One reason why I am so passionate about PMCs is because I have been disappointed by them in the past. I believe that these experiences of disappointment can help inform and improve our ministry to women in need.
During my last year of junior high, one of my best friends confided in me that she was pregnant and didn’t know what to do. As a naïve fourteen year old, I had no idea what to say or where to get help. Having nowhere to turn to, my friend ended up getting an abortion. I will never forget the way she told me. “Hey guess what? I’m not pregnant anymore. My aunt took me to get an abortion.” I was dumbstruck. How could you be pregnant one day and not the next? All I knew about abortion was that it was ‘bad’. I had never had to grapple with the issue before, but this experience drove me to find out more about abortion and ultimately lead me on the path to pro-life activism.
It wasn’t until college that I discovered there was a pregnancy center just down the street from my junior high school. It had been there forever, long before my friend got pregnant, but no one knew about it. I felt betrayed that a clinic just a short walk away had never reached out to us, and wasn’t there when my friend was in need.
Just a year after this discovery, a different woman asked for my help. I was the president of our campus pro-life club, and we were often a link to resources for women in crisis. This time, I knew about pregnancy clinics and knew where they were. The only clinics in the area were a bit of a drive, but I had a car and would do anything to get her there. Here I hit another bump in the road- none of the several clinics within driving distance were open during the weekends or evenings. This woman had classes and a part time job that consumed her week days, yet the clinics were only opened a couple days a week in the middle of the day.
I felt let down again! Here was a woman who needed help, and no one was available when she needed them. Both of these experiences pushed me toward a project I am currently working on, helping to open a clinic near my college campus that has flexible hours and provides a wide array of medical services.
The problem is, the woman who asked for help in college is not the only one who cannot go to a clinic in the middle of the day. In fact, I would argue that a large chunk of our target audience is unavailable during the typical 9-5, Monday through Friday schedule. Younger patients cannot leave their middle or high school classes, and there are many young adults working or studying full time. So why aren’t we as pregnancy clinics accommodating them?
I know that finances are a big reason why many clinics cannot be open 40 hours a week, and I’m not suggesting everyone be open 24/7. But we do need to be aware of our patients’ needs. An online questionnaire or prompt on the patient exit survey may give clinics some feedback on whether their hours of operation are working for their patients, and what evening or weekend hours may prove more effective. The best clinic schedule will vary depending on your demographic, community and location. Organizations with multiple locations may have different scheduling needs for each location!
Expanding or altering our hours of operation is one concrete step we can take to make us more accessible to patients. I would love to hear from clinics who have experimented with non-traditional clinic hours, and how they determined the best clinic schedule for their community. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.