One of the accusations sometimes made against pro-lifers is that they have too little sympathy for the pregnant women who feel driven to abort.
That claim is difficult to square with what is happening on the ground.
One prime example is Heartbeat International, a crisis pregnancy organization that last month celebrated its 40th anniversary (meaning it predates the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion).
[Full disclosure: My wife attended the anniversary conference in Columbus, Ohio; OSV Newsweekly columnist Teresa Tomeo was one of the scheduled speakers at the event; and Pia de Solenni, a moral theologian and occasional OSV columnist, is a board member of the group.]
Never heard of Heartbeat? I hadn’t either until recently. But it’s tough to see how we could have missed it. It describes its work as “inspir[ing] and equip[ping] Christian communities worldwide to rescue women and couples from the agony and violence of abortion through the development of neighborhood pregnancy help centers, maternity homes and adoption services.” The goal is to give these women “the life-affirming, practical support they need to choose life, then prepare them to parent or to place for adoption.”
◗ It claims to have the most expansive network of crisis pregnancy centers in the world, with more than 1,100 centers in 50 countries.
◗ It handles more than 200,000 inbound calls annually to its Option Line help number.
◗ It has engaged about 25,000 regular volunteers in local communities.
◗ It claims its efforts save 2,000 babies from abortion every week.
The group was founded in November 1971 by an Ohio obstetrician and a former refugee from Nazi Germany, and it was first called Alternatives to Abortion. It soon went international, and in 1993, took its current name. Heartbeat’s president today, Peggy Hartshorn, describes Heartbeat’s work and her early involvement in pregnancy centers as “the ‘service arm’ of the pro-life movement.”
Nearly coinciding with Heartbeat’s anniversary convention, Pope Benedict XVI addressed Italian pro-lifers on the 33rd anniversary of the legalization of abortion there.
He could have been speaking directly to Heartbeat and the other groups who care for these mothers: “Dear friends, I congratulate you in particular for your commitment to helping women who face difficult pregnancies, as well as engaged couples and spouses who desire responsible procreation. In this way you are working concretely for the culture of life.
“I pray to the Lord that, thanks to your contribution, the ‘yes to life’ may be a cause of unity in Italy and in every country of the world,” he said.
Do you know Heartbeat’s work, or a similar group’s? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.