A Picture is Worth Countless Lives
By Mary McClusky
I’ll always remember the first picture I saw of Christopher. I was flipping through my friend’s photo album and suddenly encountered an ultrasound photo slipped loosely between the pages. Andrea’s creative way of announcing the impending arrival of her first child revealed the immense power of images to grab our attention and spark a human connection. Ultrasounds are not simply medical information – they are family photos and videos.
Thanks to advances in ultrasound technology, trained medical professionals at pregnancy care centers can increasingly harness the power of images and sounds to introduce parents to their unborn child in a particularly concrete way. Often the mother and father begin to understand that they are parents of a child worthy of life, and they are spared the medical risks and physical and emotional pain of abortion when they choose life for their child. Given the beautiful opportunity ultrasound machines provide to save lives and begin parents’ loving relationship with their child, it is quite fitting to celebrate a milestone in their availability and use: [In 2014] The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal benefit society dedicated to charitable service, presented their Ultrasound Initiative’s 500th ultrasound machine to a Baltimore pregnancy care center.
The Ultrasound Initiative encourages local Knights’ councils to collaborate with diocesan Respect Life directors and other community members to find qualified pro-life centers in their area. These centers are dedicated to offering support and care to parents, to help them choose life-affirming options for themselves and their unborn children. The local council partners with a pregnancy care center to raise half the cost of an ultrasound machine. The Knights’ national Culture of Life Fund matches these local dollars, enabling cash-strapped centers to help reluctant or abortion-minded parents to see their children in a new light.
Though difficult to measure, the impact this program has made in many communities is beyond question. Many of the ultrasound machines offer the latest three-dimensional technology, allowing parents to see detailed, real-time video images of their child. Several machines are mobile medical units the size of a laptop, allowing technicians to share with clients the “whoosh-whoosh” of their baby’s heartbeat. Informal surveys by pregnancy centers confirm the anecdotal evidence that most abortion-minded parents who view an ultrasound end up choosing life for their child. Imagine the effect of 500 ultrasound machines and thousands of ultrasounds!
The initiative has expanded to all 50 states as well as Canada and Jamaica. “When we began this program five years ago, we hoped to put a machine in every state,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “But this program has been even more successful because of the great need and the generosity of brother Knights from coast to coast. . . Not only has this program saved the lives of countless unborn children, but it has saved many mothers – and fathers – from a lifetime of regret.”
The Ultrasound Initiative is a wonderful example of a partnership to support countless mothers and fathers in choosing life for their children. We should all consider supporting such initiatives in our own communities. Through the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative and other programs to expand the use of ultrasound technology, more parents will experience the reality of their unborn children and connect with the many resources and people who can help support them through an unexpected or challenging pregnancy.
Editor’s note. Mary McClusky is the Assistant Director for Project Rachel Ministry Development at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This appeared at The Life Issues Forum which is a bi-weekly column written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat staff.