A role to play

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by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant

I was reading through Proverbs when news of the Penn State child abuse scandal broke in late 2011. As the horrific story dominated every inch of the public square, one saying from the wise man stood out most clearly to me:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

I was so sickened by what I was seeing and hearing about everything, from the grisly details of the events that had occurred—and were even witnessed—to the shameful cover-ups collaborated by football coaches, school administrators, and even sworn officers of the law.

Having worked in collegiate athletics for nearly 10 years, these acts of negligence hit me with a specific force, but no harder than they hit me as a father. I felt anger, disgust, nausea, and helplessness.

But what good would come if all I did was feel these things, and then let them fade away so that I could go on with the rest of my life? Did the sting of this outrage belong in the rear-view mirror?

While my 1-year-old daughter napped one Saturday afternoon, I began to pray that somehow, some way, God would lead me to a calling and vocation where I could play a role in the rescue of those being taken away to death. I prayed, and less than a year later, God—the true and final Rescuer—brought me an opportunity to do just that, with an organization I’d never heard of, called Heartbeat International.

Today, I am so blessed to be playing a role in the effort to hold back “those stumbling to the slaughter.” Most of you who are reading this are in the trenches right now, fighting this battle one life at a time. Some of you have been in this trench longer than I’ve been on this earth.

What an honor it has been to join with you in the battle to hold each life precious.

Together, we hope and pray and labor for the day when abortion is not only unwanted, but unthinkable in our nation, our legal system, and our culture. At the same time, we also realize that abortion may not be going away this side of heaven. In one form or another, the strong will always victimize the weak, right up until the Day when the Judge of the whole earth makes all things right.

Until that Day dawns, our orders are clear: We are to rescue those who are being taken away to death. One child at a time. One woman at a time. One family at a time. 

It’s not up to you and me to finally solve these evils. It’s up to each of us to be faithful to do our part, in hope—hope that one Day, we will see these evils ended before our very eyes. Until that Day comes, we’re free to focus on the task at hand without driving ourselves to despair or exhaustion.

The problem is more than you and I could ever handle, and yet, it has already been handled—fully and finally by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We enter into that promise by faith, but it's that same faith that also thrusts us into the vineyard to labor for that which our faithful Savior values.

Take heart. God, the one who “keeps watch over your soul” sees the good work you’re doing. And, he will repay you according to it.

Victories for Pregnancy Help Movement and First Amendment

(5/10/2012)

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Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was the first circuit court to rule on government mandates requiring pregnancy centers to post disclaimers and disclosures, declaring that such mandates violate freedom of speech, a constitutional right.

“The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision is a victory for Centro Tepeyac and other Heartbeat International affiliated pregnancy help centers that are rescuing children who were once at risk of abortion by providing practical help and emotional support to mothers who often have been abandoned and abused,” said Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. “This decision upholding our freedom of speech affirms the life-saving work of pregnancy centers and the importance of providing alternatives to abortion.”

The first case ruled upon by the court was Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County; Montgomery County Council, et al, No. 11-1314 (4th Cir. 6/27/2012) in which the county passed a resolution requiring limited service pregnancy centers to display a sign bearing two statements: “The Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff. Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.”

The second case, Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns et al v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, et al, No. 11-1111 (4th Cir. 6/27/2012) originated from Baltimore, which involved a city ordinance mandating pregnancy help organizations to post signage in two languages that “the center does not perform or refer for abortions or birth control services.”

The Fourth Circuit Court slapped down both government mandates as violations of free speech, applying strict scrutiny to its analysis of both laws.

The Court applied the same reasoning to both laws:

  1. that the pregnancy centers are not engaged in commercial speech;
  2. that the Court was obligated to apply strict scrutiny in its review of such ordinances and resolutions;
  3. the government did not demonstrate a compelling interest necessitating the laws; and
  4. that both laws violated First Amendment.

These rulings signal a strong victory for pregnancy help organizations, not only in Maryland, but across the country, as challenges are raised to similar attempts in other jurisdictions.

