After the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, Catholic leaders and laypeople are preparing to step up efforts to promote a culture of life, according to Peggy Hartshorn.
By Devin Watkins
“Catholic charities and Catholic healthcare services are going to compete with the abortion industry with good web-based care, and we are going to redouble our efforts as laypeople working with the Church to offer more paths to pregnancy help.”
Peggy Hartshorn, the Chairman of the Board of Heartbeat International, offered that assessment on the path forward for the pro-life movement in the United States, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson.
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Love and support for expectant mothers
In response, the Bishops of the United States praised the Court’s decision and said the Church must “serve those who face difficult pregnancies and surround them with love.”
Heartbeat International, which Dr. Hartshorn chairs, and other Church-run programs already turn that commitment into concrete care, in the form of crisis pregnancy centers. The interdenominational Christian association supports a network of over 3,000 centers in 65 countries, with around 1,700 centers in the US.
Speaking to Vatican News, Dr. Hartshorn highlighted the witness her organization offers, which she said is one of “love, care, and support for pregnant moms and their babies and their families that are struggling.”
That caring approach, she added, can help people resolve their internal conflicts regarding abortion, besides helping pregnant women carry their baby to term.
“Once they understand that abortion is not their only alternative, they are so relieved many times that they don’t feel they have to choose an abortion.”
Listen to the full interview
Overcoming coercion to have an abortion
Dr. Hartshorn says studies have shown that “the vast number of women feel some kind of coercion or pressure to make an abortion decision.”
“They may say they think abortion is what they need,” she said, “but when you get right down to the deep-down feelings, women will say they don’t want to have an abortion.”
The pregnancy help movement can offer women assistance in these situations, according to Dr. Hartshorn.
A crisis pregnancy center helps connect women to “a faith-based network”, which includes Catholic healthcare and social services.
“The body of Christ has risen up to really provide the help and support women really, truly want. And they are choosing life in bigger and bigger numbers.”
Public opinion and laws
Laws have a significant influence on people’s opinion on issues, says Dr. Hartshorn.
She has been involved in the pro-life movement since 1973, and saw how “as soon as the Supreme Court decision [in Roe v. Wade] came down and abortion was declared legal in all 50 states, the public attitude dramatically shifted”.
Prior to the Roe ruling, a majority of Americans thought that “abortion was a bad thing.” But afterwards, public opinion shifted in favor of access to abortion.
Walking with moms in need
Catholic dioceses across the US also offer another service to women and families with an initiative called “Walking with Moms in Need.”
Julie Dumalet, J.D., Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas, said the initiative offers Catholic laypeople the chance to “walk in the shoes” of local expectant mothers and mothers who are in need of financial assistance.
She told Vatican News that “Walking with Moms in Need” seeks to assist parents with older children, including toddlers, school-age children, and teenagers.
“What we are blessed to be able to do,” said Dr. Dumalet, “is expand on what we have done with our pregnancy help to make a culture of the whole life and to embrace parents at all levels of need.”