December 5, 2014

‘Hope has come to town’ as Women’s Care Center opens next to Planned Parenthood

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin listens as Sarah Bardol, director of the new Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, reads in the chapel during a service to bless the facility on Nov. 19. Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship, holds a book for Bardol. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin listens as Sarah Bardol, director of the new Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, reads in the chapel during a service to bless the facility on Nov. 19. Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship, holds a book for Bardol. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

As a group of about 80 pro-life advocates gathered for the blessing of the new Women’s Care Center on Nov. 19, another blessing happened, one the Catholic pro-life organization hoped for in building next to a Planned Parenthood facility—a woman came to the wrong door.

“We were right in the middle of the service when she came in,” said Sarah Bardol, director of the new facility. “Lisa [a counselor] got her into one of the rooms to talk with her about what she was wanting, but her boyfriend realized they weren’t at Planned Parenthood and came in and got her.”

The staff of the new Women’s Care Center in Indianapolis, located just yards from the largest abortion provider in the state, hopes for many such “wrong-door” incidents as they seek to help women choose life for their unborn babies.

Founded in South Bend, Ind., in 1984, Women’s Care Center is a 100 percent donor-funded organization that builds facilities near abortion centers. At its 23 facilities spread among seven states, they offer free counseling and ultrasounds to women considering abortion, and support women during and after pregnancy.

The facility in Indianapolis is their newest. As of the open house on Nov. 19, there were already three counseling appointments scheduled for the center’s first official day of business on Nov. 20.

‘It’s about taking care of the family’

Lisa Lance, a counselor at the new center and a member of Trader’s Point Christian Church in Indianapolis, compared the facility with the Planned Parenthood building next door.

“You look over there, and it’s like they’re hiding,” she said. “They have these tall trees in the front so you can’t see the building, and they have an iron fence around the building.

“But then you look over here and we’re open, we’re inviting. The contrast is amazing.”

Bardol, who is a member at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis with her husband and five children, explained the reason for the difference.

“We function under a Mother Teresa model of loving unconditionally and serving without judging,” she said.

The home-like look and feel of the building extend beyond the interior.

“The counseling rooms are very nice, warm and inviting, non-threatening,” Bardol said, pointing to a room painted in soft colors with large, overstuffed couches and chairs. “The women meet with one of our counselors to gauge where the person is—pregnant, not pregnant, in a relationship—then we know what kind of literature to give them.”

Even the ultrasound room is cozy, with all attention focused around a large screen where the ultrasound image is displayed.

“It really makes it real for them, seeing their baby and hearing the whoosh-whoosh of the heartbeat,” said Bardol. According to the Women’s Care Center website, 97 percent of women who receive counseling and an ultrasound choose life for their unborn children.

Help for women does not stop after the baby is born, said Bardol.

“We offer parenting classes from baby basics, like bathing and diapering, to breastfeeding, discipline, nutrition, budgeting, relationships, goal-setting,” Bardol said. “It’s not just about taking care of the baby, it’s about taking care of the family.”

The class offerings will begin in January. Each time they attend a session, women earn coupons to purchase new items—such as clothing, cribs, car seats and strollers—in the center’s “Crib Club” store, located in the facility.

“It’s important that [the items] are new because they’re learning how to earn and to provide so they can buy new things for their baby,” said Bardol.

‘Hope has come to town’

Just how effective is this “Mother Teresa” model?

Quite effective, according to Bobby Williams of South Bend, president of the Women’s Care Center Foundation.

“In Fort Wayne, within 10 years [of the opening of the Women’s Care Center], abortions were down 63 percent,” he said. “We went to Peoria, Ill., just a year ago, and within the first six months abortions dropped over 24 percent.

“In Milwaukee, about the same size city as Indianapolis, within our first two years of being there, abortions dropped 23 percent.

“So what’s 23 percent? That’s over 1,000 babies a year saved from abortion.”

With figures like that, said Williams, the new Women’s Care Center means that “hope has come to town.”

Such a percentage would be on par for the corner of 86th Street and Georgetown Road in Indianapolis, where more than 4,000 abortions are performed each year at the Planned Parenthood facility. According to Women’s Care Center literature, there are more abortions performed at that facility than in the other 91 Indiana counties combined.

That is why the location for the new Women’s Care Center is so crucial.

