Ultrasounds are a critical tool for health-care providers and mothers-to-be; Knights of Columbus working with pregnancy help centers in the Diocese of Knoxville
By Janice Fritz-Ryken
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and Beth Henderson, CEO of New Hope Pregnancy Care Center of Cleveland, agrees.
Ms. Henderson recently talked about the power of the ultrasound image with a gathering of dignitaries on hand to help Knights of Columbus Council 4572 present her with a check for $24,300.
The check went toward the purchase of a new, state-of-the-art ultrasound machine in New Hope’s Bradley County facility.
Ms. Henderson told stories of expectant mothers who had serious intentions of terminating their pregnancies but who changed their minds after seeing an ultrasound of their unborn baby in the womb.
She shared those stories with representatives from the state office of Knights of Columbus, the Diocese of Knoxville and Bishop Richard F. Stika, and Tennessee Right to Life, who were in attendance during the check presentation ceremony Feb. 28 at St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Cleveland.
“The image of a baby in the womb is a powerful one, and you have no idea how many babies can be saved by your generous gift,” said Ms. Henderson, who explained that 250,000 free ultrasounds are offered annually at pregnancy centers like New Hope across the nation.
“Ultrasound technology is making a difference across the nation,” said Ms. Henderson, who pointed out that since the addition of ultrasound technology in the timeframe of 2016-2020, more than 828,131 unborn lives have been saved at New Hope and other such pregnancy centers across the nation after mothers saw their babies via an ultrasound image.
“That’s more saved pregnancies in the last five years than in the 22 prior years we’ve been open,” Ms. Henderson pointed out. “A large part of that is the power of ultrasound because it is the power of truth, which is what we provide to our clients. More of those women who are at-risk will come through our doors because we have that technology and they’re looking for that confirmation. Because we’re going to confirm the viability of the pregnancy and look for the baby’s heartbeat and confirm the gestational age, and all these factors are important to women facing unplanned pregnancies and making decisions about the outcome of their pregnancies.”
Ms. Henderson said that 85 percent of pregnant women who choose abortion are unwed mothers, and in Bradley County, 41.5 percent of babies are born to unwed mothers. “So, the situation is real. The need is true. We have a community of young people who need our support, and your gift has helped us to be a great part of that. So many women feel abortion is their only option because they feel alone or without support, either medically or financially. This is who we serve. They are the most vulnerable.”
Ms. Henderson said that since the overturn of the U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling Roe. V. Wade last June, she witnessed a 58 percent increase in more at-risk women in 2022 as opposed to 2021, and she believes this was a direct result of that historic decision repealing Roe.
“Young women are still getting pregnant, and they need a place to go for help, and they’re coming to us. They know New Hope will offer them quality services for free in a non-judgmental atmosphere with medical professionals who will tell them the truth, and who will show them the truth through that ultrasound. They learn that it is life they are carrying in the womb, a unique human being in its earliest stages. And so often, that is enough. The decision is hers to make, but we empower her to make an informed decision and so often, that decision is for life,” Ms. Henderson said.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade changed judicial precedents but it did little to dissuade those who advocate for abortion. However, ultrasound technology has proven to change the heart and mind of even the staunchest pro-choice woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy, according to Ms. Henderson, who shared the story of how deeply one woman was recently affected by the image of her unborn child.
“Just this past January, right after our new machine was installed, a woman came in for a pregnancy test that confirmed she was indeed pregnant, along with an ultrasound. She was not happy. We gave her all the information regarding resources we can provide, but after giving her all her options, she left, telling us she was still determined to terminate. But a few days later, this same woman called and asked if she could come back for another ultrasound. We said of course,” said Ms. Henderson, her voice cracking with emotion. “This visit, she did not need time to think about it. She chose life.”
Brendan Foley, Grand Knight of Council 4572, talked about the fundraising the Knights of Columbus did to raise the money for the ultrasound machine, but he acknowledged that giving a check is the easy part. He praised the work of New Hope medical professionals.
“We have three main fundraisers every year, a golf tournament and two Boston butt barbecues, and these fund our charitable work. But selling pork butts is the easy part. The real work is in what the hardworking and dedicated people at New Hope do every day. We just give them the check for the necessary equipment, and that’s only a tool,” Mr. Foley said.
“It is their words and actions when working with women who come to them in crisis that make all the difference. These workers are the frontlines who have the gifted ability to show these women that they’re carrying a baby, not just a blob of tissue or a clump of cells. What they said and do greatly affects what these moms will ultimately decide. And I know about this, personally,” he added.
Mr. Foley then shared how New Hope Pregnancy Care Center impacted his own family, as he proudly introduced a little girl in attendance as his granddaughter, and he explained how her mom (Mr. Foley’s daughter) was greatly helped by the caring professionals at New Hope when she went there in a crisis pregnancy as a college nursing student seven years ago.
“My family was the happy recipient of the kind of care and good work offered to women in crisis pregnancies at New Hope. That’s my granddaughter, Addie,” Mr. Foley said, pointing proudly toward Addie and smiling. “Her mom, my daughter, was once a scared, single young woman who didn’t know where to turn. Addie is here today in large part because of the care my daughter received through New Hope.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Bishop Stika, who shared his conviction as to what he thinks may be behind the increased violence in our nation.
“There are mass shootings in schools, shopping malls, so much violence everywhere. There’s always the issue about guns, but there’s something behind that gun, and I’m convinced since 1973, when it became acceptable on a national level for abortion and with so much discussion and arguments among our government officials, it has seeped into the mentality of people that life is not all that special.”
Bishop Stika said worse than that is the acceptance of partial-birth and post-birth abortions, which are now being permitted in some states.
“I think all the violence in our community is because of abortion. And if you look at statistics, most abortions are birth control. It’s not incest, it’s not rape; it’s being used as birth control. And that’s bad because then it’s the unborn child that suffers because of the actions of adults,” Bishop Stika said. “Why is the ultrasound so important? Because we see that it’s not a clump of cells or an embryo, those are just medical terms. And it’s not a giraffe; it’s a human person.”
Bishop Stika then used an analogy from the movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” where Army medic and war hero Desmond T. Doss repeated a mantra over and over while rescuing soldiers in the battle of Okinawa during World War II.
“He would say ‘Just one more’ over and over and over, even when his hands were bloody and when he was being shot at and he was completely exhausted, his mantra was ‘Just one more.’ And that’s what we’re about. If we can save just one more life, then that $24,000 we’ve spent on a machine is worth it. But we will save many more lives through the influence and prayers of people who are dedicated to life.”
He pointed out that the upcoming addition of a new ultrasound machine in the newly renovated offices of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee will further help the cause of life the region.
“You see little by little, we have just one more here, just one more there, and soon we are influencing our children, and it will continue to further our cause, all by saving just one more.”
Bishop Stika also urged parishioners to pray for a change of heart in President Joe Biden, a fellow Catholic who is insistent on keeping abortion rights legal across the United States.
“His mantra is also ‘just one more,’ but unfortunately his is in favor of ‘just one more abortion,’ and frankly he’s on the wrong side of history.”
Bishop Stika commended his brother Knights of Columbus for their diligence working hard for the cause of right to life.
“What you’re doing matters. Kudos to all of you who are working so hard and doing your part for such a life-giving experience. We are never wrong when fighting for those who have no voice.”