Pregnancy Center West (PCW) has experienced dramatic changes over the past 15 months since launching ultrasound services for women in unplanned pregnancy, having topped 500 ultrasounds in that short time. It also became necessary for the longtime Cincinnati pregnancy center to add a client services director to its staff in January of this year.
With the availability of ultrasound, the center has seen a dramatic increase in clients, along with a shift in the composition of clientele from mostly those seeking material aid to largely abortion-vulnerable women. This has challenged the staff to quickly adjust to a new level of client traffic while holding fast to their “layers of love” approach.
Laura Yards became the executive director of PCW in August 2018. The monetary donations which enabled the center to provide in-house sonograms were one part of the transition.
Yards also credits partnering with pro-life marketing agency Choose Life Marketing for the changes. Since beginning to work with the agency, internet searches for abortion now effectively direct clients to a landing page which draws in a majority of the abortion-vulnerable clients seen at PCW.
Previously, PCW would direct clients to the local Christian, non-profit medical outreach Healthy Beginnings for sonograms once a week. Now the center offers its own ultrasound appointments five days a week, which changes the dialog with clients from first contact.
“The ability to provide a sonogram to our at-risk clients is critical to helping them make a fully-informed decision as we seek to fulfill our mission to save and serve,” Yards stated.
The PCW “layers of love” approach is focused in on clients from the first text or phone call, onto the pregnancy test and ultrasound appointment and every contact beyond.
Client advocates initially meet with clients for a pregnancy test, then an ultrasound to confirm in-utero pregnancy, determine gestational age and fetal cardiac activity. The client advocate at that point can consult further with the client regarding her options.
Parenting and adoption information, along with abortion risks and realities are all shared with the client based on the specific stage of the pregnancy. Utilizing Live Action's video on abortion procedures, clients are given a medical description of abortion procedures.
Each appointment concludes with defining the next steps for the client. If it is too early in the pregnancy to confirm a fetal heartbeat, and the client remains abortion-vulnerable, the client advocate encourages a follow-up sonogram in two weeks.
With the composition of clientele at PCW having shifted to more abortion-vulnerable women, the client advocate is challenged from the first visit to effectively invite the client to pause and consider life-giving options.
In September 2019, Planned Parenthood closed its Western Hills location in Cincinnati. As PCW approaches the milestone of 40 years of service in 2021, Yards perceives God’s faithfulness has been demonstrated over and over.
Loving on clients regardless of their choices has brought both immediate results and some delayed.
Among the abortion-vulnerable clients, 80% of them choose life after the ultrasound. Yards recalled a client from December 2019 who did not choose life, ending the pregnancy with her third child. Yet this client returned in June 2020 and is now choosing life for her fourth child.
The client admits she regrets her abortion decision last December, and certainly her visit to PCW had given her plenty of pause about that decision. She had made a couple of appointments at Planned Parenthood before going through with the abortion in January.
The COVID pandemic has not stopped God’s work through PCW.
While being forced to close for a month, the center did not stop serving clients. Material resources were still provided to those in need and Beth Hegedus, the new client services director, consistently followed up with abortion-vulnerable clients.
A majority of the abortion-vulnerable clients who had said they were going elsewhere, potentially seeking abortion, were still pregnant and were seen for services a month later when the center reopened. Volunteers did not return to serve until June, so the staff of 10 worked tirelessly to fulfill clients’ needs.
“May was the second highest number of ultrasound scans for a month since the launching of sonograms,” Yards reported.
“We also noted a spike in pregnancies from the lockdowns,” she said. “Those who experienced an unplanned pregnancy were even more anxious. It was as if everything that loomed over them was even more daunting.”
“We are fighting an enemy who whispers, ‘abortion is a responsible choice,’ to our clients,” said Yards. “But the truth is a new life brings the potential to be the change in this world that is needed.”
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In celebrating more than 500 free ultrasound scans since March 2019, Yards stated, “We’re delighted that we’re able to come alongside these women at a particular time of need.”
Noting the level of impoverished families in the area, Yards added, “Over the past year, the ability to also provide an ultrasound scan has had a profound impact on the women visiting our center.”
“Most of the women who come to PCW believe that an abortion is the best option for them,” she added. “However, witnessing the child in their womb via the ultrasound scan has a life-changing impact.”
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Yards has been so encouraged by the impact of adding Hegedus to the staff. Her focus on follow-up with clients enables the love and encouragement to continue.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to engage with these women at a time of anxiety and distress,” shared Hegedus. “They need to know that people care about them and have options that preserve the life of their child. We’re delighted when clients stay in contact with us during and after their pregnancy.”
“Time and again, we have witnessed the joy of clients who made a life-affirming decision,” Hegedus added. “We’re particularly delighted when they return to visit PCW with their baby, grateful that we were there for them in their time of need and have the resources to help them and their family.”
Loving and caring for clients has always been the method of PCW. Yards believes the outcomes have been greatly accelerated through the addition of the ultrasound services.
“We’re so deeply grateful to those who made possible the purchase of the ultrasound machine,” she said, “and those who continue to donate to PCW to support the staff, supplies and resources required to sustain it. It’s changing lives for the better every day.”