Prior to construction, the vacant lot looked to have been a gas station at one time. That the lot was still vacant after the Planned Parenthood facility opened in June 2006 is the work of an anonymous doctor in Lafayette, Ind.

“[He] just bought it to hold for some good purpose, knowing that something like [Women’s Care Center] might come along,” said foundation board member John Tippmann of South Bend.

Since the Women’s Care Center Foundation funds were restricted, Tippmann loaned the organization the money to purchase the property.

“I told them whenever they raise the funds for the whole facility, then they can pay me back if they want.”

In a little over a year, Williams has raised most of the funds for the $2 million building project.

“A lot of help from the Lord made this all happen,” Tippmann admitted.

‘A complement’ to existing organizations

Before the property was acquired, the Women’s Care Center board approached Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin for permission to build within his archdiocese.

“Women’s Care Center will not come in without the approval of the bishop,” the archbishop said. “In fact, they prefer to have the bishop as sort of the honorary chairman of the board,” which is a role he now serves for the new Indianapolis facility.

Archbishop Tobin visited the facility in South Bend and was impressed by what he saw.

“Part of [their] ethos is not to be a violent presence, but to say [to women considering an abortion], ‘There’s an alternative to what you are going to do,’ ” the archbishop explained.

After several meetings with officials from the Women’s Care Center and his own advisors, Archbishop Tobin offered his support of the project.

“I think this is a very good way of channeling [the community’s] enthusiasm for respecting life without in any way denigrating all the other efforts that already happen, especially the sidewalk ministry here at 86th and Georgetown,” he said.

“Before I gave final permission, I [made an effort] to make sure the Gabriel Project understood that this was in no way disrespect for their work, but rather a complement, and I think the good people that have been doing that work for so long understand it that way,” Archbishop Tobin said.

He was referring in part to 1st Choice for Women, a crisis pregnancy center operated by the Great Lakes Gabriel Project located less than a mile away from the Women’s Care Center.

“How can you not be supporting of something about women?” asked Eileen Hartman, executive director for Great Lakes Gabriel Project. “I don’t feel like it’s competition. It’s like an emergency room. Sometimes the ER needs to refer someone to another place that can better meet their specific needs.”

During the open house, Hartman met Sarah Lattire, an ultrasound tech at the new Women’s Care Center facility.

“I told her, ‘If it turns out you need anyone in the evening or on Sunday, we’ll do ultrasounds on any day of week.’ She was very excited,” said Hartman, a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

‘Choose life’

Lattire, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, is also excited about the Christian Catholic environment she’ll be working in.

“Having a chapel here, so close to the Planned Parenthood—God is present here, which is such a blessing,” she said.

But faith is not a requirement for employees or clients, said Bardol.

“We’re Catholic-based, but all-welcoming,” she explained. “We don’t preach the Gospel, we meet [the women] where they’re at, discuss what they’re feeling. If they bring [religion] up, then we will discuss it.”

But the Catholic presence was strong on the day of the facility’s blessing by Archbishop Tobin.

In a short homily he offered during the service, the archbishop spoke of choices.

“There are choices that are life and death,” he said. “Here, the location of this wonderful home very graphically makes that choice clear.”

Those women and men considering abortion are not the only ones with choices to make, the archbishop said.

“I think we who support life in all of its dignity from conception to natural death, we make choices, too,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to eschew any choice for violence—for violent words, hateful words, hateful actions.

“What attracted me to the Women’s Care Center, from the first time I visited it in South Bend, was the life-affirming gentleness and respect that underlies everything that will be done here. We realize that poor people are faced with sometimes overwhelming encouragement to choose death.”

One Scripture read during the blessing service, which was held in the chapel at Women’s Care Center, summed up the choice now so clearly presented to women considering abortion at the Planned Parenthood facility next door:

“Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. … Choose life” (Dt 30:15, 19b).

(The Women’s Care Center is located at 4901 W. 86th St. in Indianapolis. It is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from when it is open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. Volunteers are needed for the Crib Club baby store, providing child care during parenting classes, answering phones and greeting clients. For more information, to volunteer or to donate items, contact director Sarah Bardol at 317-829-6800 or e-mail her at To make a monetary donation, contact Bardol or Bobby Williams, president of the Women’s Care Center Foundation, at 574-968-7475 or by e-mail at

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