By Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat Vice-President, Ministry Services
From Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6
The water cooler is long gone. Paper plates, plastic-ware, coffee and creamer are strictly by contribution only. Even the birthday cakes for Heartbeat staff have been reduced to a simple card and a group sing. (Seriously, picture a dozen people standing near your desk belting out the familiar tune!) Expenses for office supplies have been cut dramatically. Many such ideas came from staff brain-storming sessions during some very lean months.
Cost-cutting measures for Heartbeat turned really serious beginning with the summer of 2008. The pregnancy help movement felt the economic downturn earlier than most non-profits. As you well know, cost cutting is hard to do when you’re a non-profit and already operating on somewhat of a shoestring. We took even more stringent measures. We trimmed budgeted expenses, reduced benefits, and the whole staff even took two sacrificial, week-long furloughs.
While cutting expenses dramatically, we also put the word out that we needed help. The first and (fortunately) only emergency plea for funds went out to donors and affiliates alike. In addition, special, one-on-one asks to major donors helped us close the gap between income and outflow. As we began to understand the extent of the crisis we took an additional step...
Two years of fasting and praying. . . Boy are we hungry!
Yep, you read that right. Fasting for two years! Well okay, it wasn’t every single day for two years. Actually, it wasn’t even every week. But one day each month since July of 2008, the Heartbeat staff has set aside a day of fasting with specific times throughout that day to gather in prayer for the needs of Heartbeat. Okay, that’s not nearly as impressive sounding as fasting for two years, but still that’s how long we’ve been practicing the discipline as a staff. (Fasting is optional, but almost everyone fasts on our special day. Even board members, intercessors and other close friends join us.)
Prayer is hardly foreign to us at Heartbeat. We gather each and every day around 9:15 a.m. to pray for our affiliates, staff needs, upcoming events, faithful and generous donors, our partners and the mission and pregnancy help movement. So, if you’re calling our office between 9:15 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., you might not reach us directly because we’ve gathered to pray. It’s not mandatory but everyone’s usually there if they can be.
Setting a specific time to fast and pray clearly has been vital in getting us through some tough times. Focusing on God in the midst of our crisis and working diligently to do what we could saw us through a very difficult time. In the waning hours of 2008, we watched the Lord work a miracle where the year-end giving closed the year’s expense gap! In gratitude, we rejoiced! We partied! And then we went to work implementing our newer, leaner budget for 2009.
I’m glad to report that in 2009 we finished in the black. In 2010, things are challenging but not at crisis level. God is faithful. And we’ve continued to fast and pray one day each month. And yes, we’re hungry. Hungry for God as He leads and provides for the mission and vision that He’s firmly planted in our hearts.
Prayer helped us in many ways cope with the crisis we experienced. Prayer served to calm our fears and to put our trust in the best source – God. Prayer helped us unite as a staff even as we faced significant threats to our work and vocation. Prayer helped us not to get “mean” even as we were getting lean.
So take heart in your situation. Set aside time to pray. Consider a time of fasting. Always remember to look upward as well as inward in any time of crisis.
Back to Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,
Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ (Ephesians 4:4-13 The Message).
It is awe inspiring to think about how this scripture points out how much we have in common and how we are so much better together. We are not to be a threat to each other. But what a threat we can be to the Father of Lies when we are united in heart and purpose!
Each of us has but one Master who has given us many gifts and callings. What a blessing and an honor to grant each other the freedom to be who God made us to be, to develop our talents in ministry, and to recognize the calling on each other’s lives.
Today you have a choice. You can look around and feel threatened or insecure about your position or future in ministry or you can bless and acknowledge those around you who have the same heart, who serve the same God, who are part of the same body, who desire, like you, to be fully alive in Christ. We are better together because this is God’s idea and He desires unity for us and with us.
by Peggy Hartshorn, Heartbeat International, President(from Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2)
I’m excited to share with you our encouraging news “fresh from Washington, D.C.”! I spent almost a week in our nation’s capital for meetings with national pro-life leaders, for the annual March for Life, and for our Babies Go To Congress™ (BGTC) event. What a magnificent week! Click here for a quick picture album of our March for Life team.
First, our BGTC was full of glory. We took several Heartbeat affiliates and their clients with babies – five Heartbeat teams totaling 27 people – to meet with to key Congressional representatives in 23 offices. We delivered the message that “pregnancy centers are good for America.” And our mothers were able to tell their stories as well and present to their elected officials a copy of the powerful report A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life (researched by Family Research Council with the help of Heartbeat and other organizations in our movement). Walking the halls of Congress with our affiliates, mothers, and babies, was an honor and blessing for me personally.
Ripples, turning into currents, as a result of this trip will be many! Here are excerpts from a thank you letter to Heartbeat from just one of our mothers who came with her husband and baby:
“I wanted to thank you and Heartbeat International for the love and commitment to healthy babies and families you showed to me and every lady in attendance (and the thousands of others that benefit from all that Heartbeat does). I personally praise God for you!
Anthony and I experienced so much while in Washington, DC, I am still processing/taking all of it in… I am a counseling student and I will be obtaining my School Counselor Certification. After my professors heard of my pending trip and involvement in BGTC, they advised me to submit a proposal to present at this year's Illinois School Counselor Association Annual Conference… School Counselors in Chicago need to be able to "Connect the Dots" and know about community resources that their students may need.
