by Danielle White, Esq.General Counsel, Heartbeat International
In light of the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion reversing Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson, we have witnessed the intensifying extremism of pro-abortion advocates. Heartbeat has received multiple reports of vandalism and death threats against pregnancy centers and personnel since the draft opinion was leaked. One would think that those claiming to care about pregnant women would not direct their violence at the very locations that support pregnant women. But unfortunately, we are not talking about reasonable people.
On Sunday, May 8, 2022, pro-life group Wisconsin Family Action was attacked with Molotov cocktails and the building set fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Shortly thereafter, an organization calling itself “Jane’s Revenge” claimed responsibility for the attack. While Wisconsin Family Action is not a pregnancy center, “Jane’s Revenge” called the attack “only a warning” and demanded the “disbanding of all anti-choice establishments, fake clinics [an extremist term for pregnancy centers offering help and hope to women] and violent anti-choice groups within the next thirty days.” The group claims to be “not one group, but many. We are in your city. We are in every city.”
Intimidation of pregnancy centers is not a new tactic, and, sadly, pro-abortion extremists have long hated pregnancy centers. However, given the news out of the Supreme Court and the realistic possibility that this is the year Roe v. Wade will be overturned, the temperature has reached new heights on the abortion issue. This is a time to review your safety and security policies and procedures, retrain your volunteers and staff as necessary, and be especially vigilant about your surroundings. Here are five more tips to better prepare and protect your pregnancy center now and in the days to come.
Invest in security systems and cameras both inside and outside your center. While this requires an investment of fiscal resources, a security system with cameras may deter criminal activity helps create a record that can be provided to law enforcement if, God-forbid, something does happen. Many companies that provide security systems and devices offer a free consultation and provide recommendations to protect your center.
This is a great opportunity to build a relationship with local law enforcement! Most departments, particularly rural departments, would be happy to perform a walkthrough and security assessment of your center. Take this opportunity to share with them what the center does for women and to ask for their expertise about security. Ask them to identify vulnerabilities in your center’s security. Ask them to show you where they would allow protesters to congregate and to explain what the center should do if protesters trespass or engage in threatening behavior. Keep in mind that you could extend this invitation either to the City Police or the County Sheriff if they share jurisdiction. Building a relationship with a local law enforcement official might make it easier to call upon them if your center experiences threats.
You can also hire police on “special duty.” This involves an investment of funds and is usually available on a pre-scheduled basis, rather than in response to an ongoing situation. Your local law enforcement agency can advise you about the conditions for hiring a special duty officer. This option might be especially helpful if you become aware of a planned protest at your center or in your area. A special duty officer can assist with keeping people off the center’s property and act as a deterrent to property damage or violence.
Finally, if you are in Wisconsin, you should mention the Jane’s Revenge threat to law enforcement if your pregnancy center contacts them for help with protesters or vandalism. Even if you are not in Wisconsin, explaining the current climate with the Dobbs decision and the vandalism in Wisconsin may be beneficial in keeping local law enforcement apprised should a need arise in the future.
Private property owners can set their own rules for speech and protest activities on their property. The center is not required to allow protesters on its private property. Therefore, it is important to know the location of the property lines where your center is located. Is your center’s parking lot private property? Once protesters are on private property, they are trespassing, and you could contact law enforcement to ask for their removal. Keep in mind that protesters may be entitled to protest on public sidewalks.
If applicable, you may also consider talking to your landlord to find out what the landlord expects from the center in the event of protesters. If you are in a plaza or office space shared with other tenants, your landlord may be especially interested in ensuring that protesters do not disrupt the other businesses as well, and your landlord may be an ally in interfacing with police or installing cameras or barriers to deter protestors.
