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Dr. Lloyd Pierre of Sancta Familia Medical Apostolate points out features of the health clinic’s recently-installed ultrasound machine, one of the newest placements in Nebraska by the Ultrasound Initiative of the Knights of Columbus. With him are nurse practitioner Angelina Giles, left, medical technician Dung Nguyen, office manager Jeanne Sidel and Mike Conrad, a past Nebraska state deputy and a supreme director with the national Knights of Columbus. Photo by ELIZABETH WELLS

KC Ultrasound Initiative provides ‘window to the womb’

Ultrasound is the “window to the womb,” according to Theresa Alarcon, director of nursing at Essential Pregnancy Services in Omaha.
 
“I have the honor of being in the ultrasound room when women come through,” she said. “Without ultrasound it would be very difficult to help a woman see her baby.
 
“Often in unplanned pregnancies, they only see the struggle before them, the obstacles they face. Ultrasound allows them to see their baby, the beautiful human being growing within them … it makes it so real.”
 
The Knights of Columbus understand the significance of ultrasound for abortion-vulnerable women. Since 2009, the national Knights of Columbus Supreme has taken up the Ultrasound Initiative, partnering with local Knights of Columbus councils to place the machines in women’s resource centers around the country. The local councils and Supreme split the cost of the ultrasound machine for centers that meet the required criteria. 
 
Ultrasound machines cost $25,000 to $60,000 each, said Brian Hamik, co-director with his wife, Mary Jo, of the Nebraska State Culture of Life Foundation of the Knights of Columbus.
 
“We ask local councils to raise as much as they can,” said Hamik, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk. In 2009, Nebraska’s One Rose One Life (OROL) Campaign, which began in 1978, became the vehicle for fundraising, he said. The Knights create prayer cards using artwork from the first-, second- and third-place winners of a statewide art contest for youth and provide them to local councils for the OROL weekend in January each year, he said. OROL usually is the weekend closest to Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
 
The art contest and the prayer cards have another benefit. “Because we start teaching our youth at a young age about the sanctity of life, we see more and more Nebraska youth participating in local and national pro-life marches and activities,” said Lou Gasper, state deputy for the Nebraska Knights.
 
In 2018, 74 percent of the 172 Nebraska Knights of Columbus councils participated in OROL and collected $131,609 for Nebraska’s Knights of Columbus Culture of Life Foundation, Hamik said. 
 
Since the Ultrasound Initative’s inception, more than 900 ultrasound machines have been placed nationwide. Ten of these are in women’s resource centers across Nebraska. One of the newest ultrasounds has been placed at Sancta Familia Medical Apostolate in Omaha.
 
The initiative fits well with the Knights of Columbus mission of supporting life from conception to natural death, Gasper said. 
 
“We are the leaders in communities, townships and cities,” he said. “We help design a program so the local councils can be successful in their fundraising, and the community comes together around the core of these local Knights.”
 
When Alercon talks about abortion-vulnerable women’s experiences with ultrasound, she underscores the multisensory opportunity it provides for bonding with the baby. “We see baby sucking its thumb, waving its hand, moving its feet. They hear the heartbeat,” she said.
 
“That’s what the initiative is all about,” said Gasper, “to let that mother see that baby and hear that heartbeat and realize there is life. There is a person there. That’s what makes the ultrasound machine so important.”
 
Essential Pregnancy Services has received three ultrasound machines through this initiative, one for each of their Omaha-area locations, said Brad Burks, executive director.
 
“We are incredibly grateful for their partnership and their commitment to assisting us in providing life affirming support to women and families,” said Burks. “They may not know our clients’ names or see their faces, but they are just as much a part of this lifesaving work. We couldn’t do it without them.”

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