Bishop Mario Dorsonville blesses the new sonogram machine at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center. The ultrasound machine was acquired and funded by the local D.C. and Supreme Councils of the Knights of Columbus at no cost to the center. (Photo by Gaillard Teague)
Bishop Mario Dorsonville blesses the new sonogram machine at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center. The ultrasound machine was acquired and funded by the local D.C. and Supreme Councils of the Knights of Columbus at no cost to the center. (Photo by Gaillard Teague)

The Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center welcomed Bishop Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, members of the Knights of Columbus of the District of Columbia, center staff, and other guests for the dedication and blessing of the center’s new ultrasound machine on June 27.

“I have never met so many men excited about babies in my entire life!” said Janet Durig, executive director of Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center.

The machine - provided through the Knights’ Ultrasound Initiative - will aid the work of the center to provide for the health of mothers and their unborn children.

Jack Heretik, grand knight of the local Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle Council, shared how the project began about a year ago, when he reached out to the pregnancy center “which is basically in our council’s backyard” to see if they would be interested in acquiring an ultrasound machine.  

“Once you tell people what this is, what it’s for, they will open their hearts and their wallets,” Heretik said. “There are so many people around here that want to help out with such a project. They have the same beliefs as us, they want to save these children.”

The Knights of Columbus of the District of Columbia is composed of more than twenty councils made up of native Washingtonians and men from all over the country. The Ultrasound Initiative is a program in which local councils partner with the Supreme Council in New Haven, Connecticut to fund and acquire ultrasound machines for pro-life pregnancy centers nationwide. Started in 2009, the initiative has placed 953 machines at a cost of about $44 million in centers and mobile units in all 50 states and Canada. One center’s ultrasound machine on average has helped to save the lives of two unborn children each week.

“Most people think, especially early on in a pregnancy, that the fetus is just a clump of random cells,” Heretik said. “We now know, thanks to technology, it’s an actual child. You can actually see a head, eyes developing, hands, everything.”

Patrick Abbott, past grand knight of the O’Boyle Council, opened the event by stating how the day was a sort of milestone moment for the Ultrasound Initiative.

“Because of you, the Knights of Columbus were able to get the first ultrasound machine for a pro-life pregnancy center in DC,” Abbott said to the guests. “Sadly, this was the last district in the United States to do it, but we did it.”

“There are only two pregnancy centers that are pro-life in DC, so we only need one more, and we are at 100 percent coverage,” Abbott said.  

The local DC council needed to raise half of the funds for the $29,000 sonogram machine and the Supreme Council would contribute the other half. Through the support of parishes and through pledges and “baby bottle” drives, they were able to reach their $14,500 goal in just 90 days. They continued to raise more than $30,000 which will further help cover the machine, supplies, personnel, and other general costs.

“It’s just good money all around for Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s wife Kate who was in attendance said sonograms provide hope for women and their babies.

“I think it is so important, as a woman, for all women to have that hope,” she said. “Women who come here to the pregnancy center will receive that hope, that love, and that guidance.”

Kate said pro-life pregnancy centers like Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center are uniquely suited to provide for the needs and health of women and children not just for one appointment, but for a lifetime, through providing advice, medical care, and sonograms, as well as baby clothing, car seats, and diapers.

“A pro-life clinic really thinks about the whole woman,” she said. “They want to encourage them, to accompany, to help them to reach their full potential and the potential of that child.”

Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center’s mission is to serve Jesus Christ by providing education, emotional support, no-cost pregnancy testing, and resources to men and women facing crisis pregnancies. Durig said the center offers to educate women on all their options - pregnancy, adoption, and abortion - but if a woman chooses to have a sonogram, she will be able to see the fetus and hear the heartbeat.

“We’ve had girls say to us that they’ve been told the baby is only a ball of string, so abortion would not hurt the baby in any way,” Durig said. “It is important for them to see this, if they choose to do so.”

Hudson Hollister, chairman of the board for the pregnancy center, said the placement of the machine in the center is the answer to years of prayer.

“The opening of a sonogram to serve the mothers and fathers who come here and to serve this population that is in so much need has been a dream of the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center for at least 15 years, and many of us have been praying for it day in and day out for all of that time,” Hollister said. “So today means a great deal to us.”

Bishop Dorsonville gave the blessing on the behalf of Cardinal Donald Wuerl and thanked the Knights and the pregnancy center for their partnership.

“I really think this is a step forward for the culture of life,” Bishop Dorsonville said.

“In your kindness, bless...this ultrasound machine with which they will care for the weakest and most vulnerable of our human family,” the bishop prayed as he blessed the machine and sprinkled it with holy water. “Grant that their efforts may contribute to protecting your creation and provide for the needs of the unborn and their families.”  

Afterwards, Bishop Dorsonville said ultrasounds are a way for unborn children to send a message to their mothers.

“Sometimes an image can speak much greater than a thousand words,” the bishop said. “I really think that technology can get in the profound hearts of the mothers.”

Bishop Dorsonville emphasized the need to support and accompany life in all its stages, from the unborn to children, teenagers, mothers, fathers, and seniors.

Durig said the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center will also provide ultrasounds for clients from the Northwest Center, the other pro-life pregnancy center in Washington.

“I know the Lord is blessing that machine, and even the exam table, to bring women who are abortion minded and abortion vulnerable to this center so they can see the sonogram,” Durig said.

Though this was the last jurisdiction in the country the Knights needed to provide with an ultrasound machine, Heretik said their work is not finished.

“If there is a clinic that wants one, we would be glad to [help provide one],” he said. “We’re already ready.”