TUCSON, Ariz. — What do you do if you can’t get women to visit a crisis-pregnancy center? You bring the center to them. Portable ultrasound units are not a new idea, but an organization in Arizona is expanding on the approach by rolling out converted RVs as a way to reach women who might not ever visit a brick-and-mortar pregnancy center.
The Hope Mobile, a converted recreational vehicle with a portable ultrasound machine, is available to crisis-pregnancy centers in Arizona, California and elsewhere. It’s all about reaching women where they’re at.
“If only about 10% of women are walking into traditional crisis-pregnancy centers, we need to be on the streets,” said Kelly Copeland, a former construction worker who operates Tucson’s new Fatima Women’s Center with his wife, Barbara.
One advantage of a mobile unit is the flexibility and mobility it offers. Statistics show that upwards of 90% of women who are shown their unborn children on an ultrasound will choose to give birth to their babies.
“Some crisis-pregnancy centers can be hard to find,” said Copeland. “We can bring the unit anywhere: a downtown park, outside an abortion business, colleges and universities, high schools, a mall or store.”
Copeland said that when they bring the Hope Mobile to Arizona State University, they see a young woman every 15 minutes.
“If a girl calls and says that she’s at the mall, we can go there to meet her,” added Copeland.
Another advantage of the mobile units is that the costs can be shared by the various pregnancy centers in a given area. The Phoenix Hope Mobile, for example, brought together a multitude of Catholic and evangelical crisis-pregnancy centers. Since the RV provides only pregnancy testing and ultrasound, there isn’t a need for centers to agree about counseling methodologies. Clients are referred to nearby pregnancy centers for follow-up care and are contacted by telephone.
“The Hope Mobile is not a tool to get a client into a particular church,” said Kay Allen, executive director of Phoenix’s 1st Way Pregnancy Center and co-founder of the Hope Mobile with Barbara Willis. “The Hope Mobile is not the time to talk about the Gospel. We afford the client an opportunity to be face-to-face with the love of Christ.”
Both Allen and Copeland see the Hope Mobile as a way to unify the variety of organizations providing such services.
“It’s a real unifier,” said Copeland. “You don’t worry about people’s theocracy, but saving lives first. The work of evangelization can take place at the CPC.”
Genesis of the Hope Mobile
The idea isn’t a new one. Since 2007, the New York-based Expectant Mother Care has been offering mobile care and ultrasounds via a converted RV.
“We go to the toughest neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Queens,” said founder Chris Slattery. “We bring the RV right to abortion row.”
Such vehicles have also been used on the West Coast.
After an anonymous couple donated a motor home to the Community Pregnancy Center of Simi Valley and Moorpark, they’ve been offering free ultrasounds in California neighborhoods. Focus on the Family provided funding for 80% of the cost of the ultrasound machine. The center takes the RV to underserved areas of Los Angeles and offers free pregnancy testing, counseling and ultrasounds. They receive between five and nine clients per day.
Typically, three people staff the RV — a driver, a nurse practitioner who performs the ultrasound, and an advocate who interviews the client and fills out paperwork.
Crisis-pregnancy centers in a given area underwrite the cost of the mobile unit and can determine where it goes on a given day, whether an art fair, a community college or abortion business. The cost ranges between $160 to $260 per day.
The RV units work. The Phoenix area’s Hope Mobile has been in operation since July 2009 and has already witnessed 40 babies saved from abortion. Slattery says that staff with the New York RV are successful eight out of every 10 times.
While there are currently only about seven or eight such RV portable ultrasound units in operation across the country, organizers are hopeful that the idea will spread.
Hope Mobile is making the vehicles available to other centers around the country. The package, which costs $100,000, includes a converted RV with graphic vehicle wrap, a laptop ultrasound machine, and training for the center’s board and medical staff.
“It makes sense,” said Copeland. “For a stand-alone CPC to convert to a medical model can be quite costly. This way, all of the CPCs in a geographic location can band together, share in the expense, and offer portable ultrasound services. It’s a medical facility on wheels, and appointments can be made around the community.”
Organizers said that it takes between 60 and 90 days for a Hope Mobile unit to be up and running in a community.
Napa Valley Culture of Life, a California network of pro-life resources, is planning to purchase a Hope Mobile. Approximately nine months ago, a crisis-pregnancy center in the area closed. Napa Valley Culture of Life hopes that the RV will fill an unmet need.
Said Ron Maxson, chairman of the board for Napa Valley Culture of Life, “The Hope Mobile offers a way to connect those in need with those who help.”
Tim Drake is based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.