Editor’s note: The last names of the mothers who spoke to Townhall have been omitted to protect their privacy.
Jan. 22, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of when Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court, which made abortion legal in all 50 states. Every year after, pro-life advocates from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. But, 2023 marks the first March since the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned Roe. In the five decades that Roe was the law of the land, an estimated 63 million unborn lives were lost through abortion, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
Following the landmark decision, pro-abortion lawmakers began circulating baseless, dishonest rhetoric surrounding crisis pregnancy centers, which are organizations that serve pregnant mothers but do not provide abortion procedure services. After Dobbs, groups like Jane’s Revenge promised a “summer of rage” on pro-life pregnancy centers and other types of life-affirming pregnancy care. And, according to Catholic Vote, at least 70 pro-life pregnancy resource centers and offices have endured attacks. This week, the FBI announced it would investigate these attacks that occurred half a year ago. Prior to the official Dobbs decision being released, a leaked draft opinion of the case was published by Politico. The draft opinion showed the justices poised to overturn Roe, which put pro-abortion supporters on edge before the official decision was ever released.
Leading up to this year’s March, pro-life organization Heartbeat International shared with Townhall how pro-life pregnancy centers have continued their efforts to help women and babies since the overturn of Roe. Though pro-abortion lawmakers and advocates claim that pro-life pregnancy centers are simply "pro-birth," the women I spoke to who received services from pro-life affiliates of Heartbeat International shared how these services helped them immensely in their time of need and turned their lives around for the better. And although Dobbs sent the issue of abortion back to the states, Heartbeat International's mission to protect unborn life continues.
Danielle became pregnant at age 20 while immersed in drugs, alcohol and other “risky behaviors” following an upbringing plagued by abuse and assault. With nowhere to turn, she reached out to the Paul Stefan Foundation pro-life maternity home for a helping hand.
“My life was saved first before her [Danielle's child's] life was saved when I made the decision to keep my baby because it immediately gave me a new trajectory for how to live my life,” Danielle told Townhall. “I was drug-addicted, doing all kinds of crazy criminal stuff to get by every single day. The moment I found out I was pregnant, I was like, ‘I’ll never do that again.’”
Danielle was welcomed into the maternity home and lived there for five years. In those years, she learned life skills, got a college education, and was connected to agencies and organizations that helped her learn how to put her life on track and raise her daughter. Now, Danielle is financially independent, and says that the pro-life movement helped save her life, as well as her daughter's.
“If I’m not healed and whole, I’m just going to push all my junk on my kid,” Danielle said. “I was 20 years old. I was a kid. And the amount of support and love that was poured into me directly from staff but also all these community agencies and resources saved me. So, pro-life for me isn’t just about a fetus or an embryo, it was about me.”
Contrary to what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said about pro-life organizations, Danielle explained that the pro-life movement is not “pro-birth," and that she never felt like an agenda was being forced onto her.
“It’s not just about the babies. It really is about the woman and what she needs and it wasn’t forced, wasn’t pushed on me, it was ‘what do you want and how can we help you get there?’ I was met where I was at. It wasn’t an agenda that they were trying to reach. It was ‘we want to know what you’re trying to accomplish and what that looks like and how we can get you there,’” Danielle said.
“It’s not ‘oh we saved a baby, so now we can keep moving’...with maternity housing, especially the Paul Stefan Foundation, it’s ‘we want to focus on how we can make you the best mom, the best parent, the best woman, the best productive member of society so you don’t ever end up back here,’ and it worked for me,” she added. “I chose to save my life so we now have two healed, whole lives instead of one really messed up life.”
Another mother, Evalynn, shared her story with Townhall. Evalynn was born to a drug-addicted and alcoholic mother and was removed from her mother’s custody at the age of 10. In the years that followed, Evalynn became pregnant twice – both pregnancies which ended in abortion. Her second abortion at age 24 nearly resulted in her death, she told Townhall. She later gave birth to a son out of wedlock, and at age 30, found herself pregnant again. Her boyfriend at the time pressured her to have an abortion, and with nowhere to turn, she reached out to the Women’s Center of Ohio for guidance.
