By: Katie Sobiech
Since 1973 there have been nearly 50 million legal abortions in the United States. In 2006, 32,936 abortions were reported in Ohio alone. More than statistics, these numbers represent millions of lives never given the opportunity to take their first breath.
Though often silenced, this issue has weighed heavily on the hearts of many individuals – including some in Akron, Ohio who made a choice to stand up for change.
In 1984 a small group of doctors, pastors, and community people came together not only to confront abortion but to offer alternatives. Pro-abortionists at the time were complaining, “You don’t want people to have abortions, but what are you doing to help them?” This sparked a desire in the group to form a pregnancy center for women seeking abortions. They called it “Akron Pregnancy Services” (APS), a non-profit, non-political social service agency which helps thousands of women each year.
The purpose of this ministry is to reach out with the love of Christ to the segment of the population that is confronted with an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy and to help them in the decision making process.
Being a Christian organization, they highly encourage women to keep their babies. They offer pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, hoping that by seeing their babies, the women will decide not to abort them.
“We’re not here to twist people’s arms. We’re here to give them options and alternatives,” Kaye Gauder, the Executive Director said.
These options and alternatives include counseling, parenting and childbirth classes, free baby items and other helpful resources for women who struggle to make the decision whether or not to keep their babies.
They welcome women of all ages, but the majority of women are between the ages of 18 and 25. The youngest girl that they saw was 10 years old.
A variety of different programs are offered, which fall into three categories: Prevention, Intervention, and Restoration.
PATH (Post Abortion Teaching and Healing) is a program for women who’ve had abortions. “Many of the women are hurting and there is shame, even in the church. There are so many women sitting in our churches that have had abortions and have not had healing. They need that healing,” Gauder explained.
KEYS (Knowledge Enhances Your Skills) is a program designed to build each woman’s confidence in God’s plan for her life. “What they really need,” said Gauder, “is a different perspective of the world, of life, of their environment, and a perspective that God gives.”
Along with the other programs and counseling they have sewing, computer, and life skills classes. The women can learn about parenting, pre-natal concerns, childbirth, anger management, self-esteem, boundaries, dealing with losses, decision making and adoption.
APS also ministers to men regarding their decision making about the pregnancy and teaching them parenting skills.
The majority of women who come to APS choose to carry their babies to full term. The counseling volunteers are very helpful with the decision making process. Many of the girls just need someone to listen to them and give them good options. “The fact that you will sit down and listen to them, care about them and where they are at this point in their life is probably the biggest factor of all,” Gauder said.
Another tool that has been helpful is their ability to give ultrasounds. Recently, one of the other pregnancy centers in town felt led to put an ultrasound in an RV and take it to different places in town. They visit APS every Thursday. “It’s a tool God uses in a huge way with the girls. They actually see the baby. They see that it is life,” Gauder said.
After coming to APS many of the women are changed from the inside out. They honor life, grow in the Lord, go to school, and get jobs.
The success stories of how God is using this ministry inspire the volunteers to keep going. Not too long ago one woman came in off of the street, thinking they were an abortion clinic. “When she asked for an abortion we told her, ‘We don’t do abortions here, we’re a Christian organization, but what we have found is that someone like yourself who walks in usually does so because God has sent them here for a particular reason,’” Gauder explained.
They sat down and talked about the pregnancy, why she wanted the abortion, and where she was with God. Interestingly, she just happened to be there when prayer was announced over the intercom and she expressed interest in attending. They played a worship song and prayed for her, “And she just sat there and wept,” Gauder said.
The woman came back the next day for Bible study, and an ultrasound. When she saw the child it touched her heart and she decided to keep the baby.
“When you see things like that on a daily basis it’s like ‘how exciting.’ How exciting to see God move in women’s lives,” Gauder smiled.
Opportunities to Touch Lives
The ministry is always looking for volunteers. “I just want women to know that this is an awesome place for them to use their gifts – to reach out to a segment of our world that doesn’t come into the church. We have the opportunity to take the things that we have learned in church and reach out to the world.”
Gauder, who has worked with this ministry for 20 years, shared that her personal heart’s desire is to see the presence of God so strongly that lives would change faster, more dramatically, and that healing would come. “The body of Christ has to be changed first though,” she said, “but ministry today is more exciting than it’s ever been. God’s moving and that’s exciting.”