Pregnancy help center goes mobile in Boston

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REVERE – For 25 years, pregnant women in the Hub have traveled to pregnancy resource centers for counseling and free medical services. Lately, a local organization has employed mobile technology to bring their aid closer to clients’ homes.

Learn Your Options, which runs three centers in eastern Massachusetts, last year christened a mobile clinic – a medically licensed van that contains laboratory-grade pregnancy testing and ultrasound equipment. When it is operating, the van travels to locations in Dorchester, Roxbury and Lynn to provide services.

“If a client calls and needs services, we can go to them,” said Teresa Larkin, the nonprofit organization’s executive director, in a recent interview.

Pregnancy centers often help women who are scared, finding themselves with a surprise pregnancy while in desperate straits either financially or in their relationships, or both. Other women simply need a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns. Traditionally, women have turned to telephone hotlines or walk-in clinics.

Since last summer, Learn Your Options has dispatched its van to help women in need, Larkin said, making trips on Tuesdays through Thursdays. Winter has curtailed the service until April, however. But clinics in Revere, Fall River and Hyannis remain open.

Now with 13 staff members, the organization began providing services in 1999, aiming to help women learn about options other than abortion. In 2000, it was the first pregnancy center to be medically licensed in Massachusetts. About two dozen other center operators offer similar services in the state.

“We began recognizing a lot of women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy have no place to talk through what their options really are,” Larkin said. “Women are acting out of fear, proceeding with abortions without any opportunity to receive true options counseling.”

She added that doctors and obstetricians don’t typically offer advice about finding housing or financial assistance, which her organization can provide.

“This is not a five-minute appointment,” Larkin said about the services her organization provides. “We want women to take the time they need.”

The clinics serve up to six clients a day, providing free medical attention and education to enable clients “to make real choices concerning pregnancy, sexual health, and healing from past choices,” according to the organization. It strives to provide “a safe, nonjudgmental environment” for clients but doesn’t “offer prenatal care, adoption services, or perform abortions.”

However, Learn Your Options does connect clients with area nonprofit groups to help them find ways to meet financial, housing or other needs. The organization also provides parenting classes, diapers and baby’s clothing. The clinics operate from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. most Mondays through Thursdays.