In what would be a major step forward for the 2,500 community-based pregnancy help centers and medical clinics in the U.S., members from both houses of Congress introduced resolutions Tuesday, recognizing pregnancy help organizations' life-saving work in communities all over the nation.
The resolutions, brought to their respective houses by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), celebrate the role nonprofit pregnancy help organizations play in the lives of women and men facing difficult pregnancy decisions. The resolutions also state Congress, "supports the important work of pregnancy centers across the United States" and "recognizes the importance of protecting life and assisting women and men in need as they bring children into the world."
Both resolutions call for the week of Nov. 8, 2015 to be officially designated "National Pregnancy Center Week." While 24 state-level resolutions have been adopted in 18 different states in recent years--most recently in Colorado--the proposed resolution would be the first of its kind in the U.S. Congress.
"For all that we do on Capitol Hill to affirm and protect life, it pales in comparison to the face-to-face work pregnancy-help organizations do across this country every day," Lee said. "This nation is truly blessed to have so many heroes that are helping mothers, and fathers, make the courageous and selfless choice to welcome a new life into this world regardless of their personal circumstances."
With 24 cosponsors in the Senate, and a growing number of cosponsors in the House of Representatives, the resolutions capture highlights from national and international groups, including Heartbeat International, Care-Net and National Institute for Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
Included in the resolutions are an annual estimate of 230,000 ultrasounds performed every year at pregnancy help medical clinics, 30,000 volunteers giving 5.7 million hours of uncompensated time at pregnancy help organizations, and over 2 million calls and/or contacts answered by Heartbeat International's Option Line from 2003 to 2014.
Meanwhile, the resolutions underscore the community-based nature of pregnancy help organizations, stating that "less than 10 percent of the income of pregnancy centers in the United States derives from governmental sources, which ensures that pregnancy centers minimize burdens on each taxpayer and engage local communities to provide sustainable support."
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“Pregnancy Care Centers are a shining example of what we should be doing more as Americans—individuals and communities working together to protect and promote life,” Hartzler, who has met with leaders and clients from several pregnancy centers through Heartbeat International's Babies Go to Congress, said. “These centers and the teams of dedicated people working tirelessly to assist women in need and save unborn lives. They deserve our admiration and support."
While pro-life legislators at the state and federal levels have made strides, especially in recent years, to work toward greater protection for mothers facing unexpected pregnancies, the proposed resolutions would be Congress' first official recognition of the "compassionate arm" of the pro-life movement, which has worked to provide women with information and support in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy since the late 1960s.
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The first-ever "National Pregnancy Center Week" would also coincide with Heartbeat International's second-annual "Pregnancy Help Appreciation Week," set aside to honor the work of the pregnancy help community.
"Pregnancy help centers and the people behind them are there to provide every woman with compassionate support and real choice," Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., past recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award under George H.W. Bush, said. "Every woman deserves love and support during an unexpected pregnancy. It is such a privilege to see our elected officials in Washington agree with us that pregnancy centers are good for America."