FirstChoice transition to Women’s Care Center model proving to be successful

by Roxane B. Salonen

In the first months of FirstChoice Clinic’s transition to the Women’s Care Center model of pregnancy resources, the number of women seeking pregnancy tests jumped 179 percent.

“The number of those women that are abortion-minded when coming through our doors has also tripled,” said Angela Wambach, executive director of the Fargo, Bismarck, and Devils Lake sites.

The Women’s Care Center history helps explain its success. When its original site opened in Indiana in 1984, it served 300 women; today, it serves over 400 daily in its 32 locations in 11 states, with 92 percent of pregnant women served overall having chosen life for their babies.

“Last year alone, over 28,000 Women’s Care clients were given needed help and resources,” Wambach said.

Now the nation’s largest, most effective pregnancy-resource center, Women’s Care Center has brought North Dakota into its story of success. “Our staff has never been busier,” Wambach said, “and all have been encouraged with the results, and empowered through the training to better meet clients’ needs.”

Recently, Women’s Care Center received the most prestigious pro-life award in the nation, the Evangelium Vitae Award, from the University of Notre Dame.

When Janet E. Smith, a respected Catholic theologian, founded that first center, she located it close to an abortion facility. “That’s one of the reasons it ended up being so successful, and something they try to duplicate with all their centers,” Wambach said.

Better access means more babies saved, and more parents prepared to move through an unplanned pregnancy successfully.

Other factors in success include:

• Training. The Women’s Care Center model requires staff to complete 160 hours, or four weeks, of full-time training at their founding site in Indiana. “They learn the counseling model of meeting the woman where she’s at, truly helping her through her crisis, and individualizing how to best serve her,” Wambach said. “This leads to more a more confident, cohesive staff. “Before, without that training, we just did the best we could; this is the biggest change for us.”

• Ultrasound Frequency. While FirstChoice Clinic has always used ultrasounds, their usage has changed. “We do ultrasounds earlier, and more often now,” Wambach said. “Each time a woman sees her baby, a powerful bonding occurs.” Frequent follow-ups showing the baby’s growth can increase bonding and encourage support people to also form an attachment, and rally around the woman and baby.

• Digital-ready. Digital ultrasound photos now can be sent directly to the woman’s cell phone, Wambach said, giving her a chance to forward these images to the father or others, and have them near as she’s considering her future.

• Time. The Women’s Care approach assures the women there’s time to decide, leading them away from a pressured decision, which, in some cases, could even end in an unnecessary and costly abortion. “A lot of women come in feeling like they need to make a decision now and get it over as soon as possible,” Wambach said. “We help relieve them of that.”

• More senses. In the past, women were only allowed to see the heartbeat by ultrasound; now, they hear it as well. “The more senses you use, the more bonding can occur,” said Wambach, who notes that the reactions have been even more powerful than anticipated. “We have noticed the looks on people’s faces, and the reactions to hearing the heartbeat. It’s another opportunity to connect.”

• Visibility, Accessibility. The Women’s Care model, along with its centers being closer to the demographics of those needing the services, Wambach says, have better signage to assure the women will find their way to the right doors, and better front-door access.

• Online advertising. Wambach says women of the age range most likely to seek help will do an online search; thus, current and future advertising needs to be online. “Bismarck, the first location to employ the new model, has already seen significant increases in the number of women coming in for pregnancy tests, up 179 percent. The number of abortion-minded women also has tripled,” she said, noting that the jump was noted after online advertising went into effect.

Wambach says an immediate goal in Fargo’s transition was finding a new site closer to where abortions happen here to better serve the community. “After an exhausting search, the good Lord has provided a spectacular building, one that we will never outgrow, at 103 North University Drive.”

Current statistics indicate that in Cass County, one baby is aborted for every two babies born. Our state’s only abortion clinic, located in downtown Fargo, also has seen a steady number of clients each year, Wambach says.

“Every community with a Women’s Care Center has seen exceptional abortion declines every time. We believe our community will see this too.”

Wambach says she’s been impressed with the dedication of the pro-life community in our diocese. “It’s really the communities, with their staff serving their own neighbors. The money stays here to serve our own.”

To learn more about the Women’s Care Center, or how you can help it further thrive, contact Katie Dukart at katie.dukart@firstchoiceclinic.com. Donations can be sent to 1351 Page Dr. #205, Fargo, ND 58103 or at www.teamfirstchoice.com.