Now is the time to revisit your Center’s policies and procedures relating to security and evaluate them given today’s climate and the intensifying extremism by the pro-choice movement. Here are a few policies and procedures we recommend you implement:
If your center offers medical services, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE Act”) likely applies to your center and could be a very powerful tool in dealing with protestors. The FACE Act prohibits violent, threatening, damaging and obstructive behavior towards anyone obtaining or providing reproductive health services. Violators of the FACE Act could be fined or even imprisoned. The Act also provides civil remedies to the victims, including compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief. The FACE Act provides for statutory damages, making it even easier to recover money from protesters violate it. If protesters outside your clinic attempt to block or impede access to the clinic, to intimidate your clients, or cause property damage, please contact Heartbeat to discuss your options.
While we hope that you never need use of this information, it is always good to take the opportunity to review your security policies with staff and volunteers and ensure that you are ready, just in case.
Ezekiel 38:7“Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them.”
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat President
There’s an old adage, “May you live in interesting times.” Whether it’s a curse, a warning, or a call to adventure, depends on how you read it, receive it, or respond to it.
The brazen political ploy to secure abortion rights, even over other constitutional rights, that just happened in the New York state assembly, followed by several other states, points to the fact that these are, at the least, “interesting times.” The politics of Big Abortion haven’t been this overtly obvious to the nation than since the 1970s and early 80s as the wicked reality of the Roe v. Wade decision. Held at bay for years, the New York politicos beholding to Big Abortion for a big win last November wasted no time in legitimizing the very things that the lead to the conviction of the abortionist, Kermit Gosnell (Philadelphia, PA).
There are three things this tells us about pro-abortion forces.
They’re scared. The recent changes at the Supreme Court of the United States, namely new justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and decisions highlighting protections of liberties, suggest that Roe v. Wade is truly in danger of being reversed for the failed legal framework it is. This is the core reason advanced by Governor Cuomo in order to ensure abortion rights in New York state.
They’re serious. They wasted no time ramming this major constitutional change through. They seized upon the increasing polarization by implementing the far left reality of abortion on demand for any reason, at any age. This is a stark reality that Roe currently protects. And even a simple reversal of Roe, will likely not provide the legal footing to address the egregious moves by the Big Abortion allies in New York and other blue states.
They’re stealing. In elevating abortion so radically they are actually stealing rights not just from the unborn who are obviously “viable” (have the ability to survive outside the womb), but also from women by gutting protections for women from domestic violence. They are stealing the protections provided by previous, and some long-standing, laws that carried these protections.
There is much to be disappointed about. But that misses the larger story in our nation.
When politics, and politicians, fail us (as they inevitably seem to do), the practical remains our primary impact area. The practical manifests in the faithful actions of the pregnancy help movement. From pregnancy centers to maternity homes, from pregnancy tests to parenting classes, we have many practical methods to reach at-risk women and men. New York politicians didn’t inspire the mission field created by abortion—but they did expand it.
In the wake of New York, what do we do?
Get busy. Or more precisely, busier. We need to examine our own service capacity to ensure that we’re optimizing our ministry outreach and impact. Do we have unfilled counseling rooms during current business hours? Do we have under-utilized ultrasound services? Quick gains can be made by getting busy filling unused capacity with more life-saving impact. That likely means looking more closely at our marketing effectiveness in reaching those at-risk for abortions in our community.
Get better. Just like the call to grow in Christ, the call to be better is one of intentional examination and evaluation. We need to be better in reaching those at-risk, stronger in serving those we can, and deepening our commitment to intervention impact. We won’t achieve new results by only doing what we’ve always done. Remember, the manual typewriter and the buggy whip were, at one time, deemed “best practices.” Actively re-think processes and programs for greater effectiveness.
Get bolder. Despite the false accusations that we “only care about the unborn baby,” the pregnancy help movement is positively impacting millions of people each year. We need to be bold about engaging the “mushy middle” that has been reminded that Roe’s full effect is not something to be “moderate” about. Every Christ-follower should be involved in overcoming Roe. Whether directly ministering to clients in the “valley of decision,” supporting those who do, or voting our values, there is something every believer can do. And let’s be bold to invite greater involvement for current supporters. We can, and must, do more. Let’s boldly proclaim the great work of pregnancy help!
