By Tabitha Goodling
An Arizona pregnancy center has been celebrating 50 years of service to its community by emphasizing its medical program and the compassion behind each client visit.
Reachout Women’s Center began as Reachout Pregnancy Center in Tucson, Ariz., in 1973 as a response to Roe v. Wade. The center provided a brief history to Pregnancy Help News.
Rev. Carey Womble MD, with the help of Jim Doran, opened the center at its first location with an anonymous donation of $100. Its initial efforts were to provide free pregnancy testing and clothing two days a week.
In less than 20 years the program outgrew its facility and moved to its current location. Ultrasounds for confirmation of pregnancy were eventually added, and the center used the same ultrasound machine for many years. By 2014 the name change occurred, a middle school relationship program was added, and a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine was donated by the Knights of Columbus.
Today the center is open four days a week, and in 2022, 212 ultrasounds were performed, and 40 babies were rescued.
Women calling the center are looking for free medical help as they try to interpret a possible pregnancy.
Nurse Manager Melissa O’Donnell said it has been important for clients to understand they are receiving professional medical care.
“I am under the supervision of an MD,” O’Donnell said, like most nurse managers in centers across the country.
Reachout Women’s Center made a promotional video this year in which O’Donnell is highlighted explaining that significance.
“These are licensed professionals providing care to patients and providing evidence-based research and putting it into practice,” O’Donnell said in the video.
O’Donnell spoke by phone with Pregnancy Help News and emphasized the medical clinic is based “on the science,” adding that the ultrasound images provide proof of a heartbeat, a very clear image of life.
She acknowledged the politicized view that pregnancy centers are “fake clinics” that try to sway women from their choices. O’Donnell said many of the political mouthpieces making such claims have not encountered a woman who calls a pregnancy center.
“(The women) don’t talk about fake clinics,” she said. “They’re looking for answers.”
“They may call us and ask questions,” said O’Donnell. “A lot of it is about education. Many of these women of all ages are not educated about their bodies” … “A lot of women have had their menstrual cycle for years and they still don’t understand ovulation.”
“This is scientific evidence and it’s not about her political views or your views,” O’Donnell added.
There are several medical professionals who provide care with Reachout. This includes O’Donnell and several volunteer, certified nurses. The clinic’s medical director, who is an OB/Gyn, also volunteers her time to perform ultrasounds.
There are only three paid staff members at the center including O’Donnell, executive director RJ Saavedra, and an office assistant/client advocate.
“We all help one another,” O’Donnell said of the staff and volunteers. No matter which medical professional is performing the ultrasound, there is always someone “who will hold a client’s hand is she needs it.”
She said providing compassionate care for the clients is what keeps the team in focus.
“We always come back to, ‘what is the mission?’” she said.
The services beyond ultrasounds and pregnancy tests include providing material assistance and referring clients to other agencies for assistance. O’Donnell said the center has a positive relationship with a secular nurse-based program that provides care and education in the homes. One of those nurses visited Reachout Women’s Center.
“She told me, ‘This is not what I thought it would be.’” O’Donnell said. The nurse went on and told her, “’This facility is fantastic. I really thought you would be throwing Jesus in my face.’”
O’Donnell then explained to her that the center is a faith-based, Catholic organization with an educational focus. The evidence of the faith is seen on wall hangings and crosses in various parts of the office. It is most noticeable in the love shared through the women in the office, she said.
O’Donnell, who has been at the center for two years, became a nurse only a few years ago. She has degrees in international studies and was raised in a military family. A practicing Catholic, O’Donnell said she never considered herself pro-life or pro-choice until she became a labor and delivery nurse. She said her pro-life stance took shape immediately.
O’Donnell spends part of her time at ReachOut Women’s Center in her nurse manager role several weeks out of the year. She divides her time as a labor and delivery nurse six hours away in Las Vegas, Nev.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.