HARTFORD — Dozens of supporters — many with babies and small children in tow — turned out on May 20 for an open house to celebrate the Hartford Women’s Center, a new pregnancy center in downtown Hartford.
The Hartford Women’s Center is located in a one-story brick building at C2 Jefferson Street. It’s tucked directly behind an abortion clinic that sits on the corner of Main and Jefferson streets.
The two facilities, one pro-life and the other pro-abortion, share a brick path. The doors to each facility are separated by mere feet.
By opening a pregnancy resource center in a more visible and easily accessible location — directly in the path of women in search of help for an unplanned pregnancy — the representatives of the Hartford Women’s Center are hoping to provide women with more options, namely the option to keep their baby rather than choose abortion.
“Sixty percent of women going in for an abortion [later] say they had no choice,” said Leticia Velasquez, director of both St. Gerard’s Center for Life and the Hartford Women’s Center. “So we want to be there to give them a choice.”
The Hartford Women’s Center falls under the umbrella of St. Gerard’s Center for Life, situated on Eaton Street in the South End of Hartford. The women’s center will be St. Gerard’s second location in the city.
Velasquez said she was thrilled to see the dream of so many in the pro-life movement come to fruition. “It’s like Christmas, my birthday and the birth of a grandchild all wrapped into one,” she told the Transcript during the women’s center’s open house.
Supporters of the new women’s center were encouraged by its downtown location.
“I think it’s going to be very powerful,” said Kurt O’Brien, a member of Hartford Pro-Life Future Young Professionals, a young adult group that meets at St. Gerard’s Center for Life and also prays the rosary every Saturday morning in front of the abortion clinic.
“It’s going to give women a choice right here: Do they want their baby to die? Or do they want their baby to live?
“It’s going to bring healing and hope,” he added, “to a place that needs it.”
The Hartford Women’s Center on Jefferson Street will serve as a pregnancy resource center for women who are facing unplanned pregnancies and who may be considering an abortion, Velasquez said. To serve them, the center will offer pregnancy testing, limited medical ultrasounds, and counseling about community resources. “We take care of them until they make a decision,” she explained.
The facility will be staffed by eight to 10 volunteers, including one family practitioner as medical director and a registered nurse as sonographer. Three additional nurses will be coming onboard soon.
“We’re always looking for more volunteers and funding,” Velasquez added.
At the reception, two members of St. Therese Parish in Granby presented Velasquez with a check for $3,061 to help fund the work of the new center.
From the women’s center, Velasquez said, women may be referred to the St. Gerard Center for Life facility on Eaton Street for assistance in planning the birth of their child and motherhood. St. Gerard’s will continue to offer additional pregnancy support for qualified families, including diapers and layettes, social service referrals, weekly birth preparation classes and monthly educational programs that continue for another two years.
The Hartford Women’s Center’s open house was a joyful half-day event, complete with a Mass for volunteers, a blessing and ribbon cutting ceremony and a reception.
Mass was celebrated by Father Stephen Imbarrato, a priest associate with the national organization, Priests for Life. Father Imbarrato helped found St. Gerard’s Center for Life in 2004, while he was a seminarian at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell.
During his homily, Father Imbarrato encouraged the center’s volunteers in their work. He cautioned them to eschew “divisiveness,” to “pray, pray, pray” and to “ponder” all things in their hearts, as Mary did.
After the Mass, Father Imbarrato shared the early history of St. Gerard’s Center with attendees, offered a special blessing for the facility and all who enter its doors and cut the ceremonial ribbon. He promised to return several times a year to celebrate Mass.
“Pray for me,” he told the volunteers. “You do the hard work.”
At the reception, young mothers with children and babies enjoyed refreshments and one another’s company.
One mother, Jannette Malave, said she has been a client of St. Gerard’s Center for Life for more than a year and was happy to join in celebrating the opening of the new Hartford Women’s Center.
The mother of four boys, Malave said she experienced a miscarriage a few years ago due to her age. When she became pregnant once again with twins, she feared another miscarriage and considered an abortion. Then someone told her about St. Gerard’s.
“A lady talked to me on the phone,” Malave said. “I was terrified, so the program helped me a lot.”
She said the volunteers at St. Gerard’s assisted her through a difficult pregnancy. As a result, today she has two healthy baby daughters. “Thank God, and thank the program,” Malave said. “They have beautiful, nice people here.”
For more information on pregnancy support, call the hotline at 860-205-7178 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.