Heartbeat International

Heartbeat International is a Christian network of anti-abortion centers that seeks to eliminate abortion entirely. Heartbeat International was one of the first anti-abortion center networks in the U.S. and is now one of the world’s largest, with nearly 3,000 affiliates spreading anti-abortion misinformation across all six inhabited continents.

Summary Extremism Key Players And Related Groups Influence Legal And Financial Related Orgs


Heartbeat International is a Christian network of anti-abortion centers (AACs) based out of Columbus, Ohio. The network was founded in 1971 by Dr. John Hillabrand and Lore Maier as “Alternatives to Abortion,” the same name a number of states now use for their taxpayer-funded anti-abortion programs. The organization soon expanded to become “Alternatives to Abortion International” and in 1993, became Heartbeat International, “an umbrella nonprofit that offers pregnancy centers behind-the-scenes support like legal education and staff training in exchange for membership dues.” Through this work, Heartbeat International’s goal is to “make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations” or put more plainly, to eliminate abortion entirely worldwide.

Toward that end, Heartbeat International’s network consists of nearly 3,000 AACs across 68 countries on six continents; the United States, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, and Canada host the most affiliate locations, in that order. In a concerning show of influence, Heartbeat International claims that its affiliates account for 42 percent of AACs worldwide.

Heartbeat International acts as a fundraising organization that then disburses funds to these service providers and also provides them with support in the forms of trainings, legal advice, and organizational development. These trainings and educational materials are full of misinformation, flat-out lies, and offensive comments about abortions and people who seek abortion care. Some examples include egregious and discredited claims of links between abortion and breast cancer or physical abuse and lies about the legality of abortion and the process of obtaining one. Heartbeat International doubled down on this trend in 2018, when it took over the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (APRN), a network of providers spreading misinformation about so-called “abortion pill reversal.” The APRN has doubled in size since Heartbeat International took over its management.

What originally began as a secular anti-abortion endeavor became explicitly Christian as the organization grew in influence. Today, it seems that Heartbeat International is more interested in spreading an evangelical Christian message than actually providing pregnant people with any type of health care that they need. Its mission is filled with Christian Bible verses, and its staff and volunteers have been known to frame their anti-abortion counseling in the context of a conversion to or an affirmation of Christianity. Heartbeat International’s extreme views have manifested as homophobia, and the organization has run entire campaigns rooted on racist assumptions about Latinas and Black women.

Last updated 4/6/2023.


Heartbeat International Spreads Abortion Misinformation To Coerce Pregnant People To Carry Their Pregnancies To Full Term

Heartbeat International Regularly Promotes Inaccurate And Discredited Claims About The “Risks” Of Abortion. “Beyond the religious messaging, at least 10 [Heartbeat International] conference sessions focused on the ‘risks’ of premarital sex, contraception, and abortion. During the panel ‘What’s So Bad About Abortion?’ Janet Morana and Father Frank Pavone, of the organization Priests for Life, asserted that abortion causes an array of spiritual, psychological, and medical problems. Pavone said, ‘Abortion poisons everything,’ because after an abortion, a woman thinks, ‘Others can’t possibly esteem me, child-killer that I am.’ Those women, he said, suffer a ‘failure to bond’ with future children, often thinking, ‘I killed one child; I’m afraid that something bad will happen to the next one.’ He and other speakers in the session said abortion increases a woman’s risk of miscarriage, cancer, substance abuse, suicide, and domestic violence, among other problems.” [Cosmopolitan, 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Intentionally Uses Made-Up “Risk” As A Scare Tactic. “The importance of framing abortion and contraception through ‘risks’ also came up in the talk given by Bri Laycock, the director of Option Line. In her session, ‘Answering the Hard Calls and Tough Questions,’ Laycock recommended that staff answer callers’ questions about medical and surgical abortions by saying, ‘Both options can pose risks to your health,’ without saying the center is against abortion. She recommended pregnancy center staff present select medical information and disclaimers from the fine print on pharmaceutical packaging to present using contraception as a high-risk gamble. When callers ask about emergency contraception, for example, even if there might be an opportunity to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, Laycock said staff can just say it’s ‘not 100 percent effective.’ She recommended telling callers, ‘You might not be at a fertile time in your cycle, and it’s not worth taking hormones for no reason.’” [Cosmopolitan, 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Affiliates Offer Information That Is Full Of Discredited Claims About Links Between Abortion And A Number Of Medical Conditions. “The information contained within the materials Hartford Women’s Center [, which is a Heartbeat International affiliate,] presents to its visitors is overwhelming: rows and rows of text, often studiously annotated. It’s also extremely inaccurate. Many of the pamphlets tout a wholly debunked link between abortion and breast cancer or infertility; others warn of something called “post-abortion syndrome,” a term neither the American Psychiatric Organization nor the American Psychological Organization recognizes. Numerous insist that birth control pills can cause early abortion, a claim that has no backing in established medical science. … Reason Six ‘I was raped,’ puts ending a pregnancy on par with sexual assault: ‘Adding another violent act, abortion, to the horrible thing that has already happened to you will only complicate your healing process,’ it reads. ‘Don’t allow the rapist to add to your emotional turmoil by causing you to end the life of an innocent child.’” [Vice News, 5/30/17]

Heartbeat International Spreads Lies Globally About Cancer, Child Abuse, And Abortion Legality In Order To Discourage Abortion. “In Italy, an undercover reporter was told not only that having an abortion can cause cancer, but that having a baby can cure serious illnesses including [leukemia]. In Spain, another reporter was given an article that claimed that after an abortion a woman is ‘144% more likely’ to physically abuse their children. In Mexico City, staff at one [center] wrongly said that a woman needs her partner’s or a relative’s consent for an abortion — and that no hospital would treat her for serious complications. In Argentina, a reporter who said she was a survivor of domestic abuse was told by staff at another [center]: ‘Now, you’re a victim, but getting an abortion would make you part of the violence.’” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Published The First “Study” On The Fake “Post-Abortion Syndrome.” “Sister Paula [Vandegaer, a founder and former Board Member of Heartbeat International] also noted that it was the faith-based counselors working in our movement who were the first to diagnose (and later name) what is now known widely as ‘post-abortion syndrome’ (PAS). The magazine of our organization called Heartbeat, published by Sister Paula from our West Coast office in Los Angeles, published the first research on postabortion syndrome, including how to recognize it and offer help.” [Heartbeat International, Accessed 7/8/21]

Heartbeat International Trainings Suggest Exploiting Pregnant People By Gaining Their Trust Only To Intentionally Lie To Them About Abortion. “The first thing to do, she explained, is offer a woman considering an abortion a pregnancy test and an ultrasound. Then, you can warn her against making a decision ‘too quickly.’ The trainer [re-emphasizes] this advice later, saying: ‘Get the caller to slow down and really think … Build a relationship with her and gain her trust.’ She then asks her hypothetical caller (who we never hear from) if she knows about possible physical complications—and makes several confusing statements, such as: ‘Statistically most abortions do not cause physical injury. However, statistically the chances of your getting pregnant might not have been great either.’” [openDemocracy, 2/17/20]

