Pro-life advocates are adopting a new tactic to reduce the demand for abortion, and it has proven so successful it already is being credited with saving tens of thousands of lives: They just introduce the mother to her child.

Ultrasound image of unborn “Focus on the Family? 2007. Used with permission.”

They do it with an ultrasound machine, which can provide a real-time video image of the unborn child throughout the pregnancy, and the simple medical procedure could reduce the demand by mothers for abortion to a fraction of its current level, according to Kim Conroy, director of sanctity of human life issues for the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.

That group about three years ago launched its national Option Ultrasound program which helps provide the expensive machines to pregnancy centers, helps train people to accurately run the procedures, and helps advance the status of the centers from counseling offices to medical clinics.

The first goal of the ultrasound is to confirm a pregnancy, something abortion clinics use the same technology to reveal (although standard abortion clinic policy is to prevent the mother from seeing the image under any circumstance), but then something else happens in a pregnancy crisis center.

“In the course of that, this miraculous thing that happens is this woman comes face to face with her unborn child,” Conroy told WND. “Before it was theoretical information, but now it’s ‘This is not a blob of tissue, it’s not some undefined mass,'” she said. “We want women to have all the facts that they need to make a good healthy decision for themselves and their baby.

“We have had incredible results reported back, both anecdotally, where centers have told us ‘We have had this most phenomenal experience,’ and statistically,” Conroy said. “Eighty-seven percent of the women who are at risk for abortion who undergo both counseling within the centers and ultrasounds are changing their minds and making a statement of their intention to carry their babies.”

“This is just a huge response,” she said. “We’re projecting that up to this date, 31,000 babies may have received life because of these centers’ intervention.”

And that’s with 281 ultrasound units installed through the program so far. The program’s goal is to have 650 operating by the year 2010.

“Women deserve factual information regarding their pregnancy. There are significant health risks with abortion, and at the very least they have a right to know the truth regarding this risky procedure from professionals who will not benefit financially from their decision. They also need to know there are positive alternatives for them and their babies,” Conroy said

“Women have been fed a lie by abortionists,” she said. “Those who are considering an abortion need to know the emotional and physical toll this procedure could have on them – and they deserve the chance to see their baby face to face before they make this life-changing decision.”

In conjunction with launching ultrasound outreaches, the Focus program also helps upgrade counseling centers to fully-accredited medical clinics, to meet licensing requirements and to establish the policies and procedures that will make them effective in long-term ministry efforts.

The program pays about 80 percent of the cost of the machines and personnel training, so that local officials maintain their participation by raising some of the funds. The machines themselves range in cost from $22,000 to $75,000, depending on the exact features required.

The fundraising hasn’t been difficult, Conroy said. “All we have done is sent messages to our donors, saying ‘Here are some results…’ We don’t ask donors for money, they offer it. That’s one of the reasons we started to give grants for conversions. The money was offered,” she said.

It usually is a process of months for a center to be approved for the grants that are involved, because Focus, Conroy said, “Wants them there for the long haul. They have to be able to meet all the program requirements, and that includes looking down the road two or three years and preparing for that.”

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates also works on making ultrasound machines and training available under a plan called The Life Choice Project.

Officials there said centers that convert to medical clinic status see an increase in the number of patients seen, and an increase in the number of abortion-minded patients.

“Ultrasound opens ‘a window to the womb’ to the mother in a crisis pregnancy. Ultrasound introduces this mother to her unborn child and enables her to bond with her baby,” President Tom Glessner said.

Dr. Walt Larimore, from Focus on the Family, said the procedure isn’t hard to understand: A probe is placed on the mother’s abdomen, and emits harmless sound waves that hit and bounce off the baby. The reflected waves are read by a computer as an image.

The older technology is called B-mode and the two-dimensional images are what most people recognize. They are black-and-white and show real-time movement. A 3-D technology provides more lifelike images but are not transmitted in real-time mode.

The newest technology is 4-D, which takes the 3-D images and shows them in real time.

Dr. Curtis Harris, with the Christian Medical Association, said studies provide the documentation that a woman considering an abortion who sees an ultrasound picture of her unborn child “is far less likely to have an abortion.”

And Shari Richard, a pioneer in using ultrasounds in pregnancy centers, said it provides an opportunity.

“When a mom and dad see the baby’s movement and heartbeat, there is no more powerful moment. They bond. The baby becomes real. The sonogram allows us to show women the baby and then discuss the long-term consequences of abortion,” she said.

Focus noted that only a few hundred of the 2,300 pregnancy resource centers around the country were able to have an ultrasound machine to use when the Focus program was launched.

“Focus on the Family is not content simply to argue for the protection of the unborn. We are now convinced that God is calling us to take an even more dramatic step. Our board of directors has authorized us to help provide ultrasound equipment to as many centers as possible and help shepherd them through the training and implementation process,” Focus founder James Dobson said at that time.

