How Do We Love the Unborn and Their Mother?

Margaret Gibson | February 15, 2021 Culture Creation, Current Events, Image of God, Imago Dei, Men, Sin, , , Women

Originally featured on “TGC Q&A,” a podcast from The Gospel Coalition, “How Do We Love the Unborn and Their Mother?” focuses on how we can advocate for the unborn and their mothers, empower women with better choices, and why compassion and grace are essential in upholding the sanctity of life.

The Gospel Coalition and The Austin Stone share a deep Scripture-based love for all of life—including the unborn. Scripture tells us we’re created in God’s image, foreknown, knit together by God in our mother’s womb—fearfully and wonderfully made. From conception to the grave, all life is precious.

So, how should followers of Christ view the sanctity of life and love our neighbor and the unborn in a way that honors God’s creation? Margaret Gibson, the Director of Development at The Source Texas and leader at The Austin Stone, explores the necessity of the whole body of Christ to engage in the pro-life cause and how we are to compassionately engage in supporting the unborn and their mothers.

Click below to listen to the podcast, “How Do We Love the Unborn and Their Mother?” You can also scroll down to find a transcript of the episode.

Editor’s Note: Please listen with discretion as this podcast addresses very sensitive topics around the sanctity of life.

If you have questions about caring for the sanctity of life, please reach out to your congregation pastor or connect with us at communications@austinstone.org. It is our joy to be present with you as we seek to love our city through caring for the unborn, their mothers, and those who have walked through abortion.

Heather Calvillo: You’re listening to an episode originally featured on “TGC Q&A,” a podcast from The Gospel Coalition from the sanctity of life series. The Gospel Coalition and The Austin Stone Community Church share a deep Scripture-based love for all of life, including the unborn. From conception to the grave, all life is precious. Scripture tells us that we are created in God’s image, foreknown, knit together by God in our mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. His eyes saw our unformed substance. How should followers of Christ view the sanctity of life and love our neighbor and the unborn in a way that honors God’s creation?

Heather Calvillo: You’re listening to “TGC Q&A” and this is the sanctity of life series, where we seek to answer questions related to the pro-life conversation from a loving, biblical perspective. If you’re listening with little ears around, we encourage you to save this episode for later. And if you or someone you love has walked through a story of abortion, we want you to know that the episodes in this series are meant to point you to the love of Jesus, in whom there is hope, forgiveness, and healing. In this last episode of the sanctity of life series, you’ll hear from Margaret Gibson. Margaret is the Director of Development for The Source Texas, a full-service women’s health clinic empowering women with better choices. Margaret has a passion for advocating for the unborn and their mother. She shares her story of how she got involved in pro-life work, and why compassion and grace are essential in upholding the sanctity of life.

Margaret Gibson: I’m Margaret Gibson. I live in Austin, Texas, and I’m a wife to Mark and a mom to my nine-month old son, Matthew. I spent the last seven-plus years serving ministries by telling their stories and connecting them to partners who want to invest in their missions through generous giving. I previously served in donor ministries at The Gospel Coalition and for the past two years, I’ve been the Director of Development at The Source Texas, which is a network of women’s health clinics in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Margaret Gibson: I grew up in a conservative, pro-life family and so did my husband, and so we heard a lot about why it was really important to stand for life. On Sanctity of Life Sunday in 2018, our church, The Austin Stone, partnered with a local ministry, which used to be called Austin LifeCare, it’s now called The Source Austin, and we made a small donation that day. In the thank you email that I got from the organization, the CEO at the time had put his cell phone number at the bottom and said to reach out if you wanted to talk more. And I did. A friend had told me that they were doing some new, exciting things there. So I reached out and just said, “Hey, I want to know more about what you guys are doing and what we might be able to do to help you.” What I learned from him was that pregnancy care centers outnumber the nation’s largest abortion providers clinics ten to one. We’re ten times as common and as available as those abortion clinics. But, if you ask women of reproductive age, 96% of them know a name like Planned Parenthood, but less than 20% know about local pregnancy centers. So the help for them is out there, but women have a hard time finding it.

Margaret Gibson: The other thing I learned is that many women who get an abortion have received some other form of healthcare from an abortion provider previously. So, a lot of abortion providers really use that healthcare as a sales pipeline toward abortion. It’s really sad. And it honestly, is really effective for them. They have a way of building a relationship with their clients that makes them come back and be a trusted place to go. And so, the vision for The Source came as an idea to create a recognized brand of clinics throughout Texas that could compete with that from a position of life and to help women know who we are so that we can really help them and to really expand from a pregnancy center into a full healthcare clinic.

