(EFFINGHAM, IL) – Quiet gasps and chuckles could be heard from students as they viewed a baby sucking his thumb. Similar reactions were repeated later when other students watched a baby hiccup, his tiny body twitching rhythmically. The students were in awe as they observed these babies via ultrasound as part of a program called “Window to the Womb”.
HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital and St. Anthony High School partner for this annual event, which provides the students with an opportunity to witness the beauty and value of pre-born life. All the students are either part of the Anatomy and Physiology class or the junior Religion class at St. Anthony High School, which has recently been studying morality, especially issues of respect for the dignity of human life.
The program was held at HSHS St. Anthony’s Health Center in Effingham, which opened in December 2018. Thanks to four mothers in various stages of pregnancy who volunteered to have ultrasounds that the students could observe, the students viewed an ultrasound and had the opportunity to inspect and hold fetal models of babies at different gestational ages to help illustrate the development in the womb. The ultrasound technologists pointed out various body structures, tissues and organs on the ultrasound screen and let the students see the baby’s beating heart.
Afterwards, some of the students expressed their amazement and gratitude for the experience.
Jack Hoene shared, “I really enjoyed going to Window to the Womb. It was a life changing experience, and I will hold it in my heart forever,” he said. “Seeing the baby move around and listening to the mother’s words of excitement were the best part. It strengthened my faith even more that life begins at conception.”
Karlee Roepke also was touched by the experience. “After I saw the baby’s heart beat and suck its thumb I felt a connection…I kept wondering to myself why someone would want to take the life of such an innocent blessing,” she shared.
“My experience…was unforgettable,” said Will Swingler. “It is absolutely mind-boggling to see a child react and move around with such grace. Overall the experience was one that I’ll never forget and I hope and pray to God that one day all will see that life begins at conception,” he said.
The students also heard a presentation from Tami Shull, Executive Director of Family Life Center, a not-for-profit ministry in Effingham. Shull shared how the Family Life Center provides services to women, men and families experiencing pregnancy, parenting and related issues. She also spoke to the students about their potential role as “first responders” to someone experiencing a crisis pregnancy, as many young people in a crisis situation will first share with a friend rather than a parent, or other trusted adult. Studies reveal that a major reason a woman goes through with her abortion plan is because no one told her she had other options or encouraged her not to.
“I am grateful to HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital for this amazing and memorable opportunity to view a child's life within a mother's womb,” said Father Mark Tracy, parochial vicar at St. Anthony’s Parish. “Our students greatly enjoyed seeing the beautiful miracle that a baby's life is. It was a very moving experience to see the baby's heartbeat and how active the baby was in the womb.”
Theresa Rutherford, HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital’s president and CEO, shared why St. Anthony’s has partnered with St. Anthony’s High School for this project. “At St. Anthony’s, we believe each and every human life is a precious gift, from conception to natural death. We are fortunate to have the advanced technology that shows in great detail a baby’s development in the womb. By showing these students a precious little baby growing in the womb, it is obvious that this precious baby is alive and to be protected. We are doing our part to continue to foster respect for all life,” she said.
Photo: (Seated, center) HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital Ultrasound Technologist Holly Jansen, RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer), shows students from St. Anthony High School the development of Meghan Deters’s 20-week baby through an ultrasound. Observing the ultrasound are (standing, left to right) high school students Angelea Garza, Michael Kaldas, Katherine Slaughter, Catherine Willenborg, and Claire Lustig, along with Bobbi Kinkelaar, St. Anthony’s chief nursing officer, as Father Mark Tracy, parochial vicar at St. Anthony’s Parish and Matthew Green, theology teacher and campus minister at St. Anthony High School, look on.