Motorists driving past MyChoice Clinic on North Ash Street might be forgiven for missing it. At first glance, the classic American Foursquare house nestled behind stately trees and pristine foundation plantings looks like someone’s home — until you see the sign. Further inspection reveals a parking lot in the back and a two-story addition to the south. Behind this unassuming facade are a collection of services under the umbrella of home to Life Services and MyChoice Clinic.
For the last thirty years, Life Services and their MyChoice Clinics have provided limited reproductive health care services to Spokane’s West Central. A mobile clinic brings care to other parts of the city two days a week. A staff of five state-licensed nurses, including Clinic Director Janine Moore, work under the supervision of an OBGYN. They provide pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and early prenatal care, in addition to STI testing and treatment. Services are free to everyone in the community, except for the medical lab’s test fees.
MyChoice Clinic has always met a vital need in the community, but it’s been crucial in the wake of the pandemic. From the start of the COVID quarantine last spring, there was speculation of an upcoming baby boom. In Spokane, however, the accompanying economic factors mitigated any spike in birth rates. In a recent interview on KREM TV, MultiCare Deaconess Family Birth Center manager, Jackie Bartosh, said that while the overall number of births has remained steady, there has been a 10% increase in teen pregnancies.
Many of the young women served by MyChoice Clinic fit that demographic. There has been an increase in young teenagers dealing with pregnancy and they are afraid to bring a child into the world. According to Life Services Executive Director Glendie Loranger, the number of women they saw considering abortion increased 28% in the first three weeks of the COVID lock-down and has continued to remain high.(1)The first wave was due to the immediate impact of the quarantine—girls who had been couch-surfing from friend to friend now found themselves homeless. School closures that have left many teens on their own for months have kept the rates high—5% over the course of the year.
While MyChoice sees a wide variety of patients, including young married couples expecting their first child, a large number of their clientele, even in normal times, are young mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy alone. Many are afraid to share their news with anyone, including their parents or the father of their child. Often they are dealing with serious additional issues, including homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, or even sexual slavery.
“No matter what the circumstance,” said Lornager, “we find that love and our wrap-around services make it possible for a client to choose life.”
Which brings us to an important point—medical care alone is not enough. According to MyChoice Clinic Director Janine Moore, an integral part of the facility’s mission is to provide options to those dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. Staff members are committed to listening to each client and supporting them in making the best choice for them and their baby. This includes exploring all available options and not rushing into a decision.
“Panic rarely produces good choices for the long haul,” Moore said.
Many arrive at the clinic sure that abortion is their only choice while desperately hoping for some other alternative. Life Services excels at providing young mothers with the practical support needed to choose. Often, this is as simple as helping to rebuild communication and support with family and friends. Others need more extensive support to be successful as parents and in life. Life Services support programs include:
–Life Services Maternity Home — a “family” setting with live-in house parents and two social workers who provide life skill classes, case management, and additional mentoring.
–Long term placement with host families who are state-certified foster parents.
–MySPA (Support-Prepare-Advance)combines support and growth opportunities to empower young women to attain their goals. This includes a mentoring program, life-skill classes, and monthly nights of fun, food, spa service, and rewards.
–A boutique where young mothers can get maternity and baby items.
–Practical rewards for completing tasks in working towards education (many have not completed high school) and employment goals.
–Support groups modeled on AA for those who suffer from Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome (Abanon) or have been victims of sexual abuse (Sabanon).
This January, they launched a new mentoring program for fathers. A majority of the women who were seen at MyChoice Clinic reported they grew up without a healthy father and wanted something different for their own children. Over two-thirds of babies’ fathers were interested in being involved. The Fatherhood program is designed to give expecting fathers the tools they need to successfully parent this new child and be supportive throughout the pregnancy and birth.
1 Nicole Hernandez, “How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting birth rates in Spokane,” KREM2, 12 8, 2020, 1 4, 2021, https://www.krem.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/how-covid19-pandemic-affects-birth-rates-spokane/293-9d356770-9eaa-46eb-b064-82cd9c99a031