Margaret Gibson: So, 18 months into this new vision at The Source, we have six clinics in Texas and we’re consistently offering women accessible, high-quality, reproductive healthcare without cost to them. Part of the vision with that is that we want to serve women before they’re pregnant. So, we moved from being a traditional pregnancy center to offering STI and STD testing, gynecological care, helping them make healthy choices for themselves, and hopefully, avoid an unplanned pregnancy altogether. But then, if they do get pregnant, we are here to help and they already know us and they trust us. We are a medical provider that they are used to going to, used to having their questions answered, and an established support system to walk through that with them.

Heather Calvillo: Around the same time that Margaret stepped into her role at The Source, she and her husband were walking through infertility. And though they later had a son, Margaret says her heart softened through the work of serving women who aren’t sure they’re going to carry their pregnancies.

Margaret Gibson: I do have a son now, but before that, the Lord just healed my heart so much in strengthening my conviction for life, showing me that without a doubt, every life that He creates—including those that are not planned by the moms that we’re working for at The Source and including the one that I wanted that He hadn’t made yet—was just so immeasurably valuable and worth protecting. I’m really thankful that God called me into this work. Through my time, I feel like my perspective has grown from the kind of traditional pro-life that I loved, that I grew up with, into really knowing more about the women that we’re serving and caring more about them in addition to the unborn children that they’re carrying.

Heather Calvillo: Next, Margaret shares more about how The Source exists to empower, educate, and resource women to make better choices when it comes to their health. She says that in her experience, most women who come to the clinic with an unexpected pregnancy often feel like they don’t have any other option than abortion. Some just don’t know that there is indeed a better choice and meaningful support available to them.

Margaret Gibson: We, for that reason, have case workers on our staff who can help women, not just with the pregnancy decision, but with things related to their job and their housing and their relationships. Because it is not a cut and dried, isolated thing, that they’re pregnant and don’t feel like they can have their baby. There are so many other factors we’re finding for them that are truly making them believe, most often, not that they don’t want to have their child, but that they truly think that they cannot and they don’t know what resources are available to them.

Margaret Gibson: That’s really important for us, not to just address the pregnancy or the health issues, but help these women in the fullness of their life and all the different factors that are playing into them. Whether it’s abuse or instability or those really practical things like, where am I going to live and how am I going to pay for raising a kid, to really give those women options. We find that when we can help them walk through, “Okay, so if we could help you get housing, how would that make you feel?” Then they pause and go, “Okay, well no, I can think about that.” It really slows down the process for them to help them understand that they do have more support, more options than they often think.

Heather Cavillo: In this segment, Margaret defines what pro-life means, the gravity of its true definition, and explains why The Source uses the term life-affirming. She also shares some compelling statistics about abortion’s effect on women.

Margaret Gibson: Recently, there’s been a movement in the church to understand the term “pro-life” to apply to other things. And it does. It is about every life made in the image of God. As Christians, we believe that every life, every human life matters infinitely to the Lord. At The Source and in my personal life, we were absolutely in favor of all things that preserve life. But I do think, as we’re thinking about this time of the year and sanctity of life celebrated in our churches and kind of a focus, the unborn really don’t have any other voice. Besides those of us outside the room, advocating for them. They cannot speak for themselves. And so, to be able to understand the origin of that term and why we care so much about the unborn when we are talking about pro-life, I think as we expand our view, I don’t want to lose just the gravity of what the term really means.

Margaret Gibson: But at The Source, we actually use the term life-affirming. We feel like that takes the political tone out of what we’re trying to talk about. I hope that might be helpful for believers listening to this podcast on how to frame up some of the things that you love and some of your convictions without people maybe throwing you into some of their political assumptions or whatever just tied to that word. So, by using that term life-affirming, we want to help our partners and clients and patients understand that being pro-life goes beyond that typical definition that’s related to just being against abortion.

