When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the pro-abortion “Reproductive Health Act” into law early this year, a band of pregnancy help centers decided to respond.
They’d already been in conversations about the possibility of consolidating their resources for some time. But with the sweeping change, the centers moved quickly to come together and open a brand new location in the city of Buffalo just three months later.
The miracle in Rochester
Under the umbrella of CompassCare, the new Buffalo pregnancy help center has made its mission to reduce the city’s abortions by 50 percent in the next five years—a tall order for the state’s largest abortion hub after New York City.
Rev. James Harden, president and CEO of CompassCare, says this is an effort to replicate a miracle they witnessed a decade ago at its location in Rochester, New York. At that time, CompassCare had set a goal of attempting to reach 25 percent of Rochester’s abortion market.
“The idea was to scrape off the profit margins of the abortion industry,” he told Pregnancy Help News.
Faced with life-affirming competition, abortion facilities would have to change their business model by cutting hours, reducing staff, or consolidating their administration. With that in mind, CompassCare created a model that could handle the number of women they hoped to see.
Within just a couple of years, they saw a 58 percent reduction in abortions within their county.
Harden says that in the same timeframe, Planned Parenthood consolidated its administration and facilities were forced to diversify their services, unable to keep their doors open with abortion alone.
“The abortion numbers fell further faster than any other county that we’re aware of in the nation, and that was in Rochester—a major abortion hub-city in the abortion capital of the United States,” Harden said. “This is amidst the most progressive and liberal abortiton laws arguably in the world next to North Korea and China.”
With success like that, Harden figured their team could replicate those results in another city—and perhaps across all of New York. That hope, he attributes to God and the community of faithful Christians spread all across the state.
“A lot of pro-life leaders have given up on New York,” Harden said. “I’ve heard them say, ‘Oh, that’s just New York, what are you gonna do? There’s nothing you can do with New York.’ But that’s not true, it’s certainly not true. There’s a very strong church, a very strong pro-life community in New York, and they have stood behind CompassCare Rochester and it has been amazing.”
“Faith is for moments like this”
Triggering a firestorm in the abortion debate, the Reproductive Health Act made abortion a fundamental right in the state of New York, decriminalizing the lethal practice through all nine months of pregnancy. Over the last year, Harden has witnessed a passionate response from pro-life New Yorkers as they regroup and reconfigure how to save lives under the new law.
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“It galvanized the pro-life community,” he said. “People were angry, they were upset, they felt marginalized, they felt powerless. Many pro-life people actually wanted to move out of the state because of this law, and we (CompassCare) said, ‘No, we’re here, the church is here for just that kind of thing.’
“That’s what faith is for,” he said. “Faith is for moments like this when systemic injustice raises its ugly head. We’re here to stand up and say, ‘All life is valuable, no state can dictate who qualifies as a human and who doesn’t qualify as a human.’ The church has been placed here by God to do this thing and that is to help women have their babies who would otherwise have an abortion.”
To Harden’s encouragement, the church is pursuing that goal with heartfelt support for the new Buffalo center.
“The church has rallied behind it,” he said. “It’s just been a tremendous outpouring of support by the pastors of the area and the local leaders.”
That support has become even more significant as New York clamps down on religious liberty, hindering the rights of organizations to operate according to their Christian faith.
Last month, Gov. Cuomo signed S.B. 660, barring employers from enforcing certain codes of conduct or belief in the workplace with regard to abortion. Further, the law requires them to inform employees of their right to abortions without fear of any workplace retaliatory action.
CompassCare and several other pro-life organizations in New York responded by filing a lawsuit against the state.
“The law, plaintiffs say, singles out pro-life and religious employers by refusing to exempt them,” according to the Catholic News Agency. “It forces these organizations to continue to employ people who may have publicly defied the mission of an organization—for example, an employee at a pro-life pregnancy help center who has an abortion, or a church employee who publicly opposes the teachings of that church on abortion or marriage.”
As New York continues to hit the Christian community with aggressive laws, Harden says there is hope.
“People think that because New York is this bastion of progressive liberalism that Christians can’t do anything,” Harden said. “But there couldn’t be anything further from the truth. You know, God loves to show up when people are faithful to him despite adverse circumstances. And if you look at all the stories throughout scripture, you find the same thing. You find people are being tested by governments that are pushing back on Christians because Christians are standing for what’s right. We have a king and His name is Jesus and we’re asking to follow Him and His standard despite what the world is doing.
“So yeah, we’re in a very hostile political environment, but the Church has never been more alive,” he said. “The pro-life community has never been more responsive. It is quite an amazing thing to see.”
Preparing for the inevitable
Since opening its doors in April, CompassCare Buffalo has already confirmed 82 lives saved from abortion because of its services. More than 40 women have given their lives to Christ. Within six months, Harden says the center went from reaching 1 percent of the abortion market to serving 25 percent.
The Buffalo center, which moves into a newly renovated location this month, offers baseline medical care, pregnancy confirmation, gestational age determination via obstetrical ultrasound scans, limited STD testing and treatment, and Abortion Pill Reversal. Services are performed by the center’s five nurses.
To provide long-term support to mothers, CompassCare is also training “Mother Care Teams” at area churches, creating a discipleship program for mothers who dedicate their lives to Christ.
By tending to both the medical and spiritual needs of women, Harden is hopeful that CompassCare’s model will impact New York abortions in a radical way.
“Maybe in five to 10 years, we might still have abortion on the books as a law, as a right in New York state, but New York state will no longer be the abortion capital of the U.S. because we have the infrastructure necessary to serve that population,” he said. “And furthermore, it’s clear, to me anyway, that there’s a significant likelihood the Supreme Court will modify or overturn Roe v. Wade.”
If that happens, he says, about half the states are expected to outlaw abortion and New York will once again become a destination for women to have abortions—just as it was in the years before Roe was decided.
“We have to prepare for that inevitability by increasing our infrastructure in the churches to reach a certain level of women considering abortion,” Harden said. “That’s kind of where we are in New York. It’s exciting and it’s also very, very challenging.”
Although those challenges are mighty, Harden believes God has equipped his team to tackle them.
“It’s been an honor to work with such an amazing and dedicated team over the years,” he said. “The team is mission-driven. They love the Lord. They want to see lives saved and all women dignified. I have never seen such amazing creativity, dedication, and passion around this cause. This is just me, but I think God thinks pro-life people are His favorite. There’s nothing that stands in their way. I don’t care what comes up, what barrier is blocking their way, they’re going to find a way around it, over it, through it, it doesn’t matter. They love the Lord and the Lord loves to show up on their behalf.”
LifeNews Note: Katie Franklin is a staff writer for Pregnancy Help News and content writer at Heartbeat International. She previously served as director of communications for Ohio Right to Life and is a graduate of Denison University where she earned a B.A. in history in 2013.