Heartbeat International Spreads Misinformation About Birth Control At Its Annual Conference. “As part of the virtual portion of the conference, Heartbeat International offered a session for crisis pregnancy center workers called ‘Why Not Birth Control,’ of which Mother Jones obtained a recording. The presenter, a former labor and delivery nurse-turned-activist, spent most of the session reciting a litany of hormonal birth control side effects such as blood clots and stroke. (There was little discussion of the fact that most are exceedingly rare.) At the end of the workshop, attendees were asked to imagine the hypothetical situation of a ‘young, unmarried female client’ who has had a pregnancy scare. The crisis pregnancy center workers, the slideshow says, should warn her about the side effects and risks of hormonal birth control and point out that birth control won’t protect her from sexually transmitted infections. Condoms might appear to be the perfect solution—no side effects, protection against STDs—but apparently they too are a problem. The PowerPoint claimed that barrier methods like condoms are ‘often ineffective,’ before getting to the overriding point and asserting that ‘the goal of birth control is preventing sexual intercourse from resulting in its natural, intended biological result: children.’” [Mother Jones, 5/5/22]

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In Addition To Its Anti-Abortion Misinformation, Heartbeat International Spreads Racism And Homophobia

Heartbeat International Targeted Latinas And Black Women In An Anti-Abortion Campaign In Miami. “Heartbeat International, too, launched a campaign to target women of color. In 2007, having identified Miami as a city with the ‘neediest neighborhoods,’ it rolled out a project to pursue women of color purposefully and aggressively. Heartbeat Miami’s website stated that ‘the pregnancy center movement must become a true urban movement. And to do that, it must be mainstreamed into Black and Latino churches in the cities.’ Describing its CPC operators as ‘virtue capitalists,’ the website, complete with a demographic map with neighborhoods with high concentrations of Latinas, outlined the campaign ‘to develop a life-support network of ultrasound-equipped pregnancy centers strategically located in high abortion-marketed neighborhoods, staffed and supported by the Greater Miami Christian community.’ It boasted, ‘this highly aggressive, heavily funded approach to starting multiple centers has never been done before.’ In the past year, Heartbeat Miami apparently learned that its targeted language was inflammatory and removed it from its website.” [NARAL Pro-Choice America, 12/6/16]

Heartbeat International Uses Coded Racist Language When Describing Their Targeted Campaigns. “In a Heartbeat International video, a CPC activist described its ‘mobile center,’ a vehicle that allows anti-choice volunteers to position themselves directly outside abortion providers in the city. She says, ‘We’re going straight to the ‘hood, straight into urban areas … to reach more abortion-minded and -vulnerable clients.’” [NARAL Pro-Choice America, 12/6/16]

Homophobia Is Enshrined In Heartbeat International’s Official Guiding Policies. “Heartbeat International does promote God’s Plan for our sexuality: marriage between one man and one woman, sexual intimacy, children, unconditional/unselfish love, and relationship with God must go together. Heartbeat International does promote sexual integrity/sexual purity before marriage and sexual integrity faithfulness within marriage.” [Heartbeat International, 2021]

Heartbeat International Trainings Claim That Abortion Can “Turn” One’s Partner Gay. “Other claims [made in a Heartbeat International training webinar] were more original. For example: After a woman has an abortion, the trainer said, her partner can ‘experience homosexuality.’ It’s not clear in the webinar where she got this from.” [openDemocracy, 2/17/20]

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Heartbeat International Is An Explicitly Christian Organization That Seems To Prioritize Evangelism Over Pregnancy Care

Heartbeat International Affiliates Use Deceptive Marketing Tactics To Lure Pregnant People Into Their Clinics Where They Receive Messages About “Jesus’s Plan.” “[Pregnancy Center Counselor Laurie Steinfeld’s] talk focused on how to help women seeking abortions understand Jesus’s plan for them and their babies, and she described how her center’s signage attracts women. ‘Right across the street from us is Planned Parenthood,’ she said. ‘We’re across the street and it [their sign] says ‘Pregnancy Counseling Center’ and think, Oh, that’s it! So some of them coming in thinking they’re going to their abortion appointments.’” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Staff And Volunteers View Christian Evangelism And Conversion As A Priority Of Their Work. “In her workshop, ‘How to Reach and Inspire the Heart of a Client,’ Steinfeld told her audience about her mission to convert clients: ‘If you hear nothing today, I want you to hear this one thing,’ she said. ‘We might be the very first face of Christ that these girls ever see.’” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Conversion To Christianity Is Integral To Heartbeat International’s Approach To Anti-Abortion Counseling. “Another oft-repeated catchphrase was, ‘Save the mother, save the baby,’ shorthand for many pregnancy center workers’ belief that the most effective way to prevent abortion is to convert women. In keeping with Evangelicalism’s central tenets, many pregnancy center staff believe that those living ‘without Christ’—including Christians having premarital sex—must accept Christ to be born again, redeem their sins, and escape spiritual pain. Carrying a pregnancy to term ‘redeems’ a ‘broken’ woman, multiple staff people told me.” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Staff Pride Themselves On Proselytizing To Minors And Using Manipulative Tactics Rather Than Providing Proper And Accurate Care. “In her talk, Steinfeld explained how she tells girls who are ‘14, 15, 16 years old,’ that ‘He wove us together in our mother’s womb.’ Yet she encouraged her audience to think carefully about the words they use when talking to clients. ‘Notice that I haven’t mentioned abortion,’ she said at one point in her talk, after detailing how she tries to make the girls feel comfortable by listening to their fears and talking about God’s unconditional love, even for ‘the adulterous woman.’ ‘We’re just starting to build up knowing who she is in Christ, just laying the groundwork. Once she believes He had a plan for her life, then she would also have to believe He has a plan for her baby’s life,’ Steinfeld explained. … She emphasized gentleness: ‘We try to forget the ones that make us feel shame, but we all remember the ones that gave us love. We’re guiding her on that road to do the next right thing. About then is when we usually do the ultrasound.’” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Staff And Volunteers Refer To Their Clinics As “Ministries.” “The belief that a personal God commands faithful Christians to save others from Satan’s fallen world pervaded the Heartbeat conference. Attendees referred to their centers as ‘ministries.’ In the ballroom, a doctor said he’d performed abortions until he heard the prayers of all the souls of the babies he’d killed. During prayer sessions, hundreds of women raised their arms together in song. Kirk Walden, an anti-abortion fundraiser, repented, saying he’d previously underestimated pregnancy centers as just ‘nice work doing nice things.’ During his morning keynote, he shouted across the ballroom that pregnancy centers are, in fact, ‘the key God is using to build the wall of hope to make abortion obsolete in this country and around the world.’” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

