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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Peggy Hartshorn | author
Apr 01, 2010
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Saving lives every day

The Family Research Council‘s new report says pregnancy centers save lives . . .

Peggy Hartshorn

A woman bound for an abortion in New York City recently agreed to an ultrasound at a pregnancy help center. But even after the baby’s perfectly formed image was revealed on the screen, the mother insisted she was still going to keep her abortion appointment.

The distraught pro-life consultant found herself offering something unique to a pregnant mother, something seemingly nonsensical: “Would you like to hold your baby’s hand? Put your hand here.” With a quizzical look on her face, the woman slowly placed her hand on her womb. To the shock of both mom and the consultant, the baby’s tiny hand, visible on the screen, shot up immediately and touched her mother’s hand! In tears, and finally bonded with her baby, the mother chose life.

Pope John Paul II commended the work of pregnancy help centers in Evangelium Vitae: “Newborn life is also served by centers of assistance and homes or centers where new life receives a welcome. Thanks to the work of such centers many … find new hope and find assistance and support ” (#88).

Since he wrote those words in 1995, the number of pregnancy help centers has at least doubled, with nearly 3,000 in the U.S. and another 2,000 around the world. About 40 years after pioneering centers were founded, the first attempt to quantify and describe their impact has been published by the Family Research Council.

I was involved in the research that resulted in A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life. Its conclusions are stunning. For example, the facts show that the pregnancy help movement is one of the greatest volunteer movements in American history: 29 out of 30 people involved (about 40,000 people at any one moment) are volunteers.

These volunteers are impacting about 2 million people every year, about 5,500 people per day. Heartbeat-affiliated centers (about half of all those in the U.S.) save at least 2,000 babies every week whose mothers would otherwise have had an abortion. This decreases the annual number of abortions in the U.S. by about 10%.We reduce abortions even further through our post-abortion care and recovery programs. (Nearly half of all abortions are performed on women who remain unhealed after at least one previous abortion.)

If the budgets of help centers and their affiliated groups are added up, they total $200 million per year. Unfortunately, this is still miniscule compared to the goliath Planned Parenthood, which had a $1 billion budget last year.

Research indicates that pregnancy centers enhance maternal and child health by averting the negative consequences of abortion such as incidences of preterm births. Our centers also help avert the mental health effects of abortion, which include elevated risks of depression, substance abuse and suicide. Our diverse pregnancy support and education programs also enhance maternal health and build stronger families.

passion-mugA Passion to Serve highlights many centers and maternity homes, with pictures and inspirational stories of individual and community impact. Heartbeat of Miami, for example, started as part of Heartbeat International’s Urban Initiative to put ultrasound-equipped centers in the areas of greatest need (Miami had 37 abortion clinics and no pregnancy centers with life-saving ultrasound). These clinics, in Hialeah and North Miami (Hispanic and African American communities, respectively) are each saving about 15 babies every day. These ethnic groups are only about 24% of the U.S. population but, targeted by abortionists, they suffer 56% of all abortions.

At a time when our centers are under increasing attack, with harassment laws already passed against us in Baltimore and the surrounding county, the findings of this report are crucial for defending our life-saving work. Heartbeat’s center directors, with mothers and babies saved by their staff, have hand-delivered copies of A Passion to Serve to key members of Congress. We’re also taking the report to the states where hostile bills are being introduced.

How do we explain the fact that, for the first time in polling history, more than half of Americans describe themselves as pro-life — and 58% of 18-29-year-olds describe abortion as “morally wrong”? It’s certainly the work of the Holy Spirit!

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, in an editorial soon after this year’s March for Life, twice singles out our centers as change agents: “Thousands of pregnancy centers, many of which now offer high resolution sonograms, not around in 1973, along with the unwavering commitment of pro-lifers are winning a new generation to their view.”

Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. is president of Heartbeat International, a member of Legatus’ Board of Governors and chairperson of its Pro-Life Awards Committee. A copy of A Passion to Serve is available by clicking here.

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