A program to donate ultrasound machines to U.S. pregnancy centres has passed the 1,000 mark, thanks to the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus and its members.
“Building a culture of life requires all of us to strive for the just treatment of innocent unborn children and to accompany with compassionate concern women facing crisis pregnancies,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus said in the January 2019 issue of Columbia magazine, which is published by the charitable organization.
“This program is saving hundreds of thousands of lives.”
The 1,000th machine was donated to the Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, which has already expanded since its December 2017 opening.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and officials of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington joined local Knights of Columbus members at a celebration marking the milestone.
The ultrasound program has put a Knights-sponsored ultrasound machine in every U.S. state and in Canada, Brazil, Jamaica, and Peru, as well as places in Africa.
Anderson said the 1,000th machine marked “a historic milestone,” adding, “there are still many more milestones ahead of us in the lives of thousands of vulnerable unborn children.”
“Our Ultrasound Initiative must continue to expand into every community where it is needed,” he said.
One woman who benefitted from the program is Lauren, from South Bend, Ind.
She told Columbia magazine that when she was pregnant two years ago she wasn’t sure what decision she should make and didn’t know what to expect from an ultrasound procedure. She went to Women’s Care Center in South Bend, which had received an ultrasound machine through the program.
“The only way I can describe it is that it changed me in the blink of an eye,” Lauren said.
“The moment I saw my child on the big screen in front of me, I knew I was going to be a mom. It did not matter what I had thought before — all that mattered was loving my child and caring about her safety. I saw her little feet and little arms. I heard her heartbeat as I watched her in front of me. I still have the pictures of the ultrasound that were given to me that day — the day that changed my life forever.”
Lauren is still attending college and working “to make a great life for my daughter.” She said pregnant women in similar circumstances should know “Do not be afraid to ask for help. You are never alone.”
The ultrasound program was launched in 2009 with the goal of donating 1,000 machines. State or local knights’ councils raise funds half of the ultrasound machine expenses, which is matched from the Supreme Council’s Culture of Life Fund. On average, the machines cost about $30,000 each.
According to program details on the Knights of Columbus website, councils must first identify qualified pregnancy centers and have these centers evaluated by the local diocese’s Culture of Life director.
Evaluation criteria include whether the proposed beneficiary has the staffing, finances and other resources to justify the purchase of an ultrasound; whether the center’s location, client load and hours of operation justifies the “major expenditure,” ongoing costs, and staffing commitments; whether the center’s practices, policies and history are consistent with Catholic ethics; and whether the pregnancy center is welcoming of Catholics as employees, volunteers and clients.
The Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic opened in December 2017 with support from the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.
It aims to provide free medical care to uninsured or underinsured adults living in northern Virginia. Many of its patients are recently arrived immigrants. Its new expansion has rooms for prenatal care, offices for adoption services, space for the Gabriel Project service for pregnant mothers in need, and space for the Project Rachael ministry to post-abortive women, the Arlington Catholic Herald reports.
The clinic is presently open 24 to 36 hours per week for no-cost patient care. It averages 65-70 patients a week and 209 registered volunteers, including five primary care physicians, four nurse practitioners, two cardiologists, an obstetrician, a pulmonologist, an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, and a pharmacist. The clinic also gives referrals for other services.
Bishop Burbidge blessed the ultrasound machine, the new expansion, and those gathered at the clinic on Monday.
“We want to do everything we can to promote the gospel of life, but ultimately it’s entrusting our work and our intentions to the Lord,” he said, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s ultimately his work and upon his grace that we must depend.”
The clinic is located in a medical office formerly occupied by one of the area’s largest abortion clinics, Amethyst Health Center for Women, which closed in September 2015 when its owner retired.
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1882 by Connecticut priest Venerable Michael J. McGivney, have close to two million members worldwide.
It recently made the news when two Democratic U.S. senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a Catholic judicial nominee about his membership in the group, citing its stands against abortion and same-sex marriage. They asked whether membership could prevent judges from serving “fairly and impartially.” The questioning drew strong objections from many Catholics and other public figures.