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Heartbeat International Staff And Volunteers Talk About People Who Need Abortion Care In Offensive, Infantilizing Ways

Heartbeat International Volunteers Have Equated People Seeking Abortions To Children. “Over the course of the three days of the conference, I chatted with a few dozen pregnancy center workers. Multiple women told me it was their job to protect women from abortion as ‘an adult tells a child not to touch a hot stove.’” [Cosmopolitan, 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International’s Infantilization Of People Seeking Abortion Care Stems From Its Bad-Faith Understanding Of The Socioeconomic Realities Of Parenting In The United States. “No longer is it true, if it ever was, that abortion is necessary to allow women to lead productive and fulfilling lives and to participate equally in society.” [Heartbeat International Dobbs Amicus Brief, July 2021]

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Heartbeat International’s Structure And Operations Promote A Culture Of Deception

Heartbeat International Teaches Hotline Operators To Intentionally “Discourage Or Delay” Abortion In An Attempt To Push Pregnant People Past Legal Gestational Limits For Abortion. “It is not clear what training specific grantees or affiliates have received. However, materials from one of Heartbeat’s online webinars, ‘developed from the experience of Heartbeat affiliates,’ show how it teaches hotline operators to discourage or delay women from accessing abortions and emergency contraception.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Trainings Suggest Deceptive Methods To Delay Pregnant People Past Emergency Contraception Windows. “If a woman asks about emergency contraception the trainer [at the Heartbeat International conference] also suggests a pregnancy test to ‘let you know if you might have conceived more than 7-10 days ago.’ However, she also notes that you have to take emergency contraception within 72-120 (3-5 days) hours of intercourse. If someone followed her advice, and waited to take a pregnancy test, they would miss their chance to take emergency contraception.” [openDemocracy, 2/17/20]

Heartbeat International Promotes A Deceptive Tactic, Encouraging Each Provider To Operate Two Websites: One To Secure Donors And One To Confuse Pregnant People. “In her session, ‘Do I Really Need Two Sites?’ [former Heartbeat International media specialist, Lauren] Chenoweth, explained that, yes, in fact, pregnancy centers do. She recommended that centers operate one that describes an anti-abortion mission to secure donors and another that lists medical information to attract women seeking contraception, counseling, or abortion. An audience member offered that her center swapped out an anti-abortion seeming name for Pregnancy Options. ‘That is an excellent point,’ Chenoweth replied. ‘Use a more attractive name to someone who is seeking services.’” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Doesn’t Even Follow Its Own Guidance On Distinguishing Medical Care From Counseling. “Inside some of these crisis pregnancy [centers], including those in Costa Rica and Mexico, staff offered reporters ultrasounds as part of ‘counselling’ sessions focused on dissuading them from accessing abortions. … This also appears to be in breach of Heartbeat’s own guidance on ultrasounds, which says that a [center] that wants to offer these services must ‘become a medical clinic’, with a licensed medical director, insurance and a trained technician.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

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Heartbeat International Jointly Operates Option Line With Fellow AAC-Network Care Net, One Of The Largest Anti-Abortion Hotlines

Heartbeat International Pioneered One Of The First Anti-Abortion Hotlines. “Sister Paula [Vandegaer, a founder and former Board Member of Heartbeat International] also founded one of the very first hotlines of any kind! Hotlines were a new concept for crisis intervention in the early 1970s. She wrote the first counseling manual and materials ever used specifically for helping women with unplanned pregnancies, thus launching a new, specialized field for counseling and social work.” [Heartbeat International, Accessed 7/8/21]

In 2003, Heartbeat International Formalized This Operation Under The Name, Option Line. “Established in 2003, Option Line is the only fully staffed, bilingual pro-life contact center in the U.S.” [Heartbeat International, Accessed 7/14/21]

  • Option Line Is A Joint Venture With AAC Network Care Net. “One of the most potent tools that CPCs have at their disposal is the Option Line, a joint venture between Care Net and Heartbeat International that operates as a 24-hour call center and web tool that transfers or refers women to the nearest CPC. During its first month in operation, the Option Line received approximately 2,000 calls and since then has added instant messaging and email capabilities to its arsenal. Its operators boast that the service answers more than 600 contacts a day and Option Line claims more than two million contacts since 2003. Further, a web search revealed that many CPCs listed by Option Line advertised under headings that could lead women to believe that they provide the full range of reproductive-health services, including abortion care and contraception.” [NARAL Pro-Choice America, 12/6/16]

Option Line Pretends To Present Options For Pregnancy Care But Actually Funnels Pregnant People To Anti-Abortion Counselors. “Option Line is rife with misinformation about abortion and contraception, though it has the appearance of a legitimate medical service, at least aesthetically. (Its logo suspiciously resembles that of Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill.) On every single informational page, visitors are referred to [Heartbeat International]-affiliated crisis pregnancy centers in their area, though the true goal of these centers is only vaguely alluded to, often after a wall of official-seeming medical platitudes. ‘These centers don’t perform of refer for abortions, but they have a lot of information about all your options,’ reads a cheery disclaimer at the bottom of a page entitled ‘Considering Abortion.’ ‘Many of them are even able to give you a free ultrasound.’” [Vice News, 5/30/17]

Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network Redirects To Option Line Through Its “Post Abortion Resources” Link. [Abortion Pill Rescue Network, accessed 1/25/23]

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Heartbeat International Runs The Abortion Pill Rescue Network, Which Spreads Lies Internationally About “Reversing” Medical Abortion

Heartbeat International Took Over Management Of The APRN In 2018. “The Abortion Pill Rescue Network (APRN) is made up of approximately 1,000 rescue providers and centers worldwide who facilitate abortion pill reversal. Heartbeat International took over management of the Network in 2018.” [Pregnancy Help News, 1/18/21]

The APRN Is A 24-Hour Anti-Abortion Hotline Intent On Spreading Misinformation About So-Called “Abortion Pill Reversal” Worldwide. “[The APRN] is run by the US anti-abortion group Heartbeat International. It operates a 24-hour hotline and online chat service that connects women to providers of [“abortion pill reversal”] across the US and internationally. [Dr. George] Delgado has said the goal of this network is the ‘saturation of the world’ with ‘other regions in the world developing their own networks, like Europe and Latin America.” [openDemocracy, 5/27/21]

Heartbeat International And The APRN Claim The Efficacy And Safety Of So-Called “Abortion Pill Reversal” Despite Any Governing Medical Body Approving The Process. “Heartbeat International claims that [“Abortion Pill Reversal” (APR)] is a ‘time-tested, FDA approved treatment, that’s been used for decades to treat women at risk for early pregnancy loss and preterm delivery.’ This is misleading. Progesterone is approved for use to prevent early pregnancy loss and preterm deliveries. However, neither the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other medical authorities in the countries covered in our investigation have approved or recommended the APR protocol.” [openDemocracy, 5/27/21]

