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Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life & Choice

At first glance, pro-life and pro-choice ideologies appear staunchly opposed to each other. But what if life and choice didn’t have to be in opposition to one another? What if a woman’s life, and the life of the unplanned unborn, could both thrive simultaneously? Save the Storks, a pro-life nonprofit existing to support pregnancy centers nationally, is working to change the narrative around unplanned pregnancies and to depoliticize the topic of abortion. 

In Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life and Choice (David C Cook, September 2021), Brittany Smith and Natasha Smith, writing on behalf of Save the Storks, draw on personal interviews, inspiring stories, and eye-opening facts to help readers better understand the pressures and intricacies surrounding a woman’s pregnancy decision, the importance of an empathetic approach to those facing unplanned pregnancies, and the enormous potential churches have to support women (and men) in crisis. 

“Being pro-life actually means being pro-woman in a holistic way: caring for a woman’s physical and emotional state, her relationships, her livelihood, her future, and any needed healing from her past,” write Smith and Smith. “Approaching the issue of unplanned pregnancy with love and compassion opens doors and creates conversations in a way that judgment and shame never could.” 

Writing not just from a “pro-birth” perspective but from a “pro-abundant life” perspective, Unplanned Grace is a resource for churches and individuals who want to make a difference in the pro-life movement. Readers will learn about the myriad of resources available to women, how pro-life ministries come alongside unexpected mothers and fathers on their new journey, and how to discuss and approach sensitive topics with love and compassion, while speaking truth. Each chapter concludes with practical ideas for becoming involved in different aspects of pro-life outreach, scripture, and a prayer of reflection. 

“The tragedy of a quiet church is the missed opportunities to tell the abundantly rich, beautiful, healing, and inspiring story of the gospel—a story that provides the foundation for the value of every human life, no matter its stage of development. A story that reveals a God who champions the vulnerable, cherishes the outcast, and heals the wounded. This is the story given uniquely through Scripture, and it is our responsibility as the church to not only tell it but live it as a daily expression of God’s kingdom invading and redefining the world through us.” 

RYN: You’ve written a new book called Unplanned Grace that takes a look at pro-life ministry and recognizes the seemingly impossible choices that abortion-vulnerable women often face. Your work with the nonprofit Save the Storks largely informed the book—can you tell us about Save the Storks and the work they do?

NATASHA: Save the Storks is national Nonprofit ministry seeking to ensure women in unintended pregnancies receive holistic care and education so they can truly make an empowered choice. With 79% of women saying that they never were informed about resources available if they chose life, Save the Storks exists to empower local pregnancy resource centers to engage even more women. One way we do this is by building mobile medical units or, Stork Buses, which allow pregnancy centers to take the life-saving power of ultrasound where women are: college campuses, rural communities, urban centers and near abortion clinics. Through the free resources of the local pregnancy center, women realize they’re not alone and there’s far more help available for them than they ever knew. That’s what it means to be pro-women within the pro-life movement – we empower women with all the facts as well as the practical support so they can make the choice they desire. Four out of five women who board a Stork Bus and see the ultrasound choose life for their child. And that is just the beginning of a lasting relationship of support between that local pregnancy center and that mom. We’re here to ensure those pregnancy centers have all they need to help serve each woman, man and child well.

 

RYN: You believe that being pro-life is the same as being pro-woman. Pro-choice supporters would likely not agree. Tell us why being pro-life is indeed pro-woman, and how you’re working to bridge the gap between pro-life and pro-choice ideologies.

NATASHA: When we say we’re “pro-life” that means we are deeply for life, we will do whatever it takes to help it thrive, not just get by. Abortion serves as a band aid trying to mask many systemic issues, but it does nothing to actually help women break the cycles they’re in. 73% of abortions are caused due to economic pressures but the abortion does not help the women become more stable. Pro-life workers sit down with those women, listen to their stories, and offer creative and holistic solutions to meet all her needs. They help her find economic stability, safe housing, understand what healthy relationships should look like and fully inform her on all available resources so she can make an informed decision – not a reactionary one.

We want to help people understand what holistic care is all about – it’s serving women in her moment of greatest need, and help alleviate the circumstantial pressures that make her feel like she does not have a choice other than abortion. Pro life groups across the country are walking alongside women, mentoring them and helping them truly stand on their own, not because they have to do it by themselves, but because there’s a whole community who believes in her and will support her.

 

RYN: Your social media also mentions that abortion is anti-woman, which is a great point that isn't often mentioned. Can you expand on this? 

NATASHA: We say abortion is anti-woman because it really has a very low view of women. It projects an inability to overcome onto women who, in reality, have incredible strength and ability to succeed. Abortion assumes women should just be the victim to their circumstances (ie it’s not a good time, economic instability, she won’t be able to be successful or fulfill her dreams). But pro-life actually says has more believe in women to not allow circumstances to bind them. Rather, we come alongside women and champion their ability to succeed and dream and bring life into the world. Those who advocate for abortion also assume that the unborn is nothing and therefore the abortion will have no real or lasting impact on women. Yet women who do feel pain or remorse after an abortion feel an inability to talk about it because culture says they shouldn’t. There are countless women who are wounded and their voices are silenced because culture projects abortion as a great thing for women but has nothing to offer when women need to heal.

