by Julie Stepp
I can’t believe Roe v. Wade has been overturned. My whole life, abortion has been a thing, and Christians around me have been praying for the reversal of this landmark decision, made 22 years before I was born. I occasionally prayed that God would overturn Roe, but I did it kind of out of obligation, without thinking about it (or abortion for that matter) very much. Abortion to me was a distant and abhorrent evil only the “outsiders” dealt with, outsiders being people who were outside my circle, and outside my sphere of influence. My only hope to make any difference was to offer a feeble prayer that one day the decision that had made abortion legal in my country could be overturned…or so I thought.
One Sunday when I was 17, I was walking out of church and saw some baby bottles sitting on a table. Nobody had told me why they were there, and out of curiosity and my overwhelming desire to have a baby of my own (we’re talking about secretly climbing up to the attic to hold a baby doll to imagine what it would be like type of desire here) I walked up to the table and read the pamphlet, slipping a bottle or two out of the building to fill for the fundraiser. I read the pamphlet over and over about how the pregnancy center helped women and babies vulnerable to abortion, and I thought about how much I would like to save two lives – the mama and the baby – from destruction. I filled out a volunteer application, and the center accepted it, shy and slightly awkward as I was. I spent hours in the back room folding donated baby clothes, peeking my head around the corner every now and then to smile at the clients walking down the hallway. I thought they were “other,” “different,” “not like me,” and I wondered in the secret places of my heart if they would accept me because I was different. They were here because they were struggling with motherhood, and what did I have to offer anyway? Was I really able to help, despite my very sheltered background and lack of motherhood? I wondered…
Then off I went to college, dropping into the center to say hi every Christmas or spring break. When I graduated, I heard they needed an assistant manager for one of their locations, so I thought I’d apply. They accepted my application (now much less awkward and much less shy), and put me to work doing all kinds of things – fundraising, counseling, record-keeping. They decided to leave me home while the rest of the staff went to the Heartbeat International Annual Conference in Dallas (boy, they raved about Heartbeat conferences!), and while I was alone in the office preparing for a baby bottle fundraiser speech, the Lord spoke to me very powerfully about Esther and how she spoke up for her people to save them from death.
This verse in particular stood out to me: “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, emphasis mine). I felt like this passage hit me in the chest with its weight, and so I started speaking at the churches who would allow me about what God had laid on my heart. I told fellow believers in the pews that now was a significant moment in history - the heartbeat bill had just been written into law in Ohio - and it wasn’t time to give up or turn the other way. It was time to speak up and bring that relief and deliverance to moms, dads, and babies in our community. If we didn’t, the results for us and our posterity could be very grim. Then I would close my speech with a call to action – “please pick up a baby bottle in the back and check out our mobile ultrasound unit in the parking lot.” I laugh as I write this – the pastors probably weren’t expecting such a hard-hitting prelude!
The executive director heard about my Esther speech and invited me to give it at the center’s biggest event of the year. We worked and reworked my speech to make it exactly what we wanted, and I added a little something to it this time. I remember standing there, looking out over the donors and friends seated at the many tables, and telling them that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the only way we were going to make abortion unthinkable and unwanted. I told them how no one who truly understood their value bestowed by their Creator would knowingly take the life of their own unborn child, another of God’s creation, and that we needed to take this Good News to our community because we had a chance in history to defeat this evil and save a generation. That night was one of my last at Elizabeth’s Hope Pregnancy Resources. The next week I moved to a new city and started my new job at Heartbeat International.
I kept thinking about what I had said. My own voice kept ringing in my ears. Now is the time. It’s only the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People around me would bring up the phrase “for such a time as this” and I would just smile. They had no idea what was going on in my head and heart.
Two years passed, and I got married and had my own baby, and then I felt a greater reason to help moms and rescue babies. Abortion must be eradicated. This was no longer something I just vaguely wanted. This was no longer a half-hearted prayer. And now I further understood how to help women. How to meet them where they were and how to offer them hope.
