|Margaret H. Hartshorn, Ph.D, President of Heartbeat International|
Reported at the round table
“Maintaining Family Values in the 21st Century (Family as the key to resolve all major problems of the humankind)”
that took place within the framework of
World Public Forum
“Dialogue of Civilizations”
IX Annual Session
(October 6—10, 2011, Rhodes, Greece)
One of the best means to strengthen the family in the XXIst Century is community-based, life-affirming pregnancy help centers and pregnancy help medical clinics. At present, there are about 5,000 of these free-standing, generally independent, help centers and clinics, almost all NGO’s, around the world. About half of these centers and clinics are in the United States, but they are developing rapidly worldwide.
Heartbeat International’s mission is to advance this movement into all areas of the world and to strengthen existing centers and clinics. We keep track of established and emerging pregnancy help centers and clinics worldwide, and we have published an annual desk reference called the Worldwide Directory of Life-Affirming Pregnancy Help Organizations since 1972. This is updated continuously and is available on our website: www.heartbeatinternational.org (assistance in keeping this directory accurate is appreciated!).
The most expansive network of these organizations is Heartbeat International, with about 1200 independent, but affiliated organizations in 50 countries. Heartbeat International affiliates agree to certain governing principles and standards of care and competence.
The first pregnancy help centers were developed in the United States and Canada in the late 1960’s , as a response to the organized agenda to make abortion legal in North America.
The founders of these early pregnancy help centers knew that, once abortion became legal, a “safely net” would be needed because women would feel even more coerced to have abortions once they became, supposedly, “legal and safe.” All centers and clinics are “life affirming”; that is, while they give accurate, medically referenced information on procedures and risks of abortion and abortifacients (including the pill, morning after pill, ella, RU 486, etc., or surgical abortion), they do not provide them or refer for them.
The original “safety net” concept for pregnancy help centers (as vehicles to offer crisis intervention and limited support for an expected or unwanted pregnancy) has grown and developed through the years. As supports for families have diminished in cultures around the world in the last 40 years, pregnancy help centers have added more and more services. To crisis intervention services, like pregnancy testing and counseling, they have added prevention, support, and healing/restoration services. Recently, they have added medical services, and “centers” have become “clinics.”
Not all centers and medical clinics have the same services. That depends on the needs of a particular community and the resources available.
However, several of the following services are common in pregnancy help centers around the world (and some “comprehensive centers” provide nearly all of these services):
Pregnancy help medical clinics provide one or more of the following services, all under the direction and license of a private physician (most often a volunteer), with the assistance of nurses, nurse practitioners, and midwives (generally also volunteers):
They may also provide many of the same services as non-medical pregnancy help centers. (Many started as help centers and added medical services.)
According to research, in the USA, 39 out of every 40 people working in pregnancy help centers and clinics are volunteers, and these centers and clinics are funded 90% by charitable contributions (only 10% by government funding, primarily for abstinence education in the schools), making this one of the greatest grassroots, volunteer movements in the history of the USA. The same pattern can be seen in pregnancy help centers on every continent.
The method used in these centers and clinics Heartbeat has named The LOVE Approach® , and we provide training in person and via web-based curriculum around the world. We are motivated to help women and families in need because we are faith based.
We are called to bring the love of Christ to others, to “give justice to the weak and the fatherless” (Psalm 82:34) and, like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), to help our neighbor in distress. We bring our own resources to this work, but we rely primarily on the Lord to work through us. Because both mother and child are made “in the image of God” and abortion is sometimes represented as the only or best choice, we are also called to “rescue those being led away to death” (Proverbs 24:11).
Our method is based on St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, in which he describes love as always patient and kind, not self-seeking, not dwelling on wrongs, always hoping, always enduring. Our method also can be described with the acronym of LOVE.
First we Listen and Learn from the woman what are her strengths, needs, thoughts, feelings, values, wants, focusing on what is putting pressure on her during this pregnancy and what resources she has to deal with these pressures.
We are woman-centered, caring, and non-judgmental. Then we Open Options with the woman, discussing factual and medically-referenced information on her options: abortion and parenting (through single parenting, marriage, choosing for her child parents through adoption).
We also share a new Vision and Value with the woman, encouraging her to see herself in a different light, as valuable and worthy of respect, as having special gifts, as loved and cared for by the Lord (we hope that she experiences the love of the Lord through us). Finally, we Extend help and Empower her to make positive choices through connecting her to help available in the community and though our center or clinic.
