A New Pro-Life Era
Second of two parts.
Pregnancy help centers are seeing more clients than ever before following last June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Cindi Boston, vice president of the Columbus, Ohio-based Heartbeat International, says many abortion-minded women are enlightened once they have an ultrasound and see a baby moving within their body.
But even some who already have taken steps to end their child’s life are choosing to give birth. Heartbeat’s Abortion Pill Rescue Network allows women a final chance to change their mind after taking mifepristone, the first dose in a chemical abortion. In the past decade, more than 4,000 babies have been born because of the Abortion Pill Rescue Network.
“Many women who have taken that first pill realize abortion is not what they want,” says Boston, 60. “A baby can actually be rescued in the middle of an abortion.”
In the U.S., Heartbeat is in partnership with 1,200 volunteer doctors committed to walking a pregnant women through a protocol to reverse the effects of mifepristone. A total of 68% of women who started the chemical abortion process have successfully reversed it in such cases.
As with Heartbeat International, which has 3,100 centers around the globe, the Assemblies of God abortion-recovery ministry SaveOne is exercising new ministry methods now that states have the option of banning abortion. Sheila L. Harper, founder and president of the Hendersonville, Tennessee-based ministry, says SaveOne has added dozens of chapters since Dobbs, and now has a record 375 sites.
Harper says SaveOne needed to alter its strategy in the wake of Dobbs. In the early years of the ministry, many participants had been dealing with lingering guilt for years. Now such remorse frequently manifests only weeks after an abortion.
“The trauma of a chemical abortion is so much greater,” says Harper, 57. “A lot of times SaveOne participants aren’t ready to plunge into a Bible study. We need to provide tender care and form a relationship with them as they process and talk about what happened.”
Harper explains that the two-step abortion pill regimen over a couple of days can be more traumatic than the experience at an abortion facility, where the unborn child’s remains are whisked away. At home after taking the second dose, called misoprostol, the woman often flushes the embryo down a toilet — recognizing she really has destroyed a person.
“With a chemical abortion, a woman becomes her own abortionist,” Harper says. “And she often must be reminded of it because she lives in the place where the abortion occurred.”
Harper, a U.S. missionary chaplain, also warns that abortion pills cater to sex traffickers and pedophiles who no longer need to find an abortionist to terminate a pregnancy of a girl or woman being exploited.
Harper and Boston are encouraged that more churchgoers are actively involved in opposing abortion since the Dobbs ruling. Congregants realize they now can do more than merely cast a vote for a pro-life candidate in an election to make a difference.
“Being vocal with the language of love — without condemnation or being politically divisive — will change culture,” Harper says. “We need to reach out to those who are abortion-wounded, invite them to church, and give them a confidential place to lay their burden down.”
“The need is great in every state,” Boston says. “It will take pastors speaking up about protecting the smallest human beings and laypeople volunteers giving their time and money to accelerate the culture of life.”
U.S. missionary Steve S. Kramer is director of the Vulnerable Initiative of CityServe International in Bakersfield, California. Those served include pregnant mothers, who sometimes decide to keep a disabled unborn child in their womb.
“Loving those who have nothing to offer us — the most vulnerable — is a hallmark of who we are as followers of Jesus,” says Kramer, a graduate of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
Kramer’s parents, Randy and Linda Kramer, showed their pro-life bona fides 40 years ago when they took an unmarried 18-year-old woman into their home. She had been kicked out by her parents because she refused to obtain an abortion. Furthermore, in their retirement years, Randy and Linda have adopted four special-needs children.
“I grew up with a belief that all life is precious because I saw it in word and deed,” Steve Kramer says. “It cost our family at times and the sacrifice wasn’t always convenient, but it convinced me that followers of Jesus need to be 100% pro-life.”
Steve Kramer, born in 1973 — the year Roe v. Wade made abortion legal across the land — is glad his mother chose to give birth. But in many ways, Kramer thinks Americans have become more entrenched in their views on abortion since Dobbs. Kramer, who has cerebral palsy, no longer is as vocal on social media about his pro-life views because he believes it only antagonizes those who disagree with him. For instance, a high school classmate responded to his Facebook post lauding the Dobbs decision with this: All disabled people should be aborted. They don’t have any quality of life.
