Lisa Rowe with Teri Baxter, Karen Ellison, Sheila Harper, Angelica Quezada, and Perry Underwood
Recap of August 18, 2022 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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 email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.