Our story is really a glorious mosaic of thousands of small personal stories of everyday people who, in response to the spread of legalized abortion, stepped in to help women escape the temptation and pressure to abort their precious babies. They discovered the life-saving power they had as neighbors helping neighbors. Then the word spread.
Some people started hotlines. Others opened their homes to young girls. Still more adopted. The modern pregnancy help movement was born. Hotlines grew into pregnancy help centers and medical clinics. People opening their homes to abandoned or desperate young mothers developed into maternity homes. Adopting families linked up to promote adoption services.
A clearinghouse was needed to track and share contact information. On November 13, 1971, Dr. John Hillabrand, a Toledo, Ohio, obstetrician, and Lore Maier, a refugee from Nazi Germany, formed Alternatives to Abortion to network emerging hotlines and pregnancy help services. Knowing that legalized abortion would spread rapidly around the world, they soon became Alternatives to Abortion International (AAI).
By 1993, about 75 original contacts had grown to about 200 affiliates and AAI changed its name to Heartbeat International. More and more Catholic and Evangelical Christians felt called to help and start calling for help. We became the “go-to” place for start-up manuals, model programs, leadership training conferences, and a place to go for advice and prayer. Heartbeat International currently serves 1,800 affiliated pregnancy help locations, maternity homes, and non-profit adoption agencies on all 6 inhabited continents.
Over 40 years later, the Heartbeat International story continues to take exciting and challenging turns as we develop leaders to supply a growing pregnancy help movement. Our underserved urban neighborhoods, so often targeted by Big Abortion, have compelled our pregnancy help network to reach our nation's inner cities, especially in the past decade. Then there are the breathtaking opportunities that keep presenting themselves from around the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe. God’s people worldwide are answering the call to H.E.L.P. (Hold Each Life Precious). Our story continues then as simply one of helping God’s people discover the life-saving, death-defying, soul-satisfying, and God-glorifying power of neighborly love.
Read more about our story in "Foot Soldiers Armed with Love," a history of the pregnancy help community by Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D.