A business executive, a technology guru, and a CEO consultant all walked into the pro-life movement.

Using skills they’d honed in the for-profit business world, they began to do something no one else was doing: reach and influence what the industry calls “abortion-determined” women, those who have already decided to end their pregnancies.

Seven years later, they’re leaders of a pro-life nonprofit called Human Coalition.

“When you look at market penetration in the manufacturing world, you figure out how many people are in your target audience, put together profiles of that audience, and then start systematically figuring out how to connect with those people and bring them into your cycle,” said executive vice president Ben Matthews, whose background is in manufacturing distribution, marketing, and advertising.

Guided by these business principles, Matthews said Human Coalition seeks to connect with “abortion-determined” women in an effort to help them choose life.

Along the way, the organization has tracked its success, measuring everything from how many women clicked on their advertisements to how many ended up choosing life.

They’re using these numbers to improve effectiveness—and Human Coalition is definitely improving. In the first two years after it established a presence in Raleigh, Pittsburgh, and Dallas, an average of four times as many abortion-minded women saved their babies.

Courtesy of Human Coalition
Courtesy of Human Coalition

Since 2010, the organization has saved more than 5,500 babies whose mothers were determined to abort.

Courtesy of Human Coalition
Courtesy of Human Coalition

Finding the Abortion-Determined Woman

There are roughly 2,500 pregnancy centers in the United States, providing thousands of pregnant women with emotional and physical support. Some estimate their work saves as many as 300,000 lives a year; indeed, abortion rates are the lowest they’ve been since before Roe v. Wade.

But women who’ve made up their minds to abort don’t often call or walk into a pregnancy center, said Human Coalition co-founder and president Brian Fisher. Instead, they’re heading to Planned Parenthood or other abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood reported more than 323,000 abortions in 2014. That’s about half of the 664,000 abortions reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013, though California, Maryland, and New Hampshire didn’t report. Human Coalition—and the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute—estimate closer to 1 million abortions are performed each year.

“In a market penetration survey we did a few years ago, we found that for every 100 women who are at risk of aborting, only 3 percent talk to a pro-life agency,” Fisher said.

Human Coalition’s goal is simple: finding the other 97 percent. To do that, they simply show up where these women are already heading.

Showing Up

“Once a woman chooses to abort, the first thing she may do is jump online and search things like ‘free abortions’ or ‘Where do I get an abortion?’ or ‘How much does it cost to abort?’” Matthews said.

There are 1.85 million internet searches a month in the United States for abortion procurement terms, Fisher said.

There are 1.85 million internet searches a month in the United States for abortion procurement terms.

So, when a woman within 15 miles of a Human Coalition care clinic or a partner pregnancy center searches for abortion-related terms, a Human Coalition ad or link pops up, offering help.

Human Coalition attempts to engage her via live chat, social media, text messaging, or phone calls. After making contact, Human Coalition can backtrace to see which women (categorized as planning to carry, neutral, or planning to abort) used which search terms.

That way, they can best serve the abortion-determined woman, providing ads and links for the terms she’s most likely to google.

Sound complicated? Just wait.

“It changes by market,” Matthews said. “A woman planning to abort may search for different terms in Pittsburgh than in Atlanta.”

For example, Human Coalition changed the ad for one of its two clinics in Raleigh to say “the Triangle” instead of “Raleigh” because that’s how locals refer to Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

“We found a remarkable increase in the response rate,” Fisher said.

Terms also change depending on the searcher. A 17-year-old might type in “RU-486,” while a 25-year-old who already has three children might search “abortion clinics in Chicago.”

Human Coalition even experiments with using all capital letters or punctuation.

“In Atlanta, if you use an exclamation point, it may increase your conversion rate [the rate at which a woman seeing the ad will contact the center] 15 percent, but will decrease it in North Carolina,” Matthews said. “It’s trial and error. It constantly changes. But a for-profit marketing firm knows [outreach] evolves because of culture and technology. We take those same principles and apply them to the pro-life space.”

