Two ultrasound machines, hundreds of lives saved

By Tess Schoonhoven

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Amory’s life changed forever when she saw those two blue lines on the pregnancy test. Thinking it was a false positive, she took it again, and again, three more times. Amory had just finished graduate school, accepted her first job as a speech-language pathologist, moved into her own apartment, and finally found a guy who she believed liked her back. However, their relationship was rocky and Amory had no idea how he would react to the idea of being a father.

Flora Lopez (right), director of Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center in Houston, talks with and counsels client Sebastiana. Photo by Sandy Ward

Amory’s life as she knew it seemed to crash down in that moment. But her story did not end there. Terrified of potential judgment and ridicule and almost too afraid to even seek help, she scheduled an appointment with Liberty Women’s Clinic (LWC) in Kansas City, where she worked with a clinic nurse named Missy. Missy treated her with kindness, respect and grace, and provided not only information, but hope.

Thanks to the ultrasound machine at the clinic, Amory saw her baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Surreal, overwhelming emotions flooded her heart. She knew she was going to be a mother. There was no doubt that she would keep her baby.

Ryder entered the world and Amory says he brings her incomparable joy. When he says, “I love you,” she cannot imagine her life any other way. Amory’s story is not uncommon among those who experience the ministry of pregnancy care clinics. Many call ultrasound technology a “window into the womb” because it gives mothers a vivid picture of the life they carry inside them.

‘Teetering on the edge’

For the past 16 years, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), through the Psalm 139 Project, has donated ultrasound units to clinics across the country like the Liberty Women’s Clinic. So far, the project has funded and placed 20 machines. The machines were fully funded through direct monetary gifts and through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified giving plan which supports national and international ministry causes.

Alma and her daughter share a light moment with Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center director Flora Lopez. Photo by Sandy Ward

The machines have a powerful impact. Bobby Reed, chief financial officer of the ERLC, said the project is a very practical way for those who are passionate about the sanctity of human life to become involved and make a real difference. “Many times, people become passionate about [the sanctity of life] and their follow-up question is ‘Well, what can I do?’” Reed said. “Involvement in the the Psalm 139 Project is one way to value human life.”

Through the project, individuals can invest personally in saving lives and in ministering to mothers just like Amory. Donated money directly funds a machine placement and therefore saves lives. But the lives to be valued aren’t only in the womb, Reed said. “[The support] also goes to the orphan or the foster child who needs a home. There’s a dual messaging here. Not only does that center help babies who are in their mothers and need life, but it also helps moms who are scared for their very lives,” he elaborated.

Ninety-seven percent of women who get an ultrasound on this machine at Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center in Houston choose life for their unborn child. Photo by Sandy Ward

Carol Graham, founder and CEO of Liberty Women’s Clinic, said that the center has provided nearly 4,000 services to more than 650 women since it received the ultrasound machine 12 months ago. Two hundred eighty-five of those women had a positive test result, 231 were eligible for an ultrasound and 209, to the personnel’s knowledge, chose life for their child. Ninety percent of the women who saw their unborn child on an ultrasound chose life.

“Ultrasound is truly what makes a difference for young women who are teetering on the edge of a decision between life and death of their child — the quality of that image is vital,” Graham said. “The truth presented in the ultrasound image and the compassion of His people poured out on the broken, provides an avenue to set captives free from their current anguish and the future despair of a decision to end their pregnancy.”

LWC has more than 100 volunteers who help with events and projects in addition to serving in the clinic. Additionally, more than 1,200 individuals, churches and businesses support the clinic financially on a regular basis. “Together, we are encouraging hearts and saving lives, one client at a time,” Graham said. “We have the amazing opportunity to have a mission field that literally walks through our doors.”

‘That’s my great-grandbaby’

Not all clinics that receive the machines are as large as LWC. Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center in Houston is staffed by just eight volunteers and one ultrasound technician. But despite the small staff, Flora Lopez, director of the center, said that 102 women gave their lives to Jesus in the past year through the ministry of the center. Lopez said that her personal journey to the position of director has been filled with faithful reliance on God to utilize her desire to serve and share the Gospel.

A woman selects food for her family in the Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center’s food pantry (photo by Sandy Ward).

Lopez previously worked as a banker and had no experience in the pregnancy assistance field. She had doubts about whether she was fit for the role. “I didn’t feel that I had the skills or that I was prepared and that I would be able to do it because I was never involved with pregnancy centers before,” Lopez said. “But when you put your yes on the altar and you trust the Lord and when you ask Him ‘what is your plan for my life and whatever it is I’ll be there, I’ll say yes. And I’ll go because I know you’ll equip me. You equip the called, you’re going to be with me all along and you are going to help to go through this path.’” Lopez said the key to being utilized in ministry is just to be available and encourages anyone who wants to champion the value of human life to simply put their life in the Lord’s hands and to see what He will do with their desire to be used.

Lopez recounted the story of a new mother she recently served. The mother was 14 and came into the clinic with her grandmother. They were already planning on getting an abortion. The grandmother was encouraging her granddaughter to have an abortion because she also had one when she was younger. Both individuals were confused and hurting. Lopez said that the grandmother told her granddaughter that she could get an abortion and it would all work out in the end because God would forgive her. “That statement broke my heart,” Lopez said. But the pair agreed to an ultrasound appointment for the very next day. Lopez said the grandmother told her if the baby appeared developed in the ultrasound image, then her granddaughter would not have an abortion.

A woman selects food for her family in the Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center’s food pantry. Photo by Sandy Ward

The rest of the day, that night and the next morning, the staff of the center spent time in prayer asking God to work in the hearts of the two women, to change them and convince them to choose life for the child. When the time came for the ultrasound, both grandmother and granddaughter were moved to change their minds about the abortion. Lopez recounted what the grandmother told her after the appointment — “I cannot deny, I saw it in the ultrasound. That’s my great-grandbaby.”

Lopez said 97 percent of the women who come into the clinic and receive an ultrasound choose life for their baby. Lopez said 50 lives of unborn children are saved in a year, even through this small center, averaging out to one child — one life — a week. Lopez said their goal in the coming year is to hire another technician and have more ultrasound appointments and in the end, save more lives.

“When we encounter a woman who does not know the Lord and we’re able to share the Gospel, not only the person is being saved, but her soul is also being saved,” Lopez said. “That’s the main focus — sharing the Gospel and the good news of Jesus Christ. “God is doing great things through the ultrasound machine at different pregnancy assistance centers,” she added. “Thank you [donors] for making my dream, and God’s dream, a reality.”

Tess Schoonhoven is a staff writer for Baptist Press.