  • “Abortion Pill Reversal” Is A Pseudoscientific Fearmongering Response To The Increase In Medication Abortion Care. “As states continue to take up strict anti-abortion legislation, more women are turning to the abortion pill — a two-drug combination that can be taken up to 10 weeks in pregnancy. In response, anti-abortion activists have suggested that medication abortion is reversible with a treatment that involves doses of progesterone, the hormone that helps maintain a pregnancy. Medical experts say the reversal treatment is unproven. Studies that proponents of the treatment rely on have several issues, including small sample sizes, no ethics approval, no control group, underreporting of data and no reported safety outcomes.” [PolitiFact, 4/4/22]

APRN Pops Up Immediately When Searching “Abortion Pill Reversal” Due To Heartbeat International’s SEO Efforts. “When plugging “abortion pill reversal” into a browser, the abortion pill reversal website will likely apex to the top of search results. The website, owned and operated by Heartbeat International, the largest chain of CPCs in the world, lists a hotline for those considering abortion pill reversal and a flurry of nebulous information about the process. After calling the hotline, operators find an anti-abortion doctor who will prescribe progesterone as an oral or vaginal pill or injection.” [Prism, 8/11/22]

The Proliferation Of The “Abortion Pill Reversal” Scam Influenced The Governor Of Oklahoma To Establish A Statewide Cooperative Network. “In life states such as Oklahoma, chemical abortions are on the rise since the Dobbs decision. Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) is a propitious choice for women in Oklahoma who wish to reverse a chemical abortion as currently 14 prescribers and clinics there participate in the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (APRN). The work of APRN providers in Oklahoma is getting boosted by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Helping Every Life and Parent (HELP) Task Force initiative. Through an executive order Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) created the HELP Task Force [which will] act on a recommendation to establish a statewide cooperative network and process to make Abortion Pill Reversal available.” [Pregnancy Help News, 11/18/22]

A Facebook Ad Campaign From Live Action Directed Viewers To The APRN. “Most of the Facebook ads surveyed by the [Center for Countering Digital Hate] were purchased by Live Action, an anti-abortion group that claims to have ‘the largest online presence in the pro-life movement.’ The ads link to a website promoting the Abortion Pill Rescue Network, a 1,000-plus-person network of ‘medical practitioners’ willing to administer the experimental treatment, which is operated by a chain of ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ called Heartbeat International. Almost all of the Google ads also link to this site. After this story was published, Heartbeat International reached out to dispute the report’s characterization that it had purchased the Google advertisements. A spokesperson claimed that, while Heartbeat International did own and operate the website linked in the ads, the spots themselves were purchased by a third party. They declined to name the third party.” [The Daily Beast, 9/14/21]

American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) Now Links Doctors To Register With The APRN – And Keeps Their Information Secret From The Public. “In November, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) created a new link on its website to the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (APRN) for medical providers. Doctors’ names, according to the site, will be kept confidential, and they get access to a closed Facebook group. So far, the new link has gotten about 20 responses from doctors who will be added to a network of 1,000 physicians in 48 countries. Andrea Trudden, spokeswoman for Heartbeat International, a 50-year-old ecumenical network of crisis pregnancy centers that is helping to manage the APRN site—and a sister site, AbortionPillReversal.com—also said the doctors’ names will be kept confidential. ‘Our medical director has commented that, in certain instances, it’s seen as incredibly controversial if you’re a doctor who provides it,’ Trudden said. ‘The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [ACOG] said it was basically junk science, with almost a warning if you provide this, you will put your membership at risk.’” [Newsweek, 1/21/21]

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Heartbeat International Has A Massive Global Operation Across Every Continent

Heartbeat International — One Of The First AAC Networks In The U.S. — Is Now A Network Of Over 2,800 AACs Across All Six Inhabited Continents. “Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. and the largest and most expansive in the world. Since 1971, Heartbeat has supported, strengthened and started pregnancy help organizations, including pregnancy medical clinics, pregnancy resources centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies all over the world. Currently, Heartbeat serves over 2,800 affiliate locations on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion.” [Heartbeat International, 2021]

Outside Of The U.S., Heartbeat International Has The Most Affiliates In Italy — Over 400. “Outside the US, openDemocracy found the most Heartbeat affiliates in Italy: more than 400, including dozens active inside public hospitals and women’s shelters.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Has Given Significant Funding To Centros de Ayuda para la Mujer and Africa Cares for Life. “Heartbeat has also given tens of thousands of dollars to the regional Centros de Ayuda para la Mujer (CAM) network that is also supported by Human Life International, and more than $200,000 to the Africa Cares for Life network in South Africa.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Has Spent Almost $1 Million Around The World Since 2007. “It has also spent almost $1 million around the world since 2007, including grants to more than a dozen specific anti-abortion groups and networks, according to openDemocracy’s analysis of its financial filings.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

An Investigation From openDemocracy Found Heartbeat International’s “Abortion Pill Reversal” Scam To Have Footing In Several Other Countries, Particularly Those In Europe. “‘You are the first client I personally have worked with in Germany, but we have assisted many women all over Europe,’ a US-based nurse told an openDemocracy undercover reporter, posing as a woman who had taken the first, but not the second, pill required to have a medical abortion. … openDemocracy has found evidence that [“abortion pill reversal”] is spreading worldwide – including in countries where abortion has been legal for generations. Our undercover reporters on four continents – including eight European countries (Armenia, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the UK and Ukraine) – were connected by US activists to local doctors who were willing to offer prescriptions or instructions for this ‘treatment’ by phone or email. In Belgium, Croatia, Germany and Russia, where US-based nurses could not connect reporters directly to local providers of APR, they emailed them instructions to take to a local hospital or pharmacy to get the medicine.” [openDemocracy, 3/25/21]

The Abortion Pill Rescue Network Operates In At Least A Dozen Countries Across Europe, North America, South America, And Africa. “Our investigation revealed that APRN has linked up with doctors in at least a dozen countries on four continents—Europe, North America (including Canada), South America and Africa—to give women APR ‘treatment.’ APRN hotline operators will also email women dosage instructions if they can’t make a connection with a doctor.” [openDemocracy, 5/27/21]

The APRN Is Well-Established In Russia, Where It Is In Its Fifth Year Of Operation. “Russia’s growing Abortion Pill Rescue Network, overseen by Dr. Alexey Alexandrovich Fokin of St. Petersburg, is well into its fifth year of helping women reverse the chemical abortions they began but soon regretted. In multiple regions of Russia, three physicians and several registered nurses have joined the network.” [Pregnancy Help News, 7/12/21]

The APRN Is Well-Established In The United Kingdom And Continues To Grow Its Influence In New Countries Each Year. “This year, an openDemocracy investigation revealed that doctors around the world, connected to the US Christian Right group Heartbeat International, are prescribing this ‘treatment’ to women—under the radar of medical regulators and health authorities. In some countries such as the UK it appears to be more widespread; in others, it seems to be taking root now.” [openDemocracy, 5/27/21]

