Marilyn Monroe — Victim of Unhealed Trauma

Marilyn Monroe — Victim of Unhealed Trauma

Originally Published October 31, 2022 on DC Journal

Trauma begets trauma begets trauma.

That’s the story shown in “Blonde,” the controversial and graphic new Netflix movie about 20th-century sex icon and Golden Globe-winning actress Marilyn Monroe. The first major trauma viewers see is Monroe’s mother trying to drown her in a bathtub; other traumas include being abandoned by her father, being placed in orphanages and foster homes as a child, and being raped as a young adult.

Psychological literature and licensed clinical therapists’ daily experiences show there is a link between unresolved trauma and future traumas. That’s what “Blonde”shows — Monroe needed acceptance and love, but what she got were abuse and exploitation. She couldn’t even live as her real self — what began as a stage name became her “real” face, hiding the traumatized Norma Jean for decades.

Probably the most controversial part of “Blonde”is the graphic portrayal of her abortions and a song that one of her unborn children sings to her. They are controversial because, in part, like the rape and attempted drowning scenes, the movie is unnecessarily horrifying. But they are also controversial because many believe the abortions make the film political in light of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

But abortion isn’t political for the mother; it’s a human issue that affects real people. For example, a recent national survey of women who experience medication abortions found that 40 percent of women’s self-image changed after the abortion. About one in 14 of these women’s perspectives changed for the better, but 86 percent saw negative self-image changes. This was true regardless of their view about abortion, as 75 percent of women in the survey identified as pro-choice.

Like Monroe in “Blonde’s”portrayal, the people who attend Support After Abortion’s healing conferences and contact our anonymous After Abortion Line deal with lifelong traumas that often played a significant role in their abortion(s). Significant financial and relationship challenges are rarely one-time issues, and a 2005 Guttmacher Institute survey shows that 73 percent of women who had abortions did so because they couldn’t afford a child, and 48 percent were having relationship problems or didn’t want to be a single mother.

Unresolved traumas like sexual abuse, addiction and abandonment are often at the heart of these challenges. But while Americans accept that these traumas present themselves in our lives in ways like alcoholism, divorce and depression, we neglect to include abortion as a symptom of trauma because it is viewed as a political issue — not a problem with real people behind it.

Trauma defined Norma Jean’s life to the point where she hid behind an entirely different persona. That seems extreme — but how many Norma Jeans hide behind Marilyn Monroe faces in our churches, at the grocery store, or at Christmas parties? How often are we putting on a good face to the world to avoid condemnation or alienation or the pain of past traumas?

Abortion is a human issue, not a political one. It often comes from trauma and, as research shows, leads to more trauma. In Norma Jean’s case, the Marilyn Monroe mask only held for so long; she died of a drug overdose at 36 in what was deemed a possible suicide. It’s time to see the faces of millions of women whom research and the famous Turnaway Study find are suffering from abortion-related trauma.

Pro-lifers provide care and help every day for mothers and babies, before and after birth

Pro-lifers provide care and help every day for mothers and babies, before and after birth

A tired old trope seems to keep resurfacing in the abortion debate.

“You have no empathy (for women),” a woman told Live Action founder Lila Rose, who was discussing abortion on The Dr. Phil Show. Rose, unruffled, replied that “abortion is devastating to a woman’s mental health. Nobody talks about it.” She was going to say more, but, ironically, she was cut off by the same audience member who a moment earlier had accused her of lacking care and empathy for women.

Read More

Memorializing Children Lost to Abortion: Why & How

Memorializing Children Lost to Abortion: Why & How

Transcript 20 Oct 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar

Guest Speaker: Karin Barbito

Host Lisa Rowe, CEO Support After Abortion 

Length 58m 

Lisa Rowe 0:07 

[Our Guest Speaker today is Karin Barbito, who serves as our Special Projects Manager at Support After Abortion. Karin really understands memorializing children lost to abortion.] She has walked through a lot of different recovery programs. And the one thread that is so similar in all of them is the memorialization process. Before I turn it over to her, I just really want to share my own experience clinically. I took a Death and Dying class in undergrad, and my professor, who’s a very well known national speaker on death and dying, said two things that will always stand out to me. She said, (1) people that believe there is something higher than themselves when they experience grief and loss, usually grieve better than people that don’t know there is something higher than themselves. And (2) it is absolutely invaluable when walking through the memorial process that you have a place and space to meet your loved one who has died or you’ve lost. And so she recommended not only having the grave site to visit, but a tree or a bench or somewhere or something that you could feel like you could connect to that loved one. And so, we talk a lot about how often abortion isn’t, in our culture, looked at as a loss so many times. In the clinical space we call that disenfranchised grief, which means our world doesn’t acknowledge most reproductive losses as grief and loss. And so, many times we feel so isolated in our experience. And so, we’re here to talk about the importance of it. We’re here to talk about how to do it well. And Karin’s going to take it away from here and offer up her best practice and her understanding and experience. So, welcome, Karin. We’re excited that you’re here, and I’m really thrilled to learn from you today. 

Karin Barbito 2:02 

Thank you so much. All right, I’m going to share my screen. 

Today the presentation is called Memorializing Children Lost to Abortion: The Why and The How. 

So, why is it so important to memorialize children Lost to Abortion? I did a little research on this and on funerals and memorial services, and this is some of the bullet points that came up for me on my Google search on grieving loss.

First of all, grieving loss is critical to the healing process. I don’t even think that needs any explanation. Once we experience a loss, if we don’t grieve it, it’s going to show up sometime later in life unexpectedly. Participants at a memorial service can comfort and support each other by sharing their pain and sadness. That level of vulnerability really opens the door for strength and hope. Can you remember the last time somebody told you something really genuinely vulnerable and how that impacted you? It opens the door for strength and hope. 

Memorializing children lost to abortion, brings dignity to the life however short lived it was. I want to stay here for a moment because I liken it to when my father died. He lived a long life, but I’m just thinking about the service itself. Friends and family came, we reminisced about how my dad had impacted our lives. The grandchildren shared how Grandpa taught them how to fish, and we sang some hymns. And, when the service was coming to a close, they gave my mom a flag because my dad was in the military, he was a veteran. And then the service was over, and we had to leave that building. And we still left that building sad. But we knew we left having to come to understand a new normal. My dad wasn’t going to be with us anymore. And that’s what the memorial process is really all about. It’s about grieving your loss, finding closure, and moving on. 

So there’s all kinds of ways, all kinds of memorials to happen, from really simple like lighting candles for children lost to abortion, or it can be really elaborate like a churchwide event that I’m going to share with you today. And then we’ll talk about some of the options that you have at the end of this presentation. 

This is New Life Church. It’s in Venice, Florida, which is close to where I live. 

The pastors, the leadership of that church had gone to Israel and visited a Garden of Life, was what it was called. And they knew about Support after Abortion. We had used their church to have some of our support groups and things like that. And they came back so on fire for this concept that they created a space for us to use for memorial services. We launched this on Mother’s Day in 2019, and they opened it up to their congregation. For anybody that had any kind of reproductive loss. There were over 200 people from that congregation who had experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or other reproductive losses. And they were in attendance. And so I’m going to take you on that journey. I took pictures of it. 

This is the pre-preparation and an inspection. This is the first time the garden was used. The church maintains the property. They buy the flowers and the plants. They installed a sprinkler system. There are beautiful benches and a fountain. And it overlooks a beautiful pond. The atmosphere in this garden is just perfect for people to come to closure over the lost lives that they’ve experienced. 

As I said before, the church purchases the flowers and keeps them in a greenhouse so that they’re ready to go. When we have a memorial service following a healing program, the participants can choose the color (They buy them in a variety of colors) and they can pick their location. And that really matters to people that are grieving loss. Here’s some examples of other colors. 

The white flags you might notice here indicate which flowers are open for selection. People can choose a flower for each child that they’ve lost to reproductive loss, and they have naming cards so that they can put the name of the child, and then that goes in the ground and the plant is planted on top of it. 

Here church has let out and people are arriving who’ve lost children. 

This, I think, is a really great picture. This is a couple walking around the brick walkway and looking at the flowers and making their selection of the one that they want. It’s such an intentional part of the whole healing ceremony. 

This picture just grips me in a way that I can’t even explain. I just look at the hands of that gentleman, how tenderly he’s holding that and what that means to him, what that symbol means to him in that flower. And it makes me wonder, who has he lost to reproductive loss? 

Here all the flowers have been selected. This is a kind of fuzzy picture, but you can see them holding them, those that are going to plant them in the ground. And this is the pastor opening in prayer. This isn’t how we conduct our services, but we’re going to get to that in a little while. This is just how he chose to do it for his congregation.  And activities like this, like planting something in the ground helps people to grieve their loss. 

I was really surprised by the number of men that participated in this memorial service. I was surprised by the variety of ages as well, from very young siblings to grandparents, even great-grandparents. 

Pregnancy loss impacts so many more people than just the mothers and the fathers of the children. Loss affects parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, coworkers – anybody that’s in our sphere of influence. If we’ve experienced abortion or reproductive loss, that’s going to rub off on other people because we’re grieving and we can’t help but not have that impact other people in our lives. I love that picture.

So how do you have a memorial service? That was just an example from the church where we have ours. Maybe before I go into the how, Lisa, you’ve been to a memorial service that we had in that garden with real participants of a group. Would you like to share what that experience was like for you? 

Lisa Rowe 9:13 

Absolutely. I don’t think I could have ever really understood what this process looked like, no matter the comparison with a memorial celebration that I had been to in the past for maybe one of my older friends. There’s something really unique about the experience, Karin. And, what was really special is that we were able to share with different women, including my mom, including a woman that was in a different state. Janine [Marrone, founder of Support After Abortion and President of the Board of Directors] was there with us, and we had the virtual component and the live component. Everything you talked about was so special. But actually being in that experience, memorializing my niece and watching everyone memorialize their children, I didn’t feel so alone in the experience. I was so emotionally connected through listening to the music, hearing the poems and the letters, and releasing the balloon. There were so many things, Karin, that, until I actually touched and experienced it, I wouldn’t be able to understand how important it was for me and for those people that were there with us.

Karin Barbito 10:21 

Thank you for that. Lisa touched on some of the how and sharing what her experience was like. 

You can make the memorial service your own. It can be religious or it can be secular, depending on the participants in your group. We definitely want to honor their wishes and respect their religious beliefs, or lack thereof. It can be simple or elaborate. 

We mailed things to people when we were doing it virtually. They got a balloon from us to release. And however it is that you want to set it up, as Lisa said, it can be in person or virtually in a combination of both. We’ve done it. We’ve had people that none of them lived in our area. So we had stand-ins come, volunteers of ours that would come and stand in and we’d have somebody Zooming it, recording it, and we would walk around the garden and let them select what flower they wanted when it was their turn to bring dignity to their children’s life. We let them do that in whatever way that they chose. You can get creative and it doesn’t have to be just in person. 

These are some of the options that Lisa was just talking about, of ways that you can bring dignity to your child’s life. You can (we do this often, and this is really profound) encourage our participants to write a letter to their children and read it aloud. There’s something so much different between writing it and saying it out loud. I think it engages different sides of the brain. Have you ever noticed that when you read something out loud, it intensifies the emotion? My mom gives me beautiful birthday cards every year, and I read them out loud all the time because they bring me to tears. And it’s just a warm place for me to be when my mom honors me in that way. 

You can select a favorite song. It doesn’t have to be a hymn, it can just be a favorite song. You can quote something that really inspires you. You can read scripture if that’s what brings you comfort. Balloons are probably the most effective thing that we’ve ever used. We use permanent markers so you can write a letter on a balloon for each of your children. And then we release them all at once. I’m telling you, people won’t turn away. They will watch that balloon until they can’t see it anymore. And that could take 15 minutes, depending on how quickly it rises in the air. 

One of the things that we do, and I can make a template available to you, is that we provide every participant in our healing groups a Certificate of Life. I asked them to open themselves up to having the gender revealed to them. You know, if a particular name comes to mind for them, or how do they picture their child? What kind of personality would they think that they had? And we make up the certificate and we give it to them. If you want a template, just make sure that somehow I have your contact information, put it in the chat, perhaps. Ivy, if you could collect all those email addresses, I’d be happy to send that out. 

This is one of the ones that I first learned about, which was lighting a candle and just silently, with eyes closed, have a conversation with your children, whatever it is that might be left unsaid. And then when they’re finished, blow the candle out. In all honesty, I was surprised by this. This is one of the most difficult things for people to do – to blow out that candle because they feel like they’re ending that life again. Some people prefer it though. It’s all up to you and what your participants want. 

Plant a tree, a shrub, a flower. Name your child. We talked about that earlier. I live in Florida and one of the things that we’ve done is gone to a park that’s right by the ocean. I’ll bring flowers for everyone’s children that are in the group, and we’ll let them drop them in the ocean and watch them float away. It’s very similar to the balloon exercise. I have bought myself something to remind me of my child every day. It’s a ring that I wear. It’s silver and it’s got two floating gold bands around it with a heart cut out of it. And on the back it says Brave Love. When I saw it, I couldn’t think of any more love that was braver than me honoring my child that I aborted. I had a past participant get herself a tattoo with her child’s name on it. 

