Twenty-three years into pastoral ministry, Mike Spencer resigned.
But, a year after stepping away from the pulpit, Mike says it wasn’t the usual reasons that initiated his change of direction. What caused the change was a bit of unfinished business.
“When I resigned my position, it was a very difficult thing to do,” Mike says, “I wasn’t pushed out, bummed out, or burned out. I really loved my church and serving in the role God had called me to there.
“The reason I stepped away is I really think there’s a large portion of the church who have given up on the plight of the unborn. That’s why I do what I do today.”
Today, Mike serves as an educator with Life Training Institute, a pro-life organization started by Christian apologist Scott Klusendorf that focuses on training Christians and other pro-life advocates to save lives by presenting and defending the sanctity in the public square.
Mike, who will be leading a pre-conference in-depth day, “Making the Case for Life,” at the 2016 Heartbeat International Annual Conference, became an advocate for life in 1984. Having become a Christian just one year prior, Mike still held pro-choice views, until a viewing of The Silent Scream—hosted by his church—changed everything.
Thirty years of serving in the church—including 23 as a pastor—and active involvement in the pro-life movement throughout that time have convinced Mike of the need for more Christians to become equipped with strong arguments on behalf of the unborn, so he couldn’t resist the chance to say, “Yes” when he was given the opportunity to jump onboard with Life Training Institute.
“The value in learning the proper role of apologetics can’t be overstated,” Mike says. “One of the things I’ve experienced is when someone gains a certain amount of knowledge and can speak winsomely, the result is both confidence and engagement.
“The more engagement we can have—whether in a formal setting with a pro-choice advocate, or with your brother-in-law at a family get-together—the more natural we’re going to feel, and the more effect that will have in the long run.”
In the teeth of a bitterly cold week in Washington, D.C., Heartbeat International brought along eight moms and eight babies to deliver a single message to their elected representatives.
Their message? Pregnancy help centers are good for America!
This year’s entourage was the largest contingent Heartbeat has ever brought to the nation’s capitol, bringing the total number of moms and babies to over 100 throughout our 12 trips since we initiated Babies Go to Congress® in 2009.
While a look at big numbers like these (plus the more than 200 congressional offices we’ve visited!) certainly provides a breath-taking view of God’s goodness, no number quite drives the point home like… Two.
That’s because, every day in the pregnancy help centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and non-profit adoption agencies Heartbeat International serves, the lives of women and their unborn children are being rescued, protected, and preserved… Two lives at a time.
Take Diana and Jaycee, for example. Single and 19, Diana felt as if her “whole world stopped” as the pregnancy test read Positive.
Afraid to tell her family and desperate to find a way out, abortion was a real option for Diana’s mind as she typed in the words, “pregnant and scared” into her Google search engine. What she found was a nearby Heartbeat affiliate pregnancy center whose after-hours phone number routed automatically to Option Line®, Heartbeat’s 24/7 pregnancy helpline (800-712-HELP).
Patiently listening to Diana’s story, the caring voice on the other end of the line helped schedule an appointment for the following week at the pregnancy help center.
In Diana’s words:
I went into (the center) knowing there were other options like an abortion and thinking that was my only way out. My thoughts of having a baby were overshadowed with unanswered questions and I felt like I had hit a dead end.
That day now four years behind her, Diana was all smiles as she shared her story with her Rhode Island congressional offices in Washington.Of course, she didn’t come alone, as she was joined by her 3-year-old son, Jaycee, whose life was both spared and nurtured because Diana found the emotional support and practical resources she desperately needed through Option Line and Heartbeat’s network of life-saving local partners.
Like Diana, every woman facing an unexpected or difficult pregnancy desperately needs the emotional support and practical resources that only pregnancy help organizations provide.
Over 100 moms and babies thank you… Two at a time.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant
Related: Saving Lives Now with a Winning Strategy, by Jeanneane Maxon
Related: Fight to Win: An Argument for a State Human Life Amendment
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
There are perhaps, no better known or rehearsed words in American history than these, which are embedded in the foundational document of the United States.
In the Declaration of Independence, the framers articulated two self-evident truths:
Those are possibly some of the most profound and meaningful words ever penned.
