By: David Benham
I still remember the night.
I was 15 years old when Norma McCorvey came walking through our front door with her then-partner, Connie Gonzales. The fact that we were hosting guests for dinner wasn’t unique. We were preacher’s kids, so our door was basically always revolving.
But this night was different. On this night, God was doing something amazing—something only He could do.
Legacy of Life
The woman that my family affectionately knew as "Ms. Norma” is more widely known by her pseudonym, “Jane Roe.” Norma McCorvey was the “Roe” of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. Through the faithful witness of my dad, Norma met Jesus. Several weeks later Norma was baptized, and Jason and I helped move her stuff out of Connie’s house.
Norma wasn’t the exception. We regularly witnessed the Gospel pervade the darkness of those affected by abortion. My dad committed himself to standing for the unborn as a full-time ministry, and this commitment was a family affair.
Our dad’s vigor for life was contagious. From a young age, he instilled in us that defending the defenseless wasn’t just a duty, it was an honor. He told us that if our theology wasn’t our biography, then our theology was worthless—because Jesus cared for the “least of these,” so must we.
Leverage for Life
After retiring from professional baseball, Jason and I moved to Charlotte and immediately noticed two things:
- There were three thriving abortion clinics.
- There was a desperate need for a network of life-affirming organizations.
As our business continued to grow, the Lord made it clear He wanted us to leverage our influence and resources to mobilize Christians to stand up for life. We didn’t know exactly what this would look like, but we knew that we had been called for such a time as this.
In 2010, we joined hands with business owners and local churches and started a non-profit called Cities4Life. We were driven by the vision that true compassion always leads to action. We didn’t want to just stand against abortion, we wanted to embody the life-giving actions of the Good Samaritan.
Practically, this looks like reaching down into a place of pain, tending to any wounds, taking them to an inn, and providing intentional follow up. Vulnerable women visiting abortion clinics need the warmth and love of Jesus regardless of whether they are walking in or out of that place.
Since 2010, we’ve had the privilege of serving over 5,000 women. But in ten years, we never encountered anything like we experienced earlier this month.
Locked up for Life
On Saturday, April 4, 2020, I was standing on a public sidewalk outside an abortion clinic here in Charlotte when I was unlawfully arrested.
Earlier that morning, I had received a call saying that the police were threatening to arrest our sidewalk counselors from Cities4Life. The police claimed that we were in violation of the “shelter-in-place” ordinance put in place in response to COVID-19.
I knew immediately that the authorities had no grounds for an arrest. Because we’re a federally recognized 501(c)3 that provides life-affirming social services to women in crisis, our services are classified “essential” under the ordinance. So we had a legal and constitutional right to be there. And on top of that, as an “essential” service, we could have been there with more than ten people. Out of concern for our sidewalk counselors and our community, however, we stayed under ten in number, maintaining social distancing the entire time.
I respectfully explained all of this to the officer, but to no avail.
As they cuffed me, I couldn’t help but recall the countless hours that I watched my dad standing on similar sidewalks, proclaiming life in the midst of death. It was a surreal experience, to say the least. Only two hours earlier, I had been sitting on my couch, Bible and coffee in hand, getting ready for a day with the family. Now those same hands were pressed behind my back going numb from the tight grasp of the cuffs.
I am grieved that our local government is employing the coronavirus as an illegitimate excuse to silence the voices of pro-life people. This is nothing less than viewpoint discrimination. Abortion clinics are flooded with people receiving so-called “essential” services, while peaceful counselors are arrested for offering truly essential services.
That’s why, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, we filed a lawsuit against the City of Charlotte. If abortion clinics can stay open during the pandemic, Christians should be allowed to pray outside—particularly those abiding by health and safety guidelines.
Today, we continue to partner with numerous ministries and local churches to help bring mothers to a place of hope and healing. Opposition will not dissuade us in this fight. In fact, we are invigorated all the more to be a voice for the voiceless. We pray you’ll join us!
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