So those are just some ways that you can bring dignity to the life like I shared with my story about my dad’s funeral. That’s what that was for us. It was really just bringing dignity to his life and how he mattered to us. And for those of us, myself included, that have lost lives due to abortion and reproductive loss. I want to honor that life. 

That’s all I have. Any questions?

Lisa Rowe 15:16 

Awesome. Before we do, I just want to do some housekeeping. You can put questions in the chat feature or raise your hand and Karin can answer those questions, and I’ll do my best to do the same. Karin, before we jump into those questions, and while people prepare their questions, I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this big question that we get. Often, when we ask people, mostly our volunteers, if they’ve healed from their abortion experience or gone through healing, sometimes they say yes, but sometimes they say no. Your second question I feel is really profoundly connected to today. And it’s Have you gone through the naming process for your child? Have you memorialized your child? Can you talk to us a little bit about why that is such an important second question? 

Karin Barbito 16:07 

Because it makes it real. It makes the life real. I mean, I’ve never had a miscarriage, but I would imagine that somebody that had a miscarriage would name that child, right? Because you want to make that life matter. You want to make that life real and relevant in your life, right? It was here for a purpose and it was short lived, but it still mattered. You know? I mean, it was really important to me to listen to God as I’m a person of faith. Some people aren’t, and so I don’t know how that would happen [for them]. But God revealed to me in a very tangible way what the gender of my child was and what her name is. Then there was one day, when I was in my first healing program, I heard me sit, refer to her as her or she. And it kind of stopped me in my tracks. Like, where did that come from? Like, did I make that up? And the way that I found out what my daughter was named brought me to my knees, <laugh>. It was at the conclusion of another healing program that I was in. Because I’ve done a lot of them. I like to test them all out. And there’s always further healing, always layers to unpeel in healing. I was rearranging flowers at New Life Church because we had a program there and I said, Man, you know, when I was growing up, I really wanted to have a flower shop. And the participants said, What are you talking about? Flower Shop, Lily Rose. That was the name that God gave me for my daughter, Lily Rose. And I never would have named my child after one flower, let alone two. But when they said, Are you kidding me? Do you not see the connection here? I just fell to my knees. God is that intentional with us and that loving towards us. For me, it just makes it all real and matter. 

Lisa Rowe 17:58 

It’s powerful. And you talked about how the way you refer to your daughter even changed. And I’d like to bring up this topic too, as we further develop this, because I often talk with folks that say, I have three children. But then when you further investigate that conversation, they actually have children in heaven. And they don’t connect that. So perhaps, Karin, could you unpack that a little bit for us? How this memorialization brings life to even the children that aren’t living with us currently? 

Karin Barbito 18:31 

It wasn’t until I went through my healing. I had my abortion a long time ago. It was in 1977. And I forever, once I couldn’t have kids, got married, and adoption fell through. I believed that I was never going to be a mom. I convinced myself, I’m never going to be a mom. When I went through healing, I’ve realized and recognized and acknowledged that I am a mom. I am a mom. The light bulb didn’t go off as to why I always hated Mother’s Day because I sat in those pews, considering myself not to be a mother because I had ended the life of the only child that I was supposed to have, and I hated it. But as relative to the memorial service, I think we start to recognize that these are children of ours. People have children die all the time. It’s tragic, but they still honor their kids, right? They would never say that once they had four children, now they only have three. They would always have four children. And it’s no different. Just because we were forced to make the decision or we made the decision ourselves. It doesn’t change the outcome. It doesn’t change it.

Lisa Rowe 19:44 

That’s powerful. Karin, thank you for allowing us to expound on that. And there’s people here that have lost children to miscarriage and stillbirth. Can you talk about the importance of having the same sort of memorial for those children as well? 

Karin Barbito 19:59 

Society’s gotten a lot better with both of those reproductive losses because they have ceremonies right in the hospital now where they dress the child up, they have a memorial service, and things like that. It shouldn’t be any different for any other kind of reproductive loss or any kind of loss of life. We should be able to bring dignity and honor to the people that lived no matter how long it was that they lived. For any of you that have had miscarriages or stillbirths or maybe infertility issues or anything like that, I just wanted to tell you how, sorry I am for your loss. I want you to hear that from me to you: I’m sorry for your loss. 

Lisa Rowe 20:42 

Interesting statistic, Karin, and then we’ll jump into the questions. Nearly half of our participants (42) have not experienced a memorial ceremony. And then the other portion has. Why is that so much more common than what we might believe to be true in the healing process? 

Karin Barbito 21:03 

Well, I would ask a follow up question. I don’t know if they’re offering abortion healing and they’ve never had a memorial service, or if they’ve never been impacted by reproductive loss so there’s really no need for them to go through a memorial service. But I would highly recommend that people experience it themselves. 

I think we’re going to have to do a training, Lisa, a video training on a memorial service and what it could look like and the value and benefit of it.

That is where the transformation usually happens. Do you know what I’m talking about? You know, when you have head knowledge and yet it’s not part of who you are yet. Lisa can attest to this, that that memorial service is where that connection is made. And when that connection is made, there’s no going back. You can’t go back to what you were. It’s become part of who you are. And so, I really feel like we are doing our clients a disservice now.

We need to make sure that we’re honoring their request [in our choice of memorial]. Some people are environmentally conscious and don’t feel comfortable letting a balloon go, right? Other people don’t want to blow the candle out. So we need to be mindful of the participants and what they’re comfortable with. We never want to make somebody do something that they’re not comfortable with. But we have a strong case to make of why we do the things that we do. Why we encourage you to name. Why we encourage you to visualize. Why we encourage you to do the things that were in this presentation. 

Lisa Rowe 22:29 

Thank you, Karin. So for those of you who aren’t equipped to do memorial services or haven’t, there is some training on our platform, it touches on this topic. But you are affirmed, Karin, to develop something that’s very intentional.

Q&A

 One of the questions, Karin, is how did it feel for somebody who personally experienced abortion and having the family members and other people impacted alongside for the memorial ceremony?

Karin Barbito 23:02 

That doesn’t happen very often. Again, that’s really up to the participants. Usually it’s just the participants that attend the memorial service because they’ve been together now, depending on the resource that you’re using for 6-8 weeks, right? And they’ve shared a lot of stuff. To have new people come in at the end … if they’re okay with it, I’m okay with it. I did have a husband who married someone who had abortions in her life before they got married and, she wanted him to be there for the memorial service. And I’ll tell you what, it was compelling. So if your participants are willing, I really encourage it. When he wrote a message on a balloon and broke down and cried that he really got in tune with how much his wife’s abortions prior to their marriage impacted him today. He would have had two more children in his life. How would his family look different? And so he grieved with his wife. I still have pictures of them letting go of their balloons. I’m standing behind them, man, they don’t even know I’m there. They are glued to the balloons that they released. It was really a special moment, and it really meant a lot to them. It brought them closer as a couple. 

Lisa Rowe 24:19 

Thank you for sharing that. It really goes to talking about that ripple effect that we hear so often that abortion can have in families and in communities. 

This is a great question. Victoria, I’m going to kind of ad lib a little bit here. She’s specifically asking how what you’re talking about is different than Project Rachel. But I’d like to expound on that. How is this memorial process, if there is a difference, different than any other abortion healing program? Or does it fit in with all of the abortion healing programs that you know of? 

Karin Barbito 24:52 

That is a great question. Project Rachel is one thing that I haven’t done, that’s on my bucket list. So if anybody has a recommendation of where I should go, I’m going to do that. So what we have developed here is taking a little bit of various programs, aspects of the Memorial service. Let me make that make sense. Sydna Massé uses candles. She’s the author of Her Choice to Heal. I think it was Wendy Giancola, author of Transforming Your Story, who suggested writing a letter to the children. So we didn’t develop our own from scratch. We’ve taken from those that are already out there and just made it bigger and better. Does that make sense? I don’t even want to say better because I’m sure that they’re all really effective at connecting the clients to what they’re looking for. But we’ve kind of just borrowed from everybody else. 

Lisa Rowe 25:55 

That’s great. And I would just further insert that whatever healing program, we’re not a proponent of one over the other. Whatever your clients are looking for is what we want to encourage them to walk through. This is an added element that if the Abortion Healing Program isn’t already doing this, we’re encouraging you [to add it]. And you’re hearing all the reasons why from Karin that this be a part of the process. If you’re a therapist on the call today and you don’t have a specific program that you follow, perhaps this might be something you introduce to your client, maybe you do one-on-ones, or your pregnancy center, wherever you’re coming from, make sure that this is a part of the opportunity that you’re offering to your clients. 

Karin Barbito 26:41 

I have done it one-on-one, so it’s no less effective than if it’s just one person. Because I can remember what you said to me, Lisa. I don’t know how many people were in that group when you came to the Garden of Life, but you said that you went from person to person to person, and it was like nobody else was here except for the one that was memorializing their children at the time. So you really do want to concentrate on who it is from the group that’s memorializing their children. We do it all individually. That might be different too than what some other memorial services are like. 

Lisa Rowe 27:16 

Rachel’s Vineyard, there’s a comment here that they do it differently depending on the leadership, depending on the priest, and the discernment there. There’s also a comment from Greg Mayo and he speaks about his experience from a man. Perhaps Greg, if you wanted to come off mute and maybe share your experience for the group. 

Greg Mayo 27:35 

Lisa, Karin, good to see you again, <laugh>. So when I went through [after abortion healing], there were no groups anywhere, and I was the only guy I knew of doing it. So I worked through books I could find with my pastor and whatever. But when it came time to memorialize the two children I had lost, I took a blank notebook, and I went to a spot along a river here in the state I live in that mattered to me, to my dad and so forth. And, I sat down on the beach. I have no idea how long I was there, but I wrote letters to each one of the children, both of them, as well as to their mothers. And, then I stood up and I read each one of the letters out loud and I said a prayer over it, and then I put it in the river and let it go down. It was an incredibly powerful and incredibly hard experience looking back on it. I wish I wouldn’t have done it alone because I had an hour and a half drive home alone. But, the other thing about it is, walking back to my truck, I could feel the burden lifted. And then, like Karin said just a minute ago, the process of recovery really never ends. Three years ago, I wrote a novel about abortion, and I made Ben and Abby the main characters, which is what I named my children. Then my sailboat, the bigger one I’m going to buy this summer, I’m going to name Benjamin Abby. So it to me, anything I can do to just keep their names on my tongue, right? to continue to honor them. I speak about my children and I have four children that are alive and three that aren’t. You mentioned that too, Lisa, and that’s a powerful thing to keep in my mind because they are my children and they were, whether I met them then or not. 

Karin Barbito 29:37 

That’s really good, Greg. I really appreciate that. The one thing I want to mention is at the church in Venice, it’s always open. People can come and look at their flowers, sit on the benches, listen to the fountain. The fountain has Jesus’ hands with a baby in them where the water comes out that overlooks a pond. They can come there and meditate, talk to God, pray. It’s a place where they can revisit because our children weren’t given a funeral. They weren’t buried. Right. And so, that’s just an added thing when you have a permanent place like that where you can go. 

Lisa Rowe 30:16 

There’s some discussion on how important it is to have pastoral care, a priest or a pastor present for the memorial. Karin, can you open us up into a conversation? 

Karin Barbito 30:30 

Well, I’m seeing something from Father Allen that says, as a pastor or priest, I can definitely confirm the truth of the above statement that allowing me a pastor to be involved in this work has a very meaningful effect. I think if the people are of faith, I think that would bring a tremendous amount of comfort. There was a priest when I did Project Rachel, and there was also a therapist that you could talk to if you weren’t Catholic. And that was great to know that there was a clinician there that I could unload some of the feelings that I had. That was the second or third healing program that I went through. So if that’s a possibility, and the participants are good with it, then I think it would bring comfort. What do the people in this meeting think? I would think that it would bring a tremendous amount of comfort. 

Lisa Rowe 31:21 

Yeah, that’s great. Thank you for bringing these, these are all opportunities for all of us to access. And I love how Karin, you really bring about this. If that’s where the participant is, then we can meet them right where they are. Can you, and you’ve done this, can you do a memorial without bringing in faith?

Karin Barbito 31:45 

Yes. 

Lisa Rowe 31:46 

How do you do that? 

Karin Barbito 31:47 

Well, it’s not about me, it’s about them. Right? And if I have participants that don’t believe in God, I’m not going to encourage them to read scripture. I’m going to encourage them to write a poem expressing everything that they want their children to know. You know, I really just want to drive this point home that it’s client focused, it’s compassion driven, and it’s filled with respect and honoring the requests. That’s how we operate. It’s not a one size fits all. You can’t put a circle into a square pole, right? And so, there’s all kinds of creative ways. They can make a painting. They can create something, a pottery thing. However it is that they want to express their grief and their loss and their love for their children that aren’t here. That’s what it’s all about. Again, it’s to bring dignity to that life, to make that life matter. It matters to them. And it doesn’t have to be religious. God shows up anyway. I mean, as a person of faith, I believe that God shows up anyway. I mean, he certainly was present in my life before I ever believed in him, you know? And so I expect he would do the same for everyone else that doesn’t believe in him. 