  • Pregnancy Help News Laments The Pushback To APRN In The UK, Calling It An Attack On “The Rights Of Women In The UK.” “I began working as a RN hotline consultant for the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (APRN) in February of 2020. I had a passionate desire to play a role in offering women their second chance. … Recently in the United Kingdom, women have been denied their second chance to choose life for their unborn child. Women in the UK are calling the APRN hotline daily with an immediate regret of their abortion decision, with a desire to choose life for their unborn child – and being denied assistance. This is because the previous APRN providers in the UK have recently been disciplined and prohibited from assisting women with abortion pill reversal. The women of the UK are currently without a reversal choice and are being denied their second chance. … Denying women of the UK the opportunity for abortion pill reversal, denies them their choice to choose life. These women are being left in despair with no one to offer them their second chance. Where are the rights of women in the UK?” [Pregnancy Help News, 6/21/21]
  • An Anti-Abortion Doctor Practicing In The UK Was Put Under Investigation After Working With APRN. “A UK-based doctor is under investigation for offering to prescribe abortion ‘reversal’ medication, an ‘unproven and experimental’ treatment promoted by US-based anti-abortion activists. The doctor allegedly offered to prescribe pessaries to an undercover investigator with the media outlet openDemocracy. The undercover investigator was connected to the doctor after calling a US-based Christian hotline run by Heartbeat International, a large anti-abortion group. ‘UK doctors should not be working with anti-abortion activists to advise and prescribe a treatment that is unproven and dangerous,’ said MP Nadia Whittome. She said she was ‘glad’ the GMC was investigating.” [The Guardian, 5/27/21]
  • An Anti-Abortion Doctor Practicing In Ireland Offered To Prescribe An Undercover Journalist With “Abortion Pill Reversal.” “Irish doctors are working with a US anti-abortion group linked to the Trump White House to promote an unproven ‘abortion reversal’ treatment. … Dr Fiona O’Hanlon, a GP based in Cavan who is a member of Doctors for Life and has campaigned against abortion law reform, offered to prescribe progesterone to a journalist posing as a woman who was seeking to undo a medical termination. Doctors for Life has been working with Heartbeat International, an anti-abortion group based in Ohio, to promote ‘abortion reversal.’” [The Irish Independent, 5/26/20]
  • APRN Is Advertised In The UK By The Society For The Protection Of Unborn Children (SPUC). “[A]nti-abortion groups have continued to promote [“abortion pill reversal”] in the US and around the world – including in the UK, apparently under the radar of regulators. APR’s proponents claim at least 60 women in the UK requested it in the first half of 2020. Our reporter called a 24-hour hotline run by a US group called Heartbeat International – and advertised in the UK by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) – and was quickly connected to a local doctor for the ‘treatment’. She posed as a pregnant woman who had begun a medical abortion, having taken the first pill, and was told by this doctor that the ‘reversal’ treatment is safe and effective – despite the lack of medical evidence to prove this.” [openDemocracy, 3/25/21]

Heartbeat International Is Working With The South African-Based Anti-Abortion Organization Doctors For Life. “The undercover reporters posed as pregnant women who had taken the first abortion pill known as mifepristone but were no longer sure they wanted to go through with the termination of pregnancy. Once they made the first contact with the proponents of the treatment, their contact information was taken, passed on to an operator, who then sent them a consent form from Heartbeat International. Once the reporters signed the consent form, the US operators connected them to local doctors willing to prescribe the treatment or sent them dosage instructions to take either to local hospitals and pharmacies or to local anti-abortion ‘crisis pregnancy centres. According to openDemocracy, a South African doctor told one of the reporters posing as a patient to go to any pharmacy, call him from there and he’d then email them the necessary prescription. Heartbeat International, the U.S. group, passed the reporter’s contact information to Doctors for Life, a local anti-abortion group, which then connected the reporter to a doctor in Durban and another in Johannesburg.” [allAfrica, 3/26/21]

Heartbeat International Is An Affiliate Of The AAC Group Stanton Healthcare, Which Operates In The UK Via Belfast And Edinburgh Locations, As Well As In The US. “One of the major US anti-abortion organisations with a large global spend is Heartbeat International, which has an affiliated network of crisis pregnancy centres accused of using disinformation to persuade women not to access abortion. In the UK, one of its affiliates is Stanton Healthcare – linked to the anti-abortion 40 Days for Life organisation which The Times revealed is promoting abortion-pill reversal, a key offering of Heartbeat International.” [Byline Times, 11/8/22]

  • Stanton Healthcare Is A Project Of The Anti-Abortion Organization Stanton International, Which Was Founded In 2006 By Brandi Swindell; Stanton International Also Operates Stanton Public Policy Center, Which Seeks To End Legal Access To Medication Abortion Care. [Stanton International, accessed 1/25/23]
  • Stanton International First Came To The UK In 2014, Opening In Northern Ireland. “An American anti-abortion healthcare provider is planning to open a clinic in Belfast, the BBC has learned. Stanton Healthcare aims to have a clinic operating in the city centre by early 2015. It will be the firm’s first facility outside the USA. It currently has clinics in Idaho and California. Stanton Healthcare has describe itself as ‘a revolutionary organisation that seeks to replace abortion businesses around the world’. … The BBC understands that Stanton Healthcare plans to offer pregnancy counselling and also medical facilities like ultrasound scans. The firm has claimed that over 90% of what they describe as ‘abortion-vulnerable women’ who have ultrasound scans at their Boise clinic choose to give birth.” [BBC News, 9/9/14]
  • Stanton Healthcare Misleads People By Appearing To Offer Comprehensive Reproductive Health Services. [The Times, 2/19/22]
  • A Doctor Suspended For Spreading Misinformation About Coronavirus Serves As A Trustee For Stanton Healthcare Belfast. “A charity accused of spreading disinformation about pregnancy and abortion in Northern Ireland has a GP who was suspended for spreading COVID misinformation listed as a trustee … according to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, McCloskey is still a trustee for Stanton Healthcare Belfast, which pro-choice groups have described as an ‘anti-abortion’ crisis pregnancy centre. … Stanton Healthcare Belfast was set up in 2014 by American evangelical organisation Stanton International, which is set to expand its UK outreach with another branch, Stanton Healthcare East of Scotland, due to open in Edinburgh.” [openDemocracy, 8/3/22]

After Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine, Heartbeat International Began Asking For Money For Its Kharkiv-Based Affiliate In Order To Target Pregnant Refugees. “US anti-abortion group Heartbeat International is taking advantage of Russia’s war in Ukraine to fundraise for ‘crisis pregnancy centres’ targeting refugees, openDemocracy has learnt. Reproductive health experts fear the group could use its centres in Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Romania to gain access to vulnerable people and persuade them to continue with unwanted pregnancies. Christian organisation Heartbeat International has been sending fundraising messages to its subscribers since 9 March requesting money for one of its affiliates, the Kharkov Pregnancy Assistance Center in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The centre was founded in 2003 as a ‘ministry for the protection of human life and family’, according to the Heartbeat webpage dedicated to the group. One message reads: ‘Over a million refugees have fled Ukraine. Many are women and children. They’re in dire need of help – especially those facing unexpected pregnancies.’ Clicking on a ‘help women in crisis’ button, readers are directed to a donation page on Cornerstone, a US ‘Christian owned and operated’ payment system. … Heartbeat’s activities are particularly disturbing in the context of sexual violence taking place during the war.” [openDemocracy, 6/20/22]

Heartbeat International Is Working With Health Care Providers In Nigeria To Provide Abortion Pill “Reversal.” “Investigations into the activities of an American nongovernmental organisation, Heartbeat International, show that the Christian right anti-abortion outfit is secretly propagating the use of Abortion Pill Reversal in Nigeria by connecting willing women to local health workers who prescribe progesterone for them to reverse a medical abortion that is already in progress. … Heartbeat International connects pregnant women willing to reverse ongoing abortions to local health workers who serve as abortion reversal providers by prescribing and administering progesterone injections on them. In Lagos, Nigeria, a man who introduced himself as Dr. Isaac Okonkwo to our undercover abortion reversal seeker, serves as Heartbeat International’s linkman. He claims to have offered the treatment to more than four women and had helped them to stop ongoing abortions that they had commenced. The women allegedly contacted him when they decided to keep their pregnancies after they had taken mifepristone.” [Punch Nigeria, 4/25/21]

An Investigation From EL PAÍS Found Heartbeat International’s Coercion And Deception To Be Spreading Across Latin American Countries. “An EL PAÍS investigation in five Latin American countries has found that a network of centers affiliated with the far-right US organization Heartbeat International (HI) promote themselves online as feminist support groups and use misleading language in favor of abortion, but in reality they work to manipulate and institutionalize women to get them to carry their pregnancy to term. Five female reporters and one male reporter went undercover to centers in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Mexico between 2019 and 2021, as a follow-up to an OpenDemocracy investigation into HI’s operations in the region. During those visits, they found that these centers operate in very similar ways: they offer false information about abortion, propose adoption as an alternative and, in some cases, they temporarily offer accommodation and food. Their promises to help find a home for their child are often against the law in the countries where they operate. Their strategy is part of the new onslaught of the ultraconservative movement that works in the region to stop the advancement of women’s reproductive rights. In three of the five countries included in this report, the portals use misleading advertising or identify themselves as feminist activists. In Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica, reporters – who presented themselves as pregnant women in vulnerable conditions – were offered an adoption process outside of legal institutions.” [EL PAÍS, 10/24/21]

Heartbeat International Has Spent Over $1 Million In “Dark Money” Outside Of The U.S. “US conservative groups behind a Supreme Court legal battle that could shape the future of American abortion rights have spent at least $28m around the world between 2016 and 2019, openDemocracy reveals today. These groups have engaged in numerous international campaigns against women’s and LGBT rights, including supporting anti-abortion causes in Poland, Colombia and El Salvador.” [openDemocracy, 12/3/21]

The European Parliamentary Forum For Sexual And Reproductive Rights Named Heartbeat International As An Organization Threatening Sexual And Reproductive Health, Rights And Justice. “A long-standing objective of anti-gender organisations has been to impede access to abortion, as articulated at the [Political Network for Values] summit in 2017, following a threefold strategy to prevent, restrict and prohibit abortion. While the efforts to restrict and prohibit are well documented, less well known are the attempts to prevent abortion. Rather than focusing on the reasons why women consider terminating their pregnancies, namely by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, anti-gender actors have concentrated on misleading pregnant women about their legal health options. Thus, several religious extremist actors have specialised in accessing public funding to establish ‘crisis pregnancy centres’, which aim to deter women from accessing legal abortion services. In early 2020, openDemocracy revealed how a network of crisis pregnancy counselling centres was operating around the world, including in Europe, many working from the same manual created by the US antiabortion organisation Heartbeat International.” [European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, 6/21 (p. 59)]

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Similar To Other AAC Networks, Heartbeat International Manipulates Search Engine Optimization (SEO) And Has Exported The Tactic — Along With Other Forms of Deception — Abroad

Heartbeat International Has Been Manipulating SEO Since At Least 2014. “The organization is experienced in using Google’s AdWords program to boost their visibility, especially in conjunction with abortion-related searches—in their 2014 annual report, HBI boasted that ‘a woman who makes a Google search such as ‘pregnant and scared’ finds a local Heartbeat International affiliate or Option Line in her search.’” [Vice News, 5/30/17]

Conferences Sponsored By Heartbeat International Seek To Disseminate SEO And Other Deceptive Tactics Across AACs. “And at the Heartbeat conference, speakers and vendors made it clear that attracting ‘abortion-minded’ clients through technology and other marketing practices was a priority—and that it was sometimes helpful to downplay their anti-abortion mission. In an exhibition hall crammed with booths offering medical malpractice insurance and pregnancy tests wrapped in blue and pink felt storks, several booths offered tech services that help centers appear in Internet searches for terms like ‘abortion.’ They’re going to Google ‘abortion’ or they’re going to Google ‘abortion services’ or ‘pregnancy help,’ and that’s why we want to focus on our websites,’ said Lauren Chenoweth, Heartbeat’s media specialist at the time. Later she said, ‘We want to be strategic in getting them to our centers.’” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Has Exported These SEO Tactics Abroad. “Across Latin America, four of the five [centers] we visited appear to advertise online as if they were ‘pro-choice’ groups or abortion providers. In Mexico, for example, one [center] advertises as a women’s support group on websites with names like iterrumpir-embarazo.com (‘interrupt pregnancy’) and aborto-mexico.com. One Costa Rican [center], part of the same regional network that is a Heartbeat partner and grantee, advertises itself on a website called quieroabortarcr.com (‘iwanttogetanabortioncr.com’).” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Affiliates Across The World Employ Similarly Deceptive Tactics As U.S.-Based Affiliates. “In Ecuador, another [center] says online: ‘Don’t change your life. It’s your decision,’ and appears to offer medical abortion pills. … In Uganda, where abortion is illegal unless the woman’s life is at risk, one Heartbeat affiliate in a Kampala suburb advertises ‘abortion information’ on a sign outside its building that says: ‘Are you pregnant and scared?’ –much like the slogans on the billboards of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy [centers] across the US.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

The APRN Uses Social Media To Spread Its Misinformation In Russia. “Russia’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network also reaches women on most major social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, as well as WhatsApp and Viber.” [Pregnancy Help News, 7/12/21]

