DENVER — A network of pro-life pregnancy centers in Colorado is the latest to take to the streets with a mobile ultrasound unit that it hopes will help women choose life and reject abortion.
“We want to go to where the women are in their daily routines. Instead of waiting for women to find us, we’ll find them,” said Rick Thielen, executive director of the Longmont, Colo.-based Life Choices.
“We’ll meet them where they are and hopefully show them that what they are really carrying is life and isn’t just a mass of tissue, as pop culture wants to tell them.”
Life Choices’ new ultrasound unit, housed in a large recreational vehicle, aims to provide free ultrasounds in zip codes with a high proportion of women more likely to undergo abortions. The organization gave a tour of the vehicle outside its new affiliate’s offices in Westminster, Colo.
“Our target is the abortion-determined woman, who may already have an abortion scheduled,” Thielen told Catholic News Agency May 31.
He reported that, in general, about 70% of these women change their minds after viewing an ultrasound, while about 87% of women who are unsure whether to have an abortion will choose to carry their babies to term.
The new mobile unit will have a paid nurse manager to oversee the trained volunteer nurses who perform the ultrasound procedure. Ultrasounds will be electronically transmitted to a doctor for review and referral.
The vehicle will also provide free pregnancy tests and host trained volunteer advocates from local pro-life pregnancy centers to help assist the women and provide them with the resources they need.
Life Choices purchased the vehicle from Image Clear Ultrasound Mobile, an Ohio-based Christian organization. The organization designed and built the recreational vehicles and developed the system for targeting zip codes with a high number of women who choose abortions.
“We go into that zip code and look for locations that are visible. Shopping centers are good ones,” Thielen said.
The statistical system also helps Life Choices evaluate its success and whether it needs to change location to attract more women considering abortions. However, the system tends to be less reliable for reaching college students, who typically use their home zip code on reporting forms.
Schedules announcing the free ultrasounds will be posted in places like bars, laundromats and restaurants in the north Denver metro area and in other major towns and cities of Colorado.
The ultrasound vehicle’s inaugural Colorado tour has already attracted two pediatricians who have volunteered to treat uninsured patients without charge. Twenty-one nurses attended the first training session for the vehicle.
Life Choices, which has five centers in northern Colorado, wants to partner with “any Christ-exalting church” to help bring the free ultrasound unit into local communities.
Thielen said the organization already works with well over 200 churches in Colorado. “Churches are our lifeblood,” he noted.
The organization hopes to work with the Lighthouse Pregnancy Center, operated by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver near the major Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Denver. Life Choices especially hopes to use its new vehicle to provide counseling services there on Saturdays, when few pro-life pregnancy centers are open.
Image Clear Ultrasound Mobile has helped provide over 30 ultrasound machine vehicles in operation across the U.S., Thielen said. The vehicle numbers could increase to 55 by the end of 2013.
Life Choices has budgeted $60,000 to pay for its ultrasound vehicle each year, though the budget is dependent on gas prices. The organization also hopes to purchase another vehicle to use in Colorado.
The pregnancy-center network will give tours of its vehicle Oct. 4 at the Budweiser Event Center in Loveland, Colo., as part of a fundraiser with former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Life Choices describes itself as a “Christ-centered ministry,” and Thielen said the organization has a religious motivation in reaching out to women.” The most important thing is that we get to share the Gospel,” he said.
“If they want to talk about that, great; if not, that’s great, too. Usually it starts with a simple question: ‘Can we pray for you?’”
Even if clients go through with an abortion, Thielen added, Life Choices will tell them, “We’re here for you.”
“Because we know what they’re going to go through. We want them to know that we still love them, that we care for them, no matter what their decision is,” he said.
“They can come on back, and we’ll be there in the future."