Lisa Rowe 33:00 

Thank you for shedding light on that. We always like to say that healing’s a journey, not a destination. And so what the memorial looks like today might not be what the memorial looks like 10 years from now, 

Karin Barbito 33:15 

Right? Yeah, so true. 

Lisa Rowe 33:20 

And more, Karin, with medication abortion on the rise – we know that 70% of abortions completed this year will be medication abortions. We’re hearing more and more clients sharing that they’re seeing their babies before they’re flushing them down the toilet, before they’re going down the drain, or all the different things that we hear. Are you seeing a need more than ever for the memorialization of those children lost to medication abortion? 

Karin Barbito 33:54 

It’s so traumatic. That’s the young girls that you were talking about when you led the first Keys to Hope and Healing for those of you here that might have been in the last webinar. They were all young, in their 20s and a few weeks to a few months to maybe a year separated from their abortions. And they felt so deceived, and they were so angry. It’s just tragic. When I think about it, when people aren’t prepared for what they’re about to go through…, that’s why I liken it to doctors. If you went to the doctor, and the doctor said that your foot had to be amputated, you would be asking a million questions and getting all kinds of answers, knowing what the recovery process was going to look like. These girls don’t have that. They haven’t been prepared for what to expect. And so, having seen, and for some of them it was recognizable for what it was, having seen it, the memorial service is even that much more important. How do you get that image out of your head unless you process through it? And a memorial service will definitely help someone to do that.

Lisa Rowe 35:06 

Yeah. Actually, there’s a article in the Washington Post right now speaking to this exactly – where a woman experienced a medication abortion and she could identify the limbs of her baby. She could identify the eye sockets and other physical features of her baby. And she and her boyfriend buried their child in the backyard. So Karin, you’ve had these experiences where women have kept their babies in shoe boxes and different things like that who were not able to get rid of their baby the way that they’re told to. Talk to us more maybe about how important it is, and what you’ve done to walk those women and men through that experience. 

Karin Barbito 35:50 

I remember working with a woman who had an abortion. She didn’t know what to do with what came out. She put it in a little box, and it had been three months since she had her abortion, and it was still in this box, and she was going to bury it in her backyard. But she has a dog, and she thought for sure her dog would dig it up. And she didn’t want to lose her child in that way. I’m not exactly sure what the outcome was, but that is just like serious stuff, right? Like most of us, me of the older, older population, I shoved down my abortion experience. I wasn’t that connected to it in such a short amount of time. I can only imagine how traumatic that is for somebody. Me, I shoved it down. I lived an unhealthy life for decades before I got into recovery, because I became an alcoholic and an addict. And I thought I had cleaned up my side of the street. But for people like this that witnessed something that’s so horrifying, it has to break denial immediately. I was in denial for a long time. And let me tell you, denial is kind of a comfortable place to be <laugh>. It’s a lot less comfortable to acknowledge what happened, right? And so, man, I just hope that if there’s any clinicians here in the webinar that you ask questions about reproductive loss. Because there could be somebody that’s never told anybody about their abortion. And you could be that very first foot in the door to have them start to process through their pain. 

Lisa Rowe 37:23 

Thank you for that. And, this segues great. You guys are asking some great questions. I hope this conversation is as enlightening to you as it is to me. The question is, do you think women have to go through a six to eight week program before the memorial? And what is your timeframe before doing a memorial? 

Karin Barbito 37:41 

Well, in our experience, most healing resources are structured very similarly. You share your story, you talk about denial, you talk about anger and forgiveness. You grieve your loss, you have a memorial service. And then how do you bring hope to others? It’s very similar. Sometimes the order is different in some, but each of those topics builds on itself. And I think it’s really important to go through all of those to express your anger, to forgive yourself and others, to receive forgiveness, to break denial, to stop rationalizing and justifying your decision, or if you were forced to have the abortion. I just think that it’s important to go through those subjects prior to being at a place to be able to really embrace that child’s life. 

Lisa Rowe 38:40 

Right? I see that in Keys to Hope and Healing, a resource that Support after Abortion has helped author with Word Among Us, that it’s important because so many women and men who are experiencing abortion aren’t sure what they believe sometimes, or if they do do have a belief system, like Karin said, they have that denial factor at play. High emotions, huge suppression of those emotions, wherever those clients are. It’s absolutely important that you build to this place of a memorial. Memorial is a very, very significant event that requires preparation. So it’s that preparation that comes in the weeks prior to,  the memorial that helps that client sit in that space, really truly embrace that space, process the emotions that are connected. And it shouldn’t be the last thing you do either, Karin. Right? There’s a follow up afterwards.

Karin Barbito 39:37 

Oh yeah, yeah. It’s not the last thing. I’ve been through probably 15 different types of groups. And like I said before, there’s always something else that’s revealed. Lisa said it so well, it’s not a destination, it’s a journey. I am grateful that I haven’t arrived. 

I’m grateful that I haven’t arrived. I’m so glad that God’s not done with me yet, that there’s more growth to happen. And what we also learned, Lisa, and you can, speak to this as well, is that abortion is a symptom of some much deeper root. There could be sexual trauma, there could be abandonment, there could be a huge codependency issue. And so we always have a plan like once you finish this, you can go into another healing program. Maybe you want to go into something that’s more in depth. Maybe they want to transition from something that’s secular into something that is religious now that they’ve come to recognize that it was a baby and not just tissue. Life is a journey and we want them to stay connected for as long as they can and to grow as much as they can. 

And somebody asked the question about how many weeks before the memorial service? It depends on the resource that you’re using. And if there’s multiple abortions, there might have to be multiple ceremonies. 

We encourage that because your children are different, you were a different person at the time of life that you had that second, third, fourth, 10th loss. We encourage you not to lump them all together because they’re all individual and unique. 

Lisa Rowe 41:10 

Unpack that a little bit more for us, Karin, because I think that’s a really big statement that you said, and I’m not sure we were all prepared for that. We’re talking about people that have experienced multiple losses, in particular multiple abortions. And what I heard you say is that some people might need to process each abortion individually. 

Karin Barbito 41:31 

Yeah. I think that’s extremely important. People that I’ve worked with have had multiple abortions, were in different places of their life. When they had them, their circumstances were different, leading up to the pregnancy was different, how they processed through the decision was different. What it was like after [the abortion] was different for every each and every one of them. They were in a different place in their life. And so the stuff that they needed to process through, the emotions that they felt, how they felt about themselves – is different for each one. It would be like if multiple people in a family died in a car accident, even if you had the funeral service altogether, you would recognize each of them individually, right? You wouldn’t just say that the Rowe family, you would say Lisa and Rob, and I’m not putting that on you. So Lisa, I don’t want to project that on you, a car accident for your family. But, do you understand what I’m saying? 

Lisa Rowe 42:45 

Absolutely. That’s a really great, clear point for us to understand that. Perhaps we need to slow our clients down if they come and they say, Hey, I want to address these three abortions. Perhaps there’s some more conversation that needs to take place as a result. 

We have just a few more minutes, 10 more minutes or so. And I’d love to see if there are any more questions. You guys have been really great. Is there anybody that would like to raise their hand, perhaps share their memorial experience so that we could glean and understand from you? Or you can ask your question out loud if you please. Just raise your hand and we’ll call on you. 

Greg shared his Deborah, I know you shared a little bit about your experiences. Do you want to share it out loud for us?

Deborah 43:43 

Sure. 

Lisa Rowe 43:44 

Okay. 

Deborah 43:45 

I know when you brought up the slide of all the different ways that people grieve differently. I think of different Mother’s Days over the years, it’s been almost 40 years, because Mother’s Day for us is significant because our daughter would have been born around Mother’s Day. So one of the things was that my family added a birthstone to my mother’s ring. They physically took it to the jewelry store and added it. And so that was something that our whole family, a season of our whole family, my husband and our three living children process through, but just a plaque my office has. It’s just that daily reminder of how precious that life was and is. Writing a letter, just all of those things. And again, it really goes along with how someone is wired and,I just have to say you guys truly are rock stars. That you are taking on this issue in the way that you are is just incredible. So I thank you, Lisa and Karin. The thing that just is so heartbreaking, and I guess this is just a season for me where I’m just craving the state of our culture even and what we are doing with these young women who are so unprepared and the things that they are told, it really is heartbreaking. I’m thankful for you guys out here doing what you do. 

Lisa Rowe 45:31 

Thanks Deb. Appreciate you. All right. Linda, if you come off mute, we’d love to hear from you. 

Linda 45:43 

I want to just underline the whole allowing them to plan, be a part of the planning of the memoria. That is so powerful. I think it’s actually a part of the healing. I also wanted to underline having, if they are comfortable with it, of course, inviting people. We have had so many breakthroughs in relationships with mothers and husbands and even kids. It’s like people suddenly get it, you know – now they understand what mom’s been going through. And, if they’re comfortable with that, really to encourage them. There’s the whole thing we didn’t really bring up of the hesitancy to do the memorial. You know, it is sometimes a huge battle and you have to really encourage them that it’s going to be worth it, <laugh> and it’s just amazing that it does. Also with the men, giving them a way to participate in it. We had one that accepted the Lord through a memorial service. It was just fabulous. It was the Christian-based service. But, for the men also, and maybe people that don’t have a memorial, the National memorial for the unborn, being able to place a plaque on the national wall is really powerful because it’s so tangible, too. It’s a permanent way to have that name presented. I want to thank you, too. This has been great. 

Lisa Rowe 47:13 

Wow. Linda, thank you so much for sharing that. I’d love to capture that Ivy, that national memorial for the unborn with the plaque, that’s new to me. That would be great for us to know and have that in our toolbox. Priscilla, you were next. Would you like to take yourself off mute and share?

Priscilla 47:33 

Thank you so much for today. I was talking to my daughter who’s had two miscarriages. I’ve had two abortions. We were talking about doing a memorial with our family because we’ve not ever really recognized these babies as part of our family. So thank you. This has greatly encouraged me to pursue the ideas for the memorial. We’re entering winter in Alaska, so the planting idea <laugh> may not work, but something else could be done. I’ve a couple times put out this medication abortion issue and I’m just pursuing more information about how much you’ve been getting contacted by women that have gone through these abortions. And if there’s anything that you would like to share with us about that particular population, and maybe it’s not the right time right now because I see other people want to talk, maybe I can talk to you in some other format for that <laugh>. 

Lisa Rowe 48:48 

Absolutely. And Priscilla, your topic is very timely. We’ve just created a white paper on medication abortion with a lot of questions answered for you based on research. And so why don’t we start there, Priscilla, we’ll get you a copy of that and then we can connect offline. 

Karin Barbito 49:17 

Priscilla, you can go to our website under the research tab and find that white paper.

Lisa Rowe 49:23 

And Kylee just added the link in the chat, so thank you for that too. All right. Donette, if you would like to come off mute or are you frozen? I think she might be frozen. All right. Father Allen, you’re up next. 

Fr. Allen 49:45 

Thank you ladies. You’re great. There’s no group of souls that have greater love and care for women who’ve had abortions. As a pastor, as a priest, I’ve been on a couple of Rachel’s Vineyard retreats. I’ve done a number of memorial services with women and some men. I carry these little symbols with me, these little models of unborn babies, but these represent real children – Baby Angie, Baby, Mikey, Baby Norbert – whose mother I know. She’s deeply repentant. I worked very closely with her. And, doing some of the things you’ve mentioned here, although you’ve given me some better ideas, we created an honor stone for them. Almost every day she says, I’m going to visit my kids, to honor them in a public Catholic cemetery. Baby Nova was a little one I tried unsuccessfully to save at an abortion mill in California. So I honored him and others with our honor stone because it affects those of us who go out to the abortion mills. I wept, I still grieve over Baby Norbert. So, this is very good information. Thanks to whoever told me about the National Memorial Service for the unborn, that was actually a goal. Maybe we should have a couple of those across the country, physical places where they could go and honor children. That’s one of my dreams. As a pastor, it’s not only important for the healing for the woman, but it’s in the mother and the father. For me, I was always involved in pro-life work from the time I was young, but getting involved with Rachel’s Vineyard and some of these memorial services, it’s made it personal, right? It’s not just some abstract moral or political issue. I know Mikey, I know Angie, I know their mom, I know Norbert, I know all these children, right? So, thank you. I would say too, with the memorial service of Mikey and Angie, I did consider whether we should have separate ones or one together as, I think, Karin was referencing. I think it’s a great point, Karin, to, memorialize each individual one. We did decide to go with one just to show the unity of the two together, but I could see in other circumstances how you might want to have separate ones. I think it just depends on the mother and the circumstances of the abortion, of the time of memorial service, et cetera. I think the important thing is to remember each child. 

Lisa Rowe 53:02 

Thank you Father Allen. So what I’ve heard said is that the individualized process is so important and the babies we found at times can be triggering to some mothers and some fathers. So what that is, is a transitional object we call that. And so it’s a reminder of that child, like Karin’s ring or a blanket or that sort of thing. So, just another opportunity instead of the baby, which I did see somebody in the chat say that sometimes is triggering. We were just in a training a couple weeks ago where she said, I can’t see the fetus on the picture, and that sort of thing. So, just like you said, it’s such an individualized process. Knowing where our clients are and what they can endure is really important, and what they want is important. 