 

Do's and Don'ts of a nonprofit in an election season

election ahead signThe first platinum rule for you as a nonprofit and as representatives of the nonprofit is that you may not endorse, support or oppose any specific candidate or political party. Your activities must be nonpartisan. The second platinum rule is that you as an individual—regardless of what your job is—may personally endorse, support or oppose any candidate or political party. To state it again:

  • A 501(c)(3) is not permitted to endorse, support or oppose any candidate for public office or any political party. Period. That is the law.
  • Second, as individual citizens who happen to be employed by nonprofits, you are certainly able to exercise your rights as citizens as guaranteed under the Constitution.

Let’s talk about what a nonprofit CAN do:

  • A nonprofit can conduct a voter education forum in a nonpartisan manner…in other words it is not truly nonpartisan if a nonprofit only invites one candidate. The forum must be held for the purpose of educating and informing voters, which provides fair and impartial treatment of candidates, and which does not promote or advance one candidate over another.
  • A nonprofit can operate a voter registration booth with its name displayed on the booth.
  • A nonprofit can provide transportation issues to the polls as long as it does not drive only those who will vote for a favorite candidate.
  • A nonprofit can target turnout efforts to the people or areas they serve, or population groups, students, elderly, minority groups.
  • A nonprofit can continue to do normal lobbying on issues.
  • Work on behalf of a ballot measure.
  • A 501 (c)(3) can rent or sell mailing lists to candidates at fair market value, as long as it is made available to all candidates.

Further, if a representative of a nonprofit is asked to speak publicly during an election cycle or specifically asked for opinions about candidates, representatives of a 501(c)(3) should:

  • Decide who will speak publicly on behalf of the 501(c)(3) organization, so that non-designated staff will not inadvertently say something inappropriate.
  • Script responses before talking to reporters.
  • Focus on what was said (the issue), not who said it (the candidate). Avoid talking about a candidate’s qualifications or whether someone is a good or bad candidate.
  • Avoid discussing a candidate’s record; commenting on a candidate’s record is very close to commenting on a candidate’s qualifications or whether he or she should be elected.
  • Avoid talking about voters and making references to the election. For example, instead of saying “Voters will not accept…” say, “Americans won’t accept...”
  • Avoid identifying the candidate by name. It is better to say: “During the recent Republican debate, statements were made about X. We disagree…”
  • Be very cautious if a reporter asks about which candidate is better on the 501(c)(3)’s issues, or whether the 501(c)(3) agrees with a statement a candidate made. Issue the disclaimer: “Well, as you know, we are a nonprofit and are not permitted to endorse, support or oppose any candidate.” Then go back to scripted statements and rules above.
  • A 501(c)(3) organization may urge all candidates to take a stand or act on an issue, without commenting on specific candidate statements. For example, a 501(c)(3) organization may want to urge both major party candidates in the presidential race to take more forceful action on the issue of illegal guns and violence. A 501(c)(3) making this kind of communication should be careful to avoid criticizing any candidate, and should focus on the need for all candidates to take action.

What can a nonprofit NOT do:

  • A nonprofit cannot post anything on its website or in its office that favors or opposes a candidate for public office.
  • A nonprofit cannot distribute printed material that favors or opposes a particular candidate.
  • A nonprofit should monitor any content linked to its website.
  • A nonprofit cannot do political fundraising for any candidate.
  • Do not use the “magic words” vote for or vote against a particular candidate.
  • Contribute time, facilities or money to a candidate.
  • Do not coordinate activities with a candidate.
  • Do not publish anything in official newsletters, brochures or publications of any kind that favors or opposes a candidate.
  • Do not increase the organization’s level of criticism or praise of an official or devote a special issue of its publications to an incumbent’s favorable or unfavorable record.
  • Do not distribute more copies than usual of the publication during the campaign year.
  • Do not focus on the personal character or qualifications of an incumbent, or campaign contributions of the incumbent.
  • Do not connect the organization’s criticism of a voting record of an official  to an election. For example, publicly remarking that an official is anti-immigrant and mentioning that people should register to vote.
  • Do not point out that a particular candidate’s actions (as opposed to official actions) or views are incorrect. For example, a 501(c)(3) should not urge the public to withhold campaign contributions for a Senator’s re-election if she votes for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” or remark that one candidate would be better than another candidate at creating green jobs if elected than another candidate.

