Barbara. I work for a pregnancy care center,’ and she described her work.”

After the Mass, Eaton instinctively knew she had to meet Barbara.

“She saw my eyes and told me later that she knew. She just knew. Barbara invited me to a meeting. So two days later, I found myself at a meeting with 25 women. Pretty soon they were all praying over me, and this was my introduction to the Catholic charismatic movement,” she said.

Eaton’s healing began immediately. During the next four years, she returned to the Church and studied her faith. She had her first marriage annulled, and her second husband entered the Church. She counseled women at a local crisis pregnancy care center and prayed outside abortion mills — specifically Dr. George Tiller’s clinic in Wichita, which performed third-trimester abortions.

Passion for the unborn

Kathleen Eaton

When Eaton moved back to California with three children in 1986, she decided to start a packaging and labeling business for medical manufacturing companies. She loved the pro-life movement, but needed to provide for her family since her husband had been injured.

One day, Eaton found boxes on her doorstep. A woman, who had met Eaton briefly outside of Tiller’s clinic years earlier, left an envelope which explained that she was moving to St. Louis and had left Birth Choice to Eaton’s care. All calls had been forwarded to her. All the files were in the boxes.

Eaton was furious, but then she recalled that she had just returned from a Cursillo retreat which stressed that sometimes the Lord doesn’t give you options. Another “God-instance.”

Suddenly the phone rang, and a crying woman begged Eaton to help her friend’s daughter who was on her way to Tiller’s clinic for an abortion. Eaton tried to call the young girl countless times, but to no avail. She quickly rallied friends from her retreat to pray for the baby about to be aborted. They named her Mary.

“We prayed the rosary for those two children — Mary and the son I had aborted years before, Toby. They are up in heaven and they started Birth Choice. Mother Teresa once said that every child has an impact. These two children started this ministry,” Eaton said.

After her husband’s death six years ago, Eaton dropped her packaging business and dedicated herself to Birth Choice full time. The clinics are now the envy of pregnancy care centers across the country. They have 40 paid staff and over 150 volunteers.

“I’ve known her for a long time,” said Ralph Linzmeier, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter, where Eaton is also a member. “She has this heart for the unborn, and her Birth Choice Clinics have touched so many lives. She is very well organized and has good business sense. But what she really has is vision.”

Oonagh Linzmeier, Ralph’s wife, is a member of the Birth Choice board.

“I have been involved with pregnancy care centers for 20 years,” Oonagh said. “But three years ago when I met Kathleen, I was very impressed with her vision. Of all her gifts, the most impressive is her ability to communicate her passion.”

This is no idle praise. Though Eaton isn’t a trained fundraiser, she singlehandedly raises $3 million every year for Birth Choice. Last year’s Birth Choice Clinics Gala garnered $1.7 million in a single night. And in 2009, Eaton joined President George W. Bush as a recipient of Legatus’ Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award.

Unlike most crisis pregnancy care centers, Birth Choice goes toe-to-toe with Planned Parenthood by opening clinics nearby and employing doctors and nurses at every location. While some states try to close crisis pregnancy centers because of the lack of medical personnel, Birth Choice is ahead of the curve.

“I can’t overturn Roe v. Wade, but I can go after Planned Parenthood’s client base and do stronger work within each community,” Eaton said. “Our vision is to reach abortion-minded couples. It’s very hard. We do it through word of mouth and social media.”

Eaton is concerned about how people use their sexuality to ruin their own lives.

“Millions of these young couples go to Planned Parenthood, who feed them drugs and teach them how to be sexually active. We have to teach them how beautifully they are made,” she said.

When she looks back on her life and the success of Birth Choice Clinics, Eaton knows why her operations thrive.

“When you put yourself out there, God will honor your faith walk. If you build it in His honor, God will honor it. God will listen. He will bless you.”

Eaton’s life is a profound testament to what can happen when you take “God-instances” seriously.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Clinic crackdown

Pro-life pregnancy centers are battling back after unprecedented legislative attacks . . .

They provide millions of dollars in free services to women and infants each year, yet pro-life pregnancy resource centers across the country are facing a new wave of attacks from pro-abortion forces bent on challenging their very existence.

Legislators and the abortion lobby, in an effort they claim springs from a desire to protect the clients who use such centers, are seeking to place onerous restrictions on pregnancy centers in several cities and states.

Managing the crisis

Abortion advocates claim the centers often mislead clients by “masquerading” as health clinics, failing to provide women with information about all options available to them.

“It’s an old charge,” said Peggy Hartshorn, a member of Legatus’ Columbus Chapter and president of Heartbeat International, which serves more than 1,100 affiliated pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and nonprofit adoption agencies worldwide.

Hartshorn said such allegations date to the 1980s. The pro-life movement initially responded by making pregnancy centers more professional. In some cases, centers acquired ultrasound equipment and became clinics. Currently, about half the pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. offer ultrasounds, Hartshorn said.