All right. We have about three minutes, Karin, can you conclude us with your final thoughts? Maybe for the half that are participating that have never done a memorial, what might you suggest that they do? And for those that have, what might be one thing that they can consider moving forward? 

Karin Barbito 54:16 

Well, thanks for putting me on the spot with the toughest question of the day, <laugh>. So what would I recommend for the half of the people that have never gone through a memorial service before? I’m going to ask a question. Have you ever gone through a healing program before? 

If you’ve gone through a healing program and haven’t gone through a memorial service, I suggest that you find another healing program that offers one and go through it so you can experience it yourself. Whether you’ve had reproductive loss or not, it’s really important for you to understand what someone goes through that’s lost children. It’s also important for them to understand that even though you haven’t, you can still grieve losses, loss of a relationship, loss of a job that you love. There’s a connection and a relatability that can happen. For those of you who have gone through a memorial service, maybe think about this presentation. If there was anything that resonated with you on some of the things that we offer in a variety of our memorial services, try adding it. If you’re a provider, maybe consider having a virtual memorial service. It was really fun. Add something to whatever it is that you’re doing. We’re real proponents of building capacity and the way that you build capacity is to add something to what you’re already doing. It just makes the door that much wider to allow people to come through that are searching for what you’re not offering. 

Lisa Rowe 56:03 

Thank you, Karin. I really appreciate you and Donette, you froze before. We have one minute if you’d like to ask your question or make your comment and then, we’ll send everybody on their merry way. 

Donette 56:16 

Hi. I’m in Vancouver, Washington. We have the She’s Restored program with Jess Lane. I’ve been through it with her. Now I’m one of her facilitators. One of the things we do after we read our letters is hold a baby doll wrapped in an Afghan <laugh> and we’re reading them to the baby right there. It’s very, very effective. And when we’re done reading those letters, we put the baby down by the cross. We have a big wooden cross with candles around, and we’re by ourselves in the room. Then we just pray and release the babies to the Lord. It’s just amazing. It’s life changing and women are just changed after they do that. We’ve seen it. 

Lisa Rowe 57:06 

Thank you. That is very similar to Rachel’s Vineyard and their process, as well. So very, very common there. Karin. 

Karin Barbito 57:15 

Surrendering the Secret also has you hold babies. Deeper Still has you hold bears? Stuffed bears, Yes. One for each child. So that’s a common practice in a memorial service. 

Donette 57:25 

Yes. Awesome. 

Lisa Rowe 57:27 

All right. Well, we are at our time, Karin, thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with us today, all of your experience. And for those of you who shared, and those of you who are open to new ideas, we are grateful and we are here for you. If you want to visit us at www.training.supportafterabortion.com, we have the resources we’ve spoken about today. [The link is] in the chat feature. Many of you are new today, and so we’d love to connect with you further and make this a continuing conversation every month with you. So let this not be the last time that we see one another. Without further ado, we just want to thank you again for coming and we’ll see you next time. 

Visit our Provider Training Center.

Download/Print Recognition of Life Certificates

More Than a Memory wooden boxes 

Watch the video of this month’s webinar.

Register for next month’s Abortion Healing Provider Webinar.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent or the program host, Support After Abortion.

How the church can think and talk differently so we can create safe spaces

Speakers

Lisa Rowe

Angie Weszely

Transcription

Intro

Lisa Rowe 0:20

Hello everyone. It’s so good to see you. Welcome to our abortion healing provider meeting for the month of September. Get comfy. We have a great conversation for you today. We’re letting all the boxes fill in and everybody join. Welcome.

Lisa Rowe 0:47

Give us about a minute to get everybody logged in. This is wonderful. So good to see everybody’s faces. Okay. I think things have settled down. We are recording just to let you know, so that we can provide this to those who couldn’t make it. We are going to be launching our Facebook live here in a minute. The team is in the background working together and, I’m going to open up by kind of sharing a little bit about what we’re doing here and, where we’re going and, kind of give you the lay of the land. 

My name is Lisa Rowe. If you haven’t been here before, I am the CEO of Support After Abortion. A little over a year ago, we started hosting these meetings alongside of our online conferences because we started to feel a need for people in the abortion healing movement to connect with one another. So these meetings have grown, both live and in recording, and we are just thrilled to see the momentum continue. And, about maybe six or eight months ago, we switched to a speaker platform where we try to deliver best practices to each of you and to bring conversations that maybe you’re having locally to a more of a national or international level. And as we connect with people, we want those conversations to continue out loud in front of you. And so that’s what we’ve been doing. 

If you’ve missed any of the presentations from prior months, go to training.supportafterabortion.com and you’ll be able to pick up all the different conversations that we’ve had. We’re going to be here together for an hour today. 

We’re going to hear from our special guest, then we’ll have an opportunity to open it up for conversations, questions, answers, and all that great stuff. And then just about 1:00 EST, we’ll close up our meeting. 

If you find yourself new to this platform, I want to kind of lay out the way that we use it. We ask that you keep your volume off until it is time to ask questions. You are more than welcome to keep your video on, whatever it is that you like to do. It won’t offend us if you don’t. We have a chat feature at the bottom of the screen, where if you feel led while you’re listening to ask a question that you can’t hold onto or share something, please use the chat feature. It does not distract us as speakers. We’ll get to it as we can. My team is in the background, answering questions and helping to connect some of the dots. Maybe there’s going to be links shared and different opportunities inside the chat. And we’ll use that same chat feature when we get to the part where we’re asking questions, and you can also use the raise hand function while we are asking questions. If you’d like to ask your question out loud. 

So without further ado, I have the opportunity to introduce you to my friend, Angie, from ProGrace. I always like to share where I connect with all these amazing speakers. I just fell into Angie’s blog, I think is how it worked out. I’m on her email list serve, and I was reading some of her statements and her just beautiful and eloquent way of communicating about abortion and abortion healing. And I was like, I need to get to know this woman. And so I’ve been pursuing her for, I don’t know, six, eight months, maybe even longer. And I am delighted to share her with you today. She’s going to introduce herself because her story wraps into the ministry that she leads. But you guys are in for an amazing treat, potentially an opportunity for you to really glean some great language and some great ways to communicate the message of healing and how to speak with compassion in your community, specifically inside your churches. So without further ado, Angie, I’d love for you to take it away and introduce yourself for us.

Angie’s Story and ProGrace’s Mission

Angie Weszely 4:56

Thanks, Lisa. Hi everyone. It’s really an honor to be with you this morning. As you’re hearing my story, I have a lot of experience in a pregnancy organization, and I love local churches, and that’s part of what I do now. So when Lisa asked me to speak to you all of course, I said, yes, I jumped at the chance because, I believe you’re called by God to be the hands and feet of the church of Jesus in this issue. And so I really look forward to our discussion today.

I will start with my story. It goes back to 2006. That’s when I began leading a pregnancy organization in Chicago, which I didn’t think would be controversial. We were supporting women facing unintended pregnancy; however, through research and then conversations in the community, I was hearing significant criticisms of organizations like ours. Now this was my first time in this space. So I was concerned to hear that. And I started looking at our practices and what I found was that our staff would go through a checklist of information with a woman. And it was mainly around her decision, but they weren’t really listening very much to her, to the panic, isolation, and shame she was experiencing and what support would be meaningful. So I actually sat in on counseling sessions and just watched these missed opportunities as they had like a pre-program set of things they wanted to say, and they were missing opportunities to hear her and what would be helpful to her. 

Then I started looking at our language and I found that even though our organization was not technically tied to anything political, we consistently used divisive political terms to describe our mission. And we even used shaming language to talk about the women we serve. So that was a really painful journey for me, as you guys can imagine, because I had to reckon with and acknowledge that some of these criticisms were true. 

And so, as I was wrestling with all this, I remember walking down the office hallway one day as parts of Psalm 1:39 started coming to my mind. And this is often how God speaks to me, right? Just through bringing scripture to mind. And in Psalm 1:39, you all know, it says, God knits us together. He ordains all our days. All of us are fearfully and wonderfully made. And as I was thinking of that, I sensed God, say to me, I know you’ve always heard this scripture applied to the child, but it is just as much about the woman. And I had never thought of that before. And maybe you guys are already there. This is 16 years ago for me, this was a paradigm shift. And I realized that this divide of who are we going to advocate for – the woman or the child – that’s what was causing these tensions within me. And God wanted to expand my theological perspective to a third option. 

What I now call a third option is God values the woman and child equally. So I actually started writing this theology down. It’s what I’m passionate about. Then my colleague and I used this framework to help our team have a similar paradigm shift because they were having a hard time trying to change what they’d been doing for years. So they had a paradigm shift as well with this theological framework, we then worked on changing language, and then we changed the way we engaged with women. 

A couple years after that, we developed a passion to connect women to our local churches. We thought, let’s try this same framework with our churches, our church partners. We were in Chicago, so it was church partners like the Moody Church, Willow Creek, Progressive Baptist, Lutheran churches. We were blessed to have a really diverse group of churches around us. So we adapted this content into a workshop for these church leaders and they were having the same paradigm shift and they were reevaluating their language and they were wanting to engage women differently. 

That’s what led a fire in me to want to equip more Christians to frame this within a third option. What I say is a kingdom perspective rather than a political one. So my co-founder and I launched ProGrace six years ago to do that. What we do is we equip Christians with a new way to think, talk and engage around the abortion issue. 

We do that through online discipleship programs, through two tracks, we have one track for churches and that’s a small group study that’s online. Then we have a track for pregnancy organizations that’s an onboarding workshop and ongoing support through a learning community. 

The reason we do this is because our theory of change is really, as Christians think differently, as we intentionally value the woman and child equally, and that thinking pattern impacts our posture, then we’ll also begin talking differently, right? We’ll replace that polarizing language with welcoming speech. And that means we can then engage differently. So engage conversation within our churches, in our community, and ultimately with those who are impacted by unintended pregnancy and abortion. 

So it’s really our dream that as more and more Christians adopt this third option, we can shift the statistic that I think you guys are familiar with that right now only 7% of people approach a church with an abortion decision. They cite fear of judgment and lack of visible support as the reasons. For us at ProGrace, that is such a motivating factor because we know from research, fear of judgment and lack of support is why people, many people ultimately choose abortion anyway. And if they could bring those fears to the church, if they felt safe, we have seen God time and time that he can create pathways of hope for women and children. So we focus on the transformational part of the Christian community, believing that if we become a safe community, God then can create these pathways of hope as we welcome people into these communities. 

I’ll just start with one story that’s very recent to me and very tied to what you all do. My church actually asked me to be part of the sermon just this past Sunday here in Chicago. So I was up there with a couple of pastors and I was sharing the ProGrace theology and this approach and some new language and our staff team said We want to start the conversation with those of you in our church who have lived experience with unintended pregnancy and abortion. And we just watched as so many people came forward because we framed it to them as we want to hear what kind of church can we be, right? What would have helped you in that journey? It was very emotional actually and one young woman who came up to me as women and men were coming up to a lot of the staff people said to me, “You know, this is only my second time at this church. When I heard that the topic was abortion, I almost ran for the door. But as soon as you said you were reframing it and you led with grace, I stayed. I just want to tell you that I recently made this decision.” And then the tears just slowly started coming down her face. She said, “I haven’t been able to tell my mom. She’s very religious, but I feel glad that I can tell you. And I want to be part of what the church is inviting us to, to talk about what would’ve helped us.” And so that’s really it – the dream is opening up this conversation. And now our staff is really motivated about having these conversations. They had no idea. There were so many people in our congregation who’d been impacted by this. They were surprised how many men came forward as well. And so I just am thrilled to talk to you guys today because what we’re seeing is that when we lead with grace, God really does start to open up this conversation. So that’s a bit about me and what I do,

What is the greatest opportunity for churches right now on the abortion issue?

Lisa Rowe 12:52

I hope you guys are hungry for more. Angie is an amazing, talented, super articulate speaker. And Angie, you know, as I think about this group of people, we have 67 people here and a number of people that will watch afterwards. I always like to remind us that we are like-minded, you know, we are 67 like-minded people who hear your message and go, yeah, that’s right. I mean, we’re all on board with this. So this message might not necessarily be for you, but tools for you to take back into your community. Some of you may remember when I have you raise your hand and do that survey, like how many of you are actually talking about abortion and abortion healing outside of your workplace, outside of your circle of women and men that you connect with and trust and love. Very few people raise their hand to say I do that, right? We’re so comfortable where we are comfortable. And what I hope Angie does inside of you today is stir in you some new understanding about how to bring this to the church, give you confidence on how to deliver this message, provide you with resources so that you can take this back and make tangible change in places that you might not have otherwise started this conversation. Because if we only take this as the 67 of us and don’t take this further, we’re limiting ourselves, we’re limiting the men and women who need to be supported in the way that Angie was able to. It just took that tweak and a conversation to create space enough for somebody to come forward. We say that all the time, there are 22 million people, based on our research, that right now, if they knew where to go for help and they didn’t feel judged and they felt supported, they would reach out for healing. And so Angie’s one small example is exactly what could happen in every community that is represented here, if we were able to articulate this well and get leaders drawn in. So Angie, without further ado, what do you think the greatest opportunity for the churches right now on the abortion issue?

