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National Legal Summit
Created Equal: Reflections on the Unalienable Right to Life

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Securing an Abortion-Free America by Opening a Window to the Womb

By Thomas A. Glessner, J.D.
December 11, 2008

The election of Barack Obama created shockwaves within the leadership and grass roots of the prolife movement. Indeed, his assent to the presidency continues to haunt those who have labored years to end abortion in America and restore the God-ordained right to life of all humans being in America — born and unborn.

Over one year ago President-elect Obama spoke to Planned Parenthood officials vowing that the very first thing he would sign as president would be the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). If enacted into law FOCA would not only embody in a federal statute the dubious right to abortion found in Roe v. Wade, but it would also prohibit states from passing certain restrictions on abortion that Roe permits, such as partial-birth abortion bans, state funding of abortion bans, and parental notice requirements.

Starting with the appointment of former Senator Tom Daschle at HHS Obama's initial appointments to his administration clearly indicate that he meant it when he told Planned Parenthood that he would not compromise on the issue of abortion. On other issues the media continues to report that Obama is attempting to modify previous far-left positions to be more "centrist". This is not so on abortion. To our president-elect the right to abortion is a foundational value that must be preserved in our culture.

So now the political winds are blowing against the prolife cause and many are feeling discouragement. Indeed, we must brace ourselves for intense political battles on the issue of life in the next four years. The defeat of FOCA will be a primary focus of prolife activity as will be the defeat of judicial appointments, which are certain to be of judges who unconditionally support abortion on demand and Roe v. Wade.

Despite this, however, much is happening in communities across the nation to create a culture of life in America where every life, born and unborn, is respected and given dignity. The ending of abortion will not occur because of political initiatives in Washington D.C. Rather, an abortion free America will happen because communities across the nation rise and end abortion within their boundaries.

Just such an effort is being undertaken in hundreds of communities through the work of prolife Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs). Such small charitable agencies do not exist because of government funding. Rather, they are able to provide loving and caring alternatives to abortion because of the support that they receive from local churches and individual Christians. And recent initiatives regarding the provision of medical services from PRCs are beginning to have an impact in reducing the numbers of abortions in many communities.

After converting to the prolife cause former abortionist Bernard Nathanson (a founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League) lamented that if wombs only had windows that allowed pregnant mothers considering abortion to see their unborn children then abortion would end. Today modern medical technology provides such a "window to the womb" through the tool of ultrasound. Ultrasound provides a visual image of an unborn child to enable a physician to assess and diagnose both the well being of the child and the condition of the pregnancy.

In PRC settings ultrasound is used, under the supervision of a licensed physician, to diagnose the existence of a viable intrauterine pregnancy. Once a pregnancy is diagnosed in this manner the mother considering abortion has had an opportunity to view in utero her child and observe the child's very human characteristics. Tiny hands, fingers, toes and a beating heart are all made visible to this mother who has been told by others that what is inside her is just a glob of pregnancy tissue.

To a pregnant mother considering abortion the impact of looking in this "window to the womb" is remarkable. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in February 1983 that looked at the impact that ultrasound has upon the choice that a pregnant mother will make concerning abortion. The article entitled "Maternal Bonding in Early Fetal Ultrasound Examinations" observed the following:

One of us pointed to the small, visibly moving fetal form on the screen and asked, "How do you feel about seeing what is inside you?" She answered crisply, "It certainly makes you think twice about abortion!" When asked to say more, she told of the surprise she felt on viewing the fetal form, especially on seeing it move: "I feel that it is human. It belongs to me. I couldn't have an abortion now."

The mother was asked about her experience with ultrasound. Se said, "It really made a difference to see that it was alive." Asked about her position on the moral choice she had to make, she said, "I am going all the way with the baby, I believe it is human."

The physician/authors of this study conclude by saying:

Ultrasound examination is likely to increase the value of the early fetus for parents who already strongly desire a child. Viewing the fetal form in the late first or early mid-trimester of pregnancy, before movement is felt by the mother, may also influence the resolution of any ambivalence toward the pregnancy itself in favor of the fetus. Ultrasound examination may thus result in fewer abortions and more desired pregnancies.

For the last ten years under the leadership of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) PRCs have been converting their operations to licensed medical clinics in order to use the diagnostic tool of ultrasound. The reported successes are truly stunning. Non-medical PRCs report that 20-25% of their abortion-minded clients choose life after receiving the services offered at the center. However, when PRCs convert to medical clinic status and provide ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy they report that 90% of these clients change their minds and choose life.

NIFLA, a legal network of 1,150 PRCs in all 50 states, provides the legal expertise and training to enable a PRC to convert to medical clinic status and provide ultrasound services. Its major initiative — The Life Choice Project (TLC) — provides all of the resources needed — legal counsel, medical training of physicians and nurses in the implementation of ultrasound, and ongoing consultation — to enable PRCs to make this transition that can be confusing and somewhat complicated legally.

NIFLA's goal is to eventually have 1,000 PRCs licensed as medical clinics using ultrasound to confirm pregnancy for abortion-minded mothers. (Currently, of NIFLA's membership 650 PRCs are using ultrasound, but many are in the very infancy stage of such a program and have not yet seen the full effects of this endeavor.) NIFLA has a further goal to see that the PRCs are developed in their professionalism and marketing skills so that eventually these 1,000 clinics will, on the average, be providing ultrasound services to 1,500 abortion-minded pregnant mothers a year. (Some would see more clientele while others would see less depending upon the geographic area in which they are located.)

If this ambitious goal is achieved then the ultimate results are obvious. Such clinics would be providing ultrasound confirmation of pregnancy to 1.5 million abortion-minded pregnancy mothers a year — that is the exact numbers of annual abortions America is currently experiencing. And the vast majority of these mothers, having looked inside this window to the womb, will choose life and not abortion.

Perhaps ending abortion in America is not as far away as some might believe. And the end to abortion can come despite the hostile political winds being blown our way by an Obama presidency. The abolition of abortion and a restoration of the right to life can be achieved in our country without a change in the law and a reversal of Roe v. Wade even though such political goals are earnestly and prayerfully sought.

The incoming Obama administration has nothing but mischief in mind when it comes to dealing with abortion and its related life-issues. However, the life-affirming work of medical PRCs with the use of ultrasound cannot easily be stopped. Perhaps the new administration will try to stop this movement, but they will fail if the Christian community stands firm behind the life work of PRCs with spiritual and financial support.

If you really want to make a difference in this nationwide effort to achieve an abortion free America go to NIFLA's web site at www.nifla.org.

Copyright © 2008 by Thomas A. Glessner. All rights reserved.

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