Pregnancy ultrasounds are often intimate moments, performed in the privacy of a doctor’s office. But pregnant volunteers, and one Nebraska group, have begun performing ultrasounds in schools: aiming to give students a live, real-time look at the miracle of life.
The organizer of the group, Heart of a Child Ministries, told CNA that ultrasounds can impact students, and their families.
"It’s an experience of the Lord speaking to a child, and then that child feeling compelled to come home and talk to his parents about it," Nikki Schaefer, Director of Heart of a Child Ministries, told CNA.
Since 2016, volunteers with Heart of a Child have presented live ultrasound images, performed on a volunteer who is between 10 and 30 weeks pregnant, in both private and public schools in the Omaha area.
In addition to the live ultrasound, the presentation includes information about adoption, generally offered by a person with a personal experience of adoption.
Schaefer said the work started when a teacher asked her to come to her classroom to talk about pro-life ministries.
Soon after she began those presentations, Nebraskans United for Life approached her and offered the use a mobile ultrasound unit.
Now, two ultrasound technicians volunteer their time to operate the unit for the presentations. Schaefer said she also hears from many pregnant women willing to volunteer to show their babies on ultrasound.
Parents are sometimes reticent about allowing students to attend presentations, Schaefer said, with the two most common concerns being whether the presentation will feature graphic images of aborted fetuses, and whether human sexuality will be discussed with younger children.
Schaefer, who holds a Master's in Social Work and Art Therapy, said the group’s presentation does not include either, and instead focuses on the humanity of the unborn child, as well as the importance of adoption.
The key question after the ultrasound presentation, Schaefer said, is: "What did you see that tells you that that is a human being?"
Though individual parents often express concerns and may refuse to allow their children to attend, Schaefer said, a parish in Omaha recently rescheduled the entire presentation, reportedly after complaints from parents.
Father Ralph O’Donnell, pastor at St, Margaret Mary, told CNA that parents brought forward questions because they did not know what the presentation was going to be about. He said Schaefer’s group will hold a presentation for parents later this month, to give them a sense of what her ministry brings to schools.
“Our rescheduling of the Heart of a Child Ministry [presentation] was not a rejection of the program at all, actually in doing so it provided us the opportunity to work with Nikki to allow for what we feel is an important addition; adding a step, giving us the opportunity for the parents to experience the presentation first,” he said.
The school will hold the presentation for the parents the evening of March 25, O’Donnell said.
Schaefer said the group tailors presentations to the age of students in attendance, whether they are in elementary, middle, and high school. Each presentation, regardless of the audience, begins with facts about fetal development.
Presentations have had unexpected results, Schaefer said.
On one occasion, a birth mother presented to a school group and told the story of choosing to place her child for adoption rather than choose abortion, even after she was encouraged to abort. A girl approached the speaker afterward, Schaefer said, saying “thank you so much for sharing, I was adopted and now I know how much my birth mom loved me.”
Schaefer said she is not aware of any other groups doing what Heart of a Child is doing, but she hopes to provide training to any group around the country seeking to start a similar project.