Amanda Reeves was about as prepared to have a baby boy in late August as any 20-year-old woman could be after immersing herself in the Clarity Clinic Pregnancy Center of Dubuque.
She took educational classes ranging from birthing to safe sleep in what is called First Steps. She also was referred to classes offsite for things such as nutrition and breast-feeding. Through her participation, she earned points that were used to buy a variety of baby items.
“I’m much more informed now,” said the Dubuque woman, whose fiance has a 4-year-old son. “I feel like I’m super ready.”
The pregnancy center also is ready to expand — again. It moved into its present location, at 3365 Hillcrest Road, in May 2016 after Planned Parenthood left a month earlier. Prior to that, Clarity Clinic was located in a suite on Asbury Road. In 2015, it served 768 clients and was running out of room.
Now, after handling about 2,247 appointments last year and nearly 2,000 already this year, it needs to grow again.
“Most pregnancy centers struggle to keep their doors open,” said Executive Director Kris Nauman, who has been part of the pregnancy clinic for 12 years. “They’re like us, 100% donor-supported.”
There are hundreds of donated items in the basement boutique and a large former bank vault, ranging from toys and clothes to diapers and strollers. A large painted mural — The Tree of Life — has photos of babies on its branches whose parents have been in First Steps.
There also are free grab bags available for newcomers who might be in need faster than they can earn points.
The program gave out 10,601 baby items earned in 2018. This year, clients earned more than 13,500 baby items.
“I’ve gotten a lot of baby clothes, diapers and wipes,” Reeves said of the program for parents and their children from pregnancy through age 4. “I took the safe sleep class with my mom, which goes over which way to position the baby when he sleeps,” among other things.
Clarity is affiliated with the national Care Net organization of about 1,200 pregnancy centers, which includes Clarity Clinic of Southwest Platteville, Wis. The evangelical network provides marketing, development and other support services to help clinics provide women and men “with realistic alternatives to abortion,” according to its website.
All of Dubuque’s many services are offered free to clients. Its annual operating budget is $500,000. The estimated cost of the expansion project is $1.5 million. Clarity Clinic has raised $80,000 so far, a lot of which has gone toward the structural and conceptual drawings.
“So, we have a long way to go,” Nauman said. “The obstacle is having the funds, not the need. Everything that happens in this expansion will be for educating and supporting the people of this community.”
Nick Vize, the staff’s newest addition as head of Donor Relations specifically for the expansion, faces perhaps the biggest challenge.
“That’s part of the reason I joined the team,” he said. “We’re just getting started. There’s just a huge need.”
They have plenty of room on their one-plus acre lot.
“We do have some goals in mind,” Vize said. “We’ve been told by our general contractor that construction could take 90 to 180 days, which is not an undoable project.”
The clinic offers a broad range of group classes, including some on head trauma, safety, infant choking, post-partum depression support, Dupaco Financial Partnership classes, Iowa Works Partnership for jobs and job readiness and Unified Therapy for delayed development topics and screening.
Services include pregnancy tests, obstetrical ultrasound by a registered nurse under the supervision of a physician and selected tests for sexually transmitted diseases.
“We need to provide a support system that has that continual person always pouring into them, giving them the ability to learn,” Nauman said. “Help them to see it’s not a free handout. That they did it, they accomplished something for their child and their family.”
“We’re empowering people to be healthy, whether that be physically or emotionally,” he said.
In addition, there is school outreach to around 2,000 students on topics such as sexual risk avoidance education, social media, risky behavior and suicide.
Another program the clinic touts is for younger people, called Creating Healthy Boundaries. The 15-week, one-on-one educational program’s goal is teaching women to define and defend their personal boundaries.
There’s something for the guys, too. The Men’s Advocacy program includes individual support, a personal growth group or one-on-one assistance for fathers. Another intriguing aspect would be added when the expansion occurs.
“Eventually, we want to build a man cave in the basement for dads,” Nauman said. “Maybe they’ll play pool with an advocate and they might tell you a little bit of what they’re going through in that setting.
“You know, most of these guys have been raised in a family with no dads, so they don’t know what a dad figure’s supposed to look like. A trust needs to be developed.”
Free to choose
Nauman and the staff of five full-time and seven part-time people aim to provide pregnant women with enough information to make a choice — even if it’s abortion.
“No matter what position you are on the spectrum, I don’t think anyone could argue with the fact that we are providing a free service to help them make an informed decision, unbiased,” she said. “We tell them this is their decision. We just want to make sure you have answers to all of your questions.
“But we do not refer for abortion. They’re told that.”
However, Nauman insists the clinic does not fit a pro-life stereotype. It offers post-abortion counseling for men and women.
“The argument that is always made — all you want to do is save the baby, but you really don’t care about the baby after it is born or the family. That is not Clarity Clinic. We are here after the birth of the baby. We’re here beyond that, providing resources and support on a weekly basis to the girls who come here.
“We’re helping them find jobs. We’re helping them go back to school. We’re helping them know how to protect their child with CPR and first aid and choking.
“The huge component here is, making sure the community knows we do more than ultra-sounds and pregnancy tests. That there’s a huge amount of education we provide and that we’d be able to do much more than we’re already doing if we had the space to do it.”
Reeves said she can’t wait to have her baby boy so that she can bring it back to show everybody and take more classes. She’s especially falling back on the safe sleep class.
“I’m glad my mom took it with me because she’ll be baby-sitting and she didn’t know some of those things.”
Jim Swenson writes for the Telegraph Herald.