In all of this we should not let our “hearts be troubled.” But, instead, we should take heart that where sin does abound, grace that much more abounds. It is that abundant grace that this ministry is built upon, and will thrive upon.
by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International President
God pulled off some pretty cool judo. Did you catch it?
Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS for short, handed down a 5-4 victory in the NIFLA v. Becerra case. If you’re not familiar, the case was a challenge to the government over-reach of a California State Assembly law (AB775) in favor of free speech by local, non-profit, pregnancy help centers. The law had a carefully twisted criteria that singled out these pro-lifers to compel them, among other things, to advocate abortion access provided by the State of California.
The decision itself was an answer to prayer – and there had been lots of prayer about the law and in particular as it was being heard and decided at the Supreme Court. Certainly God was in that, as it affirmed His value for championing His Gift of Life. The judo comes in when we step back and look at the whole story from the beginning of the journey to the victorious ruling at the highest court in our land (SCOTUS).
The original draft of the bill, AB 775, that would become the law that would be challenged, did not arise just from a concerned California elected official. The original draft came from none other than Big Abortion itself. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and their ilk leveraged their political muscle by planting the framework for this bill with one of their elected lackeys. The party of abortion that dominates the California political landscape voted favorably with their Governor Brown making it official. Finally, in their minds, the pregnancy help centers would have to fall in line with their abortion agenda through the might of their government power.
Fortunately, the California pregnancy centers didn’t buckle to this raw abuse of government power. The majority refused to comply pending the outcome of the NIFLA lawsuit. A few were bullied into compliance by the zealous Los Angeles County attorney who, seemingly, has little better to do than threaten pro-lifers trying to help women make the healthiest choice for their baby.
A fundamental principle of judo is to defend against attacks by using the strength and momentum of the attacker. The insistence of Big Abortion to use government to do its bidding was the very strength and momentum that God used to defeat them. Instead of codifying their allegations against pregnancy centers and compelling each to convey their pro-abortion message, the result of their efforts is to have the free speech and right of conscience confirmed by the highest court in the land! Other states (Hawaii, Connecticut, and Illinois, for example) that folowed California's lead can expect to watch similar laws fall like dominoes after the decision this week. In fact, we've already seen progress in the City of Hartford, Connecticut where Hartford Women's Center is breathing a sigh of relief.
This echoes from what Joseph understood (Genesis 50:20), “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” There’s the judo! God turned the narrow (California) legislative attack to a national (all of the U.S.A.) affirmation of pregnancy help centers.
But that’s not all. Through NIFLA v. Becerra, more and more people are hearing about the good work of pregnancy help centers. Lawyers will cite this case for their own free speech battles. Young attorneys-in-training will learn about this case in law school. Multiple media outlets – secular and religious – have been highlighting the conflict between free speech and conscience and the State of California’s overreach. In the process, they’ve conveyed the life-affirming work of PHCs to hundreds of thousands, maybe over time millions, who would never have heard otherwise.
Thank you, God, for the masterful judo lesson. (Understanding that judo was only invented in the 1800s and you’ve exercised the principle philosophy for a lot longer than that.)
Tweet This: "We exist to empower a woman with true choice. That's why @naral attacks us." @PeggyHartshorn
COLUMBUS, OHIO – Responding to a report released Monday by abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., pointed to what she calls the fundamental difference between “true” and “false” reproductive health.
NARAL’s report, “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie: The Insidious Threat To Reproductive Freedom,” represents several years of opposition to the 2,500 pregnancy help organizations operating independently in the United States, most of whom are fully funded by local and private donors.
In its 24 pages, NARAL’s report features 107 citations. However, 92 of those (86 percent total) come from its state and local chapters, and eight more are from Planned Parenthood’s research arm, The Guttmacher Institute.