However, we also know that on the face of this profound and meaningful document itself, the words, and presumably the inalienable rights, applied only to certain men. One of those inalienable rights—the right to vote, to sway the system of government—belonged only to men.
If owning property or just about anything else is an inalienable right, then women were denied that right as well.
In a letter to her husband, John Adams, in 1776, Abigail Adams wrote, "in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies." His answer: "As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh… We know better than to repeal our masculine systems."
Appealing to her husband’s sense of fairness and desire for liberty for all, Abigail Adams wrote again, “I can not say that I think you very generous to the Ladies, for whilst you are proclaiming peace and good will to Men, Emancipating all Nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over Wives."
This appeal fell on apparently deaf ears.
And so it was that women could not vote or be elected as presidents, senators, or anything else until 1920 by virtue of the 19th Amendment. From 1776 to 1920, it was clearly not self-evident that women had inalienable rights.
[Related: Saving Lives Now with a Winning Strategy, by Jeanneane Maxon]
Racial inequality: All men are created equal…
We further know that at the time those words were penned, non-landowners, African Americans, and those deemed too young (under 18) were specifically excluded not only from voting, but from other inalienable rights as well. In fact, some colonies, in 1776, prohibited any of these classes of people not only from owning land, but in some cases, from owning a gun, joining the militia, or owning real property.
Evidently, when the framers wrote that it was a self-evident truth that all men are created equal, they were really referring only to white, land-holding men. It was evidently not so self-evident that God created all people—men and women, black and white, slave and free, rich and poor—with unalienable rights.
Black people, both slaves and free, also tried to get equal rights under the new Constitution. In 1777, Prince Hall and eight other black men wrote a petition to the courts of Massachusetts arguing the following:
[Y]our Petitioners apprehend that they have in Common with all other men a Natural and Unalienable Right to that freedom which the Grat Parent of the Universe that Bestowed equally on all menkind and which they have Never forfeited by any Compact or agreement whatever.
In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson named the following among the list of offenses committed by the British crown:
[He] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people [the Africans] who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.
But Jefferson’s above defense did not gain traction with the rest of the framers. Instead, when writing the Constitution, the Founding Fathers eventually agreed to the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted each black man as three-fifths of a white man in censuses, yet did nothing to give freedom or rights to black individuals.
In fact, the truth that African Americans had unalienable rights took another 180 years, at least two Supreme Court decisions, marches, protests, arrests, and spilled blood before the government truly acknowledged that African Americans were endowed with unalienable rights, including the right to freely vote.
[Related: Fight to Win: An Argument for a State Human Life Amendment]
But the issue was not just that blacks did not have the right to vote, which would be wrong in and of itself. It was the logical underpinnings of that denial of suffrage that were truly objectionable. The right to vote does not exist in a vacuum. It is given to those society values and accepts within the ranks as having equal footing with all, worthy of the protection afforded to all.
For 180 years following the Revolutionary War, blacks were not treated as those to whom God had endowed with unalienable rights.
Likewise, Native Americans were not allowed to vote in the first 100-plus years of American life. The Constitution (Article I, section 2) states that "Indians not taxed" should not even be counted in the census at all. The men who wrote the Constitution held that Native Americans belonged to their own group, and were not part of the United States at all.
Native American men did not get the right to vote until 1889, and then only if they left their tribes and lived like white men. It wasn’t until 1924 that tribal Indians could vote. And before 1924, it is doubtless a scar upon America’s history that Native Americans were forcibly removed from their ancestral land.
A final inconsistency in voting rights was corrected in 1971 by the 26th Amendment, which granted 18-year-olds the right to vote. This amendment was passed in response to Vietnam War-era protests that the same young men who were drafted into war did not themselves possess a right to vote.
Taking all these classes of people together, only about a quarter of the adults in the United States could vote immediately following the Revolutionary War. All men created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights? Self-evident Not really.
These truths did not become self-evident for many classes of people until much later, and only then after several hard-fought battles.