It’s working. Using dozens of key performance indicators to measure their success and making adjustments daily, Human Coalition raised the engagement rate of abortion-minded women in Dallas from about 3 percent to 14 percent, and in Raleigh from 5 percent to 19 percent. In Pittsburgh, the rate skyrocketed from about 8 percent to as high as 40 percent.

Courtesy of Human Coalition
Courtesy of Human Coalition

Connecting

Human Coalition uses the same approach with their contact center, located in the suburbs of Dallas and run by Joe Pagano, who used to manage a Verizon call center. They receive between 2,000 and 2,500 texts, calls, and messages each month.

Their job is to convert those points of contact into face-to-face appointments at one of Human Coalition’s seven care clinics or 34 partner pregnancy resource centers.

“We’re tirelessly testing the contact center scripting,” said vice president of technology and innovation Tim Gerwing. “We know from history, from having taken tens of thousands of phone calls, the four or five things that are predictive of whether she’s intent on abortion or not. And after asking four or five questions, we have a prediction engine telling us the likelihood that she’ll show for the appointment.”

The closer the woman lives to the clinic, and the faster the appointment can be scheduled (ideally within 24 to 48 hours), the more likely she is to come, Gerwing said. Text messages asking her to confirm the appointment—much like what is practiced by many in the health care industry—are also predictive.

“The more we do that, the better we get at helping her actually show for the appointment,” he said.

In 2012, a little less than 17 percent of abortion-minded women who contacted Human Coalition ended up walking in the door of a pregnancy clinic. Four years later, the number had jumped to 36 percent.

In 2012, a little less than 17 percent of abortion-minded women who contacted Human Coalition ended up walking in the door of a pregnancy clinic. Four years later, the number had jumped to 36 percent.

In the Door

Since more than 90 percent of Human Coalition’s clients are abortion-determined, their clinics focus on that population. Of course, they’re also meticulously measured.

“We research everything humanly possible to be innovative and help them through the doors of the care clinic,” said regional clinic director Lori Szala. “From how they’re greeted by the receptionist to their experience in the lobby and the counseling room, through the flow of the entire appointment, we want to serve them well and provide them with a comfortable experience.”

Szala said many abortion-determined women become pregnant in the worst ways (through rape or incest) or in harrowing circumstances (living with an abusive boyfriend, without a job, or without a home). Because of this, the decision to abort is often made quickly, sometimes without weighing all the consequences or exploring all the options.

“It used to be believed that all we had to do was tell the mother she had a child growing inside of her, and that if she knew it was a baby, she’d choose life,” Fisher said. “That’s not true anymore. The overwhelming number of clients know they have a baby. They call it a baby. But the child’s life is still worth less than whatever their circumstances are.”

If Human Coalition can slow down a woman’s decision process, help her to relax, and relieve some of the stress, they have a better chance of rescuing both her and her child from abortion. In 2016, Human Coalition added a continuum of care coordinator to its Pittsburgh office. Her job is to connect the client with resources such as potential jobs, housing, and state assistance. By lifting the weight of particular crushing circumstances, Human Coalition helps both the clients and their babies.

They tested it for nine months and found that offering help with social services meant that those who walked away from their first appointment still intent on abortion didn’t sever ties with Human Coalition.

They stayed connected while the care coordinator helped them look for a job, or while she sat with them at the welfare office, or while she helped them fill out housing forms. Eventually, the care coordinator connects each woman with a mentor from a local church, someone who will walk with her through the church doors and plug her in to the community there.

More than seventy percent of those women ended up choosing life. Elated, Human Coalition leadership intends to expand that service later this year into the suburbs of Dallas.

Another thing that relieves an expectant mother’s pressure is involving the fathers. Human Coalition has begun providing male counselors for the fathers, something Szala implemented at her previous job, the executive director at a pregnancy clinic in Pittsburgh.

“We did an informal, unscientific test, just trying to gauge on our own how many women choose life when the father of the baby saw their child on an ultrasound,” Szala said. “When the father is present, the child has a much better chance of being rescued from abortion.”

(A second edition of Brian Fisher’s latest book, which released this month, is aimed at men.)

