What is Birthright?

Q: I have been a volunteer at Birthright since the beginning, and this year we celebrate our 40th anniversary. Many people do not know about this wonderful pro-life organization. Would you please mention us in your column? - A reader in Leesburg

A: Indeed, Birthright is a wonderful pro-life organization, that is dedicated to teaching the miraculous wonder of human life given to us by our Creator and protecting the fullness of the dignity of each person. Birthright was founded in 1968 in Toronto, Canada by Louise Summerhill to help pregnant women in distress. The foundational premise and guiding principle for Birthright International's work is: "It is the right of every pregnant woman to give birth … and the right of every child to be born." The organization is not sponsored or affiliated with any particular religious group or denomination; nor does it work like a political action committee. The purpose of Birthright is simply to help mothers-in-need have their babies.

In 1973, a group of concerned citizens in Leesburg, including many parishioners from St. John the Apostle Church, met to organize a local chapter of Birthright. Father Joseph Baran (d. 1982), then pastor of St. John the Apostle, provided partial funding. In 1974, a charter was granted from Birthright International to Birthright of Loudoun County. In its literature, Birthright offers the following services: "(1) friendship, (2) a free pregnancy test and (3) information about pregnancy, prenatal care, medical help, financial assistance, parenting skills, continuing education, legal advice, and adoption referral."

During the past 40 years approximately 100 volunteers have received training and have worked in the program. They have assisted more than 6,000 mothers at no cost, providing layettes, clothing, baby bottles, diapers, blankets, homemade afghans, and other baby necessities. Most of the mothers come to Birthright for help during the entirety of their pregnancy. Volunteers help a mother-in-need by listening and informing her of the pro-life options for herself and her baby. It is hoped that, with love-filled encouragement and assured of Birthright's support, the mother will choose to safeguard the life of her baby and herself. Keep in mind that this organization relies on the generous donations of the community, whether through volunteer hours, material contributions as previously cited, or monetary contributions.

The volunteers of Birthright look upon their work as a ministry; even though they do not officially evangelize, they share God's love through their actions. Remember how Blessed Teresa of Kolkata often recounted that Hindus (as well as other non-believers) wanted to become Christians simply because of the Christian love they had received from her and her sisters. Think of how many mothers-in-need find the love of Jesus and a renewed hope through these volunteers.

On a personal note, when I was assigned to found Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls in 2000, one of the first parishioners was Mary Linzmeyer, a founding member of Birthright who also has served several terms as director. When she told me of Birthright's work, I knew that we had to help as a parish. Therefore, since the very beginning, one of our monthly Poor Box collections has been dedicated to help support their good work. Periodically, we have collected various baby supplies. Even one of our Boy Scouts built shelving for their office as his Eagle Scout Project. Moreover, a number of parishioners have officially volunteered, while others help as needed. I mention this because we, as a church, speak in defense of the sanctity of human life and the dignity of each person from conception until natural death; however, each of us must do our part to enact this truth. We have to "put our money and labor where our mouth is."

We live in an age where many politicians base their campaigns on promoting embryonic stem cell research (which involves creating and killing a child) or championing "choice" - choice being to kill or not to kill an unborn child. In addition, Planned Parenthood (which receives federal tax money - our money) exists as the largest abortion provider and promoter in the country. We need to support Birthright and like organizations; moreover, we need to direct young women in need to Birthright where they will receive loving support.

Questions may be sent to Fr. Saunders, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls, at straightanswers@ourladyofhope.net or Our Lady of Hope Church, 46639 Algonkian Pkwy., Potomac Falls, VA 20165.

To volunteer

Birthright of Loudoun County

823 S. King St., Suite I, Leesburg, Va.

703/777-7272

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014