By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF —From a tiny trailer clinic to a fully-staffed facility complete with a mobile medical unit, The Women’s Choice Center has grown a lot since it opened its doors 15 years ago.
When the center first opened across the street from Bettendorf’s Planned Parenthood in 2002, women could receive a free pregnancy test, educational materials, a listening ear and a referral for an ultrasound. Now, with 800 confirmed lives saved and likely many more as a result of these services, according to executive director Vicki Tyler, the Women’s Choice center has resources available to help women rebuild their lives.
The Women’s Choice Center employs 15 paid staff members and relies on 52 volunteers and countless donors. These resources make it possible to provide free on-site ultrasounds, counseling, a clothing/baby item donation room and social work services. Clients can also receive perinatal hospice services, referrals for attempted reversals of medical abortions and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Increased services have allowed the center to help women overcome obstacles in their life that initially led them to seek pregnancy termination in the first place.
The ultrasounds can instantly show the woman that the baby in her womb is not just “a clump of cells,” Tyler said. Women express many different reasons for thinking they cannot carry the baby to term.
“Our biggest job is to hear what they’re really saying,” said longtime volunteer client advocate Mary Klein. “They have a lot of needs, a lot going on. We have to determine the greatest need at the time. … It’s a whole process.”
“We really try to meet these women where they are,” said social worker Sarah Jansen, who started as a volunteer 2-1/2 years ago and has been employed by Women’s Choice Center for more than a year. A woman “might not be familiar with the services available to her. Maybe she needs counseling, financial help, child care, a medical card, clothing, a WIC card, etc.” As a licensed social worker, Jansen can connect women to outside resources in addition to services provided by the center.
Tyler has seen the number of clients to the Women’s Choice Center increase since the Iowa legislature voted to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this year. Even though the Planned Parenthood clinic across the street remains open until the building sells, Tyler said some women are under the assumption that all of Iowa’s Planned Parenthood locations are already closed. They choose to come to Women’s Choice Center instead, “which is good.” Even after the Bettendorf Planned Parenthood clinic closes, she expects some women will access other clinics, or may obtain the abortion drug online. But many others won’t know where to turn. The Women’s Choice Center will be there for them — whether on site or by way of the mobile medical unit, which makes scheduled stops in several locations in the Quad-City area and surrounding counties.
Where will the Women’s Choice Center — and Grace — go next? Tyler isn’t sure, but she is confident that God will show them the way as they work to witness to life and help families. “As we continue to grow, we continue to expand the services we offer. …What else does he want us to do? I don’t know. But I know this: we have to be obedient to his call, no matter what that looks like or requires of us.”