Over the years, we at First Image have often asked people what they believe the goal of the Pro-Life movement is. The answer has always been near-unanimous: Overturn Roe. Overturning Roe was a clear, actionable goal, behind which incredible momentum has built over nearly 50 years.
We rightly celebrate that because of tireless work over decades, that goal has now been accomplished: Roe has been overturned. That means it is now legally possible to protect the lives of preborn children (at any stage) in America for the first time this century.
Yet, we also see that the data suggests the on-the-ground reality of these new protections will likely be messy. It has become clear already that enacting laws state-by-state will not be easy, on any level. Moreover, because abortion access will continue for the time being in the states that have the highest abortion rates (including Oregon, which is also funding abortion travel), estimates are that the overturning of Roe will only result in a 10-13% reduction in the overall abortion rate in our country.
Add to this the fact that in the 2020 data from the pro-abortion research institute Guttmacher, abortion rates went up for the first time since the beginning of the Regan administration.
These statistics are a reminder that the work to protect the lives of preborn children is far from over, and we know that in reality, the ultimate goal was never just to overturn Roe. Overturning Roe makes more just laws possible, but it does not in itself cause our culture to value life. The culture that brought Roe into existence to begin with is still very much with us.
Most importantly, for the work of First Image, overturning Roe does not eliminate any of the reasons that the women we serve might consider abortion to begin with.
There will still be a strain on many relationships between the father of the baby and the mother. Many women who become pregnant will still be experiencing economic hardship that makes bringing a child (or, more common, another child) into the world seem impossible. Some are houseless. Some are in dangerous situations and fear for the safety of their baby. Many are not sure they want to parent because of their stage of life, current priorities, or any number of other reasons.
So, what is the mission post-Roe?
For followers of Jesus, who hold the conviction that every person conceived is created in the Image of God, the mission after Roe should be clear:
Let us take every opportunity we have to live out that conviction in a way that witnesses to the life and resurrection of Jesus.
The primary orientation of our work in the world is just that: witness. We are, by word and deed, emissaries of an entirely different way of being. It is a way shaped by Jesus Christ, where the good work we do to love our neighbor points directly toward His sacrificial love.
It is critical that we maintain that central motivation, especially in the face of ongoing resistance and upheaval.
This is a call to uphold our neighbors created in God’s Image with real, tangible support, education, resources, and presence. The core of our work is being there right at the point of greatest need and offering a pathway toward life and life abundantly. This is work that happens right here, in our communities. It is what we’ve been doing at First Image for 38 years, and intend to continue, Lord willing, for 38 more.
Ongoing Resistance…and Hope
We see clearly that continuing in the mission, even in the apolitical and compassionate way we seek to do it, will still meet significant resistance.
You may have seen that a group of Antifa protesters hit our Headquarters this last Monday. This was the third attack on one of our locations. Our HQ is located in the same building as the Hinson Baptist Church offices and the coffee shop they run. We have been there for almost two years, and we love this space. Michael Lawrence, the pastor at Hinson, wrote a fantastic piece about the incident for the Gospel Coalition. I encourage you to read it.
I walked away from this incident feeling a little differently than the others we experienced at the SE Portland center and Gresham center. The graffiti written on the building was hateful, but it was also childish, and sad. I was reminded in a new way that if our battle is not against flesh and blood, that means those who hate us are held captive to a self-destructive deception.
To paraphrase an old axiom, “hate is like drinking poison, believing it will kill somebody else.” Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We love our enemies because our ultimate Enemy is also destroying them. He seeks to kill even those he enlists.
In the midst of the resistance though, we have experienced an incredible outpouring of support. Encouraging notes from all over the country. Giving far beyond what is usual. Even the graffiti, intended to intimidate and humiliate, was totally gone by the early morning. The news cameras showed up, with nothing to see.
We are of course vigilant and ask that you pray for the safety and overall wellbeing of our staff, volunteers, and clients. We are working with a security firm to provide on-site security during this time, and are improving security at all our facilities in a number of other ways. We continue to work with the ongoing investigations of the ATF and FBI.
There is so much more I want to say, and because of the extraordinary nature of this season, we will be communicating more than normal. But I’ll end with this: Last week, our staff had a retreat together, and our theme verse for the retreat comes just after Jesus promised that the world would hate us because it hated him.
He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
If we are honest, we are maybe a little weary in the immediate aftermath of the end of Roe and some intense incidents, but we are taking the exhortation to “take heart” seriously. The encouragement of so many of you makes it all that much easier.
Your Fellow Follower,
CEO, First Image
PS I know many of you are particularly concerned about security. It has been a significant unexpected expense and will be for a little while yet. If you want to contribute directly to security costs over what you normally might give, click this link.