Onward: There’s more for the pregnancy help movement to do; Heartbeat president

Onward: There’s more for the pregnancy help movement to do; Heartbeat presidentHeartbeat International President Jor-El Godsey delivers the evening keynote address Mar. 30 at Heartbeat's Annual Pregnancy Help Conference. (Lisa Bourne)

There's more history make and more work to be done by the pregnancy help movement, the head of Heartbeat International told a packed house at the first night of Heartbeat’s Annual Pregnancy Help Conference.

The Conference was poised for record attendance in 2022 and Heartbeat President Jor-El Godsey reviewed the 50-plus-year history of the movement for attendees while issuing a challenge to move onward into the changing times ahead.

Heartbeat celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and the 2022 Conference theme of Onward acknowledged that milestone while underscoring the point in time of moving ahead.

Utilizing humor based upon dated music and technology changes through the decades, interjecting top songs from each of the years associated with important points in pro-life history, and netting reactions from a crowd willing to sing along, Godsey detailed how far the movement has come. But even with Roe v. Wade at risk of being upended by the forthcoming decision in the Dobbs case, chemical abortion is on the rise and must be addressed.

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“Today we stand at a place where we could possibly see Roe go, he said, but the difference in chemical abortion is changing the abortion landscape.

He recounted how the pregnancy help movement began in the 1960s amid fallout from the sexual revolution and its creation of the abortion culture. 

Four states, Colorado, California, Oregon, and North Carolina legalized abortion in 1967, followed shortly by others.

This drove people with pro-life conviction to ponder action.

“They said, “We need to do something, we need to get involved,”” Godsey said.

The first stand-alone pregnancy help center was started in Toronto, Canada, he shared. The first U.S. center opened in 1969.

Heartbeat International had its beginnings in Chicago in 1971.

From there came the vision to bring in training and to have a directory and establish communications in the movement, not just in the U.S., he said, but around the world, and to begin taking phone calls from clients.

Godsey recalled Heartbeat’s founders envisioning what the movement could look like.

“Oh, if they could just be in this room,” he said. “That's an amazing thought.”

More states began to allow abortion and women were flying to the states where they could get a surgical abortion, back in one day.

This was followed by Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion in the U.S. throughout pregnancy. 

“I don't need to go through this, you know exactly what happened in 1973,” Godsey told the crowd. “When suddenly the Supreme Court just brushed away what the other states that had been trying to hold onto, a life value, and said, ‘no,’ and they invented a right to abortion.?

“And that was a painful time and a painful moment,” he said, “but it sealed us for what was to come.”

Next came the formation of the Christian Action Council, later known as CareNet.

Godsey touched on the fact Catholics largely defined the pro-life movement at first, owing to the clear teachings of the Church on life, and how abortion proponents worked to drive a wedge between Christian groups to divide and conquer on the life issue.

Evangelicals began to move into the movement in a big way starting with 1979, he said, and the movement saw its greatest growth from the mid to late 80s.

But abortion was growing as well.

Throughout the eighties, it began to climb, he said, reaching more than a million abortions a year. 

“And that's what we began to see that reality kind of unfold and what it really meant to live in a culture of death,” said Godsey, “and to be in a place where we were seeing untold numbers, million after million, every year after year, we saw them sacrificed on the altar of abortion, until the point where we get to 1991.” 

The abortion numbers peaked at 1.6 million abortions that year, further, those abortions happened in 2,400 of standalone abortion centers around the country, 

“The industry had grown significantly to be now what was a billion-dollar industry and more, into the nineties,” he said.

The 1992 Casey decision had been a chance to reverse Roe but ended up going the other way, prompting the establishment of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).

Heartbeat had its first employee at this point; longtime President and current Chair of the Heartbeat Board Peggy Hartshorn.

Things began to decline for the abortion industry around 1996 following the early nineties 1.6 million abortion peak, Godsey said.

Around this time, it was discovered that with the rise of the pro-life movement and the decline of abortion, the number of pregnancy centers had passed up the number of abortion centers.

Godsey said that technology was changing, and things were happening. 

“And we decided if we need to change some things about how we were reaching women all across the nation,” he said. “So, Heartbeat and CareNet got together and started Option Line.”

And in 2006, a young woman in North Carolina approached Dr. Matt Harrison, telling him she had taken the first abortion pill, and asked for his help.

ICU Mobile then came into existence bringing with it mobile pregnancy help.

The NIFLA v. Becerra case was next, ultimately protecting pregnancy help organizations from being compelled to promote abortion.

“And there has been a pattern going on for 30 years,” Godsey said. “The abortion industry has been declining.”

The abortion rate had decreased by nearly half of the mid-nineties peak, and at this point the Charlotte Lozier Institute, working with each of the tree pregnancy help networks, determined that the pregnancy help movement was reaching some 2 million women each year.

“Now some things have changed in the last few years,” said Godsey. “Chemical abortion is on the rise. Those numbers that I've celebrated with you, that have come down, are now turning, and going back.” 

“But the good news is today, U.S. pregnancy help centers out number abortion clinics, three-to-one,” Godsey said. “Today we celebrate more than 3000 affiliated locations in the U.S. and all around the world. Today, Option Line has made nearly 5 million connections to life-affirming help.”

Godsey noted that the latest abortion stats from the Guttmacher Institute indicate that chemical abortions account for 54% of all abortions in the U.S., more than previously thought.

“The challenge is that mail-order abortions are on the rise and that invites the new profiteering for the abortion industry,” he said, “it invites new people who might have been standing on the sideline to now step in because it's easier and cheaper to deliver chemical abortions.”

“There's more to do,” Godsey said in conclusion, more history to be made, and “there are songs old and new to sing as we go onward.”

Tweet This: After 50+ years of serving women the pregnancy help movement has more to do with the rise of chemical abortion- Heartbeat Intl. president

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages the Abortion Pill Rescue Network and Pregnancy Help News.

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