January 1, 2016
Recently, a marvelous work of God’s mercy, a true refuge for life and hope has blessed Dickinson. This “refuge” is the Badlands Choice Clinic, and since opening Nov. 3, has been up to the business of healing hearts and saving lives.
“A client we recently served was visiting from another country where abortions are widely accepted,” said Deb Schweitzer, RN, who serves as the clinic's executive director. “She came in for a pregnancy test and was very emotional and scared. When she heard the baby's heartbeat, she was overjoyed! After reviewing her options, she now wants to carry the baby to birth, and participate in our EWYL (Earn While You Learn) program.”
The clinic's EWYL program is an education program focusing on what happens during pregnancy, childbirth and various parenting situations. Participants earn points and then use these points to select items from the baby boutique.
The clinic is located at 313 3rd St. W in a rent-free space adjacent to St. Patrick’s Church. Modeled after the First Choice Clinic in Bismarck, it will become an affiliate of Heartbeat International.
At this time, the clinic offers support services during crisis pregnancies, pregnancy testing, adoption support and referral, parenting classes and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. There is a private entrance on the north side of the parish building, and the entryway opens into a reception area and baby boutique. The upper level of the clinic includes an ultrasound room, a director’s office, two counseling rooms and storage space.
Various local churches and generous supporters have worked together to make the clinic project a reality and a success. The Knights of Columbus donated the ultrasound machine.
“We knew we needed to do something to help, because there were people in need, and our call to holiness is to extend charity to our brothers and sisters,” said Fr. Todd Kreitinger, pastor at St. Patrick. “As Catholics, we are called to be the voice and hands of Christ, and to think with the mind of Christ. We aim to be stewards of what God has given us by reaching out and encouraging pregnant women who may not know where to go. We want to be a first place for them to come.”
As the clinic’s mission statement expresses, it exists to "empower women and families to make life-affirming pregnancy decisions through counseling, education, compassion and aid through the Gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ."
Bringing God’s light to others
Above all, through the clinic, the staff hopes to radiate a passion for the cause of life, and let the mercy of Christ touch all those in need.
“We want to make sure that everyone who comes to the clinic feels entirely welcome,” Fr. Kreitinger explained. “The clinic project is a reflection of our living faith. A faith without works or love is not a faith we believe in. Like with any act of charity, we hope this clinic will be a witness and light to others. We hope its example will encourage others, all for the glory and honor of God, to be part of it or other similar pro-life efforts. We believe the clinic has come to us by God's design.”
The clinic has a board and medical directors that support its mission and provide direction toward the operations of the clinic and staff. After searching for a while, they are grateful to now have Schweitzer serving as the executive director.
“I was very happy with my job at the KIDS (Key Infant Development Services) program as a pediatric early intervention professional, but God had different plans for me,” Schweitzer said. “I am so grateful that I got out of the way and listened to Him and am letting Him work through me and Badlands Choice Clinic. I feel completely called by God to be at the clinic. My hope is that the clinic will allow every woman looking for help to know that she is loved and that she has life-affirming choices. I would love to see us be able to provide, in the future, even more services for women and children.”
Nurturing the parents
In addition to her experience as a nurse, Schweitzer finds that her role as a foster parent also sheds light on the mission at the clinic.
“My husband, Todd, and I have been foster parents for 26 years, and in that time, I have come to believe that often the mothers of the children who were in our care needed mothering themselves,” she says. “I have realized that if we nurture the mother more, we will have more successful families. When moms come into the clinic, they know they matter. We believe that if we support the mother and father, we will strengthen families and build up our community. The family is the domestic church, and we want to be a link to help families and be life-affirming for them. If mothers are in a difficult situation and they don't know what to do, we can explain all the options to them. We want every person who walks into the doors of our clinic to know that they are loved and that their lives make a difference in this world. We are here, as our motto states, to 'support women, help families and build communities.' If we can nurture mothers in need, we will see a stronger Church.”
Since it opened, those associated with the clinic have seen remarkable evidence of God's providential hand at work, touching many lives.
“The clinic is growing,” Schweitzer says. “Our client numbers are increasing, and we are forming community partnerships with key agencies in the area. We are not here to duplicate services that already exist around Dickinson, but instead to provide something unique, and at no cost.”
As Pope Francis, who recently called pro-life workers the “world's Good Samaritans,” also said, “It is God who gives life. Let us love and respect human life, especially in its most vulnerable form in a mother's womb... All life has inestimable value even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in His own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Volunteers are needed to heed our Holy Father's call to action by offering their time and talent to the Clinic in various ways. The clinic is supported entirely by donations, and does not charge for its services. Financial donations are greatly needed at this time, as well as donations of new baby items.
To donate items, bring them to the clinic during open hours (Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.). For more information or for availability of volunteer opportunities, contact Schweitzer at 701-483-9353.