The Power of Pregnancy Help: Lasting Foundations for the Movement

Excerpted from The Power of Pregnancy Help, a book telling the story of the first 50 years of Heartbeat International and the pregnancy help movement. The Power of Pregnancy Help will be available soon wherever books are sold.

Chapter 5: Lasting Foundations for the Movement

Peggy Hartshorn

Each of our three co-founders, Dr. John Hillabrand, Lore Maier, and Sister Paula Vandegaer, brought special gifts to the establishment of AAI, and they incorporated into our work the values, purposes, and principles that characterized not only AAI’s first twenty years, but also have become the foundation for the growth and development of Heartbeat International over the last thirty years. In the previous three chapters we have tried to capture some of their special gifts and the life experiences and expertise that have left clear marks on the pregnancy help movement both then and now.

The name founders carries with it the concept that these first leaders laid down the foundations for the organization they started, Alternative to Abortion International. And today, that organization, now Heartbeat International, is indeed built on those foundations. However, our founders believed, and Heartbeat believes today, that they were building for the entire pregnancy help movement, then and now – not just for those that became or would become official affiliates. Anyone who provided life-affirming pregnancy help was and is welcome, all learn and contribute, all work together to advance the mission of saving and changing lives. So, the foundations were built and are maintained now for the entire pregnancy help movement.

. . .

Always More Than Saving Babies

All three of our co-founders had a view of our work that encompassed more than saving babies. Those who describe the mission of pregnancy help centers as “saving babies” are only describing a part of our founders’ vision and mission and part of the movement’s vision today.

Our founders focused on both mother and baby, and, in fact, on the family and the entire culture. They saw that we were involved in this work to serve women in need and help them so they could save their babies, but also (especially in the work of Sister Paula) that we were in a position to help women understand their true womanhood. Dr. John and Lore’s writings and talks also show that they viewed an attack on the sanctity of human life in the womb as an attack on society as a whole and on all humanity that would have profound ramifications. Lore tried to warn of the effect of abortion not only on women themselves and the family, but also on the perpetrators (the abortionists), and even on those who merely stood by and observed (the general public).

The first logo that was chosen for AAI, used in the very first communications in early 1972, was called “Hearts of Gold.” It is not a baby, nor is it a mother and child. The logo features two larger gold hearts (with some lines and markings, the result of life’s scars, experience, maturity, and wisdom) surrounding a tiny, unmarked, pure golden heart that represents the innocent human child. The logo shows that we need to protect, shelter, and nurture that child, born and unborn. The hearts of gold represent the family as God intended it. With the family relationships disrupted and in need of healing, the larger, sheltering hearts could be those of us in this movement protecting the child. Heartbeat’s logo has changed to the “Heart of the Future,” but Heartbeat International still features our “Hearts of Gold” on our premier Legacy Award since God’s plan for the family is still at the heart of our mission. One of the amazing things about the early AAI Academies (Conferences) was the diversity of expertise represented in the “Faculty” or conference presenters. To help the emerging centers with program development were marriage and family experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, doctors and nurses (with expertise on pregnancy and maternity care, fetal development, labor and delivery, nursing, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility and more), early childhood education experts, researchers, social workers, mothers, fathers, and more.

Programs developing then within the first centers (despite the early term EPS or Emergency Pregnancy Services) and first maternity homes were focused not just on the crisis intervention need for women coming in for a pregnancy test, but on parenting and family unification. For the “negative test client,” programs were developing to help her understand the risks of sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Centers were developing referral networks in their own community and finding like-minded potential partners who could amplify these messages – for example, in schools and in the culture at large.

Today, if you attend a Heartbeat International Conference or any other gathering of pregnancy help organizations around the world, you will find the same. We are about much more than saving babies. Our foundation stones are motherhood, fatherhood, healthy families, and a pro-family culture.

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