Mothers with strollers descended upon the nation’s capital on July 19, bringing their young children more than 1,000 miles to share with lawmakers how crisis-pregnancy centers helped them in a time of need.
“Babies Go to Congress is Heartbeat’s proactive effort to make friends on Capitol Hill and to let our representatives and senators know that pregnancy centers are good for America,” said Peggy Hartshorn, president of the pro-life organization Heartbeat International.
In a July 19 interview, Hartshorn told EWTN News that Babies Go to Congress is a program designed to show the truth about pregnancy centers, which have come under attack by some members of Congress for directing women away from abortions.
In reality, she said, pregnancy centers work to offer women the love and support they need, while providing them with information and material assistance so that they can “have a true alternative to abortion.”
Heartbeat International is an organization that works with Christian communities to develop pregnancy centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies throughout the world.
Twice a year, the group brings women who have been helped by pregnancy centers – along with their babies – to Washington to meet with their congressional representatives and tell them about the positive impact that the pregnancy centers have had in their lives.
For many of the women, it is their first trip to the nation’s capital.
“It's a wonderful experience for them to tell their positive story,” Hartshorn said. “We have such phenomenal stories.”
For logistical reasons, the group brings just a few mothers and children on each trip. They represent the many individuals who are helped by pregnancy centers each year in America.
Some mothers come with babies who are just a few months old, while others bring children who are several years old.
Hartshorn explained that this allows the congressional representatives to see the immediate benefits of the pregnancy centers, as well as “the rest of the story,” which includes continued help for the mothers in attaining other achievements, such as finishing school.
One mother, Jessica Gore, said that she had nearly had an abortion as a teenager nine years ago.
“Being pregnant at 18 was not an option,” she explained.
She visited a Planned Parenthood center and was encouraged to go through with an abortion. She was told that at only six weeks into the pregnancy “the baby was just a piece of tissue, and there was really no life.”
But one week before Gore was scheduled to have the abortion, she received a free ultrasound at her local pregnancy center in Burleson, Texas.
She saw a “flicker of light” on the image and asked the staff members what it was. They explained to her that it was her baby’s heart beating.
“I knew that this was a child and not just a piece of tissue,” she recalled.
Gore felt that she had been “lied to by Planned Parenthood.” She decided not to abort and kept her baby girl, Janelle, who will turn 9 in September.
Although she once believed that she never wanted to have children, Gore is now married, and she and her husband have two children of their own.
After nearly nine years of motherhood, she says, “I don’t regret a minute of it.”
“I’m glad that I did not go through with an abortion,” she said, stressing that the crisis-pregnancy center offered critical help to her during a difficult time.
The other women in the program had similar stories. They found that the pregnancy-center workers they encountered were honest and understanding, helping them with the support and attention they needed in a time of fear and stress.
Hartshorn said that it can be “very eye-opening” for legislators to see “the actual moms and babies that are helped in their own congressional districts or in their states.”
And the work done at the pregnancy centers is performed at no cost to taxpayers, she said. The way that Heartbeat International sees its work is as a service to all of the body of Christ.
The Babies Go to Congress program is also a powerful witness, offering “a great message of hope and support,” Hartshorn added.
A crisis pregnancy does not mean “that your life is over,” she said. “There is help and support. You can get back on track.”