It was hardly a planned moment. I can’t remember the entire context of how it happened. But it taught me a lesson about what the pregnancy help community is accomplishing and a clear picture of what might be ahead.
Let’s set the stage: More than 600 of us gathered recently in Dayton, OH, for the Miami Valley Women’s Center’s annual gala, and it was obvious we had an energized audience. The client stories were powerful. Executive director Tiffany Seifman laid out a strong vision for the future.
By the time I reached the podium to share my thoughts as speaker for the event, this group was prepared to give, and to do so generously. My mission? Just don’t fall off the stage. I would also ask for funding, but with this group, it wouldn’t be difficult.
As a banquet speaker I use few notes, just enough to remind me to highlight the goals for the evening and any key ministry initiatives. Because I’m not bogged down by an outline or a script, I’m free to pull ideas and thoughts as I go. Making changes on the fly is simple.
Which was perfect for this event, because we needed to go off-script.
A special guest
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) and his wife Fran were in the audience. In April, DeWine signed Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill, which, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will outlaw abortion in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Pro-life laborers worked nearly 10 years for the bill’s passage. It was DeWine, after a previous governor vetoed the measure, who finally made the bill law.
I’m always excited when key elected officials attend fundraising dinners, because it tells us two things:
First, when a high-profile officeholder chooses to join us, it shows we’re having an impact. We’re difference makers, and those who need votes know we’re the place to be.
But second? It tells us there are good, good people—like DeWine and his family (one of his daughters and a son-in-law attended, too)—who care about what we do.
Before the event, I thanked Fran DeWine for their coming, pointing out they receive countless invitations to events like this and could have declined gracefully.
She smiled and responded by telling me they have eight children and 24 grandchildren. They wanted to be there, and they practice what they preach, to be sure.
At some point then during my address, I mentioned Gov. DeWine. And for some reason it struck me that he deserved more than my acknowledgement. I thanked him—the best I could--for signing the Heartbeat Bill. His was not a politically correct decision in a swing state. It took courage. A lot of it.
The audience began clapping. No surprise there.
The joy of watching a promise kept
Then, the unexpected.
Behind DeWine’s front row table, a few began to stand in appreciation. Then, more.
My smartest decision of the evening? I stepped back, away from the podium, lowering the microphone.
Something special was taking place. When this happens, it’s best to get out of the way and watch.
More stood. Then more. The wave of applause grew.
Soon, everyone was on their feet, pouring out appreciation for a governor who kept his word, regardless of consequences.
Me? I got choked up. When the applause finally died down, for a few moments it was hard to say anything.
The next day, with a chance to reflect, it hit me. Fact is, as a candidate, DeWine had made it clear that if elected, he would protect innocent life. While abortion advocates sounded alarm bells, Ohio citizens thought differently, giving DeWine a 3.7% win in the toss-up state.
Ohio’s electorate knew DeWine was pro-life. They knew that while the previous Republican governor vetoed the Heartbeat Bill, DeWine would sign the legislation and rock the abortion debate. With a clear majority, the voters said, “Go for it.” And, he did.
An undeniable truth
Here’s the takeaway: Politics runs downstream from the culture. When the culture shifts in a new direction, the political winds shift as well.
This is the case in Ohio, and in several states which recently enacted similar laws.
And while I don’t want to overplay this, we—pregnancy help organizations—play a key role.
Look at the facts:
- Client numbers: Up
- Women and men choosing life: Up
- Post-abortion recovery clients: Up
- Fatherhood outreach: Up
No one is saying pregnancy help organizations are solely responsible for a changing cultural landscape, but we’re a major part of the conversation. Daily, we reach those facing key life decisions, and they are listening.
Not only this, but we’ve been around for decades. Babies born through our work are now adults. They believe in us. And, they vote. Oh, and they now have children, too.
An example to remember
We should keep in mind, the great William Wilberforce turned abolitionist in 1787 after his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. It took him 20 years to affect the British culture enough to pass a bill stopping the slave trade in Great Britain. And, it was another 26 years, 46 years altogether, before slavery was finally abolished throughout most of the British Empire.
Change takes time. Sometimes, much more time than we wish. But though persistence meets resistance, persistence will—in time—win out.
Interestingly, we’re 46 years into Roe v. Wade. Perhaps, this decision may be crumbling. We’ll see.
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A view of the future?
On a recent cool evening in Dayton, Ohio, 600 friends of a life-affirming pregnancy center got a glimpse of what it might look like when this injustice finally meets its legal downfall. They know that if this happens—if abortion is no longer legal—pregnancy centers will be needed more than ever. They get it.
Yet, for those few moments, we got our glimpse. Our peek at the future.
We applauded. We stood in appreciation, and we stood with hope.
I look forward to the day when together, all of us will see this chapter in our history closed for good. It’s going to be a great day. And maybe, just maybe, that day is closer than we think.