Ultrasound Bus a Game Changer in the Fight for Life
HOUSTON Six days a week, a big blue bus parks right across the street from Houston's Planned Parenthood clinic. At 78,000 square feet, it's one of the largest abortion facilities in the United States.
The bus, operated by Houston's Coalition for Life, offers women contemplating an abortion a second chance. It provides free ultrasounds and pregnancy tests to any woman in need.
Life and death decisions are literally made on the bus. More than 7,000 women have stepped aboard since it opened four years ago and nine out of 10 have decided to keep their unborn children.
The Sidewalk Counselor
Outside the bus, a small group of prayer warriors and sidewalk counselors regularly gather on the clinic's perimeter. For them, the bus functions as the perfect resource. It's a sanctuary easily accessible to women coming and going right before their abortion.
Teresa Camara coordinates programs for the Coalition for Life.
"Because there's a 24-hour waiting period, they [the women] will go into the facility for their ultrasound," she told CBN News. "Then they come out afterwards. Then they go back in for an abortion so the hope is that they will pass a prayer warrior who will hand them one of these cards at any given time."
The cards are "coupons" for the free ultrasounds and pregnancy tests. Volunteers say many women love them. Veteran sidewalk counselor Nancy Shaw says the bus and the coupons make her efforts much easier.
"It is so important. It's so easy to say, 'Honey, we have help right here, right behind you in the bus. Right here, right now," she explained.
Richelle Scott connected with one of the sidewalk counselors and ended up on the bus. Pregnant with her second child, she had decided to abort, thinking she couldn't afford another child.
Today, her son Alan lives and is thrivingthanks to the bus.
"As soon as I saw him on the ultrasound and they let me hear the heart I started crying. That was it," Scott said.
What happens on the bus is simple yet stunning. Women who just moments early had tentatively or definitely decided to abort their child will decide they want to keep them.
Ultrasound: The Game Changer
Nurse manager Cheryl Park said the process is amazing.
"Initially they're very kind of nervous, confused," she said. "You can tell on their face. They don't want to see it because they know it might change their mind."
Christine Melchor, executive director of the Houston Coalition for Life, told CBN News, "They usually start crying as we begin and cover their eyes. As we continue with the ultrasound they start peeking out with their fingers."
"We call it a baby and we call them mom and 'Oh, lookhe's sucking his fingers and he has the hiccups' and the next thing we know they're smiling and crying at the same time," she said.
Nationwide, more than 1,000 crisis pregnancy centers, including a few mobile units like the one in Houston, also offer free ultrasounds.
Care Net, an affiliation of pregnancy centers, reports that 579,322 free ultrasound scans have been provided in the last six years and estimates that more than 388,000 lives have been saved.
Planned Parenthood on the Rise
At the same time, Americans United for Life, a pro-life non-profit, reports that Planned Parenthood is opening more mega-centers with 10,000 square feet or more that focus heavily on providing abortions. In the last 10 years, it has performed 70,000 more abortions per year than in the past.
For Park, the ramifications of her work is sobering, especially when women don't choose to keep their baby.
"It weighs heavy on us when we see a mom come, we show her the baby, show her the heartbeat and she still goes over [to Planned Parenthood]," she explained.
For Scott, little Alan is a sweet daily reminder of her decision. She says he's given her more determination to live her life well and inspired her to work hard and be a great mom.