Two years ago, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida warned that he would have to shut down a facility if a change passed by Congress and signed by Donald Trump were to take effect, depriving them of Title X funding for family planning.
Located in the rural and impoverished town of Immokalee, the facility functioned as an abortion referral site for an economically vulnerable population.
“We are talking about thousands of people in Collier County,” State Representative Anna Eskamani, a former head of Planned Parenthood, said at the time, suggesting that multitudes would be left without care.
But when the Immokalee Planned Parenthood site closed later that year, the women of Immokalee had another place to turn.
“We haven’t seen a lot of aborted clients for several years – but all of a sudden we saw an increase,” said Dave Hanson, board member of Immokalee Pregnancy Center, Inc. “We’re not sure exactly why the office has closed (Planned Parenthood)… But we’ve started praying that it has since we got there. “
Hanson’s wife Diane, CEO of the center, said that between 2016 and 2018, the number of clients increased by 19%. During the same period, the number of clients vulnerable to abortion increased by 40%.
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“Now we are the choice, the only choice, at Immokalee,” she said. “This has always been our goal.
Now, as the only option to help with pregnancy, the center offers a variety of services to give women even more choice. Offering free pregnancy tests, obstetric ultrasounds, peer counseling, parenting classes, community referrals and adoption support, the Immokalee Pregnancy Center is helping more and more mothers bring their babies to the world.
Over the past ten years, the centre’s client population has more than tripled, from 40 to 50 clients per year in 2008 to 230 clients in 2018. To the delight of the centre’s management, the increase in the number of clients has increased. ‘is reflected in an increase in births. While 80 to 90 babies have been born to clients in recent years, 2018 saw 120 births.
Diane Hanson cradles one of hundreds of babies rescued by Immokalee Pregnancy Center | Photo courtesy: Immokalee Pregnancy Center
Other factors likely contributed to the increase in the number of women served, such as increased office hours and the addition of ultrasound services.
“We knew we had to do this to meet the need, and we wanted to do it,” said Dave Hanson.
The Knights of Columbus and a major donor provided funds to purchase the first ultrasound machine in 2012 and then a new machine in 2016.
“We couldn’t have done it without this major donor and the tremendous support of local and national Knights,” said Diane Hanson.
In addition to expanding its services, the center has also expanded its staff to meet the various needs of the Immokalee community.
Located within a 40 mile radius of Naples, Fort Myers and the Everglades, Immokalee (the Native American Miccosukee word for “My Home”) is about 70% Hispanic. Haitians and Native Americans also make up a large portion of the population. The wide range of cultures and languages presented challenges in serving the community.
“About 20 percent of Immokalee’s residents are from Haiti,” said Diane Hanson. “Many do not speak English and some cannot read or write. Visitors have often said, “It’s like a third world country here. ”
This makes the presence of the Immokalee Pregnancy Center all the more important.
“Ours is a missionary pregnancy center,” said Dave Hanson.
Most Haitians speak Creole and many Hispanics speak only Spanish, so to meet the language barrier challenge, the Immokalee Center has staff members who are bilingual. Finding someone who speaks Creole took over a year, Diane said, but the addition of this staff member also boosted the centre’s client base.
Yet language isn’t the only challenge facing Immokalee Pregnancy Center. Poverty also plays a major role.
“We are in one of the poorest communities in Florida,” said Diane Hanson.
For this reason, the center relies on the compassion and generosity of people in other parts of Southwest Florida to support its life-affirming work.
“Cultural, linguistic and economic factors create the missionary nature of the IPC,” said Dave Hanson. “Because we are missionaries, we really depend on the people who live along the coast. Naples and other coastal communities in the southwest are among the wealthiest in the country.
Photo courtesy: Immokalee Pregnancy Center
The Hansons with Kirk Walden, Heartbeat International Advancement Specialist | Photo courtesy: Immokalee Pregnancy Center
The generosity of these coastal communities has enabled the center to become a medical clinic with a nurse who performs ultrasound scans. This transition marked an important milestone for the local pro-life community whose last pregnancy assistance center was destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.
A few years after the storm, Diane Hanson visited Immokalee to see to the reestablishment of the center on demand and under the auspices of Amigos In Christo, a Lutheran ministry serving immigrants living in Immokalee. She said yes and started by redesigning new Bylaws to establish Immokalee Pregnancy Center as a 501 (c) (3) independent.
“We felt strongly that we had to be independent; to be the pregnancy center “of the community,” said Dave Hanson.
Moms and babies advantage
As a result of these efforts, “Pam” is a community client whose baby was saved thanks to the Immokalee Pregnancy Center and its medical services. Feeling as though she had no support from the father of her child or from family and friends, she made an abortion appointment but came to the center to check on her pregnancy.
“I am stressed and don’t know how I can take care of this baby. There is no one to help me,” she told staff members.
“We were able to explain that we are here to be part of his support,” said Diane Hanson. “During her ultrasound, our nurse, Ginny, explained what the abortion does to both mother and baby. “Pam” saw her baby and was shocked to know that her baby had a beating heart. “
On the next visit to the office, “Pam” had canceled her abortion appointment. She returned several months later “to show us her beautiful baby girl,” said Diane Hanson.
Pam’s daughter | Photo courtesy: Immokalee Pregnancy Center
To continue serving the needs of the Immokalee families, the Hansons and the rest of the centre’s management hope to expand their services. Already, Diane Hanson runs the centre’s post-abortion healing program, which gives her immense comfort, being post-abortion herself.
“I love to see God doing an amazing job with women who have had abortions,” she said.
Now the center plans to reach more women with a greater range of services.
“We could offer IST testing in the future and consider a mobile unit as we see customers traveling many miles for our services,” said Diane Hanson. “More than one client has traveled over 50 miles to receive services from the Immokalee Pregnancy Center. It happens more often, and we are there for them as long as they want; Sometimes we are the only support for these women. We are a rural hub and seek to serve the greater area of South Florida within our means. ”
With a small staff and a small budget, but providing essential services, they know where their help is coming from.
“We can’t do any of this without the Lord,” said Dave Hanson.
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