By Maria Wiering
WESTMINSTER – The interior of the new Tender Care Pregnancy Consultation Services is painted beige, with a large print of flower blossoms on the wall. No decor suggests babies or is overtly Christian, although parishioners of St. John, Westminster, led efforts to open it.
Instead, the center feels like a medical clinic – exactly as its promoters hoped.
“To see it here, it’s everything that we could have wanted,” said Dr. Jennifer Murphy, standing in the center’s reception area. “It looks like a medical office – one you would want to go to.”
Murphy, a member of St. John’s Respect Life Committee, is the center’s volunteer medical director.
Baltimore auxiliary Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski blessed the center Nov. 1. Organizers expect to hold a grand opening at the end of the month. It is the only pregnancy help center in Carroll County.
Like most pregnancy help centers, the one in Westminster offers free pregnancy tests, counseling, material assistance, assistance referrals and parenting classes for women with unplanned pregnancies. It also offers free ultrasounds, a service increasingly available at pro-life pregnancy centers, which offer pregnant women alternatives to abortion.
It is widely believed that a woman is more likely to carry her pregnancy to term if she views an ultrasound of her unborn child.
St. John’s Knights of Columbus council donated the machine with the help of a matching grant from the Knights’ Supreme Council in New Haven, Conn.
The center is operated by Tender Care Pregnancy Consultation Services, a Christian organization with other pregnancy help centers in the Pennsylvania towns of Gettysburg and Hanover.
Westminster had a pregnancy center prior to Tender Care, but it closed several years ago. It did not offer ultrasounds.
Members of St. John’s Respect Life Committee began efforts to open a new center more than three years ago and connected with Tender Care because they were impressed by the centers’ quality of care.
“The people of this parish are extremely committed to the pro-life cause,” said Monsignor James P. Farmer, St. John’s pastor, who was the first director of the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s respect life office.
“We want to say to the entire community, ‘We want to support a woman in her time of need,’ ” he said. “With this facility, we put that principle into practice.”
Carroll County parishes raised $80,000 to open the center. With two part-time paid staff members and a host of volunteers, the center will cost $40,000 annually to operate.
Betty Belk, a member of St. John’s respect life committee, said she hopes the center continues to draw support and ownership from the broader community, including businesses and civic organizations.
The center is in a business park at 95 Carroll Street, identifiable by a small sign by its door. Parishioners volunteered to build interior walls, paint and decorate the space.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood, women ages 18-24 have 44 percent of all U.S. abortions. Westminster is home to McDaniel College and Carroll Community College.
Sue Hoffman, Tender Care’s executive director, said she hopes the Westminster center can be a resource for the area’s college students and low-income women.
“We’re excited to be in Westminster,” she said. “We believe that every woman deserves to be loved or supported during an unexpected pregnancy.”
Copyright (c)November 5, 2012 CatholicReview.org