Some of the ways Human Coalition seeks to relieve stress are inconspicuous, but still effective. After redecorating their Dallas-area clinic’s counseling rooms with soft blue walls and comfortable, warm gray furniture, the decisions for life in those rooms went up nearly 35 percent.

So they tested it again in Pittsburgh, this time keeping one control room the same. All of the counselors used all of the rooms. Turns out, meetings in the blue rooms with comfortable furniture resulted in a 20 percent increase in the choice for life.

“You can’t beat it,” Szala said. “Both the client and the staff members are more relaxed.”

Courtesy of Human Coalition
Courtesy of Human Coalition

This year, they’re going to redecorate the lobby and experiment with adding scents.

“Retail stores are doing it,” Szala said. “If they can do it, why can’t we? Why not use the research for our benefit to help save lives?”

Bringing Up Faith

Human Coalition clinics don’t have Bible verses on the wall, as they “can be a distraction to a client who is coming in with a wall up as it is,” Szala said. But counselors do ease into discussions of faith in the counseling room.

“As part of their initial intake questions, we ask about their faith background,” Szala said. “We then have an opportunity to say something like, ‘I see you have marked that you are Catholic on your form. How does your faith come into play when you are making this decision?’”

The conversations happen casually, and may not happen at all during the first visit, she said. Like praying with a client, Human Coalition counselors are waiting for the right timing. “We really allow the Holy Spirit to lead in these areas.”

“Our goal is to first work on the pregnancy decision,” Szala said. “We will then, through the building of the relationship during multiple visits, begin the process of sharing who Jesus is. We want to be an example first and then share.” 

Choosing to Abort

The hardest thing about working with abortion-determined women is that their rate of choosing life is much lower than those who are neutral. CareNet, with a network of 1,100 pregnancy centers in the United States and Canada, reported that 8 out of 10 women who visit their clinics ended up choosing life in 2015.

But of the 5,000 unique clients to visit Human Coalition in 2016, just one-third chose to continue the pregnancy.

Courtesy of Human Coalition
Courtesy of Human Coalition

“We have to work hard to make sure our staff remain healthy, because it is very hard to work hard with women day in and day out, and have them choose abortion,” Szala said.

Human Coalition centers continue to offer services to women even after they choose to end their pregnancy, keeping open a line of communication and connecting them with counseling, resources, and the local church, she said.

“We do a good bit of follow-up so they know, ‘Hey, we care about you,’” she said. “Even if they chose abortion, we’ll still help them find a job, housing, or post-abortion counseling. We’re going to be there without judgment, because we know that will help draw them to a relationship with the Lord later.”

What’s Next

Even though Human Coalition’s success has been remarkable, there’s still a long way to go to end abortion. And that’s their goal.

‘I do believe we’ll see legalized abortion ended in this country in my lifetime, and I don’t think that’s because it’s just some hopeful platitude. Data and politics point to it.’

“I think we have reason to be unbelievably hopeful and optimistic,” Fisher told pastor Matt Chandler on a podcast in December. “I do believe we’ll see legalized abortion ended in this country in my lifetime, and I don’t think that’s because it’s just some hopeful platitude. Data and politics point to it.”

Human Coalition looks at it in terms of supply and demand.

“At the clinical level, we are taking the supply away from the abortion industry—we are getting in their cycle,” Matthews said. Human Coalition is aiming to plant a presence in the 40 most abortion-dense cities in the United States.

To do so, they’ll have to raise more than the $9 million a year they’re asking donors for now. But the money is there—donations to Christian ministries accredited by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability reached $16 billion last year.

Human Coalition is looking to anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce for inspiration. (TGC has also connected Wilberforce and the pro-life movement.)

Along with working for political change, Wilberforce was “deeply engaged culturally through education, through transformation, through slave rescue, through attempting to work through other countries to try to create equal rights for all human beings,” Fisher told Chandler. “And so England went from a culture that found slavery to be completely acceptable to finding it to be completely reprehensible in one generation.”

That’s the same goal Human Coalition has for abortion, Matthews said.

“We’re trying to make it unthinkable and unavailable.”