The young woman was concerned and upset that she might be pregnant. When she received confirmation that she indeed was, it was devastating. She shared with a Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana counselor that she had recently left a domestic violence situation and still struggled with residual issues of that trauma. She was living in an unsupportive environment and was no longer involved with the father. To make matters worse, she would get terribly ill when pregnant and during a previous pregnancy had been forced to drop down to part-time hours at work or lose her job. She now felt like her only choice was to have an abortion.
She talked at length with her counselor during their first meeting. She had no one else to talk to, she said. At the end of the long session, she thanked the counselor for giving her a safe space to work through her fears and struggles without making her feel judged. She called a few days later and said she had decided to keep her baby.
The Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana opened its doors in 2016 to serve the LaGrange, Noble, Steuben and DeKalb counties area. Since then, the number of local women having abortions has declined 54%. In Steuben and DeKalb counties, the center plays a supportive role in one of every three pregnancies, noted board member Keith Turner.
Turning crisis pregnancies into blessings
Thirty-three Women’s Care Centers exist in 12 states across the U.S. Auburn’s location came into existence through the efforts of a local pharmacist and a few pro-life friends, after the pharmacist became disheartened by the number of prescriptions written for the morning-after abortion pill and the number of unreported medically induced abortions that happen at home. Their research into ways to preserve these children’s lives led to the Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana.
The existence of the center and familiarity with the services it offers has encouraged an organic increase in the life-affirming business. “Just the community awareness of who we are, what we do and what we stand for has grown tremendously in five years,” said Ann Freeman, executive director.
That and the bright pink sign on the building have brought in more than 7,000 visitors in five years. In 2020 alone, 271 new lives were saved. An average of six women a day come to the center for counseling and other services, and 98% of the pregnant women who come to the Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana for the help and core support they need ultimately choose life for their babies.
“Every time I talk about the center, the word ‘providence’ comes to mind,” said Freeman. “Everything we’ve been able to do is because of God.”
Freeman and the staff say they feel blessed to do the work they do.
“The circumstances some of our clients live in are so difficult, and none of our moms ever come in to talk about the possibility of ending their child’s life with a smile on their face,” Freeman shared. “It’s really encouraging that our center exists to offer space to process what they’re struggling with and give them some other options – or at least remind them that the choice doesn’t have to be made today.
“Women’s Care Center offers hope to women who feel abortion is their only choice. Through conversation focused on their strengths and the innate goodness of who they are, so many women find the courage to choose life.”
Although the Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana is equipped to support crisis pregnancies to teenagers, single women or those in other precarious situations, Freeman said there’s sometimes a misconception that it has nothing to offer mothers to be who are in supportive relationships or who may be employed full-time. Actually, all women facing pregnancy are welcome and encouraged to take advantage of the center’s services.
Support for the journey
Hospitality, compassion, understanding and support — from the moment a woman opens the door of the Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana, she experiences all of these things. Clients are greeted warmly and invited to wait in a cozy lobby filled with toys and books and to speak with a counselor in a private, comfortable setting.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, WCCNEI continued to serve women in need of pregnancy support. The center was also the only local ultrasound provider to allow the woman’s husband or support person to be present during the examination.
From pregnancy tests to recommendations of doctors who will work with uninsured patients — if that’s the woman’s situation — to prenatal vitamins and parenting classes, the first steps toward becoming a new parent are readily available. All services are confidential and completely free of charge.
Ultrasound exams take place on-site. The center also has a Crib Club, a room that’s nearly overstocked with new and gently used infant clothing and new diapers, feeding supplies, breastfeeding aids, carriers, toys, car seats and everything else baby might need during his or her first days at home.
As the center has grown, however, needs have continued to present themselves. In late 2019, the WCCNEI board of directors and staff identified as one of their priorities the hiring of an additional counselor.
“Our board looked at where there was a need, and Spanish has always been one,” said Freeman. In February 2020, Emma Pineda answered the call.
Originally from Honduras, the bilingual Pineda said she felt fulfilled to find a job she feels passionate about. “I thought the work they do here is amazing. I just fell in love with it,” she said. “Just being able to be the support for someone who doesn’t have that, to listen to them, to be able to do that for them brings joy to my life.”
During the pandemic she has been available to counsel both English- and Spanish-speaking clients. As pandemic restrictions loosen, outreach to the growing Spanish-speaking population, via local churches, is planned. Pineda also possesses a certification in Spanish medical translation, enabling her to interpret during ultrasound exams.
A pro-life partner
The mission of the Women’s Care Center of Northeast Indiana is to help pregnant women from the local community choose life for their babies, have healthier pregnancies, become better parents and take first steps to self-sufficiency. WCCNEI and the entire Women’s Care Centers model of supporting pregnant women in a professional and caring and life-affirming manner have the endorsement and support of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. WCCNEI looks forward to area parishes implementing Walking with Moms in Need, a new initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and to having parishes present it as a resource for care for women facing a pregnancy.
In addition to direct donation, upcoming events offer pro-life advocates the opportunity to support life via WCCNEI’s work. On April 15, the center’s annual Taste of Life fundraising event will take place virtually, in a format consisting of a giveback meal, raffle and the debut of a new promotional video featuring clients and staff. On Aug. 21 in Noble County, a Drive Fore Life golf outing and trivia contest will take place in Noble County.
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