Pregnancy Aid Center Receives Donations

The Pregnancy Aid Center in College Park already was struggling financially when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington urged Catholics in July to halt all aid to the clinic because it offers contraception to its low-income clients.

The directive led to a steep drop-off in donations, as several parishes ceased giving the nonprofit organization food, baby clothes and money.

But the center got a second wind--receiving nearly $44,631 in unsolicited donations later in the year after word of its plight spread. A Washington Post story on the dispute ran in October.

"The outpouring from the community has been absolutely incredible," said Mary Jelacic, the center's director. She said letters had come from as far as Seattle and Bonn, Germany.

Jelacic said 106 individuals sent in $12,799; two foundations contributed $20,000, and another person gave $11,832 in stock.

A majority of more than 100 letters offering support were from Catholics and several from men, Jelacic said, adding, "It's a women's issue, but men are responding."

The nonsectarian clinic, founded 25 years ago to help women carry unexpected pregnancies to term, offers prenatal and postnatal medical care to 2,800 low-income women. It is one of two nongovernment clinics in Prince George's County that accepts clients with no health insurance. Unlike most crisis pregnancy centers, which only do testing and counseling, it has a medical staff of two volunteer physicians, a nurse midwife and a nurse practitioner.

The archdiocese supported the center financially for several years. But after it began offering two forms of birth control--pills and the injection Depo-Provera--in 1997, church officials withdrew support.

In July, they publicized that decision and asked priests and parishes "to end financial and other support" to the clinic because its contraceptive policy violates the church's teachings on sexuality.

Archdiocese officials also asserted that Depo-Provera could cause abortions--which Jelacic, who is Catholic, disputes.

She added that the center, which does not perform abortions, maintains its antiabortion stance, notwithstanding its distribution of contraceptives.

An audit cited by Jelacic found that the nonprofit center was $56,000 in debt as of last summer. She said she regarded the recent donations as a sign that "God means us to be here."

-- Caryle Murphy

Panel to Consider U-Md. Race Relations

A series of anonymous racist threats delivered to black student leaders at the University of Maryland in November has left its mark on the College Park campus, where administrators are seeking ways to ease race relations in a diverse student body.

University President C.D. Mote Jr. has named two longtime faculty members to head a panel that will seek ways to transform Maryland "from a diverse campus to a diverse community."

Although Maryland has won acclaim for its efforts to bring many racial and ethnic groups together, Mote said he fears such work has not gone far enough. "Some say we have become a federation of interest groups rather than a union of diverse people," he said.

Claire Moses, professor and head of the Women's Studies Department, and Raymond Johnson, a math instructor who became the first black faculty member to rise from assistant professor to full professor at College Park, will head the panel. It has been asked to come up with with recommendations by June on how to remove campus divisions and promote understanding among different groups.

Campus police are still investigating the threats of violence that were delivered to the Nigerian-born student government president and an officer of a black student organization. Thousands of students joined Mote and other university officials the next day in an emotional rally against hatred, yet tensions remained high on campus for several weeks, with some students criticizing the administration for alleged insensitivity toward the needs of ethnic minorities.

-- Amy Argetsinger

Dulles Subway Receives Initial Funding

The regional airport authority has moved a step closer to phasing out the mobile lounges that have ferried travelers across the taxiways of Dulles International Airport for four decades. The subway that will replace them now has initial funding.

Five months after the directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority approved the layout for a rail line to connect the passenger terminals, they voted last month to include the first $10.4 million in their annual budget.

This move was a recognition that the mobile lounges--designed by acclaimed architect Eero Saarinen--cannot keep pace with the rapid growth of Dulles, now the busiest airport in the region.

The money includes $9 million to design a subway station in the main terminal as well as a new security area close to the proposed platform. The work is scheduled to start this month. Once it is completed, most passengers will pass through a security checkpoint on the main terminal's lower level rather than at the existing locations on the ground level, according to authority spokeswoman Tara Hamilton.

The subway will run in a loop and ultimately could cost $900 million. Airport officials said they expect its first segment to open as soon as 2004.

-- Alan Sipress