By Susan E. Wills
October 15, 2010
A distraught couple called the Women's Help Center of Jacksonville, Florida earlier this year. They were being evicted from their apartment and had just found out they were expecting a child. Fearing that they'd end up living in a tent until they could get back on their feet financially, they thought abortion was the only option. The father insisted that adoption was out of the question because he could never give his child away. A counselor invited the couple to come in for a free ultrasound, to verify the pregnancy and see how far along it was. Everything changed when they saw their 9-week-old child on the screen with his heart beating and legs kicking. The next day, they returned for help in making an adoption plan.
This change of heart, this child's survival was made possible by the Knights of Columbus' Ultrasound Initiative, launched on January 22, 2009. In less than two years, the Knights have approved funding for sixty-five 3D and 4D ultrasound machines for qualified pregnancy help centers around the country. When a state or local Knights council is able to raise half the cost of purchasing a machine (over $1.8 million raised nationwide to date), the Supreme Council pays the other half.
What does this program mean to the dedicated volunteers at pregnancy help centers?
Most centers struggle financially just to keep their doors open and provide limited material assistance to help clients who choose life for their baby. Obtaining a high-quality ultrasound machine, which can cost over $100,000, is usually out of the question. The Women's Help Center (WHC) was typical. They had been using a 10-year-old ultrasound machine that produced a grainy black and white image. About 30 to 50 women a year, among the hundreds who had sought counseling at WHC, made a life-affirming choice. Thanks to the Knights' initiative, WHC began using their new high quality ultrasound equipment in March 2009. More than 300 children's lives were spared in just the first year of use! The Center's director estimates that 80-90% of women who are leaning toward abortion decide to continue the pregnancy after seeing their child by ultrasound.
Mom's and dad's reactions to seeing their baby for the first time are remarkably similar. With tears welling up in their eyes, parents exclaim: "I had no idea! I didn't know it was alive! I didn't know it was a baby!" For the first time, they marvel at the reality of the innocent little child, their child, who is waving, kicking, and even smiling before their eyes.
A video on the Knights' website (www.kofc.org/un/eb/en/about/activities/culture/ultra.html) relates the experience of an abortion-minded couple in Nebraska who sought advice at a center supplied with a 3D ultrasound machine through the Knight's initiative. It was there Angela and Bryan first saw their daughter. Bryan said: To know that [she] was a human and a part of me, it was really, really life-changing for me. We gained this closeness. And I guess that was the point, too, where I had to step up and say That is my child, too. I've grown so much closer to Angela and I'm so ready to have our baby. Isabelle was born September 10, 2010.
Perhaps no one has described the impact of ultrasound better than the director of an abortion clinic in Mineola, New York, who complained: The bottom line is no woman is going to want an abortion after she sees a sonogram.
Let;s step up and help our Knights councils put ultrasound machines where they can change hearts and save lives!
Susan Wills is Assistant Director for Education and Outreach, USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. To learn more about the bishop's pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.