Resources:

Let’s talk about what a nonprofit CAN do:

·       A nonprofit can conduct a voter education forum in a non partisan manner…in other words it is not truly nonpartisan if a nonprofit only invites one candidate. The forum must be held for the purpose of educating and informing voters, which provides fair and impartial treatment of candidates, and which does not promote or advance one candidate over another

·       A nonprofit can operate a voter registration booth with its name displayed on the booth

·       A nonprofit can provide transportation issues to the polls as long as it does not drive only those who will vote for a favorite candidate;

·       A nonprofit can target turnout efforts to the people or areas they serve, or population groups, students, elderly, minority groups

·       A non profit can continue to do normal lobbying on issues;

·       Work on behalf of a ballot measure;

·       A 501 c3 can rent or sell mailing lists to candidates at fair market value, as long as it is made available to all candidates.

Further, if a representative of a nonprofit is asked to speak publicly during an election cycle or specifically asked for opinions about candidates, representatives of a 501(c)(3) should:

·        Decide who will speak publicly on behalf of the 501(c)(3) organization, so that non-designated staff will not inadvertently say something inappropriate.

·        Script responses before talking to reporters.

·        Focus on what was said (the issue), not who said it (the candidate). Avoid talking about a candidate’s qualifications or whether someone is a good or bad candidate.

·        Avoid discussing a candidate’s record; commenting on a candidate’s record is very close to commenting on a candidate’s qualifications or whether he or she should be elected.

·        Avoid talking about voters and making references to the election. For example, instead of saying “Voters will not accept…” say, “Americans won’t accept……”

·        Avoid identifying the candidate by name. It is better to say: “During the recent Republican debate, statements were made about X. We disagree…”

·        Be very cautious if a reporter asks about which candidate is better on the 501(c)(3)’s issues, or whether the 501(c)(3) agrees with a statement a candidate made. Issue the disclaimer: “well, as you know, we are a nonprofit and are not permitted to endorse, support or oppose any candidate.” Then go back to scripted statements and rules above.

·        A 501(c)(3) organization may urge all candidates to take a stand or act on an issue, without commenting on specific candidate statements. For example, a 501(c)(3) organization may want to urge both major party candidates in the presidential race to take more forceful action on the issue of illegal guns and violence. A 501(c)(3) making this kind of communication should be careful to avoid criticizing any candidate, and should focus on the need for all candidates to take action.

What can a nonprofit NOT do:

·       A nonprofit cannot post anything on its website or in its office  that favors or opposes a candidate for public office

·       A nonprofit cannot distribute printed material that favors or opposes a particular candidate

·       A nonprofit should monitor any content linked to its website

·       A nonprofit cannot do political fundraising for any candidate

·       Do not use the “magic words” vote for  vote against a particular candidate;

·       Contribute time, facilities or money to a candidate;

·       Do not coordinate activities with a candidate;

·       Do not publish anything in official newsletters, brochures or publications of any kind that favors or opposes a candidate;

·       Do not Increase the organization’s level of criticism or praise of an official or devote a special issue of its publications to an incumbent’s favorable or unfavorable record.

·       Distributing more copies than usual of the publication during the campaign year.

·       Focusing on the personal character or qualifications of an incumbent or campaign contributions of the incumbent.

·       Connect the organization’s criticism to voting in an election. For example, publicly remarking that an official is anti-immigrant and mentioning that people should register to vote.

