With shifting policies and restrictions related to life and abortion across the country, pro-life ministry can look different across state lines. However, the heart behind pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) has been one and the same: to save lives and come alongside vulnerable women during the most difficult moments of their lives.
I recently spoke with Wendy Reasner, executive director of NorthState Care Clinic in Redding, California, to hear more about the abortion landscape in California and how their PRC is working to reach more women and children with the love and hope of the gospel. Wendy also shared how churches and pro-life individuals and organizations can work together to foster a culture of life and support for the most vulnerable.
Jill Waggoner: How would you describe the abortion culture in California?
Wendy Reasner: California has become an abortion tourism state. Gov. [Gavin] Newsom has put up billboards that say, “Please come to our state, and we will help you. We will pay for your abortion. We will pay for your travel. We’ll pay for the childcare of your other children in order for you to get an abortion.” Newsom used Scripture on those billboards. There are pilots who fly into California from other states to help women get abortions.
The availability of abortion pills is also increasing. Right now, they’re not only offered through the mail—they’re at our local CVS and Rite Aid. You don’t have to do much to have those pills sent or prescribed to you. Before Dobbs, we were a state that was providing abortion up until birth, and nothing has changed since. So it’s just completely and purely pro-choice.
JW: What should we know about late-term abortions?
WR: A lot of people think women are having late-term abortions to protect the health of the mother. But early court cases defined the health of the mother as anything that impedes even the mental status of the mother. So if being pregnant at the very last day of pregnancy makes the mother depressed and she wants an abortion, then that’s just fine.
Many people also don’t know that in certain states, especially in California, if a baby survives a late-term abortion and is born alive, there are no lifesaving measures taken to help that baby.
JW: What does it look like to be pro-life in California?
WR: I would say being pro-life in California is like swimming upstream. In Northern California, where I live and where our new mobile ultrasound bus is located, it is very conservative. We’re blessed to be in a largely religious, pro-life area. However, we have to comply with all of the legislation that comes from the state, which is very pro-choice.
JW: What has your experience been with local representatives and policies, and how do they affect your work?
WR: We are fortunate to have pro-life representatives in Northern California, but I don’t think PRC information really reaches them. We’ve contacted our local representatives to come visit our PRC, because there has been an attack on pregnancy centers all over the country and false warnings that they are fake abortion clinics. Our legislators don’t really understand what this is all about, but they don’t seem to want to visit and learn what a PRC is and how we are truly supporting women and our community. I feel like a lot of leaders—unless they’re radically pro-choice or radically pro-life—just aren’t paying attention.
JW: What does your PRC provide for your community?
WR: We’re in a rural area and serve close to 1,000 women each year. We’ve given over 200 pregnancy tests throughout the year and also provide free ultrasounds for women. In abortion clinics, women are often not permitted to see their ultrasounds, because those working in the clinic know that an ultrasound has the greatest impact in helping a woman connect with her unborn child. So many young girls think that a baby’s heartbeat begins beating at three months and are always surprised that at six weeks, they can see the heart beating on the screen.
In addition to giving lifesaving ultrasounds, we’re walking with women throughout the journey. Through our “earn while you learn” program, mothers can earn points by educating themselves on anything related to pregnancy, parenting, budgeting, etc., taking ownership for their own education, and then using those points in our boutique to get resources and supplies for pregnancy and early childhood care. We have cribs, strollers, car seats, and clothing. We offer labor and delivery classes and spiritual connection classes, as well.
We also offer reproductive loss classes for those who’ve had miscarriages or abortions, because the sad reality is that when a mom chooses to abort, she usually struggles afterward. We just want to make sure that mom knows how to care for herself, that she knows that she’s supported, and that she knows that she can do it.
JW: What do you want those who live in areas with more abortion restrictions to understand about the pro-life movement in places like California?
WR: There is no easy serving in the pro-life movement, no matter what state you’re in and no matter what restrictions are there, because the heart and the mind of women is pretty much the same everywhere. We are all facing a huge battle, but we know that we are serving a God who is bigger than anything. We can also praise God for states with abortion restrictions, because we know that lives are being saved there, and we know that the media is not publishing stories of girls who are choosing life.
JW: How would you encourage pro-life individuals to get involved in advocating for women and children?
WR: I would encourage pro-life individuals to get involved with a state family council of some sort or a consortium of people who are watching legislation. In California, we have the California Family Council, which has a website that displays all of the new policies that affect families. Having a finger on the pulse of legislation helps pro-life individuals organize better and to come together in their advocacy. The pro-life movement has often been divided, but together, we can be an insurmountable force for the Kingdom of God.
JW: What do you see as the greatest need from churches and other pro-life partners in the coming days?
WR: Recent research tells us that 1 in 3 women who terminate their pregnancies were attending church at the time, so I feel the greatest need from the Church is to acknowledge that this is an issue, and not to run away from it. We need to understand the women in our churches and understand that the whole reason that PRCs exist is because women are intimidated to come to their churches. I can actually speak from personal experience. As a teenager, I was too intimidated, too ashamed, and too guilty to tell someone my story.
I think that churches have taken great strides in this area. We give mothers a beautiful gift box, letting them know that there are people in the church who love them and are willing to walk with them. There is a fabulous organization (and others like it) called Embrace Grace that serves as a connector from PRCs to the Church. The church actually gets to help save lives, both physically and spiritually.