“The sole purpose of every pregnancy help organization is to provide the love and support every woman deserves in an unexpected pregnancy,” Hartshorn said. “We exist to empower a woman to make the healthiest choice for all involved. That is why NARAL attacks us with these false and flimsy allegations.”
Hartshorn, who attended the Diocesan Family and Life Congress in Manilla over the past weekend and trained Heartbeat International joint affiliation partners serving throughout the Philippines, pointed to the good work of pregnancy help organizations, both in the U.S. and all over the world.
She is author of Heartbeat International’s top-selling volunteer training resource, The LOVE Approach—first published in 1994—which teaches a truly woman-centered approach.
“No woman should ever feel so alone, coerced, or hopeless that she ends her child’s life through abortion,” Hartshorn said. “That’s why, in every corner of the globe, Heartbeat International affiliates and others provide all the facts about pregnancy—including the baby’s development and the many serious physical and psychological dangers of abortion.”
“This report is an attack on the truth and true reproductive freedom. Only a fully informed choice can be a true choice.”
Tweet This: "This report is an attack on true reproductive freedom." @PeggyHartshorn
by Ellen Foell, Heartbeat International Legal Counsel
If the purpose of Pulse is to help life-affirming people keep their fingers on the pulse of America’s pregnancy help movement, then here are two very interesting and highly contentious battles which mandate a closer look. On opposite ends of the country, California and New York, local governments have pitted themselves against pregnancy help centers (PHCs), in both the legislative and judicial forums.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg and the city council’s efforts to unfairly regulate the work of PHCs through superfluous fraud, deception, and consumer protection laws, came to a grinding halt as a federal district court judge ruled that the Council’s law was unconstitutional. Indeed, the court found that the speech (essentially advertising and information on services provided) of PHCs was not commercial speech, that the speech of centers was particularly prone to biased regulation because of its controversial nature and that New York City council’s attempt to regulate the speech was offensive and unconstitutional. The court imposed a preliminary injunction on the application of the law pending a trial on the merits.
On the other side of the country, San Francisco - presumably unaware of the rulings in Baltimore, Montgomery County, and New York - proceeded full-speed ahead. They threatened two San Francisco PHCs, First Resort and Alpha Pregnancy Center, with a two pronged legal action. One prong is the now typical, albeit unsuccessful, proposed law which seeks to regulate the speech of PHCs.
The other prong is the threat by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera that he intends to pursue legal action against the two pregnancy centers whose business names pop up first in a Google search when someone uses San Francisco and abortion as keywords. According to Herrera, that first-in-line pop up constitutes false advertising and violates reproductive rights of women. This attack is so bizarre that even those who are not pro-life see that Mr. Herrera is on a hunt to harass PHCs and they easily recognize the ridiculous nature of the threat.
Zombie, a contributing blogger to PajamasMedia.com, an online blogging portal, wrote: “even from my pro-choice perspective, the city’s attempt to essentially banish any counseling center which doesn’t encourage or perform abortions is simply beyond belief.” This blogger continues, “And in the press conference proudly announcing this, the City Attorney openly admits that it’s politically motivated, that he’s going after the centers because he defines them as ‘right-wing.’ But seriously, have you ever looked at the ads for the other kinds of pregnancy counseling centers, the kinds of places where if you walk in, the only advice they ever give you is abort abort abort?
“Never do they put up big neon signs saying ‘Fetuses aborted here.’ Instead, they have innocuous (some would say ‘deceptive’) names like ‘community health center’ or ‘reproductive services clinic’ and so on.” Zombie concludes, “In fact, if you flip the narrative, and do a Google search for ‘pregnant’ and ‘San Francisco,’ the top result is a hospital that does provide abortions.”
In a comment posted on Zombie’s PajamasMedia.com blog "chambers," a reader, responded to the article with this observation, "The psychology of the legislators driving this effort is skin-crawlingly creepy … How can so much passion, indeed fury, be worked up for ending the life of a fetus in the womb?"
Indeed, skin crawlingly creepy. If this doesn’t make our pulse rate rise, what will?
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