NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: contraception and the pro-life movement.
And a note to parents before we get this story started. If you have little ones listening with you this morning, and we are very glad that they are, you might want to hit pause and come back to this story a bit later.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Pro-life pregnancy centers generally fall into two categories: those run mostly by volunteers who offer counseling rather than medical advice. And then those staffed by doctors and nurses who provide medical care shaped by a pro-life worldview. Most of these faith-based clinics do not dispense birth control. But that’s starting to change.
WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen reports now on what’s behind the move.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Andy Schoonover knew this would be a controversial decision.
SCHOONOVER: But I think somebody had to be the first.
Schoonover is CEO of The Source. It’s a chain of eight women’s health clinics across Texas. And starting in January, The Source will offer contraception.
Each clinic provides STD testing, ultrasounds, and prenatal care. They all have an OBGYN on site. And they’re unwaveringly pro-life.
SCHOONOVER: We will not refer for abortions and we will not provide, uh, abortifacients…We do consider that life starts at conception.
Schoonover became CEO in March 2017.
SCHOONOVER: I had a great conversation with our medical director who said, Hey, listen, if you really want to reduce unplanned pregnancies, you have to provide contraception.
And for Schoonover, reducing unplanned pregnancies is a priority.
A lot of the women who come to The Source are in a crisis situation. Maybe they’ve already had one or two abortions in the past. Schoonover asks, if he can prevent a crisis in the first place, why wouldn’t he try?
SCHOONOVER: The women who are coming, that we’re giving contraception to, are engaging in sexual behavior. And so we are trying to figure out a way to reduce the collateral damage as a result of doing that.
The Source will only offer certain types contraception—types that prevent pregnancies rather than ending them. Schoonover believes that strategy fits within the pro-life worldview. But many Christians say it undermines the mission.
Matt Larson is the national director of the Morning Center. It’s a pro-life prenatal medical center with clinics in Tennessee and Georgia. And it doesn’t offer contraception.
LARSON: My thinking may look a little bit different than someone else because I see a lot of things in my life that my plans don’t work out. I mean the Scriptures say many of the plans in a man’s heart, but in the end, the Lord directs the path.
Larson says sometimes people need to experience the natural outcomes and consequences of their actions, so they don’t make those same mistakes again.
LARSON: We’re always looking to short circuit a process…I mean everybody knows how you get pregnant. It’s not like there’s, there’s not a mystery enshrouding it in any fashion. So how do you make decisions to not put yourself in situations where you’re going to have to deal with additional decisions that you maybe weren’t ready for.
Larson wants to build relationships with people and walk alongside them. He says that’s a better way to prevent a crisis.
LARSON: The prevention to me is actually caring for human beings and if more people cared about each other, if we had more people genuinely loving others, I think you’d see a massive shift.
Other Christian groups say that offering contraception sends a mixed message. If you tell a woman that her lifestyle is dangerous, but then give her a tool to maintain that lifestyle, why would she change?
Michelle Reimer is the executive director of Hope Pregnancy Ministries. She says she understands that position and why many pro-life clinics are opposed to offering birth control.
REIMER: But I also would ask them to come sit in the room with me.
The average woman who comes to Reimer’s clinic is about 27 years old and has already had 10 sexual partners.
REIMER: These women are ingrained in a lifestyle that won’t necessarily change just because I share with her the truth, which is that abstinence is the best way and that abstinence is going to protect her 100 percent of the time.
Reimer says she has to earn the right to teach women the truth. And right now, she’s a little frustrated with the current pro-life strategy.
REIMER: As a nurse, I feel like my hands are tied. We are medical professionals. And yet we’re expected by our movement to stay in a certain little tiny niche where it doesn’t make sense.
Reimer wishes more pro-life groups would consider offering contraception.
REIMER: We need to change our thinking and we can do that without betraying our convictions.
The board members who oversee Reimer’s clinic are considering making that change. Reimer has spoken to pastors and theologians about how that move might affect the ministry and what the Bible has to say about it.
Reimer’s clinic isn’t the only one considering contraceptives. Andy Schoonover says he’s already had half a dozen clinics contact him with questions about how they can do the same thing.
Reimer knows this change in strategy has the potential to divide the pro-life movement. But she hopes it won’t.
REIMER: There’s enough division out there. I’d like to see pregnancy medical clinics really being able to support each other and understand each other and know that we all have our patients’ best interests at heart.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.