Birthright co-president Mary Berney (daughter of the founder), Victoria Fox (granddaughter) and co-president Louise R. Summerhill (daughter) and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at the Birthright Convention in Ottawa last June. Photo courtesy of Mary Berney

Birthright offers a non-judgmental solution

  • December 2, 2011

TORONTO - Birthright International has been for more than four decades a place that provides a loving alternative to abortion, said co-president Mary Berney.

“We’re here to help women and to basically show them how they can have their baby,” Berney told The Catholic Register.

Founded in Toronto in 1968 by Louise Summerhill, a mother of seven, Birthright International now has about 350 offices in Canada, the United States and Africa.

Birthright offers support to girls and women who are distressed by an unplanned pregnancy through confidential help and emotional support, free pregnancy testing, medical, legal and housing referrals and educational assistance. It also offers clients information on adoption and child care options. And the organization is prepared to help both single and married women regardless of age, race, creed, religion and economic status, serving girls and women between the ages 12 and 45.

“And we’ve seen them all in between,” said Berney.

“Our service is offered without judgment,” she said. “We like to give her one-on-one friendship and listen and be there for her.”

Birthright allows each woman to ask questions and explore her options without pressure and doesn’t show abortion pictures.

“We have found over the years that, for us, it’s not necessary,” she said. “If other groups use it then that’s their choice. But we have never done that.”

Abortion has been legal in Canada for more than 40 years and many women find themselves in a position where they don’t know what to do, said Berney.

“We show them that they don’t need to choose abortion.”

Birthright’s volunteer base is made up of both pro-life women and men.

“Usually they’re university age and we’ve had them slightly younger, but some of our centres have volunteers in their 80s.”

In Toronto, Birthright has about 30 active volunteers along with an extra 20 or 30 people it can call on if extra help is needed.

Volunteers must also agree with the Birthright philosophy which, among other tenets, says that “Birthright cares for every women and does not pass judgment on the quality of life or circumstances of a pregnancy. It does not dwell on the past… No matter how difficult a situation may seem, Birthright helps each woman plan constructively for her future.”

Its services are offered free of charge and it is independent, interdenominational and isn’t affiliated with any religious, political group or public agency. 

And the organization is currently spreading in Africa, Berney said.

It recently opened an office in Nairobi, Kenya, and has offices in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and is in the process of establishing one in Zambia.

For more information or to volunteer, call 1-800-550-4900 or see

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