A Woman's Choice pregnancy center opens in Herndon

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A large dresser is filled with pastel baby clothes of all sizes. In another room, cans of formula line the wall. Two small offices are furnished with comfy chairs meant to invite conversation, and television sets to show educational films.

A desk, bookshelves and a picture of the Virgin Mary fill Associate Director Tessy Trissell's office. Outside, a sign for A Woman's Choice greets visitors at the door of the brick office building. In short, the pregnancy resource center in Herndon is ready for business.

While the center has been open to clients for a few weeks, A Woman's Choice Herndon celebrated their grand opening with volunteers and donors Aug. 18. Father Thomas P. Ferguson, vicar general of the diocese, blessed the new facility, which will provide free pregnancy tests, counseling and material support for women in need.

The original "A Woman's Choice" in Falls Church opened the new center in Herndon after seeing a need in that area. "The next closest pregnancy centers are out in Lansdowne and Leesburg," said Dolores Wisecarver , executive director.

Already they've seen the new location make an impact. Recently, a Sterling woman came in for a pregnancy test and when Trissell asked how she heard about the center, the woman responded, "I looked online and you were it."

In the past three years, three abortion clinics in Northern Virginia have closed their doors - NOVA Women's Healthcare in Fairfax in 2013, Amethyst Health Center for Women in Manassas in 2015, and most recently, Planned Parenthood in Falls Church. Meanwhile, pro-life organizations such as A Woman's Choice show signs of new life.

The Paul Stefan Foundation maternity home in Orange began renovations in May on a 27-room facility. Another women's home, Mary's Shelter in Fredericksburg, is slowly transitioning from rented property to purchasing permanent homes. Throughout the diocese, there are dozens of pro-life medical centers, maternity homes and resource centers that work independently and together to help women bring their children into the world.

A few years back, A Woman's Choice helped found the Pregnancy Support Network, made up of 25 local pro-life organizations. The group meets quarterly and interacts online even more frequently to share ideas and resources. "This really is a team. This is cooperation," said Wisecarver.

Recently, Wisecarver said, an au pair came to A Woman's Choice when she was fired from her job after becoming pregnant. Project Gabriel, a diocesan program for pregnant women in need, was funding her pre-natal doctor's visit to Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, but she was going to be homeless in a matter of days.

A Woman's Choice called Mary's Shelter and found the woman a place to live. They paid for the train tickets that took her from Fredericksburg to her doctor's visits. "It was all of us working together that saved this baby's life," said Wisecarver.

While Wisecarver has been at A Woman's Choice for years, Trissell, a medical technologist, became involved when she was hired to head the Herndon office. Her husband heard about the job opening at a Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast at their parish, St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls.

"I think it was the Holy Spirit," she said. "They were looking for someone who was truly prolife, who was bilingual and who had a medical or a counseling background, and he thought of me."

While the center is up and running, Trissell is still looking for more volunteers and financial and material support. So far, the center has been blessed with many donations, including the furniture and decorations, said Trissell. During the grand opening, one woman brought a bag of handmade baby blankets. Earlier in the day, an ecumenical sewing group promised to donate 17 maternity blouses.

Ultimately, A Woman's Choice hopes to offer women an ultrasound of their unborn baby on-site. But for now, they are excited to see the new possibilities this facility will bring them. "Our mission is to love pregnant woman so much that abortion becomes unthinkable," said Wisecarver.

Find out more about A Woman's Choice, call 703-304-6522 or visit A Woman's Choice.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016