Local News Spotlight

Sonogram during anti-abortion rally at Kansas Statehouse draws mixed reactions

Updated: 2014-01-23T04:00:51Z

By Bryan Lowry

Eagle Topeka bureau

— The expectant mother laid down and the sonographer applied the jelly to her stomach. The sonographer readied the machine and offered encouraging words.

Then Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, exclaimed, “That jelly is cold.”

The sonogram took place in the Kansas Statehouse during a meeting of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday, the same day that Kansans For Life rallied against abortion outside the Capitol.

Pilcher-Cook, the committee’s chair, said she hoped the demonstration would educate the committee members about “the science” of what happens in the womb.

“Isn’t technology fantastic?” she said after the hearing.

“Because the health committee is very concerned about the health of unborn children and mothers, I thought it would be a great way to give committee members a science education on life within the womb,” Pilcher-Cook said.

But Elise Higgins, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, called the sonogram a political stunt.

“A committee room is not an appropriate place for medical procedure to happen, and it’s also not a place for medical procedures to be legislated,” Higgins said.

The procedure was performed on two women by Cindy Patterson, a sonographer with Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, a crisis pregnancy center that offers free sonograms and counseling to women, specifically those weighing whether to have an abortion.

Amanda Kennedy, a 20-year-old student at Washburn University who had the ultrasound performed in front of the legislators, said she never considered abortion an option.

“It is a little bit of a political statement,” said Kennedy, an anti-abortion activist who is married and 12 weeks pregnant.

“But it was important because it’s something that I believe in … this was a cool opportunity to represent life and represent something that was much bigger than me.”

Kennedy called herself an “incubator” for her child.

Donna Kelsey, the executive director of Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, said it is not her organization’s goal to persuade women to carry pregnancies to term.

“We don’t want to persuade, because it’s their decision. So we educate them,” Kelsey said. “It’s like buying a house or a car, you research, get information. Why not get information on that life that you’re carrying?”

Higgins questioned whether Wyandotte and similar crisis pregnancy centers are reliable sources of information for pregnant women, pointing out that the center is not licensed to give treatment beyond the ultrasound.

“I think that’s really telling. I think women deserve accurate, unbiased information,” Higgins said.

Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City who supports abortion rights, was caught off-guard by the medical procedure when he walked into the meeting. He found the demonstration interesting but was unsure of its legislative purpose.

“I can say now I actually saw a live sonogram in a committee hearing. What probative value it has for the deliberative process I’m uncertain of,” he said.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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