And then suddenly this was the moment. This was the moment that I didn’t realize how much I had been waiting for. I had found a way to help outside of what protection (or lack thereof) the law offered. I had found a way to help women. But the possibility for Roe to be overturned? We all held our breath, and waited, and wondered. Would the leaked decision of the Supreme Court hold true? Would they really overturn Roe v. Wade? And then it happened. I got the text, and I cried. It was finally official. The decision that had sent so many to their grave was finally overturned. The power to protect the gift of Life has been returned to its people.
I see God’s hand in my life personally to lead me to where I am at this moment. I see that He was intentional. I wonder why, and I am in awe that He would orchestrate for me to be in the pregnancy help movement right now. I am not on the sidelines looking at the landscape of our country and thinking “Oh that’s interesting – I wonder who I could give money to.” No, I wake up every morning and do something that actually makes a difference to moms and their babies. They are no longer “other,” “different,” and “unreachable” to me. They are real women that need help and are within my area of influence. This is what our country needs in this moment. We are the safety net for women who might believe the lie that they need abortion. It’s as if the chains of control have been broken, and Life has the freedom to reign.
When I go to the annual 4th of July festivities this year with my family and friends (on top of the hill beside my grandma’s old house), I’ll be thinking about how God truly is the one who frees the oppressed. He truly does answer prayer, and He aligns the events of history to bring forth His goodness. I’ll hold my wide-eyed son on my knee as he sees fireworks for the first time. And I’ll rejoice that for his generation, Roe will only be a story of the distant past. The oppressed have been set free. Liberty has come for the captives! Hallelujah!
by Danielle White, Esq.General Counsel, Heartbeat International
In light of the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion reversing Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson, we have witnessed the intensifying extremism of pro-abortion advocates. Heartbeat has received multiple reports of vandalism and death threats against pregnancy centers and personnel since the draft opinion was leaked. One would think that those claiming to care about pregnant women would not direct their violence at the very locations that support pregnant women. But unfortunately, we are not talking about reasonable people.
On Sunday, May 8, 2022, pro-life group Wisconsin Family Action was attacked with Molotov cocktails and the building set fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Shortly thereafter, an organization calling itself “Jane’s Revenge” claimed responsibility for the attack. While Wisconsin Family Action is not a pregnancy center, “Jane’s Revenge” called the attack “only a warning” and demanded the “disbanding of all anti-choice establishments, fake clinics [an extremist term for pregnancy centers offering help and hope to women] and violent anti-choice groups within the next thirty days.” The group claims to be “not one group, but many. We are in your city. We are in every city.” Since then, Jane's Revenge has been threatening and committing vandalism against pro-life organizations of many kinds, including pregnancy help organizations. The FBI is taking this very seriously and has an open investigation on Jane's Revenge.
Intimidation of pregnancy centers is not a new tactic, and, sadly, pro-abortion extremists have long hated pregnancy centers. However, given the news out of the Supreme Court and the realistic possibility that this is the year Roe v. Wade will be overturned, the temperature has reached new heights on the abortion issue. This is a time to review your safety and security policies and procedures, retrain your volunteers and staff as necessary, and be especially vigilant about your surroundings. Here are five more tips to better prepare and protect your pregnancy center now and in the days to come.
Invest in security systems and cameras both inside and outside your center. While this requires an investment of fiscal resources, a security system with cameras may deter criminal activity helps create a record that can be provided to law enforcement if, God-forbid, something does happen. Many companies that provide security systems and devices offer a free consultation and provide recommendations to protect your center. This would be a good ask for a certain level donor.
This is a great opportunity to build a relationship with local law enforcement! Most departments, particularly rural departments, would be happy to perform a walkthrough and security assessment of your center. Take this opportunity to share with them what the center does for women and to ask for their expertise about security. Ask them to identify vulnerabilities in your center’s security. Ask them to show you where they would allow protesters to congregate and to explain what the center should do if protesters trespass or engage in threatening behavior. Keep in mind that you could extend this invitation either to the City Police or the County Sheriff if they share jurisdiction. Building a relationship with a local law enforcement official might make it easier to call upon them if your center experiences threats.