Kramer, who serves with Intercultural Ministries, has discovered even some of his Christians friends have succumbed to the “quality of life” argument, reasoning the aborted baby “will go to heaven anyway.”
Such thinking can lead to a mindset that those who aren’t “perfect” don’t deserve to live. Kramer notes that Iceland, for instance, has effectively eliminated Down syndrome babies from being born by pressuring parents to abort them.
In his ministry role, Kramer focuses on the local church being the antidote to such a philosophy.
“The Christian ethic must extend to the womb,” Kramer says. “We are all made in the image of God.”
Pregnancy care centers throughout the nation are helping women not only decide to keep their babies, but also to care for them once they are born. One of the largest networks is Care Net of Puget Sound, which partners with 700 churches in Washington state, including Cedar Park Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Bothell.
Care Net of Puget Sound provides pregnancy testing, pregnancy consultation, prenatal ultrasounds, prenatal education, post-abortion support groups, and parenting classes up to age 4. For those who choose to keep their child, the parachurch nonprofit provides a parenting mentor. Care Net of Puget Sound has a staff of 50 and over 150 regular volunteers. In 2022, requests for pregnancy tests rose 27% while ultrasounds increased by 24%.
Cindy Dahl, the center’s director, says there has been an uptick in interest among congregations and individuals since the Dobbs ruling.
“Many people have come in and said, I’ve always been pro-life, but I’ve never done anything about it; now I need to put actions to what I believe,” says Dahl, 60. The center also facilitates abortion pill reversals.
Amelia Graham, communications director for the ministry, is grateful that certain churches such as Cedar Park have long been outspoken about life issues. Cedar Park in 2019 filed suit through Alliance Defending Freedom, challenging the legality of a state law forcing a church to provide abortions in its health insurance coverage. On the other hand, Graham recognizes that many congregations have eschewed interest in pro-life matters.
“They haven’t gotten involved because they’ve mistakenly seen abortion as a political issue,” says Graham, 25. “We believe it is a spiritual issue, and the healing part can only be addressed that way.”
Part of the reason many residents in the Pacific Northwest see abortion as a given right is because churches have seldom discussed it as morally wrong, Graham says. Seattle has been a destination spot for abortion seekers for more than half a century. Washington legalized abortion even before Roe made it legal in all 50 states 50 years ago on Jan. 22.
Graham says more faith leaders now understand that avoiding the issue damages post-abortive women and men who feel desperate and lonely.
“The gospel speaks to shame and regret,” Graham says. “One person offering encouragement can be a great gift.”
“If we are changing the way we talk about abortion in churches, we also need to talk about adoption,” Dahl says.
The Assemblies of God in recent years has been a leader in promoting adoption and foster care as a priorities of General Superintendent Doug Clay.
U.S. missionary Stephen J. Hogue and his wife, Sandra, are connected to COMPACT Family Services, the national child welfare agency of the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The Hogues are expert practitioners. The couple, who live in Ormond Beach, Florida, have adopted 10 children, now ages 23 to 9. Eight came from foster care and two directly from birth mothers.
As with Kramer’s parents, the Hogues defy the stereotype that evangelical Christians aren’t concerned about vulnerable babies once they’ve been born.
“Churches are calling us now like never before, realizing they need to do something,” says the 48-year-old Stephen Hogue, who serves with Chaplaincy Ministries. “Churches are really getting involved in foster care and connecting with local pregnancy centers when moms decide to keep their babies.”
The Hogues are a liaison, providing necessities such as diapers, clothes, and baby formula to new mothers so they feel supported. Through software programs, the Hogues connect pregnancy care centers and churches with moms who have such needs. Upon delivering the items, churchgoers have an opportunity to pray with the new mother and to develop a relationship with her.
Working through CarePortal faith-based partners, the Hogues provide training to both congregants and child welfare agency workers through their OneFamily ministry.
Sandra, 47, says even though many Christians prayed so long for Roe to be overturned, when it finally happened the decision caught them off guard.
“Much work needs to be done to protect the unborn,” Sandra says. “We are to be the voice of those who cannot speak for themselves.”
LOWER PHOTO: Stephen and Sandra Hogue have adopted 10 children.