By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — Before Planned Parenthood of the Heartland opened its Bettendorf clinic in 1999, pro-life advocates prayed fervently against construction of the facility and dropped religious medals into the earth on which it would be built. For the next two decades they prayed unceasingly for closure of the clinic where abortions were performed.
Prayers have been answered in what prolife advocates call “The miracle on Happy Joe Drive.” The Planned Parenthood building where unborn babies’ lives were ended has been cleansed, cleaned and transformed into a faith-centered primary care clinic and a pregnancy support and resources center.
While helping to paint the building’s interior in calming cool colors, a painter told someone that she felt a sense of peace. Twenty years earlier, she had traveled to an abortion provider elsewhere but decided against having an abortion. She is grateful to be a mother to a young adult she chose to give birth to and nurture, pro-life advocates say.
The figure-eight shaped building that was Planned Parenthood now is home to Life & Family Medical Clinic, a faith-centered primary care clinic, and the Women’s Choice Center, which provides support for pregnant women, new parents and their families. Both are prolife ministries of Life & Family Educational Trust. Board members anticipate opening the new, direct primary care medical clinic in early 2019.
Other clinics in Iowa provide direct services to members who pay a monthly fee, but this one will be unique in following the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) for Catholic Health Care Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The directives call for compassionate health care for all people, regardless of their ability to pay, and excludes prescription of contraceptives, sterilization procedures and recommendations or referrals for abortion.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula recently toured the Bettendorf clinic with Life & Family Board President Mary Jones, Treasurer Beth Millea, Beth’s husband, Dr. Tim Millea, and Linda Rubey, executive director of Women’s Choice Center.
“Bishop Zinkula’s visit and knowledge of the clinic plans is critical to our mission,” Dr. Millea said. “If the clinic is committed to the Ethical and Religious Directives, we want to be certain that the shepherd for the diocese is aware of that. Also, with our plans to be an affiliate of the National Gianna Network, we are required to have the written support of our bishop, which Bishop Zinkula promptly provided to the national headquarters immediately after his tour.”
The National Gianna Women’s Center for Women’s Health and Fertility strives to help its national network of Gianna medical affiliates “provide pro-life, authentically Catholic health and fertility care to women and families,” according to its website. The Gianna model “offers a natural alternative to artificial birth control, abortion and in vitro fertilization (IVF) and paves the way for the culture of life to flourish in parishes and communities around the country.”
Life & Family’s purchase of the former Planned Parenthood building and its decision to profoundly repurpose it goes a long way toward paving the way for the culture of life to flourish, board members believe.
Beth Millea said Life & Family purchased the 8,500-square-foot building from a business owner who bought it from Planned Parenthood. After the purchase, Life & Family requested that a priest conduct an exorcism of the building because of its past use. “What better way to salvage a building than to exorcise it and fill it completely with pro-life ministries?” Beth Millea said. Following the exorcism, Jones “felt that God was in this place.”
Staff members marvel at how people entering the building, particularly those who had been inside of it when Planned Parenthood occupied the space, now feel a sense of peace that had been missing. Rooms where abortions were completed and lives were disposed of were stripped to the studs and rebuilt. Walls have been painted in relaxing shades of blue. The building’s two-tone exterior is light gray and blue. “We purposely picked all the peaceful, cool colors,” Beth Millea said. A chapel, painted in a lavender shade, has been created in what used to be a recovery room. “It’s a perfect place to become a reverent spot.”
In one of those renovated rooms, Beth Millea said she had an encounter with Jesus. She believes that God was thanking Life & Family for “being here and taking this space and bringing life into it.”
A place for healing
The building sits at the intersection of Happy Joe and Tech drives and previously bore a Tech Drive address. The prolife advocates requested and received city approval to change the address to 2740 Happy Joe Drive. Life & Family wanted to remove any links to the former Planned Parenthood clinic, Beth Millea said. They even requested and received permission to reword the “Dead End” sign to read “No Exit.”
The building “is bathed in prayer. It’s being used for God’s glory. We’re seeing lives transformed,” said Pam Galanius, clinical director/nurse manager of the Women’s Choice Center. She witnessed a glimmer of that transformation during an emotional encounter with a mom who had an abortion 14 years ago at the Planned Parenthood clinic.
The mom arrived at the Women’s Choice Center needing diapers for a young child she gave birth to about a year ago. But when she walked into the center’s old location across the street, she learned it has been converted into a child care center. She was directed to the new center, but became physically and emotionally overwhelmed with painful memories.
“She started to break down and cry loudly,” Galanius said. “All of the memories came flooding back.” Galanius took the mom into a private room and talked with her about God’s forgiveness, healing and support and then prayed with her. The mom said, “I know God forgave me, but I can’t forgive myself.” Galanius said she looked the mom in the eye and said, “God loves you and he forgives you and he loves you just the way you are and knows the pain you carry and he wants to help you.”
“It’s an awesome responsibility God has placed on us,” Rubey said, “to be his eyes and ears, to comfort and to heal.”
Direct primary care to be offered
Linda Rubey, executive director of Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, is assisting Life & Family Educational Trust in setting up its new direct primary care clinic. “It’s a new type of medical care that is not insurance based,” said Rubey, who has a background in accounting, service and marketing. In her most recent position she served as operations director for an outpatient health care facility. “I hired physicians and physician assistants. I helped with area employers to hire registered nurses.”
At the Bettendorf clinic, patients will pay a monthly membership fee (not available at press time) to receive primary care as needed, with no fee-per-visit charges. Patients likely will carry insurance for catastrophic care, which will not be available at the clinic. A portion of the membership fee will help pay for individuals unable to pay.
If hospitalization or other outpatient care is necessary, the clinic’s health care providers will make referrals to those resources, Rubey said. Life & Family is recruiting physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to staff the faith-centered clinic. Plans are also to hire a clinic manager, who will be responsible for day-to-day operations.
“We’re using a very soft (recruitment) approach through referrals or groups we know that are faith based and looking perhaps to make a change,” Rubey said. “We’re praying and just know that God will lead that right individual or individuals who will be the right fit for our organization.”
Life & Family representatives have met and talked with another group whose medical clinic has been in practice for nine years. That clinic has 200 families seen by one doctor and other staff, Rubey said.
People of all ages will be seen at the Bettendorf clinic. “We’ll certainly have many families coming to us for fertility care.” Regular business hours will be conducted Monday through Friday. Patients may call after hours with questions.
Relationships also are being developed with St. Ambrose University in Davenport and other teaching schools, Rubey said. She anticipates that the clinic eventually will offer internships and opportunities for students before graduation.
Health care providers interested in volunteering also are welcome. Psychiatrist Angelika Peiffer already is providing services part-time as a volunteer, Rubey said.
If you are interested in learning about Life & Family Medical Clinic direct primary care, contact Rubey at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (563) 332-0475).