INTRODUCTION: Hi this is Traci Griggs, Director of Communications for NC Family, sitting in this week for John Rustin. I’m delighted to welcome our guest today who I have followed and admired for many years as a lifelong leader in the pregnancy center movement. Melinda Delahoyde served for many years as president of Care Net, one of the nation’s largest and oldest networks of pregnancy centers. And not one to lose touch with the importance of local pregnancy centers as the hub of the pro-life movement, Melinda recently agreed to serve as president of Gateway pregnancy center in Raleigh, which is located within a few miles of five college campuses. We’re going to make a two-week discussion out of this since Melinda has a valuable perspective on two things that we in particular want to talk about. First, she has been on the front row witnessing and influencing some important trends in pregnancy care centers over the past decade. And second, she has insight on some frightening things that are just beginning to happen across the country in regard to abortion pills. There is a push to make these easily accessible to younger and younger girls and to minimize doctor involvement in the process.
Melinda, welcome to Family Policy Matters!
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: Thank you Traci, it’s great to be here!
TRACI GRIGGS: Melinda, you have a lifetime of hands-on experience with pregnancy care centers. Tell us a little bit about what, practically speaking, pregnancy centers do and how they serve their communities, and why they are an important piece to the pro-life puzzle.
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: It’s really helpful and amazing when we look back over 40 years plus since the Roe v. Wade decision came down in 1973 and legalized abortion. I think it’s great to be able to look back and see how God has mobilized his people to bring compassion, healing and help on this issue of abortion, both for the unborn baby and for the woman facing that unplanned pregnancy. And as I tell this story around the country, it is always such an encouragement to believers, to those who embrace the Judeo-Christian view of the sanctity of every human life, to realize that in 1973 when the Supreme Court in two decisions in one day brought legalized abortion to America, there were no pregnancy centers, there was really almost no response. This was not a totally unexpected, but certainly an absolutely shocking decision from the Supreme Court. So at that time, I had graduated from seminary and was serving on one of the national Boards of Evangelicals who were involved in social action and this was the issue around which all our hearts and our minds had gravitated. What do we do now? And we had thought it’s the lobbying, it’s the education, particularly the education of Evangelicals, because our Catholic brothers and sisters have been carrying this load for years and really needed Evangelicals to step in and do their part to protect lives, to help women, whatever it might be. So, we were sitting on this Board and literally we would get hundreds of letters from people all over the country, from big towns, small towns, cities, suburbs, whatever it might be. They were all believers and they were Christians and this was the question that all of them asked. It started with, “We know that abortion is wrong and we know what Roe v. Wade has brought to our country, but what do we do to help women in our community to choose life for their babies and for themselves? How do we show compassion. How do we care for them?” And it was really out of those letters coming to our Board in Washington, D.C. and to others, to Francis Schaeffer, to Dr. C. Everett Koop, to others who realized what was happening, this same question was being asked. And it was out of that that God literally raised up in hundreds and thousands of communities around the country, his people from churches all over those communities, and others who wanted to be involved who said, “We will come together and we will build a place, we’ll have a place for that woman to come and we will provide help and we will provide hope for her and we will, yes, we want that baby to live and we want that women to understand that she does not have to have an abortion.” And that was really the beginning of the Care Net pregnancy network, which now has around 1,200 pregnancy centers and so many other independent centers. It was not some kind of centralized business plan out of Washington, D.C. It was literally God speaking to the hearts of his people and saying, “I want you to help.” This is what Christians do, this is what Christians have done through the ages and here was a new sort of vineyard in which to work and it was the “Life” vineyard.
TRACI GRIGGS: So is it important then, the model of the way that these centers have operated, quietly in communities, almost under the radar in some instances? Is that an important component to the whole pro-life movement, do you think?
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: I think that that’s been an effective component although we would have to say that pregnancy centers are now the number one target of the abortion movement. And I think it’s precisely because they have been so effective at the grassroots level and they’ve been very versatile in that they have responded to the unique needs of their community They’e all independent 501 (c) 3’s with their own Board and they are tuned in to what the needs of their community are. So I think that that model has changed through the decades because when pregnancy centers started you couldn’t get a free pregnancy test anywhere. That certainly changed and now with the vast preponderance of digital technology and what’s available to us, almost all pregnancy centers now are going online with a strong presence to reach that abortion-minded woman. And that’s very important because we know that when she first finds out, or thinks she might be pregnant, she will go to her phone, she’ll go to her iPad and she’ll Google words like “Abortion Provider” and “Am I Pregnant?” and all these different phrases and words. And literally, we want to find her first. We do not want her to go to organizations like Planned Parenthood first. So, technology has become a huge tool within the pregnancy center movement. So I would say that it’s been very helpful for pregnancy centers not to be centralized but to be decentralized under an affiliation umbrella, but able to work within their community to meet the unique needs of those communities.