Pregnancy help centers and clinics are needed today more than ever because the current social services and medical communities are overwhelmingly influenced by the “reproductive health” mentality, promoted by International Planned Parenthood and the United Nations population fund since the 1960’s: that birth control and abortion should be primary services for women and should be universally available at little or no cost to the public. Approximately 50 million abortions occur annually (not counting abortions from abortifacients such as the morning after pill, ella, and others).
This leaves little or no concrete support for women to continue their pregnancies and have happy and healthy pregnancies and childbirth, despite the fact that most women, deep down, do not want to have abortions. One researcher (Frederica Mathewes- Green) who interviewed women in depth after their abortions, concluded that women choose abortion like an animal, caught in a trip, gnaws off its own leg.
Vast numbers of women say they were coerced into their abortions. Moreover, a wide range of recent research in the social and medical sciences is showing that abortions are not good for women’s health, either physically or emotionally. Abortions often cause problems In future fertility or future (wanted) pregnancies, including a higher percentage of pre-term births. Vast numbers of women suffer emotional consequences, including depression that often leads to numbing the pain with alcohol and drug abuse. Problems in bonding between men and women, and bonding problems between mothers and their living children are associated with abortion. Recent research shows that men suffer many of the same emotional problems after abortion, and siblings of aborted children are also affected.
Another important reason to encourage and support childbirth, as we do in life-affirming pregnancy help centers and medical clinics, is that most of the world is facing a “demographic winter.” Once the older population dies out, there are fewer children to take their place, so the worldwide trend of declining population will be more apparent in the next thirty to fifty years. In some regions of the world, however, like Europe, many of the countries have a total fertility rate of much less than the replacement level of 2.1—2.2.
In Russia, for example, the total fertility rate is only 1.5. At this rate, many demographers predict that there can be no recovery, that the “native” population will become virtually extinct, and that the economy will only advance by way of massive immigration.
However, reversal of this trend may be possible with the help and support of the government, private industry, and the church. Pregnancy help centers and clinics are an outreach of the church, the Body of Christ in this world, and we can and do play a vital role in averting abortions and encouraging and supporting the natural family (composed of father, mother, and children, in marriage).
In fact, the availability of abortion and the aftermath of abortion (if left unhealed) are major causes, and arguably the major cause, for the decline in the family.
Abortion creates a mistrust between man and woman, affects their ability to bond to the opposite sex, often leads to divorce (if the couple is married at the time of the abortion), and also creates bonding issues in the family itself (between the parents and the living children, born before or after the abortion).
The availability of abortion is a major factor in the increase of “recreational sex” and the separation of the idea of children from the act of sexual intimacy, and it is a factor in the following trends: co-habitation instead of marriage, postponing childbirth or childbearing altogether, and “permanent” single motherhood.
In 2009, the Family Research Council published a study of the effects of pregnancy help centers and clinics, called A Passion to Serve, available on the Heartbeat International website (search for the title).
The study documented that the major pregnancy help centers and clinics (about 2,000) in the USA see about 5,500 women per day. They not only avert a vast number of abortions, but they also, through a variety of program, provide for healthy pregnancies.
They have a major impact on maternal and child health in the United States and they save taxpayers thousands of dollars by providing free care and averting costly effects of abortion (both effects on women’s health, such as problems in future pregnancies and effects on children, such as pre-term births).
One case study is the pregnancy help medical clinic in Springfield, Missouri, that joined other community organizations in targeting ten “red flags” of maternal and child health problems in Springfield. The pregnancy help clinic measured outcomes for the women and children in their programs and found that their programs contributed to the following documented successes in the community: decline in number of abortions, decline in teenage pregnancies, decline in fatherlessness, decline in domestic violence, decline in low infant birth weights.
In fact, a pregnancy help center or medical clinic that is active and well connected in its community can not only radically affect the lives of the women, men, and children who receive direct services, it can also be a life-affirming “hub” that affects the attitudes and values of the entire community that it touches with its work: the social services and counseling community, the medical community, the schools, the businesses, the media, the church, and legislators.
Pregnancy help centers and clinics can be one of the best, most practical, means for renewing and strengthening the family in the XXIst century.