You can also hire police on “special duty.” This involves an investment of funds and is usually available on a pre-scheduled basis, rather than in response to an ongoing situation. Your local law enforcement agency can advise you about the conditions for hiring a special duty officer. This option might be especially helpful if you become aware of a planned protest at your center or in your area. A special duty officer can assist with keeping people off the center’s property and act as a deterrent to property damage or violence.
Finally, you should mention the Jane’s Revenge threat to law enforcement if your pregnancy center contacts them for help with protesters or vandalism. Explaining the current climate with the Dobbs decision and the vandalism documented may be beneficial in keeping local law enforcement apprised should a need arise in the future. Threats of violence or vandalism of a PHO can be submitted through the FBI Tip Line at FBI.gov and also through state and major urban area fusion centers. They are owned and operated by state and local entities, and are designated by the governor of their state. Sometimes, this prompts a faster response than a local Police Department can or would provide. The FBI is taking this very seriously and has an open investigation on Jane's Revenge. Click here for an FBI resource booklet.
Private property owners can set their own rules for speech and protest activities on their property. The center is not required to allow protesters on its private property. Therefore, it is important to know the location of the property lines where your center is located. Is your center’s parking lot private property? Once protesters are on private property, they are trespassing, and you could contact law enforcement to ask for their removal. Keep in mind that protesters may be entitled to protest on public sidewalks.
If applicable, you may also consider talking to your landlord to find out what the landlord expects from the center in the event of protesters. If you are in a plaza or office space shared with other tenants, your landlord may be especially interested in ensuring that protesters do not disrupt the other businesses as well, and your landlord may be an ally in interfacing with police or installing cameras or barriers to deter protestors.
Now is the time to revisit your Center’s policies and procedures relating to security and evaluate them given today’s climate and the intensifying extremism by the pro-choice movement. Here are a few policies and procedures we recommend you implement:
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE Act”) likely applies to your center and could be a very powerful tool in dealing with protestors. The FACE Act prohibits violent, threatening, damaging and obstructive behavior towards anyone obtaining or providing reproductive health services. Violators of the FACE Act could be fined or even imprisoned. The Act also provides civil remedies to the victims, including compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief. The FACE Act provides for statutory damages, making it even easier to recover money from protesters who violate it. If protesters outside your clinic attempt to block or impede access to the clinic, to intimidate your clients, or cause property damage, please contact Heartbeat to discuss your options. We have been informed that from the FBI's perspective, pregnancy help organizations are covered under the FACE Act. Click here for an FBI resource booklet.
While we hope that you never need use of this information, it is always good to take the opportunity to review your security policies with staff and volunteers and ensure that you are ready, just in case.
Ezekiel 38:7“Be ready and keep ready, you and all your hosts that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them.”
I want to take us back to a moment. It’s April of 1992. The pro-life movement has been hard at work on many fronts, and pro-life legal professionals now believe that the composition of the Supreme Court is finally favorable to overturning the devastating Roe v. Wade decision. After Planned Parenthood challenged a slew of abortion regulations enacted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the long-awaited oral argument has arrived.
The attorney arguing on behalf of Planned Parenthood approaches the podium, and she opens with what she believes is her strongest argument: “Since this Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, a generation of American women have come of age secure in the knowledge that the Constitution provides the highest level of protection for their child-bearing decisions.” She says that Roe v. Wade has “enabled millions of women to participate fully and equally in society.”
The Court bought it.
When the Court issued its opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, it embraced the idea that women need abortion to “participate equally in the social and economic life of the nation.” This idea that women can either fully participate in society or become mothers, but not both, is deeply antiquated and incredibly disempowering to women. Who among us would ever say this to our own daughters? This idea suggests that women have reached their places in society today not as a result of their determination and hard work, not because they are intelligent and capable, but because they resorted to abortion.
It's a deadly lie that has devastated countless women and families and resulted in the deaths of millions of unborn children.
