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BALTIMORE (CNS) -- One of America's biggest cultural and moral divides is about to be embodied in a shared wall of two Baltimore buildings with very different missions.
On one side, a long-established Planned Parenthood center will continue offering abortion services.
On the other, a pro-life pregnancy resource center -- a newcomer to a blighted section of Howard Street tentatively slated to open in July -- will offer women the ongoing support they need to bring their unborn children to term.
Operated by the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, a nonprofit Christian outreach organization based in the Baltimore suburb of Essex, the new Howard Street center will provide free sonograms, pregnancy testing and counseling. It also will offer material assistance, job training, housing and other aid through an extensive referral network.
"The new pro-life pregnancy resource center coming to Howard Street will be a tremendous blessing and a beacon of hope to the entire city," said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who plans to bless and dedicate the new building when it opens this summer. "It will provide much-needed support to women in need and their families."
Gina Ruppert, the newly appointed executive director of the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, noted the downtown Baltimore center will be the organization's fifth location, including one at St. Ann in East Baltimore and another at St. Rita in suburban Dundalk.
Ruppert, a parishioner of Sacred Heart in Glyndon, sees the newest center's close proximity to an abortion provider as an unparalleled opportunity to reach out to women who may believe abortion is their only choice.
"We hope that women will consider coming in our door for information on all their options and resources that are available to them before making any decisions," said Ruppert, a mother of six who holds a bachelor's degree in social work from Frostburg State University.
"We hope they'll come in and have a sonogram at no cost to them and hear about how we are ready and able to walk with them and help them with our resources," she said. "We also want women to know that if they've had an abortion and are suffering, that we would love for them to come in and talk to us because we have resources for them, too."
The Archdiocese of Baltimore provided the Center for Pregnancy Concerns a grant from the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries to help fund the sonography services at the Howard Street location, Ruppert said. Sonograms are important for showing women "the truth" of how far along they are in the pregnancy, Ruppert said, and in helping them process what their next steps might be.
"It can make a great impact on a woman to choose life," she said. "We also know that for some women, it can be a painful experience if they've experienced abortion in the past and didn't have a sonogram to actually see that living baby. And we help them work through that."
For those who are open to it, the pro-life organization offers spiritual counseling and Bible studies in English and Spanish, Ruppert said.
The organization serves mothers of children in the womb through pre-school, women facing unplanned pregnancies and families facing hardships in providing for their babies, Ruppert said.
Last year, it served 1,084 clients. Ruppert expects those numbers to jump significantly once the Howard Street location is operational.
The Center for Pregnancy Concerns, which also offers a 24-hour-a-day help line, bought the building on Howard at auction Jan. 19, 2017, for $94,500. Funds for the purchase were donated by two anonymous benefactors, including the man who alerted the organization about the building's availability after noticing it was for sale when he was praying outside the Planned Parenthood where abortions are performed.
A capital campaign brought in funds to cover the beginning of extensive renovations of the dilapidated, 100-year-old former electronics and jewelry store. A lack of resources stalled the project for more than a year; an anonymous donor made a substantial contribution that allowed work to resume late last year.
The total cost of rehabilitating the building is expected to approach $1 million, according to Clews.
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Matysek is digital editor for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.