At the annual convention of Birthright in June Birthright International received the “Legacy Award” from Heartbeat International, commemorating 50 years of Birthright and recognizing Birthright International as the first pregnancy center in the world.
“Louise Summerhill…led the way to a new and focused outreach to women facing an unplanned, unintended pregnancy…All of the pregnancy help movement work that we celebrate today flows from the inspirational efforts of visionaries like Mrs. Summerhill.”
Birthright, a pro-life pregnancy support service, was established in 1968 by Louise Summerhill – an ordinary woman who did something extraordinary. Louise was a housewife and mother of seven, who felt that nonjudgmental support should be freely available to women who found themselves facing unplanned pregnancy, in order to enable them to carry their baby to term. Birthright began as a one-room office in Toronto, Canada and expanded to hundreds of locations across Canada, the United States and Africa. Birthright also operates a free 24/7 Helpline throughout Canada and the United States. Birthright is governed by a Charter, followed by all Birthright locations, to ensure that women receive the same compassionate, nonjudgmental support at every location.
For 50 years, Birthright has continued to provide free, nonjudgmental, confidential, loving support to women who are pregnant or think they may be. Regardless of a woman’s circumstances, Birthright provides friendship and support, focused on helping her make a realistic plan for her future and the future of her unborn child.
Louise remained dedicated to Birthright until her death in 1991, then her three daughters assumed co-presidency, Mary Berney retired in 2017 and Louise R. Summerhill and Stephany Fox retain Co-presidency of Birthright. Louise’s legacy has become multi-generational with her grand-daughter, Victoria Summerhill Fox, now working in the Birthright International office in Toronto. Birthright has always been Interdenominational.
When Louise opened her center she did not realize she would soon be head of an international organization. The concept rapidly spread and Birthright of Greater Kansas City opened in July, 1971.
We have been at our current location, 6309 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, since 1977. A lot has changed over the years, and the Birthright charter remains the same. We are staffed by volunteers and operate on private donations entirely.
We continue to open six days each week and one evening. Women may call or come for a free pregnancy test, community resource information, a few emergency diapers or maybe they just need to talk with a caring listener. The essence of Birthright is love.