The truth is that what was said to be self-evident in 1776 only became truly evident over time, as a result of sustained effort by the people. No one would argue today that blacks, women, those who do not own property, 18-year–olds, or Native Americans should be denied equal status as humans with inalienable rights.
But in 1776, that was evidently not self-evident.
Personhood Amendments seek to make it self-evident that life begins at fertilization—the embryo is a human being. And while embryos are not given the right to vote, or own property, he or she certainly has the inalienable right of protection.
There are currently several states in which personhood amendments are either pending or proposed. A Personhood Amendment seeks to define personhood in a state Constitution. In short, Personhood Amendments seek to define life as starting at fertilization and thereby worthy of legal protection.
In Georgia, a Personhood Amendment passed by a super majority in July, 2012. In North Dakota, the Personhood Amendment states in part, “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and defended.”
In Mississippi, the failed Personhood Amendment (2011) stated the following:
As used in this Article III of the state constitution, the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.
These amendments are controversial, both among Christians and non-Christians, as well as pro-life and pro-abortion camps. Is such an amendment necessary? Is such an amendment wise? Is pursuing such an amendment helpful or harmful to the pro life movement?
In this issue of Capitol Matters, Heartbeat presents two strongly pro-life attorneys—Rob Muise, American Freedom Law Center and Jeanneane Maxon, Americans United for Life—who debate the two sides of the issue.
We present them primarily to demonstrate two differing opinions within the pro-life movement. We also present their arguments to provoke thinking and discussion, and hopefully, as Hebrews 10:24 instructs us, to love and good works.
by Ellen Foell, Esq., Heartbeat International Legal Counsel
Jeanneane Maxon, Esq., Americans United for Life
I first walked into the doors of a pregnancy center when I was seven years old—when my mother started working as the Executive Director of a large pregnancy center network in Texas.
When I look back, I remember some times of real heartbreak; times when, in spite of our best efforts, a client chose an abortion. I remember times we shed tears of rejoicing, when a client who was set on having an abortion later walked into the center with a beautiful baby.
We grieved the lives lost; we rejoiced in the lives saved, and ultimately we sought to save as many preborn children as possible, all while showing love and compassion to the women facing the unplanned pregnancy.
Similarly, the whole strategy of Americans United for Life (AUL), the legal architects of the pro-life movement, is to save as many lives as possible, all while providing truth and protection to women, and ultimately working for the day when Roe v. Wade will be reversed.
Within the pro-life movement, there are several approaches designed to reverse Roe v. Wade and end abortion. The goal is always the same—protecting the lives of unborn children—but each approach emphasizes a distinct strategy.
Two of the most prominent approaches today are the “Statutory” approach, the approach championed by AUL, and the “Convention” or “Referendum” approach, sometimes called the “personhood” approach.
[See Also: Evidently, Not so Self-Evident, by Ellen Foell]
AUL’s Statutory approach seeks to save lives in the present day primarily through the enactment of AUL’s 40+ pieces of model laws contained in our annual publication Defending Life. These laws have the strongest potential of surviving a constitutional challenge in the courts based on our legal team’s extensive experience and analysis of both the legal record and the Justices’ writings.
AUL has been involved in every major life-related case that has come before the Supreme Court beginning with Roe, and we successfully defended the Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion.
Simultaneously, in a parallel track, the same bills that save lives now also directly attack the current legal foundation of Roe v. Wade and provide the Supreme Court the opportunity to reverse its horrendous decision.
Our work accomplishes three objectives:
Importantly, the Statutory approach also allows the pro-life movement to enact laws that bring attention to the needs of the woman as well as the unborn child. These include protections like informed consent, waiting periods, the right to view an ultrasound, and safety and hygiene regulations for abortion facilities.
Woman-centered pro-life legislation can begin to save lives immediately after they are enacted. But this legislation is also written with a long-term strategic legal view. If Roe v. Wade is ever going to be overturned, the pro-life movement must overcome the false idea that abortion is synonymous with women’s health and well-being.
[See Also: Fight to Win: An Argument for a State Human Life Amendment by Robert J. Muise]
Currently, the legal status of abortion is dependent on the false notion that abortion is good for women. Several of the Justices, like many in the American public, view abortion as a “necessary evil.” In Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court developed a legal doctrine known as the “reliance interest” in order to continue its support for virtually unrestricted abortion despite the wealth of evidence that proves unborn children are living persons.
