As part of Heartbeat International’s "Babies Go to Congress" campaign, mothers brought their children to Congress on Wednesday to bring attention to the way crisis pregnancy care centers changed their lives and those of their children.
Heartbeat International is a faith-based network of more than 1,000 pregnancy centers around the world, CNSNews.com reports. Affiliate staffers helped bring many women and their children to the Capitol, including Dori Eddols of Columbus, Ohio.
Eddols, now 32, became pregnant when she was 17 and unmarried.
"We were not married and I got pregnant and so we went to a Planned Parenthood because I didn’t know there was a difference between a Planned Parenthood or a pregnancy crisis center," she said. "I didn’t even know there were crisis pregnancy centers."
Believing Planned Parenthood would explain her choices, she said she and her then-boyfriend Greg, to whom she has now been married for 15 years, went in to a clinic for a pregnancy test.
Though Eddols expected she would be called back into a room to hear her test results, a staffer came into the lobby and announced that Eddols was pregnant.
"She said, ‘OK you’re pregnant,’ right there in the waiting room," Eddols told CNSNews.com. "‘When do you want to schedule your abortion?’ I just turned to my boyfriend and said, ‘We gotta get out of here."
Eddols, who went on to have three other children with her husband, brought her 14-year-old daughter Jocelyn to the Capitol. She said her mother’s decision was "awesome."
"Crisis pregnancy centers are good for America," Eddols said, describing her message to Congress. "They are good for women. It’s not just about abortion versus pro-life. It’s about these are your choices. It explains what they are."
Joe Young, vice president of Ministry Support with Heartbeat International, told CNSNews.com that the non-profit group has no political action component. However, it facilitates visits to Washington, D.C. so that constituents can share their stories with their representatives and senators.
The mothers’ stories are "so powerful," he said. He described his hopes that informing Congress about the activities of pregnancy centers which help women and their families will prevent legislation that could harm the centers’ work.
"A lot of these members of Congress have a pre-conceived idea of what pregnancy centers are," Young said. "A lot of that was formed from the Waxman Report a few years ago that was very negative about pregnancy centers. So members of Congress thought that pregnancy centers were manipulative, the religious right and (were) scaring women."
Planned Parenthood has also attacked crisis pregnancy centers as "fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion" who mislead and "scare" women into not having abortions, CNSNews.com says.
Young continued: "We actually get to bring clients and women who serve in these centers to meet members of Congress and say ‘Our heart is for women; it’s to serve women; it is not manipulative at all. We are going to lay out the truth about what we do and how we can serve you. And how we are going to serve you no matter what choice you make.’"
Young told CNSNews.com that pregnancy centers are clear about their opposition to abortion but offer post-abortion counseling for those who seek it.
The "Babies Go to Congress" campaign has produced a positive response from Congressmen. Some legislators said they had previously been ignorant about the work of pregnancy centers.
"When women share their stories about the situations they’ve come out of, what their choices were and the help pregnancy centers have given them, they’re overwhelmed," Young said.
The campaign’s next trip to the Capitol is planned for July.