By: Dominique Johnson
In 2009 the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus set forth the initiative to donate one thousand ultrasound machines by 2019 to encourage mothers to choose life and to support local pregnancy centers.
In Juneau, the Bishop Kenny Council 11757 has teamed up with the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center to help support pregnant women in the community by providing the resources they need to choose life.
Dave Ringle, Grand Knight of the Bishop Kenny Council, said that the Knights in Juneau have always supported pro-life causes and working on the ultrasound initiative is a chance for the local Knights to support expectant mothers and provide them with resources.
The Juneau Birth center already provides many resources for women in southeast Alaska including parenting classes, free clothing for mothers and babies and donated healthcare. Christine Johnson, Office Manager for the Birth center says, “The addition of the ultrasound machine will help us on our mission to empower and inspire families through access to midwifery care, education, and a network of support.”
The local initiative came about when Christine Johnson, also a parishioner at St. Paul’s in Juneau, approached Dave Ringle last spring at the Knight’s monthly pancake breakfast to find out more about the national ultrasound initiative. After the first conversation, both sides researched the program and began filling out initial paperwork.
Working at the Birth Center and being a mother, Johnson said she has seen how difficult it can be to get an ultrasound in Juneau, “It often involves at least one general appointment prior to the ultrasound if not more,” she added, “The cost of the ultrasound alone could deter a family from receiving care.”
Madi Grimes, Executive Director and Midwife at the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center, expressed how time sensitive and expensive ultrasounds can be, “Families qualifying for social services, such as Medicaid, will not always receive verification of coverage early enough to get their ultrasound and miss out on this due to concerns regarding payment.”
Grimes continued saying, “Financial stress is a key factor in many women’s decisions regarding their care in pregnancy. Reducing this stress helps new mothers to bond with their unborn baby more fully and leads to healthier moms and babies.”
Ringle said when he brought the proposal to the local council he let them know, “We have two young women who are spearheading this, and it’s good to see the young blood interested in helping promote the faith.” With the support of the local council, the Birth Center and the Knights moved forward on the Ultrasound initiative.
To qualify for the initiative the Juneau Birth Center went through a diocesan evaluation to ensure that their practices and policies were in line with Catholic teaching. On November 19th, 2018 the local council received confirmation from the Supreme Council that the Birth Center qualified for the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative.
Now, both organizations have the task of raising funds to purchase the ultrasound machine. The Supreme Council will match the local council’s contribution for the $35,000 machine. The Knights along with the Birth Center staff will be hosting fundraisers to help reach their $17,500 goal.
“We have a commitment for $12,000 from the Knights,” Ringle shared. He added that some came from anonymous donors who found out about the opportunity to support a pregnancy center in Juneau at last year’s state convention and “made generous offers.”
The hope is to raise the remaining funds locally with help from the council at the Cathedral and, “To let members of our church know this is where the Knights are putting our faith into action.”
Once the funds are raised and the ultrasound machine is purchased the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center will house the machine and provide the staff to operate equipment. Both the Knights and the Birth Center hope to offer ultrasounds to expectant mothers later this year.
If you would like to help support the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound initiative you can make a tax-deductible donation to the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center online at www.juneaubirthcenter.org.