By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key reporter
KANSAS CITY — During the annual organization meeting of the Missouri Knights of Columbus in July, State Deputy John Appelbaum announced a major campaign to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state by one half by the end of 2016.
The campaign, “Meet Life,” is in collaboration with the Knights’ Ultrasound Initiative, which began Jan. 22, 2009, the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand. That program pays half the cost of an ultrasound machine for an approved pregnancy resource center; local Knights councils raise the remaining amount, enabling more pregnancy centers to receive ultrasound machines. Appelbaum said the program will give women the opportunity to meet their babies, at no cost to them.
For the “Meet Life” campaign, as with the Ultrasound Initiative, the Knights have enlisted the assistance of In HIS Image Ultrasound, a Rolla-based national not-for-profit organization, founded by Joe and Jane Dalton. Dalton, a third-degree Knight of Columbus, is the executive director of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Rolla, and he and his wife have more than 13 years experience in pro-life work. Dalton said it was obvious that a type of maternal bonding occurs during an ultrasound scan which often changes the mind of an abortion seeking woman.
Lou Holtmann, state chairman for the Meet Life campaign said Appelbaum challenged the local councils statewide to contribute $50 per council member a year for the next five years and hold fund raisers to raise the money to pay their share of the costs of the sonogram machines.
“Meet Life” will also look for ways to place pregnancy centers in areas of Missouri where there are none, Appelbaum said. He said the initiative plans to work with the Jefferson City-based Vitae Foundation to create a multimedia campaign to get the message out.
In the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the pro-life message is getting out. Bill Francis, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, and a fourth degree Knight of Columbus, works closely with local Knights’ councils on the “Meet Life” and Ultrasound initiatives. In northwest Missouri, Francis said, women seeking abortions have to come to Kansas City, as there are few if any providers in rural areas. (In fact, according to their web site, Pro Choice America/NARAL laments that 97 percent of Missouri counties have no abortion provider, or 110 out of 114 counties.) In 2010, about 9,500 abortions were performed in Kansas City. Francis, his staff and volunteers are working diligently to reduce that number.
Through the efforts of the Respect Life Office and the local Knights councils, four area pregnancy resource centers have qualified for and received sonogram machines through the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council’s Ultrasound Initiative and are using them. A fifth pregnancy center was recently approved to receive a sonogram machine. Life Choice Center for Women in Harrisonville; Golden Valley Pregnancy Center in Clinton; New Beginnings Pregnancy Resource Center in Warrensburg, and Rachel House in Lee’s Summit are using the machines to help women meet their babies as early as six weeks into their pregnancy. Holtmann said The Women’s Clinic of Kansas City, located near the Planned Parenthood facility in Grandview, will be receiving a sonogram machine through the Ultrasound Initiative in the first quarter of 2012. Holtmann said two machines will be placed, in St. Louis and Mountain Grove, also in the first quarter, and two more, in St. Louis and Springfield, during the second quarter.
Francis and other pro-life leaders and advocates want to increase awareness of alternatives to abortion so that women choose life for their babies. To that end, he is working on a plan to create a pregnancy resource clinic in Midtown, near the campuses of UMKC and Rockhurst University, closer to abortion-vulnerable women in the city’s urban core, and near the area’s Planned Parenthood facility. LIFERunners who participated in the Oct. 15 Kansas City Marathon made a “big first step” toward the creation of a clinic, Francis said.
He sits on the Board of Directors of the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic. “The board has been discussing options to expand the reach of the clinic,” Francis said. “We know we eventually want to have a clinic in Kansas City, Mo., but we are still evaluating whether we create a small satellite now in order to get going sooner or try to start a full-blown clinic which will take more time.
“Since my office helped organize the LIFERunner fundraiser, I am proposing to the board we use the $10K+ as seed money for our Kansas City location, but, regardless of whether this is done, the support we received from our pro-life community is still a step in the right direction.”
LIFE Runners is the brainchild of Lt. Col. Pat Castle, a Sioux Falls, S.D., native currently stationed at Scott AFB near Belleville, Illinois, committed to raising funds to assist pro-life agencies who help women choose life for their unborn babies. They do it by running in one Midwestern city marathon a year.
They began last year with 17 runners. Lt. Col. Castle worked to increase LIFE Runners through the Internet (run.lifegroup413.org) and through social media such as Facebook.
This year, with 170 runners raising a minimum of $250 each, plus paying their own expenses, LIFE Runners raised $25,000 for the Alpha Center mobile ultrasound “help bus” in Sioux Falls, S.D., and another $10,000 for the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City, Kan., which operates a mobile unit with an ultrasound machine in the Kansas City metropolitan area. (See The Catholic Key Oct. 21)
Francis has also met with executive directors of pregnancy resource clinics on both sides of the state line, and Ron Kelsey, director of the Pro-Life ministry of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kan., to assess strengths and see where they might need help. From their discussions, Francis concluded there are three necessities: increasing internal effectiveness of the established pregnancy resources centers; increasing external awareness of the pregnancy resource centers, and opening pregnancy resource centers where there are none, across the metropolitan area.
But, Francis added, “We have limited resources, so it is important to look at three things: the number of abortions that occur in the Kansas City-St. Joseph area annually; the number of abortion –vulnerable women that contact local pregnancy resource centers relative to the number of abortions, and of the women who do contact a pregnancy resource center, the number of those who choose life for their babies over abortion.” By knowing these things, he said, where money and other resources are best spent becomes more apparent.
The “Meet Life” campaign is expected to facilitate the placement of ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers throughout the state. Four have been placed during the second half of 2011, and five more are to be placed in the first half of 2012. The Missouri Knights say that ultrasound technology, which is medically indicated throughout a pregnancy for a variety of diagnostic reasons, also gives young pregnant women the opportunity to see their baby’s development, which often helps change their minds about seeking an abortion. Francis went one step further, saying that pregnancy resource centers need trained sonographers to operate the machines. Without trained operators, the machines could sit idle. Holtmann said the machines cost about $25,000 with an additional $5,000-$6,000 for training to use a stationary unit. A mobile unit costs about $10,000 more and the cost of training is higher also.
Francis also hopes to compile a pamphlet of services available at pregnancy resource centers, common to both sides of the state line, including pregnancy testing, counseling, prenatal classes, medical referrals and sonograms, and alternatives to abortion, adoption information and referrals for other services.
Francis considers it vital that the Knights of Columbus, pregnancy resource center executive directors and pro-life advocates work together toward the goal of reducing the number of abortions in Missouri and nationwide. Team work is essential, he said.
Francis has three main focuses for collaboration in 2012:
• promotion and establishment of pregnancy resource centers, especially in areas of many abortion-vulnerable women;
• more sidewalk counselors and prayer groups outside of abortion clinics, and
• post-abortive healing including Project Rachel.
With the Supreme and State Knights of Columbus Councils’ initiatives, Ultrasound and “Meet Life,” coupled with the work of local councils, the diocesan Respect Life office and volunteers, the goal of saving the lives of thousands of abortion-threatened babies may be reached.
For more information about the “Meet Life” campaign, contact Bill Francis, director of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan Respect Life Office, (816) 756-1850, ext 544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Doug Kissinger of the Missouri Knights Council (417) 336-2023 or email email@example.com. Those interested in financially assisting in purchasing ultrasound equipment for pregnancy resource centers in Kansas City and elsewhere in the state, contact Lou Holtmann (636) 285-1600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.