Supporting life before and after birth

Lindsay Steele
Heartland Pregnancy Center Director Becky Dalrymple, second from right, listens to Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula after he blessed the pro-life center’s new ultrasound machine earlier this month in Ottumwa. Also pictured are local Catholics and Knights of Columbus who helped raise funds for the ultrasound machine.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

OTTUMWA — Choosing life can be a difficult decision for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Heartland Pregnancy Center hopes to ease the decision by providing services and resources during pregnancy and afterwards, accompanying mothers as their children grow. “We want to walk through this with them,” said Becky Dalyrmple, the center’s longtime director. “None of these choices are easy.”

Recently, local Knights of Columbus (KofCs) councils and Fourth-Degree assemblies showed support for the pro-life pregnancy center by raising funds for an ultrasound machine and contributing to the center’s post-pregnancy ministries. Dalrymple hopes these efforts will save lives and ease the financial burden for women who choose to raise their child.

A local KofC learned about the center’s need for an ultrasound machine earlier this year through a chance encounter with Dalrymple’s husband, Jeff. While many factors may lead a woman to consider abortion, they are 78% more likely to continue with a pregnancy after seeing an ultrasound image of their unborn child, according to a National Library of Medicine report. Until recently, the pro-life center had to refer pregnant women to a pro-life center in Pella, about 40 miles away, for a free ultrasound.


Six local councils and two Fourth Degree assemblies raised 50% of the funds necessary to buy the roughly $25,000 ultrasound machine. The KofCs Supreme Council provided the remaining funds through its Ultrasound Initiative. “If not for the Knights, there was no way we could have gotten to that goal, or it would have taken a lot longer,” Dalyrmple said.

Heartland Pregnancy Center received the ultrasound machine in May. Dalrymple accompanied the center’s nurse and medical director for training in California. She is hopeful about its potential to help women and families in the community.

The center also provides ultrasounds to mothers-to-be whose financial situation or documentation issues prevent them from seeking prenatal care. Some might wait until labor starts and go to the emergency room with no idea how far along they are in their pregnancy. An early ultrasound at a pregnancy center does not substitute for prenatal care but can give women and the delivering doctor vital information they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula blessed the ultrasound machine earlier this month while in town for other events. Nearly a dozen Catholics filled the second-floor office space to celebrate. Steve Vonnahme, immediate past state deputy of the Iowa Knights of Columbus, traveled from Altoona with his wife, Rose, to attend the blessing. He said Iowa KofCs have contributed to the purchase of 32 ultrasound machines in Iowa since the program’s inception.

After the blessing, the archbishop-elect asked Dalyrmple about the center’s post-pregnancy services, something she has been working to expand in recent years. She knows that finances are a leading factor in a woman’s decision to abort a child. The center, which serves about 15 local municipalities, wants to help women through their struggle and walk beside them as long as needed, whether through rent assistance, clothing, education opportunities or connecting them with services. The center does not turn away women who have chosen abortion. They also “need someone.” Repeat abortions are common, Dalrymple said. Women may make a different choice in the future if they know they have community support.

Local Catholics are assisting in the center’s efforts to accompany women post-pregnancy. In early June, St. Mary Parish in Fairfield hosted a prayer service to raise money for the KofCs Aid and Support After Pregnancy (ASAP) initiative, which provides funds to local pro-life pregnancy centers.

The KofCs introduced the program after the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the Constitutional right to abortion last year. Parishioners’ generosity allowed the council to present Heartland Pregnancy Center with a $3,000 check this summer.

“Thanks for supporting those of us who support life whether it’s that little tiny baby or whether it’s the 80- or 90-year-old that people think is no longer important,” Dalrymple said at the blessing. “It’s nice to know that people are standing behind us as we do this.”

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