More Babies with Ultrasound
Centers Have Success Using Pictures
Before ultrasound was available at “A
Woman’s Concern,” about 40-50% of the clients decided to
keep the baby and not abort, Rev. John Ensor estimates.
Recently at their Revere center, 77% of those receiving an
ultrasound decided to keep the baby.
The same results are being reported
throughout the country.
Nationwide, about 200 of the estimated
3,000 crisis pregnancy centers offer ultrasounds to their
In Massachusetts, two centers provide
this service. One is “A Woman’s Concern” (AWC), with
four locations in greater Boston, and “Problem Pregnancy”
of Worcester. Some other centers in Massachusetts help arrange
ultrasound exams for their clients, but don’t have the
equipment on site.
Ultrasounds are especially helpful to
those who are still considering an abortion after the initial
counseling. The “abortion-vulnerable” woman is commonly
defined as one who faces obstacles that she may feel incapable
of handling or unwilling to experience, but who has not yet
decided with certainty to abort. There is disagreement among
centers over terminology, however, making statistics and
Results in Mass. Are Positive
Dr. Eric Keroack, medical director of AWC,
gave MassNews the results of his preliminary survey on
From October 2000 through December 2001,
a total of 371 new clients were seen in the Revere center. A
total of 238 or 74% did not abort. (As noted above, 77% of all
the ultrasound clients during this period decided not to
abort, but this number also included those women who were not
Of the total 371 clients, 320 were
abortion-vulnerable at the time of the ultrasound appointment.
Fifty-five percent of the abortion-vulnerable clients who
delivered a baby kept it and did not adopt it out.
The number of women who definitely
intended to abort but changed their minds after the ultrasound
was 198, or 62%.
Keroack gives the cost of each ultrasound
exam as $160, and the cost per new client $216. The cost to
prevent an abortion with an abortion-vulnerable client was
$336. Each ultrasound machine costs about $25,000. About 30-40
ultrasounds were performed each month during the period of the
Keroack believes every single woman
entering a pregnancy center is “at risk” for deciding to
abort. He has chosen to use the term “abortion-vulnerable”
to imply a very strong risk. (Some centers would use the term
“abortion-minded”.) Even as he tried to be most careful in
his record keeping, his own understanding of a client’s
actual state of mind grew during the period of his study. He
suspects that the actual turnaround rate approached 75%. This
compares with a nationally reported turnaround rate of
75%-80%, he said.
In May 2000, MassNews reported that
“over 95% of women who are considering abortion choose life
after seeing an ultrasound image of her child. That is the
experience of [AWC] in Dorchester. It began showing
ultrasounds of unborn babies to mothers in August .”
This higher success rate did not hold up over time.
Three of AWC’s centers (in Dorchester,
Revere and Brookline) have their own ultrasound on site.
Same in Worcester
Rod Murphy, director of Problem Pregnancy
center in Worcester, told MassNews that they acquired their
ultrasound machine very recently. He said, “Everything we
thought is true. It works.” In December, five
abortion-vulnerable mothers out of seven who received
ultrasound exams decided to continue the pregnancy.
“There is a real change when a woman
sees her baby. Even some of the guys have tears well up,”
Many might wonder how any woman can see
her baby moving on the screen, and in some cases feel the baby
moving inside her at the same time, yet still choose to abort.
Teresa Donovan, director of AWC’s new Brookline center, told
MassNews that this illustrates the power of the
“end-justifies-the-means” morality, or amorality, that has
such a foothold in our culture.
“The fact that the ultrasounds don’t
necessarily create 100% turnaround speaks to the power of
utilitarian ethics or moral relativism. For many years, the
abortion industry denied the humanity of the fetus,” said
Donovan. “Now, with this irrefutable image of a living human
baby, those who are pro-abortion say, ‘We know they’re
human, but …’ “ The emphasis of the pro-abortion forces
is now almost totally on a woman’s “right to choose.”
AWC’s recent newsletter describes the
circumstances of some of their abortion-vulnerable clients.
One 29-year-old single mother of several children did not want
to face severe morning sickness and could not afford to miss
work. A 27-year-old mother with children, a miscarriage and an
abortion a year earlier was not sure who the baby’s father
was. She lived a life “full of broken relationships and
stress.” A 14-year-old mother and her boyfriend wanted to
continue her pregnancy, but the girl was being pressured by
her drug-addicted mother to abort.
It is not hard to see why women in such
circumstances would succumb to today’s relativistic ethics,
says Donovan. It attests to the effectiveness of the
ultrasound that they were convinced to keep the baby, despite
Rev. Ensor says, “A woman’s health
and well-being is connected to her baby not just by a physical
umbilical cord. The ultrasound helps her find the courage to
choose life. Then it is the responsibility of the community to
come alongside her and offer support.”