For 50 years now, Heartbeat has labored alongside pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes and adoption agencies, all fighting to obliterate the false dichotomy of parenthood on the one hand, or participation in society on the other. Indeed, women can be mothers and participate fully in society. We have shared this message with expectant mothers around the nation, indeed around the world, day in and day out for decades.
So fast forward with me back to 2021. The Court has granted review in Dobbs, and now it’s our time to share this message with the Court. Women are capable. Heartbeat, its affiliates, and the vast and sophisticated network of pregnancy help in this country stand ready to assist them. And women do not need abortion.
We knew that stare decisis would be a central issue in this case. Stare decisis means to stand by things decided. It means that generally, the Court should follow its own precedent in deciding cases. But, as the Court has repeatedly stated, stare decisis is not an inexorable command. There are certain factors for determining when to deviate from precedent.
Our brief addressed each of those factors but focused its argument on defeating the notion that women must resort to abortion in order to be successful.
We argued that the proliferation of pregnancy help organizations represents a critical change since Roe and Casey, and that women certainly do not need to rely on abortion any longer, if they ever did. Indeed, when Casey was decided, pregnancy help centers existed, but they were nowhere near as numerous or robust as they are today. For example, when Casey was argued, only three pro-life pregnancy centers were providing medical services. Today, that number is 2,132. In Mississippi, the state at issue in this case, pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics 29 to 1. Pregnancy centers serve millions of people each year with hundreds of thousands of free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, millions of articles of clothing and diapers, and untold practical support for mothers and families.
Not only is the idea that women need abortion to participate equally in the social and economic life of the nation disempowering, it is flatly false. Today, educational pursuits are increasingly feasible for mothers. Indeed, more than 20% of all undergraduate students today are parents. Mothers also routinely pursue careers. In 2020, more than 70% of all women in the US with children under the age of 18 participated in the workforce. Not to mention, federal and state laws now prohibit pregnancy discrimination. The idea that women must resort to abortion to participate in the economic life of the nation is not just outdated – it’s illegal. If an employer took that position with a female employee today, that employer could look forward to a swift lawsuit and substantial liability for pregnancy discrimination.
Writing this brief was particularly meaningful for me. You see, when the briefs were due, I happened to be on maternity leave, having just given birth to my fourth baby, a little girl. But writing a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and Casey was a career aspiration that I could only have dreamt of, and I was certainly not going to let it pass me by! I drafted large sections of the brief in the wee hours, while balancing my laptop on my lap and holding my newborn baby girl on my shoulder.
Holding her in my arms fueled me through those sleepless drafting nights. I will not soon forget the feeling of her soft breath on my cheek and the sound of her rhythmic breathing in the background of my keyboard clicking away in the soft glow of a dim lamp. She was a little embodiment of what I was fighting for – not just for the babies only a few weeks younger than her who have inadequate legal protection, but also for the countless women from whom Roe has robbed motherhood, women who were told that they had to choose between motherhood and their dreams. Indeed, 29 years after the Planned Parenthood attorney took to the podium to tell the Court that women cannot have both careers and babies, I was doing that very thing! And I’m not the only one.
I had the privilege of sharing with the Court the stories of three women who learned that they were unexpectedly pregnant and feared that their pregnancies signaled the end of their educational goals, their careers, or their other aspirations. They each visited pregnancy centers, who supported them with practical assistance, financial aid, and emotional support as they continued their education, began careers, and fulfilled their personal dreams with their children by their side.
You undoubtedly know women like them.
It was a highlight of my career to hold my newborn baby girl as I wrote the words “Heartbeat urges the Court to overturn Roe and Casey.” And I’m prayerful that the Court will do just that.
The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case. What may or may not change for your organization as this case comes before the highest court in our nation? How will it impact your clients? Donors? Community? These are just a few of the questions we hope to explore between now and the time we get a ruling on this case. Keep an eye on our eNewsletters (make sure you're signed up at your affiliate dashboard!), webinars, podcast, and more.
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