I must share that before coming to Washington, DC I was not 100% committed to the pro-life movement. Although I do not believe in abortion and would never advise or financially back someone in their decision to get an abortion, I just was not comfortable in completely taking that right away from women either. However, I was challenged to really think about not only what I believe but WHO I believe in.”
I would estimate that about 350,000-400,000 people came to Washington for the March this year, probably the largest in recent history. Perhaps 50 percent of the Marchers were young people. A Washington Post columnist went to the March thinking he would see a “quaint” gathering with a hopeless cause. He admitted his surprise when he found otherwise! An excellent column by Cal Thomas (January 27), highlights the youth pro-life movement, and mentions TWICE the role of our pregnancy centers: “Thousands of pregnancy centers are winning a new generation to their views.”
I hope that each of you will experience in 2010 the personal “refreshment” I experienced during this intensely pro-pregnancy center week, feeling the Hand of God at work in the halls of Congress and at the March for Life. Clearly, our united labor, gifts, prayers, and strategic initiatives are winning our fellow Americans over to the truth and goodness of our Cause.
Learn more about BGTC at HeartbeatInternational.org.
Return to Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2.
When Mike and Dinah Monahan left for a Mission trip to Ethiopia, little did they know that God was starting them on an unimaginable journey.
Mike, who runs the family pro-life business, Heritage House 76, and Dinah, who had recently retired from her role of founding and leading Living Hope Women’s Centers and Hope House Maternity Home in Arizona, were headed to Ethiopia to visit orphanages and street children’s homes run by YWAM (Youth With a Mission.) They even questioned why they were going. But God knew.
After a difficult 15 hour journey through the interior of Ethiopia, their hearts were moved by the precious orphans they met, but they were shaken by the stories they heard of unwed mothers, many of whom were working as domestic servants and were raped by a stranger or their employer. In that culture, if a girl has a baby outside of marriage most likely no man will ever marry her.
Regardless of whether they are victims of rape or incest, they are often cast out of their homes and livelihood to survive on their own. Young women rarely attend school since schooling is neither free nor mandatory,
“There is a razor thin line between survival and starvation in this country,” says Dinah.
Confronted with all this misery, Dinah and Mike were convinced that God was calling them to action. But what? How? Then God began to open unexpected doors. By walking through them, in faith, they eventually realized they were called to open a maternity home in Ethiopia. Through the YWAM staff, they were introduced to Meseret Seyoum, a college educated Ethiopian Christian woman with years of experience Non-Government Organizations.
Two years earlier, Meseret began feeling called by God to start helping the women and children in her country. And now He provided this connection to the Monahans. Other key connections followed, Ebise Berri as accountant and Muluwork Tefera as nurse. Barbara Mwansa, Heartbeat affiliate in Zambia (Silent Voices), provided the training needed to start the home.
Just eight months later, Living Hope Ministries in Adama, Ethiopia opened as the first maternity home in Ethiopia. It offers security, shelter, love, education, healthy food, and training in job skills that the twenty residents will need to survive. Each woman learns jewelry making, sewing, and other skills that make it possible for her to start a small business and provide for herself and her child.
Says Dinah, “I am in awe of what God is doing here. We couldn’t have kicked the doors down that God has so graciously opened. This isn’t what I expected from retirement…it’s way better!”
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President
I have personally stared into the crematorium at Auschwitz.
It’s a somber and sobering experience even to begin to try to digest the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis a little more than six decades ago. There are distinct connections and eerie similarities between the inhumanity of the Holocaust history and the ravages of abortion in our day. This is not an easy subject to share, but let me narrow it to three lessons that Auschwitz (and the other death camps like it) teaches us.
Ever heard of the Tiergarten 4 program? It was a 1930’s Nazi program to “deal with” the physically handicapped, disabled and mentally ill. Nazi leadership determined that the resources necessary to maintain such life could be better used elsewhere to the betterment of the overall society. Sound familiar? (Google Tiergarten 4 for more understanding.) The outcomes of this relatively small program were instrumental in the implementation of the “Final Solution.”
As Nazi Germany and imperialistic Japan gained power, champions in various disciplines also rose to oppose these regimes. Some stepped out willingly while others were thrust into leadership. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom, Winston Churchill, and Douglas McArthur are but a few well-known names. But countless others – from the underground and resistance forces to those in the ranks of the liberation armies – joined with the efforts of homebound citizens of many nationalities to defeat this worldwide scourge.
“Divide and conquer,” attributed to the great Roman general Julius Caesar, is a well-known battle strategy. The enemy of God has been using this tactic since the temptation in the Garden. Unfortunately, he still uses this tactic every day and every way to divide God’s people. This is an unfortunate reality in the pro-life movement as well.
Pro-life champions, whether on the stage, in public demonstrations or “in the trenches,” must recognize the necessity of standing together. We must resist divisions of denomination or method. We must walk with respect for how others are called to address this single greatest evil of our time. “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25).
It’s also important to remember the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” This man of God addressed paupers and princes, artists and academics, the weak and the wealthy, in his effort to advance the Gospel. Can we do any less in advancing the Gospel of Life?