·       Pointing out that a particular candidate’s actions (as opposed to official actions) or views are incorrect. For example, a 501(c)(3) should not urge the public to withhold campaign contributions for a Senator’s re-election if she votes for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” or remark that one candidate would be better at creating green jobs if elected than another candidate.

Public Impact

 Commending the pregnancy help movement... Pregnancy Help Centers are Good for America!

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For the 12th time since beginning the Babies Go to Congress® program in 2009, Heartbeat International brought a group of mothers, babies, and local pregnancy help leaders to the nation’s capitol to share their stories of how the pregnancy help movement has positively impacted their lives January 23, 2014.

The team included seven mothers and seven babies—the largest single contingent Heartbeat has brought along in the short history of the program. Participants had the opportunity to speak face-to-face with congressional offices representing their particular districts, giving lawmakers a flesh-and-blood testimonial that pregnancy help centers are good for America.

Comprising the latest contigent were families and centers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia represented, including a 3-year-old pair of twin girls and a young mother who made the courageous choice to place her child into the hands of adoptive parents. In each case, an unexpected pregnancy put both the mother and her child(ren) at risk for abortion, but the mothers found the practical help and emotional support they needed to choose life at a local, privately funded, non-profit pregnancy help organization.

A key piece of information Heartbeat International always hopes to underscore through the event is the privately funded, non-profit status of pregnancy help organizations. Unlike most meetings congressional offices hold with their constituents, there is never any request for public funds as part of the event, a fact that also stands in stark contrast to highly profitable, publicly funded abortion businesses such as Planned Parenthood.

Since beginning the program in 2009, a total of 109 women and children representing over 50 centers have visited 222 congressional offices from 22 different states.

To see a photo gallery from the January 2014 Babies Go to Congress, click here. 

To find out more about your organization participating in Babies Go to Congress, click here.

 

Defending the life-savers... Heartbeat has your back

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When NARAL Pro-Choice America launched attacks against pregnancy help centers in Virginia, West Virginia, and Montana throughout 2013, Heartbeat International was there to both officially refute the unfounded claims, and to pass along needed information to affiliates and non-affiliates operating in the affected areas.

July 3, 2013, Heartbeat released an extended response to NARAL’s “investigative report” on centers in Virginia, detailing major shortcomings of the attack’s methodology, motivation, and handling of research related to abortion.

The response was applicable to similar attacks throughout the U.S. later in the summer, and modified versions of Heartbeat’s release were targeted to affiliate centers in those areas. Heartbeat also gave affiliates a “head’s up” via e-blasts throughout the year as abortion advocate Katie Stack made undercover visits to centers in an effort to malign the good work they do every day.

Heartbeat also responded to a similar report produced by National Public Radio’s The World, receiving an invitation by the program for future interviews, solidifying Heartbeat’s role as an authoritative voice in the pregnancy help movement.

Learn more about Heartbeat's work of defending the pregnancy help movement here. (Note: Must be a Heartbeat affiliate)

Can we be non-political?

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Politics are messy. And that’s on a good day. The political process is at best frustrating and at times infuriating.

In the U.S. the politics of abortion has involved every aspect of government – executive, legislative and judicial branches; state houses and city halls; Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court; even school boards and health officials. After all of the political wrangling of the past four decades the issue is still far from settled.

Yet, the girl who walks into our care isn’t thinking about the “right” determined by seven justices in 1973. She isn’t considering the legal definition of personhood that would apply to her unborn child. She’s focused on a choice that she will carry the consequences of for the rest of her life. The politics are not even remotely a primary concern.

Kind-hearted, compassionate, pregnancy help folks often similarly eschew the politics and the public arena to focus their energies on this non-political client. They are not expecting to change a law at the nation’s capital, but instead are intent upon touching the life (lives) sitting in their counseling room. And while the inconclusive debates rage in far away capitols, the clear result of a baby being born shows the everyday effectiveness of our compassionate efforts.

