“This is a false narrative that's out there that we don't help women” – Pregnancy help highlighted on Capitol Hill

“This is a false narrative that\Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) speaks at the Congressional press conference on pregnancy help held Jan. 18, 2024 (Lisa Bourne)

Pregnancy help leaders told their story on Capitol Hill last week at a Congressional press conference highlighting how pregnancy centers walk with women through pregnancy, serving them and their families with support and compassion.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) hosted pro-life lawmakers and pregnancy help leaders for the press conference on Thursday, January 18, to commemorate the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Heartbeat International, the largest network of pregnancy help in the U.S. and the world, assisted in arranging pregnancy help leaders to speak and attend the press conference held at the House Triangle. The press conference followed Heartbeat International’s Congressional briefing earlier in the day with staff members of pro-life federal lawmakers, who heard about pregnancy help and Abortion Pill Reversal.

The press conference took place against the backdrop of a number of pro-life measures either passed or introduced, with the U.S. House of Representatives passing the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act and the Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women and Families Act that day. The Pregnant Students’ Rights Act was sponsored by Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA) and the Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women and Families Act was sponsored by Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN).

Also on Thursday, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) led the introduction of the Pregnancy Center Support Act, and Rep. Smith to introduce the Let Pregnancy Centers Serve Act

The various measures were to protect women and families in need and also pregnancy help from pro-abortion affronts such as the Biden administration’s proposed rule targeting the use of TANF funding by pregnancy centers and alternatives to abortion programs.

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March for Life President Jeanne Mancini addresses the
 Congressional press conference/Lisa Bourne

At the press conference March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said that pregnancy centers are “the backbone and heartbeat of the pro-life movement.” 

“They have provided over $358 million in resources to mothers and babies in need, our latest report tells us from the Charlotte Lozier Institute,” Mancini said. “So, while the false narrative persists that pro-life Americans are just about the babies until birth, the real story is what you're going to hear today. We are for women and babies fully, humanly flourishing.”

Jean Marie Davis, executive director of Branches Pregnancy Resource Center in Brattleboro, Vt., was the first pregnancy help leader to address those in attendance.

She shared her story of having been trafficked from the age of two to 29. Davis was addicted to crystal meth and attempting commit suicide because her life was in danger from pimps and gang members. When they found out she was pregnant her unborn son was in danger as well. On the run, law enforcement gave her the option of some states where she could hide. 

"Twenty-seven shelters denied me because they said my situation was too severe,” Davis said. 

A domestic violence shelter in New Hampshire accepted her and connected her with a pregnancy center director named Phyllis Phelps.

Jean Marie Davis/Lisa Bourne

“She said to me, ‘How can I help you?’ And I hadn't heard those words in over 10 years because all they wanted to do was either rape me, pull a knife out on me, pull a gun on me, and just use my body,” Davis said. 

Davis explained her situation and why she thought she had to abort her child. Phelps showed David her son in an ultrasound and let her hear his heartbeat. Davis changed her mind, but was at a loss for what to do next. Phelps introduced her to Christ. 

“And I said, I don't trust men, but I'll trust this man named Jesus,” said Davis. 

Years later Phelps opened House of Hope, New Hampshire because Davis had challenged her to help other women in her situation. Phelps also got Davis to apply to be the executive director for Branches. 

“Nine years later, she's walked with me,” Davis said. “So, we don't just just stop with you after you have your babies, we actually do life with you, however it may look.”

“We hope that this year that'll break the narrative because this is a false narrative that's out there that we don't help women,” said Davis. “I'm true proof that not only do they help you, but they actually get you set into a place where you can turn around and provide services and help the community with more hope.”

Tweet This: We hope this year we'll break the narrative because this is a false narrative that's out there that we don't help women - Jean Marie Davis

Amy Scheuring/Lisa Bourne

Davis was followed by Amy Scheuring, executive director for Women’s Choice Network in Pennsylvania.

Scheuring shared about their three medical clinics, highlighting three things.

