Mobile clinic relies on power of ultrasounds to save lives

| Jessica Weinberger | October 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Alpha Women’s Center

From left, Anne Fredrickson and Julie Welch stand in front of a mobile pregnancy care center that serves the southwest metro. The mobile unit, run by the ministry Image Clear Ultrasound Mobile, is part of Alpha Women’s Center in Prior Lake, where Fredrickson serves as executive director and Welch serves as a volunteer client advocate. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

In a bustling Target parking lot in Shakopee, it’s difficult for busy shoppers to miss the large 31-foot RV parked prominently in the back with a sign listing a menu of free services, including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and other resources. And that’s exactly what Alpha Women’s Center Executive Director Anne Fredrickson hopes.

“Sometimes we have walk-on clients who see us and maybe they’re not the client who would have looked up a pregnancy center, but then they see us and something speaks to their heart … [and] they knock on the door and come on board,” said Fredrickson, who has served as executive director since February.

Alpha Women’s Center began in Prior Lake in 1982 as a home for pregnant women, designed to offer emotional support along with essentials like diapers and clothing. Decades later, the organization decided to shift its focus and reach women where they are, aiming to walk with them through whatever circumstances they face. They sold the home and invested the funds into the mobile pregnancy care unit under the direction of the pro-life ministry Image Clear Ultrasound (ICU) Mobile in 2013.

The organization, based in Akron, Ohio, has launched nearly 50 mobile pregnancy resource centers nationwide. Its Minnesota unit is the only one of its kind in the state, concentrating on the underserved Scott, Le Seuer and Carver counties in the southwest metro, which previously had only one non-medical pregnancy clinic.

The organization largely focuses on providing abortion-vulnerable women with ultrasounds, which Fredrickson called a “powerful tool.”

“Four out of five women will choose life once they see that baby on the ultrasound, because they see the truth. It’s such a powerful thing and a gift to give a woman to see that,” said Fredrickson, a member of St. Nicholas in Elko New Market.

The RV, driven by trained volunteers, travels to different locations three times per week. Rooted in the Christian faith, the ministry serves women of all backgrounds, inviting patients to bring their own faith and values into their situation. When possible, they ask to pray with the women, calling for guidance, safety and, ultimately, a chance at life.

While ecumenical, the organization has a large Catholic contingency among the board and volunteers. For the last three years, Julie Welch has volunteered two days per month as a client advocate, commandeering the RV and assisting clients with paperwork once aboard.

“I’m one of the first faces that they see and encounter,” said Welch, who attends Sts. Joachim and Anne in Shakopee. “It’s so important to be friendly and welcoming. Nobody wants to feel judged when they’re going into a situation.”

Welch often watches as people drive by the mobile unit slowly, puzzled by the large structure. Some stop and jot down the organization’s name, while others timidly knock on the door, convinced that the mobile pregnancy clinic was a sign to give their baby life.

“I feel like I was a strong person of faith before I started doing this, but I’ve seen the Holy Spirit. When you call on him, he does respond in his way and in his timing,” she said.

Funding for the ministry comes from many individuals and 60 churches in the southwest metro. Bethesda Church, an evangelical Christian church in Prior Lake, donates office space and allows ICU Mobile to park in its lot for free. Volunteers take care of the RV’s maintenance, from filling tires to winterization.

Fredrickson searches for each location, looking for highly trafficked areas, a younger demographic and a visible place that’s potentially near a food shelf or community service agency. And of course, an easy place to pull in and park. She seeks written approval at each location with self-described “holy boldness,” hoping the managers of grocery stores and retail establishments will let them put their RV in park and serve women in need.

As the outreach grows, Fredrickson hopes to offer additional hours and locations and expand services to include prenatal care, life coaching and more. They experienced a 60 percent increase in client visits from 2015 to 2016, with another 10 percent increase so far in 2017, but the numbers only tell one part of the story. It’s all about reaching the one woman who needs them, Fredrickson explained.

“It’s amazing to see the change in a woman when she sees that baby on a screen,” she said. “For most women, that reality is so innate, so built into our hearts that the love a mom has for a baby is stronger than fear.”

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Category: Faith and Culture, Featured