Angie Weszely 14:55

That’s a great question, Lisa. So I have been processing what has been happening in the church since Roe versus Wade was overturned. And I’m not going to claim to have full understanding, right? It’s only been three months, but I’ve been in this work for 16 years now and I was sensing something is changing. And I would say it’s an obstacle and an opportunity at the same time. And that is that some of the undercurrents that were there in the church before this are now rising to the surface and people are seeing them. 

One that I’m very aware of is that there’s been a growing discontent among a lot of Christians in the last 16 years. I’ve seen with the part of the pro-life narrative that is tied to politics and feels very anti-woman. And that’s actually part of my journey. And that’s what you can hear triggered me. I started thinking, is there a different way? 

I actually don’t use the terms pro-life or pro-choice to describe me or to describe PrpGrace because they are tied to a political party. We can unpack that later, but what’s happening in churches right now is, I believe, pastors are surprised by how divided their churches are, right? So now people who may have quietly been becoming dissatisfied with that framing that’s coming from the pro-life side, they have decided to identify as pro-choice because there are only two options right now, right? 

This is not because they are fans of abortion. It’s because they are not fans of how things are being framed. And because there are only two political options, they’re framing this now as pro-choice, and it’s starting to happen on social media, and I’ve heard it from both sides. People will say to me, I had no idea. My friend was so fill-in-the-blank pro-life or pro-choice, I can’t believe what they wrote on social media. I don’t even know if I can have them over for dinner anymore. 

At first this was breaking my heart. Like, oh no, now we’re dividing people and they’re shutting down, which is happening. They are doing that at the same time. I believe pastors and church leaders are seeing this and that is making them more aware of something that’s been under the surface for more than a decade. And that is, they need a new way to talk about this and they cannot keep framing it in politics.

My church never asked me to give a sermon before. And as soon as Roe versus Wade was overturned, my senior pastor started wrestling and man, they were so nervous to talk about this, but they wanted me as a partner, right. Because they needed someone to walk through this with them. So we are. As we are talking to pastors and church leaders, we’re just saying, listen, the church is divided on abortion. That’s something we wouldn’t have said even six months ago, but it’s becoming so apparent right now. And we can actually have this conversation with you that can lead to uniting the church. If we will, if we’re willing to take the politics out, to look at our judgments and have a new way to frame this. 

So I actually see that as an opportunity. I believe that God is behind a lot of this growing discontent in the church of aligning with a political way of framing this. And so I know it feels, for me at least, frustrating. Sometimes I feel tension with it, but God’s been speaking to me and my team to really lean into it, and have those conversations and see what he’s doing and say, “Holy Spirit, what are you doing?” There are several issues happening like this in the church, which I won’t mention all of them, but they’re coming to the surface, which shows me God wants to do a new thing. 

How might I start this conversation with a particular individual?

Lisa Rowe 18:38

Yeah, Angie. What we’re hearing and seeing too, is that oftentimes we’re programmed, like you said, to see abortion as an issue of sides and to never even look for another way to look at it. And so perhaps again, now we’re at 71 like-minded people who have seen and can see abortion from different angles, but the people that are closest to us might not. So what I hear you saying, Angie, is that they’re victim to this program thinking where they only see two sides, but the invitation then comes from us that perhaps there’s a new way. 

Maybe we could role play this for a minute. Perhaps I am attending a church and I’ve been a little nervous about bringing this to my pastor, or men’s leaders, or women’s leaders. How might I start this conversation with that particular individual?

Angie Weszely 19:38

That’s a great question. I think we can start by saying, “Hey, Susan, I know that you’re passionate. [I’m just making up a name for you.] I know that you’re passionate about the church having a compassionate response to abortion. What I’m seeing in my work is that across the nation, really across North America, is that the church is more divided than ever since Roe versus Wade was overturned. And I want you to know that I see that, and I believe there’s a way for us to lean in and have a different conversation in this atmosphere. Would you have a second for me to talk to you about that?”

Then what I do is I lead with the theological points. Here’s what I’m finding… So in these mental models of pro-life and pro-choice that, anytime we talk to someone they’re scanning us. We have this little moral cortex right here that’s like, “Are you on my side or not? Are you in my tribe or not?” Our biggest obstacle is that we have to say to someone, regardless of where they’re coming from on the political spectrum, as a believer in Christ, if you agree with these two theological truths, then we can have this conversation. 

And by the way, if I forget to tell you, this is all in our free ebook, that you can download www.prograce.org. We can even put that in the chat. What I’m going to share is written out, if you don’t want to scribble down notes.

The first theological point is what I talked about from Psalm 1:39, God values the woman and child equally. I lead with that with people, because again, that’s what they’re scanning for. Are you for the woman or the child? So right away, we come in and we call it theological. And we build this common ground with Christians, right? That we all agree on that. 

And then the second core theological belief is that grace is God’s path for transformation. We want to look at the hidden judgments within the church that keep people from coming to us for help. So I start with those two places. And then from there, whatever questions they ask me, I can direct it to different places. But if I just go in saying, “Let’s have a new conversation, let’s take politics out,” that sometimes makes people nervous. So you want to lead with this common ground of what we all believe about God and his heart.

What other topics do pastors preach that they could draw parallels to abortion?

Lisa Rowe 21:50

Absolutely Angie. And what you’re opening up for me, is that then you’re going to have this awakening. I have pastors then say to me, but you know, every time I’ve ever talked about this issue in the past, 50% of my congregation has emailed me upset afterwards, and 50% is celebrating it. So there’s an immediate fear that this is going to become this adversity, a big thing for the church and the pastor’s going I don’t want that. So what you’re inviting them into is saying, Hey, this isn’t about that anymore. So what other topics do pastors preach on that you might then be able to draw parallels to so they can see abortion is no different than ___. Maybe you can help us process that, Angie.

Angie Weszely 22:42

That’s a great question. I actually, Lisa, I don’t have any topics that I draw parallels to because I think this is with some other topics as ones they’re completely afraid to talk about. The only parallel I could make, Lisa, is that those are political issues too, right? What’s happening is that pastors are trying to bring the word of God and God’s compassion for all people being made in the image of God. People’s political paradigms are what cause 50% of the church to email this or that. That’s why we have a whole pastor resource page that you can direct pastors to, because they’re saying to us, How can I talk about this?

I tell them the same thing, Lisa: Frame this first in theology and get people saying, yes, yes. The other piece I tell them is, you have to take this out of politics. So that might be where I draw other parallels – think of all the other issues that you avoid, why do you avoid them? It’s because of the political. And I try to point people’s eyes up to Jesus. 

One thing I say a lot to leaders is What did Jesus do when the Pharisees tried to trap him? Several times it says they did this intentionally to trap him. They would either bring a moral or political dilemma to him, right? Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not? That was a very political question they had for him to try and trap him. He didn’t answer those, did he? He did not fall into the binary. He had a third kingdom answer. 

So I try to ignite hope in Christian leaders. Listen, we don’t have to be bound to politics. We have this God who’s brilliant. We can be creative and think about a third way to talk about this. That does seem to ignite some faith in people because I just think for too long it’s been like this heavy piece on their shoulders – I can’t talk about this. And as they see it getting more divided, right, they just pull more and more away. 

The other thing I would say is that pastors really appreciate talking to someone who spent some time doing research on this. They don’t have time to go look at every issue. We could name five issues that are almost just as explosive for them right now as abortion. So coming as someone who spent time researching and you’re in this field and you can point them to resources that will make it easier for them, for example Here’s a response your church can use after Roe versus Wade was passed. Directing them to some of those very tangible resources helps them have the courage to open up the conversation because even if we’re just talking philosophically, they might agree, but as you said, Lisa, be thinking I’m going to have a sermon and half the church is going to be angry. So if we can direct them to resources, such as Hey, here’s a theological Ebook that’s written for you or Here’s a way you can address it that helps them engage in the conversation.

How has your work been impacted post-Roe?

Lisa Rowe 25:37

Angie, you are giving us such empowerment right now. This has been such a frustration for me because we all, I can’t say this enough, we all carry this. Like just have a compassionate heart, everywhere we go. But because we live in a culture that is shaped by this paradigm, we’re limited by that. So what I feel like you’re giving us is this hand up to say, stop being limited by this. Here’s the courage, here’s the context, here’s the training to take this to the next level – and you’ve had success with it.

I hope that everybody is really leaning into this conversation because the 10 people that you’re serving every year, the 15 people that you’re serving at your church, the five people you’re serving right now – think about that exponentially. If we could get the church involved and really get this spoken from the platform, think of how many more leaders would be present with us. Think of how many more people would understand how to have these conversations around their dining room table. Think of how much more compassion we’d walk with grace, like Angie is sharing. So Angie, thank you so much. As we talk about post-Roe America, how has that really impacted your work specifically, Angie?

Angie Weszely 26:53

That’s a great question. I’m typing in an answer. People are asking about some of the resources it’s www.prograce.org. I put it in the chat, so you have it and we can talk about it more later. There’s a free Ebook there, there’s a page for pastors for free resources. 

How it’s changed for us, Lisa, is, I guess, just what I was saying. I used to be a little more careful, I think. I’m just trying to figure out how to lean into the tension. I’m calling it out more like what I was saying. That’s really, what’s changed in terms of what we do. Nothing has changed. We offer these online small group studies for churches, as well as all these free resources I was recommending because we see when they start thinking and talking differently, women and men start coming up. It makes such a big shift. We’re going to do that. That’s our mission. 

It’s more in not changing our mission or our strategy, but in how we message it and how we get people’s attention. And I would say before my language was a little, maybe softer or more nuanced. Obviously I still want to lead with grace like we talk about, but not being afraid to just step in and name what is happening. I think there’s a boldness that I’m experiencing to just say I want to be part of what the Holy Spirit’s doing, so I’m just going to be bold and talk about it. So we’ve just redone our website with that, and I’d love to get your feedback on it as you guys look at it. We’re just being much more upfront in saying Hey, the church is divided, and if we take it out of politics and do this, we can see a solution. A lot more clarity on that, I think, is an opportunity for all of us to really say Hey, aren’t you tired? Aren’t you tired of this being so divisive? It’s just an opportunity to engage people. 

Lisa Rowe 28:46

I was watching the news station last night with my husband. And, the particular commentator said there are two issues in America in the next 70 days with our voting, and one of them was abortion. We are seeing abortion on our public news stations, on our social media. Everywhere we turn, we’re hearing abortion as an issue. I’ve said this since we started hearing that we were going to see an overturn [of Roe v Wade] that people who have experienced abortion are going to see that word differently than somebody who has been programmed to see that at as a political word. And the more they see that word, the more potentially they could become triggered, or so many other things could happen. So I love that you are following in that boldness because, as loud as these other spaces and places are, we need to be equally as loud.

Angie Weszely 29:42

I think that, as they get so loud, it’s just more and more frustrating for people. So that’s I think why I’m feeling encouraged to tell more people and get in there. We’re offering them a way to relieve this tension. Here’s the tension for people – that they’ve said this in research – I feel like this is an important issue to God, but the way I see this playing out does not feel like Jesus. So there’s literally a theological dissonance with them and we need to affirm that, right? We’re validating what they’re feeling. 

I frame it like this, listen, political parties were created by people to impact laws. Neither one of them is going to be completely biblical. That’s impossible. Right? We have a way for Christians to think about us being citizens of a kingdom and unite around this kingdom answer. That is freeing for people. I think maybe that’s it. If we’re afraid to bring it, like you said, Lisa, there’s so much we don’t want to cause tension, or we don’t want to trigger people. But if we understand that we are relieving them from tension, and we are empowering them to actually engage in something that they think is important, but it feels so gross, they just can’t engage. I think those of us in this work have interpreted that as apathy before. I don’t think it’s apathy. Granted not everyone you talk to is going to have this passion, but when we free them like that, you will see people coming forward who say I’ve wanted to engage, but I wasn’t able to. So you’re out there just looking for those who God is already making ready for this message. And you were unlocking and disconnecting it from the political and giving them the freedom to say Tell me more or Can I engage more? That includes people impacted by unintended pregnancy and abortion because they are remaining silent until they hear someone speak about this a different way.

Lisa Rowe 31:42

Wow. I love that metaphor that you just said, this is ready to be unlocked. Yes. The door, the lock, the bolt is made to be unlocked and locked, right? And right now the only position that it has known to be put in is locked. What I just heard you say, Angie, is you have the key to help them unlock it. It’s ready. It’s created that way to be unlocked. It just never knew it could be unlocked, right? So that’s what you said about the dissonance or the disconnect – you don’t know how something works until you’re explained or shown how it works. So I love that metaphor, Angie, and I really hope that those of you listening can hear this message in a way that perhaps you never have. 

Now we’re at 78 – each of you could pick three people that you’ve never had this conversation with, and that could then spread to 300 people and 3,000 people and 300,000 people because we’re spreading a new way of thinking and we’re unlocking an understanding. So good. That’s awesome, Angie. 

How can pregnancy centers and churches work together to bring hope to their communities?