Yet, the politics of abortion has spilled over into direct legislative attacks on pregnancy centers, and now abortions will be funded through state and national healthcare. For many it has been easy to avoid the politics and focus on the clients. Unfortunately, the politics has come now to us. Nathan Burd, former Public Policy staffer at Heartbeat, said it this way, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.”

Worse yet, limiting ourselves to only championing non-political compassion service efforts to reduce abortion is to gravely miss the reality that politicians are intent on increasing abortion through the legislative process. Even amidst the recent move of a majority of the populous to self-identify as “pro-life,” abortion is no longer just a “right” that is allowed by a Supreme Court decision, but it has become a healthcare option that must be funded and supported by everyone.

What we want less of, we tax. What we want more of, we subsidize.

Subsidies for abortion are set to increase at exponential levels in the U.S. through new health care laws.  The recent Supreme Court decision clarifies that a tax will be levied against those who fail to buy insurance that must cover abortifacients.  (Not even religious organizations are exempt.)

This must motivate our pregnancy help movement to get even more involved with political process. It is hypocritical for the interventionist to miss an opportunity for prevention.

Intervening with compassion will always be our primary calling. Yet missing the opportunity for prevention by influencing politics is to virtually guarantee that we will only have an increasing number of people in our counseling rooms who need our intervention. True compassion is doing both – intervening with those who are in the valley of decision and preventing others from ever needing our intervention.

Can we be non-political? Perhaps it is possible at an organizational level where we purposefully avoid certain “political” activities due to our tax status or for public relations positioning.   But it seems less and less possible in this era for each of us individually where politics is not only coming to our door but poised to dramatically increase the number of clients that we might serve.

Heartbeat’s Babies Go to Congress Speaks Life to Power

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Shelly and KireeShelly and daughter Kiree at the Capitol.

Heartbeat’s Babies Go to Congress in the news:

Heartbeat’s Babies Go to Congress® puts a face on the very divisive issue of abortion, or, more precisely, what to do with an unexpected child. This July, Heartbeat International brought its tenth group of moms and babies to our nation’s capital at a critical time to speak life to power.

Once again, God equipped those whom He called to Heartbeat’s Babies Go to Congress. We had four affiliates participating from California, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas, bringing four moms, two infants, and two children. Dividing into teams, we held 14 congressional meetings in one day.

July’s Capitol Hill adventure brings our total number of participants to 150 since Heartbeat’s Babies Go to Congress began in January 2009.  That includes 34 affiliates from 23 states along with 86 moms and babies. We have held nearly 200 congressional meetings.

Those in attendance were thrilled with this Heartbeat event describing it as “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The moms involved did a fantastic job of explaining how pregnancy help organization staff and volunteers cleared away obstacles so they could welcome a new little life. Each mom, in her own engaging way, explained to her elected officials that even though there was pressure to abort her baby, the pregnancy help network made it possible to embrace motherhood.

One of the things that made this event unique is that we had a mom representing the Choctaw Nation.

Shelly Louis of Durant, Okla., not only had the opportunity to meet with her representative, but was very well received by U.S. Representative Cole, who happens to be the only Native American congressman. Shelly also met with both of her U.S. senators. Senator Coburn even took her aside and, with his hand placed affectionately on her shoulder, thanked her for choosing life for little Kiree.

Additional highlights included a meeting with Congresswoman Bachmann who shares our passion for life. Congresswoman Hartzler shared a wonderfully touching adoption story with our group. She also encouraged everyone to keep up the good work.

While the most pro-abortion administration in U.S. history promotes taxpayer sponsored abortion and mandates anti-child policies – because childlessness is cheaper – every pro-life American has a heightened responsibility to clarify the importance of providing alternatives to abortion.

Through Heartbeat’s Babies Go to Congress, we provide this opportunity for moms to let policy makers know that pregnancy help centers are good for America. It is our goal that U.S. lawmakers from every state understand that alternatives to abortion prevent coerced abortions.

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Click here to find out how you can be considered for our next trip to Washington D.C. January 23-24, 2013.

 

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