One group of centers in the Chicago area currently is working on the acquisition of ultrasound machines. Mary Strom, executive director of the Women’s Center, says her three facilities are in Chicago itself, in Evergreen Park on the south side, and in Des Plaines to the northwest. They all are strategically located to be near or even in the same building as abortion clinics.

“We are a neutral image, where we really just outreach to women seeking abortions, and counsel them in a way that is simply presenting them with the truth and facts. We try to help identify the crisis they’re going through that might cause them to consider an abortion as their only choice,” she told WND.

But since opening their first office in 1984, the centers have contributed to saving the lives of 30,000 children, she said.

The organization also provides an opportunity for mothers to get clothing and other important items that are donated – officials gave away about $800,000 in goods last year – and also sponsors a Christmas party each year for mothers and their children. More than 1,300 people showed up last month for that event.

The centers also continually receive information from mothers whose children were saved through their counseling. “One of the moms stopped this past year, whose son now is serving in Iraq. He’s 18 or 19 years old and she brought us a picture of him,” Strom said.

Right now when the case suggests a need, the centers pay for women to have ultrasounds at other medical clinics. But that requires women to keep another appointment, and some simply don’t, she said. Also the centers follow the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, and cannot be assured that a technician operating an outside ultrasound shares those beliefs, she said.

But the fundraising and expansion efforts, she believes, will be worth it. “It’s a great difference between seeing a picture of someone or seeing the person. If you could see your own baby sucking his thumb, and his heart beating. It’s just better to see that before they’ve made the decision,” Strom said.

Robin Fuller serves as executive director of Pregnancy Care Center of Grants Pass, Ore., where approval came through just weeks ago for an ultrasound. She’s worked for a number of years with pregnancy crisis centers, and recalls when offering a free pregnancy test would draw women who may be in a position to consider alternatives to an abortion.

Now those tests are available in dollar stores, but ultrasounds are not.

“We know Planned Parenthood has used ultrasounds, but they never show the picture to the girl. She would then see that it’s a life,” she said. “So it’s a very common sense step for us to take to offer ultrasounds.”

“We hear story after store from centers where women may already have gone to an abortion clinic, but they wouldn’t let them see the ultrasound. We want them to see the baby on a big screen TV on the wall,” she told WND.

At some of the dozen locations run by in the New York area, ultrasound machines have been in use for several years.

Chris Slattery, who manages the sites, said the technology always is very effective.

“Ultrasound gives us an advantage,” he said. “We do it because it gives us another shot at turning a mother around. It is no substitute for good counseling, real support, help and encouragement, but it is a valuable tool. I wouldn’t do without it.”

He presently has three ultrasound machines operating at his centers, and he’s considering adding a few more to help show the women the truth.

“We tend to turn around about two-thirds of abortion-minded women,” he said. “The vast majority are planning on an abortion when they come in.”

Some, however, won’t change their minds under any circumstances. In a metropolitan area where there are 100,000 abortions a year, and millions spent by abortion clinics advertising their businesses, he said pro-life clinics and counselors need to use every tool available.

That’s a reason that his counseling centers and clinics are located near abortion clinics. He said his facility is across the street from Planned Parenthood in the Bronx and in the same building as Planned Parenthood in Brooklyn.

He said many woman arriving at his centers fear childbirth and motherhood more than abortion. The ultrasound can give them a higher level of comfort with their future. “They have to come out fearing abortion more, and we explain in detail the physical, psychological and spiritual side effects of abortion,” he said.

“When a woman begins to fear an abortion more than her baby, then she begins to bond with the baby,” he said.

He also said training technicians to run the machines is critical, and his organization is preparing soon to launch a program with an ultrasound machine built into a vehicle to make it mobile.

He said he’s waiting to see the results – whether he’ll be able to find locations for the vehicle where people can keep appointments, or whether people will make a spontaneous decision to have a test if they see the opportunity.

A Focus analysis of a Congressional Record entry on the abortion argument makes it clear the attitudes the clinics sometimes face, when not even an ultrasound would make a difference.

The exchange was between Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.,

During debate over federal restrictions on the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure, Santorum asked Boxer: “[Do] you agree, once the child is born, [and] separated from the mother, that the child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed[?] Do you agree with that?”

“I think that when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born … the baby belongs to your family and has rights,” she said.

The Focus analysis by Larimore noted: “Think for a moment about that disturbing statement that is now immortalized in the Congressional Record. Though she did not say so, the position taken by Sen. Boxer would clearly support the murder of an infant until, and if, the mother and father decide that they want to keep it. As long as the baby is still in the hospital, however, he or she has no rights whatsoever – not even the right not to be killed.”

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