The reliance interest focuses solely on women, who supposedly “rely” on abortion to maintain their status in American society. Because of this doctrine, it is highly unlikely that the Court will reverse Roe v. Wade unless the Justices recognize that abortion does not help women—abortion harms women, a truth that pregnancy centers know all too well.
The Convention approach, on the other hand, seeks to protect human life by calling state conventions to amend the U.S. Constitution. To provide some legal context, there are two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution:
The Convention approach has the proven impact of engaging the grassroots public and the culture overall on the life issue, and should be commended for those efforts.
Unfortunately, as a legal approach, it has historically proven to be very difficult, as none of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by state constitutional convention. AUL, in fact, had been involved in early efforts related to the Convention approach before shifting to a statutory-focused strategy.
In addressing the abortion issue, it is of the utmost importance that we are united as well as strategic. As it says in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (NKJ). Part of any overall strategy in the pro-life movement must involve bringing cases that we know cut to the heart of the reliance interest premise upholding Roe v. Wade.
Similar to pregnancy centers, we must work to demonstrate the harm of abortion to both women and their preborn children, while using our best efforts to save as many lives as we can today.
And like pregnancy centers, we are able to rejoice daily in lives saved.
Related: Evidently, Not so Self-Evident
1. Research conducted by Dr. Michael New of the University of Michigan in Dearborn found that even basic commonsense laws like parental consent/notification serve to reduce abortion significantly in states that enacted them. Michael J. New, Ph.D., Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors, HERITAGE CENTER FOR DATA ANALYSIS (2007), available at http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2007/pdf/cda07-01.pdf (finding that parental involvement laws and Medicaid funding restrictions significantly reduced the abortion rate during the 1990s).
Jeanneane Maxon serves as Vice President of External Affairs and Corporate Counsel for Americans United for Life.
By Ellen Foell, Legal Counsel
I know it is no longer fashionable to think that the First Amendment has any punch or power, but I like to hold onto such beliefs. You remember what it says, right?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
“Petition the government for redress of grievances” is a fancy way of saying “lobbying.” In general, lobbying is simply stating your position on specific legislation to legislators or other government employees who participate in the formulation of legislation. It can also mean urging your elected representatives to do so on your behalf, which is known as direct lobbying.
Lobbying includes stating your position on legislation to the general public and asking the general public to contact legislators or other government employees who participate in the formulation of legislation. This is known as grassroots lobbying.
Here’s something that may come as a shock: 501(c)(3)s are permitted to lobby. That means your center is permitted to lobby. In fact, to fulfill your center’s mandate and mission, your center and its members should be lobbying.
Federal tax law and the IRS regulations permit some lobbying by nonprofits, as long as that lobbying meets two criteria:
1. The time and money spent on lobbying by the 501c3 falls within IRS limits;
2. The activities engaged in by the organization fall within IRS definitions of lobbying.
A 501(c)(3) that has not filed for the 501(h) election is limited to spending an insubstantial amount of time, expenses and activities on lobbying. Insubstantial has never been defined by the IRS, but certainly 5% is generally considered a safe amount of time and money.
A center that has taken the (very easy!) step of filing a 501(h) election with the IRS operates under a different set of rules. In that case, a center would be subject to the following limits:
If the amount of exempt purpose expenditures is:
Lobbying nontaxable amount is:
20% of the exempt purpose expenditures
>$500,00 but ≤ $1,000,000
$100,000 plus 15% of the excess of exempt purpose expenditures over $500,000
> $1,000,000 but ≤ $1,500,000
$175,000 plus 10% of the excess of exempt purpose expenditures over $1,000,000
$225,000 plus 5% of the exempt purpose expenditures over $1,500,000
The law also makes it clear which activities are lobbying and which are not. For example, lobbying occurs only when there is an expenditure of money by the 501(c)(3) for the purpose of attempting to influence legislation.
Centers are permitted to ask members and donors as well as the general public to support or oppose specific legislation. Centers are permitted to announce the legislation in a publication and ask readers to take action.
