On November 4, this year’s 40 Days for Life campaign ended. During the campaign, a million Americans committed to fasting and praying for an end to abortion and healing for those affected by this tragedy. Even though the 2019 campaign has ended, there are many ways for pro-life Americans to continue to work towards making America a country where abortion is unthinkable, let alone legal.
The organization 40 Days for Life grasps the fundamental challenge faced by pro-life Americans: changing our nation’s laws is obviously important, but even more important is changing the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. The pathway to overturning Roe is a long and weary one. If supporters of life have learned anything in the past fifty years, it is this: relying on the courts to resolve a cultural and interpersonal problem is a sure path to disappointment.
Fortunately, we do not need to rely on the courts. As of 2015 (the latest year with available data), there are over 2,700 pro-life pregnancy support centers in America offering life-changing resources and support to vulnerable women. These centers are defying every stereotype wielded by abortion advocates. They are far from ‘judgmental’ places that ‘only care about the baby’; instead, they offer holistic, life-long support to huge swathes of their communities because they care about helping people—all people—live full and contented lives. An inside look at just one such center should inspire pro-life Catholics and Protestants alike to focus at least some of their energy on the local, individual work that saves lives every single day—the lives of moms, dads, teenagers, the elderly, and the unborn.
Life Network is a Christian medical resource center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Though it is known around the city as a pro-life pregnancy center, it does much more than that. Rich Bennett, the president of Life Network, puts it this way, “We want to preserve the life of the baby, yes, but we also want to help mom and dad have an abundant life. We aren’t just pro-life, we’re pro-lives.”
That conviction shows in their program offerings. From the moment a woman walks through the doors at Life Network seeking help with an unexpected pregnancy, she becomes part of a Christ-centered community dedicated to giving her life and hope. The reality is that nearly three-quarters of American women who get an abortion felt pressured to get it, and two-thirds say that they “knew in their hearts they were making a mistake.” Knowing this, the staff and volunteers at Life Network ensure that they are providing a space where women can feel empowered, and not pressured, to make this vital decision.
One of the ways Life Network empowers women is by providing a free ultrasound. Statistics show that nearly 80 percent of women who see their baby via an ultrasound choose life—and not because they are coerced. They choose life because they recognize it when they see it. At Life Network, those statistics are even higher; in the last year 89 percent of the women who received a few ultrasound chose to give their baby the gift of life.
Besides their extensive prenatal support (licensed counseling, free ultrasounds and prenatal care, access to free baby supplies, showers, and support groups, among other resources), Life Network keeps giving support long after the baby is born. Through the Life Steps parenting program, new parents partner with experienced volunteers—all of whom have years of parenting experience—and walk with them step by step for up to three years. This means that until the child is up to two years old, these new parents can get on-the-spot help with parenting challenges, and can cultivate relationships that extend for many more years to come. Bennett says that for many clients, this program is life-changing; many “didn’t have great parenting role models themselves,” he says, and the program “helps them gain confidence and understanding of what it means to be a God-honoring parent.”
This gets to the heart of what Life Network is offering. This center, like thousands of other centers across the country, is grounded in the truth that human beings have dignity because they are created in the image of God. Bennett says, “Our mission is to help every person understand that they have tremendous value… which is, of course, from God and from Christ Jesus.” With that as the foundation, it is no wonder Life Network offers far more than merely its life-saving prenatal services. Right now, the center is expanding a suicide prevention program that sends volunteers into high schools to talk about the epidemic of teen suicide. Through this program, called “Who Can Relate,” Life Network pushes back against the stigma around conversations about mental health, depression, and suicide, and encourages teens to talk openly with each other about how they need, love, and value each other.
The center is always looking for new ways it can serve the community. This October, it responded to a need and opened a thrift store in central Colorado Springs, which it hopes will help provide families with access to much-needed affordable goods.
All of this is paying off in terms of actual lives saved. In the last year, Life Network reached nearly 6,000 high school students with a message of value and love, as well as practical steps for identifying and helping a peer who is considering suicide. It gave over 1,600 vulnerable women love, support, and material resources as they journeyed through an unexpected pregnancy. It provided 20 post-abortive women and men with free professional counseling. It currently serves nearly 200 moms and over 50 dads in the community with parenting, marriage, and family resources. It saved the lives of 248 babies whose mothers were considering abortion until they came to Life Network. And 72 men and women decided to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ because of Life Network.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the abortion crisis. Sometimes it feels like everything is stacked against life, as if we are in a battle we cannot win. But that is the devil speaking. Pro-life Americans have no idea whether the Supreme Court will ever overturn the travesty that is Roe v. Wade. Most of us have no control over that. Of course, we should continue to pray, appeal, and advocate for changes in our nation’s laws. But the doctrine of subsidiarity applies to this: some of the most important work is taking place on a local and individual scale. Through the work of pregnancy centers like Life Network, lives are being saved. Bennett puts it this way, “Laws are helpful, but at the end of the day they aren’t going to change hearts and minds. And changing hearts and minds is what saves lives.”
Abortion is a horror and an enormity that blackens our nation, but the prevalence of this gruesome practice indicates a much deeper problem: people do not know that their lives—and the lives of others—are valuable. That problem can only be solved by connecting with people on a local, individual level. Even as we mourn the lives that are lost every day through the despair that leads to abortion and suicide, we must continue to point to the lives that are being saved every day, and when we are tempted to despair we can remind ourselves, “But we saved that one.”
If you are interested in seeing what your local pregnancy center is doing to support life, the website www.care-net.org has a continually updated list of pro-life pregnancy centers by zip code. These centers offer diverse volunteer opportunities, from prayer groups to volunteer counseling to organizing baby showers.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Elena Valebnaya