ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Jan. 22 will mark the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic and horrific Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in America. Southern Baptists won’t be celebrating, though.
Instead, they can celebrate the fact that due to hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers across the United States supported by SBC churches, an estimated 3,500 babies were spared from abortion during 2007. Additionally, some 5,000 women accepted Christ because pregnancy center staff members shared the Gospel with them.
Through October 2007 — the period through which exact statistics were available — almost 94,000 clients had received counseling and free services from the centers; center staff had shared the Gospel with 28,000 girls and women; and almost 2,700 Southern Baptist volunteers were trained to present the Gospel to center clients.
One life-saving example is in Florida, where more than 700 infants are alive today because of the work in 2007 at First Life Center for Pregnancy, an outreach of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.
During First Life Center’s 20 years of operations, some 8,000 children have been born to the center’s clients, according to Sandy Epperson, the center’s director for 17 of those 20 years.
“We [had] a record-breaking year in 2007,” Epperson said of First Life, which through the latter part of the year had handled more than 6,200 clients, presented the Gospel to almost 1,000 clients. More than 100 had made decisions for Christ.
First Life Center operates out of a 3,000-square-foot facility on the First Baptist Church campus but in April the pregnancy center –- along with the church’s counseling center — will move to a brand new 14,000-square-foot facility. First Life employs five full-time employees plus an ultrasound technician on an as-needed basis.
“One of the most effective tools for combating the abortion clinics is the local crisis pregnancy center,” said Elaine Ham, national consultant for pregnancy care ministries for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in Alpharetta, Ga., and formerly a pregnancy center director in South Carolina for eight years before coming to NAMB.
“Since 1973, over 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers [SBC and non-SBC] have opened to provide alternatives to abortion and to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of women and men whose lives have been touched by abortion.”
Hundreds of these centers, Hum said, are supported by local Southern Baptist churches -– like First Baptist in Orlando -– and 222 are affiliated with NAMB’s pregnancy care ministries.
“While crisis pregnancy centers have certainly made a difference in the number of abortions performed annually, the numbers [of abortions] are still alarmingly high,” Ham said. “Few people realize that in the United States, one out of three pregnancies ends in abortion. Most people also don’t realize that abortion is legal for the entire nine months of the pregnancy.”
Pregnancy center clients, Ham said, range from 12-year-old girls who think they might be pregnant to 50-year-old women who had abortions as teenagers and still suffer the emotional scars of post-abortion syndrome.
“Some come to the centers simply to get diapers for their newborns while others mistakenly think they are at the abortion clinic,” Ham said. “Whatever the reason for the visit, they all share a common need –- the loving touch of Jesus Christ. Above all else, that’s what our crisis pregnancy centers provide.
“Every staff person and every volunteer are trained to listen as a pregnant woman shares her story, and then to respond in a way that will meet her practical needs and, at the same time, discern her relationship with God. To the extent the client permits, a staff member shares the Gospel and gives her the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ.”
Girls and women, Ham said, abort their babies for a myriad of reasons: fear over what parents, a spouse or the baby’s father will do or say; concern that friends and family will find out; fear that a baby would interfere with school or a career; a belief they already too many children in the family; or a belief they are financially incapable of raising a child.
“Regardless of the reasons, more than 95 percent of abortions are performed as a matter of convenience –- not because of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother,” Ham said.
Jan. 20 has been designated as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” by the Southern Baptist Convention. That Sunday is observed annually on the closest Sunday to the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and is a day for pro-life sermons, Bible studies and promotion of adoption.
Since the Roe vs. Wade decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 1973, nearly 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States. More than a million American women and girls will have an abortion this year.
Worldwide, about 46 million abortions occur each year, or about 126,000 abortions a day, according to the pro-choice Alan Guttmacher Institute.
For more information on how to start a crisis pregnancy center or support an existing center, visit www.namb.net/pregnancy or call 1-800-962-0851
In support of “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” on Jan. 20, LifeWay Christian Resources will offer a church bulletin insert entitled “Faith and Family Impact.” The inserts are available in packages of 100 for $10 each. To order, contact www.lifeway.com or call LifeWay Customer Service at 1-800-448-8032.
For more about the Southern Baptist position on abortion, visit www.erlc.com, the website for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.