Lisa Rowe

So we know that a lot of folks that are joining our call today are pregnancy centers. How might you suggest that a pregnancy center work together with the church to bring about this message and to bring hope to the community?

Angie Weszely 32:58

That’s a great question. This comes out of my journey, right? I was leading a pregnancy organization, but wanted to share this content with the church, and that’s actually why we left the direct service work and now focus on the church because we weren’t able to do both. There’s a tension. My staff was like, we serve women. And I was like, I’m passionate about the church changing. So basically ProGrace has created everything we would have wanted to have as a pregnancy organization to engage our churches. 

So when we work with a pregnancy organization in our program, which we call Equip, we give them all these messaging tools that I’m pointing you guys to. We just say, Go out and use these to have this conversation with your church

So I see it happen like this: A lot of times churches are used to pregnancy organizations being like every other nonprofit in the community and coming and asking for volunteers and financial support, right? We’ve done research; you don’t know how many requests for that we get. If a pregnancy organization says Hey, I have some resources to share with you that could help you navigate this conversation, now the relationship has changed, and that’s what I saw happen in Chicago. 

Pastors were calling me for advice. People that never would have taken my phone call before are now calling me for advice because I’m giving them a resource. So you actually changed the nature of the relationship with your churches when they understand you are a resource. 

Secondly, I would say, and we’re seeing this from a lot of our partners, churches are backing away from pregnancy organizations when their message is highly political. So, if you’re a pregnancy organization that doesn’t have political messaging, if you can let them know that, you’ll bring their guard down, and they’ll feel safe connecting with you, because, right now, there’s an assumption Oh, that’s too political, I can’t connect with them. So now you’re helping them know you’re a resource. You’re not political. That’s another way.

So what I see happen is when the ProGrace message goes out into a church, different people say Oh, I want to have this conversation more in my home or my community. And then there’s a lot of people saying, Oh, I want to go directly impact women. So they end up getting connected to the pregnancy organization. So it really does become this synergistic relationship. 

The more the pregnancy organization says Hey, there’s this new way to think and talk, here’s some resources, the more the church engages in that, and the more people come back to the pregnancy organization as donors or volunteers, or even staff. 

So this is how I see it: this movement, the pregnancy center movement, was mainly started by churches, right? The organization I worked for was started by the Moody Church in 1985. That happened in communities all across North America. And kind of the attitude then was Hey, the church is saying, Hey, we know women don’t come to us before an abortion. So instead of doing the hard work of saying, Why don’t women come to us?, they launched pregnancy organizations as separate 501C3s. 

I do think the new move of God is now to use the pregnancy organizations to say Hey, church, let’s integrate because we actually can’t do this work without you. So I love that the pregnancy organization has a special call from God. I see you all as being the bedrock in the community that’s going to stay passionate about this issue because you’re called to it. And you kind of become the center then of the spokes on this wheel. You’re continually bringing it in front of your churches because when that happens, imagine the change in reputation, right? 

That’s what we’re ultimately looking for – that in your community, when someone gets pregnant, they’ll say, Hey, go to this pregnancy organization or this church, because I’ve heard they’re very welcoming. I’ve heard they don’t judge. That’s what we’re looking to shift. So ultimately, it’s my dream is that this is God’s answer to the abortion issue – pregnancy organizations and churches working together. But it’s really by focusing on our own transformation first and stepping back a bit and asking that question that the churches didn’t ask in the eighties, which is Why don’t people come to us? How can we be a safe community? How can we change the reputation so that people are as drawn to us as they were to Jesus? Wow. That’s the goal.

Reframing the conversation and message

Lisa Rowe 37:15

Angie, I can’t help but think if they’re afraid to go to the church before they make an abortion decision, what are the statistics after that abortion decision was made, right? So you said something, as we were preparing for this call, you said you were going to be preaching about it on Sunday, and I’d love for you to share – it was such a gift to me as you shared it – you talked about politics being here and us being here and – I don’t want to give it away. Would you end with that message for us? And then I’ll begin to receive all of the questions that you guys have through the chat, or if you want to raise your hand. Go ahead, Angie. 

Angie Weszely 37:54

Again, it’s this reframing, right? Of thinking that you’ve got pro-life that talks about the needs and rights of the child, and you’ve got pro-choice that talks about the needs and rights of the woman. Our God, our abundant loving God says yes, yes. And this is the idea that God sees. And that’s what I try to tell people – we’re not narrowing down or taking anything away from Christian theology. We’re actually backing up and asking God to expand our way of looking at this to his way of looking at this idea that he sees the big picture, he sees everything that’s happened before, right? Why are a woman and a man together, a family? Why are they considering abortion? How have they been hurt before? What are the systemic reasons pushing them towards this? What are the messages they’re receiving? His heart of compassion sees it all. 

That is where both political sides take a bit of that, don’t they? They each have some compassion for what’s going on and God says Bigger. He just wants this bigger understanding from us as his people, this kingdom perspective that he sees it all; his heart is of compassion. And I think he wants to increase our faith, that he has a way that both the woman and the child could thrive during and after the pregnancy; he has a way for that. And that he also has a way, if a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy, to meet her in that, and for her life afterward. He is so much bigger and better, if I can say that, and more full of grace than we’ve realized. So that’s what we’re calling ourselves to because I know it gets tiring in this work. That’s what we’re calling other Christians to – let’s believe in something better than this binary that pits the two against each other. Let’s ask God for more.

Q&A

Lisa Rowe 39:47

That’s awesome. And that’s what I heard – let’s transcend, let’s rise above this narrative that some of us have gotten locked into, but especially those that our lives are connected to. If we only stay here, what I hear Angie saying is, we’re limiting ourselves and we’re limiting the world.

Angie, I am so grateful for you. I could keep talking. I love this woman. We’re going to open it up for questions. Deb, I see that your hand is raised. So we’re going to start with Deb. If you have questions, please continue to put them in the chat. As you can see, Angie is not a threat at all. Any question is a good question. My sweet sister, Deb, would you ask your question?

Deb 40:29

What an incredible conversation. So vital; love, love it. This is something that our team on the west coast dealt with recently with an event that we just had a week ago. We had churches set up and then as Roe was overturned, they started to pull out because of the division that was going on within their churches. We did finally find a church in Richland, Washington, Grayson Truth Community Church, but it was about five weeks out from the event. 

Everything that you said was so spot on. Many of us believe that Roe was a gift from God to give the church an opportunity, just like you said, to rise above all of the politics. We move away from the politics, but remember that healthy public policy is what we need, and that’s where the church needs to engage, but not in all the fray and all the noise that’s out there. One of the ways, that through the healing recovery work that we have done, is engaging pastors. 

Most, everybody probably does a memorial service in the midst of their abortion healing recovery programs. We actually ask the women to, if their pastor is one they feel safe with, and if they would be willing to ask their pastor with the permission of the other women in the group, if they would give a five to 10 minute message of hope. And one of the things we see every time is the pastors are so blown away with hearing the raw honoring that these women do of their children once they’ve gone through their healing. Is that something that you guys have been doing? We’ve been able to engage pastors in a way that all the other ways weren’t really working, but we then had a group of pastors that they were almost competing for being able to do that because they, it just really melted all of their preconceived ideas about abortion. Some of them even acknowledged their own abortions that they, the pastors, had not healed from. So it’s not really a question, but it’s more just kind of adding that this is a vital discussion for such a time as this, right here, right now.

Lisa Rowe 43:18

Thank you so much, Deb. I’ll turn that back to you, Angie. Is there anything that you would like to add on what you heard Deb share before we move on to the next question?

Angie Weszely 43:27

We really are focused again on the church transforming their mindset. So, the way people engage afterwards changes church by church. So we don’t have any curriculum to answer your question about that, but really want to see that conversation handled with grace, and with counseling when it’s needed, and all of that. So I’m grateful for organizations that are doing that.

Lisa Rowe 43:53

The invitation inside of the healing journey makes it personal and brings humanity to the conversation. So for a pastor, a clergy member, or a leader of a church that has never really experienced the impacts of abortion personally, it can have a major impact. And what Deb’s sharing is the invitation to understanding.

Angie, I’m turning over to the chat for a moment. So if you want to follow along, it says, if there’s a political organization having an educational event on after abortion stress, is it recommended that a pastoral organization not go to this event with a resource table? I guess said differently: If it is a pro-life event or a pro-choice event and a pastor attends, is that in conflict with what you’re sharing?

Angie Weszely 44:42

Again, this is for everybody to navigate. You just have to think, What am I communicating? And if you’re thinking, I’m not sure what we’re communicating, I love, Lisa, how you said, What if it was the other political side? How would you feel about aligning? So I think we have to see them both as equal. And I appreciate what Deborah said. We all live in a democracy. I take my mandate to vote very seriously. It’s just that that’s not my lane in my work, right? So I have this higher calling in my work to not align with either political side. So if I’m going to do one, I need to be able to do both. That’s my personal opinion because people can’t separate your moral stance on abortion, let’s say from your politics. And if, again, if that’s hard to understand, flip the tables and think of our stereotypes of the other side, right? It’s just, we can’t do that. So if we’re going to an event like that, where it’s aligned, any person there who’s been impacted will think we have the characteristics of that political group. It’s just the way the human mind thinks. And so that’s a decision we all have to weigh every time.

Lisa Rowe 45:51

Thank you for that. This next question really meets people that say, I need to call abortion what it is, it’s murder. This particular individual says How can you address or reframe the sinful part of abortion? That is the main source of fear of judgment and seeking healing.

Angie Weszely 46:09

So I would recommend definitely getting our Ebook because I walk through that theologically and even some of the things that trip pastors up, right? They’ll say they don’t want to open up this conversation because they don’t want to say Hey, we’re totally fine with everybody having sex outside of marriage, right? That’s the thing. And so what we do is we understand grace means that none of us, none of us, are up to Jesus’ standards – grace levels the playing field. I think what people are nervous about is Are we minimizing sin? 

No, we’re saying that we all fall short of God’s glory. And we’re actually looking at how Jesus interacted with people. So that’s where all of this is taken from – is if you look at his order, read his stories, especially John 8, which we walk through in the ebook, the order of Jesus. And think about, now compare this to the abortion conversation. When people talk about a sin whose sin do they want us to address? Usually the person who had the abortion, right? And specifically the woman, maybe the man. Jesus has a similar experience in John 8, but when they ask him to address the woman’s sin, whose sin does he talk about first? The religious people’s, right? 

He says to them, if any of you are without sin, cast the first stone. To me, this is a fascinating story for us to look at and hold this up to how we’ve addressed the abortion issue. We do this even more in our training as well, our small group study, because it’s so important in having this mindset shift. The other thing is, when Jesus turns to her, what’s the first truth he says to her? Because people say that to me, grace and truth, grace and truth. It’s like, okay, let’s look at the story. What’s the first truth he shares with her? He says there’s no condemnation. The first truth out of his mouth is grace. He’s going to die to pay for the Pharisees’ sins, for hers. Actually, think about it. We don’t know that she wasn’t trafficked or abused. We don’t know that stuff wasn’t done to her, as well. He is setting her free, there’s no condemnation. And then the third truth he talks about is how she can go live a transformed life. So, again, not trying to water down the gospel, actually trying to expand how we understand the gospel, which is Jesus extends radical grace because he knows that’s the way any of us transform. Shame and judgment doesn’t transform anyone. I’ve never been transformed by shame and judgment. I just take my sin and hide it. Right? And that’s what’s happening in the abortion issue. It just drives it underground. It’s actually causing abortions. When people won’t go to their Christian families, shame is actually causing the abortion, and then shame keeps it hidden. So we have to really look at what does Jesus demonstrate about grace? What does Paul say about grace? And really dive into the scripture. Grace is radical. He extends grace first. Once we know we’re accepted and forgiven, that’s when we can start to live a transformed life. We’ve just so often gotten this backwards in the abortion issue, and that’s part of unlocking people and setting them free, and why I lead with theology and tell everyone to download the ebook or go through our course because we actually systematically walk people through that. We spend a couple hours on just the theology, letting people wrestle with it, letting them write down, letting them talk, so that they can have this Aha experience because that’s what actually frees them up to become the community that would welcome this conversation

Lisa Rowe 49:42

What you just did, Angie, you compared your sin to other people’s sin and what we are all programmed. I see a question in here about what about a Catholic education, or these things, and what I would say to a question like that is that sin is sin and we’re educating about sin no matter what the sin is, except our world has taught us that abortion is the biggest sin. And so what you’ve just articulated so well is that increases the shame. It increases the condemnation. And so if we were able to get out of that robotic understanding and reprogram ourselves, that abortion is one of the many things that our human damaged selves chooses in sin. We would start looking at this issue as we look at domestic violence and divorce and poverty and substance abuse and name the thing that you have seen most prevalent in your family, it would become part of that conversation much like what you did. And that is wonderful. Sometimes that’s the key that needs to be unlocked. Oh, I’ve held that up here and it’s not up here, it’s with everything else.

