by Jor-El Godsey, President of Heartbeat International
About a month into my new role as the Executive Director in my new state of Colorado, I traveled to a retreat center, Young Life Camp, nestled in the foothills at 14,204 ft., Mt. Princeton. I was there for the weekend to participate in my first-ever Rocky Mountain Counselors Conference.
Fish Out of Water
The session opened and soon we were in a time of praise and worship. I scanned the crowd, more than 180 strong, only to realize that I was the only man in the room (no disrespect, but I’m not including the worship pastor and the drummer on the dais). The phrase “fish out of water” might’ve come to mind. The year was 1999. (Okay, stop snickering, I know that was the last century, er, even the last millennium.)
The Imbalance in Pregnancy Help
Fortunately, the ratio has improved since then. I mean, how could it not improve on 0.005%?! Every year, the number of men, as a percentage of the women, at our annual Heartbeat International Pregnancy Help Conference has grown to roughly 15%. (And, no, that count still doesn’t include the worship leader, drummer, or any of the guys with the worship band.)
Yet, the number of men in leadership in pregnancy help is still a relatively small percentage. Because abortion is a woman’s issue, right? At least that’s what is conveyed by our culture when the acceptable answer the man may give in response to her pregnancy is, “I’ll support whatever you want to do.” Or, worse, when rabid pro-abortion feminists shout, “No uterus, no opinion!”
However, abortion has never been that simple. Especially when you realize abortion was made legal in the U.S. by a dozen or so male governors (1967-1971), then by seven male Supreme Court justices with the Roe v. Wade ruling. Men and women are among every part of this issue.
From the Beginning
Even from the earliest days of the pregnancy help movement, men have been deeply involved. Indeed, one of Heartbeat’s founders was Dr. John Hillabrand, an obstetrician and gynecologist in a solo practice in Toledo, Ohio for whom “healing was both a physical and a spiritual calling.” (Hartshorn & Godsey, n.d., p. 43). There were many male physicians – in the 1960s, greater than 90% of OBs were male – along with the many female nurses who were encountering and ministering life, to the women and couples who were presented with an unintended and seemingly ill-timed pregnancy.
Since those days, men have even been key leaders in local pregnancy help organizations. Some for two or more decades: Dave (Arizona), Bob (Alabama), Larry (Oregon), Jim (Michigan), Sol (Florida), Patrick (Georgia), Raul (Colorado), and many more. Some of these men are still active in our movement today, along with more recent leaders like Andrew (Tennessee), Aaron (Texas), Josh (California), Mike (New Hampshire), Rich (Colorado), and Toby (Virginia).
Two Things For Men to Be Well-Equipped to Take the Reins
There are two things that should be in place for a man to be well-equipped to take the reins of a pregnancy help organization.
#1: He has a healthy understanding of men’s roles in abortion and the issue of abortion. Too often women are at-risk for abortion because of the men involved in the pregnancy. These men may have abandoned her to decide on her own, lending her no support. Or they may be actively pressuring her to abort for their own, selfish reasons. The prevalence of men like these could easily lead to making men “the problem.” Yet, a realistic glimpse into these circumstances shows that such actions arise more from selfishness and are not exclusive to any biological sex. Men can and should be part of the answer in a life decision.
#2: It takes a good cast of supporting women for a man to lead within a pregnancy help organization. The heart of pregnancy help is loving and supporting a woman in her pregnancy. Women are especially gifted in this area. Having women in key client leadership, among the many other possibilities, is a must to maximize what men can bring to a leadership role.
When inviting men into leadership, some policy and budget considerations are involved. (No, I’m not talking about the toilet seat position in the staff bathroom.) Some considerations include:
- When men and women serve together, it’s important to have protective guidelines about counseling and ministry interactions in place.
- Travel expenses might increase a bit when room-sharing is not appropriate.
- Although, having a man with "handyman abilities" around regularly may help offset those costs. (Unless it becomes necessary to hire a licensed professional.)
At Heartbeat, we firmly believe we are “better together.” This includes having men, along with women, in leadership roles across the movement. The winning formula for achieving a true culture of life is when both women and men are actively speaking about life as well as serving and championing the Gift of Life.
Hartshorn, Dr. P., & Godsey, J.-E. (n.d.). The Power of Pregnancy Help (p. 43). Heartbeat International, Inc. https://www.heartbeatservices.org/resources/resources-by-topic/networking/the-power-of-pregnancy-help