Heartbeat’s pregnancy help network grows, persists amid conflict

By Gayle Irwin

Photo: Ukrainian Crisis Pregnancy Helpline

Pregnancy help centers are committed to serving women and families, even inside war zones, and the Heartbeat International affiliate network is seeing growth despite trying times in areas across the globe.

The number of countries with pregnancy centers affiliated with Heartbeat International steadily grew in the past several years, said Ellen Foell, international program specialist for Heartbeat International. In 2015, more than 50 different countries had centers affiliated with Heartbeat; that number grew to 55 by 2018, and now has topped 80.

Approximately 1,200 pregnancy centers around the world affiliate with Heartbeat, Foell said.

One of the most recent affiliates came from Scotland, the center’s planned opening announced in February.

“We have had many wonderful conversations with (the center’s) director, Donna McCoy,” Foell said. “We have been able to mutually encourage one another, and we have been privileged to share some Heartbeat International resources with her as she moves to open and lead the center.”

“Our international affiliate growth is the fulfillment of the vision of our founders,” said Betty McDowell, vice president of Ministry Services for Heartbeat. “Every country added is a celebration of that vision.”

“I love that over 50 years ago Heartbeat had the vision to be international,” she said. “It has been nothing short of amazing to meet people from all over the world who have the same heart to serve women, babies, and families.”

“The numbers are exciting,” said Foell, “but what really jazzes me are the new countries who are choosing to affiliate with Heartbeat or are renewing their affiliation after many years.”

“We currently partner with nine other regional, continental, or national networks,” she said, “Latin America (CAM), Australia (PHA), South Africa (PHN), Italy (MPV), Canada (PCC), continental Africa (AFLA), Israel (Be’Ad Chaim), Spain (Provida), and Philippines (PSSA).”

“The growth indicates more life around the world, not just in babies born, but in women’s lives being supported and strengthened, their families being likewise strengthened,” she continued.

Foell added, “In a more philosophical vein, the growth indicates the growing trend toward life, a hunger for life, and not death.”

Pregnancy help amid armed conflict

Heartbeat pregnancy help organizations have continued to serve in Ukraine even as Russian attacks continue there.

“One of the affiliates, Kharkiv Pregnancy Assistance Center in Kharkiv, remains open,” Foell said.

Perseverance is a strong trait among pregnancy centers whether international or domestic, and that characteristic is especially evident in Ukraine right now.

Nearly 1.5 million people lived in Kharkiv before the Feb. 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine; the population decreased to 500,000 in the past weeks as citizens fled to surrounding countries such as Poland and Romania, she said.

Another Ukrainian affiliated individual operates a hotline. He also opened his family’s home as a place of safety and hosted 24 families at one time, Foell said.

Other courageous Ukrainian pregnancy center staff continue their work.

“The director of another affiliate, Save a Life International, with four centers in Ukraine and one in Poland, has been traveling back and forth to assist with Ukrainian refugees migrating to Poland and has been shuttling across the border with supplies and resources,” Foell said.

Heartbeat affiliate centers in the United States and abroad also reach out to help those in Ukraine.

“Our Italian partner, MPV, led a drive to gather resources and supplies and then convoyed the same to the border,” Foell said. “Hungarian and Romanian affiliates have been instrumental in reaching out to Ukrainian affiliates and refugees. It has been a remarkable testimony to the unity and the familial concern of the life-affirming movement for one another. As Paul writes, ‘if one member of the body suffers, we all suffer.’”

Foreseeing continued growth

From Albania to Zimbabwe, pregnancy centers continue to spring up throughout the world, and many reach out to Heartbeat International for resources, assistance, and affiliation. As those centers connect with women and families in their communities and contact Heartbeat for guidance, lives and communities change.

“The natural human cry is for life and that can grow in a family as well as in a community,” Foell said. “As that cry gets louder and more articulate it finds form in a pregnancy help center. I love that there are communities, and even nations, where the first center is being planted even now.”

“One of the greatest honors we have is when we get to go to far-away countries and see first-hand the love and service in action that are saving lives,” said McDowell.

“I do pray for and foresee, in faith, continued growth in not only the number of affiliates, but in the number of affiliated nations in the Heartbeat family,” said Foell.

“We desire to see affiliated centers from every nation, language, and ethnos affirming and upholding life across the globe,” she said. “We actively seek out centers in unreached nations and seek to cultivate relationships with centers that are not yet affiliated to give as we have been freely given, to offer out of the abundance of the wonderful resources and help that Heartbeat has.”

“Our international affiliates are always saying they find encouragement in and from Heartbeat,” McDowell said. “But – it is the internationals who inspire us and teach us by their perseverance and servant hearts.”

Foell said her door is open to an international center in need of assistance.

“Heartbeat is here to serve – that is our call: to serve the pregnancy help community,” she said. “My call is to serve Heartbeat’s international affiliates in any way. If the person reading this is an international seeking to start a center, or who serves in an existing center seeking help and support, email me at efoell@heartbeatinternational.org.”

Domestic-based affiliates who want to help an international center in some way can also reach out to her, she said.

“If the person reading this is a USA-based center director or team member and wants to connect with a center in a particular country, to come alongside and pray, support, and encourage that international center, contact me (also),” Foell said. “I am here to serve you.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.