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Current Page: Opinion | Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Do Anti-Abortion Protesters Care About Babies After They're Born?

Do Anti-Abortion Protesters Care About Babies After They're Born?

A pregnant pro-life demonstrator and her daughter kneel before the Supreme Court in Washington October 6, 2008. Amid a presidential race that may decide its future direction, the Supreme Court began a new term today with cases about tobacco company lawsuits, protecting whales from Navy sonar and a government crackdown on dirty words on television. | (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Many believe the pro-life cause won a decisive victory nationwide in the presidential election. Yet, as some find when posting on social media, defending the value of innocent lives will often lead to a rebuke from scoffers: "Do you care about babies once they're outside the womb?"

Christina Styles answers a resounding Yes! A young woman currently living in the Kansas City metro area, she's traveled across the nation mobilizing stadium prayer rallies with TheCall — with a strong focus on praying for the ending of abortion. This year, she joined the staff of a growing adoption agency.

As America marks National Adoption Awareness Month, Styles gives insights into her lifelong stand for innocent lives, how she helps women facing their greatest crises, and why prayer is the key to loving people well.

Bound4LIFE: Christina, when did you first take a stand for babies in the womb?

Christina Styles: Everybody has some image in their mind of the anti-abortion protestor. But I have this distinct memory of being around 3 years old and my mom piling me and my three siblings into our car in the middle of winter — to go pray outside of this abortion clinic.

We are all bundled up like the kid in The Christmas Story; I couldn't really bend my legs, so I fell in a snow bank and she pulled me out of it. Upset, I cried out, "What are we doing out in the cold — Mom, what are we doing here?"

In her big winter coat and a long denim skirt with snow pants on underneath, I remember my mom bending over in the snow and saying, "We're here because mommies are going inside this building to kill their babies and we are here to pray. Some of them don't even know that they're killing their babies and we are here to pray that God would save the babies and that God would save the mommies." So starting at age 3, I've grown up praying outside abortion clinics.

My whole life has been very connected to the pro-life movement. My mom had mostly high-risk pregnancies; in the 1980s, a high-risk pregnancy doctor was generally also an abortion doctor. She had very marking experiences with the counsel she was given about how to handle her high-risk pregnancies.

Raised by my parents to understand the value of every life, it was natural for me to flow into pro-life advocacy as a teenager.

Bound4LIFE: As you gained more independence as a teenager and young adult, what were the next steps on your journey?

Christina Styles: I was maybe 18 when I crossed paths with Bound4LIFE. I heard Lou Engle preach for the first time and he shared the vision behind it. I loved the idea of intentional intercession — how praying for the ending of abortion took the form of a Silent Siege. I was like, This is a cool new thing, it's so great.

I participated in Bound4LIFE and stayed connected to it in my 20s. Then in 2008, I worked with TheCall to mobilize for a statewide prayer gathering in San Diego; those four months of bringing together churches in California brought me right alongside Bound4LIFE.

Doors opened up in 2011 and I moved to the Washington, DC area to be part of Justice House of Prayer, Bound4LIFE and The Prayer Furnace in Fredericksburg. I started as an intercessor missionary and did all sorts of different things for Bound4LIFE during that time. I spent two years there serving the pro-life movement.

Following the presidential election of 2012, I really began asking the Lord, "I've been here for two years, and here I am to stay unless you tell me something different." I felt the Lord send me back to Kansas City, so that's what I did.

I dialed down for a couple of years to seek the Lord about my own heart. I had spent so many years swirling around ministry, but it was important to quiet down and find out where my foundation was. What had God called me to do?

Working in a job I loved, I ended up making decent money. I saw the favor of the Lord, but after a couple years I felt like it was time for me to do something else. Then I had this conversation with Randy and Kelsey Bohlender, who were starting an adoption agency. I told them that I don't know what that means, and I don't know what is next.

They said, "We only have one position at Zoe's House that we haven't filled. And the only reason we haven't filled it is because, every time we think about filling it, we want you to do it." So, that's what happened.

Bound4LIFE: Tell us about your current role with Zoe's House Adoption Agency.

Christina Styles: I am the Expectant Parent Coordinator. Most adoption agencies have a social worker who works with the adoptive families and also works with the birth families. But we really wanted for this agency to be unique in how we love and serve our birth families. Randy Bohlender had this idea of having a separate job description, a separate role entirely from the social worker who would focus on the expectant parents.

My role is about helping expectant mothers take in the crisis and breaking it down into practical steps — which is never a job I would have thought I would be good at, because I'm a little high energy! I take in the whole of their situation, and then help them identify things that need to be handled; we assign levels of importance on those issues.

Part of my job is to listen to their story, then help them take what is overwhelming and make it really clear and practical. We talk through how they found themselves in a crisis pregnancy and why they are considering adoption: I help them know options for housing and jobs, as well as identify strengths in their life that maybe they hadn't considered.

