In the busy Staten Island Mall, between a GAP Kids and an Aerie, an unmanned kiosk has an unusual display. The Truth Booth is naked except for a small rack for brochures and a screen showing ultrasound images of an unborn baby, set to piano music.
The video---of both 3-D still shots and 4-D ultrasound videos---begins at 8 weeks. By 9 weeks the beginnings of an eye are clear through the baby's translucent skin. Week 13 shows a pair of perfect, porcelain feet, and Week 14 shows the veins through the baby's legs and hands. The baby rolls, kicks, waves its hands, and by Week 20 you can see eyebrows and an ear. In the very last frame, the baby smiles.
The Truth Booth information describes itself as a non-confrontational, "gentle and informative" way to educate people about prenatal life and development. Similar booths also can be found in four Ohio cities and in Woodbridge, N.J.
Deacon Jim Stahlnecker, coordinator of Respect Life activities on Staten Island for the Archdiocese of New York, said that LifeWorks of Ohio, the originators of the Truth Booth, set up the display in March with the help of a couple from New Jersey.
"They were praying someone from Staten Island would adopt it and that's where I got involved," said Stahlnecker. He found out about the Truth Booth from a Respect Life representative who attended the March for Life in Washington in January. He showed the DVD at the monthly clergy conference and then started a fund-raising campaign to pay the $2,500 monthly rent to keep the Staten Island display going.
Now Stahlnecker is speaking at Catholic masses on Staten Island to raise funds, working with Knights of Columbus and applying for grants. He now has enough money to keep the booth going through July. "We feel that it's so strong in the message that it sends," he said, "regarding the undeniable humanity of the unborn."
The brochure has contact information for a pregnancy resource center, Crossroad Foundation, where Stahlnecker is also a board member. "We've already received phone calls from girls seeking help and guidance with unplanned pregnancies," he said. "So we feel it's a very powerful tool as far as getting the word out that there are options for unplanned pregnancies.
"By the youth seeing it, I think that it would make them take more seriously the development of the fetus and life in general. When you see that baby smiling in the DVD, I think that it has an effect."