As one of our champions, John Ensor says, “It’s our turn.” As other generations have arisen to combat the evil of their day, we do so against the evil of our generation – abortion. We, like Corrie Ten Boom in her day, are not alone. We have millions upon millions of like-minded, life-minded friends and partners worldwide dedicated to the advancing a culture of life. Most of all, we stand rightly on the side of the Giver of Life, also known as the Lord of Hosts! In this, we can draw comfort, strength and even peace. In this, we can truly take heart!
Another Planned Parenthood office closed its doors this week. Dozens have done so across the U.S. as the “defund Planned Parenthood” movement gains traction in states like Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Texas.
Actually the defunding provides cover for Planned Parenthood since it has been aggressively moving towards super-size service operations located, predominantly, in urban communities. Its own strategy has put its smaller, less profitable locations in jeopardy. Losing taxpayer monies has motivated it to speed up the consolidation process.
When Planned Parenthood (or any abortion provider) clinic closes its doors, it is a gift to the pro-life movement and to the pregnancy help centers (PHCs) in that community. One less location providing abortions means that abortion seekers will have more opportunity to find the life-affirming help we offer.
Planned Parenthood gives the gift of the ground they abandon. Several pregnancy help centers now occupy former abortion clinic locations. Along with incredible symbolism, there are enormous practical opportunities to minister to former abortion-clinic patients who return to that same location seeking help.
Planned Parenthood has even given from its own staff! Former staffers converting to the pro-life position has been a wonderful gift to our movement. Abby Johnson and others like her are powerful voices exposing how little choice is actually in the pro-choice argument and how much Planned Parenthood preys on women instead of serving them. As more such converts join us, we must welcome them as the gifts from God that they are.
Even the fallacious, Planned Parenthood-sponsored legislative attacks are turning into gifts for the pregnancy help movement. Such attacks have netted judicial rulings in favor of PHCs. These same attacks have helped mobilize many marginal pro-lifers.
Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner, is credited with saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” With this in mind, Planned Parenthood has gifted the movement with enormous publicity in the past few years!
Take heart! Even our opposition is contributing to your great work. I wonder if we can consider those unwitting contributions as in-kind gifts?
I believe God bringing my wife, son and me to the East Bay of California (near San Francisco) 24 months ago - 2,550 miles away from our other children, grand children and familiar surroundings - was not a fluke or an accident. God had a plan. On paper, the past 24 months of Pregnancy Choices Clinic (PCC) history may have read more like a failed plan to some, a miscalculation of decisions, or leadership gone bad. I often felt like we were missing what God was doing.
Following our arrival in California we experienced a number of difficulties: my bicep muscle was torn and immediate surgery was required. The weakening economy necessitated a downsizing of PCC. Circumstances required that we develop an entirely new staff and medical capability. A plummeting California economy drove us to reduce expenditures by more than 30% and negotiate a temporary 50% reduction in our monthly facility lease.
In anticipation of our annual Walk, we moved forward in faith and attempted everything we could reasonably do to raise more income throughout the first part of 2010. While our May Walk Event was a great occasion for believers of like mind to congregate over life values, we simply did not reach our financial goals. Soon thereafter, we realized that our Center was in jeopardy. We failed to make payroll several times. We were behind the previous year’s income level by a substantial amount of money.
We sent a direct letter to our supporters, staff, and volunteers to share the seriousness of our situation. Though we did not believe that it was God’s will because of the many answered prayers and touched lives, we potentially could be forced to close the Clinic. We gathered everyone for a day of fasting and prayer and God showed up. What an amazing God we serve!
In just a couple short months we completed our fiscal year in the black in contrast with last year’s deficit. We provided counseling and ultrasound services for at least four abortion minded women who decided to keep their babies in the same period. Four men accepted Christ as Lord and Savior from our men’s program, and exciting new relational opportunities have been granted to us.
God is doing something awesome with us and our Clinic and I would like to share a vision I believe He has placed on my heart.
As I was wrestling and praying concerning options for us several months ago, I began to see that there were not many good ones. While in prayer, an “outside of the box” thought came to me. It was to appeal to a church that might catch a passion for this ministry and supply a more affordable space for the clinic.
Little did I know that as I thought about this, someone else had been thinking about the same possibility. It was exciting to learn that a counselor right in our clinic had been praying that her church would support a ministry such as PCC. In fact, her church already had a stand alone facility that could be used for such a vision!
The facility is in the neighboring community of Hayward, CA where the largest percentage of our clients resides. The church has offered complete autonomy and comparable square footage at a minimal cost that will likely result in a significant increase in clientele. Additionally, this is exactly the kind of community outreach the church’s pastor and leadership team have been seeking.
God has been showing me is that He does not want us to stand still and simply survive… Our leadership team is convinced that God wants to do something huge, something grand, something that will greatly impact the East Bay Area (and likely yours as well). But many times, the only thing that stands in the way is each one of us.
Our pursuit will require faith. God has answered our prayers and in a very short period our perspective has been turned 180 degrees from survival to an expansion of the ministry. Only God can do something like this. Do we have to stand in the gap and believe? Yes. God deserves our absolute, unwavering trust. Without it, our view of God becomes small and ineffective. To be sure, that is not the case.
From Take Heart | Volume 2, Issue 7.
Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. and the largest and most expansive in the world. Since 1971, Heartbeat has supported, strengthened and started pregnancy help organizations, including pregnancy medical clinics, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies all over the world. Currently, Heartbeat serves over 3,000 affiliate locations on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion.
