By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published August 20, 2015
ATLANTA—The Pregnancy Aid Clinic is expanding to the north side of Fulton County to open an additional clinic to serve a new group of women.
The new office is scheduled to open Oct. 1 in Roswell, enlarging the service area for the only Catholic crisis pregnancy center. This will be its third facility. The original office is in Hapeville and the second is its mobile clinic, a converted recreational vehicle that travels around metro Atlanta.
The Pregnancy Aid Clinic is hosting a gala to support the expansion. Organizers are encouraging supporters, whether businesses, parishes or individuals, to purchase tables to raise the money at the Sept. 24 fundraiser.
“Our budget is doubling. We have a whole new staff. We’re doubling everything we have in Hapeville,” said Marla Brown, the new executive director.
The speaker at the gala will be Melissa Ohden, who survived a saline abortion performed on her biological mother in 1977. Holding a master’s in social work, she speaks on the sanctity of life and on the power of forgiveness. She is also the founder of an abortion survivors network.
Fulton County has the highest number of abortions in Georgia, said Brown, so the clinic wants resources across the county to help a woman consider keeping her baby or choosing adoption. In addition, parishes on the county’s north side have asked the clinic to look for a nearby office where they can refer women and their partners in need of counseling and where they can send parish volunteers who’d like to support the mission.
The Pregnancy Aid Clinic follows Catholic teaching on reproduction. That means it does not distribute contraception to clients and it teaches natural family planning, the only church-approved method to limit pregnancy. It is financially independent of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The clinic does support all would-be mothers, Brown said. Some crisis pregnancy centers limit their services to women leaning toward abortion due to limited resources, but Brown said her clinic believes parenting and life skills taught at the clinic are valuable and the education clients receive can be shared, she said.
“We will see any potential mother. In educating her, we educate the community,” she said. “That’s our intention to be an educational resource, a voice for our Catholic views.”
New clinic will be on S. Atlanta Street
The Roswell clinic, which will be located at 281 S. Atlanta St., will offer sonograms, counseling services and an educational program. It will be supported in part by an adjoining store where both clients and the public will be able to buy gently used clothing, baby supplies and other items, said Brown. Also, it intends to partner with other Catholic agencies and non-Catholic facilities to provide support services, such as temporary housing for new mothers, she said.
“I hope to involve a lot of the churches up here. We hope to help the women who are in a crisis pregnancy. We can help give them the Catholic vision” of sexuality and intimacy, while supporting them with education, said Julie Ostrowski, the president of the clinic’s board of directors.
The Hapeville clinic remains open, offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasound exams, counseling on options in a crisis pregnancy, parenting classes and a “baby boutique” where clients purchase items with “baby bucks” earned by taking part in classes. The clinic opened in 1993 in its own building, but the ministry began in 1984. In 2014, the Hapeville center provided 521 pregnancy tests, with three out of four tests positive for pregnancy. About 77 percent of the clients were African-American, with 65 percent earning less than $14,000 a year. Parenting classes were attended by 113 women, according to clinic reports.
The mobile clinic is a converted RV, which began operating in January 2014. It is on the road four days a week, Tuesday through Friday, and also offers free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. It makes stops in predominantly Hispanic areas of metro Atlanta, including Plaza Fiesta on Buford Highway and the Solidarity School off Roswell Road.
The Atlanta region of the Sovereign Order of Malta Federal Association has been a dedicated supporter of the Pregnancy Aid Clinic, including raising the funds to acquire and refurbish the vehicle that is now the mobile clinic.
As a nonprofit, Pregnancy Aid Clinic is required to file tax forms with the Internal Revenue Service. In its most recent statement from 2013, the clinic raised about $412,000 with expenses of $389,000.
It is a new position for Brown, who started with the clinic a few months ago. She had a career with UPS in Atlanta before starting her own business. After she sold her business in late 2014, she was exploring what to do next when she was approached to take on this new role. She was active in pro-life efforts during college and was pleased to put her skills to use to extend the clinic’s efforts and improve its fundraising.
“I’m not a counselor, that’s not my gift. I understand the mix of big business and small business opportunities and how to take us where we need to go,” said Brown, 45, who attends St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta.
The organization also aims to reach out more broadly to the Catholic community. Two new members recently joined its board of directors: Joe Krygiel, former chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Atlanta, and Mark J. McMullen, the leader of the Knights of Columbus in Georgia.
The Pregnancy Aid Clinic can be contacted at www.pregnancyaidclinic.com or 404-763-4357.