Sanctity of Human Life Sunday will be observed throughout the Southern Baptist Convention on January 18, marking the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe V. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in America.
While Southern Baptists certainly won't be celebrating the Roe v. Wade decision, they will be celebrating that because of 249 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States affiliated with the SBC's North American Mission Board, more than 4,300 babies were spared from abortion during 2008. Additionally, some 3,100 women accepted Christ last year because pregnancy center staff members shared the Gospel with them.
As of November 30, 2008, more than 129,000 clients throughout the United States received counseling and free services from the pregnancy centers; center staff shared the Gospel with almost 36,000 girls and women; and over one thousand Southern Baptist volunteers were trained to present the Gospel to center clients.
One such center is the Pathway of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Greenville, Kentucky, headed by Diana Anderson, executive director since 2005. While she has help from thirty-five volunteers, Anderson is the only full-time, paid staff member at the center.
Just because Greenville is a small Western Kentucky town of 4,200 — about forty-five minutes from Owensboro — that doesn't diminish the community's need for a Christ-centered, pro-life facility designed to counsel girls and young women on the devastating effects of abortion.
"As of December 1, we've had 980 clients to come into the center during 2008," said Anderson. "They come from all walks of life. Not a single one chose to have an abortion." In fact, since Pathway of Hope first opened in 2005, only three clients ultimately chose to abort their child.
Although Pathway of Hope gets a big chunk of its financial support from local Southern Baptist churches, it also receives substantial support from concerned non-Southern Baptist churches in the area.
"I'm scared, I'm pregnant, and I need help," is the typical mindset of the center's walk-in clients, according to Anderson. Some clients are pregnant girls as young as 13.
"Our center, actually a house, has a very warm, homey atmosphere. It's decorated like a home," Anderson said. "We want the girls to know that Pathway is a safe place, a place where they're safe to share their hearts, and then we want to love them to Christ. We want to share Christ with the mother because when the mother's life is changed, there's a ripple effect on that baby's life and into their home and family."
Anderson is also proud that ten young women have received Christ after counseling and sharing at the center this year. The center also has several area pastors and Christian men on standby — trained to counsel and encourage young fathers.
As the economy has deteriorated over the past year, Anderson said the plight of pregnant young women has worsened as well, a trend that will continue into 2009 as the recession and unemployment deepens.
"We recently had one pregnant woman finally come in after she had lived in her car for five solid days," Anderson recalled.
Anderson, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) Mission Service Corps missionary, is not only responsible for Pathway of Hope in Greenville, but also serves as NAMB's trainer for other crisis pregnancy centers in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. She'll soon be opening new centers in Huntingdon, West Virginia, and in Monticello, Kentucky.
A Greenville native, Anderson is a member of the city's Second Baptist Church, one of her staunchest supporters among local SBC churches.
"One of the most effective tools for combating the abortion clinics is the local crisis pregnancy center," said Elaine Ham, pregnancy resources/church and community ministries consultant for NAMB in Alpharetta, Georgia.
"Since 1973, more than three thousand 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," Ham said.
She estimates that there may be as many as three to four thousand pregnancy centers across the country that are not officially affiliated with the SBC, but many of which, like Pathway of Hope, receive solid financial and volunteer support from local SBC churches.
Ham also said most people don't realize that the number of abortions is still alarmingly high. In the United States, one out of five pregnancies ends in abortion. Under today's laws, abortion is legal for the entire nine months of the pregnancy, according to Ham.
Within the United States, more than forty-five million legal abortions occurred from 1973 through 2005, according to the pro-choice Alan Guttmacher Institute. At least half of American women will experience an unplanned pregnancy by age 45, and at current rates, about one-third will have an abortion.
"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.
"Can you imagine the difference we could make in these abortion statistics if Southern Baptist churches made it a priority to seek out ways to minister to women in unplanned pregnancies?" Ham asks. "That is our priority on this year's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on January 18."
For free downloadable sermon outlines and a DVD for use on the upcoming Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, visit www.namb.net/pregnancy.
For more about the Southern Baptist Convention's position on abortion, visit www.erlc.com, the Web site for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC.
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Resources are available from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at www.ERLC.com.
Mickey Noah is a member of First Redeemer Church in Cummings, Georgia, and is a writer with the SBC North American Mission Board.