HIBBING — PROject Heartbeat, a new pro-life group recently formed by Hibbing and area residents, held an adoption seminar Wednesday as part of its broader mission to protect life in Minnesota.
The group was formed this past March with the mission “to foster non-governmental programs that assist and promote adoption; provide support of other pro-life organizations; and furthering growth of Minnesotans understanding of right to Life.”
The group was formed in response to legislation passed in other states that would allow late-term abortions. Concerned community members researched how to prevent these laws from enactment in Minnesota.
According to the group’s flyer, “...we found that a 1995 court ruling in Minnesota which gave our state one of the more extreme abortion policies in the nation. The shock of learning of the extreme abortion laws lead to the formation of PROject Heartbeat to #SaveTheBabies #SupportBirthMoms #ProvideForTheChildren #PromoteAdoption #ReduceAbortion #HealTheFamily #PrayerInAction #VoteProLife.”
This group is open to public members who are pro-life.
Although the group does not yet have set meeting dates, it has been meeting monthly and members stay informed through email and a Facebook group.
“We are community members who want to figure out how to #SaveTheBabies by learning and sharing information,” said Cathy Timmerman, a group volunteer. “There is not a formal group leadership or membership or fees. We want to be independent of anyone or any agency telling us what to do or how to think so we just get together and support one another in our pledge to #SaveTheBabies.”
On Wednesday, the group held an adoption seminar as part of its wider mission.
Grace Berg, a birth parent counselor for Adoption Minneosta, began the meeting by presenting about her organization and the resources they provide to birth and adoptive parents.
“We work with women everywhere,” Berg said. As a birth parent counselor, she travels throughout the state to meet with birth parents and walk them through their decision process.
Adoption Minnesota is “licensed through the State of Minnesota as Wellspring Adoption Agency, Inc., and we are a non-profit organization,” said LaDonna L. Lemmenes, the group’s administrative assistant.
“This is a choice,” Berg repeated throughout her presentation. “I tell the birth parent, ‘I am your advocate. Tell me what you want and need me to do and I can do it for you. I’m here to help you.’”
The goal of Berg and Adoption Minnesota is to help the birth parents make the best decision for them. They provide the birth mother a workbook to help her discover her thoughts and feelings about her pregnancy and the future of her baby.
“This empowers women to make her decision and confidently decide what is right for her,” Berg said, explaining that the decision to choose adoption is reversible until 10 days after the paperwork has been signed. “You have to do what is right for you.”
Toward the end of her presentation, Berg talked to the group about how word choices made by the public can affect how a birth mother views her decisions.
Using phrases like “giving up for adoption” has a negative connotation and can make a birth parent feel negative about the situation. Adoption is a choice — it is actively choosing a life path and has a positive connotation.
Group members nodded in agreement as Timmerman said the group is gathering to gain information so there are more informed members of the general public.
“We need to normalize adoption,” she said, stating that the words used while discussing sensitive topics like this are important.
“This was a really unique opportunity,” Berg said of speaking to PROject Heartbeat. “Normally, I go to facilities [,like Options for Women, and talk to employee groups] to talk about what adoption can be....It is different and empowering [for birth parents] to cut off before child protection services get involved.”
After the Adoption Minnesota presentation, several adoptive parents talked about their journeys. Sarah and Roger Kivela told about their adoption process through the private agency, Love Basket.
“I always say she is strong, courageous and brave,” sad Kivela of their birth mother’s choice to put her two children up for adoption. “She looked at was best for the babies, for the rest of their lives.”
Kivela said that she has always told her children, from before they were old enough to understand, that they were adopted. “Becky and Jerry love you but couldn’t give you the best possible life,” she told them.
Several area foster parents were also in attendance and gave a view of fostering and adopting through St. Louis County.
One adoptive parent through St. Louis County who was in attendance was Stephanie Bigelow.
“I wanted to learn more about the adoption process and what is available in Minnesota...There is life after choosing adoption for the birth parents and the adoptive parents. There is joy after choosing adoption for the birth parents and the adoptive parents.”