by Joe Bollig
OVERLAND PARK — Sometimes a sonogram image is literally the only thing standing between life and death.
That’s physical death for an unborn child and a lifetime of soul-killing grief for the mother.
Ruth Tisdale and the staff at the two Advice & Aid Pregnancy Centers in Johnson County see it all the time.
One memorable occasion happened in January, soon after the two clinics received their new high-definition ultrasound machines, donated by the Kansas Knights of Columbus.
A woman in the early stages of pregnancy, at about six weeks, came into the Overland Park office after visiting a nearby abortion clinic. In fact, she still had the clinic’s patient identification bracelet on her wrist.
“Because we are located so close to [two] abortion clinics, we have women who come here,” said Tisdale.
This particular woman was considering an abortion, but hadn’t made up her mind. First, she wanted a sonogram image.
“We were able to provide [the image] at no cost,” said Tisdale. “This is very important. At the [abortion] clinics, they charge for sonograms.”
When she saw her unborn child on the screen, she was surprised.
“Really, is that the heart beat?” she said. “I didn’t know.”
Nothing is a greater persuader than the crisp, clear images on the ultrasound machine screen.
“Of the women we did sonograms for last year, over 80 percent, after they saw the image, made a decision for life when they left,” said Tisdale. “Some of them already know it’s a baby. But still, when they see the heartbeat, it’s different.”
The images also have an impact on accompanying boyfriends and mothers. Suddenly, they know on a deeper level that abortion means killing a child — their child or grandchild.
“As we share truth and educate women about what’s happening to them, their lives are really changed when they see [the image],” said Tisdale. “It’s not just an idea. There’s a picture.”
The rise of the machines was celebrated on March 11 when Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blessed the two new, donated machines at the Advice & Aid Pregnancy Clinics at 4601 W. 109th St. in Overland the Park and at 11644 W. 75th St. in Shawnee.
“[These] sonograms help expand the ability of mothers who come here to make a good choice,” said Archbishop Naumann. “As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. These pictures are worth much more than that.”
“Once parents see the image of their child on the sonogram, it’s much more difficult for them to rationalize an abortion,” he continued. “So, we’re grateful to the Knights of Columbus for all they do to make these machines available and put them at the service of these incredible clinics.”
Advice & Aid Pregnancy Clinics have been offering ultrasonography since 2004. Last year, they realized their machines were nearing the end of their operational life and needed to be replaced.
Fortunately, the Knights of Columbus had launched a national Ultrasound Initiative on January 22, 2009. So far, the Knights have raised funds to purchase more than 500 ultrasound machines for crisis pregnancy clinics across the United States.
The Kansas Knights of Columbus have donated seven sonograms to crisis pregnancy clinics: one in Ottawa, two in Topeka, two in Wichita, and two in Johnson County.
“In early November , Ruth Tisdale, the Advice & Aid Pregnancy Center director, requested help in funding two new ultrasound machines for their Shawnee and Overland Park clinics,” said Tom Schmeidler.
He and his wife Gail Schmeidler are the Knights of Columbus state culture of life co-chairpersons.
The way the Knights Ultrasound Initiative works is that either the state or a local council comes up with half the cost for the machine and the Supreme Council (the national headquarters of the Knights) comes up with the other half.
“We sent out a call for funds to almost 300 councils across the state, and the councils responded,” said Tom Schmeidler. “Within 30 days, we had enough funds where we could send in our application to the Supreme Council for matching funds. They approved the application in mid-December.”
According to Tisdale, the total cost of purchasing, transporting and installing the two new ultrasound machines was approximately $57,000.
“We were hoping for two machines, but we would have been thrilled to get one. Tom Schmeidler informed us that the Knights were committed to getting machines for both offices,” said Tisdale.
“The [ultrasound company representative] we worked with —who sold us ultrasound machines since 2004 — was so impressed,” said Tisdale. “He said, ‘Ruth, you have one of the most generous Knights groups I’ve ever worked with.’ And I said, ‘Yes, we do!’”
“We are grateful to the Knights for making this tool available, and we give thanks for all the children who will be saved and all the women who will not have to live with the terrible burden of realizing — too late — they chose the death of their child,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“In the words of the Scriptures we heard today,” he added, “thank you for choosing life for yourself and helping others make a choice they can live with for the rest of their lives.”