In post-Roe world, pro-lifers will be there for women and babies: Lifeline president
With the U.S. Supreme Court potentially poised to overturn decades of precedent making abortion a national right, national and local pregnancy resource centers are making preparations to support women and babies in a post-Roe world.
"The truth of the matter is, Lifeline [Children's Services] and other organizations like ours, we're ready," Lifeline President Herbie Newell said in an interview with The Christian Post. "We're scaled for the ability to help more women."
Newell's organization helps pregnant women create an adoption plan and build skills through budgeting and job training classes. Lifeline currently has just under 200 staff members working in 16 states throughout the U.S. and about 60 international partners and staff members. It is primarily funded through donor and corporate support and private grants.
While optimism in the pro-life community builds as the nation's high court is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban, Newell said his organization is about as ready as they've ever been for the overturning or weakening of the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that interpreted abortion access as a right under the 14th Amendment.
According to a May 2 Politico report, a leaked draft opinion shows that the court's Republican-appointed Justices may be leaning toward reversing Roe. A statement the following day by the court verified the authenticity of the draft opinion but also said the draft does not reflect the final ruling.
"We've already recruited and prepared church partners and legal partners to be able to get those women to the best places where they can be helped," Newell said. "In the last year, we have scaled to the point where we're ready to work with women in all 50 states and even in the states where we may not have a physical presence."
Another organization that is ready to scale up its services in a post-Roe world is the Human Coalition, a national collective that has aided thousands of mothers through the years in making the hard choice to give birth instead of abort. The organization's "unique" telecare services connect women to needed resources.
Human Coalition President Jeff Bradford told CP that his organization is forming partnerships with state governments — particularly pro-life states like Texas — and local pregnancy centers to connect women with supportive services.
Over the last year and a half, Human Coalition has brought on specialists to connect women to employment, housing or education services. They've also approached pastors throughout the country and equipped them with information about the group and its partners.
Human Coalition plans to launch a "pilot program" in Texas sometime this summer to help reduce infant morbidity. Bradford said Human Coalition is working with doctors to help promote healthy pregnancies and connect women with early OB/GYN care.
"We're looking at programs that can help women, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, socioeconomic situations that are more difficult for that," Bradford said. "And we want to make sure that we, as the pro-life movement and the Church, can come alongside her and help."
Roland Warren, the president and CEO of Care Net, believes it's a "misconception" that the only response to a potential overturn of Roe is building more pregnancy centers.
Care Net provides practical support services to women and families, operating more than 1,100 affiliates throughout the country.
"You have to understand it's not just about the woman. It's not just about saving the baby. It's about reaching the guy, creating a family," he told CP.
On March 4, the organization hosted the first pro-life men's conference in Dallas, Texas, inviting men to participate in supporting pregnancy centers. Care Net plans to host another conference within 12 to 18 months.
Care Net has also increased the number of coordinators involved in its Life Disciples Progam, recently hiring new coordinators in Florida and Texas. The program equips churches to come alongside and support women and men contemplating their pregnancy decisions.
Warren believes that the pregnancy center model alone — care from conception to birth — is not enough in a post-Roe society.
"The model has to be engaging guys, so he's that support," Warren said. "And if that's not possible, then the Church comes in and steps in to assist."
More than 2,000 churches have purchased and implemented the discipleship kit since Care Net began the program in 2015. According to Warren, that number has continued to grow over the years.
Executive Director Susan Barrett of the Chicago-based Aid for Women pregnancy care centers said the organization opened two additional centers in Waukegan and Wheeling, Illinois, last year.
Aid for Women has five center locations. In addition to pregnancy support services, the organization offers maternity housing — Heather's House and Monica's House. The organization states on its website that many women choose abortion because they "lack adequate housing or will be otherwise homeless if they choose life."
Aid for Women recently hired three nurses and sonographers, and Barrett said there are plans to potentially implement telehealth services. But the most significant push right now is to expand the number of hours at each location, she said.
"So we're definitely looking at different ways to expand and to meet the needs," Barrett said.
Caring Network President Kirt Wiggins, who leads a network of Illinois-based pregnancy resource centers, estimates the number of women seeking abortions in Illinois will be in the "thousands" if Roe falls.
Illinois is among 16 states that have over the years enshrined abortion access into state law in case Roe is overturned. According to Illinois.gov., over 46,000 abortions took place in Illinois in 2020, and over 9,600 women traveled out of state for an abortion.
Wiggins said that Caring Network was already strategizing about outreach efforts for the last two years before Dobbs and the leak. The possibility that Roe could be overturned added a "greater sense of urgency" to the organization's work.
Caring Network has hired three new pregnancy consultants and one marketing writer within the last few months. They're also looking to implement a telecare clinic to serve women out of state before they travel to Illinois for an abortion.
The third measure involves building new centers in the most "strategic" locations in Illinois to reach more women.
"I feel like the Lord has helped us be ready for this," Wiggins said. "I'm thankful we've been able to be thinking it through well and planning well."