Angie Weszely 50:56

Yep. Part of my passion is for the church to understand we hold a responsibility in this. Look at what’s happening in the #ChurchToo movement, right? Where you’re seeing all these church leaders that were actually abusive towards women. It is some of the Jesus stories, right? Where the hypocrisy is coming out. Abortion doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There’s a lot of things happening to people, as well. So just opening up that conversation, we’ve been so focused on this one woman at this one time making this one decision and Jesus sees all, right? And he understands everything that led to that. There’s empathy, there’s compassion. And then, like you said, Lisa, there’s the, I’m the same. I don’t have unintended pregnancy or abortion in my lived experience, but I am the same as anyone at the foot of the cross because I have a lot of other things where I’ve tried to meet my needs in the wrong way. So, for the Catholic question, here’s what I would love, I’m going to type an email address if you guys want more information support@progress.org. For the Catholic question, I’d love to give you our course for free actually. And [ask you to] tell me if this will resonate with Catholics, because we did our initial beta testing with a group of Catholic priests and their comment was that this is exactly what the Pope is talking about. So I think it’s interesting that this is happening all across Christendom right now, this idea of grace. So I welcome, even though we come from an evangelical background, our heart is to interact with Christians from all denominations, and I would love for the Catholic folks to give our program a try and see what they think. 

Lisa Rowe 52:38

Absolutely. We have time for one more question. Pauline, if you’re still interested in asking your question, I see your hand raised. If you’ll come off mute and share your question with us.

Pauline 52:50

Hi, uh, my name is Pauline, and I do have a question. Are the resources available in Spanish?

Angie Weszely 52:59

Not yet. Great question, Pauline. They’re not.

Pauline 53:04

Okay. <laugh> okay.

Angie Weszely 53:07

But we’re always paying attention to what God is doing. So again, Pauline, if you want to email that, if you have an idea of where you’d think it would be used in Spanish, just let us know. We can have that conversation offline. Yeah.

Lisa Rowe 53:21

Awesome. Okay. Angie, we have about five minutes left. This has really left some food for thought for us. There was a question at the very beginning and I’d like to end with this. You said there are two theological points that we all as Christians should walk with when we’re talking to people that are maybe programmed to see this as a political issue, what would you, can you repeat those and maybe send us home with a word of love and compassion.

Angie Weszely 53:51

So the first theological point is that God values the woman and child equally. When you play this out to our language, this is why I don’t use the word pro-life or pro-choice ever to describe myself. Because as soon as we say one of those words, we’re communicating to half the population that we don’t care about the other person. And so this is why language follows the theology. That is the first thing I’d love people to think about. Even as we describe what we do, what are different ways that we can talk about it? So people will believe us when we say we value the woman and child equally. 

The second is that grace is God’s path for transformation. So thinking about all the ways that we have hidden judgments toward people who become pregnant, and how we put that on this one woman at this one time without understanding there’s a man involved, without understanding a lot of people in our churches are engaged in sex outside of marriage. And the church needs to really talk about that. Understanding that Jesus says lust is the same as adultery and hatred, the same as murder. So again, it’s like church, let’s have this conversation aboutGod’s intent for sexuality. Don’t put that on the pregnant woman. Now you’re just making her be silent. Let’s expand the conversation. 

The other thing I’d love to say to this group is thinking about some of our language as we talk about women who’ve experienced abortion. So I discovered a few years ago that the word post-abortive is very offensive to some people. And I started asking why, and it’s because it’s an identifier. It’s as if we’re saying this is the identity, you are a post-abortive person. I’m not doing that with my sin. I’m not calling myself a post- whatever God has freed me from. Right? So just thinking about that subtle thing – why don’t we just say a woman who has experienced an abortion, right? Or a man who was part of an abortion? That doesn’t identify; it’s part of their story. It’s not an identifier. [Saying] abortion experience is great. Maybe no one on here does this, but that’s one word that comes up over and over in working with pregnancy organizations. No one is doing it on purpose. We just haven’t had a conversation where someone [says] Ooh, ouch. And that’s the point of getting out there and talking about it differently because then people will be honest. They’ll say actually When you say this, I don’t believe that you value the woman in child equally, right? Or I don’t believe you’re leading with grace. So that’s the last thing I’ll say about it.

I love that you guys are doing what you’re doing. I love that you’re leaning in after Roe versus Wade. If we can be of any support, I put the email in there, www.prograce.org, you can go on the website. There’s ton of free resources. I just want to say thank you for wanting to have a grace-filled conversation that reflects Jesus to people. I love it.

Lisa Rowe 56:42

Angie, thank you so much for your time. I hope that she gave you lots to chew on today and that you’re inspired to take this back to those three people that you have never talked to about abortion and walk with a compassionate message. We will be emailing you all of the resources Angie shared, but if you want to click on the chat quickly, she’s also dropped them there. And I heard her offer you a free resource. If you don’t take her up on it, that’s on you. Her resources are huge and life changing. We’ll see you next month. The link to register will be in that email as well. I appreciate each of you and the time you took out of your day to spend it with us and I look forward to seeing you next month. Thank you Angie.

Angie Weszely 57:29

Thanks everybody.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent or the program host, Support After Abortion.

How Do You Find and Connect to Resource Options that Best Meet Client Needs?

Lisa Rowe with Teri Baxter, Karen Ellison, Sheila Harper, Angelica Quezada, and Perry Underwood

Recap of August 18, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar

Introduction

“Today we get to sit at the feet of several who have been in the abortion healing movements and doing their unique work for a very long time,” started Lisa Rowe, CEO of Support After Abortion, “We hope you will leave with inspiration in your heart and mind. Consider your own abortion healing program, look at what these folks are doing, see what you might be able to add, so you can expand your reach to those that are looking for healing. Our consumer research shows that 90% of those who are hurting after abortion experiences don’t know where to go for help. In order to reach them it’s absolutely vital that we offer services that they want to pursue – that will provide a place and space to meet them right where they are.” 

Speakers

Teri Baxter – Director of H3Helpline, a virtual 24/7 helpline based in Texas with phone coaches located all over the U.S.

Perry Underwood – Executive Director of SRT Services based in Spokane, WA. Operating for nine years throughout the U.S. and several countries around the world.

Karen Ellison – Founder of Deeper Still. “I had an abortion at age 22,” Karen shared, “I knew early on I didn’t want to live in bondage for the rest of my life, which led me into the pro-life movement and the pregnancy center network. I wanted to help others not live in bondage forever and that led me to develop this retreat. Our home office is in Knoxville, TN.”

Sheila Harper – President and Founder of SaveOne, a 22 year old abortion recovery ministry headquartered in Nashville, TN that has 362 chapters in 28 nations. SaveOne helps men, women, and families recover after abortion through three studies we developed. “Like Karen, I have my own abortion story from an abortion I had in 1985.  I went through a horrible aftermath. It was the freedom I found that I wanted other people to experience that got me involved in the pro-life movement.” 

Angelica Quezada – LMHC and Director of Mental Health Programs at the Institute for Reproductive Grief Care / Life Perspectives located in San Diego, CA. Our mission is to instill hope, change, understanding, and healing by developing trainings and establishing mental health resources, as well as data collection and research.

Lisa said, “I’m also participating today as a LCSW, providing that wrap-around approach for all of you watching. You’ll get to see the program approach, clinical approach, helpline approach, and virtual approach. You’ll get to touch and feel a little bit of all of it.”

Program Overviews

SRT Services

Perry Underwood

www.SRTServices.org

perry@srtservices.org 

We have three programs: AbAnon (Abortion Anonymous) – our abortion recovery program; SavAnon (Sexual Abuse Victims Anonymous) – for those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse or assault; and MiSAnon (Miscarriage and Stillbirth Anonymous) – for those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth.

We have three types of groups: in-person throughout the country, virtual (most of our groups are this type), and hybrid (some people in the group are in-person, others attend online). Each of our groups is limited to eight participants. We have groups going on all the time all around the world. We have an intake process where we determine if they are group ready. We may want to walk them through some things before we put them in a group. They’re going to deal with some pretty tough emotions, so we want to be sure that they’re group ready.

Our programs are a little different from others in that we operate from the assumption that our participants are not Christian. So, our programs are not overtly religious, but they’re highly evangelistic because we introduce the Gospel in everyone of our programs. But we tell our participants right up front, It’s not a bait-and-switch – we’re going to talk about God, Jesus, and healing because these things are important. But we’re not going to start there. We’re going to start with the emotions and the things you dealt with through your miscarriage, or your sexual abuse, or whatever the class might be.

Just as important as our programming, we also provide a free marketing model for pregnancy resource centers (PRCs). In a Post-Roe world we’re going to see a huge transition. I think that’s probably the biggest problem we’ve had with abortion recovery is that we haven’t been marketing it well. I’ve written a book called A Case for the SRT Marketing Model. It’s available on Amazon, but people can also email me, and we’re happy to mail a copy if the $10 is a challenge. We talk about how PRCs can expand their reach and effectiveness through some simple changes in how they operate and how they market themselves. 

Only one-third of 1% of the population in your area will be affected by an unexpected pregnancy this year. Finding that one-third of 1% in your marketplace is a nightmare for marketing. So, we give you some clues for how to get around that. When you deal with sexually-related traumas (past abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth, sexual abuse and assault, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies) you’re expanding your reach through half of the adults in the population you serve.

Lisa thanked Perry for sharing what SRT does and stated that, “We at Support After Abortion send many referrals to Perry.”

H3Helpline

Terri Baxter

https://h3helpline.org/

terryb@hehelpline.org

We are the 911 when women have an abortion. They traditionally called us five or ten years out. But as you have seen as pregnancy center directors and abortion recovery people, now they’re calling us the day of their abortion, they’re calling us the week of their abortion. We also receive abortion-minded calls. Our protocol is to refer – we want to help them find a local recovery program. We’d love to send them a follow-up email because we know when they get off the phone, they’re going to feel good and won’t need us the next morning. Maybe they’ll remember that email when they’re triggered. 

We like to offer options for a weekend retreat, a face-to-face weekly program, and a virtual resource. After that we follow-up with a phone call. With their permission (since everything is confidential), we’ll see how they’re doing and if the resources we gave are adequate. We use a database to collect that information. OUr team includes a man to call the men back and a Spanish speaker. And we just added texting. We have cards with our information that we send to all pregnancy centers.

Lisa added, “Terri has helped us so much at Support After Abortion with our After Abortion Line. We really value how you’re able to provide 24-hour coverage by somebody who has actually walked in these shoes. Can you say more about that?”

Terri replied, “We are always looking for H3Helpline coaches, but one of the prerequisites is that coaches have to have a healing story from abortion. We can offer that we’ve had one, and the change in their voice is just immediate. Then that wall breaks down immediately where we can talk to them and listen to them. Then we can evaluate what kind of help they’re looking for.

Lisa commented, “Our research supports exactly that – that most people who’ve experienced abortion want to speak to somebody who understands where they’ve come from.”

Deeper Still

Karen Ellison

www.deeperstill.org 

Karen.Ellison@GoDeeperStill.org 

We offer a free weekend retreat that’s Friday through noon on Sunday. We have 27 chapters in the U.S. and we’re working on expanding that. We also have a special outreach to Chinese individuals. We have one Chinese chapter in Atlanta, we offer a Chinese retreat in Knoxville each year, and we have a team in China. We are working on getting a team in Taiwan.

I had done a lot of Bible studies, which I love. But I know that sometimes it’s hard for people – when it’s painful and hard to face. Sometimes you can keep it up in your head, and it’s hard to get that 18” down to your heart. So, I asked the Lord to help me find a way to help people to not only understand your word and truth, but to experience your love. It’s the love of God that changes people – that opens their hearts so they can receive. 

Our retreats our real high touch. What I mean by that is that we really want them to both experience relationally, to connect with people who are for them and want to help them get their healing. We want to feel like a really safe place to do that.

Over the years we’ve observed that people don’t really understand the degree to which abortion has affected them. They know they feel bad, but they don’t really know how to drill down deep. Like, how do I get to the root of that? What made me vulnerable for this in the first place? So every step of our retreat we try to build upon the previous step to try to help them take deeper steps. 

One of the things I’ve observed a lot, especially Christians, is that they feel like once they’ve been forgiven, or once they feel like they’ve received forgiveness from the Lord, that that’s their heal, like that’s it. They’re really taken aback, like what else is there to do? Where else should I go? So we really try to help them know that forgiveness is just the beginning. Your debt has been canceled. Now God wants to heal your wounds. What are those wounds? Let’s give Him permission to access those places in your heart. 

We also have a team approach, and our team members each have different gifts and play a different role. So our participants benefit from a whole lot of love and uniqueness. We invite men to our retreats as well. We use a lot of tangible symbols that people can touch to help them go from their head to their heart.

Lisa said, “I love how gently you said you felt there was more than the Bible Study approach. So many of you watching have found your own abortion healing through one type of study, and you’re set on that one kind of study for healing people. Karin, I love how you expounded on that as someone who has experienced abortion and gone through a Bible Study approach and is now offering something else. 

Some people who come to our retreats are not believers yet, and they find the Lord there for the first time. Some are believers, but they feel like they’ve forfeited their salvation because they think abortion was an unforgivable sin. Others have already gone to way-deep places with God, but He always has another, deeper space. We always tell people this isn’t just about your abortion, it’s about what has God called you to, what is your identity, and what does God have for you? Let’s help open that door for you.

