Creative Pro-Life Care

Aubrey Schlackman and the one-of-a-kind Texas maternity ranch

Elizabeth Bristow

News burst onto the scene in November 2021 about an out-of-the-box form of care in the pro-life movement: a maternity ranch.1https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/11/16/evangelical-women-texas-abortion/ In 2020, God placed a dream in Aubrey Schlackman’s heart, and from that point on, her family has been dreaming and working toward creating a place in rural East Texas where single, pregnant mothers who already have children could have supportive community, gospel discipleship, and farm therapy. 

Today, Blue Haven Ranch is seeking to fill a gap for vulnerable mothers and children in a post-Roe world and in a state that has a near-total abortion ban.2https://www.bluehavenranch.org/ The Schlackmans’ ministry is an example of how Christians can get creative in standing for and support the right to life in their communities. Below, Schlackman shares about how this dream become a reality and how other Christians can get involved.

Elizabeth Bristow: What is the story behind the origin of Blue Haven Ranch? And why a ranch? 

Aubrey Schlackman: My husband and I have been married for 12 years, and for many of those years we’ve had a big heart for single, pregnant moms and a love for hospitality. For years we thought about using extra space within our own home to partner with single, pregnant moms, but it never really worked out. I was sick for a few years, but coming into 2020, I was healthy and prayed to the Lord about how to re-engage with life.

At the beginning of February 2020, my sons and I were driving home from the grocery store in our rural community when I passed a ranch for sale. In that moment, I felt the Lord give me a vision to start a maternity ranch.

As I sat on the idea that day, I realized it combined into a single focus things that my husband and I had a heart for. As the world shut down in 2020, we worked with nonprofit consultants to build out our plan of growth. We opened our doors in April 2021 and had four families at that time in our home. We provided assistance with baby showers, paid for two months of maternity leave for each mom, gave them a support group, and cooked meals together. By May 2021, we had enough donations from supporters to put our first mom into an apartment and pay for her housing. By September 2021, we were paying the housing and utilities for all four moms. 

When the Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8) was passed, outlawing abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, a waitlist started for our program. A Washington Post reporter in Texas wrote a story about our work, and it ended up being on the front page of the paper. After that, our waitlist exploded, and we had increased donations. 

In March 2022, we sold our home and moved to a four-acre farm in Krum, Texas. We fixed it up, and so far we have a horse, donkey, ponies, goats, chickens, and dogs. We also have a greenhouse we’re building so we can engage families in the farm therapy aspect of our program. Now, we have a contract on 124 acres of ranch land that a donor has agreed to buy for us. I’ve never been part of something that has moved this quickly. We’re just trying to keep up with the momentum that God has created in this.

The final phase of the maternity ranch will be building mother cottages. We want to house at least 20 families onsite at the maternity ranch. We’ll also have some staff homes, a community center, the barns, and the greenhouses. This will help facilitate the lifestyle of community and self-sustainability. 

We also help mothers assess jobs and pick ones that are going to meet their needs. Our program runs to 18 months postpartum. We help them through the whole process of getting the career training and job placement they need. We want to help plant them wherever they’re going to be and get them connected to community.

EB: What would just an average day look like for a mom who is a part of your program right now? 

AS: Currently, unless moms are on maternity leave, they are required to work a job full time and their children go to childcare. On Mondays, we gather for a time of Bible study and community, while the kids do a little class with volunteers. After our group time, we have a meal that the kitchen team prepares for us.

Throughout the week, the moms are required to check in with our program advisor, who helps keep them stay on track with their goals. They’re also required to go to counseling a couple of times a month. Once the farm therapy starts, I hope to have each family come out a few times a month with volunteers for in-depth mentoring time.

EB: What role does the church play in meeting this need currently?

AS: If we say we are truly pro-life, we should put our time and money toward that belief. We often celebrate the new life of a baby, but we also need to help care for mothers postpartum. That might mean starting a maternity home that allows longer postpartum care, or it might mean giving more resources to pregnancy resource centers that can be used after the baby is born.

Another area of need is childcare. Most moms don’t get paid maternity leave. Childcare is really expensive, and while moms can apply for government assistance, they may not know that it takes six to nine months to get approved. Even then, it’s limited to two years. We need the church to help moms get back on their feet after they’ve had their baby and help them pay for childcare until they can get more assistance.

EB: On average, what does it take to financially support a mother and her family per year? 

AS: Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, apartments can run anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 per month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. When you add in utilities and childcare, depending on the number of children, that can be around $3,000 per month. 

In our program, we have levels of support based on the mom’s situation. If they’re not working because they are going to school online or are in a job transition, then we usually pay for utilities, rent, and childcare. If they’re on maternity leave, we pay for everything—food, medical expenses, etc. We offer eight weeks of maternity leave, so that’s about $4,000 to $5,000 per month for each family. 

EB: What are some specific needs that you have? And what are practical ways people can get involved with your ministry? 

AS: Financially, we’re limited on how many families we can take at the ranch. So, if someone wants to make a direct impact, helping us pay for each family is important. We need approximately $18,000 in the bank for each mom to join our program. 

In addition, we need volunteers. 

However, if you live in another city, you can follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter. These communications will make you aware of baby shower gift lists or random financial needs, such as helping a mom get a vehicle, etc. 

EB: What is your ultimate goal for Blue Haven Ranch?

AS: We want to be a maternity ranch that supports moms through community, gospel discipleship, and farm therapy that teaches them regenerative farming. In all of this, we want to give them different tools that enable them to become self-sustainable in their own lives and then launch back out successfully [into the world] to be independent, healthy members of society and strong moms.

Aubrey Schlackman is the co-founder of Blue Haven Ranch.

Elizabeth Bristow serves as the press secretary for the ERLC. Elizabeth oversees public relations and media operations for the organization. She received a B.A. in Public Relations and Marketing from Union University in 2010. She is a native of Tennessee and resides in Lebanon, Tennessee, with her husband and two children.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24