HISTORY & MISSION
Birthright is a non-profit charitable organization that has been providing love and support for over 45 years to women facing unplanned pregnancies. We have chapters across Canada, the United States, and Africa, as well as a 24/7 North American toll-free Helpline. Birthright is supported by devoted volunteers and private donations.
Birthright provides a variety of services and also refers for many more. We offer friendship, free pregnancy tests, love, hope and support, resources and referrals so that you can make a realistic plan for the future.
OUR PHILOSOPHY AND FOUNDATIONS
Love and Affection
Birthright began in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1968, when Louise Summerhill, a busy housewife and mother of seven children, felt something should be done to help women facing unplanned pregnancies.Many Birthright volunteers and clients feel a special affection for Louise Summerhill- an ordinary woman who did something extraordinary to help others. Events in her own life helped her understand the feelings pregnant girls might experience, including feelings of loneliness, fear of criticism, tension with parents, and even the shock of finding oneself unexpectedly pregnant.
Birthright began very humbly in 1968, with a one-room office and only $300 in the bank. But Louise's steady leadership and powerful vision ensured that the new pregnancy service survived. In later years, Louise was glad the organization did not begin with a lot of money because it caused Birthright to rely on the "good hearts and hard work of volunteers". Over forty-five years later, Birthright International remains true to Louise's original vision of personal, one-on-one contact in helping relationships. Louise's Birthright means "approachability and informality" for clients and volunteers, instead of bureaucracy and meetings in highly structured, business-like environments.
A Different, more Universal Approach
Birthright takes a non-moralistic, non-judgmental approach toward helping women through their pregnancy dilemmas. Louise regretted the fact that some young unmarried mothers were belittled or ostracized by their relatives: "I can never see anything wrong with any of them." At Birthright, Louise recreated the supportive homelike environment they deserved. Moreover, Louise helped formulate a Charter, followed by all Birthright chapters worldwide, to define Birthright's services, to ensure that pregnant women receive the same considerate treatment at every Birthright chapter, and to help volunteers preserve Birthright's good reputation in the future.
Louise Summerhill’s Legacy
On her death, three of Louise’s daughters assumed the Co-presidency of Birthright International. To this day, Mary Berney continues to provide administrative and management support in her work at the Birthright Headquarters, while Stephenie Fox, a CPA, oversees financial matters. Louise R. Summerhill, Louise’s namesake, is a practicing lawyer who provides legal and other support as needed. All of them are committed to their mother’s vision of Birthright and to ensuring that her legacy lives on as long as Birthright is needed. Louise Sr.’s legacy has also taken hold in her family’s next generation: her granddaughter, Victoria Summerhill Fox, provides assistance to Mary in the office. This multi-generational legacy plays itself out in Birthright chapters all over the world!
Birthright of Arkansas
Birthright of Arkansas was founded in 1976 and is operated by many volunteers, a dedicated executive director and our board members. With their support we are able to provide services to over 1,800 women of Arkansas per year. We are funded through the genorosity and donations from the community and supporters who care about providing support to expectant mothers and their babies.