Emma* watched the ultrasound screen as the pregnancy center nurse talked about fetal development. Her baby had a heartbeat, and little arms and legs, even though she was just two months pregnant. More than a “blob of cells,” Emma and her boyfriend, David*, could clearly see their child flipping around inside her.
“The ultrasound hit hard,” she says, “It was hard to hear about the baby’s development. The nurse was educating me about the baby and how each week something new occurs. I experienced a quick moment of happiness, until my mind took over, and brought me back to the idea of abortion.”
At 18, pregnancy was the last thing on Emma’s mind and it certainly wasn’t part of her plan—she had recently graduated with her aesthetician license and intended to begin working right away. She and her boyfriend weren’t even together when two pink lines popped up on the pregnancy test. They had broken up after dating two years, just before Emma found out she was pregnant.
“I researched abortion,” Emma says, “I looked up clinics online and we saved up money. I didn’t think I could love enough, or give a baby enough attention. I blamed God for the pregnancy.”
David threatened to leave if Emma didn’t have an abortion, and thinking about life as a single mom terrified her. And the whole situation struck a little too close to home. Emma’s mom had given her up for adoption at age 19—only because she could not afford an abortion. Although Emma was welcomed into a loving adoptive family, she didn’t want to walk in her birth mom’s footsteps.
“I felt like I was repeating my mom’s cycle and I didn’t want to struggle,” she says, “I worried about being depressed if I gave my baby up for adoption.”
In Emma’s eyes, the only option was an abortion. And she’s not the only one who feels this way.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, about half of all pregnancies are not planned – and four in 10 of those will end in abortion. Almost one-third of American women will have an abortion by age 45, 90 percent of which occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
And there is no profile for women who have abortions—they can be young professionals, teenagers or the woman sitting next to you in church.
Statistics indicate that 37 percent of Protestant women have had an abortion, followed by 28 percent of Catholic women.
The Bible is clear about the sanctity of human life as God carefully and lovingly creates each hand and foot, tooth and freckle. He knows each person intimately before birth—every personality, dream and talent.
While Christians can take comfort in their theology of grace and forgiveness when it comes to loss of life, this does not absolve them from the duty to protect the unborn. This fight is carried out every day across the U.S. at pregnancy resource centers.
Emma wanted confirmation her positive pregnancy test at home wasn’t a fluke. She searched online for abortion clinics and came across Pregnancy Assistance Center North (PACN), a pregnancy resource center in Spring, TX, and made an appointment.
“When the pregnancy test came back positive, my heart dropped and my mind went straight to abortion,” she says, “I was afraid for my future, and that I wouldn’t be able to raise my son the way he should be raised.”
A peer counselor helped Emma work through her options and talked to her about God’s plan for her and her baby.
“I was given a gift bag,” Emma says. “What made my heart melt was a pair of white baby socks, a newborn diaper and a Bible. When my counselor took out the Bible, I thought she was going to force me to make a decision I didn’t want to make. She went to Psalms 139. Although my relationship with Christ was not at a good point, I completely understood the meaning. No child is a mistake. All babies are a planned gift from God.”
Emma’s counselor offered her and David a free ultrasound—and that was the first time they saw their baby, when Emma was two months pregnant.
Emma and David had been saving money for an abortion and had the procedure scheduled, but after the ultrasound, they decided to put the money toward the new life they had created.
“I left PACN relieved, with a new head on my shoulders,” she said. “I returned home with enough courage to tell my parents, who, to my surprise, were overly supportive and really wanted to help me keep my baby.”
More than 4,300 pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. help people like Emma and David every day. Offering free or reduced cost services including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, peer and professional counseling, education programs, parenting and childbirth classes, these nonprofits are often faith-based organizations that offer physical, emotional and sometimes spiritual support to clients.
But these organizations don’t exist just to tell women to keep their babies. Pregnancy centers can partner with moms and dads from the moment the pregnancy test is positive and through the baby’s first year of life. Programs and classes are aimed at educating new moms—and dads— on topics like prenatal care, healthy relationships, postpartum and infant care and toddler development. Some locations offer Bible studies and Bible-based materials to help clients develop a closer relationship with Christ.
Many centers also connect women and men with local resources that can help during an unplanned pregnancy, including medical care and adoption agencies.
“Without PACN, I’m afraid to think of what would have happened to my son,” Emma says. “They showed me that God has a plan. I just needed to relax and learn what His plan was.”
“Of course it’s hard for us to be young parents, and we lose a lot of sleep. But every moment of lost sleep is made up for when he smiles that big, toothless grin when he sees his mommy and daddy. It truly is amazing to hold such innocence in my arms, who came straight from God.”
Emma and David will celebrate Jaxon’s first birthday together in December, and have plans to get married someday.
“Jaxon is surrounded by people who love him,” she said. “I’m blessed with my beautiful baby boy. My life couldn’t be more complete now.”
*Name changed to maintain confidentiality
Kristal Bean is the public relations and marketing manager for Pregnancy Assistance Center North (PACN) who lives with her husband near Houston, Texas.