PASADENA — Lydia Berding does ultrasounds at the Women’s Pregnancy Center. Most of the women who receive the ultrasounds are considering an abortion.
“The heartbeat is the most impactful part of it,” said Berding, the nurse manager. “That really changes things.”
Many of the women who come in for the free pregnancy test do not want to see the ultrasound, but the center offers to give them pictures they can take home.
“The stoic ones, those are the ones I worry about,” Berding said of the pregnant women. A woman came in to the center one morning and had already made an appointment to have an abortion that afternoon.
She didn’t want to see the ultrasound, but took a sealed envelope with photographs home with her. That woman called the center later because she had decided to keep the baby and she needed help.
The center and others like it will continue to face challenges promoting a culture of life. The abolition of abortion appears to be a vanishing dream after recent legislative rulings sustained a woman’s right to end her pregnancy.
On June 21, the Obama administration rejected challenges to a California requirement that all employers, including churches and religious institutions, must fund and facilitate elective abortions.
Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, both Catholic universities, fought for health care plans that did not include elective abortion coverage after California’s Department of Managed Health Care had ruled in 2014 that all plans must cover the procedure.
In their denial for an amendment, the government agency cited a 1975 state health care law and the California constitution, which prohibits health plans “from discriminating against women who choose to terminate a pregnancy.”
Some have maintained that the ruling violated the Weldon Amendment, which “protects physicians and nurses, hospitals, health insurance companies and other health care entities from being forced by state or federal government to perform, pay for, provide coverage of or refer for abortions,” according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Jocelyn Samuels, director of the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said it “found no violation” of the amendment. The civil rights office ruled that the complaining entities do no apply in this situation since they are not “healthcare entities.”
In response, the U.S. bishops said the ruling was “contrary to the plain meaning of the law.” Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said, “Forcing organizations and individuals to violate their religious convictions is a threat to fundamental human liberties.”
Elsewhere, New York is mandating that health insurers require small group employers — including faith-based nonprofits and Christian businesses — to cover all abortions without exception, according to the U.S. bishops. A trial court in Washington state ruled that public hospitals must do abortions if they also offer maternity services, a requirement that would apply even if a Catholic healthcare provider later obtained the public hospital.
Most legal experts agree that the biggest development in abortion-related legislation is the Supreme Courts’ decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. On June 27, the court struck down a law — enacted in 2013 — that had put into place certain standards of medical practices at abortion clinics in Texas.
“The court has rejected a common-sense law protecting women from abortion facilities that put profits above patient safety,” according Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications for the U.S. bishops.
“The law simply required abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers — standards like adequate staffing, soap dispensers and basic sanitary conditions,” she explained. “It required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that hallways be wide enough to allow emergency personnel through with stretchers, should a life-threatening emergency arise.”
These basic safety guidelines were thrown out on the grounds that they hindered a woman’s “right to an abortion” in the 5-3 Hellersedt decision.
The Texas law had effectively closed half of the abortion clinics in the state since they could not meet the medical standards, including proper staffing and medical experts on hand to deal with emergencies.
The law HB 2 had originally passed after the 2013 conviction of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder for babies that were delivered and then killed in a Philadelphia clinic. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for a botched abortion. The scandal prompted a deeper investigation into the abortion industry.
Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee and founder of the pro-life “And Then There Were None” outreach, is based in Texas. She said abortion clinics continue to fail health inspections. The climate and care is far different than in pregnancy resource centers like the ones in Pasadena and Whittier.
“The main difference is that pregnancy resource centers are not doing this to make money,” she said in an interview with Angelus News. “Planned Parenthood, they’re making money for their services. Women are the profit center of the abortion industry.”
In order for the pro-life movement to be effective, they need to develop relationships with women before the unintended pregnancy, Johnson said. One in three women have an abortion at some point in their life.
“We need to provide women’s health care,” she said. “Women not having unintended pregnancies — that’s how we end abortion.”
The Women’s Pregnancy Center in Whittier has started to do that. They provide testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea as well as parenting support groups and an after abortion program.
“The pregnancy reveals the problem,” according to Jeanette Kuiphof, president of the center. “There’s not enough adequate childcare and affordable health care. If you eliminate the baby, the problem still exists.”
About 85 percent of the women who show up at the Pasadena clinic are pregnant. Nearly 95 percent are “abortion vulnerable.” A woman is vulnerable for many reasons that include financial turmoil or because the father of the baby is pressuring her to have an abortion.
“When the woman is in crisis, all she sees is survival,” Kuiphof explained. “She sees it as a choice between herself and the child.”
Many of the women they see are in high school or college and believe the pregnancy will destroy their future. Many are not in relationships.
“Sometimes women have ultrasounds to find out who the father is. Depending on how far along she is, she can determine the sexual partner who fathered the baby,” Kuiphof said. “That’s not a choice. She’s making a decision because she has to — she’s being forced. She needs to know the options that are available to her.”
The centers inform their clients of their legal options, including a description of what an abortion would entail. Staff members estimate that the majority of clients they see in Whittier and Pasadena are minorities, mostly Latino and Black.
The Pasadena center can offer free ultrasounds thanks to the Knights of Columbus Council #1174, operating out of St. Philip the Apostle Church. The La Mirada Knights of Columbus donated the ultrasound to the Whittier clinic back in 2012.
Even when the pregnant woman does not see the ultrasound image, the father or parent or a friend accompanying her will take a peak and be amazed.
“Wow, I can see a hand!” they’ll say.
Kuiphof is clear about what she’s doing — she wants to prevent abortions. It’s hard when a woman chooses an abortion even after coming into the clinic. She said about 20 percent of those who come in determined to have an abortion change their mind.
“Our Lord gives us freedom to choose. We respect her enough that if we give her good information, we believe she’ll make a good, healthy decision for herself and her baby,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s our mistakes that bring us back to God. There might be a purpose for this somehow,” Kuiphof said. “I know that baby is in heaven with God. Maybe he uses this tragedy to bring her back.”
A couple at the Pasadena clinic July 6 needed a Mandarin Chinese translator. The translator accompanied the couple for an ultrasound. Typically, a couple will spend an hour and a half to two hours at the clinic.
At first the young woman’s boyfriend waited outside, but eventually he came in. As they left, the couple smiled and laughed with the translator and Lydia Berding, the nurse manager at the Pasadena center. They climbed into their red Mustang in what appeared to be a different state of mind. ÓÉä
Clara Fox contributed to this article.