A 501(c)(3) organization may inform a political candidate of its positions on particular issues and urge him/her to go on record, pledging support of those positions. A center director can also mention the legislation when speaking at a church and encourage action.
Further, centers are allowed, without limit, to educate people on the legislation without encouraging action, to advocate involvement in the political process, and to pray regarding the legislation.
If the IRS had a deduction specifically for the benefit of pro-life individuals (which it does not), wouldn’t you as an individual, take advantage of it? Well, the IRS permits your organization to lobby, within limits.
Take advantage of it.
In the case of pro-abortion bills H.R. 2030 and S.B. 981, the mission, well-being, and very existence of your center may very well depend upon it.
Because we can - should we? A wise society asks that question of every new technology. That is the question the Weld County commissioners have chosen to grapple with in their decision not to fund emergency contraception in county health clinics.
After intercourse, sperm can unite with an egg in the fallopian tube within hours. If that union occurs, an amazing process then begins by which chromosomes from the father and mother are joined together and a new cell is formed. This living cell contains its own complete set of chromosomes different from father or mother. These will determine gender, eye color, temperament and all the many characteristics that will make this individual unique. This is not a potential human being - it is a human being with potential. This is exactly what a young human is supposed to look like on its first day of life. Now, this cell divides and multiplies and begins a six day journey which will end in nestling into the wall of its mother's womb. Here this new life will grow for 9 months until it is time to make its next journey - birth.
Emergency contraception works by blocking the surge of hormones which stimulate ovulation (the extrusion of an egg from the woman's ovary). If ovulation is prevented, pregnancy can be avoided. What is less clear, however, is what happens if the medication is taken after that hormone surge or after ovulation has already occurred. Scientists have come to differing conclusions about this and serious moral concerns have been raised about whether, in some cases, emergency contraception might lead to the loss of a fertilized egg - a life. This moral concern lies at the heart of the Weld commissioners' considerations.
The idea of emergency contraception leads us to look at a much larger and more important issue. The nature of the sexual act is twofold: 1) to form a bond that will help unite a husband and wife together and 2) to beget life. The bond helps create the stable environment so necessary to welcome new life. When modern society embraced the technology of contraception, the sexual act was redefined in a radical and fundamental way. This technology designed to prevent pregnancy allowed for sex without consequences - no babies, no commitment. This redefinition of the sexual act has produced far reaching and painful effects in our culture.
Sex without consequences demands the availability of abortion. The emergence of "the pill" in the 1960's led to a call for the legalization of abortion within a decade. January 22nd marked the fortieth anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. In those 40 years, over 50,000,000 abortions have been performed in America.
For nearly 250 years in our country, until slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, it was legal for a white man to own a black man - legal, but not moral. The black man was seen as sub-human or not human at all. We look back at those times and wonder how their thinking ever could have been so misguided. A future generation will look back on this era and wonder the same thing about us.
For such a future time to come to pass it will require something far more difficult than the overturning of legalized abortion - it will require a change of the human heart. It will mean recapturing the true meaning of sexual intimacy and restoring it to its proper place within marriage alone. So difficult - but the possibility awakens in us great hope.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant
On a brisk January afternoon, I found myself positioned between two citadels of American government.
On my right sat the Capitol Building, where I’d spent the morning with Heartbeat International’s Babies Go to Congress®. On my left stood the U.S. Supreme Court Building, where the 40th Annual March for Life would conclude the following day.
As I turned my gaze to the Supreme Court building, I expected to behold its looming columns and take in its hopeful, enduring motto, “Equal Justice Under Law.”
But what I saw surprised me. The majestic façade was covered with scaffolding and a transparent construction curtain. As I learned, the great marble-work of the building’s façade had been crumbling for some time, and renovation was now underway.
What a striking parable of justice, deteriorating. Yet, at the same time, what a striking parable of hope that justice can be—and one day will be—restored.
We live in a world that is plagued with the consequences of a decision made in that very building 40 years ago. When those inside this shrine to American justice decided, 7-2, to legalize abortion on-demand, justice crumbled.