Lisa added, “You’ve really exemplified that healing isn’t a one-and-done, it’s a journey.”

SaveOne

Sheila Harper 

www.saveone.org 

sheila@saveone.org 

What Karen and Lisa said is so true. I’ve been doing SaveOne for 22 years. Before that I used a different program. I went through a Deeper Still retreat myself a few years ago because I wanted to learn more and encourage them, yet I uncovered parts of me that needed healing. I was shocked that I had this part of me that God needed to do something with. It was beautiful. I loved it.

When we first started SaveOne we only concentrated on women because we had bought into the idea that abortion is a women’s issue. I wrote a women’s Bible study, and we were having success at our church with women coming out and talking openly about their abortion experiences and what God did for them. 

Then I had a man come up to me and ask to go through the women’s Bible study, and I didn’t really know what to do with him. I knew I wasn’t going to tell him no, I’m not going to help you. He was hurting, so I told him to come. It was absolutely beautiful. Another man came to the next Bible study that we offered. Then my husband and I got a clue and realized that men do suffer after an abortion. This isn’t just a women’s issue. This is just as much a men’s issue. So, my husband and I wrote the men’s study, but we made it mirror the women’s study. So, it’s very easy for a couple to go through the study together. It’s also easy to invite men and women who are abortion wounded into your class. 

Then we started having grandparents and siblings of aborted children want to come through the study. So, I wrote a third study called The Ripple Effect. It mirrors the men’s and women’s studies as well. As a church, you can invite anyone from your community who is abortion wounded to one abortion recovery class and hold it in your churches. 

We focus on the church mostly. All of our chapters are in churches, pregnancy centers, or stand-alone ministries. We feel like so many times pastors steer away from the subject of abortion becase they think it’s political, they don’t want to divide their church, they don’t want to make everyone mad, so they just don’t even deal with the subject. We’re saying you can deal with this issue by the church just being the church and being that place of hope and healing that people can come and finally lay down this wound and open themselves and allow God to heal them from the inside out. It’s absolutely beautiful to see this take place. 

We offer training several different ways. We’ll come to your facility, your church, or whatever to train your team. We have online streaming videos that you have access to forever after you purchase them. Once per quarter we have an online training that you can register for right on our website. We’ve made it very easy and economical. You can also take it and fit it to the culture of your organization – whether it’s a ministry, church, nonprofit, or pregnancy center. Take it and run with it how it works for you.

We have the traditional 10-12 week class that fits well in churches because they usually work on a semester system. We also have Weekend+6, which is a weekend retreat followed by six weeks. Men seem to like the Weekend+6 better. 

Through the years, I’ve seen a common thread in the stories of men and women who come to us for help. It was the fact that Perry mentioned earlier – that so many of them had some type of sexual trauma in their past. We started realizing that these really go hand in hand, and if we can help them heal from sexual trauma, we’ll have far less abortions. Just as many men as women started coming to us for sexual trauma recovery, so I wrote another Bible study called Finding You: Recovering Your Identity After Sexual Trauma.

Institute for Reproductive Grief Care Life Perspectives

Angelica Quezada

www.abortionchangesyou.com 

angelica@lifeperspectives.com  

Grief after an abortion is disenfranchised grief. We don’t talk about it. At times we don’t acknowledge it. People are suffering in silence. At the Institute for Reproductive Grief Care we have created a safe space for people to begin their healing journeys after abortion or other reproductive loss. One of the spaces we’ve created is a bilingual website with English and Spanish sections. It serves men, women, couples, grandparents – anyone who is impacted by abortion, whether the experience happened recently or years ago. This website is free, anonymous, 24/7, and judgment-free. It’s for those who want to share their story and begin their process of healing.  

The Healing Pathways tab on our website offers a series of exercises such as building support, exploring emotions, healing, identifying losses, telling your story, finding help, and a list of unhealthy behaviors (warning signs to look for). Building a healthy support system when going through grief is really important. People experience a range of emotions after abortion at different levels of intensity and exploring those is really important. Our Emotion Wall is an online space where people log in and share their feelings. Sometimes we don’t have the words to express our feelings, this is a tool to start identifying some of the emotions you’re feeling. The Healing section reminds us that we don’t have to have it all together, rather we’re taking steps at our own pace. In this process of healing and exploring emotions, other past losses might pop up, the pain and grief is real, as is the ability to adapt to our losses and heal. 

The most visited part of our website is Telling Your Story, which they can do anonymously. 

Lisa recapped saying, “You’re getting a spectrum of the types of healing programs that are out there. Not everyone is ready for one particular way. Some people want to start with their sexual trauma. Other people need to know there’s a warm body on the other side of the line. Maybe somebody’s not ready to even hear or talk to someone, and they can go to a website like www.abortionchangesyou.com, and go through a self-guided process.

“Adding value to our conversation as a clinician,” Lisa shared, “I’ve met with so many clients who don’t lead with an abortion wound as the thing that’s bothering them in that moment. But as they begin to enter into that therapeutic relationship, maybe what started as a relationship issue or substance abuse or depression, as we dig deeper we see that this is way bigger, and there is an abortion experience underneath the surface. It’s important as a clinician to be prepared for that – and to know about the services out there.”

She continued, “A lot of times men and women don’t start with their abortion experiences. Some don’t even understand that it’s a wound for them because of the cultural narrative. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but just for the sake of us understanding: we’re trying to create a very clear pathway here for you to say, We want to start where anybody is and we know that a lot of our world is impacted by abortion. So if we’re not offering that variety of care, we’re missing out on a tremendous amount of people that are likely in our families, in our communities, in our workplaces, and so on.

Q & A

Lisa read questions submitted by participants to be answered by either a specific speaker or the full panel.

Q.  I hope some from this group are writing articles for newspapers and journals. There are so many people who do not admit the possibility of abortion trauma. 

Lisa: Maybe one of you feels compelled to share – What are you doing outside of your work in the abortion healing industry to help people know that you are there.

A. Perry Underwood:  Newspaper is no longer how people communicate. We cover that in our marketing model. Social media is how you get the word out, getting stories and video out there, reels produced. There’s not just one quick, simple thing to do. It’s a combination of many things because different people are touched in different ways using different methods. Use the resources you have to touch as many people as you can in the various ways you can. If you don’t have a marketing person on your team, I’d encourage you to find one. Another great thing is getting champions in churches, organizations, and businesses around your community to talk about your organization and the services you provide.

Q.  Once they learn that God has forgiven them in the retreat, how do you help them learn to forgive themselves? 

A. Karen Ellison:  It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Maybe one way I could describe it is Jesus calls people out of the grave, like Lazarus. But then he said “now you, take his grave clothes off.” I feel like when we have this team approach to ministry and relationally connect with clients, they open their hearts up deeper to how God wants to heal them. Sometimes there may be a particular exercise we might do at a retreat and boom, they just get it, and suddenly they feel that freedom of being released from their shame. It takes our choice, our willingness to surrender to receive that. Then the affirmation of the Body of Christ really reinforces that for people.

Q.  How can a clinic be added to the list of providers you give to clients? 

A. Terri Baxter – We do not do a true database because there are so many excellent databases out there, and we network with them all. If you want to be included in the H3Helpline, email me at terryb@hehelpline.org, and I can tell you about our state pages and how to be added. We only have a few select resources on those state pages because there are so many.

Q.  We’re relaunching our abortion healing program and are struggling to find the balance between secular and spiritual curriculum. On one hand we don’t want to use all secular materials because true forgiveness can’t happen outside of Christ. But on the other hand, we don’t want to be so overly spiritual that we scare women away.

A. Sheila Harper: We are always upfront that everything we do is based on scripture. But at the same time, in our training, we have a whole section where I’m talking to these Christians and these church people. I tell them to be welcoming of unbelievers because we encourage them to invite people from the community. They’re not naturally thinking Oh, I can go to the church and tell them I’ve had an abortion. They’re coming to you for abortion healing. We’re not here to thump them over the head and say You’ve gotta be saved. You’ve gotta come to church. A lot of times that just happens by the Holy Spirit. 

       We can offer them our proven track record. Whatever curriculum you use has a track record, so talk to them. These are success principles that we’ve seen in people that have come through and their life is changed because God’s Word is true. When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. So when we take that time to offer ourselves to Him, change always occurs for the better. 

       Don’t come after them thumping the Bible, just offer them what they came to you for – abortion recovery help. Living your life in front of them, loving and accepting them right where they are, instead of preaching to them. You’re just loving them and saying This is what I went through. This is how God healed me. I want the same for you. Let’s do this together. It’s not being overly spiritual. It’s not like trying to shove religion down their throat. It’s just the church being the church, loving people where they are. 

       It’s an amazing discovery for them because so many times their view and their thoughts have been tainted about the church – that they’re going to be judged and condemned. You’re just loving them and you don’t care how bad their story is, you don’t care that they’ve had four abortions, you’re just there to walk this out with them. Then it’s like the whole world opens up to them, and they recognize that I can deal with this in the church. It’s beautiful.  

Lisa: This is legitimate conversation – and it’s coming from a pastor’s wife! This opens the conversation that wounds are wounds. And when our wounds are the first thing that we open our eyes to every day, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. So our goal at Support After Abortion, and I know for every presenter, is to meet that person right where they are – because if that wound is right there in front of them and getting them into a Bible study is like pulling teeth, we just want to be present there with them. It might be because of an unexpected pregnancy. It might be because they just became homeless. It might be fill-in-the-blank. So we want to meet them right where they are and walk with them through this process, which is why each one of these presenters are here today. You’re going to meet clients on all ends of this spectrum, and we want you to have the tools to meet them right where they are and continue to love them right where they need to be loved.

Q.  Could each leader discuss the ongoing support that you provide pregnancy centers after they onboard programming? 

A. Terri Baxter (H3Helpline) –  PCs can pass out our cards. I would ask the reverse question – how can PRCs keep us updated that they’re active and that they have groups. That helps us to keep our information fresh. Probably the most frustrating part of a helpline is giving resources and nobody returning the client’s call or having the client learn they only have a group once a year.

Perry Underwood (SRT Services) – Once we partner with a PRC we have a transition plan, then we go through with them page-by-page a marketing model (how you get people in the door). After the marketing model, we go through a service model (what you do with people once they come in the door). The third piece is a care model (how do we take care of our clients ongoing to make sure they’re on that path to a transformed life, a path to a relationship with Christ.) We do monthly huddles to go over it and get feedback. We also bring PRCs together in common areas to chat about how it’s working, challenges, victories, and so forth. The monthly huddles is the key to that question.

Karen Ellison (Deeper Still) – You certainly want to know the PRCs in your area. Several of our chapters are actually ministries of PRCs – their abortion healing outreach is a Deeper Still chapter. Our real key and our follow up is to really help people get connected to the local church where they can live out their healing and have ongoing support and relationships. We’re not trying to be the church to them, but we want to direct them to the church. My message to the church is it’s not enough to have a culture of life, you have to develop a culture of healing. And if you develop a culture of healing, then they’re going to come out of the woodwork and come out of the closet. And we want to support that in their growth – in church and to the bigger Body of Christ.

Sheila Harper (SaveOne) – When you become a chapter of SaveOne (it’s free), we list you in our extensive database on our website. So it’s very simple for someone to just click and be connected to your leader right there at your pregnancy center, totally bypassing our office. We want to steer people to you and to your abortion healing program. Secondly, we have coordinators for each and every single state. Your state coordinator is your liaison for questions, etc. We have a private Facebook group for all our chapter leaders that is very active with leaders gleaning, helping, and sharpening each other. We have a very strong network of chapters that we stay in touch with and that are pretty awesome people.

Q.  Angelica, would you talk a little bit about how you provide your credentialing process for language and how you go about helping pregnancy centers elevate their game? 

A. Angelica Quezada (Institute for Reproductive Grief Care) – We have a Director of Pregnancy Centers and Clinics, Sarah West. She and another coworker developed a certification for PCs or other organizations who would like to take our trainings. Our trainings are focused on compassionate care and how we can provide the healing resources that individuals need, as well as that self-care that providers need to not carry that vicarious trauma or compassionate grief that we can sometimes experience when we hear these stories. Feel free to email me to learn more about our courses that entail the certification process. 

Kylee Heap, Chief Operating Officer, Support After Abortion shared information about a soon-to-be-released resource. 

Support After Abortion is working on a resource to provide a comprehensive list of programs across the country to help you discern the various options that exist that may meet your client in the space and place where they currently sit. The options run a gamut of whether or not it’s offered for men and women, whether there’s a Spanish offering, whether it’s religious or secular, in-person or virtual. We also take a deep dive into how long it is, how much time it takes to prep each week for the healing program, how long each session will take, and more. This resource is something that we’ll be continuously growing. We invite you to add your resource to the list by emailing us at providers@supportafterabortion.com. As part of the resource, we worked with providers to come up with a 75 words or less description of what they would say if they were on an elevator and just had three minutes to tell us about their program. This is the resource list is the platform from which you might jump into learning more on the various providers’ websites. We look forward to providing you with this helpful resource we’re building.

Watch the video of this month’s webinar.

Register for next month’s Abortion Healing Provider Webinar.