BRANDON — A new 3,000-square-foot medical facility for women, Choices Women’s Center, 125 N. Moon Ave., part of the LifeCare Network, opened this spring. It offers free ultrasounds for women who think they may be pregnant, verifying pregnancies and gestational ages and educating women in all available options.
The LifeCare Network is a ministry undergoing a re-branding. LifeCare of Brandon opened in June 1987 as the Brandon Pregnancy Care Center. The ministry’s pregnancy centers — in Brandon and at 3018 E. College Ave., Ruskin — now are called Choices Women’s Center.
The Choices staff and website make it clear that they do not perform or refer out for abortions.
“We aren’t manipulative. We want to empower women and show them their choices,” said Executive Director Karen Brooks. “We never judge or condemn anyone. In fact, if a woman is determined to have an abortion, we tell them we’re here if later they need to talk with someone about it. Many of our volunteers have had abortions, too.”
Dr. Ignacio Armas of Women’s Care Florida Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates is the medical director of Choices Women’s Center.
Choices serves mainly women. Most clients are in their mid-20s, but they range in age from their teens into their 40s. Some are single, some married; some come with their babies’ fathers. Many have been sexually molested or abused.
Clients receive help during their pregnancies and up to their baby’s first birthday. They receive spiritual, emotional and material support through Choices’ Teaching, Loving and Caring Program. Attendance at classes pays Mommy Dollars, which may be used to purchase items like maternity clothes, diapers, wipes and baby supplies in the LifeCare Baby Boutique.
“They just love to shop in here,” said Brooks. “When somebody across the street chooses life or wants to enroll in our program, we walk them over and show them the beautiful, inviting boutique and give them their new mommy packet. It gets them to come back. This builds your self-esteem and self-worth, gives you dignity. You’re not just getting a handout, you’re here earning it. You’re learning, growing and becoming a more responsible parent. We teach positive parenting to break unhealthy family cycles.”
If teens are pregnant, they get pamphlets about how to talk with their parents.
“We talk with the teens and their parents together and then talk with them individually,” said Brooks. “There’s a lot to work through, especially if they’re going to parent at home.”
Choices Women’s Centers have helped with about 200 adoptions in their 27 years.
Their Surrendering the Secret group helps women heal from past abortions.
About five years ago, Brooks assembled a meeting with local pastors.
“I shared with them that a lot of women who serve in the church are afraid to come out with the knowledge that they’ve had an abortion,” she said. “I told the pastors, ‘If you’re going to speak about the sanctity of life, then please share about God’s forgiveness, hope, healing and restoration to move forward.”
Brooks said their goal is simple.
“We want to promote healing and health in our community and inspire a culture of life — physical and spiritual,” she said. “Our greatest joy is watching our past clients learn, blossom, grow and pursue those goals and dreams we talked and prayed about and planned, and then see them return as volunteers to mentor others.”
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