 

RYN: Unplanned Grace includes a wealth of personal stories from those who have faced abortion— some who chose to keep their baby, and some who did not. Regarding the stories you include, was there a commonality amongst those who chose life? 

NATASHA: Each woman who chose life did so because she was supported. Her story was heard, her fears validated, and her needs met. From help acquiring practical needs like housing or jobs to the emotional support of counseling after an abusive relationship, these women received compassion from their local pregnancy center that transformed their experience. The decision-making process was hard for each woman, but they didn’t have to navigate everything alone and that relational support equipped each woman with the ability to breath, think, and decide what she truly wanted.

Conversely, of the people who have chosen abortion but subsequently found and partnered with your organization, what are some of the most common things you hear from them? For example, I've known many who now work in pregnancy centers across America helping to council women and encourage them to choose life precisely because of both how their decision affected them & how God's healing compels them. 

I’ve had women say “I wish I knew of something like a Stork Bus or pregnancy center when I was faced with that decision. I had one woman tell me in tears, “50 years and it still hurts.” Nevertheless ,those who have walked the journey of healing after an abortion are such incredibly strong advocates and their stories are so needed. Their voice helps others heal and helps women facing that decision avoid making the same choice. Many women I’ve spoken to say that they truly felt like they had no choice other than abortion. They truly felt like a victim to their circumstances and absolutely unable to do anything else – that isn’t pro-choice! Choice means options but so many women who’ve had abortions say they didn’t feel like they had a choice.

 

RYN: Statistically speaking, what is the leading reason that women choose abortion?

NATASHA: 73% of women choose abortion due to economic stress ( https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/2005/reasons-us-women-have-abortions-quantitative-and-qualitative-perspectives)

 

RYN: What are some of the circumstances that abortion-vulnerable women often face? How can the Church show up for these women more wholeheartedly & efficiently?

NATASHA: Economic challenges, isolation, shame, fear of the unknown and relational pressure are layered on a woman’s decision, enforcing the overwhelmed feeling that she cannot choose life. The church has an incredible opportunity to showcase how the Gospel meets people at their darkest hour and offers hope. The Church can be the expression of God’s grace, compassion and love by coming alongside women and men who face unplanned pregnancies and help them. First, we can practically care for the real needs of people, then offer a community to help them through and introduce them to the hope of abundant life found in Christ. The church doesn’t need to be the expert on all the issues facing women and men, but they should be conduit of grace, truth and love to everyone. We encourage every church to partner with their local pregnancy center so together, we can serve and value every life holistically.

 

RYN: You write that, “approaching the issue of unplanned pregnancy with love and compassion opens doors and creates conversations in a way that judgment and shame never could.” This is SUCH an important point. Can you expand on this?

NATASHA: If someone believes they will be judged by sharing their story, they will keep silent and that silence can be devastating. We all want to be heard, and our stories matter. When we offer a compassionate listening ear to those who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, we give them what no one else is. We give them space to be honest with their fears and uncertainties and we then can offer real solutions to help them know they’re not alone.

 

RYN: When it comes to caring for the abortion vulnerable, generally speaking, what is the church doing well? Where is there room for improvement? 

NATASHA: Many churches are already doing a wonderful job at offering support groups like Embrace Grace or Abortion Healing Bible studies. Some churches have even started pregnancy centers in their communities or support the existing centers in financial, spiritual and practical ways. Yet there is still room for improvement when it comes to serving abortion-vulnerable individuals within the church. The church desperately needs to be open about the issue of abortion, the value of life and especially the value of women facing those fears in her own life. The church needs to showcase how the Gospel touches this issue and everyone who has been affected by it, women, men and children. At Save the Storks, we want to help connect every church with their local pregnancy center so we can ensure every woman, man and child is cared for well through the body of Christ in action.

 

RYN: Does your organization offer any resources to churches or parachurch organizations? 

NATASHA: Yes! We have the 30 Day Devo on the YouVersion Bible app as well as online at savethestorks.com/reimagine – This resource is a great tool for small groups and bible studies to begin engaging with the topics surrounding life. We are currently working on building even more resources for the church and hope to roll it out in 2022, so stay tuned!

 

RYN: In your experience with Save the Storks, what role have you seen unexpected fathers play in a woman’s choice? Has that changed with how you approach this issue vs how the world approaches this issue? 

NATASHA: Women who had abortions say that the father of the child was the strongest voice she listened to in making her decision. Men matter! Unfortunately, culture has told them to stay silent and rest of the responsibility on the woman. This doesn’t serve either person well because both individuals were involved in making the pregnancy and the decision will affect them both. I believe that the church needs to equip men to stand up and advocate for life as well as understand how to have healthy relationships. Many pregnancy centers offer men counseling, parenting classes, and mentorship. If we can support and equip men to love and serve the mother well, we will make a huge difference for life.

