It’s a child, not a choice: Ultrasounds have powerful impact on pregnant women Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Oct. 06, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

In October we celebrate Respect Life Month. This is a special opportunity for Catholics to reflect on issues involving respect for all life from womb to tomb.

During October, I will focus on various life issues in the “Editor’s View,” starting at the beginning of life. I also encourage people to read the special Respect Life section and other articles in this week’s print edition and online edition of the Catholic Herald.

Life begins at conception

Human life begins at conception. The union of the egg and sperm includes all the genetic material needed for the baby to grow and develop.

Most mothers and fathers welcome that new life with joy. They are so excited that they can’t wait to share the good news with their family members and friends.

Often, the first picture of the baby is an ultrasound sonogram, with the fetus revealed resting in the mother’s womb. Depending on the stage of development, we can see the baby’s head, body, arms, and legs.

Use of ultrasounds in discouraging abortions

Many pro-life pregnancy centers are using ultrasounds to help pregnant women (and men, too) realize that what some may call a “blob of tissue” is clearly a baby. Ultrasounds have indeed proven to discourage women who have considered aborting their child.

An article on the Web site describes one example. Pregnant and distressed, 23-year-old Rebekah Nancarrow walked into a faith-based pregnancy center in Dallas “95 percent certain I was going to have an abortion,” the article said.

What turned her around was seeing an ultrasound. “She was moving, she was kicking, she had legs,” the article quoted Nancarrow as saying about the baby in her womb. She promised on the spot, “I will take care of you.”

Such dramatic decisions show the power of the ultrasound to impact a decision on whether to continue a pregnancy and give a baby a chance for life.

Laws requiring ultrasounds

The Guttmacher Institute, which is described as a non-profit organization which works to advance sexual and reproductive health (it was founded in 1968 as a semiautonomous division of Planned Parenthood), reports that since the mid-1990s, several states have moved to make ultrasounds part of abortion service provisions.

Some laws and policies require that a woman seeking an abortion receive information on accessing ultrasound services, while others require that a woman undergo an ultrasound before an abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute says, “Since routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion.” It’s obvious to see the Guttmacher Institute’s bias in that statement, but it’s equally obvious that the institute recognizes that ultrasounds can have an impact on a woman’s decision to keep her baby.

Wisconsin is one of nine states that require verbal counseling or written materials to include information on accessing ultrasound services. In our state, a physician may not perform an abortion on a woman until at least 24 hours after the woman is informed of the estimated gestational age of her unborn child and given other information.

Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Program

The Knights of Columbus (K of C) is one organization that is supporting the purchasing of ultrasound machines for pregnancy care centers. The Knights launched their Ultrasound Program in 2009. Many state and local councils, including those in Wisconsin, have sponsored fund-raising campaigns to purchase ultrasound machines.

The Knights Web site says, “Reports indicate that up to 90 percent of women considering an abortion choose to have their baby after seeing an ultrasound image. They hear their baby’s heartbeat, they see their baby’s head and fingers. They know it is a child, not a ‘choice.’”

Check with your local K of C council for more information on the Ultrasound Program. Please consider a donation to this program or to pregnancy centers that provide help in so many ways for pregnant women and their families.