By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — “Her name is Grace.” The new 37 ½-foot-long mobile medical unit at the Women’s Choice Center was blessed Sept. 14 and hit the road Sept. 15 to serve women who believe they may be pregnant or are pregnant.
The new unit has a driver, registered nurse or nurse practitioner, sonographer and client advocate who will be on the road six days a week throughout eastern Iowa and western Illinois, said Vicki Tyler, the Women’s Choice Center executive director.
At present, the Women’s Choice Center has two registered nurses, one nurse practitioner, two client advocates, one driver and one Spanish interpreter. “We hope for at least another driver and interpreter so we can rotate staff,” she said.
Conversations about a mobile unit began two years ago in an effort to reach out to women who cannot get to the center due to distance or other transportation issues. A $1.2 million fundraising campaign kicked off last October to cover the cost of the largest vehicle available ($224,000) and staffing for the unit for five years, Tyler said.
The mobile medical unit arrived in Bettendorf on Sept. 12, was dedicated Sept. 14, and headed on the road Sept. 15. The unit offers pregnancy tests, obstetric ultrasounds for those who quality, optional counseling, testing for sexually transmitted infection, attempted reversal for medical abortion, perinatal hospice ultrasounds, and grief counseling. All services are free, Tyler said.
Senior Pastor Keith Piotter of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Bettendorf, a member of the Life & Family Board that oversees the Women’s Choice Center, blessed the unit and its staff and volunteers. He thanked the board, churches in the Quad Cities and center supporters for making the mobile medical unit a reality. “It seemed so way out there two years ago. God’s presence has been with us through this whole effort.” Rev. Piotter’s church has the honor of housing the mobile medical unit, he said. “But there are no denominational borders. … It’s time to hit the road.”
The Women’s Choice Center’s mobile medical unit will make stops in Davenport, Parkview and Muscatine, Iowa, and Rock Island, Moline, East Moline, Silvis, Galesburg, Geneseo and Kewanee, Ill.
A dedicated website and phone number have been created for the unit: www.qcmobilemedicalunit.org or (563) 343-5119.
Two other agencies based in the Davenport Diocese operate medical mobile units. Susan Skoglund, executive director of Pregnancy Resource Centers in Davenport and Moline, Ill., said that agency had a soft launch of its unit June 5. The mobile medical unit visits three sites, one each in Muscatine, Rock Island and Moline. “We plan to add more (sites) in mid- to late-October and eventually be on the road six days a week,” Skoglund said.
The mobile unit is much smaller and fits in a parking space. So the vehicle can park in more spots than the one owned by Pregnancy Resources’ partners at the Women’s Choice Center. Pregnancy Resources’ offers pregnancy tests and ultrasounds and has a nurse onboard. Skoglund noted that the two pro-life organizations are not in competition. “We work in unity with each other.” She and Tyler pray together once a week and have the same mission to save lives.
Rachel Owen, executive director of Informed Choices in Iowa City, Ames and Fort Dodge, Iowa, said her agency also has a mobile medical unit. Based in Des Moines, the unit travels once a week to different parts of the state “where we are needed. Our role is to change lives and help people. We want to reach out to women who cannot come to us. It’s an extension of our ministry.”