Such a miscarriage of justice under the auspices of “Equal Justice Under Law” must never be forgotten. That’s why Heartbeat launched RememberingRoe.com, which serves as an online memorial to those 55 million unborn Americans who will never see the light of day because of Roe v. Wade.
A few hours before my stroll to the Supreme Court steps, I had the pleasure of watching Matennah—one of three moms who made up the Babies Go to Congress envoy—tell seven of her congressmen the story of how her beautiful twin daughters had been rescued by a Heartbeat-affiliated pregnancy help center.
Twenty-four hours later, the 40th annual March for Life brought 500,000 peaceful protesters to these stately steps. Heartbeat International was there, represented by a group of generous supporters and the sampling of moms, like Matennah, and their babies who have been saved from the violence of abortion.
Following the March, Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., President of Heartbeat International, keynoted the annual Rose Dinner, highlighting the good work pregnancy help organizations to do for women and families. Peggy was followed by New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith, chair of the Pro-Life Caucus, who delivered a ringing endorsement of Heartbeat and our life-saving mission.
No doubt, justice has drastically crumbled. But just like the façade of the Supreme Court building, it can be restored.
by Carrie Beliles
When the annual Berlin March for Life was held last year, my husband, Ben, our four children, our friend Breanne, and I drove the seven hours from where we are stationed with the United States Air Force (Ramstein Air Base), near Kaiserslautern, to downtown Berlin.
On Friday night, we attended a pre-march meeting, with leaders from the pro-life movement here in Germany, as well the Netherlands and members of European Dignity Watch, a pro-life NGO working with the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
European Dignity Watch is a small, dedicated group of people who do what they do because it is right—not because it’s popular or a good career move—and some of them have been involved in the movement for years.
We encouraged them by relating what we are doing with our center, where I serve as executive director. We primarily minister to American military personnel and dependents, but we also serve locals and foreigners living in Germany who are without access to everything they need to raise their children. Unfortunately, we are one of the only pregnancy help centers in Germany.
The meeting concluded with a prayer, as well as laying out the final details for the next day’s march.
Unlike pro-life marches in the States, the March is extremely intense in Berlin. The counter-protesters were chanting things like, "If Mary would've had an abortion you wouldn't be bothering us now," and, "If you had been aborted we wouldn't be bothered.”
Before we started to march, the organizers asked us to remain quiet, and not to dignify the protesters with a response. The counter-protesters came equipped with whistles, which they constantly blew to try and distract us from hearing the speakers at the beginning of the march.
They continued to try and drown out our singing or speaking with shrill whistles as the march got underway.
The Berlin riot police were out in force, and seemed prepared to put down any real disturbance by the counter-protestors. As we marched along, a burly German priest told us to move into the center of the marching crowd to keep our children safe. Noticeably, there were no other children marching. Our four little children got quite a few smiles, and had a few pictures taken throughout the day.
The organizers handed out large wooden crosses at the beginning of the march, and our 4-year-old, Faith, carried one as she rode in the stroller down the streets of Berlin.
The walk led us along some of the most historically significant sites in world history. We began in front of the Reichstag, which was burned in late January, 1933, serving as the pretext for Hitler’s declaring of martial law. The Reichstag was later restored, and now serves as Germany’s capitol building.
Following the Reichstag, we were almost immediately in front of the Brandenburg Gate, through which Napoleon marched when he conquered Berlin in 1806, and in front of which, President Ronald Reagan said those immortal words to Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
We followed the line marked in the road almost the entire distance where the Berlin Wall had stood from 1961 until 1989, dividing East and West Germany. We marched on past Potsdamer Platz, once divided by the Wall, but where East now meets West in Europe, and turned left onto Leipziger Strasse, heading back east.
We then passed the building that had served as headquarters for the Luftwaffe during World War II and later was the executive building for the East German government.
The dividing lines are much more stark here than in the United States. People here don’t have time for platitudes and half-truths. The sides are as clearly delineated between good and evil as they have ever been in Berlin.
What is also clear here in Berlin, as the whistles of the counter-protestors and the humming of Amazing Grace fade into memory, is that history does change, movements do matter, and nothing stays the same forever.