After Years Of Misdirecting People To AACs, Google Announced They Would Begin To Label AACs As Not Providing Actual Care, Curtailing Heartbeat International’s Deception Efforts. “Google will begin specifically labeling medical clinics and hospitals that provide abortion care in its Maps app and websites. The move comes in response to years of complaints from users and abortion advocates that its search results for abortion care often return links to crisis pregnancy centers that do not provide abortions and sometimes actively try to dissuade people from getting them.” [Washington Post, 8/25/22]

  • Still, Tech Companies Are Failing To Fully Address This Problem; Heartbeat International’s Longtime Use Of SEO – Coupled With Ineffective Regulation Of AACs’ Deceptive Advertising – Leads People To Believe Their AACs Offer Abortion Care. “After abortion restrictions began going into effect in US states this year, Google recognized that an update to its policies was in order. For years, anti-abortion organizations had been paying to advertise alongside searches related to the procedure, confusing women in need of medical care, and drawing criticism from reproductive health advocates. In June, Google moved to more prominently note when advertisers don’t offer medical services to terminate a pregnancy with a label, ‘Does not provide abortions.’ Shortly thereafter, the company expanded the label for advertisers that do offer abortions to include providers that mail pills to patients. … ‘In some cases, the label directly contradicts the ad itself,’ said Katie Paul, director of [the Tech Transparency Project]. ‘It makes it even more confusing for consumers because they’re not sure what to trust.’ In one example, the headline of an ad for Texas-based Prestonwood Pregnancy Center reads ‘Free Abortion Pill.’ A representative for Prestonwood and Heartbeat International, the network of CPCs with which the center is affiliated, said that the title of the advertisement was auto-filled by Google based on the search term, and was not something the organization had written. The Google spokesperson said Prestonwood appeared to be using tools in which advertisers craft their own headlines.” [Bloomberg, 9/29/22]
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Heartbeat International Submitted An Amicus Brief For Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – And Celebrated The Overturn Of Roe

Heartbeat International Submitted An Amicus Brief for the Dobbs v Jackson Supreme Court Case, Which Featured Rhetoric Supportive Of AACs. “Unlike in 1992, centers are now highly effective not only at providing options counseling, but at helping women through all stages of their pregnancy and beyond — including prenatal care, parenting classes, life-skill classes, and material assistance — to help ensure that women can ‘participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation’” [Heartbeat International Dobbs Amicus Brief, July 2021]

Within Their Amicus Brief, Heartbeat Illogically Concludes That Recent Changes Of Social Norms Remove The Need For Abortion Access. “As for changing societal mores, the social stigma associated with unexpected pregnancies today has all but disappeared. Today, 40% of U.S. births occur outside of wedlock, compared with only 30% at the time of Casey, or 13% at the time of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 153 (1973). It is simply a different world today wherein the factors underlying Casey no longer apply.” [Heartbeat International Dobbs Amicus Brief, July 2021]

Heartbeat International Issued A Celebratory Statement, Following The Dobbs Decision, Which Co-Opted Feminist Language. “‘Today we got the big news, and it was everything that we had hoped for, at least in this round,’ said Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. ‘We’re grateful that the Supreme Court saw what was true, that there really was no foundation for Roe to begin with and they have finally after 50 years they’ve managed to correct that.’ … Heartbeat International had filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that women are strong, capable, and do not need abortion to participate in society. Heartbeat argues as well that Roe and Casey should be overturned because the prevalence of pregnancy help organizations in the U.S. makes the legal precedent of those cases moot.” [Pregnancy Help News, 6/24/22]

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Heartbeat International Has A Number Of Ties To The U.S. Government

Heartbeat International Has Connections To Both Former Vice President Mike Pence and Former President Donald Trump. “Heartbeat International claims close ties to the White House. Vice President Mike Pence has spoken at its events on Capitol Hill; Donald Trump applauded a 2018 Supreme Court decision in [favor] of crisis pregnancy [centers]; and Heartbeat has urged its allies to apply for funding from its ‘new friends in Washington.’” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Has A Strong Lobbying Presence On Capitol Hill. “Heartbeat says it has visited more than 250 offices of members of the US Congress to lobby for crisis pregnancy [centers] since 2009 – and last month Donald Trump became the first US president to attend an annual anti-abortion rally in Washington DC, claiming that ‘unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.’” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

U.S. Immigration Officials Referred Immigrant Minors Who Requested Abortions While In Federal Custody To Anti-Abortion Heartbeat International. “In 2017, US journalists meanwhile revealed that immigrant minors who requested abortions while in federal custody were being referred to Heartbeat affiliates for counselling.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

  • A Trump Appointee Who Mismanaged The Program Formerly Served On The Board Of A Heartbeat International Affiliate. “The following year, Trump appointee Scott Lloyd – who previously served on the board of a Heartbeat affiliate in Virginia and co-founded a Christian law firm based inside Human Life International’s headquarters – lost his job after it emerged that he had repeatedly mishandled abortion requests from migrant teenagers.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Affiliates Receive Federal And State Funds Through Alternative to Abortion (A2A) Programs That Heartbeat International Helps Administer In At Least 11 U.S. States. “Still, the federal government and at least 11 states currently fund pregnancy centers, including Heartbeat affiliates.” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

  • “Heartbeat Itself Does Not Get Taxpayer Money, But It Has Distributed State Funding To Some Of Its Affiliates.” [openDemocracy, 2/10/20]

Heartbeat International Promotes An “Insider” Approach To Politics That Results In Their Centers Securing State Contracts. “In her talk ‘Lasting in Leadership: Staying Called, Not Driven,’ longtime anti-contraception activist Leslee Unruh said it’s been easier to pass anti-abortion bills since she began inviting South Dakota legislators ‘up to the lake’ in the summer. One such ‘win for God’ is an enjoined law that requires women seeking an abortion in South Dakota to receive counseling at either Unruh’s Heartbeat center in Sioux Falls or another evangelical center in Rapid City.” [Comsopolitan 4/6/15]

Heartbeat International Ran The Campaign “Babies Go To Congress” To Lobby To Lawmakers On Capitol Hill. “Heartbeat International’s Babies Go to Congress campaign may be one of the most powerful Pro-Life events on Capitol Hill. Just imagine your lawmakers meeting with women who chose life at our pregnancy centers! Working with our moms and the pregnancy centers, we are able to communicate with various congressional offices from both sides of the aisle. After all, who can turn away smiling mothers, with happy babies in hand, who share their stories of the love and support they found at their local pregnancy help center?” [Heartbeat International, accessed 1/25/23]

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Heartbeat International Collects Troves Of Data With Their Own Data Management System Next Level Center Management Solution — And Can Use This Data For Any Purpose Unchecked

Next Level Center Management Solution Is Available For Use In Heartbeat International’s 3,000+ AAC Locations Worldwide. [Next Level Center Management Solution, accessed 4/5/23]

