Heartbeat International congratulates CAM (Centro de Ayuda para la Mujer Latinoamericana, A. C.) on reaching 25 years of lifesaving ministry.
Heartbeat President, Peggy Hartshorn, was honored to celebrate this great achievement with CAM representative in Mexico City, Mexico, saying:
"Congratulations on this very important occasion of the 25th Anniversary of CAM. God certainly laid it on the hearts of your founders, Jorge and Magdalena, that it was essential that every woman with a difficult pregnancy, finding herself perhaps alone and afraid, could find help and hope and the courage she needed to carry her pregnancy to term. This is because every person is made in the image and likeness of God, both the mother and the child!
Let us continue to lock arms around the world, pray for each other, strengthen and encourage each other, and recommit to the task ahead. Our strength and power comes from the Lord. We are responding to his call, Come follow Me. We are running the race and fighting and good fight and we look forward to our reward in heaven where, like St. Paul, we hope to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Brian Fisher, president of Online for Life, joined Real Choices Pregnancy Medical Clinic Executive Director Mia Green on the stage of the Real Choices Spring Gala, announcing his organization's acquisition of the Grapevine, Texas-based pregnancy help center.
This new chapter of Online for Life's efforts has been super-charged with a $3.4 million gift that has transitioned the small volunteer effort to a large office staff, including statisticians, developers, and marketing experts.
Identifying as more than merely online marketing specialists, Fisher's announcement included his goal to increase Real Choices' "effective rate" in encounters with abortion-minded clients. Fisher noted that the practices Online for Life will refine in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will then be taken to the "super centers" in other major metropolitan areas, likely as future acquisitions, franchises, or start-ups.
Online for Life's most recent acquisition signals another local entity with plans to go regional/national, as Real Choices joins Women's Care Center (South Bend, IN), BirthChoice (Orange County, CA), Thrive! (St. Louis, MO), and Stanton Medical Clinic (Boise, ID) in promoting a common-brand/franchise model.
For more than a decade, our friends at Care Net have encouraged affiliates to utilize their national brand, which today numbers just over 140 locations. Meanwhile, Women's Care Center has experienced great success at spreading a true brand/franchise model across multiple states, with 22 locations in seven states.
Each of these brands follows in the footsteps of a key innovator of pregnancy help outreach – Birthright International. Birthright has nearly 300 individual pregnancy support service locations across North America (and a few in Africa as well) bearing its brand. Birthright, originally founded in Toronto, was part of the inspiration for Heartbeat International (then known as Alternatives to Abortion International), which began in 1971 to serve and strengthen the pregnancy help effort.
Difference of approach, philosophy, and focus has led both organizations to grow and develop along separate paths in the past four and a half decades. For the same reasons, it remains to be seen if one brand/franchise will eventually dominate the pregnancy help movement much in the same way as Planned Parenthood, a name that dominates the abortion market with a one-third share in the United States.
Evaluating the Franchise Approach
There are many strategic questions about a national brand/franchise. Online for Life's new "laboratory" center, Real Choices, plans to contribute great insight into "effective rates" that may serve other communities. But will what works in Texas translate to New York City or vice versa? Can processes that work in the Bible Belt leave the same footprint in the Pacific Northwest?
Further, is a monolithic brand an easier target for the opposition? NARAL continues to refer to pregnancy help ministries as "crisis pregnancy centers," a common term from an era before the Internet, the late 1980's. The billion-dollar abortion industry, unrestrained by our "best practices," would likely relish the thought of marshaling their powerful political and media allies on an obviously connected, monochromatic brand.
Yet Planned Parenthood has made its brand work for the better part of the past century... Until recently, that is, in the wake of concentrated scrutiny by conservative state legislators and a small, gutsy group of undercover investigators from Live Action, led by Lila Rose. Alliance Defending Freedom is now leading a specific effort to topple Planned Parenthood's brand image, exposing it for what it really is. Such efforts on various pro-life fronts have damaged Planned Parenthood's single brand, especially in conservative states.
Moving Forward in Confidence
Whether or not a single brand is in your pregnancy help organization's future, what is most important is that we continue to be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is constantly moving us as His people, toward the Promised Land. This calls us, each day, to learn to be more effective in who, where, and how we serve.
Brand us, hopeful that the Lord, in His wisdom and power, will guide each and every organization and leader.
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 2,800 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 to make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.
...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
by Laura Strietmann, Associate Director, Pregnancy Center East, Cincinnati, Ohio
When I began serving clients in crisis at Pregnancy Center East in Cincinnati, Ohio over 7 years ago, I noticed that besides time, love, and an ultrasound, there was another powerful tool in assisting a woman in the choice of life for her unborn baby.
This was an outdated grainy VHS tape, entitled Abortion Techniques. Non-graphic in content, but real and compassionate, each
time this tape was viewed by a client considering abortion, she left with a different mindset. The client usually moved from being abortion-vulnerable to choosing life for her baby.
