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Tiny, Powerful Heartbeats

Tiny, Powerful Heartbeats
Vote Heartbeat of Miami for the 2015 Hope Award (World News)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 04:20 PM

MIAMI, Fla.—“My baby died here.”

Jeanne Pernia pointed out the room where as a teenager she had an abortion. The father of the child she aborted was part-owner of the abortion business. The other co-owner was Pernia’s mom.

“The suction was here,” she said. “That room was the examining room.” Pernia remembers the layout so well because hers was not a one-time visit. As a teenager she also worked there assisting abortionists who cut up and vacuumed out thousands of unborn children. But that was then: Now the accomplice in killing saves lives as director of the Heartbeat of Miami Pregnancy Help Medical Clinic.

Heartbeat of Miami is our South Region winner not only because of Pernia’s dramatic turnaround but because the location of its two clinics, one in a heavily Hispanic area and the other in a heavily African-American one, shows how the pro-life movement is expanding to help the poorest of the poor: A minority unborn baby is more than twice as likely to be snuffed out as a white one. Five out of six Miami-Dade County residents are Latino or black, and Miami-Dade County has 37 abortion businesses (not counting private doctor practices and hospitals).

Pernia didn’t want her abortion in 1978, but her boyfriend insisted. She took deep breaths and stared at corners of the room. Her lower back writhed as “the procedure” began. Staff members held her down and gave her an extra sedative. Then it was over, and she limped through the recovery room and out to her boyfriend’s waiting vehicle. He was relaxed, but Pernia says for her “the real pain and grief had only begun.”

Now the ceilings she once stared up at are the same, but the walls are different: One displays photographs of the babies born following Heartbeat counseling. Now the PVC pipe furniture and red couch of the abortion business are gone, as is the fluorescent sign that announced in Spanish the availability of instant abortion. Now a scared young woman sees her baby on the screen of an ultrasound machine and can no longer tell herself that what’s in her womb is a blob of tissue.

Pernia has learned pro-life principles through hard experience, but Heartbeat of Miami president Martha Avila learned them from her dad: In 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade, Avila’s father provided a haven for an unmarried pregnant woman kicked out of her home. “We were so poor at the time,” Avila recalls, “and to bring another person into the house was a sacrifice, but we cared for her and saw reconciliation with her dad.” That memory led Avila to leave her job as a telecommunications customer service manager and take charge of creating Heartbeat of Miami before it had its own building: “The first baby we saved was saved on my kitchen table.”

In the eight years since then, Heartbeat of Miami estimates that it’s helped save the lives of 18,000 more. Last year Heartbeat had 4,294 client visits, with 3,650 of the clients contemplating abortion, but 3,358 of them deciding not to abort. At Heartbeat and other pregnancy resource centers around the country, ultrasound machines make a huge difference.

Avila rejoices in those saves and wishes her father, who died in 1995, was at her side to see her work. She’s made sure that Heartbeat of Miami clearly states its core values: the importance of the gospel, the dignity of women, the sanctity of human life, the irreplaceable value of fathers, the importance of sexual purity and marriage, and the transforming power of neighborly love. Those values lead to its specific offerings: pregnancy tests, ultrasound, material aid to pregnant women, adoption support, housing referrals, post-abortion help, parenting support, a mentoring program for men, spiritual counseling, and more.

Heartbeat of Miami’s second location, eight miles east, has largely African-American clients as well as many from Haiti—and many also need basic education. One staffer, Mindy Richard-Johnson, became pregnant at 16 but carried her baby to term and rejoices in that: The girl who could have been aborted is now 12 years old. She says, “The majority of girls, they’re confused. They think this is just a seed or a blob of tissue, but when they finally see the baby on the ultrasound, bouncing and everything, they end up choosing life.”

Clinic supervisor Lourdes McMinns described one young woman having an ultrasound done: She “saw the little flutter of the heartbeat and she heard it also. She asked, ‘Is that, like, my heartbeat?’ I said, ‘No, that’s your baby’s heartbeat.’ Immediately she started crying and said, ‘Oh my God, I thought it was a blood clot, I thought it was nothing.’ I explained to her that at 18 to 24 days your baby’s heart has already started beating. Blood clots don’t have heartbeats.”

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015 04:20 PM
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