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Counseling at Women’s Care Center

Thomas Bounds | Friday, January 22, 2010

In this column, “The Notre Dame They Know,” I will interview individuals who have been influenced by the University of Notre Dame.
I will seek to discover the unique role that Notre Dame has played in their life and vocational
It is hoped that this column will inculcate a deeper, more honest and more profound love for Our Lady and Her University.

A slate-gray sky hovers over half-melted piles of snow surrounding the entrance to the brown-brick Women’s Care Center a mile south of campus.
Inside, Ann Manion, seated in a brown leather chair and wearing a blue and green shirt with gray slacks, is all smiles and laughter as she shares her story.
“I graduated from Notre Dame in 1977 and went to work as an accountant at Price Waterhouse Cooper. When I got married and had a baby, I stopped working to become a stay-at-home mom.
“Janet Smith, a professor at Notre Dame, had founded the Center in a little blue house north of downtown in 1984.
“I was working with the Center in 1988 when Janet, who was leaving to teach in Dallas, took me out for pizza and said, ‘Ann, you’ve got to take this over.’
“I’ve volunteered here since then as the President and Executive Director of the Center.”
Asked about the particular activities of the Center, Ann responds, “The Center’s mission is to help young women have the opportunity to choose life for their babies. We also work to help them have healthy pregnancies, and to become better parents- to take steps to self-sufficiency.
“It’s inspiring to hear the stories about these women that are planning to abort. They are having terrible struggles in their lives and then, with just a little bit of hope, encouragement and positive support, they make a turn around and become great moms or give their babies for adoption. They grow in all kinds of ways. It’s very empowering and exciting to be a part of that.”
In its 25 years of operation, the Center has grown from a single office to 16 Centers in four states, and has served over 100,000 women. The Centers provide free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, prenatal care, parenting classes and a baby store for mothers and their families.
“We did a recent study,” Ann comments, “and discovered that 97 percent of abortion-minded women that came for counseling and an ultra-sound [at the Fort Wayne Center] chose life … Over the past nine years, there has been a 37 percent decline in the number of abortions performed annually in St. Joe County.”
Asked about the methods of the Center, Ann explains, “Our head counselor often says that she’s never met a woman who wanted to have an abortion. It’s something a woman chooses because she’s desperate and doesn’t have other viable options. We provide her a calm place to help her work on the obstacles that are discouraging her from keeping her baby.
“The Center takes a non-judgmental, unconditionally loving approach to provide help, hope and assistance to those in need. There is no lecturing or preaching.”
Asked about those who work for the Center, Ann says, “People are committed to this place because of their faith and their belief in the pro-life cause. You have to be really committed to this work. It’s not just a job, it’s a mission: A mission to help women choose life and to help them become better people.
“I think that our counselors benefit from our clients as well. They see a lot of heroism. It’s not easy to bring a baby into the world when you’re single, young, or poor.”
To those considering an abortion, Ann says, “Just come in.”
“Last year,” Ann recalls, “a woman came into the Center. She was 24 years old. She wasn’t sad to be pregnant; she was happy. She was married and employed.
“She met with one of our counselors, who couldn’t figure out why this woman had come to the Center. She didn’t fit any of the descriptions. She kept thanking us for being here, for all that we’d done.
“Our counselor said to her, ‘That’s great, but I don’t know how we’ve helped you. You seem like you’ve got it all together.
“And she responded, ‘You don’t understand. Twenty-five years ago, my mom came to the Center. She was planning to have an abortion, but because of the Center she chose life and here I am!’
“It was a really cool story. And then you start thinking, ‘Now this woman’s going to have a baby that wouldn’t be there.’ You’ve got this whole generation of people that wouldn’t otherwise be here.
“And she’s doing great. She’s not on welfare, or any of those things you worry about. She’s successful, happily married and just a wonderful human being.
“Last year was our 25th anniversary. She must have been one of the first ones through the door.”

Thomas Bounds is a pro-life senior. He reminds everyone that today, the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s
Roe v. Wade decision, has been
designated a day of prayer and penance for U.S. Catholics by the Holy See. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Ann Manion, the President and Director of the Women’s Care Center, can be contacted at [email protected] She encourages anyone considering an abortion to visit womenscarecenter.org for help and information.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.