We are a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian association of faith-based pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies endorsed by Christian leaders nationwide.
...is a world where every new life is welcomed and children are nurtured within strong families, according to God’s Plan, so that abortion is unthinkable.
...is to Reach and Rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to Renew communities for LIFE.
To achieve our mission, we do the following:
We REACH those who are abortion-vulnerable through Option Line's® 24-hour call center and cutting-edge website, www.OptionLine.org.
"Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me..." - Psalm 144:7
We RESCUE those who are reached through our life-support network of pregnancy centers providing true reproductive health care, ministry, education, and social services where lives are saved and changed.
"Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence. " - Psalm 140:1
We RENEW broken cities around the world, by developing pregnancy centers where abortion clinics are the only alternative for abortion-vulnerable women.
"He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor... They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." - Isaiah 61:1-4
Download a printer-friendly version with citations.
by Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., President of Heartbeat International
The common names used for a pregnancy help center during the last 30 plus years tell a lot about where we’ve been and where we are going. The earliest names used were Birthright and EPS (Emergency Pregnancy Services), and then came PPC’s (Problem Pregnancy Centers), then CPC’s (Crisis Pregnancy Centers), and then PRC’s (Pregnancy Resource Centers). Now we also have “A Woman’s Concern Health Centers” and “Life Choices Medical Clinics” among a host of other medical and professional-sounding names.
The burgeoning numbers and types of alternatives to abortion services and affiliating organizations also tell much about our history. The first printed (i.e. mimeographed) directory of contact names and semi-organized centers in the United States contained about 75 entries. The latest Heartbeat International Directory contains about 3,400 entries in the US. Approximately 2,300 are pregnancy centers (about 350 of which have added medical services), and about 80% of those are members of one or more of 10 affiliating organizations. The rest of the entries are professional social service agencies, such as Catholic Charities, also known for providing alternatives to abortion (about 500), Christian maternity homes (about 350), non-profit, Christian adoption agencies (about 160), some hotlines (about 30), and some freestanding post abortion programs (about 50).
The names and types of organizations reflect our response to the women, girls, and families who have been coming to us for help for over 30 years, the clients who are, in a sense, “products” of a decaying culture, sometimes now called a Culture of Death. In the late 60’s and 70’s we presumed these women were in short term crisis (hence the name EPS). Now we recognize them as the walking wounded who need much more than simple crisis intervention. In the 70’s, we thought our culture was in a short-term memory lapse and would soon return to our Judeo-Christian values. Now we realize we need to teach those values anew to a generation that has hardly heard of them, a generation with the scars to prove it.
The Original Vision: Mother-and-Baby-Centered Service
The birth of pregnancy centers in the U.S. was not a result of Roe v. Wade but of the earlier movement to liberalize abortion laws state by state. Concerned people realized that with the carefully crafted message that abortion was sometimes the reluctant, humane, even loving choice; some women would be influenced to abort their babies unless they had help and support. (At that time, most pro-life people did not fully comprehend that the movement to liberalize abortion laws was an integral part of a well-orchestrated strategy to break down traditional family and religious values and replace them with hedonistic and atheistic ones.)
Catholics, especially medical professionals and mothers, with their firm tradition of welcoming children and consistent teaching on the sanctity of human life, were in the forefront of a movement to start alternatives to abortion services, although they rarely saw this as a Catholic issue, or even a uniquely Christian mission. It was simply part of who they were. The work was generally seen as service, a humanitarian effort, an outreach of one caring individual to another, although the motive was from deeply held religious values and beliefs.
The first formal alternatives to abortion service organization was Birthright, founded in Canada in 1968. Centers using the Birthright name soon spread to the United States. A strict Charter, established in 1971, is still followed by all Birthrights. Their vision was that you could not save the baby without “saving” (or serving) the mother, and vise versa.
A similar woman-and-baby-centered vision was held by the Alternatives to Abortion, formed in 1971 (soon renamed Alternatives to Abortion International and called AAI) in the United States. The founders established a loose federation of independent organizations that could network with and learn from each other, rather than a “franchise” model. This seemed right for the entrepreneurial United States, where a variety of small organizations had already sprung up, starting in the late 60’s, from California to New York, some operating out of pro-life doctors’ offices, churches, or even homes. (Interestingly, both the loose federation and the franchise model still exist among the 10 pregnancy center membership organizations 30 years later.)
While AAI often called itself the “service arm of the pro-life movement,” they and Birthright considered themselves quite distinct from Right to Life, the lobbying and educational arm. The service organizations seemed cautious about losing their coveted 501(c)(3) status, so they shied away from any lobbying. Their role was primarily “crisis intervention.” Once the woman knew she had a friend and could be connected, by referral, to a variety of services in the community (medical care, housing, material aid, and social services), the presumption was that their work had been a “success.” The mother was safe, and therefore the baby would be safe.
Both Right to Life and the service organizations agreed on one thing: the pro-life issue should be presented as a civil rights issue (for AAI, a “humanitarian” or “service” one), not a religious issue. The theory was that this would gain wider acceptance of the tenet that each human life is valuable, and pro-life would not be marginalized as a “Catholic issue.” The presumption also was that our religious beliefs and Judeo-Christian values were a “given,” shared by most of America, so they did not need to be explicitly stated within our centers.