But the abortion lobby hasn’t given up its quest to crack down on the centers. In 2000, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s report “Unmasking Fake Clinics” outlined strategies for sending women posing as clients into pregnancy centers to gather “evidence” that would show the need for regulations.

At the outset, pro-abortion groups set their sights on national and state legislation, but garnered little success. Proposed bills in both Oregon and Maryland were defeated. But within the last two years, they’ve turned their attention to city and county regulations.

In Baltimore, a law passed by the city council required pregnancy centers to post signs in English and Spanish saying they don’t refer for abortion or birth control. But in a Jan. 28 ruling, a federal judge declared the law “unenforceable,” saying it was the provider’s responsibility, not the government’s, to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth control methods.

Although the decision, which is being appealed, is considered an important victory for pregnancy centers, it doesn’t end the matter, said Thomas Glessner, president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA), which provides legal counsel and training to 1,200-plus crisis pregnancy centers nationwide. “It’s the only precedent out there right now, but it’s in the Fourth Circuit and not binding on other circuits.”

Restrictive legislation

Meanwhile, an even more restrictive law was passed March 2 in New York City, where more than 41% of pregnancies end in abortion. A similar, but even more restrictive law in Washington failed to pass the state House on March 7.

New York City’s law requires pregnancy resource centers to post statements in their buildings, on websites and in all advertising and literature saying they don’t provide abortions, emergency contraception or prenatal care. Centers also have to state whether their services are under the supervision of a licensed medical provider.

A similar measure in Austin, Texas, grants an exemption to centers that operate as medical clinics. All pregnancy centers in that city have been upgraded to that status.

Peggy Hartshorn

Hartshorn said more than 20 centers, most of them Heartbeat affiliates, would fall under the New York City law. Among them is Pregnancy Help in Manhattan. Legatus member Veronique Monier, chair of the center’s board, said Pregnancy Help is already very transparent about the services it provides — including pregnancy tests and information on abortion procedures and pregnancy options.

“We listen to clients and we present them the different options,” Monier said. “People all around these women tell them they have only one option, which is abortion. We just open the options for them. We show them they have a real choice to make.”

The current attacks will ultimately strengthen pregnancy centers, Hartshorn said. Wherever they occur, she said, “we’re there on the ground trying to help and support our pregnancy centers. We’re also trying to prepare them by making sure they’re complying with all laws and regulations — local, state and national — so they’re as strong as they can possibly be and not vulnerable to attack.”

Proactive measures

Heartbeat is also trying to be proactive by letting legislators know about the good that pregnancy centers are doing in their communities. Through the Babies Go to Congress program, Heartbeat takes mothers, babies and pregnancy center directors to visit legislators in state capitals and Washington, D.C.

“We try to focus on the real benefit to maternal and child health provided in the community at no cost to the taxpayer,” Hartshorn said.

Michele BachmannRep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), mother of five and foster mother of 23, received such a visit from a Heartbeat delegation in January. Her staff then posted photos of the event on Bachmann’s Facebook page and website.

Bachmann told Legatus Magazine that pregnancy resource centers offer the foremost alternative to Planned Parenthood.

“Pregnancy centers do not have to provide abortions, contraception or make referrals for these services,” she said. “They simply are not the same type of facility as a Planned Parenthood-style facility and do not have any obligation to act like one.” Furthermore, she added, “pregnancy centers largely operate without tax money and simply provide a choice to women. We should question, ‘Why would the abortion advocates be against choice?’”

Another strategy effectively countering the abortion lobby’s attacks on pregnancy centers is being championed by Kathleen Eaton, founder and CEO of Birth Choice Health Clinics.

A member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter, Eaton has developed a pro-life medical model that she says can “go nose-to-nose with Planned Parenthood,” which offers a range of women’s health services and is also the nation’s No. 1 abortion provider.

In Southern California where Birth Choice operates six full-service clinics, Eaton said pro-abortion groups have gone after pregnancy resource centers, but not her facilities — even though Birth Choice doesn’t provide abortion and contraception. She believes this is because her facilities are licensed community medical clinics subject to state regulations, and as such aren’t vulnerable to accusations that they falsely present themselves as clinics.

Birth Choice Clinics will soon open clinics in the Napa Valley and Hollywood. Eaton is also working with a network of Birth Choice clinics in Southern California and Oklahoma, and she’s drawn interest from people wanting to open clinics in several other states.

Eaton encourages pregnancy resource centers to investigate becoming licensed clinics and to raise their level of services. By offering medical services similar to those provided at Planned Parenthood clinics, she said, Birth Choice is reaching sexually active young people and those most likely to consider abortion.

“We can’t overturn Roe v. Wade right now,” Eaton said, “but we can get young people out of Planned Parenthood and into a medical clinic that deals with the whole person.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.