TRACI GRIGGS: Melinda, I understand you have a child who has special needs. How does this provide a unique perspective for you and has it added to your passion for pro-life ministries?
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: Oh my goodness! Will Delahoyde is now almost 34-years old and he was born with Down Syndrome. And interestingly enough, he was born when I was in the middle of writing a book about the non-treatment of handicapped newborns, many of whom had Down Syndrome. So, it was as if God gave us this amazing gift and blessing of this little boy when I had been out speaking around the country and on that very topic and had been meeting families who had children with Down Syndrome, who had children with special needs. And then here we were with our own child with special needs, whose now a young man, holds down a wonderful job at a very well-known supermarket in Raleigh, has many friends and gets up every day and says, “Mom, my mission at my job is to make people happy!” And on so many fronts, Will understands what’s truly important in life. God and people and all the values that we work so hard to inculcate into our children’s lives, Will just seems to naturally understand them. And he has actually spoken at Care Net’s large, 1,500-person conference on his own, a speech he wrote. He’s done a YouTube video promoting the “October Baby” movie several years ago and he has spoken at pregnancy center banquets. So, he is by any definition just an amazing young man.
TRACI GRIGGS: What a beautiful and personal side of the pro-life movement! I kind of hate to move back into the business aspects of our pro-life discussion, but let’s do that because I know that you have also seen a development in the world of pregnancy care centers that our listeners may not even know about. And that is a shift away from locally-run ministries with local Boards. In quite a few cities across the country, a national group is establishing a presence by assuming operations of local pregnancy centers. What is your opinion on this development?
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: Let me say that I know those who started this organization. Their hearts are wonderful on this issue. There is more than enough work to be done in this area, and I think that we welcome them, I think it’s a different model in the sense that someone in our city recently said to me, “You know Melinda, what Gateway does is the ground game.” And I think that is so true! We’re very savvy. Many pregnancy centers are very savvy about Internet advertising, geo-sensing all the different ways that we reach and engage that abortion-minded woman. But I think that there’s two different models here and in our model, we are locally based as you said. There are strong relationships; there’s a lot of engagement and partnerships within the city with organizations, and we are absolutely faith-based. And I think that is woven into our coaching to what happens: the opportunity to have spiritual conversations. All of our volunteers and staff are trained, not in an aggressive or disrespectful way, but in a way that allows her to just think for herself about some of the deeper questions in her life, realizing that she may be one of the many, many women coming to pregnancy centers who will never walk through the door of a church, and this may be one of our few times to engage her. And we have found God do amazing things through the 40 years in which this model has been working. But you know Traci, it’s all good. It is all good. Whatever people are doing to embrace life, to help women, that’s a wonderful thing. There are very few of these types, other types of centers around the country now, but it’s welcome, it’s welcome, because new things are needed! New things are happening and there is certainly enough on our plate and everyone’s plate to bring back the sanctity of life in America.
TRACI GRIGGS: Great, thank you. Melinda. We’re nearly out of time this week, so tell our listeners where they can get more information.
MELINDA DELAHOYDE: If you Google my name, there’s the You Tube video there, there’s books and speeches and things that have been given. It’s all available. I would just encourage everyone, there is a way that you can be involved. It might be volunteering at a pregnancy center; it might be mentoring and helping women who have made a decision to carry their baby but really don’t know what to do; it may be in abortion healing when you realize how many millions of abortions and how many of our families and our friends have been affected by it. There are so many ways to be involved. So if you go to the Care Net website, if you Google Care Net, if you Google Gateway in Raleigh, or your local pregnancy center and find out, give them a call. Check out in your church what might be happening—you want to get your church engaged with the pregnancy center movement. And think about how God might want you to be involved. Because it may be praying, praying for women who are literally walking through the doors of a pregnancy center that day. Being able to pray about them anonymously and pray for what’s happening in their lives. That’s an amazing opportunity when you think about it, that we as hundreds of thousands and millions of believers could actually be praying for women as they’re making that most important, momentous decision.
TRACI GRIGGS: Melinda Delahoyde, thanks you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters and for your important work to save the unborn and love and support mothers. Thanks for joining us.
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