A crisis pregnancy is an emotionally charged event that radically changes a person's status in life. Some argue a woman has the right to choose, but according to Sylvia Boothe, alternatives to abortion ministry specialist for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), "a woman has the right to be educated and counseled on the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of all her choices."
As staff and volunteers in alternatives to abortion ministries, "we have the joy" of walking with a woman through the crisis of an untimely pregnancy and helping her discover how God can work redemptively in her situation, said Boothe.
The objective of the alternatives to abortion ministries is to assist churches, associations, and state conventions in ministering to women who are facing crisis pregnancies or who have experienced abortion. Boothe has helped train volunteers for thirty-seven crisis pregnancy centers (CPC). NAMB's alternatives to abortion office, established in 1987, undergirds the work of such centers by providing training and materials for workers, and a nationwide data base to help with referrals. In communities without a CPC, they offer a twelve-hour conference to teach people how to minister to everyone involved in the pregnancy, and how to pool resources in the community.
Procedures vary from one CPC to another, but typically a woman comes to the center for the free pregnancy test that most CPCs offer.
"Usually she's scared to death and it takes the last ounce of her energy to open the door and come in," said Boothe, who directed a CPC in Oklahoma City before joining NAMB.
Along with providing the pregnancy test, volunteers at a center will talk with the woman about her options and about the services the center can offer. They also refer her to medical and other professional resources. What center workers hope to do is enable the client to make her own informed decision to have her baby, knowing she does not have to face that experience alone or without support. The centers offer more than advice. Services typically offered to the mother-to-be include parenting classes, help to continue her education and become financially self-sufficient, a clothing room with maternity and baby clothes, support groups, and discipleship programs.
Women aren't the only ones affected by crisis pregnancies. Men also need help when their child has been aborted. In some crisis pregnancy centers, up to half of all clients are men.
"I grew up in a Christian home and felt that a lot of rules didn't apply to me," said Steve Arterburn. "I thought I had the world figured out. Then, I got a girl pregnant while I was going to college."
Arterburn, cofounder and chairman of New Life Clinics and host of the New Life radio program, is a nationally known speaker and a licensed minister. He speaks openly and honestly in sharing his story of abortion, the shame and guilt he experienced, and how he finally received forgiveness and healing.
"All my dreams and plans seemed to be destroyed by this pregnancy. I didn't think of it as a baby. I thought of it as a situation I had to find a way out of as quickly as I could," said Arterburn.
Arterburn scheduled an abortion for his girlfriend, and she went along with it. Afterwards, guilt and shame set in. "I couldn't get the baby back," he said. "I was sad that I had not talked to anyone who knew anything about alternatives to abortion. I started to think that God would never forgive me, that I had ruined my life and any hope of a relationship with God."
"As I have shared this with other men who have paid for abortions, they have told me that they have felt the same things I did," said Arterburn. "I have learned that a real man is a protector of life and a provider for the life he creates. My prayer is that every man will be a hero to the baby he does not yet know, but a baby that will one day delight him by calling him Daddy."
While the focus of alternatives to abortion ministries has been on women, Boothe said future plans include an emphasis on men who are post-abortal.
CPCs also assist in educating children and young people who are forming their morals and values as well as people who are interested in long-term positive actions concerning abortion. CPC volunteers have opportunities to provide abstinence counseling. A girl who fears she might be pregnant is often open to what the CPC worker has to say about God's plan for sex and families, Boothe explained.
Boothe outlined twelve steps for starting a crisis pregnancy center or ministry.
1. Pray and seek God's guidance.
2. Determine the need in your community.
3. Form a steering committee.
4. Elect a board of directors or a supervisory committee.
5. Select a name and incorporate.
6. Establish a financial base.
7. Hire a director.
8. Establish a facility.
9. Secure advertising.
10. Recruit volunteers.
11. Conduct volunteer training session.
12. Hold an open house.
These steps are detailed further in the How to Establish A Crisis Pregnancy Center manual produced by NAMB. This manual and other alternatives to abortion materials can be obtained by calling 770-410-6000. Boothe also encourages a visit to their website (www.celebratejesus2000.org/noabortion) for anyone interested in becoming involved in alternatives to abortion ministries.