For years, Ann Sappenfield has been part of a group of prayer warriors standing outside the Women's Center abortion clinic in Nashville, praying for the end of abortion and offering help to women walking into the clinic.
On Saturday, Aug. 11, she received a call from Marilyn Cox, a friend and fellow prayer warrior, who told her the clinic had closed.
"She told me the news and I screamed," Sappenfield said. "That is good news, it really is."
According to press reports, an attorney for the owners of the clinic at 419 Welshwood Drive in Nashville, who also own a clinic in Bristol, Tennessee, closed the center pending the sale of the building. The Tennessean newspaper said the attorney told its reporter a new location had not yet been identified and it was unclear how long the search would take.
"I parked our unit there on their last day," said Mathilde Mellon, the founder of Mulier Care, which operates a mobile unit where women can receive an ultrasound, pregnancy test and other resources for free.
One of her clients texted her that the clinic was closed. "I immediately contacted Tennessee Right to Life," Mellon said. "We were absolutely over the moon."
While parked at the closed clinic, she and her staff reached out to women who hadn't yet heard the clinic was closed and to workers there, offering to help them find a new job, Mellon said.
"We were there to show our support for the closing," Mellon said.
With the Women's Center closing, the Planned Parenthood clinic on D.B. Todd Boulevard is the only abortion clinic still operating in Nashville.
"We're not done yet," said Sappenfield, who also joins a group that prays outside the Planned Parenthood clinic.
She is one of the sidewalk counselors who are trained to approach women as they walk up to the clinic.
"I don't want to see these women hurt more by ending a pregnancy, and it does have an effect on them too," she said.
The sidewalk counselors are trained to treat everyone at the clinic with respect, Sappenfield said. "Each woman is beautiful. Every person who goes in there is a masterpiece of God's creation."
The approach flows from concern, Sappenfield said. The message is always, "We want to help you," she added.
Mulier Care is committed to helping women throughout their pregnancy and beyond, Mellon said.
The organization's mobile unit has been going out three days a week for the last several months. Mondays and Tuesdays the unit is in different parts of Antioch and on Thursdays it's in the Woodbine neighborhood.
The group has been working with Human Coalition, a national pro-life group that does zip code mapping, identifying areas where the most women in crisis pregnancies live, Mellon said. "We want to go where the women are."
Human Coalition helps women make appointments to visit the Mulier Care mobile unit where they can receive a variety of free services.
"We disclose we don't do abortions, birth control or referrals," Mellon said. The goal is to educate them about the abortion procedures and their alternatives. "They often don't know," she said.
"We are seeing a ton of women," Mellon said. "We could be out six days a week and be full."
Mulier Care receives support from various sources, including St. Luke Church in Smyrna, St. Philip Church in Franklin, Tennessee Right to Life and New Life Resources, Mellon said.
"We are really seeing a lot of clients and we need people to step up and help us," she said.Supporting adoptions Mulier Care is one of the agencies that refers women in crisis pregnancies to Catholic Charities of Tennessee's Adoption and Pregnancy Services program.
"When we're meeting with expectant parents, first of all, we want to listen, and we want to hear their story, hear their situation," said Julie Bolles, supervisor of the Adoptions and Pregnancy Counseling program. "Then we focus on educating them about their options."
If the expectant parents decide to keep the baby and parent it themselves, Bolles' office will link them with parenting resources and support in the community, she said. "If they choose adoption, we educate them on their options."
Catholic Charities helps arrange both domestic and international adoptions, Bolles said.
For parents who want to make an adoption plan, the Catholic Charities staff will talk to them about what kind of adoptive family they want for their child, Bolles said. "We have profiles of prospective adoptive parents," and the staff will choose several that fit the parents' desires, she added.
The expectant parents can review the files and then choose which prospective adoptive parents they want to meet before making a decision, Bolles said.
"It's a mutual decision between the expectant parents and the prospective adoptive parents," Bolles said. "We're there to support the process."
Making an adoption plan is "one of the greatest acts of love" by expectant parents, Bolles said. "They want what's best for their child and they feel they're not in a position to do that."
Catholic Charities also conducts home studies for families that intend to adopt from another agency, she said, and her staff can help a family through the process of an international adoption. Each year, the agency does about 35 international adoptions about 40 domestic adoptions, Bolles said.
Catholic Charities also conducts for the state about 450 home studies for prospective foster families each year. "There are more than 8,000 children in foster care," Bolles said. "The need is great."
Catholic Charities also maintains a material assistance closet for new parents that includes diapers, wipes and other supplies the mother of a newborn might need, Bolles said. "We give away up to 5,000 diapers a month," she said.
The closet is open four days a week at the Catholic Pastoral Center. People can request items for children up to age 3 and they can receive assistance once every two months.
For more information about Catholic Charities Adoptions and Pregnancy Services program visit www.cctenn.org.
For more information about Mulier Care, visit www.muliercare.org.