Can I really go through with this?
The question raced through her mind. Seconds before a scheduled abortion, nineteen-year-old Amy Ford hyperventilated. When she woke up, by the merciful hand of God, a nurse announced Amy was not emotionally prepared to have an abortion on that particular day. Amy and her boyfriend Ryan walked out of the clinic—and never returned.
As a Christian, Amy knew the truth: abortion is a sin and so is sex outside of the bonds of marriage. She was the girl who stood up for her convictions at pro-life rallies. Yet when she discovered an unplanned life was growing inside her womb, like millions of others, she made the decision to end her pregnancy out of fear and shame.
A Beautiful Ending and a Broken Church
Amy’s story has a beautiful ending: she and Ryan have four children and are still happily married after twenty two years. Today she couldn’t imagine their family without Jess, their God-rescued, first-born son. Yet their brave decision wasn’t embraced by others; in fact, this young couple faced a long road of loneliness and rejection.
What happened next is not uncommon: Amy’s home church wasn’t equipped or ready to accept her scandalous pregnancy. A pastor-friend refused to perform their marriage vows. Jesus-loving people diverted their eyes and pretended the baby didn’t exist. They barely welcomed the innocent infant because they didn’t know what to say. Amy felt like she and her baby were invisible. This once active teen left the church for five years. It took that long to find a new church home where healing could begin.
Pain to Passion to Ministry
Amy’s deep pain transformed into a ministry passion in 2014 when, after several years of leading small groups of women with unplanned pregnancies, she and a friend founded Embrace Grace. Her dream is for the church to be the first place unwed mothers turn to for help instead of the last. She envisions a pro-love movement among Christians that invites these women to find their place of belonging inside the church walls rather than locked out of them.
Not one for dreaming small, Amy says, “When our beliefs are pro-life but we have no love, we're just a clanging cymbal. Being pro-life is a stance but pro-love is an action. And loving people through action inspires a heart transformation from both the giver and the receiver . . . The more support we can give, the more abortion becomes unthinkable for the mom.”
In her new book, Help Her Be Brave: Discover Your Place in the Pro-Life Movement, Amy offers these eight ways to empower women to choose life:
8 Ways to Empower Women to Choose Life
1. See Her
Women with unexpected pregnancies are everywhere. Christ’s mission on earth was, and still is, to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10). The same search-and-rescue assignment has been given to us. We are to be actively looking for the wandering, the weak, and the weary. Watch for pregnant women who aren’t wearing a wedding ring. Stand outside abortion clinics and offer prayer, help and hope to those walking in or out. See the world as your mission field!
2. Comfort Her
Women often feel as if they are drowning and can’t catch their breath when they first learn that they are pregnant. Pregnancy centers are the first-responders who provide a place of refuge in a woman’s time of need. This responsibility shouldn’t fall solely on their shoulders. They can’t do it alone. Find the local pregnancy centers in your community and volunteer your help and financial support to keep their doors open. Ask for ways your church can be involved.
3. Welcome Her
No one can conceive life without the consent of God, the Author of Life. A baby is not a sin. A baby is a miracle. Every single gift of life should be celebrated. Partner with your local pregnancy centers to let their clients know they are welcome at your church. Throw a baby shower to supply the practical things needed to start a family. Disciple a new mom to show her how to get back on her feet. Start a book club using Amy’s book, Help Her Be Brave: Discover Your Place in the Pro-Life Movement. Let’s challenge one another to take one small action each week to help a woman choose life.
4. Protect Her
The pro-life movement needs more voices. It needs defenders of the unborn and protectors of the mommas who carry them. There are endless ways you can advocate for the powerless. Use your social media platform to post life-affirming content. Attend the annual March for Life. One voice can make a difference.
5. Love Her
Many women have experienced trauma and need a safe place to heal. The church provides a sanctuary for revealing broken places and learning to forgive. Compassionate mentors and church support groups can teach how to replace negative thoughts and Satan’s lies with gospel truth. Only then will a mother look up and see that the future is good.
These hurting women are not a project or a person to fix then move on. The church can envelop them into their family for the long haul. There is nothing like seeing a woman come to understand that she is more than her past mistakes or the lies she has believed about herself, and that she is passionately loved by Jesus.
6. Support Her
Adoption is a beautiful choice but it isn’t an easy decision for a birth mother. Most feel isolated and lonely immediately after they release their baby into another family’s care. Some feel a similar grief to a mother who miscarries or loses an infant. What a birth mom needs most is someone to support her before, during, and after the process. Give her the tools and resources to connect with an adoption agency where she can map out the best plan for the baby. After she places the baby for adoption, organize a Celebration of Life party.
Foster families need support too. Your church can set a congregational goal for adopting and fostering children. Keep a stock of children’s clothing, furniture, and essentials so that if a foster family receives an unexpected call for placement, they can quickly access what they need. In particular, mothers who have lost their children through child protection services will need your help to become stable and healthy so she can be reunited with her children.
7. Free Her
There is always hope and healing to redeem the life of a woman who has experienced an abortion. Guilt and shame have no power to cancel her role in the kingdom. If that’s you, be the person you needed in crisis. You can fill the void by showing up for another woman in her time of need.
Our stories are often a launching pad for ministry. Use yours to raise awareness or begin an abortion healing group at your church. Whether you’ve had an abortion yourself, or your heart just breaks for those who have, follow the map of your heartbreak and partner with heaven to heal others.
8. Empower Her
Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can be completely overwhelming to a single mom. It takes a tender heart and a sensitive spirit to discern what to do and how to help. No one wants a hand-out that feels like benevolence, but there are ways to give a hand-up that feels like empowerment. This physical blessing is every bit as important as a spiritual blessing. In fact, it is a spiritual blessing.
Providing for the simple daily needs of single parents and their children is not just about the here and now; it is a matter of eternal significance. People have a really hard time hearing the gospel when their stomachs are empty. There are many ways to practically support single moms like helping with childcare, auto repairs, job searching, education grants, and more. If you know a single mom, meet with her and ask not only what her greatest needs are but what her dreams are. Every circumstance is different, and yet all single moms have one thing in common: they need us to be there, cheering them on and looking out for them.
There’s Work to Do
Church, we’ve got work to do. There are no throwaways in God’s Kingdom. Jesus told the parable about a man who left his ninety-nine sheep to rescue the one lost sheep. Once the sheep was found, He said, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Amy Ford has seen firsthand how the church can play a powerful role in displaying God’s heart to save a mom and her baby. Pray and ask God to show you the first step to take on the pro-love path. She says, “God may show you an opportunity you never knew to look for. You are the answer to someone’s prayer. There is a new mother out there who needs you. We can’t fix all of her problems but we can point her to the One who can.”
If God’s people are for life and for love, we can work together to give hope and help to women with unexpected pregnancies—one life, one baby, one dream at a time.
Amy Ford is the President of Embrace Grace, Inc., a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of providing curriculum and leadership support for churches nationwide to open their arms to young women with unplanned pregnancies. Embrace Grace is utilized by over 700 churches across the nation and world. She is also the author of Help Her Be Brave: Discover Your Place in the Pro-Life Movement. Amy resides in Arlington, Texas and has been married for twenty-two years and has four great kids.