By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World
TOPEKA, KAN. — One of the Kansas Legislature's top abortion opponents used her committee on Wednesday to conduct live ultrasounds of pregnant women.
"This committee is always interested in the life and health of the unborn child and the mother," said state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, and chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
"I thought it would be a great idea to see the science of what is actually happening in the womb," Pilcher-Cook said.
The public display coincided with the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Hundreds of anti-abortion advocates rallied at the Statehouse, led by Gov. Sam Brownback, to show their opposition to abortion.
During the committee meeting, two women, Amanda Kennedy and Bethany Knight, both of Topeka, submitted to the ultrasound procedure, and their fetuses were show on a widescreen monitor.
Kennedy's pregnancy was 12 weeks along and Hamilton's 24 weeks.
State Sen. Jacob LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, said he appreciated Pilcher-Cook setting up the demonstration and meeting with representatives of crisis pregnancy centers.
"It allows people to see the miracle of life. It allows women in these sometimes terrible positions to really make an informed decision on the best way to move forward," LaTurner said.
Elise Higgins, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Western Missouri, called the ultrasound demonstrations a "public spectacle."
"This is really crossing the line," Higgins said. "Ultrasounds should never be a public spectacle whether that's in a hearing or through legislation."
In Kansas, a woman who wants an abortion undergoes an ultrasound and is given the option of whether to look at it and have it explained to her.
During the demonstration Wednesday, sonographer Cindy Paderson with the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic, explained what was being shown on a screen.
She said when a woman comes to the clinic, "we want them to have an ultrasound to see that the baby is a living thing."
Describing the 12-week old fetus, Paderson said, "We are seeing baby's head, body, heart beating. There is its little hand waving at us."
After the demonstration, Pilcher-Cook said, "We are all awestruck."