By Gayle Irwin
As more than 70,000 students converge on the University of Central Florida (UCF) campus this month to start the fall semester, women experiencing unplanned pregnancies have a life-affirming alternative close to the nearby Planned Parenthood.
Earlier this summer, Choices Women’s Clinic opened a new, second pregnancy help medical clinic one mile from the university campus to help combat late-term abortion in the community. According to the National Abortion Federation, college-aged women comprise more than 30 percent of all abortions in the United States. The pregnancy help medical clinic is also partnering with a local health system to serve patients.
“Our desire is to reach the college campus and that area of Orlando,” said Vicky Mathews, executive director for Choices. “There’s a Planned Parenthood one mile from campus on a main artery road, and we are one mile from campus on the other main artery road. That’s our strategy here – we’re very strategic about reaching those who are abortion-minded. That’s our demographic. That’s who we advertise to, that’s the majority of who we see.”
Nearly 15,000 abortions take place in the Orlando area annually, Mathews said.
“There’s a Planned Parenthood there [near the university], so that’s where we went,” she said.
A soft opening of the new Choices location occurred in June, and the grand opening, with a ribbon cutting and nearly 400 people attending, took place in July. During the first six weeks of the new facility’s operation, Choices served 84 patients, many of whom chose life for their unborn children, and some who chose eternal life for themselves by accepting Jesus as their savior.
“We’ve been pleased, without school being in (session yet) with what we saw, what we were able to achieve,” Mathews said.
The organization’s journey began in 1984; it was known as True Life Choice. A small group of Christians felt a calling from God to combat abortion in the Orlando area, and a local church authorized seed money, including funds for Yellow Pages advertising. One of the founders took the first phone call at her home. An office space was rented, and not long afterward, a relocation and a CareNet affiliation took place. Choices Women’s Clinic is an affiliate or Heartbeat International as well.
Over the next 20 years, various directors spearheaded the organization. Mathews took the helm in January 2015, bringing with her decades of pregnancy help experience as an executive director and consultant.
The following year, with a strategy of locating the pregnancy center closer to abortion clinics firmly in mind, Mathews, her team, and the organization’s board of directors purchased a former law office building located near three late-term abortion clinics in Orlando. That same year, the organization re-branded and became Choices Women’s Clinic.
After months of renovation, the new pregnancy medical clinic, under the Choices name, opened to patients in July 2017. In 2019, Mathews and the board began seeking a second strategic location near the UCF campus. Leasing a space was on the agenda. However, God had something else in mind, Mathews said. The organization bought a former restaurant then demolished it, and built a 2.3-million-dollar building, including an extra space to serve as a women’s health and pre-natal health clinic.
“We were going to do something much smaller, but God had other plans,” Mathews said. “Now He’s funded it completely. We’re so humbled and blessed to be part of that. It’s been incredible!”
The new, 4,000 square foot building is debt-free.
“Our supporters have continuously sustained us,” she said.
Coming alongside Choices to serve women and their babies, Advent Health plans to staff part of the building. This medical partnership came about thanks to physicians who sit on the Choices board of directors. One doctor works under Orlando Health and the other is part of Advent Health, Mathews said. Each doctor approached the administrators of their respective healthcare operations and expressed interest in “working alongside of” Choices, Mathews said. Both Orlando Health and Advent Health sent people to tour the new facility.
“Both were very excited about what they saw,” said Mathews.
The healthcare organizations submitted proposals to work with Choices.
“As we went along, we saw Advent as a good fit,” Mathews said. “It’s a Seventh Day Adventist hospital group that is nation-wide, and [the board] felt that statement of faith-wise it would be a good fit.”
The 1,000 square foot portion which Choices is not using will house a nurse practitioner and OBGYN “a few times a week until it gets busier,” Mathews said.
About 15 Advent staff members attended the July grand opening, she added.
“They’re very excited for what we are doing. It’s very surreal!” she said.
Heartbeat International Vice President of Mission Advancement Cindi Boston-Bilotta commended the Choices pregnancy help medical clinic’s growth and Choices team’s efforts to serve clients in need.
“It’s wonderful to see how God is working in the pregnancy help movement and inspiring to witness the marvelous work and growth of Choices Women’s Clinic,” Boston-Bilotta said. “Our centers are thriving and growing!”
In addition to working with Advent Health, Choices partners with local churches to encourage patients who choose life for their babies. Along with the various medical services that Choices offers, the organization also provides support for pregnant women and their partners through parenting and child development classes, a life coaching program, and a baby shower ministry. The shower is held at Choices, but is done in partnership with local churches, Mathews said.
These partnerships and financial support from donors help Choices, which served nearly 1,900 patients during 2020, steer the ministry ship.
“We have an incredible number of partners who have come alongside this vision,” Mathews said. “We told our community we were going to go where abortion was happening, that we were going to change abortion in Orlando. That’s what we’ve done.”
With the opening of the second location now launched, a celebration is planned for the fall. The Choices annual fundraising event takes place October 12, with special guest speaker Christian actor, director, and producer Kevin Sorbo. He is famous for his roles in the 2014 movie God’s Not Dead, 2017’s Let There Be Light, and the ESPY-award-winning film Soul Surfer. Sorbo has numerous other movies and television credits as well.
“It’s an opportunity this year to really celebrate this incredible endeavor that’s been accomplished and continue to look forward to where we’re going from here,” Mathews said.
The annual fundraising event is “vital to our ministry,” she added.
As the months unfold and a new year looms less than six months away, Mathews and her team continue to focus on the organization’s mission.
“We will continue to be true to what we say,” she stated. “Although we don’t know what that will yet look like, we will continue to go where abortions are so we can change abortion in Orlando.”
Editor’s note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News where this appeared. Reposted with permission.