FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday | Feb. 23, 2015
Contact: Jay Hobbs, Director of Communications and Marketing
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COLUMBUS, OHIO – Responding to news of the death of Dr. John C. Willke, a key pioneer in the pro-life movement, Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., has issued the following statement:
“We are all saddened to hear of the loss of Dr. Jack Willke, who many call the father of the pro-life movement,” Hartshorn said. “When I became president of Heartbeat International in 1993, we became colleagues as leaders of national and international organizations, but before that, he was a dear friend and a mentor to me.”
Willke, 89, died Friday, Feb. 21, at his home, according to a press release from Life Issues Institute, an organization he and his late wife, Barbara, founded in 1991.
The Willke family’s work in the pro-life arena began in the 1960s, when the couple started producing and distributing slides and brochures detailing the facts about fetal development and abortion procedures. Dr. Willke served two terms (1980-83, 1984-91) as president of the National Right to Life Committee.
His 1985 book, “Abortion Questions & Answers: Love Them Both,” helped shape the national pro-life movement’s dialogue to what Heartbeat International has called a “woman-centered approach.” Heartbeat International honored Dr. Willke with its “Servant Leader Award” in 2003.
“We owe so much to those early medical leaders, who knew that true healthcare for women involved respect not only for the woman, but her unborn child. What a tremendous example they have been—and are—as we continue to carry on their legacy.”
Hartshorn, whose career in the pro-life field began as president of the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of Right to Life, worked closely with Dr. and Mrs. Willke when both were involved with the organization. It was Willke’s brochure and slides, “Life or Death” that served as Hartshorn’s initial introduction into pro-life work.
Hartshorn appeared in “Dr. Willke, A Pro-Life Legacy to Last a Lifetime,” a documentary on Dr. Willke’s life and legacy produced by Life Issues Institutes in Jan., 2015.
“I remember so many things about Dr. Willke, and one of those things is the example of family that he embodied. He and his late wife, Barbara, were together in this movement, and I believe that is such an important thing as we commit ourselves long-term to stand for life and a culture of life. We need the help and support of families in this movement.”
About Heartbeat International
Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy help organizations founded in the U.S. (1971), and now the largest and most expansive network in the world. With nearly 2,000 affiliated pregnancy help locations—including pregnancy help medical clinics (with ultrasound), resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies—Heartbeat serves on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion. For more information, see www.HeartbeatInternational.org.