Margaret Gibson: One of the most powerful sets of facts that I am aware of now is just how abortion affects moms. It’s just so powerfully detrimental—you might assume that, but the data is showing. We see now, that abortion causes 10% of all mental health issues in women and it makes women more than twice as likely to commit suicide, which is just tragic to think about. Women who abort are 55% more likely to struggle with mental health than women who would carry an unplanned pregnancy to term. Those statistics are just jarring to me. We know that abortion does not just end the life of a baby, it really has tragic outcomes for those moms too. The narrative that abortion is freedom and choice for women is just really flawed and that’s why I think it’s important that we understand that being pro-life or life-affirming is not just about the baby. It’s about the women and the families that are connected to that pregnancy as well.

Margaret Gibson: Ttwo-thirds of women who are considering abortion say they’re feeling pressured by someone else to terminate their pregnancy. I think that connects back to your previous question. When we talk about being life-affirming, we are talking about caring about that baby and helping to hopefully save that life, but we’re also talking about caring deeply about the woman who’s carrying that child, giving her real options, helping her slow down her thought process, have a safe place to talk, and empowering her to make real choices from a place of hope and freedom. We’re talking about caring for her too in a way that shows the love of Christ and His abundant life, which is the best thing we can offer her.

Margaret Gibson: Again, thinking just about the terms we use, a common critique I’ve heard of the pro-life movement is that it’s really just pro-birth and that we want women to have their babies—that we’re not providing support to help them actually raise them. I think that can be an unfair criticism, but I do think we want to be clear, as believers, that we’re committed to the long-term support of these women. At The Source, we’re committed to the long-term support of our clients. We don’t want them to just give birth, we want them and their children to thrive. So part of being life-affirming for us, is educating women and giving them tools to be great moms. We do that by hosting classes and connecting them to mentors who can walk alongside them through the first several years of their children’s lives, to really see them all flourish.

Margaret Gibson: And so, I think our words matter. I think the term pro-life is powerful and it represents a lot. But I think there’s so much attached to that we want to make sure we’re paying attention to when we consider the issue of abortion and how to get involved as Christians.

Heather Calvillo: As with everything we called to do as followers of Christ, we look to Him first as our example of how to love and how to care for the hurting. So, Margaret shares why compassion and grace are essential in upholding the sanctity of life.

Margaret Gibson: As believers, woe are we to forget the grace and compassion that Christ has shown us. To ever look upon the people that we’re serving as an “other,” I think there’s just such a risk there to our own view of our salvation and what Christ has done for us. Coming from a place of understanding grace, I think, in thinking about those statistics that I shared and the other pressures women are feeling, a lot of women who have had an abortion did not feel like that was a free choice for them. They’re often already very aware that that was a really difficult and harmful choice. We do find too, that in women who have had an abortion, it’s very common for them to have multiple ones. So, even if a woman is already post-abortive coming to us, we still have an opportunity to intervene and speak truth to her and share these things.

Margaret Gibson: But like we talked about, these women are not often acting out of a place of hate or of carelessness, they truly feel helpless. When we meet a woman with compassion and grace, we are speaking truth to her and sharing the same things we believe about ourselves—that we too were lost and in need of Jesus to bring us back. What we find in these post-abortive Bible studies that we host for women at The Source is, often, the women who come had their abortion ten or twenty or thirty years ago. It’s taken them years to come to terms with it and to realize how it’s affecting them. Maybe they’re married and they’re parenting now and they’re in a completely different time in their lives to really understand that they need to seek that healing, that it’s available to them. And so the last thing we want to do is reinforce a painful narrative that they’ve been telling themselves for years or just since whenever that experience was. Because we believe that they can be restored and find true freedom in Christ.

Margaret Gibson: I think there are so many ways to interact with this issue and there are policies and advocacy in a lot of different ways. But this is something that is special to us as believers, to be able to say, “We get it. There’s so much brokenness, but there’s a place for you here. And we have hope for you just as Christ has saved me, He can save you.” And to do that really humbly rather than from a place of self-righteousness or judgment of these women.

Heather Calvillo: We asked Margaret, what are some ways that we can be involved in pro-life work from a loving, biblical perspective? What does that look like? And what can we tangibly do to help?

Margaret Gibson: There are a lot of opportunities for us to engage in this. One way you can be practically involved in this movement, and I think really through that grow in your love for these women and hopefully expand your view and ability to have compassion for and grace for these women, is to connect with your local pregnancy center. I promise you have one. They’re all over the place. You can get on Google, it’s as simple as that, and find them. They need you. Especially because our circumstances socially are changing and all kinds of different things. There has been a lot of pressure on ministries, and we need people to get involved.