By the 1980’s and certainly in the 1990’s, as abortions continued and affected not only women but everyone connected with them, as the culture became more accepting of “sex for recreation,” as sexually transmitted diseases surged and AIDS emerged, as marriage declined and the disintegration of the two-parent family continued, and as our culture became more obviously hedonistic and amoral, the “disconnect” between the original theory and reality was evident. In response, new values and visions within the pregnancy center movement emerged.
The Baby-Centered Vision
The first influence was the baby-centered approach. It soon brought centers, in general, into disrepute, but eventually led to a movement from within toward real credibility. In the late 1970’s, perhaps due to frustration that the lobbying and educational branch had not passed a Human Life Amendment and abortion numbers were skyrocketing, a more pro-active influence came into the pregnancy center movement. Centers were urged to advertise alongside abortion clinics in the yellow pages (the phone book indexes referred readers to the same headings, such as Clinics and Birth Control Information, for both abortion services and abortion alternatives), show slides to clients of fetal development and aborted babies, and, in general, use every possible method to save the baby at risk for abortion. A small number of “Problem Pregnancy Centers” influenced by this approach emerged.
In 1987, an orchestrated effort by Planned Parenthood resulted in television and magazine exposes on these centers. Stories, written by undercover reporters posing as clients and using hidden cameras and tape recorders, ironically faulted the centers for not being totally “upfront” and transparent.
Congressional hearings were held, but pregnancy centers were forbidden from testifying in their own defense, so, in the public arena, pregnancy centers had a “black eye.” Many involved in centers felt the embarrassment and shame, and supporters began to wonder if their own center was operating unethically. Centers began to be suspicious of each other. The boomerang effect even caused some to think they needed to “warn” potential clients, in ads and on the phone, of their pro-life values. Client numbers decreased in many areas.
Legal attacks also resulted from this public relations effort to discredit centers. State Attorneys General tried to dictate center advertising and phone scripts. Individuals, organized by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) filed suits against some centers. Court findings often went against these centers and some were forced to pay damages and even close.
The attacks resulted not in the end of pregnancy help centers, the intention of our opponents, but eventually in strengthening of the centers. In 1993, NIFLA, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, was founded specifically to provide legal education and training to help centers become more professional and protect themselves from frivolous tort claims (such as assault and battery for touching a client without her permission), and NIFLA spearheaded the development of the first insurance program to protect centers for “counselor liability.”
The Medical Vision
Some centers in California had been accused of “practicing medicine without a license” for providing urine pregnancy tests, and pro-choice wordsmiths began to label all centers “fake clinics.” Meanwhile, in the medical field, ultrasound was emerging as a new diagnostic tool for pregnancy. NIFLA soon envisioned real clinics not only doing pregnancy testing but also using ultrasound to diagnose pregnancy, and pioneered a medical model for centers either licensed by the state or working under the license of a private physician. The potential of ultrasound to help abortion-vulnerable mothers bond with their babies was clear.
More and more centers today are adding ultrasound services for abortion-vulnerable clients. True to their entrepreneurial nature, centers are taking the original model even further, with some adding STD testing, pap smears, natural family planning, prenatal care, birthing centers, and even well baby care. Some are becoming “hub” medical clinics and encouraging other centers to refer clients to them for ultrasound and other medical services. We are beginning to see a ripple effect, influencing the medical community in contact with our pregnancy centers, as we partner to bring a more pro-life and holistic approach to the care of women.
Predictably, our new strength has led to a second NARAL effort, starting in 2000, to close down pregnancy centers, fourteen years after the first. This new attack accelerated the growing unity among pregnancy centers, and the national affiliating organizations quickly responded. A united legal and public relations strategy, orchestrated by the Christian Legal Society, resulted in the withdrawal of subpoenas filed by the New York Attorney General against eight pregnancy centers, an attack that followed the strategy outlined by NARAL. Again, attack has led to strengthening, but the ultimate outcome of this new wave to discredit our centers has yet to be seen.
Ironically, the original baby-centered approach, that provided ammunition to discredit centers, eventually led to more professionalism and credibility. Ironically too, our opponents certainly hoped to eliminate all baby pictures. Instead, still pictures have been replaced by images of “live action” ultrasound provided by licensed medical personnel that allows women not only to have an accurate diagnosis of pregnancy at a very early stage (thereby helping their decision-making process), but also to bond with their babies in utero.
The Christian Vision
In the early 1980’s, Evangelical Christians came into the pro-life movement in large numbers, and they were a “breath of fresh air” to those who had been carrying the ball since the late 60’s. Christian Action Council (CAC) had been formed in 1975, primarily as a pro-life educational and lobbying organization, and it soon saw the need for pregnancy centers. Their first pregnancy center was opened in 1980. CAC’s “crisis pregnancy centers” had a mission to evangelize the woman with a crisis pregnancy. Thus, their vision was woman centered and baby centered, but primarily Christ centered.
For Evangelical Christians, abortion was and is, first and foremost, a religious issue (rather than a civil rights or humanitarian one) and a call to action for Christians. In 1984, CAC launched Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the Sunday closest to January 22, in an effort to educate and motivate Evangelical churches nationwide.
The service arm of this organization eventually took priority, the education and lobbying arm of CAC was eliminated, and CAC was renamed Care Net to emphasize their network of renamed Pregnancy Care Centers.