Carol Everett, a former abortion
clinic owner and operator, turned pro-life warrior, had filmed Abortion Techniques in 1993. It was a 25-minute video showing abortion through illustrations, actual tools, and Carol’s personal testimony. Many centers throughout the country use this video in teaching pregnant women the realities of abortion. Today, abortion has been made to seem as if it is equivalent to having a mole removed, as a “necessary” aspect of healthcare. Abortion Techniques showed how far these perceptions are from reality. One day several years ago, while working at PCE, our copy of the video broke. After searching for an updated replacement for this worn tape, I discovered that the industry lacked a current video with the most recent abortion methods sensitively presented in such an effective manner.
I decided to contact Carol Everett, now very busy as an internationally known pro-life author, speaker, and lobbyist for the state of Texas. Had she thought of making a more updated version of the video? Did she realize the number of babies’ lives saved by this tape? Would she see it was time to make a new film? Several months of persistent emails, Facebook inbox messages, and finally a phone conversation before Carol conditionally agreed to the project.
Having never met
in person, only through internet and phone lines, Carol promised that if I could secure funding for the project, she would journey to PCE and make a new video. She would generously assign PCE the rights to the video as a means for fundraising. Through the generosity of the Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Foundation, PCE was able to secure the funds to film the new version. This was not the answer I thought I would receive in my initial inquiries, but it was an incredible opportunity to affect the lives of the babies at PCE and now throughout the country.
Carol traveled to Cincinnati and Greg Schlueter, a Catholic moviemaker, and staff member for the Diocese of Toledo, OH filmed the video. On the afternoon of February 15, 2013 just as filming was wrapping up at PCE our doorbell rang. With a CLOSED sign on the door, two women still rang our bell desperate for help. As I opened the door and they noticed all of the filming equipment, the client begged for assistance. Stepping inside the Center, the client shared she was already well into her second trimester, but had finally just told her sister, who then found the Center and brought her for help. The situation was sensitive and the expecting mom was also post abortive.
As the young pregnant client and her sister described the crisis, Carol rounded the corner and heard the story. Right there in the lobby of PCE Carol listened to this young client and through a beautiful conversation offered so much understanding and hope. Carol counseled the client with sincerity and love. This client stayed in PCE’s care throughout her pregnancy and a perfect baby was delivered this summer. Mom is overjoyed with how everything has worked out. This was the first miracle of life from the updated video being brought to reality.
An Informed Look at Abortion Techniques is the new 14-minute modern life-saving tool. Using modern colors and graphics Mertz Design Studios completed this version to also include information on Plan B as well as RU-486 abortions. The initial launch of the video took place in April 2013 at the Heartbeat International Conference, selling over 100 copies to centers as far away as Alaska, Africa, Austria, and Germany.
After viewing the video in Dallas at the Conference, Janet Morana, Executive Director of Priests for Life, shared, “Every pregnancy center should be showing this movie to clients.” Reviews from center directors throughout the country are calling it “powerful,” the “best tool next to an ultrasound in reaching hearts and minds in the decision for life.”
On the day I write this article one absolutely abortion determined mom sat in PCE with a volunteer and viewed An Informed Look. The decision for life was made then and there while watching the video, even before the ultrasound. The client was astounded by the reality of abortion procedures. What happens to her body as well as the unborn baby’s was shocking to say the least. Even in a non-graphic manner, seeing how an abortion is performed is devastating enough. When making the biggest decision of her life a woman deserves to have complete information. Carol’s testimony is riveting.
Hearing the sorrow of a post-abortive women provides another enormous window to the reality of abortion. Viewing this film allows a woman, in the words of Carol “To make her decision fully informed.”
We hope to get this tool in the hands
of thousands, including pregnancy resource centers, high school educators, and politicians. We will be distributing the video at future Catholic and pro-life conferences. Please visit us in Washington, D.C. during The March for Life convention. The video will continue to be sold through www.HeritageHouse.com, as well as directly through the Center, at 513-321-3100.
This story was sent to Heartbeat from Josephine Shoo, Executive Director of Options Pregnancy Clinic of Tanzania.
This child (pictured left) is albino. She almost lost her life before she was born, because her mother didn't have a true commitment to her father, and her family tried to force her to abort.
Herocially, she completely refused to do so!
After her birth, the father was so happy because the baby was albino, he came and suggested to the mother that they could cut her fingers or hands and sell them, so they could become rich and live forever happily together.
This is a lie of the enemy that has been going on in our country for many years. The spirit of death and the Culture of Death have far too often prevailed. Thankfully, this mother--again, heroically!--refused, and ran to our maternity home for rescue.
As for this precious little child, her life was in danger before and after her birth. But, she is now a big girl, and she just joined our school this year.
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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.
As the phone center manager for Pregnancy Resource Center of Gwinnett, Georgia, Lana Duffell has very little time to call her own.
