This article is one of many informative articles in Joe Carter’s “9 Things You Should Know” series.
You may have heard them referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers,” “fake clinics” or worse. But what is the real story on pregnancy help organizations (PHO), the best-kept secret in the pro-life movement?
1. PHOs are committed to true reproductive health care. Offering a spectrum of medical services that range from free pregnancy tests and no-cost ultrasounds to STI testing, Natural Family Planning education, and even perinatal hospice, PHOs approach pregnancy and sexuality not like an illness that needs to be cured, but as a gift to be understood and celebrated.
2. PHOs save thousands of babies in America every week. An estimated 1.2 million babies are aborted annually in the United States alone, a rate of more than 3,200 each day. Heartbeat International’s 1,200 U.S. affiliates—which compose about half of all PHOs in the country—combine to rescue 3,000 babies every week, as women and families make the courageous decision to preserve the lives of their children.
Note: 1.2 million abortions is an estimate because two states (California and Maryland) don’t require abortion providers to report numbers, while reporting is voluntary in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. More than 50 million babies are aborted every year worldwide.
3. PHOs perform a wide range of functions and offer a variety of services to the community. Some PHOs offer pregnancy tests and limited ultrasound, but focus their energies on peer counseling, material assistance, and educational programs like motherhood/fatherhood or job skills training. Others offer more extensive medical services, including STI testing, prenatal care, fertility care, and well-woman care. Still others house pregnant women during pregnancy and into the early stages of motherhood. Finally, adoption agencies work with women looking to entrust their babies to the care of adoptive parents. About the only shape or size PHOs don’t come in is the cartoonish fake clinics depicted by radical pro-abortion supporters.
4. PHOs offer long-term support and services. While PHOs no doubt focus on a woman who is pregnant, the care doesn’t end in the delivery room. Many centers offer motherhood and fatherhood mentoring programs, as well as “Earn While You Learn” incentive programs, which reward a mother with material goods such as diapers, clothes, and bottles to support her family.
5. PHOs care for a mother and a child. The term, “woman-centered” sums up a PHO’s approach to reaching out and caring for a mother-to-be. PHOs are careful to keep in mind the multifaceted harm done by abortion to women and families, and many offer abortion recovery programs. PHO staff and volunteers learn to listen to a woman, and learn her story before helping her to see her options and consider the effect her present decision will have on her life in years to come.
6. PHOs existed before Roe v. Wade. By the time Roe v. Wade made abortion-on-demand the law of the land in the landmark ruling January 22, 1973, at least 130 pregnancy help organizations (including 11 in Canada and one in New Zealand) were collected in a book called the Directory. This was the forerunner to the Heartbeat International Worldwide Directory Desk Reference, which now contains more than 6,200 entries.
7. PHOs are being planted and established in every corner of the globe. Reflecting the worldwide presence of both the church and the tragedy of abortion, Christ-centered PHOs are on the rise in every inhabited continent. Most of these centers are spearheaded by nationals, some of which are active in creative or restricted-access countries for Christian missionaries.
8. PHOs are financed entirely by donations and grants—with very few exceptions. Unlike highly profitable abortion businesses that prey upon vulnerable women and families, PHOs keep the lights on and staff their life-saving ministries with funds given by individuals, churches, foundations, and other groups. While some PHOs do receive limited government funds, these funds are designated for specific initiatives geared to bring abstinence and choices education to settings such as public schools.
9. PHOs offer an unparalleled opportunity for relational evangelism. Staff and volunteers at PHOs enjoy a unique opening for the spread of the gospel. Sitting across from a young woman in the throes of perhaps her most trying time, life and death hang in the balance—the life of her baby and the trajectory of her life, though she may not fully appreciate that reality at the time. She needs a thoroughly gospel-saturated response, pairing a Christ-centered offer of hope with a real-world commitment to walk alongside another.