DALLAS (BP) — Carolyn Cline calls it “our God machine.”
The director of the Downtown Dallas Pregnancy Center is referring to the group’s latest ultrasound machine. Cline saw a father come in with his 17-year-old pregnant daughter recently, believing abortion to be the best option. But after seeing the ultrasound and hearing the unborn baby’s heartbeat, tears ran down the man’s cheeks.
“There’s my grandchild,” he said. Then he turned to his daughter and said, “We are going to do this together.”
Few things have done more for the pro-life movement than the ultrasound. 3-D and 4-D images now allow glimpses of babies inside the womb that are so clear they can compel a future grandfather to cry.
“It brings truth and reality into the room,” Cline said. “I’m so excited that science has caught up with the Bible.”
Places like the Pregnancy Crisis Center of Wichita, Kan., which sees 140 clients each month, now have high-definition big-screen televisions mounted on the wall facing exam tables. At the 10-day Nebraska state fair, Nebraska Right to Life sets up a big-screen TV that displays 4-D videos of babies in the womb throughout the day.
Ultrasounds are not alone in providing a boost to the pro-life cause. Medical advances, such as neonatal and in-utero surgery, are giving pro-life lawmakers new legislative avenues to pursue. States are passing bills outlawing abortions at 20 weeks because medical science has proven that babies at that stage can feel pain. In 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, options for treating a sick baby in-utero were limited, but doctors today can perform life-saving surgery.
“OBGYNs always knew and were told that the unborn child was the second patient,” said Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “But on the other hand you have very powerful pro-abortion forces saying that there is no reason why we shouldn’t terminate the pregnancy.”
Because of these two positions, Harrison said, there are sometimes cases where doctors are trying to save a 23-week pregnancy in one room while abortionists are taking the life of a 23-week-old unborn baby in another room.
A hot topic in the abortion fight is the issue of ultrasound viewing requirements. In Wisconsin last year, lawmakers approved a law requiring hospital admitting privileges and ultrasound viewing 24 hours prior to the abortion. A judge has temporarily blocked its enforcement.
In North Carolina, a federal judge has thrown out the state’s Woman’s Right to Know Act (H.B. 854), which requires abortionists to display an ultrasound image of a woman’s pre-born child to her prior to an abortion and also to offer the opportunity to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a written response, stated, “Giving women the information they need before such a weighty moral and medical decision is more important than an abortionist’s bottom line. This law places the best interests of women and their preborn children first.
“Abortionists, of all people, should not be given a pass from the common-sense standard that anyone performing risky surgery fully inform the patient of what the procedure is and what it does,” Aden said. “We expect the appeals court will reverse this decision and uphold this important law.”
A total of 19 states have considered ultrasound requirements. Abortion advocates, meanwhile, argue that an ultrasound before an abortion is unnecessary and call ultrasound viewing laws “medical rape.” During an international conference in 2007, ultrasounds were tabbed as one of the main obstacles to the growth of abortion because, as Harrison put it, “it turns the mind of the mother to the human state of the unborn baby.”
Abortion advocates are actively engaging technology, particularly in Planned Parenthood pilot programs to supervise medical abortions remotely to counteract abortion clinic closures. At satellite facilities, a woman sees an abortionist by webcam. After they talk, the abortionist presses a button at his location that releases a locked drawer holding abortion drugs at the woman’s location. He then instructs her to take the first abortion pill while he watches on screen.
Pro-life groups want to quell this tactic before it takes off by requiring that the abortionist be present for all procedures. Legislators from at least 11 states addressed chemical and webcam abortions last year after numerous reports of dangerous abortions in hotel rooms involving webcams and the drug RU 486. Seven states enacted laws requiring a physician to personally administer the drug, and in Missouri, to have a follow-up appointment soon after.
For West Virginia resident Chelsea Svenson, seeing her baby on the ultrasound helped establish a relationship with her child. “There is an emotional disconnect when it is so little initially because you can’t really feel your baby,” Svenson said. “Then you’re listening to the baby’s heartbeat, and it is so loud and fast, and you think that it is amazing that something so tiny can have a soul. It is pretty indescribable.”
Edward Lee Pitts is the Washington bureau chief for WORLD Magazine. Used by permission from WORLD News Service. Baptist Press staff also contributed to this report.