Surveys show young evangelicals are more pro-life than their parents, but concern for other issues-the environment, sex trafficking, economic inequality, immigration-often guides their voting. Marissa Gabrysch was one of those young evangelicals.
Adopted at birth in 1982, Gabrysch-blonde and articulate-grew up in bi-cultural San Antonio. After college she lived and worked in Cuzco, Peru, where she saw some of the negative consequences of free trade agreements. After she moved back to the United States, Gabrysch continued working for a nonprofit concerned with Latin American issues. She considered herself a progressive evangelical and attended both political conventions in 2008. At the Republican convention she saw what seemed to be bigotry against immigrants, but at the Democratic convention she saw people who were not just pro-choice, but were actually promoting abortion.
She began to ask herself, "If I'm going to weigh out all these issues before voting, how am I going to choose? What will win?" She now says, "God led me to decide that life is the one issue worth voting on."
For the past year Gabrysch has worked as director of new projects for Heroic Media, a company that conducts pro-life media and advertising campaigns around the country. Founded in 2004, Heroic now has 20 employees nationwide, 12 in its Austin, Texas, headquarters. It conducts research on effective pro-life messaging and runs advertising campaigns that connect abortion-minded women with pro-life resources in their communities.
Gabrysch says that many of her friends don't understand her passion for the pro-life cause. "It's not about legislating morality," she tells them. "It's about offering hope and help in the name of Christ." She uses her own story-how she was a burden to her expectant birth mother and yet became an "absolute blessing" to her adoptive parents-to explain how the gospel can take a situation and transform it. She's eager for other young women to hear that message.
Gabrysch acknowledges that pro-life convictions can hurt with potential dates. One time she went out on a date with a local Democratic official. As the evening progressed and they made their way through social and political topics, he said, "You know I'm a Democrat. Is that a deal breaker?" She responded, "You know I work on an issue that most Democrats don't agree with."
He gave her the old, I'm personally opposed to abortion, but ... argument (one she would have fallen for five years earlier), but this time it sounded less convincing. So after a bit more tip-toeing through social and political topics, Gabrysch suspected they didn't share the same fundamental worldview: "So knowing we were both Texan 20-somethings with political interests and healthy social consciences, I blurted out, 'We've talked about Lance Armstrong and Bono, what do you think about Jesus?'" She describes a moment of "dead air" before they talked about who Jesus is: "Ultimately, I think we decided at the same instant that we should probably not pursue a romantic relationship."
Gabrysch smiles: "I'm becoming that right-wing conservative I didn't want to be."
Melinda Delahoyde supported legalized abortion when she entered Trinity Divinity School to study Philosophy of Religion-but when a professor requested her help researching abortion for an article, and she studied the worldviews behind her position, she realized she was wrong. In 1980, she began working with what became Care Net (then called the Christian Action Council) as a 25-year-old. She's still with it more than three decades later.
As Delahoyde learned more, she co-wrote in 1982 Infanticide and the Handicapped Newborn, and spoke extensively about newborn Down syndrome babies who were denied normal medical treatment. A year later, Delahoyde's firstborn son Will was born with Down syndrome. Will is now a healthy 28-year-old who holds two jobs, swims in the Special Olympics, serves at church, and spoke at a Care Net national conference in front of 1,500 people-yet the overwhelming majority of Down syndrome babies are aborted.
Will still loves to make dinner for Delahoyde and to tell her what he's thinking. With Will and three other children she remained involved in Care Net efforts but sometimes less intensively-during the 1980s she was on the board, and during the first half of the 1990s was director of special projects. From 1995 to 2003 she took a break to focus on raising her children. She returned to Care Net to serve as chairman for the board from 2003 to 2006, and "with fear and trembling" became president in 2008.
By that time the organization's network included more than 1,100 pregnancy resource centers, but very few in inner-city areas. Care Net is focusing expansion on those areas, and one result is a new center that opened in Detroit last October. The Care Net staff bought Delahoyde a "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster-the British government issued it during World War II-that now decorates her office wall. She emphasizes the relevance of that message to today's pro-life movement, which has a high rate of burnout as people weary of fighting horror: Pro-lifers need to pace themselves for a marathon.
Delahoyde does see hope in the long race, with attitudes of Americans shifting and popular movies like Juno showing women choosing not to abort their babies. Technology has helped-many pro-life organizations now have ultrasound machines-but also created new challenges: A woman who suspects she is pregnant can Google "morning after pill," and the number of medication abortions is growing. The time to reach women with a pro-life message is shrinking, so Care Net is building full-time online counseling services.