Margaret Gibson: Some ideas of how you could get involved are to teach one of their parenting classes or help support that, bring snacks, do all the kinds of things that you would do for a class like that. To help with childcare for a parent’s night out, a lot of pregnancy resource centers and clinics like The Source are trying to provide opportunities for couples to get a break from their kids. Just like everybody else feels like they need sometimes for a date night. So, you can babysit for that. You can adopt a new family and provide groceries and things like that. You can teach a Bible study if that’s something that’s offered at the clinic. You could host a drive with your neighbors or your Bible study to collect diapers or new baby clothes to help those moms.

Margaret Gibson: I’m not just talking about women either. We need men to get involved in this too. So, you can join any of those ideas or there’s also a special opportunity for men in thinking about just how to support these dads who want to be in the picture and need some help—who may not have had strong models of fatherhood in their lives. Through mentorship or through fatherhood programs, there’s a lot of opportunity for that, for godly men to get involved as well. I hope you’ll reach out to your local pregnancy centers and think about hands-on volunteering. I hope that that proximity to the work will really soften your heart and that the Holy Spirit will help you continue to grow in that view of grace and not have judgment or condemnation.

Margaret Gibson: Another thing we really need is just prayer. The enemy hates the work that we are in and so we need people battling for us spiritually every day—praying for us, organizations like The Source, pregnancy centers around the country and their leadership, the local churches who are involved in supporting the ministries, and the women who are facing or are at-risk of unplanned pregnancies. Pray just for God to intervene in mighty ways, to give them hope and see a future for them and their children. For women who are post-abortive and who are dealing with that guilt and shame that we talked about, for them to see the hope that Christ has for them. And just for our government and our legislators, who are determining how our communities in our nation will handle this issue, we need prayer at every level.

Margaret Gibson: And then, I have to say this because I’m the development director, but I mean it, to practically invest in this issue by giving your money. Clinics, like The Source and thousands of pregnancy resource centers around the country, are some of the scrappiest, most efficient ministries around and literally are saving lives every day and doing it on a shoestring. A really sobering statistic for me, having worked with believers in generosity for awhile, is that something like less of 1% of philanthropic dollars from Christians goes toward pro-life causes. But if you listen to the soundbites, what we’re talking about in politics or from the pulpit, we’re talking about this issue a lot. It sounds like we care about it. Scripture says that our hearts go where our treasure is, and so, if we really care about this like we say we do, we’ve got to be willing to give sacrificially, to invest in the ministries on the front lines of the work.

Margaret Gibson: So I challenge and encourage you to think about how, even just with a small monthly commitment, you might consider financially partnering with the organizations that are doing the work of caring for these moms and advancing life in those ways.

Heather Calvillo: Margaret talks about how the whole body of Christ is needed in order to uphold the sanctity of life, working together to end abortion. She says you don’t have to be called to a vocational ministry to make meaningful change. In fact, Margaret talks specifically about foster care, adoption, and how even business owners and employers can take part in the pro-life cause.

Margaret Gibson: Working in this women’s health and life-affirming care pregnancy space has given me a really sweet vision of the body of Christ. I just see how much we depend on each other as we are being obedient to whatever God’s calling us to. I feel like we each have a specific way that we’re able to get involved. I just want to share a broader picture of all the things that are related to caring for these women and then, this life-affirming work. At The Source, as I said, we are focusing on medical care and early intervention and building relationships related to women’s health and pregnancy. There are moms who choose to carry their pregnancies, who don’t feel ready to parent and so, we need adoption ministries to care for them through that really big decision and help them understand and advocate for them as they’re placing their children for adoption.

Margaret Gibson: For babies who are born and whose moms aren’t able to care for them, we need churches and families that are involved in foster care. At The Source, we offer prenatal care through the first trimester, but we need OB-GYNs that uphold the sanctity of life, who are willing to take patients who may not have, and most likely don’t have, traditional insurance—may be on Medicaid or a similar plan. We want to refer our patients to doctors who we know are going to continue to encourage them in carrying their pregnancy and into motherhood. And then, we need educators and sex-ed curriculums. There’s one here in Austin called Lifeguard, that teaches students and kids how to respect their bodies and each other, and really start developing a bigger vision for healthy God-honoring sexuality. We need business owners who will employ these moms and work with them, be flexible to help them, navigate the complexity of childcare, and the things that they’re adjusting to, as they try to provide for their families. There are maternity homes that provide housing for women. We see that is such a major factor in what women decide to do with an unplanned pregnancy and we need churches that are going to continue to minister to these women and share Christ’s love for them beyond our walls.

