by Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., Heartbeat International Chairman of the Board
We can all take heart from the findings of the latest report on the amazing work of pregnancy help centers, clinics, and maternity homes across the USA, A Half Century of Hope, A Legacy of Life & Love: Pregnancy Center Service Report, Third Edition, which notes that pregnancy help centers trace their beginnings to 1968, 50 years ago.
Having discovered our local Birthright in 1973 and Heartbeat International in 1978, I have been an eyewitness to the growth of this movement for 45 years. What a privilege to experience what God is doing through ordinary people who can accomplish the extraordinary when He is calling and equipping.
I want to reflect briefly on three things this report highlights.
First of all, the heroism of the mothers who are choosing life over abortion, despite the incessant marketing and promotion of abortion in American culture and organized attempts to stifle the voices for life, especially in pregnancy help centers.
We do not save babies – mothers do, once they have the love, support, care, knowledge, and new vision they need to overcome the pressures leading them toward abortion. We are woman-centered, and women are choosing life over abortion at higher rates than ever since 1973.
As the pregnancy center report shows, the abortion rate in this country in 2014 (the latest year for which numbers are available) has gone down to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women from a high of 29.3 eight years after the Roe v. Wade decision (according to Guttmacher Institute).
Additional research underway now is looking at the hypothesis that even more than state laws, clinic closures, or political changes the major factor in this decline in the abortion ratio could well be the work of pregnancy help organizations! We will not rest from our labors until every woman who needs help can find it at her local life-affirming pregnancy help organization.
Just one more reason our Life Launch Grant to help start pregnancy centers in areas primed for more life-saving outreach is such an important recent initiative.
Second, the Footsoldiers Armed with LOVE – those working in pregnancy help organizations, and their supporters, throughout the USA (and the world) who provide the love, support, and help so women can choose life for their babies.
From the handful of volunteers that started, supported, and worked in each of the original pregnancy help centers (there were about 100 locations in 1971 when Heartbeat published our first Worldwide Directory), God has raised a mighty army!
In 2017, in 2,600 pregnancy help locations, there were 67,400 volunteers, along with a much smaller number of dedicated staff members, who served 2 Million people!
The tools available for this army have multiplied in the last 50 years, as the pregnancy center report illustrates. Centers are utilizing valuable tools that are becoming more and more available and prevalent. Just look at how many centers are expanding their services: 70% offer ultrasounds, 41% provide sexual integrity and sexual risk avoidance education with evidence-based curricula and materials, 97% offer material aid, 87% provide prenatal and parenting support and education, and 75% host after abortion support and healing programs.
Life affirming crisis intervention, prevention services (sexual integrity), support, and after abortion healing ALL save lives. Each provides, at some point in a woman’s life, a life-affirming vision, a hope, and perhaps some practical help, so some women will never be faced with a difficult pregnancy, and those who are know that abortion is NOT their only alternative.
To me, this continues to prove that the best alternative to abortion is another person – armed with the love of Christ, offering women a new vision of hope and life.
My third thought – my passion for the vision and mission of Heartbeat – the network of centers, clinics, and housing ministries that make up Heartbeat International, plus the programs and services of “Heartbeat Central” (our headquarters).
Heartbeat International was founded in 1971 by a diverse group of the original pregnancy help organizations (from California, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and other states). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, these centers were starting up all over the USA because of the push to de-criminalize abortion state by state. The founders knew that, once abortion became legal, women would need help and support to withstand the pressure for abortion.
These centers were diverse, influenced by local needs and the vision of their founders – entrepreneurial and creative. And they still are!
There never was one Heartbeat model – there were MANY models. And there still are, as the pregnancy center services report makes clear! It highlights the continuing diversity and creativity, the local, personal, and God-led nature of pregnancy help, while it is, at the same time, professional and sophisticated in the most positive senses of those words.
Heartbeat Central – your team at the Heartbeat headquarters – also remains entrepreneurial and creative plus professional and sophisticated as we lead and equip this dynamic movement. Starting like most pregnancy centers do, as “all volunteer” in 1971, we now have over 50 dedicated staff members with diverse expertise.
Let me highlight just 3 areas, mentioned in the pregnancy center services report, where Heartbeat International is advancing the pregnancy help movement, areas that I am personally passionate about.
Reaching women, particularly minorities who are targets of abortionists. Heartbeat’s original 1971 vision for a toll free number (called a Watts Line in ancient times!) is now our Option Line, answering more than 1,000 calls for help EVERY DAY and sending these people to the amazing network of local pregnancy help.
We know that women search for help primarily online, and Option Line is the only web-based helpline – “answering the call” via text, email, live chat, and phones. As the pregnancy center services report notes, Planned Parenthood and other abortionists target minority and immigrant women for abortions. Option Line is staffed by loving and caring bilingual consultants, fluent in English and Spanish, 24/7, 365 days per year.
In the not too distant future, the number of calls for help answered by Option Line yearly in the USA will surpass the number of abortions!
Rescuing women and their children from the Abortion Pill. With perhaps 1/3 of abortions now done by the “abortion pill,” according to the pregnancy center services report, Heartbeat is countering with our APR network – Abortion Pill Rescue. Option Line is answering calls from women who change their minds after taking the first pill of the two-pill chemical abortion process.
These women are desperately seeking help. Heartbeat is growing the present network of over 450 physicians who use the APR protocol to save babies (over 500 born so far!) and the centers that refer to this network in an effort to help even more women save their babies and themselves from the effects of abortion.
Renewing training and service efforts with the latest technology. From a handful of training pamphlets that we could provide by snail mail in the 70’s – the first and only training materials available to all centers – Heartbeat International now uses the latest distance-learning technology in our online Academy to provide APR training as well as over 200 different courses and webinars, any place and any time to more than 4,300 registered students in the pregnancy help movement.
To advance the medical emphasis in pregnancy centers, as noted in the pregnancy center services report, our Academy provides CEU’s for nurses and even a full ultrasound training course online. For staff and for volunteers, still the heart of the movement, we also provide a Life-Affirming Specialist (LAS) certification to help keep up crucial skills and learn best practices. LAS continuing education credits can be earned online through our advanced online class ConCERT, online webinars, or in-person training opportunities such as the Heartbeat International Annual Conference.
In fact, almost the only technology employed by Heartbeat’s first pregnancy help affiliates in the 70’s – and by Heartbeat International too – was the telephone (even pregnancy tests had to be done by cooperating doctor’s offices)! Now, Heartbeat leads with a variety of technology training and solutions for centers – from Option Line (to schedule appointments within cooperating centers), to website design and local search marketing from Extend Web Services, to a complete center management system, Next Level.
All of this, Heartbeat makes available to serve the broader pregnancy help movement, not just to our affiliated network.
We see Lord’s hand here – in the way He has provided the vision and resources for us at Heartbeat to serve the pregnancy help movement over these many decades – and in the amazing success story of pregnancy help in the USA, so well documented in A Half Century of Hope, A Legacy of Life & Love: Pregnancy Center Service Report, Third Edition.
THANK YOU – to all of YOU whom God has called to be part of this story, and Praise be to God – from whom all these blessings flow! Let us all Take Heart.