The value of the work of pregnancy centers as ministries has been enhanced by the involvement of Focus on the Family, which, in the 1990’s, developed a program to support pregnancy centers with educational materials and a ministry office.
The mix of Catholics and Protestants of various denominations has strengthened centers nationally. Most now seem to consider their Christianity a part of their work in some way. This could be entirely through “service” (the root vision), sometimes called “being Christ” to a client, and/or through direct evangelization, “sharing Christ” with a client, or a combination of both. The former take their inspiration from the Biblical directive, “Whatever you do for one of these the least of my brethren, you do it unto Me.” The latter from the Great Commission, “Go forth, therefore, and teach all nations.”
There is currently an effort to unite Christians within our movement, especially Catholics and Evangelicals, by developing materials, conferences, and other gatherings that focus on what we have in common, rather than on the theological differences that have divided Christians for centuries. Mutual respect is developing within and among very different organizations, evidenced at the national, state, and city levels.
The Healing Vision
In the early 70’s, we had begun to see clients who had already had one or more abortion and were thinking of another, and we had begun to be approached by post abortive women who wanted to help other women avoid the tragic mistake they had made. The term “post abortion syndrome” had not yet even been coined. When we consulted professional counselors for help, they either denied that abortion had any ill effects or they cautioned us, as volunteers and nonprofessionals, not to get involved for fear that post abortive women might become suicidal.
Early attempts were made in some AAI centers to create post abortion programs that were “nondenominational and nonsectarian.” Remember, the early concept had been that the centers were not ministries, but rather “service” centers for mothers and babies. However, when centers were confronted with the need for post abortion healing programs, many moved from the service model to a ministry model, realizing that they had to choose a basis for their “counseling” and the obvious choice was a Biblical one.
So, pregnancy centers have been pioneers in developing post abortion programs for men and women, most of which take the form of support groups, Bible studies, or one-on-one counseling. Organizations have formed whose sole mission is to provide and promote post abortion programs, many of which have their roots in pregnancy centers.
We have also come to realize in pregnancy centers that almost all of our clients have broken sexual integrity. They are wounded by casual sex and broken trust, sexual abuse, incest, date rape, and/or abortion. By the 1980’s and certainly by the 90’s, most of our clients had grown up in a post Christian era (certainly, most were born in the “quaint” time when abortion was illegal and marriage was the default option if there was a crisis pregnancy). Crisis intervention alone is sometimes effective in keeping such clients from jumping off a cliff (i.e. not choosing an abortion), but they are still left with broken limbs and severely damaged internal organs, like broken hearts and souls. Life change and healing are necessary. Our centers have sometimes become “revolving doors,” where clients come back time and again for pregnancy tests. Providing on-going support, education, and healing is becoming a priority in our movement, and new programs are being introduced in an effort to provide healing and restoration so clients can actually regain their sexual integrity.
The Prevention Vision
Abstinence education, like post abortion healing, also had its beginnings in pregnancy centers, since we had to develop a counseling approach when the client had a negative test, a more common result than the positive test. In the 1980’s, as we witness more and more clients with multiple sexual partners and sexually transmitted diseases, it became clear that we needed to move the abstinence message outside the counseling room, and especially into the schools, to counter Planned Parenthood’s dangerous sex education messages. All over the country, entrepreneurial center volunteers who had a heart for prevention began to give classroom presentations and inspirational assemblies. Abstinence curricula and speakers began to proliferate and many centers started abstinence education programs in schools and in the community and consider “prevention” a major part of their mission.
A boon came in the early ‘80’s when a small amount of federal dollars was appropriated through Title XX in the Department of Health and Human Services to develop national “model prevention programs” based on abstinence. During the current Bush administration, federal funding has grown dramatically for abstinence until marriage education through Title V, the welfare reform bill, and SPRANS grants (Special Programs of Regional and National Significance). As a result, tax-funded abstinence education programs, including at least 40 based within pregnancy centers, have expanded dramatically and reached more and more schools and communities (and teen pregnancy and sexual activity rates have declined!). Federal funding for programs that do not “prostelitize” has helped participating centers “grow up” quickly and develop stronger infrastructures. Some centers, on the other hand, have refused all federal funding, either because they are afraid of “strings” or because they believe it will weaken testimony that the church, not the government (in the form of tax supported programs), was ultimately responsible for turning the tide on abortion and sexual promiscuity.
So, pregnancy centers have also been pioneers in the abstinence field. Many centers now have a prevention program that is equal to or even greater in scope and funding than their crisis intervention program, and some of the best national abstinence education programs have their roots in our centers.
The Marriage Vision
We have not ignored the growing evidence, placed before our eyes in the person of our client, that the deterioration of marriage in our culture over the past 30 years has led to a dangerous situation for single mothers and their children. The statistics are overwhelmingly convincing that children raised with both biological (or adoptive) parents do best in terms of economics, education, physical and mental health, and many other factors related to security and happiness. Children do the least well in all of these measures when raised by single mothers.While we have always upheld the value of adoption and marriage, many of our centers fell, through the years, into complacency about promoting them, being happy, at least, that a client chose not to abort her baby. The result is that few of our clients choose marriage or adoption. A recent study by Family Research Council, Adoption: The Missing Piece, has challenged pregnancy centers to examine our attitudes and programs (where only about 1-2% of clients choose infant adoption, about the same as in the general population) and make needed changes so that we can make adoption a core value in our centers. We are just now starting to examine how we can encourage our clients to consider marriage. For many of them, raised in an era in which divorce is rampant and co-habitation is common, marriage is a foreign concept. At least, many centers are experimenting with programs and materials to get the fathers committed to being involved during the pregnancy and after the baby is born. We are taking “baby steps” at this point in our history, but we are committed to trying to help turn the tide back toward marriage (or adoption) and more security for children.
