|Mathilde Mellon, right, executive director of Mulier Care, which provides support to women in crisis pregnancy situations, talks with Dorothy Faggello and Ann Sappenfield outside the Women’s Center, an abortion clinic in Nashville. She tries to reach out to women who are planning to have an abortion and offer help. Photo by Theresa Laurence|
Like she does most Saturday mornings, Mathilde Mellon is outside the Women’s Center, a Nashville abortion clinic, and she is frustrated. She wants to reach out to women entering the clinic, but she’s not allowed on the property. She’s also thwarted by a large and vocal group of abortion protestors who she says are scaring the women away.
“Nobody will come talk to me with them here,” she says, glaring down the sidewalk at the group. “That’s why we need the bus.”
The bus, which will serve as a crisis pregnancy center on wheels, is the centerpiece of Mellon’s new non-profit organization, Mulier Care, which will offer a full range of assistance to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Once she raises enough money to buy the bus, she plans to park it in strategic locations, such as on the street near abortion clinics, to draw women in and help them choose life for their unborn baby.
Mulier Care’s name is derived from St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Mulieris Dignitatem,” which was devoted to the discussion of the dignity of women. “Mulier” is Latin for woman, and Mulier Care is dedicated to helping women of all races, creeds and religions, regardless of their individual circumstances.
With a gala planned for April 16, featuring renowned Catholic commentator, author and St. John Paul II biographer George Weigel, Mellon hopes to raise the profile, and quite a few dollars, for her organization, and of course, the bus, which costs around $180,000. “The bus is the best way to solve the problem of not having a crisis pregnancy resource center here,” she said.
Even though Mellon has been quietly building up Mulier Care for years, on sidewalks and social media, the gala will serve as the organization’s formal introduction to the public. Mellon, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Church and executive director of Mulier Care, has been working on the pro-life front lines for years, and says now is the time to push ahead with making the bus a reality.
To Mellon and her allies, it’s not enough to be pro-life on paper or in the voting booth. More is required, and that means hitting the streets and offering concrete help to a woman who is hurting and feels like she has no other choice but abortion.
According to Mulier Care’s mission, “Assisting a woman in crisis needs to include not only helping her make the right decision to preserve the sanctity of life, but also improving her livelihood and helping her provide the best care for her newborn. These are the fundamental steps to success in the pro-life movement.”
Mellon, who previously volunteered at Hope Clinic for Women and the now-shuttered Grace Pregnancy Resource Center, explains that the bus is an essential component of reaching abortion-minded women, but it only represents the first step of the journey. “We can’t just walk them out with a sonogram image and a bag of diapers and have them go back home. Home is often where the problem is.”
If a woman is involved with a partner who is abusive or coercing her to have an abortion, Mellon said, she will stand by that woman and help her remove herself from that environment. “I’ve had women stay in my home, I’ve been to court with women,” helping them with child custody or immigration cases, she said.
“If the mother doesn’t thrive, the baby won’t survive,” Mellon likes to say. “We’re here to help her thrive.” It’s an important message, but a difficult one for Mellon to broadcast to women as they prepare to enter the abortion clinic. With her long purple and blue-streaked hair, Mellon may stand out in a crowd, but usually it’s not enough to garner the attention of the women she’s trying to reach.
Again, this is where the bus comes in. When women see a bus with the words “Pregnancy Help Center” emblazoned on the side, Mellon feels certain that some of them will take a detour from the clinic and step inside. There, the women will be able to have an ultrasound and receive counseling, and Mellon can help them explore other options for their unborn child.
Placing an alternative to abortion right in front of women is key to helping them choose life, Mellon said. “With the bus we talk to them privately and immediately offer resources,” she said. “We will help them. We will walk with them on this journey.”
Mellon’s priorities with Mulier Care are to offer immediate as well as long term assistance, which she says fills a gap in Nashville. “No one else is doing exactly what we want to do right now,” she said.
In addition to offering counseling and material assistance, Mulier Care can also offer translation services and referrals for shelters, support groups, legal assistance, health care coverage and social service organizations. “We have to follow up with these women,” said Mellon, who keeps her cell phone glued to her side and will answer crisis pregnancy calls any time of day or night.
“I respect these women,” Mellon said, and she will do what it takes to earn their respect as well. “We love these women. God loves them.”
The inaugural Mulier Care gala, featuring prominent Catholic commentator, author and St. John Paul II biographer, George Weigel, will be held Saturday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Cathedral of the Incarnation’s Fleming Center.
Weigel, the distinguished senior fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II,” among many other books.
Weigel is a frequent guest on television and radio, and Senior Vatican Analyst for NBC News. His weekly column, “The Catholic Difference,” is syndicated to 60 newspapers.
Since Mulier Care’s name is derived St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Mulieris Dignitatem,” which was devoted to the discussion of the dignity of women, and Weigel wrote the definitive biography of John Paul II, Mulier Care executive director Mathilde Mellon said he was a good fit to speak at the gala.
Tickets for the gala are $100 each; table sponsorships are available. For more information, call Cynthia McMillen at (615) 714-3970 or go to www.muliercare.org.