Without the persistent effort put forth by Lana and her co-laborers, the call from a local woman or girl facing the desperate circumstance of an unexpected pregnancy might fall through the cracks, and cause her to choose abortion as the only option she can see at the moment.
So most days, Lana keeps her nose to the grindstone and her ear to the phone.
But when Lana and her staff decided to take time off during this Christmas season, she had no concerns about the calls and contacts that were sure to come in. Lana and her staff had full confidence that, even if they wouldn’t be there to answer the phone, Heartbeat International’s Option Line® would.
While Lana and her staff rested and reenergized for the coming year, the staff at Option Line routed a total of 39 calls and contacts to Pregnancy Resource Center, ensuring that not one woman seeking help fell through the cracks.
“Option Line has been there for us on a 24/7 basis, when we are in meetings and also when our phone lines are overwhelming,” Lana says. “With Option Line, we are at peace, knowing that our callers will get a live person who can offer them information about abortion alternatives or set an appointment so that we can do further counseling.
“Option Line answers our calls when we are not available, making the difference between losing a life and saving it.”
Since it opened shop in 2003, Option Line has answered the call more than 1.5 million times, in addition to 2.5 million unique visitors to its website, www.OptionLine.org.
That translates to a staggering amount of birthdays, which otherwise would never have been. For now, we’ll celebrate just one: Happy 10th Birthday, Option Line!
Since answerering its first phone call in early 2003, Heartbeat International's Option Line® has responded to over 1.5 million calls, text messages, emails and instant chats from women and familes facing unexpected pregnancies. Option Line staff are available 24/7, 365 days per year to answer callers' questions and connect them to pregnancy help organizations within their local communities, utlizing Heartbeat's Worldwide Directory of Pregnancy Help.
In their own words...
"I worked at Option Line for five years, and during that time, I watched it grow to become a premiere resource for women and men in pregnancy crisis. It was a great pleasure for me to work for an organization that believed in the strength and courage of women."
~April, Heartbeat International Ministry Services Specialist, former Option Line employee
"I love being a part of Option Line, and I feel honored to be in a position to reach so many young girls, women, and men from all over the world. I truly enjoy talking with callers and being able to help and support them by showing Jesus' love. Hearing that I've helped someone makes my day!"
~Julie, Option Line employee for 4 years
"Working at Option Line is an adventure! The job is never the same one day to the next, and knowing that what we do here reaches people in more than 100 countries every month never stops amazing me. Sometimes the calls are funny, and sometimes they're heart-breaking, but my favorite kind of call is when we hear back from someone who wants to tell us about their new baby and thank us for being there when they needed help."
~Bri, Director of Option Line Operations, Option Line employee for 10 years
~Chris, Option Line employee for 3 years
Listen to the positive impact Option Line has:
In Fishhoek, South Africa, "Marc and Veronica" hold their newly adopted baby girl and praise God that, after six long years of waiting, He has answered their prayers.
Cradling their daughter, "Jenna", in their arms at the site where she was left by her birth mother, the beaming parents know firsthand the value of the work Baby Safe International is doing.
For Marc and Veronica, the thought of Jenna’s probable fate without Baby Safe’s life-saving innovation is unimaginable. At just a day old, Jenna would likely have been a victim of infanticide—infant exposure—had it not been for the availability of Baby Safe’s deposit box, which empowers desperate mothers with a real choice to preserve the life of their baby.
In South Africa, “baby dumping,” as it is called, is an increasingly common occurrence in both rural and urban areas. Some babies are found in plastic bags in rubbish heaps, others in storm drains, abandoned fields, ditches, alleys, or even in rural homemade toilets.
Some of these children are found, thankfully, alive, while others are found dead—upwards of 500 in the Western Cape of South Africa in 2010 alone—and still more are never found. This sad fact tells us that baby dumping is, by its very nature, widely unreported.
Baby Safe, a nonprofit Heartbeat International affiliate, specifically targets this injustice in its region, just outside of Cape Town, by producing and distributing “baby safes,” where mothers can leave their babies anonymously as a real alternative to the horror of infanticide.
The box has a variety of safety features to insure that proper care will be given to the baby who is left by his or her mother. When a baby’s weight is detected inside the safe, a team of dedicated staff are immediately notified, while a safety backup system assures the baby will be promptly rescued by Baby Safe volunteers.
Through the production and distribution of these boxes, Baby Safe is carefully building a network that enables desperate mothers to choose life for their babies. This network is spreading throughout South Africa, and has broken through the northeastern border to Swaziland.
While its visible efforts are focused on providing an alternative to infanticide for desperate mothers, Baby Safe’s long-term vision is to connect with at-risk women before they reach the point of dumping their babies, with holistic direction that includes Bible studies, parenting classes, nutrition education, and even exercise and dance classes.
To learn more about Baby Safe, and to find out how you can help, visit TheBabySafe.org.
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