AKRON, Ohio — Over the past few years, several different organizations have pioneered the use of mobile-ultrasound units to bring crisis-pregnancy services to the places where abortion-vulnerable women are.

ICU (“I see you”) Mobile’s Image Clear Ultrasound, based in Akron, Ohio, pioneered the use of mobile-ultrasound units. Founded in 2003 by Sylvia Slifko, the organization has gone from one initial unit in 2004 to 17 mobile units today. In addition to their 17 affiliates, ICU plans to deploy another six, including units in India, Australia, Ghana and Thailand within 18 months.

“We partner with pregnancy centers,” said Michael Homula, executive director of ICU Mobile. “We allow them to extend their reach beyond what centers can’t do, which is lift themselves off their foundation and go directly to abortion-minded women.”

As a leader in mobile-ultrasound ministry, ICU has gone one step further. They’ve contracted with Thor Motorcoach, a recreational-vehicle company, to custom-engineer road-compliant vehicles that do not compromise structural integrity. As a result, ICU’s mobile units are under warranty.

On board, ICU staffs their mobile units with two people, a licensed nurse sonographer or licensed medical sonographer and a skilled, experienced counselor.

ICU is the only mobile-ultrasound unit approved by the two major crisis-pregnancy center organizations, CareNet and HeartBeart International.

One of the first ultrasound units in a major U.S. city was EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers’ mobile unit in New York. EMC operates 12 pregnancy centers throughout New York City and the Bronx. While EMC Frontline was founded by Chris Slattery in 1985, the center didn’t begin using a mobile-ultrasound unit until 2007.

Like most mobile units, their bus provides both free pregnancy testing and ultrasounds.

“We average two or three turnarounds per day,” said Slattery, president of EMC Frontline. “We average about 800 saves a year just at the mobile facility.”

Jaboy Rivera is one such success story. She said that she owes her child’s life to Slattery’s mobile-ultrasound unit. Scheduled for an abortion, she had a pregnancy test and ultrasound on the bus and learned that she was 15 weeks pregnant. Her boyfriend wanted her to have an abortion.

“If I wouldn’t have seen the sonogram and my baby moving, I would have done it,” said Rivera. “I thank those with the bus for not letting me do it. I give thanks that I didn’t do it.”

One group that’s taken an extremely different approach, especially with regard to its marketing, is Philadelphia-based Save the Storks, a ministry of the T-shirt company Live Offensively founded by Joe Baker.

A team from Save the Storks spent two weeks in New York with Slattery’s mobile unit to learn how their work is done.

Said Dave Pomerantz, a missionary with Save the Storks, “I thought, If we could do this better — get a nicer bus, and get people who were committed to being there every day — this could change the pro-life movement forever.”

Save the Storks is hoping to have their first bus ready to deliver to a pregnancy center in Dallas sometime later this year.

Save the Storks’ unique messaging has resulted in attracting clients who just aren’t sure what the organization is promoting.

“The stork is a mythical bird. Some people initially think we’re an environmental movement,” said Baker. “It’s enough to provoke people but doesn’t make them mad. It’s fun and it’s cute, and that’s our heart.”

Register senior writer Tim Drake is based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.