Margaret Gibson: And so, I don’t know, I think looking back, we’re going to see that this is just the defining issue of our society today. It’s really way too big for any of us to take on alone. But I think, if we look at all the different issues and ways to get involved, that’ll impact it, we just see that we can be faithful wherever God’s calling us. We can care for these families throughout this whole spectrum of caring for the unborn and the women and families that are connected to them. And so, it just gives me a lot of hope when it sometimes can feel overwhelming, like, “What could I possibly do to make an impact?” To know that I’m trying to be faithful with this specific thing that I feel like God has called me to and that a bunch of others are participating in this whole continuum of getting involved through that kind of variety of different ways to engage.

Heather Calvillo: To close our conversation, Margaret speaks directly to women who are contemplating abortion, or perhaps have already walked through a story of abortion. You can’t see her face on this podcast, but as she spoke, Margaret had tears in her eyes as she expressed how she truly wants everyone who is listening right now to experience the grace and the love of Jesus.

Margaret Gibson: I want to think about women who are listening to this who are post-abortive and may not have ever told anybody that. I want to just let them know that they’re seen and known and loved. There are places for them to get particular counseling and healing toward that, but just to know that they’re loved. We talk about the issue of abortion in a lot of cut and dry terms sometimes, and it’s a life experience for people. It’s always tragic and has a ripple effect for a long time. So, I just want to bring that voice to this explicitly, to make sure that that’s being heard. I think just for everybody, there are a lot of really tough narratives around the issue of abortion today, culturally and politically, and what you’re seeing people post on social media, and it can be really overwhelming and feel like Satan is winning, like there’s no hope for it. I just don’t want to let that stop you from getting involved. I just wanted to encourage us to not focus on the darkness and the things that Satan is trying to do, because God is moving y’all and we see it all the time, and we see it where I am. We have so many friends at pregnancy centers around the state and in the country who are just having amazing stories happen. And so, just the women and the babies that we’re talking about are not as soundbite from a debate or a slogan on a t-shirt, they’re treasured precious lives.

Margaret Gibson: We’re here to support them and defend them and let them know that God loves them through word and through just providing the care that they need. I just want to encourage us all to not get overwhelmed by the loud voices saying that they don’t value life and listen to the still, small one saying that He is in this with us together, He loves us, He loves every life, and He’s inviting us into this story of sharing His eternal hope with one another as we serve and with the women who need to hear that for hope in life for them and their families.

Margaret Gibson: I just want to speak love over her and know that the Lord has been with her. He has seen her, her whole life and the things that she maybe has fought tooth and nail to hide, He knows, and He loves her and He wants her to be free of that guilt and shame. I pray that there’s a safe person in her life to share that with. If she’s somewhere near Austin, we would love to talk to her at The Source or in Texas at one of our other clinics, but we’re not the only ones. It could be just a trusted friend or someone at church, but a lot of women that we know have been through the tragedy of abortion.

Margaret Gibson: I just want to say to her that her burden is not too great, her sin is not too great, and Jesus knew fully that that would be part of her story and has still loved her. And so, I hope that there is hope and healing to come. And also, just understanding that so many of the women that I work alongside have abortion as part of their story. It has been an incredible opportunity for them to share with other women who have been through that or who are considering it, to be able to really talk about the reality of it because that’s sometimes removed from the conversation. And so, there’s hope and there is freedom and I pray that that would be something that can be shared and brought to light in a way that brings abundant freedom and hope for the future for these women listening.

Margaret Gibson: I am sad for the years that I missed out, not seeing those women as so valuable and understanding the pain that is part of a story like abortion or considering a decision like that. And so, I’m grateful that God has given me a soft heart and allows me to serve in this way and hopefully, speak some encouragement and ideas and different things to believers who can take part as well. But I do, I care so deeply for these women. And there are amazing people at these centers and clinics around our country, who just care so deeply. And it’s an honor to be among them.

Heather Calvillo: Thanks for listening to the sanctity of life series on “TGC Q&A.” Be sure to visit tgc.org/podcasts or check the show notes of this episode for recommended resources and practical next steps you can to get involved in the pro-life cause. Again, thanks again for listening to the sanctity of life series.