After Texas passed legislation that further restricted abortions in the state, some people are looking afresh at the organizations that helped make our state more pro-life. I’ve seen many speculate about the motivation, character, and quality of crisis pregnancy centers in particular.
Having started my career working at one, I thought it would be helpful to recount my experience—and maybe dispel some misconceptions.
When the Cause Matters Most
I’ve been disillusioned with many organizations over the years. I get grossed out by a lot of the sausage-making that happens behind closed doors of seemingly noble causes.
For example, I had dinner with a lobbyist the last time I was in D.C. On paper, this person represents me and my interests. Yet, as we discussed underlying principles, the lobbyist glazed over. When I asked questions about policy proposals, he answered listlessly. He only lit up at one point, as he described in great detail his access to power.
He told me which congressman uses what gym, which senate staffer gets coffee where, and how he orchestrates strategic run-ins with these people at opportune times. The “cause” felt like a means to the end of power, not the other way around. I left the dinner more aware of how Satan can use even good causes to stir up wicked desires.
My experience on the ground at a crisis pregnancy center couldn’t have been more different. Fourteen years ago, I had the opportunity to work in development for a crisis pregnancy center in College Station, Texas. There is no better way to become cynical about an organization than to raise funds for it. You see everything at its absolute worst on the inside, and then you have to describe the organization at its best to everyone on the outside. The discontinuity can easily lead to disillusionment.
But here’s the honest truth. Having been behind closed doors, working closely with countless volunteers and staff, I’ve never seen an ugly underbelly of crisis pregnancy centers. While they’re often caricatured as “right wingers who use guilt to trick women out of getting abortions,” that was never my experience.
Contrary to Caricatures
The most admired figure in the movement isn’t some firebrand conservative politician; it’s Mother Teresa. While being pro-life is associated with the “right wing” of American politics, you’d probably be surprised by the average volunteer’s politics. Many radically oppose the penal system generally and the death penalty particularly, and many are quite active in environmental conservation efforts. These are people who don’t fit neatly in our political categories.
And if you visited a crisis pregnancy center, I don’t think you’d feel a heavy fog of guilt as much as a pervasive ethos of grace. I’ve never been around more open-minded, accepting people than the women who volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers. They don’t show up to oppose something. They show up to support people, especially vulnerable people.
I’ve never been around more open-minded, accepting people than the women who volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers.
Many women who do decide to get abortions will come back to the pregnancy centers for counseling, precisely because they felt a sense of love and grace during their visits.
Those women who keep their babies describe their experience at the pregnancy centers in surprising ways. They usually don’t say, “I realized I should keep the baby.” They’ll say, “I realized I could keep the baby.” They aren’t argued out of a decision; they’re shown a path that makes keeping the baby plausible.
At crisis pregnancy centers, moms and dads see free diapers and food and clothing. They see job training and connections. They see shoulders to cry on. They see a community that will stand with them, a place to belong.
Work Goes On
Every cause has its grifters, folks who make a living off of our anger and division. I’m confident the pro-life movement has its fair share of ne’er-do-wells—transactional political players who care more about power than either the baby or the mother. In my experience, though, that’s simply not who the staff and volunteers in crisis pregnancy centers are.
Even if all abortions were banned in Texas last month (which they weren’t), crisis pregnancy centers would still go on. These organizations aren’t motivated by what they hate; they’re motivated by who they love. They’re places radicalized by the Sermon on the Mount.
They’re way stations of hospitality to weary sojourners. While many in the pro-life community are understandably celebrating with the legislative victories in Texas, those serving in crisis pregnancy center are still going about their work, sitting with and loving the vulnerable.