Heartbeat’s pregnancy support network grows and persists amid conflict

Heartbeat's pregnancy support network grows and persists amid conflict

Pregnancy Centers are committed to serving women and families, even in war zones, and the Heartbeat International Affiliate Network is growing despite difficult times in parts of the world.

The number of countries with Heartbeat International-affiliated pregnancy centers has steadily increased over the past few years, said Ellen Foell, international program specialist for Heartbeat International. As of 2015, over 50 different countries had Heartbeat Affiliate Centers; this number increased to 55 in 2018 and now exceeds 80.

About 1,200 pregnancy centers around the world are affiliated with Heartbeat, Foell said.

One of the newest affiliates came from Scotland, the planned opening of the center announced in February.

“We had many wonderful conversations with (center) director Donna McCoy,” Foell said. “We were able to encourage each other and were privileged to share some Heartbeat International resources with her as she prepares to open and run the center.”

“Growing our international affiliation is the fulfillment of our founders’ vision,” said Betty McDowell, vice president of corporate services for Heartbeat. “Each country added is a celebration of that vision.”

“I love that over 50 years ago Heartbeat had a vision to be international,” she said. “It has been simply amazing to meet people from all over the world who have the same heart in serving women, babies and families.”

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

“We are currently working in partnership 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 the Philippines (PSSA).

Tweet this: The international growth of Heartbeat Affiliates is the fulfillment of the vision of our founders. Each country added is a celebration of this vision.

“Growth indicates more life in the world, not just in babies being born, but in the lives of women being supported and strengthened, with their families also being strengthened,” she continued.

Foell added: “In a more philosophical vein, growth indicates the increasing tendency towards life, a thirst for life and not for death.”

Aid for pregnancy in the midst of armed conflict

Vasyl Zinyak and members of Ukraine’s Crisis Pregnancy Helpline

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

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

Perseverance is a strong trait among pregnancy centers, whether international or domestic, and this characteristic is particularly evident in Ukraine at the moment.

Nearly 1.5 million people lived in Kharkiv before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022; the population has fallen to 500,000 in recent weeks as citizens have fled to neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania, she said.

Baby girl born in early May while sheltering from war in Ukraine

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

Other courageous Ukrainian employees of the pregnancy center continue their work.

“The director of another branch, Save a Life International, with four centers in Ukraine and one in Poland, went back and forth to help Ukrainian refugees migrating to Poland and shuttled across the border with supplies and resources,” Foell said.

Heartbeat Affiliate Centers in the United States and abroad are also working to help those in Ukraine.

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

Plan for continued growth

From Albania to Zimbabwe, pregnancy centers continue to spring up around the world, and many turn to Heartbeat International for resources, support and membership. As these centers connect with women and families in their communities and contact Heartbeat for advice, lives and communities are changing.

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

“One of the greatest honors we have is to go to distant lands and see firsthand the love and service in action that saves lives,” McDowell said.

“I pray and anticipate, in faith, continued growth not only in the number of affiliates, but also in the number of affiliate nations in the Heartbeat family,” Foell said.

“We want to see affiliated centers of all nations, languages ​​and ethnicities affirming and defending life around the world,” she said. “We actively seek centers in unreached countries and seek to cultivate relationships with centers not yet affiliated to give as we have been freely given, to offer from the abundance of wonderful resources and help that Heartbeat has.”

“Our international affiliates always say they find encouragement in and from Heartbeat,” McDowell said. “But – it’s the internationals who inspire and teach us with their perseverance and servant heart.”

Pregnancy help in Ukraine

Foell said his door was open to an international center in need of help.

“Heartbeat is here to serve – that’s our calling: to serve the pregnancy support community,” she said. “My call is to serve international Heartbeat affiliates in any way. If the person reading this is an international looking to start a center, or serving in an existing center looking for help and support, write me at This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”

Tweet this: “Heartbeat is here to serve – that’s our calling: to serve the pregnancy support community”

National affiliates who want to help an international center in some way can also contact her, she said.

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

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