As HHS plans abortion referral hotline, pro-life alternatives are going strong

phone hotline Credit: All kind of people/Shutterstock

As the Biden administration seeks to establish a million-dollar hotline to provide abortion referrals, pro-life advocates say they have long had better alternatives to help pregnant women and their babies.

An April 11 announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that current Title X funding recipients may apply for a grant worth $1 million to $1.5 million to launch a hotline for pregnant women.

“The hotline will serve as a critical component in providing Title X pregnant clients with neutral and factual information, nondirective counseling, and referral,” says the grant listing. The information and counseling would concern prenatal care and delivery, infant care, foster care or adoption, and “pregnancy termination,” a euphemism for abortion.

Pro-life pregnancy hotlines serving women now

Several pro-life organizations run national hotlines for pregnant women, including Virginia-based Care Net and ProLife Across America, headquartered in Minnesota.

“The new hotline appears to be a direct, government-funded competition to our national pro-life hotline, Pregnancy Decision Line,” Care Net president and CEO Roland Warren told CNA April 26.

“Title X has become a key funding source for abortion providers, and only Title X-eligible organizations can compete for the grant that will fund the new hotline. The people answering these calls will be biased toward directing callers to abortions, not giving them the holistic care they need,” Warren said.

The federal grant announcement comes from HHS’ Office of Population Affairs, whose duties included the administration of Title X family planning. The Title X family planning program funds contraceptives and family planning services as well as some basic health care services for low-income communities. Its budget for the last fiscal year was $286 million. The original statute that created the program in 1970, still active today, specified that no funds “shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

“It is essential that women and men at risk for abortion are given all of the information they need to make fully informed pregnancy decisions. A Title X-funded, government hotline is not going to do this,” Warren added.

“We want to assure women and men that hope and help are available to them and that there are realistic alternatives to abortion that an army of compassionate people are standing by to help them work through. We want to counter the narrative that abortion is the only and best option when faced with an unplanned pregnancy,” he said.

Mary Ann Kuharski, director of ProLife Across America, when asked about the HHS hotline, noted that her organization is not political.

“However, as a U.S. citizen, I can’t help but comment what a shame it is that the government is actually promoting the killing of its own preborn citizens.” In her view, the administration “is actually taking an active part in killing its future citizens of this country. We’ve never seen this happen in the history of abortion in the history of the United States.”

“We average 400 to 500 calls per month seeking pregnancy support, information, confidential counseling, and sometimes even housing to get away from those who are pressuring for an abortion,” she said.

Abortion hotline to be funded by Title X

HHS Secretary Javier Becerra said on Twitter April 13 that the federal grant would “establish a safe and secure national hotline to provide referral services for women in need of accurate information about their legal reproductive health care options.”

The grant announcement envisions a hotline to provide pregnant Title X clients with “neutral and factual information, nondirective counseling and referral” in accordance with federal rules. The hotline’s clients may indicate which information or counseling they do not want to receive.

Current Title X funding recipients include state and county public health departments, hospitals, community health centers, family planning clinics, and scores of affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the U.S.

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Women face pressure to abort, need alternatives

ProLife Across America, launched in 1989, provides a pregnancy helpline at 1-800-366-7773. Last year it placed 12,000 roadside billboard ads in 46 states and generated more than 4,850 calls and 2,400 emails to its hotline. It also runs radio, television, and internet ads.

Kuharski said such hotlines are key for pregnant women and those who want to help them.

“Oftentimes our billboards or ads are the only visible sign of hope and help to someone who is being pressured to have an abortion, whether it’s pressure from a husband, a boyfriend, well-meaning friends, or parents,” she said.

“They need to know we care about them and their baby,” Kuharski continued. “They need to hear that someone cares about them and their baby. So often the woman is feeling pressure and she’s feeling alone, so she needs to know that whatever decision she makes, if she is pregnant [it] will affect her physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, the rest of her life.”

“When they call that 800 hotline, we can connect them with the help that they need from one end of this country to the other,” she said. “We work with over 3,000 agencies offering free ultrasound, confidential counseling, housing, shelter if needed, as well as medical care and support and ongoing help for parenting classes.”

ProLife Across America’s website says it is committed to “positive, persuasive messages” and to offering information about abortion alternatives and post-abortion care. It describes its beliefs as based on “biblical principles and Roman Catholic teaching.”

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Care Net’s website says that since 2008 its evangelical Christian ministry has helped save over 940,000 babies from abortion. It says it envisions “a culture where women and men faced with pregnancy decisions are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families.”

Its Pregnancy Decision Line is 866-798-9541. Warren said Care Net’s hotline “provides immediate pregnancy decision coaching to women and men considering abortion.” It is staffed by trained coaches, most of whom are nurses, who “care holistically for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people who call us,” he told CNA.

“Without such hotlines, women and men will not have a place to turn for life-affirming information,” Warren said. “We provide callers with the objective information they need about all of their options, including life-affirming options such as parenting and adoption, so they can make a fully informed decision.”

The hotline links to Care Net’s national network of over 1,200 “life-affirming” pregnancy center affiliates and a “growing network” of churches. According to Warren, this helps broaden the support system for pregnant women.

“Pregnancy Decision Line coaches refer callers to these additional points of compassion in their communities so they can get access to all of the resources they need to choose life, build strong families, and get the long-term discipleship they need to transform their lives,” he said.