Tracking the effectiveness of counseling
at centers is notoriously difficult. Often, women who come in
for help don’t come back or even telephone, so it’s hard
for the center to know how successful the counseling was in
preventing an abortion. New studies will need to standardize
category definitions (“abortion-vulnerable” vs.
“abortion-minded” for example) and counting methods, and
offer comparisons to past outcomes (e.g., pre- vs.
Different from Rest of Country?
How do the Massachusetts results compare
to reports from around the country? Thomas Glessner, president
of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, told
MassNews that while there really are no reliable national
figures, he would estimate that between 25-50% of
“abortion-minded” clients receiving counseling, but no
ultrasounds, at centers would choose to keep the pregnancy. He
added that most Centers would probably see life choices by
about 25-30% of clients, with 50% a very high-end outcome.
Glessner told of a center in Columbus
that has seen a huge positive impact in offering ultrasound.
Without ultrasound, only 20% of their abortion-minded clients
chose life. But that figure increased to 95% with ultrasound.
A center in Dallas saw a threefold increase in the number of
abortion-minded clients coming to the clinic, and a threefold
increase in clients choosing life. A Baton Rouge center
reported that 95% of its clients now choose life, thanks to
the new technology.
According to National Right to Life, at a
San Francisco center offering ultrasound, 60% of the women
they worked with who were seriously contemplating abortion
decided to carry to term, after seeing the baby’s
ultrasound. The director of Heartbeat International said that
as many as 60-90% of clients will change their mind and decide
not to abort.
Keroack is skeptical of the nationally
reported turnaround rates of 90-95%. He suspects these centers
are not keeping careful enough records, for instance counting
follow-up clients two or three times. He also gives the
example of women who come into a center to get a free
ultrasound just for Medicaid certification, but who were never
abortion-vulnerable. His prediction is that when more careful
statistics are kept, turnarounds at centers using ultrasound
will come out to 60-75% for abortion-vulnerable women.
Careless or inflated figures do a
disservice to the cause, Keroack says. Many in the
pro-abortion community are waiting to discredit centers in any
way they can. Further, centers just initiating ultrasound
services may be discouraged when they compare their lower
success rates with the inflated figures.
Glessner said it would not surprise him
if there were a higher number of abortions in Massachusetts
than elsewhere in the country, even among those women seeing
the baby’s ultrasound images. In this liberal state, the
attitude described by Donovan is probably more common. Keroack
said this liberal mindset might explain a small percentage
difference, but not a 20-30-point difference.
Lynn Bizbee of CareNet, a national
network of about 600 centers, told MassNews that the
availability of ultrasound exams has greatly increased the
number of abortion-vulnerable women visiting centers. She said
it is too early to have a good handle on the success of
ultrasound programs, but that CareNet has a study underway
which may provide reliable numbers in a year or so.
MassNews reported in May 2000 that
Planned Parenthood claimed that 50% of women going to their
abortion clinics have received ultrasound exams, yet of these
women (obviously “abortion-minded” if they are at PP),
only 5% decided to keep the pregnancy. Dr. Keroack explained
this strange phenomenon: Abortion clinics prohibit the patient
from viewing her own ultrasound.
Centers that decide to “go medical,”
offering ultrasound or other medical services (such as a
medical diagnosis of pregnancy), must be very careful to
comply with all state, federal, and OSHA regulations. Glessner
has estimated the cost of converting to a medical clinic to be
$50,000. His organization helps centers wishing to convert
with legal advice and, in some cases, acquisition of
ultrasound equipment. Massachusetts is among the handful of
states with very complicated requirements, he says. Dr.
Keroack said that AWC does have medical clinic status.
If compliance could possibly be seen as
lacking in the smallest detail, the pro-abortion forces are
ready to strike.
They understand the impact to a mother of
seeing the baby in the womb. These pictures have a powerful
effect on anyone who sees them. In one well-known case, the
“silent scream” of a baby meeting its death during an
abortion is credited with transforming a veteran abortion
doctor, Bernard Nathanson, into a pro-life crusader. His
documentary film has become a pro-life classic.
The director of a small center in
Massachusetts told MassNews that she was wary of making the
conversion. Her concern is not just the expense, but a fear of
the powerful pro-abortion activists.
In early January 2002, the New York
attorney general launched an attack on Expectant Mother Care,
which runs five centers in the New York City area. Subpoenas
were served stating that the “A-G has a good faith belief
that the entities named … may have violated one or more …
statutes by misrepresenting the services they provide,
diagnosing pregnancy and advising persons on medical options
without being licensed to do so, and/or providing deceptive
and inaccurate medical information.”
Centers in Massachusetts may be targeted
soon, both those with and without ultrasound.
This development seems to be part of a nationwide
campaign by NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action
League) to close down what they term “fake clinics.” (NARAL has
published a guide, “Unmasking Fake Clinics.”) This may be the best
evidence yet that centers, especially those using ultrasound, are
having a significant effect in discouraging abortions.