Ever since a gunman opened fire inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood late last November, killing three, Colorado’s second-largest city has served as a sort of unwilling microcosm of what Charles Camosy has termed “the abortion wars”.
As pro-life groups and individuals unanimously disavowed Robert Dear’s lethal attack even while it was taking place, and Planned Parenthood spokespersons rushed to blame the assault on “anti-abortion rhetoric,” the dividing line between abortion backers and opponents was plain to see.
Plain enough to see the split at an ideological level, that is. Just not plain enough to tell the story of what happens on the ground in Colorado Springs.
“There are people who would say the gunman here a few months ago was acting as a pro-life person, but anybody who truly believes that is not a rational thinker,” Diane Foley, MD, president and CEO of Life Network, said. “The point of all this is you can’t pick and choose which life has more value.
“Every life has value, and that’s the life of the doctors how are performing the abortions, of the people who are working in the abortion clinic, of the women themselves, the dads who are involved, the friends that drive them.”
With one of its three pregnancy center locations just a half mile from the Planned Parenthood where the attack took place, Life Network reaches 15,000 people a year—students, mothers and fathers—on the strength of a diverse range of services.
Including Foley, a pediatrician who has led the organization since 2013, the Life Network leverages a 30-person staff and over 9,000 volunteer hours per year to serve its community with free ultrasound testing, peer options counseling, post-abortion care, life skills training and mentoring, and sexual risk avoidance education in local schools and churches.
Foley had a unique opportunity in early March to share the mission of her organization with a film crew from Vice News, a Canadian-based news source that ran a short documentary disparaging the work of pregnancy centers in late 2014.
While agreeing to the interview and visit from the film crew certainly represented a risk, it was one Foley was willing to take to introduce a largely pro-choice viewing audience to her organization’s work.
“What was interesting to me was, throughout the course of those hours I talked with them, I watched their demeanor change,” Foley said. “I told them, I think there is a lack of understanding of where the other person is coming from in this whole situation. If we really are honest with each other, we probably have way more in common than what we may think.”
In the final product, a 3-minute video called “Pro-Life Counseling in Colorado” and released March 10, Foley is asked whether she believes adoption and parenting are better options than abortion.
Her answer may not have been what the camera crew expected.
“I think it’s a better option for the baby,” Foley said in the video. “I think that it’s very difficult for me to think about someone making a choice to end that [life]. But, again, I also recognize that everybody, at this point, certainly in our country, everybody has the legal right to make that choice themselves.”
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Following up on its commitment to care for each member of the Colorado Springs community, the Life Network offers a 9-week healing and support class for women and men to work through the effects of a past abortion decision.
For mothers and fathers who choose to parent, Foley’s organization also offers parenting and fatherhood cohorts that last up until a child is 2 years old.
Calling upon fathers in the community to step in and mentor new dads, the program also includes an incentive program for new parents to earn needed baby items while empowering them to learn the life skills they’ll need to raise healthy families.
“We know they have a need for emotional support, and financial support and material goods,” Foley said. “But how can we provide that in a way that doesn’t strip our clients of any dignity or self-worth and actually tends to stimulate them to succeed?”
“One of the things our clients need to gain is a sense of self-efficacy that, ‘I can do this. It may take help from other people to do it, but they aren’t giving it to me. I’m actually doing something to get it myself.’”