Approximately 35 people filled the reception area of Women’s Care Center Saturday night to celebrate the recent acquisition of a new, state-of-the art ultrasound machine. The center, at 1441 N. Farwell Ave., now has the capability to offer much more detailed images, and at earlier stages in the pregnancy.

The purchase was made possible by donations from area Knights of Columbus councils, whose members have been helping out since the founding of the center in June 2010.

The new ultrasound machine for the Women’s Care Center is looked over by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Wisconsin State Council Knights of Columbus District Deputy Timothy Bowen. (Photo by Juan Carlos Medina.)

The evening began with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. Echoing the theme of a celebration, Archbishop Listecki reminded those in attendance that they are doing God’s work. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” he said. “Think about how many lives will be saved by pictures taken here.” With a nod toward Affiliated Heath Services across the street, Archbishop Listecki said the services offered by Women’s Care Center “show the importance of protecting life, especially the most vulnerable among us.”

According to Sheryl Laird, director of operations at the center, the new ultrasound is designed specifically for ob-gyn imagery. Its images are much clearer and enhanced, and allow them to capture imagery from earlier in the gestational period than what was possible with the previous unit. “What’s great about that,” she said, “is you can really see [the] baby. You see the umbilical cord and little arms and feet.” Laird said they can now detect fetal heart beats as early as five weeks and four days. From a technician’s standpoint—Laird performs the ultrasounds at the center—the software is more user friendly, too.

The technology, known as 3D/4D, allows them to display moving 3D images in utero. “You can see a baby sucking its thumbs,” she said. The $34,000 cost for the unit was covered entirely by donations from area Knights of Columbus councils.
But there’s more to the care they deliver than just providing the ultrasounds. Her office offers health education, as well as referrals to insurance providers, medical doctors and other professionals. Taking advantage of these services helps ensure the women are better suited to face their pregnancy and the steps involved.

Laird said that women in between health insurance coverage sometimes request pregnancy tests and the ultrasounds, which are provided at no charge. “We help them date that ultrasound, that baby; [to] tell them how far along that baby is,” she said.

According to Sharon Hudy, Executive Director of Development, Women’s Care Center strives to be an alternative to the abortion clinic. “[Women] are not coming here because they want to abort their baby,” Hudy said. “They’re coming here because they believe that abortion is their only way out because of what is going on in their lives.”

There are many reasons women seek out their assistance. She could be a victim of domestic violence, experiencing a health crisis, or perhaps suffering from an addiction.

“What we’re able to do is chip away at those issues with them one at a time,” Hudy said. “We want them to know that they can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy delivery.”

A typical client is between 19 and 24 years old. While most clients live in the greater Milwaukee area, some arrive from as far away as Illinois and Minnesota. “I would often say that women come to us in poverty, but it’s not necessarily the poverty of the financial kind,” she said. “They also come with a poverty of life skills [or] matriarchal support.”

Though rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church, Women’s Care Centers welcome people of all faiths.

Hudy said they encourage clients to talk about their relationships and the choices they are making. “We want all women to understand what their relationships are–what the choices are they are making–so they don’t come back six months from now for another pre-pregnancy test.”

Likening their staff to a family wrapping its arms around a client, Hudy added, “Oftentimes we fill in for that mom, sister or best friend that they’re lacking at the time.”

Knights of Columbus councils play a big part.

It was natural for the Knights of Columbus to donate toward the purchase of the ultrasound machine, said Dan Miller, state Culture of Life Director. He and others helped refurbish the Farwell Avenue building in summer 2010, and Knights raised money to purchase the first ultrasound machine. Knights sit on the Center’s board, and learned of the need at this center.

The Knights of Columbus is committed to ultrasound machines at the national level. “Our goal is to put in at least one ultrasound machine in every county of every state,” Miller said. “The Knights of Columbus Supreme has the money set aside for all of it. It’s already there. It’s just a matter of time, and money, for that to happen. So far here in Wisconsin, we have 20 ultrasound machines in operation. This is one of them.”

Knights councils used a variety of fundraising events, including fish fries and pancake breakfasts. The goal of $34,000 was raised in less than three months, he estimated. “For this ultrasound, there [was] plenty of support right here in the Milwaukee area.” Many of those in attendance Saturday night were local Knights.

According to Miller, almost 25% of the abortions performed in the United States are performed on Catholics. And considering the “dwindling numbers” of practicing Catholics, it’s important for members to become involved in programs and agencies that discourage abortion.
“I think it’s very important,” he said, “that the Catholic Church or any Catholic group walk together, walk hand-in-hand to end this scourge upon our nation.”

The goal with the Knights of Columbus has always been to aid widows and orphans, Miller said. “Who is more of a widow or an orphan than a baby who’s in the womb of a woman who’s considering aborting him or her? This fits right in with the Knights of Columbus mission statement to aid widows and orphans.
Founded in Indiana in1984 by a Catholic theologian, Women’s Care Center now includes 26 centers in nine states. Collectively they serve 25,000 women each year.

Being located near an abortion clinic is no accident. Indeed, it’s their model, Hudy said. They want to provide a choice for women in that situation. Women’s Care Centers strive not to be political or confrontational, however. “We’re here to love and serve the next woman who walks through our doors,” Hudy said, adding, “[to give] them the hope and help and opportunity that they need for their baby.”

Their centers offer post-abortive healing and resources, too. “We know that every woman who walks through our doors isn’t going to choose to parent or create an adoption plan for her baby,” she said. “We want to be able to provide support for them as well.”