“I’ve never been a pro-life advocate. I never was. I was pro-choice when I was in the world. The biggest thing was when I went to the Women’s Center, the ultrasound was free, the pregnancy test was free. But when I went in there, they educated me about abortion services. And even though I had two prior abortions, I still didn’t know very much. I wasn’t that educated on these services,” Evalynn explained to Townhall. “So at this women’s center, they give you the abortion information. They give you everything you need to know.”
“I had an appreciation for that because I didn’t feel pressured to do anything. I could go there and get a free ultrasound, and then when I held the picture of that ultrasound in my hand, I was convinced that I needed to choose life,” she added.
Evalynn discussed with Townhall about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's new regulations that will allow pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS to become certified to dispense the medication abortion pill. She shared that this is "dangerous," given that her second abortion, which was a surgical abortion performed by a physician, resulted in her almost dying and undergoing an emergency D&C days after her procedure. Medication abortions can be performed at home without any supervision.
“I know a lot of people argue that abortion services are women’s health care, but they’re really not. These services are so dangerous. My second abortion, I almost died. Because I started running a fever three days later and when I went into the hospital they didn’t even know how to assist me because I couldn’t follow up with the abortion care provider. It’s not safe. They don’t know how far they’re going into the uterine lining. They don’t know exactly what they’re doing [in an abortion procedure]. You can’t even view the uterus when they’re actually doing the procedure. It’s extremely dangerous. It’s not women’s healthcare. It’s very destructive. It’s very detrimental and it’s extremely traumatic,” Evalynn said.
"I chose life for my baby boy...and shortly after that I gave my life to Christ," she added. And, the Women's Center offered her a scholarship for college, and she graduated in August. A week later, she got married. Had she not come in contact with the Women's Center, Evalynn told Townhall, her life would not have turned out this way.
"This is my Esther moment," Evalynn said of becoming involved in the pro-life movement. "We're going to come here and proclaim for life because Jesus is life."
Heartbeat International’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing Andrea Trudden told Townhall that their pro-life pregnancy resource affiliates were prepped on what to expect following the fall of Roe.
“One of the things that we were doing in preparation for Dobbs was equipping our pregnancy help organizations with what to expect. Overall, the mission doesn’t change at all [post-Dobbs] because even if we snapped our fingers and abortion is gone from the world, a woman would still wake up hearing that she’s pregnant and not know what to do. And that’s where pregnancy help organizations really step in,” Trudden explained to Townhall.
What has changed, Trudden explained, is the increase in the medication abortion pill. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of U.S. abortions are carried out through this method.
“What has changed that we’ve been preparing for is the increase in abortion pill access. Already, from 2020, it accounts for more than 50 percent of abortions. There are estimates that it’s going to get up to 70 to 80 percent of all abortions and with the FDA changing some rules as well as HHS…the mail-order abortions are going to become more and more prevalent,” Trudden said, adding that “telemedicine” appointments have become more common. In this scenario, a woman never meets with a physician in-person before undergoing a medication abortion. Like Evalynn, Trudden emphasized that this kind of abortion is “dangerous.”
To counter this rise in medication abortions, Heartbeat International manages the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. More than 1,200 providers nationwide work with HI to help women who take an abortion pill and regret it to access an abortion pill reversal pill. Sixty-four to 68 percent of the time, this reversal method is successful.
“Now, with the ability to get it [abortion pill] straight through the mail, it’s kind of scary,” Trudden said.
As for the FBI’s decision to finally go after the violent attacks on pro-life centers, Trudden said she is “hopeful” that those behind the attacks will be prosecuted.
“It’s been crickets. Nobody has been arrested to our knowledge and not even a person of interest,” she said. “I really do pray and hope that they do find out the people behind Jane’s Revenge and those who have been firebombing pregnancy organizations nationwide and prosecute them to the fullest extent.”
When the organizations are attacked, she added, it shuts women out of getting the life-saving pregnancy care they need.
“We have lots of clients who speak so positively about their experiences [at pro-life pregnancy centers,” Trudden said. “Records show that our pregnancy help organizations receive a 99 percent satisfactory rating from clients who receive services. I understand that certain politicians don’t believe it and don’t want to believe it. However, the reality is that women who are served by pregnancy help love it, appreciate it, and become cheerleaders and champions to share that.”