Life Choices center expands services

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GREENFIELD — As a pro-life advocate and registered nurse, Stephanie Paulin didn’t hesitate when offered a job to serve women at the Life Choices Care Center in November 2019.

Since then, she’s been laying the groundwork to provide medical services — including ultrasounds — at the nonprofit Greenfield center.

She now works there once a week, providing healthcare guidance to pregnant women who are often undecided about whether to have an abortion, give their baby up for adoption or raise the baby themselves.

Although the center has been around since 1999, this is the first time it’s offered medical services like ultrasounds.

“Our overall mission is to be the first response for any women here in Hancock County facing an unwanted pregnancy or abortion,” said Jillian Jarrett, who has led the organization as executive director for nearly three years.

“We want to give them the life-affirming options and information, so they can make an educated decision.”

The service isn’t intended to replace a doctor’s visit or determine the baby’s gender, said Jarrett, but rather provide the women with a look at their unborn child.

“Statistically speaking for when women are offered ultrasounds, nine out of 10 times they chose life (over abortion),” she said.

In Indiana, a woman is required to have an ultrasound before having an abortion, but Planned Parenthood charges for ultrasounds. “Here we can do it for free,” said Paulin, who completed her training this month after conducting 75 ultrasounds on pregnant volunteers.

Paulin was hired at the center part-time in 2019 to help establish policies that would enable Life Choices to expand into providing some medical care, including ultrasounds.

“It took a while to get the policies up and running, but we wanted to make sure we were doing everything correctly. It was definitely a process,” she said.

The process got a boost last fall when the center was granted a free ultrasound machine by Pre-Born, an Indianapolis nonprofit which uses private donors to purchase ultrasound machines for pregnancy care centers.

Paulin, who works in the postpartum unit at IU Health North Hospital part-time, said the part she plays at the Life Choices center has been a dream come true.

“When I found out that they wanted to get this program up and running, the first thing I said to my husband was, ‘I want to do this. I feel called to do this,’” she said.

The nurse typically sees mothers in their first trimester at the local center.

“Some of them don’t want to be pregnant. Some are excited. Some are nervous and don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said. “They’re typically wanting a pregnancy test and some resources to help them along the way.”

Paulin helps make sure they’re getting the care they need, whether that’s getting connected with an obstetrician or getting free prenatal vitamins from the county health department. Life Choices also connects women with other resources in the county, from food to furniture and beyond.

“We’ve run across people who are homeless, and we’ve been able to get them connected with the Hope House or help with rent. We’ve also run across women with anxiety and depression, and have been able to refer them to (treatment and counseling),” Paulin said.

The center also teaches sexual risk avoidance programs at three of the four county high schools, and will soon offer a post-abortive recovery program called Restored. It also runs a program called Embrace Grace through St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Greenfield, where moms within the congregation serve as a support system for pregnant women.

“It’s for those women who may not have a support system in their life. The women will support them, take them to doctor’s appointments, and throw them a baby shower or a celebration of life, if they choose adoption,” said Jarrett.