Just contemplate the tide of history in this place over the last 70 years. What an encouragement to realize that we may one day place abortion on the trash heap of history, along with so many oppressive regimes of the not-too-distant past.
Meanwhile, the killing continues. As must the praying.
Carrie Beliles serves as executive director for Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center at Ramstein Air Base in western Germany.
I was reading through Proverbs when news of the Penn State child abuse scandal broke in late 2011. As the horrific story dominated every inch of the public square, one saying from the wise man stood out most clearly to me:
Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)
I was so sickened by what I was seeing and hearing about everything, from the grisly details of the events that had occurred—and were even witnessed—to the shameful cover-ups collaborated by football coaches, school administrators, and even sworn officers of the law.
Having worked in collegiate athletics for nearly 10 years, these acts of negligence hit me with a specific force, but no harder than they hit me as a father. I felt anger, disgust, nausea, and helplessness.
But what good would come if all I did was feel these things, and then let them fade away so that I could go on with the rest of my life? Did the sting of this outrage belong in the rear-view mirror?
While my 1-year-old daughter napped one Saturday afternoon, I began to pray that somehow, some way, God would lead me to a calling and vocation where I could play a role in the rescue of those being taken away to death. I prayed, and less than a year later, God—the true and final Rescuer—brought me an opportunity to do just that, with an organization I’d never heard of, called Heartbeat International.
Today, I am so blessed to be playing a role in the effort to hold back “those stumbling to the slaughter.” Most of you who are reading this are in the trenches right now, fighting this battle one life at a time. Some of you have been in this trench longer than I’ve been on this earth.
What an honor it has been to join with you in the battle to hold each life precious.
Together, we hope and pray and labor for the day when abortion is not only unwanted, but unthinkable in our nation, our legal system, and our culture. At the same time, we also realize that abortion may not be going away this side of heaven. In one form or another, the strong will always victimize the weak, right up until the Day when the Judge of the whole earth makes all things right.
Until that Day dawns, our orders are clear: We are to rescue those who are being taken away to death. One child at a time. One woman at a time. One family at a time.
It’s not up to you and me to finally solve these evils. It’s up to each of us to be faithful to do our part, in hope—hope that one Day, we will see these evils ended before our very eyes. Until that Day comes, we’re free to focus on the task at hand without driving ourselves to despair or exhaustion.
The problem is more than you and I could ever handle, and yet, it has already been handled—fully and finally by the death and resurrection of Jesus. We enter into that promise by faith, but it's that same faith that also thrusts us into the vineyard to labor for that which our faithful Savior values.
Take heart. God, the one who “keeps watch over your soul” sees the good work you’re doing. And, he will repay you according to it.
Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit was the first circuit court to rule on government mandates requiring pregnancy centers to post disclaimers and disclosures, declaring that such mandates violate freedom of speech, a constitutional right.
“The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision is a victory for Centro Tepeyac and other Heartbeat International affiliated pregnancy help centers that are rescuing children who were once at risk of abortion by providing practical help and emotional support to mothers who often have been abandoned and abused,” said Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D. “This decision upholding our freedom of speech affirms the life-saving work of pregnancy centers and the importance of providing alternatives to abortion.”
The first case ruled upon by the court was Centro Tepeyac v. Montgomery County; Montgomery County Council, et al, No. 11-1314 (4th Cir. 6/27/2012) in which the county passed a resolution requiring limited service pregnancy centers to display a sign bearing two statements: “The Center does not have a licensed medical professional on staff. Montgomery County Health Officer encourages women who are or may be pregnant to consult with a licensed health care provider.”
The second case, Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns et al v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, et al, No. 11-1111 (4th Cir. 6/27/2012) originated from Baltimore, which involved a city ordinance mandating pregnancy help organizations to post signage in two languages that “the center does not perform or refer for abortions or birth control services.”
The Fourth Circuit Court slapped down both government mandates as violations of free speech, applying strict scrutiny to its analysis of both laws.
The Court applied the same reasoning to both laws:
These rulings signal a strong victory for pregnancy help organizations, not only in Maryland, but across the country, as challenges are raised to similar attempts in other jurisdictions.
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