Seeing is believing

Sonograms make a big difference to women considering an abortion——————————————————————————————————————

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Renae’s first reaction was panic — followed by the thought, “I’ve got to get an abortion.”

Renae was just 17 — jobless, unmarried and estranged from her family.

And she was already struggling to care for herself and her six-month-old son.

In August, when she discovered she was pregnant again, she could hardly take it in.

“I freaked out,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to handle it, so I started thinking about having an abortion.

“I’m already struggling with trying to take care of [my son] and myself, and it was just hard,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to take on that responsibility again.

“So I thought about taking the easy way out.”

Her unborn son will live, however, thanks to a gentle intervention by the staff and volunteers of the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, located in the former convent at Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kan.

Renae was among the first of the clinic’s clients to benefit from a powerful new tool at the clinic: a sonogram machine.

“Here, you see the eyes, the mouth, and the chin,” explained Mell Flemming, as she interpreted the ultrasound image on the screen for Renae during her second sonogram. “He doesn’t have a lot of fat now. He’s a definite boy. And here you can see his little legs.”

Renae’s eyes were glued to the ultrasound image, even as her son flipped and turned within her.

Diagnostic sonography (also known as ultrasonography) is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound (acoustical energy) to produce images. Among its uses is the ability to check the progress of the development of unborn children. The clinic’s 15-year-old machine was donated by an Atchison crisis pregnancy clinic and repaired with donated parts and labor.

The clinic opened in January 2007, but it didn’t have a functioning sonogram machine and trained operator until Aug. 19. Since then, the machine has provided sonograms for 30 women. Sonograms are only available on Tuesdays, when the clinic averages five clients a day.

Like all services offered clients at the clinic, the sonogram is totally free.

The sonogram gives pregnant women a chance to see their babies even before they feel them move.

“The very first time [I had a sonogram], I knew I was pregnant, but it didn’t hit home until I saw it on the sonogram,” said Elaine, 19, who underwent two sonograms at the clinic. “It was like, ‘I really am — and that’s my baby.’

“I got really emotional, although I tried not to.”

The ability to show a live, moving baby on the screen makes all the difference in the world, said Donna Kelsey, director of client services, especially for clients who are strongly considering an abortion

“The sonogram helps us to show our clients that they are carrying a life — that it’s not just a blob of tissue, but a child,” she continued. “[The pictures] connect them instantly to their child.”

“We can sit and talk to a client for two or three hours,” she added, “but it only takes two minutes in the sonogram room for them to see that they are carrying a life. So it’s so crucial to what we’re doing.”

In fact, the sonograms have been so powerful in persuading women to keep their babies that staff time spent on counseling has been reduced considerably, permitting the clinic to handle more clients.

On one day in October, for example, six of the 11 women who arrived at the clinic for a sonogram had decided on an abortion. By the time the sonogram sessions were over, however, they were strongly committed to giving birth to their children.

“Today we gave 11 sonograms,” said Kelsey, a member of Christ the King Parish. “Eight of those sonograms were for women who had not been into our clinic [previously]. So, through telling these women we can offer free sonograms, we are able to reach more women to show them life. We’re seeing more clients, too, because we can offer this service in our building, instead of [having to make] an outside referral.”

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