The Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family are spending millions to buy ultrasound machines for Crisis Pregnancy Centers so they can provide sonograms to expectant mothers, many of whom are deciding whether to abort their unborn child. This tactic in the abortion wars has garnered some rather favorable press coverage, a year ago in the NY Times and last week in the Washington Post.
The idea is to put meaning in the term "choice" by letting expectant mothers see what it is that they may decide to kill. Reports and surveys show that such information goes a long way in discouraging women from choosing abortion:
By many accounts, the ultrasound exams have proven effective in convincing women to stay pregnant. A 2005 survey by Care Net, a Sterling-based network of about 1,000 antiabortion pregnancy centers in the United States and Canada, found that 72 percent of women who were initially "strongly leaning" toward abortion decided to carry their pregnancies to term after seeing a sonogram. Fifty percent made the same choice after counseling alone.
This success has lead Focus on the Family to buy ultrasound machines for 200 Crisis Pregnancy Centers. The Southern Baptist Convention also has a program, called Psalm 139 Project, to provide ultrasound machines to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. You can learn about it and donate it, here.
Here is one young woman's story (from the WP):
On June 6, Cheryl Smith took her last $600 and drove her teenage daughter from Baltimore to Severna Park to get an abortion. When they got there, a receptionist told them the clinic had changed hands. The abortion provider had moved a few miles away, she said, but the new clinic would offer a pregnancy test and sonogram for free.
The Smiths stayed. After they saw a picture of the fetus at 21 weeks with arms and legs and a face, their thoughts of termination were gone.
"As soon as I seen that, I was ready. It wasn't no joke. It was real," Makiba Smith, 16, said. "It was like, he's not born to the world yet, but he is inside of me growing."
And another young woman (from the NYT):
Sixteen months ago, Andrea Brown, 24 years old and unmarried, was desperate for an abortion, fearing the disappointment of her parents and the humiliation she might face.
While frantically searching the telephone book one day, she came across the Bowie Crofton Pregnancy Center and Medical Clinic, a church-financed organization that provides counseling and education about sexual abstinence. The receptionist told Ms. Brown that the clinic did not perform abortions or make referrals but that she could come in for an ultrasound to make sure her six-and-a-half-week pregnancy was viable. When she did, everything changed.
"When I had the sonogram and heard the heartbeat - and for me a heartbeat symbolizes life - after that there was no way I could do it," Ms. Brown said recently as she revisited the clinic and watched her daughter, Elora, now 9 months old, play at her feet.
Abortionists complain that such tactics are deceptive and coercive. The complaints in the articles cited above are devoid of any such examples (although there is a dispute about the link between abortion and cancer). Although the center in the Washington Post took over a place previously used by abortionists the receptionist clearly informed the visitors that "the clinic had changed hands. The abortion provider had moved a few miles away, she said, but the new clinic would offer a pregnancy test and sonogram for free." Moreover, the walls of the center are adorned with Bible verses. In the NYT article, the receptionistist explained over the telephone to the young woman that the center did not provide abortion services.
To the extent there have been abuses, they should be corrected and discouraged. But they do not indict the purpose of Crisis Pregnancy Centers or the many centers who serve that purpose well. That purpose is to inform and save lives.
UPDATE: World Magazine's Blog also noticed the story and issued a corrective and has an informative comment on whether Crisis Pregnancy Center's are intentionally trying to place themselves near abortion mills. Seems they may just both be trying to service the same demographics, placing themselves next to high schools and colleges. Another actually had an abortion mill move in next to an existing center.