 

RYN: For those who have had abortions, what type of Christ centered soul care is important for their healing? Is there anything specific that they need to heal physically? 

NATASHA: There are some wonderful resources to help women and men heal from abortion. The reality of life needs to be acknowledged so healing can take place. Support After Abortion is a great place to start learning more about this topic. From the women I’ve spoken to, they all say how isolating their shame is. How they were afraid to admit the abortion but when they finally did, they found healing. There is real power in sharing stories, even about our greatest pain and sins so that God’s grace and redemption can transform it into something he can use for his glory.

 

RYN: Do you talk about statistics of health issues for women post-abortion? If so, we'd love to hear about those! (this isn’t in the book but below are stats I know of)

NATASHA: According to a study done by Dr. Ian Gentles & Dr. Joe Brind, there is a 40% risk of getting breast cancer for women who had 1 abortion.

  • It jumps to 76% risk for those who had 2 abortions and 90% risk of breast cancer
  • A large compilation of studies from 1995-2009 showed a woman who has had an abortion has an 81% increased risk of significant life-changing mental health problems.
  • 2 months after abortion 1 in 5 women said their abortion harmed them
  • Pre-term birth
    • There is a 36% increased risk of preterm birth after 1 abortion, and 93% increased risk after 2 abortions.
    • African American women have the highest rate of preterm birth, which is linked to their increased rate of abortion.
    • (A great number of these studies can be found at nih.gov. Either search for the physician's name or key terms like "induced abortion.")

 

RYN: What are common misconceptions about the pro-life movement? More specifically, what are some lies about the pro-life movement that you commonly hear & how do you respond to them in truth & love? 

NATASHA: Misconception: Anti-choice” pro-lifers want to restrict women’s rights or remove health care.

Truth: The assumption is that we don’t really care for women. The reality is pro-life offers more choices than abortion advocates. Pregnancy Centers ensure that women are fully informed about all their options (parenting, adoption, abortion) and how each will impact their lives. Regarding health care, pregnancy centers don’t charge for any of their services – sonograms, pregnancy tests, classes and counseling are all free. Abortion clinics charge for their services and do not offer care for the woman’s emotional, physical, economic or relational circumstances beyond the transaction of abortion. One executive director of a pregnancy center said it well, “We’re about choice. We’re about educated choice, we want women to know exactly what their getting into.”  

Misconception: “pro-birth” pro-lifers don’t care about babies after their born.

Response: This assumption only shows that those who believe it have never stepped foot into a pregnancy centers. Pregnancy centers care deeply about the circumstances the child is born into as well as the overall health of the mother. That’s why many of them offer Earn While You Learn programs that include parenting classes and many other educational resources as well as provide material resources for up to 2 years after the child is born. Women can access free formula, diapers, wipes, car seats, clothing and so much more – all at no cost.

Misconception: Pro-lifers are judgy.

Response: The more I talk with pregnancy center staff, the more I’ve become aware that many women are working there because they have their own story. They had an unplanned pregnancy so they known what it’s like and they want to help others navigate their options. Some of their stories have happy endings and they have photos to show of the family that they now have. Others do not have that joyful tone but they have a deep passion for helping women avoid the painful journey they’ve faced.

 

RYN: What do you want our listeners today to learn about being pro-life? What are some practical ways that they can make a difference in the pro-life movement? 

NATASHA: I hope our readers realize how holistic and compassionate the pro-life movement is. We care for women no matter her story and there are options for hope no matter what.

For those who want to get involved in the pro-life movement.

  • Everyone can start by praying. Pray for the Lord to shape your own heart to see people as he sees them and love them as he loves.
  • Volunteer at your local pregnancy center. Many run on volunteers so your services are desperately needed. And if you’re a guy – you can still help! Let them know what your practical skills are so if a mom needs a mechanic or help fixing something you could be called up. Or offer to be a mentor to other men who may come to the center with their partners.
  • Talk to your pastor or women’s ministry leaders to see if your church is currently partnered with a pregnancy center or offering support to women and men in need – if not you can facilitate an introduction! (Or reach out to Save the Storks and we’ll help you bridge that gap.)

 

RYN: Where can readers connect with Save the Storks and pick up a copy of Unplanned Grace?

NATASHA: Visit Savethestorks.com to learn more about all the ways we support pregnancy centers and churches to reach the hearts of women and save babies. Unplannedgracebook.com not only offers purchasing options for the book but also includes videos of some of the women featured in the book telling their own stories. You can also find Unplanned Grace on Amazon and Audible.

Save the Storks exists to inspire cultural change by empowering strategic partners, like pregnancy resource centers, to serve and value every life. We believe that to end abortion, people must be educated on its realities and equipped to respond with compassion and love.