The Future Vision
So, where is the alternatives to abortion movement now? What have we learned in the past 30 years, and where should we be headed in the future?
We have grown tremendously in terms of numbers and kinds of centers, of professionalism, of breadth and depth of programs (prevention, intervention, healing). But, in a sense, that’s the bad news. Our growth has been only partly in response to attacks from our opposition and bigger vision from within. It has mainly been due to the increasingly devastating effects of abortion (and related sexual mores) in our culture, as more and more wounded and scarred women (men and children) seek us out for help and we respond to the needs. The entire pro-life movement has been unsuccessful in winning the war against abortion on demand, and we are seeing more and more casualties in our pregnancy centers.
The service arm has almost always considered itself “separate,” but we must find ways to work with the other arms of our movement (political, legislative, educational, research, etc.); if each branch continues to function independently, without a unified strategy, we will continue to win some skirmishes, but the war will continue and the carnage will grow. To do this means, at least, giving up issues of pride or ownership for the “greater good.”
We should remain diverse, entrepreneurial, and, therefore, creative. We have constantly reinvented ourselves as we perceived and responded to the challenges. Centers in the future may be anywhere on the continuums of woman centered, baby centered, medical centered, healing centered, prevention centered, evangelization centered, and family centered. But we must guard our developing unity and be more passionate than ever about our life-affirming missions. Pregnancy center affiliating organizations need to work even more closely together, for example, sharing statistics and research, and bringing all centers under one or more “umbrella” so that we can stay “on the cutting edge” and to protect ourselves from outside efforts to close us down.
But unity, worldly wisdom, and professionalism will not, in and of themselves, protect us. We need to pray for the continuing protection of God upon our work. We must acknowledge that we are fundamentally Christian (although some centers describe themselves as “non-denominational and non-sectarian” and sometimes think of that as “secular”). We must acknowledge that we are being used mightily, at the beginning of this millennium, in the struggle of good vs. evil that has gone since sin entered the world.
Heartbeat International sees it as part of our mission to help pregnancy centers develop around the world, and we hope to export the Christian model and the model of unity within diversity. I see forming around the world (especially in Africa and Eastern Europe) strong networks of service providers mirroring the kinds of organizations we have in our US network: faith based, life-affirming resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and adoption agencies. We must share resources even more generously with centers overseas and work with them to end abortion in their countries. While abortions number about 1.2 million per year in the U.S., an estimated 55-60 million abortions occur annually worldwide.
Government funding is a blessing and a temptation. We should learn how to benefit from new government funds that are becoming ever more available to faith-based organizations, but we must be careful to use them wisely, only for the social service and public school portions of our mission, so we can be free to truly minister and share the Gospel in other programs. Let us not become like some of the early faith-based organizations that now cannot be distinguished from secular ones (like the Red Cross) or that have even become leaders in secularizing our culture (does anyone remember that Harvard University was founded by Christians?).
I see our movement beginning a “paradigm shift.” Our prime service has been the free pregnancy test. With home tests and now abortion by pill, some wonder if we may become irrelevant. But, we have constantly responded to challenges and we will continue. Our medical clinics may transcend Planned Parenthood clinics to become centers for women’s true reproductive health. To our STD testing, prenatal care, natural family planning, abuse recovery, and post abortion programs, we may begin to add other services such as pap smears and infertility treatment (thus adding to the healing programs needed as a result of the effects of STD’s and abortion), and even well-baby care. Medical services may combine with counseling and spiritual healing in certain centers, or we may have stronger networks of centers each having a specialized mission (some medical, some counseling, some support, some healing, some spiritual).
I see our centers as places that can retrain and re-envision the medical, counseling, and social services professions (maybe even churches!). Professionals are working more closely than ever with us. When their training clashes with what they see in the lives of our clients (e.g. in the effect of casual sex), there is often cognitive dissonance that leads to transformation. More of what we know needs to influence academic coursework and professional continuing education programs.
What ties all of the diverse centers together in the alternatives to abortion movement is sexual integrity (whose absence is the root of abortion). God’s plan is that sexual relationship, unconditional love, marriage between man and woman, children, and God to all go together. If we try to remove one of these from the equation we have almost all the modern social ills (abortion, but also rampant divorce, co-habitation, fatherlessness, gay sub-culture, STD’s, loveless marriages, promiscuity, child abuse, and more). Sexual integrity is what all pregnancy centers are all about: prevention (so sexual integrity is protected and valued), intervention (when crisis occurs because sexual integrity is not being lived out), and healing and restoration (so sexual integrity can be restored). If and when the right to life is restored to the unborn (and our elderly and sick are protected), our centers will still need to exist to help re-teach and restore value of sexual integrity.
Heartbeat International, formerly Alternatives to Abortion International (AAI), has published an annual Directory of life-affirming service providers since 1971, to help those in need find services and to facilitate networking worldwide.The Directory is available from Heartbeat International, Columbus, OH, 1-888-550-7577, and on the web at www.heartbeatinternational.org.
