DENVER — A Colorado women’s health clinic has drawn praise for offering natural care that respects human dignity and building up a culture of life.
Authentic women’s care “is essential to the pro-life movement,” said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life in New York.
“One of the greatest needs now in our culture is to be able to have collaborative relationships with doctors who understand this aspect of a woman’s health and who are really going to work to bring the woman to full health in ways that are also consistent with our faith,” she told CNA.
“So this is essential to the pro-life movement. We are very limited when there is no such possibility.”
She praised the work of Bella Natural Women’s Care, a new initiative in the Denver area to combine cutting-edge technology with a natural approach, seeking to identify and solve health problems rather than merely mask them with drugs.
While on a mission trip to Peru, Dede Chism and daughter Abby Sinnett — both are nurse practitioners — were touched by their freedom to treat patients in accordance with their dignity, without pressure to offer contraception or abortion as a “solution” to health problems.
Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women’s health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.
Bella will offer comprehensive care for women of all ages, from the onset of fertility to post-menopause. Its founders are working closely with the Denver Archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries, which helps teach natural family planning in accordance with Church teaching.
However, while the practice will be run in full adherence to the Catholic faith, it hopes to have a broader outreach to those of other faiths or none at all. Chism and Sinnett believe the idea of authentic, respectful, natural care will be attractive to women in general.
A Story to Tell
At the center of their work is a focus on relationship.
“Women have a story,” Chism emphasized. “They have so much pain or joy … and it has become very real to us that every woman, no matter what background she comes from, has a story that we aim to understand.”
Sinnett contrasted this with the growing number of chemical abortions, in which women are given a pill in the presence of a doctor, then sent home to undergo the remainder of the abortion in the isolation of their own homes.
In addition to aligning with Church teaching, they believe the natural approach is better for women’s health.
“The philosophy behind this care is getting to the root cause,” Chism said, explaining that rather than automatically expose women to artificial hormones and the myriad complications and side effects that can accompany them, a more natural approach seeks to identify and fix the cause of the problem, contributing to greater well-being while minimizing additional health risks.
“Natural does not mean nothing,” she continued. “Natural means what is best practiced to get to the root cause of something in cooperation with someone’s body. … That goes from cycles to healthy weight and nutrition or menopausal situations.”
Trust and Sacrifice
The challenges for the two nurses have been daunting at times: from finding a location and securing a doctor to navigating the world of insurance plans. But trusting completely in God and surrounding themselves with the “smartest business people” they know, the duo plans to have Bella up and running by the end of the year.
Chism described the work as “God’s project,” adding that “we’re just a couple of girls who said okay.”
Still, the project has demanded an immense trust and sacrifice on the part of both women.
Chism, married for 35 years, said that the retirement plan for herself and her husband looks a little different than originally planned. “Our bank account is like a water faucet that is just streaming out right now, full blast,” she laughed.
“Some days are overwhelming,” she admitted. “Some days we are just barely holding on, and the Lord is just leading us. But God is blessing this, and he is drawing us closer every day.”
Sinnett added that the journey is exciting, “because God is so in control of it, and when you are so intimately doing what the Lord is asking you, whether it’s scary or stressful or hard or whatever, there is a grace that comes with it.”
She reflected that God has provided each step of the way, “revealing it to us very purposefully in the moments we need it, but not until we are ready for it.”
A Nationwide Model
The nurses hope to build a plan that can be imitated in other dioceses across the country.
“What we hope to do is create a model that is both successful and sustainable: something that can be replicated and a place where doctors would want to come and work,” Chism explained.
The plan involves maintaining reasonable salaries while using the additional income generated by the clinic to offer health care for women who cannot afford it, as well as to fund other local apostolates and ministries throughout the Archdiocese of Denver.
They also hope to be a resource to the community, educating youth and teens, and reaching out to priests and seminarians who may have medical questions when women come to them for advice.
After discussing several possible names for their clinic, the nurses settled on “Bella,” a word which means both “beautiful” in Italian and “war” in Latin. This is fitting, they explained, because they are in the midst of a “beautiful war” for respectful, authentic women’s health care.
Chism and Sinnett are deeply aware of the spiritual aspect of this battle. Their clinic will be located just steps from the office of one of the biggest late-term abortionists in the Denver metro area.
Additionally, while the clinic will not have an explicitly religious feel, and employees will not proselytize, a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament will be present for anyone who wishes to visit it.
“Maybe someone who has never sat in a chapel will go in, and they will be captivated, and they will be loved,” Chism said.
“Our goal, recognizing that body, mind, and soul all go together, is to work together, making women perhaps a little bit more whole.”