by Judy Van Swol, Wisconsin Right to Life Director of Educational Outreach
Pro-life work is not for the faint of heart. Directing two pregnancy centers in SE Wisconsin was the most rewarding work I have ever done; it was also the most challenging and humbling. Fundraisers, events, client services, marketing, donor development, board recruitment, policy modifications, legislative challenges, staffing transitions, church relationships, fluctuating bank balances. All of these and so much more were legitimate claims on my time, but it seemed as though I was a marionette puppet being jerked in every direction.
Everything was urgent; I often felt drained physically, emotionally and mentally. It was easy to get tunnel vision and to lose focus and direction. It became obvious that the fight for life was not a one-person mission; neither can one pregnancy resource center presume to turn the tide for life in Wisconsin. I badly needed to collaborate with like-minded people and organizations.
What a relief, then, to realize that I could turn to Wisconsin Right to Life for help. I had always thought of pregnancy center work as ministry, while the work of WRTL was political–far removed from women and babies. I assumed pregnancy centers provided personal care and counseling while WRTL worried about laws and statistics. I soon realized that this was a false dichotomy. The more I learned about WRTL programs, the more I realized that while their legislative work was critical in providing the legal support that my center needed to keep its doors open, they offered so much more, and there were so many ways we could partner together.
Through their 123GiveLife.com website, I found easy access to other pregnancy center directors. I was invited to periodic workshops, coordinated by the Education Department of WRTL, which convened pregnancy center directors from all over WI. A warm cup of coffee, the opportunity to share concerns and resources with other directors, and the information-packed sessions brought a boost of encouragement and skills, and served to forge partnerships.
I attended the WRTL legislative and fundraising events – soaking up the expertise of well-known advocates for life. When we had needy clients with financial distress far beyond the resources of our center, I was able to apply for emergency grants from WRTL. I saw firsthand how these grants provided women hope and incentive to choose life.
In turn, I was able to forward to my constituents the critical information about elections and legislative efforts; to mobilize in my own communities the fight to protect life.
Years later, it seems like I have come full circle. I now expedite the emergency grants I once depended on. Just last week I received a call from a pregnancy center director. Anna* was pregnant, alone, and sleeping in her car…in February…in Wisconsin. Directors at the center were doing everything possible to find a shelter or home for Anna, but the process could take several weeks. That is when the center contacted Wisconsin Right to Life for assistance.
Thanks to our Emergency Grant program, within 12 hours Anna was warm and safe in a local hotel, with a guaranteed stay until other arrangements were finalized. Her challenges were certainly not over; however, the lodging our emergency grant provided might have saved both the lives of both Anna and her unborn child.
No one can fight the battle to protect life alone. Individual pregnancy centers can never hope to meet all the needs of their clients; resources, volunteers and time are all precious commodities and can only stretch so far. Unassisted, women will choose to abort rather than to carry to term.
Likewise, WRTL depends on individuals, churches and pregnancy centers statewide to educate, promote and defend life in their own communities; to provide the grassroots effort that is needed to effect change on a state level, and to protect the wonderful pro-life legislation currently in place in Wisconsin.
The partnerships make all the difference, and the need to unify has never been more critical. (Ironically, Joe Biden himself recognized the need for unity. In his inaugural address, he said, “to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words; it requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy, unity. Unity.”)
The new administration has certainly put the pro-life movement on the defensive. Among other directives, Joe Biden has revoked the Mexico City Policy, ordered the review of Title X and issued a statement strongly supporting Roe v. Wade.
Obviously, to ensure momentum and success of the pro-life movement, pro-life efforts need to be diverted from the federal level to the state level. That is why it is so extremely critical to unify for life here in Wisconsin. Together, pregnancy centers and WRTL can present a unified defense of life all over the state. Together we can support, strengthen and empower brave women in their decision to carry to term. We have neither the strength nor the leisure of working in a vacuum; lives are in jeopardy and the future of pro-life in Wisconsin is at stake! Only together will we achieve success.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.
If you’d like to make a donation to our Emergency Grant program, please give here!