“The first is that we provide free medical care like ultrasound, STD, testing and treatment,” Scheuring said. “And second is that we have a men's ministry, so we try to get men's voices into the game.”

“And third is our mentoring program,” Scheuring explained. “Which follows along, walks alongside of a woman does life with women and men throughout the pregnancy and for two years beyond the birth of the child.’

These things matter, she said, because impact maternal and fetal health outcomes, as well as individual clients. Scheuring then shared a client example. 

“These are strong, courageous, inspiring young families that we work with, and I just appreciate the opportunity to care for them and to serve them,” she said. 

Savannah Marten/Lisa Bourne

Savannah Marten
, executive director of Bella Vita Network in Ohio, who also leads the Ohio Coalition of 123 Pregnancy Centers, offered statistics on the centers’ work in 2022. 

“They provided 20,011 ultrasounds, 5,276 STI testing, and material needs support to over 28,000 new moms and dads,” Marten said. “These amazing centers are providing crucial public health services to communities all across Ohio.” 

Marten shared how she served a young mom who was homeless, and drug addicted, telling the mom she could do it, be a single mom. Marten would later encounter the mom as she was dropping her child off for the first day of kindergarten.

“The distinct difference of pregnancy centers all across this country is that every day, days like today, they're opening their doors for mothers and fathers to look them in the eyes and say, you can do this,” said Marten. “We are pro-women, we are pro-child, and I'm proud to stand here as a center director, as a coalition leader. I believe that pregnancy centers truly are the future for families.”

Marsha Middleton/Lisa Bourne

Marsha Middleton
, CEO of Alliance for Life in Missouri, consisting of 105 organizations, spoke about the work of the alliance’s 66 pregnancy centers. 

“Our centers are providing, as you've heard already, those critical services to women and families in their hour of need,” Middleton said. “When they're at that critical moment of making choices and we help them feel valued and supported and empowered to make that choice, we're providing hope in the midst of what they think is a very hopeless situation.” 

“In 2022, our pregnancy centers served over 26,000 women with early pregnancy verification, ultrasounds, prenatal and parenting classes, community referrals, housing, transportation, material needs,” said Middleton. “And that list goes on and on because, you know what? We don't just start with her in her pregnancy, we stay with her and we walk her through.”

Middleton then shared the story of a particular young couple who were experiencing financial difficulty surrounding the mom’s pregnancy. 

“The pregnancy center was there to help with practical needs and to continue supporting them,” she said. “So, the pregnancy center provided those critical services of support and resources at no cost to the family, which is the awesome thing about pregnancy centers.”

“We walk with them through the entire pregnancy and well beyond that delivery,” Middleton added. “We're meeting the needs of these women day in and day out.”

Jim Harden/Lisa Bourne

Jim Harden
, president of CompassCare Pregnancy Services in New York shared how his pregnancy help medical clinics provide ethical medical care and support to women facing unplanned pregnancies for free. 

“A recent study revealed that nearly 70% of women felt coerced to abort their babies,” Harden noted. “That means that up to 700,000 abortions per year in America are either unethical or illegal.” 

Harden praised the Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women and Families Act and the Unborn Child Support Act, introduced Jan. 18 by Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), for providing helpful protection to women.

Smith said the great work that pregnancy centers do is a story that has not been told.

“Eighty-three % of all Americans, 75% of the Democrats in this country support the great work of the women and men and all of those back in the states who are doing the work for these pregnancy centers,” Smith said, citing the latest Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll

“It is all about love and what they do, which again, does not get much press,” Smith said. “When a woman does have the abortion, they're there for her as well. When it's the baby and the mother they love them both. When it's just the mother, they still love her and help her with counseling and assistance. It's incredible. Great love in action.”

Also speaking at the press conference were:

Autumn Christensen (Vice President of Public Policy, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America)

Carol Tobias (President, National Right to Life)

Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL)

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)

Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV)

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY)

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA)

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)

Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL)

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.

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