Next Level Is Designed To Incessantly Engage With AAC Clients. “Next Level CMS’s tablet-based, mobile-centric design gives Center staff a cutting-edge tool to make sure that no client ever falls through the cracks from the moment you say ‘Hello.’” [Next Level Center Management Solution, accessed 4/5/23]

Heartbeat International Implements Next Level To Collect Several Types Of Personal Data And Medical Information About People. “In 2017, Heartbeat International unveiled the Next Level Content Management Solution (CMS). The system appears to unify what questions people are asked when seeking a centre’s help, and to centralise the information that visitors to anti-abortion centres are asked to provide during their visit. The types of information that is collected, which is visible in a promotional video on Next Level’s website, includes name, address, email address, ethnicity, marital status, living arrangement, education, income source, alcohol, cigarette, and drug intake, medications and medical history, sexual transmitted disease history, name of the referring person/organisation, pregnancy symptoms, pregnancy history, medical testing information, and eventually even ultrasound photos.” [Privacy International, 7/22/19]

Next Level Offers Several Product Features To Fuel AACs’ Operations. “Next Level is perfect to use in your center, take on the go, or hand to a client for intake wherever you meet her.” 

[Next Level Center Management Solution, accessed 4/5/23]

Because AACs Are Not Medical Providers, Heartbeat International Is Not Subject To Federal Data Privacy Laws Like The Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act (HIPAA) … “Unlike data gathered at real medical clinics, client information collected by pregnancy centers is mostly unregulated by federal law. The centers are not generally subject to federal privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which governs health care settings. … In reviewing more than two dozen pregnancy-center privacy disclosures, TIME found that many reference HIPAA and assure broad data privacy. But most of the time, such promises are legally toothless since HIPAA does not apply.” [Time, 6/22/22]

… This Means Heartbeat International Collects Personal And Medical Information About People Without Oversight. “In 2017, Heartbeat International rolled out a new data-collection system for its pregnancy centers. ‘Big data is revolutionizing all sorts of industries,’ its marketing materials trumpeted. ‘The data your organization collects needs to work not just for you, but for the rest of the pregnancy help movement.’ Major pregnancy-center networks now use data-collection interfaces to track women who interact with their organization in person, on the phone, or online. Calling Heartbeat International’s 24-hour hotline, which the organization says fields some 1,100 calls a day, or using its online chatbot both require that a visitor provide her name, location, demographic information, and what she plans to do with her pregnancy.” [Time, 6/22/22]

  • Following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Senate Democrats Sought Answers From Heartbeat International On What It’s Doing With People’s Data. “While your organization and many of its affiliate CPCs claim to adhere to HIPAA to protect patients’ health information, it does not disclose how it is using the data it collects, whether it is keeping personal information secure, and whether it intends to do so in the future. Heartbeat International promotes websites that have inaccurate claims, including that CPCs ‘use intake forms as a type of confidentiality agreement, which grants the woman confidentiality protections like she would receive under HIPAA. In other words, they “resemble” HIPAA forms because they act like HIPAA forms.’ But these forms do not offer the same protections as HIPAA.” [United States Senate, 9/19/22] 
  • Heartbeat International Responded By Flippantly Dismissing Several Privacy Concerns. “[T]his letter is nothing more than a political stunt. … Thank you, Senators, for this PR opportunity.” [Heartbeat International, accessed 4/5/23

Because Heartbeat International Operates An “Abortion Pill Reversal” Hotline Through Its Abortion Pill Rescue Network, Heartbeat International’s Access To Data Is Even More Concerning. “Perhaps most worrisome to abortion rights advocates is the trend among pregnancy centers to reach out to women who have already had abortions, often by offering post-abortion counseling. Heartbeat International also runs an ‘abortion-pill reversal’ hotline directed at women who have started medical abortions. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there’s no scientific evidence suggesting that abortion-pill reversal works, the women who call the hotline asking about it are still asked to provide personal data. If abortion is illegal, that interaction carries potential legal implications, says Murtha. ‘You’re on record,’ she says, ‘as having been pregnant and attempted an abortion.’”  [Time, 6/22/22]

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Heartbeat International Received Hundreds Of Thousands In Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Funds

Heartbeat International Received Forgivable Federal Loans Though The First COVID-19 Bailout Package. “Anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers across the United States received at least $4m and possibly more than $10m in forgivable federal loans as part of the government’s first coronavirus bailout package, called the paycheck protection program (PPP). … Heartbeat International claims to have 2,700 crisis pregnancy center affiliates worldwide, and was itself approved for a PPP loan of between $350,000 and $1m, according to data released by the SBA. Heartbeat International said it would save 42 jobs.” [The Guardian, 8/3/20]

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Heartbeat International Affiliates Receive State Funding

Because Of Heartbeat International’s Scale, Its Affiliated Centers Are Able To Receive Even More Money Through Anti-Abortion State Programs And Grants. “Pregnancy resource centers throughout Arkansas asked the state in November for a total of nearly half a million dollars, much of what’s left in a state fund aimed at facilities that discourage clients from ending their pregnancies. … Arkansas has at least 64 pregnancy resource centers, and 33 are affiliates of Heartbeat International, according to the Ohio-based anti-abortion group’s website.” [Arkansas Advocate, 12/12/22]

Heartbeat International Receives A Majority Cut From “Choose Life” License Plate Sales In Virginia. “‘Choose Life’ plates were the brainchild of ‘Choose Life, Inc,’ an anti-abortion advocacy group in Florida. In some states, the ‘Choose Life’ plates help fund crisis pregnancy centers, which dissuade women from getting abortions. In Virginia, $15 of the $25 fee is donated to Heartbeat International, Inc. to distribute to these centers. Choose Life, Inc claims the plates have raised $29 million nationally.” [Washingtonian, 8/9/22]

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Heartbeat International Operates Pregnancy Help News To Further Spread Medical Disinformation And Anti-Abortion Stigma

Pregnancy Help News Fronts As A Legitimate News Site But Solely Serves To Spread Stigma Against Abortion Care, Medical Disinformation And Hate From Heartbeat International’s Anti-Abortion Peers. [Pregnancy Help News, accessed 1/15/23]

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Heartbeat International Exaggerates The Amount Of Material Support It Offers To Program Participants

Heartbeat International Offers Virtually Nothing To The Vast Majority Of Its Participants. “[W]hile some CPCs provide diapers and other supplies parents need, a new report by Equity Forward revealed that the largest CPC network, Heartbeat International, boasted it provided baby supplies to nearly 1.85 million people in 2019—but it actually provided less than one pack of diapers per client, one stroller for only 1 percent of clients, and one carseat for 1.6 percent of clients. Equity Forward found that CPCs often allocate more to salaries, marketing and anti-abortion counseling than to material goods, providing only ‘a sliver of the financial support parents truly need.’” [Ms. Magazine, 10/18/22]

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