Then I walk through that whole process with them. I go to their doctor's appointments with them when possible to create a support team — helping them understand they are not alone, they are cared for and loved. In each situation so far, the girls have wanted me to be around during labor; so I'm present there and throughout recovery time. I'm just in the hospital supporting them.

We continue that relationship for as long as possible. As they are setting their sights on future goals, they are also moving through a grieving process — the turbulent emotions of not having the child whom they carried in their womb for nine months. My role helps give them the space that they need to grieve and increases their ability to move forward.

Bound4LIFE: When an expectant mother is in that moment of crisis you're describing, what are the questions on her heart?

Christina Styles: Despite the situation, I find that she wants to know that she's not going to be taken advantage of. She wants to know that her child is going to be loved.

Mostly that comes from a place of, I don't feel like I was loved as a child, or even today as a pregnant young woman. How can I make decisions to help my child experience what I didn't experience? They're looking for stability and a hope for a future for their baby and themselves.

The way we talk about it is learning to not only identify the now needs, but the future needs and goals. "As far as the next five minutes, what are the immediate needs to handle — and what about the next five years? Where do you want to be, and how can we help you get there?"

It's identifying and handling the current crisis, setting plans for their future, helping them make their adoption plan, helping them understand all of the things that they do have control over, all of the things they have choices about. What kind of future do they want for their child? What kind of a family do they think about wanting their child to be raised in?

I've had moms who, after some time of doing those meetings and assessing their situation, tell me: "When I first started meeting with you, I really thought my only option was to make an adoption plan for my child. But now that we've been doing this, I actually have some things together and there is a path for me moving forward — I want to keep my baby."

That is time well spent. We are able to help these young women get ahold of their lives and be in control of their own future.

Bound4LIFE: How did coming up from a pro-life perspective and then a prayer culture prepare you to do what you're doing with these women?

Christina Styles: Every phone call is entirely different. I have not had a single situation that has been even slightly like another one that I've had. Each person I'm working with is entirely unique, her story is entirely unique — and I am not a social worker. So what I have in my pocket is a history of learning how to lean into the voice of the Lord, from the place of prayer.

These young ladies are coming from different backgrounds, even different religious opinions; so the one thing I have stable in each situation is the ability to intercede for them. In prayer, I've learned how to carry them and their unique difficulties, unique pains and unique crises.

I take a step back and ask the Lord how to proceed before moving forward: "How do You want to encourage this young woman today?" Without having a history in prayer, it's just not possible.

Prayer is not easy. Developing a history in prayer is not easy. Learning how to pray through crisis and not be driven by the crisis — it isn't easy. I have had those years of doing it badly and learning, and doing it a little better, then doing it badly again. Without the process of learning that, I wouldn't be able to do this, not at all.

The years spent learning how to pray through crisis, how to pray for the ending of abortion and how to pray for the Lord to save every life in the womb have absolutely uniquely prepared me for each girl that I interact with. And I can see it traced through each of their stories.

Bound4LIFE: Rather than being a social worker, what you described sounds like an intercessor.

Christina Styles: Absolutely. I would say, hands down, I pray for them more than I meet with them. And most of them wouldn't be open to me praying with them.

But I will tell them, "I was praying for you the other day, and I wanted to encourage you with this one thing..." Every single time I have moved forward with that, I have found the young girl on the other end very ministered to in their heart. She tells me, "Christina, you have no idea how much I needed to hear that. Thank you so much."

The Lord is absolutely meeting these girls right where they are. That wouldn't be happening if I wasn't spending the time in prayer for them.

Bound4LIFE: This is a unique opportunity for Christians in the adoption world that you wouldn't get in another setting. In the hidden work of prayer, you have someone helping to mitigate the crisis these women face.

Christina Styles: It's true, you cannot counsel someone out of the crisis. Part of our ministry is also prayer for local crisis pregnancy centers. I spent most of last year finding where they are and connecting with each one. There have been many meetings, telling them about who Zoe's House is and how we work a little bit differently than what else is available.

Then I find out who they are, what kind of needs they have — it became this unique list of all these different crisis pregnancy centers and adoption ministries. Then I broke those down on a month-by-month calendar.

Now, every month, we focus in prayer on one or two of those organizations. We have nothing else to offer them except to say, "We are for you — what do you need and how can we pray for you?"

Building a history of support and prayer for them, we have had several referrals come out of different crisis pregnancy centers because of that relationship. Even choosing to carry the centers in intercession is building a network of being able to work seamlessly together in this city.

Matt Lockett serves as Executive Director of Bound4LIFE International and Justice House of Prayer DC. He and his wife Kim live in the Washington, DC area with their four children. Formerly he had a career in advertising and marketing; these days, he really wishes he had paid more attention in government class. Follow @mattlockett on Twitter.

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