Baptists for Life, Grand Rapids, MI; Birthright, Atlanta, GA; Care Net, Sterling, VA; Christian Life Resources, Milwaukee, WI; Heartbeat International, Columbus, OH; International Life Services, Los Angeles, CA; National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, Fredericksburg. VA; National Life Center, Woodbury, NJ; Sav-A-Life, Birmingham, AL; and North American Mission Board, Alternatives for Life, Alpharetta, GA.
Birthright was founded by the late Louise Summerhill in Toronto, Canada.The Birthright USA central office is located in Atlanta, Georgia.
AAI was founded in Toledo, Ohio, by the late John Hillabrand, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist, and Mrs. Lore Maier, an immigrant from Germany who had served as a court reporter at the Nuremburg Trials following World War II.Now called Heartbeat International, the central office is in Columbus, Ohio.
Identifying pro-life as solely a “Catholic issue” was an early tactic of the pro-abortion effort. RCAR, Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, lobbied almost every major Protestant denomination to sign statements depicting abortion as sometimes necessary and even the “Christian” response to a woman with a difficult pregnancy.Most early speakers on abortion could be discredited with the rhetorical question, “You’re a Catholic, aren’t you?”
For research on the decline of the family and marriage, with attendant social problems, see a variety of papers by The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC,www.heritage.org.For statistics on the rise of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, see studies by The Medical Institute, Austin, TX,www.medinstitute.org.
A manual, written by Bob Pearson over 20 years ago, which promoted this baby-centered vision, is still quoted extensively by NARAL on its web-site to discredit pregnancy centers, even though most people in the movement have never even seen the manual.
See “The Making of a Controversy: The History of the Conspiracy Against Pregnancy-Help Centers,” a Special Report (vol. Iii, no. 3) by Life Decisions International, Washington, DC.Also available on their web site atwww.interlife.org.
Thomas Glessner, J.D. (chairman of the Board of the Seattle pregnancy center, victimized by the NARAL smear campaign of the 1980’s) founded and still leads NIFLA, which has also published newsletters detailing the court cases brought against pregnancy centers.
NARAL published theChoice Action Kit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Unmasking Fake Clinics, also outlined on their web sitewww.naral.org,in December of 2000.The pregnancy center affiliating organizations responded quickly with their own guide,Serving Clients with Care and Integrity, to outline policies and procedures to help centers avoid attack.The guide also containsOur Commitment of Care, outlining our ethical policies relating to advertising and client services, adopted officially by nine of the ten affiliating organizations.(Birthright declined to sign because they do not participate in coalitions.)A copy ofOur Commitment of Careis available from any of the affiliating organizations.
CAC was founded by a number of concerned Christians, including Dr. and Mrs. Harold O.J. Brown, Dr. C Everett Koop (later U.S. Surgeon General), with the encouragement of the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer.
Alternatives to Abortion International changed its name to Heartbeat International in 1993 and now explicitly describes itself as a Christian association of service providers.
Within the Catholic Church, there are a variety of diocesan post abortion programs, loosely called “Project Rachel.”This list is available in the web side of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,www.usccb.org.Post abortion programs that have their roots in pregnancy centers include those published and available from Care Net and Heartbeat International.National organizations that specialize in post abortion training and programs include Ramah International, Englewood, FL; PAM (Post Abortion Ministries), Memphis, TN; Rachel’s Vineyard, Bridgeport, PA; National Memorial for the Unborn, Chattanooga, TN; National Office of Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, Milwaukee, WI; and Hope Alive USA, Bella Vista, AR.
The pioneer in “negative test counseling” is Sister Paula Vandegaer, one of the founders of AAI, now President of International Life Services.In the 1970’s, before we became fully aware of the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS, early pregnancy centers focused their approach on the emotional and spiritual damage caused by sexual relationships outside the marriage bond, a “heroic” stand given the strength of feminism at the time.Physical health became the major focus of negative test counseling during the 80’s, but we are returning to a more holistic approach focusing on “sexual integrity.”
For example, Abstinence Clearinghouse, the only national organization that tracks and evaluates all abstinence until marriage programs (and also publishes a Directory of these programs and holds annual conferences for abstinence education providers) was founded in 1997 by Leslee Unruh, also founder of the pregnancy center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Heartbeat International is beginning this effort with a distance learning program through the Heartbeat Institute, designed to reach those “in the field,” as well as those in colleges and universities.
Book by Kirk Walden
Review by Jor-El Godsey, Vice President
It’s all too easy to get so close to the trees that you miss the forest.
In our world, we can be so focused on the “trees”—day-to-day tasks needed to accomplish our mission—we miss the “forest” that our movement represents.
Kirk Walden, in his freshly printed book, The Wall: Building a Culture of Life in American and Ending Abortion as We Know It, shows us the big picture of how far we’ve come in the pregnancy help movement over our first 40-plus years. Kirk pictures pro-life Americans—specifically those in the pregnancy help movement—as the figurative wall of Nehemiah built to half its height (Nehemiah 4:6).
Moreover, Kirk challenges us all to remember there is half the wall—more of us doing what we do—yet to build!
The Wall is a short, but invigorating read. Kirk, a seasoned advocate for pregnancy help work, deftly weaves the biblical narrative together with a vision for victory!
Click here to read more.
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