For the last few years, Northern Virginia has caught national interest for its increasing ethnic diversity. According to USA TODAY, the area just outside of Washington D.C., is leading the country’s diversity explosion. As of the last census, immigrants accounted for 23 percent of the area’s population.
Nestled in this multicultural area of the state, Assist Pregnancy Center in Annandale, Va., served nearly 500 clients last year—a new record for the clinic. Hailing from 57 nations, the vast majority were vulnerable to abortion in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy.
In Annandale and the metropolitan Washington D.C., area, the risk of abortion is very real. Within about six miles of Assist, three abortion facilities are open for business. Furthermore, the abortion laws in D.C. and neighboring Maryland are some of the most permissive in the country, permitting elective abortion through all nine months.
Additionally, women of color are often at greater risk for having an abortion in the United States. Washington D.C., is no exception. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2014, 61 percent of the district’s abortions took place on women of color.
Indeed, just 15 percent of Assist’s clients in 2017 were Caucasian.
In an interview with Pregnancy Help News, Leanna Baumer, executive director of Assist, explained how her center has come to understand abortion and immigration as linked issues. Resettling in a new country means leaving behind family, friends and a broader community of support, making the prospect of having a baby dim and increasing the risk for having an abortion.
“Hundreds of women seek medical clarity and pregnancy options help at our center each year,” she said. “Many of these women are new to the United States or new to the Washington D.C., area, and they are experiencing profound relational isolation as they navigate a pregnancy decision.”
Combatting that isolation is critical to helping women choose life, Baumer said. To fight isolation, her center connects clients to local resources such as English as a second language (ESL) classes and plugs them into churches and other nearby communities.
“One of the most valuable things we can provide as an organization rooted in our community is personal connection,” she said. “In contrast to the starkly impersonal nature of a clinical procedure at an abortion clinic, we’re here to support a woman holistically. We serve women by understanding and supporting her relational, emotional, physical and spiritual needs.”
A Timely Gift
With a growing number of clients, Assist began looking at expanding its services last year. At the time, the center only offered medical services Monday through Thursday. No other center in the area was providing ultrasound services on Fridays, leaving a dangerous gap. Starting in January, Assist closed that gap, opening their doors for medical services five days a week.
That same month, the clinic received a major gift from one of its 25 church partners, McLean Bible Church, a large church in the D.C. metro area. At the church’s Sanctity of Life Sunday service, Pastor David Platt announced the donation: a brand-new ultrasound machine.
The donation came at the perfect time for Assist, which has offered free ultrasounds since 2013—right before the center’s first Friday of expanded service.
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“We want to help any practical way we can to save lives of the unborn,” McLean Bible Church lead pastor Dale Sutherland said. “It is a delight to see what God is doing through biblically based gospel-centered centers like Assist. We are moved by the spiritual work that has gone on in the lives of women through this ministry. What a joy to see God reach souls through this wonderful ministry.”
Baumer, who took the reins at Assist in 2015, said she’s encouraged not only by the donation, but by the ever-deepening relationships Assist is building with McLean and other churches in the area. The relationships are a two-way partnership in which the center works to provide educational support and empowerment to pastors and other ministry leaders.
By building partnerships with local churches, Baumer can bring those relationships full-circle, connecting her clients to them and filling their deeper needs for relational support.
“Our vision is to connect individuals with church communities for long-term support,” said Baumer. “Our goal here is to make sure our clients are heard. Whatever the background of our clients, first and foremost, we want them to feel heard.”