“THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS, through countless acts of charity, affirms the dignity of every person, from conception to natural death,” Supreme Knight Anderson declared in his 2019 annual report. “And nowhere is our commitment more obvious — and today more important — than in our stand for the sanctity of unborn life.”
During his first months as supreme knight, Anderson addressed the 2001 March for Life in Washington, reaffirming the Order’s solidarity with the pro-life cause: “With one voice we say: Defend life. Let the children live. Roe v. Wade must be overturned.”
The inaugural Knights of Columbus Day of the Unborn Child was observed the next year on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation. While the Order has continued its work to mobilize participation in the annual March for Life and support the U.S. bishops pro-life efforts and ministries like Project Rachel, Supreme Knight Anderson has also introduced important new initiatives.
In 2004, the Knights of Columbus established Villa Maria Guadalupe, a pro-life retreat center in Stamford, Conn., operated by the Sisters of Life. And since 2008, the Supreme Council has conducted annual surveys on abortion in partnership with the Marist Poll. The polling, which has helped to shape the national discussion, has consistently found there is a broad, bipartisan consensus of Americans in favor of substantial restrictions on abortion.
But the Order’s most impactful pro-life effort began Jan. 22, 2009, when Supreme Knight Anderson announced the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative (see sidebar). Within five years, councils had donated more than 500 ultrasound machines to pro-life pregnancy centers throughout the United States, helping abortion vulnerable women to choose life.
“Not only has this program saved the lives of countless children, it has also saved countless mothers from a lifetime of sorrow,” Supreme Knight Anderson explained in 2015. “We can stop abortions by helping both the mother and her child. And should someone ask why the Knights of Columbus does this, tell them the answer is simple: because we love them both.”
THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS Ultrasound Initiative began in January 2009. Within 10 years, councils had donated 1,000 machines to pro-life pregnancy centers through matching grants from the Order’s Culture of Life Fund. The milestone machine was presented to Mother of Mercy Free Medical Clinic in Manassas, Va., in January 2019 — an event that Supreme Knight Anderson called “one of my proudest moments as supreme knight.”
Ultrasound technology has proven to be one of the most effective tools to empower women with crisis pregnancies to choose life. For example, when Melissa was referred for an abortion by her doctors, a 3D ultrasound scan she received at Heartbeat of Miami helped her choose life for her daughter, Destiny. The machine was donated by Juan Pablo II Council 14215 in Miami through the Ultrasound Initiative in 2015.
To date, the Order has donated more than 1,300 life-saving ultrasound machines, and on several occasions, the supreme knight has called the initiative “the greatest humanitarian achievement in the history of the Knights of Columbus.”
SINCE 2000, the Knights of Columbus has donated hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as millions of volunteer hours, to organizations that serve those with disabilities. As Supreme Knight Anderson noted in his 2005 annual report, “Our commitment to Special Olympics and to hundreds of grassroots programs for people with intellectual and physical disabilities is an expression of our belief in the intrinsic worth of every human being.”
The Order’s relationship with Special Olympics is particularly strong, dating to the very first games in 1968. In recent years, the Supreme Council contributed to the Summer World Games in Dublin (2003) and Los Angeles (2015) by sponsoring travel, food and medical costs for athletes from Canada, Mexico and the United States. The Order also hosted the Unified Special Olympics Soccer tournament at its Pius XI playground in Rome in 2016 and 2017.
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