By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — Two pregnancy care center directors in Tennessee are rejoicing yet are taking precautions as the nation’s political leaders are urging the pro-life community to prepare for a possible violent reaction to the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security asked the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to join a call Thursday warning them about an increased threat level based on the potential decision, according to Kentucky Today.
“Political violence of any kind is unacceptable, regardless of the context. That is not how we resolve our differences in this nation,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press in a written statement.
As of June 21, around 30 pregnancy support centers have been vandalized or suffered other damage with many of them threatened. Several of them spray painted with threatening messages such as, “If abortion isn’t safe, neither are you.”
A website called Jane’s Revenge was launched in May saying, “We are forced to adopt the minimum military requirement for a political struggle.”
On June 15, they posted, “From here forward, any anti-choice group who closes their doors, and stops operating will no longer be a target. But until you do, it’s open season, and we know where your operations are.”
In Tennessee, Christine Veteto, clinic director of Birth Choice in Jackson, has served with the pregnancy care center for 33 years. Veteto acknowledged that she thought she would never see in her lifetime that Roe v. Wade would be overturned.
“Don’t get me wrong, I know that there is nothing too hard for God. I just feel that, as Americans, we have lived under God’s righteous judgement for a long time — and we deserve it! America has the blood of close to 65 million precious little children’s lives on its hands. Yet today we rejoice for the amazing favor He has shown us in this ruling. This was possible only because our great God made it happen. To Him belongs all the glory!”
Veteto told the Baptist and Reflector that there have been no direct threats to the pregnancy center to date. She acknowledged, however, “that in the last two weeks, in preparation for possible violence, we notified the local police departments and asked them to patrol more frequently. We are thankful that when we went home on Friday (June 24) a police car was sitting in our parking lot.”
There was no need to worry, she related. “We were overwhelmed, though, when at least 23 people that we know of came to stand watch over our two brick and mortar clinics all through the night on Friday, ‘just in case’ ”, she said.
Veteto observed that community support for Birth Choice the past three years has been beyond phenomenal, noting that she has heard similar stories from other pregnancy clinics. “Maybe it began when New York legalized full-term abortions in January of 2019,” she opined. “It was broadcasted on social media, the news, etc., in such an unprecedented way that we feel like it shocked and awakened the sleeping giant of God’s church.
“Since that time donations, both monetary and material, as well as many donated services have poured into our clinics like never, ever before. I think that had Birth Choice been burned to the ground last Friday night, our community would have immediately rebuilt our clinic even bigger and better!
“And if they burned that one down, they would rebuild it again! And don’t forget that while the whole world experienced a terrifying and debilitating pandemic in 2020/21, we still flourished all during that strange time. We never closed our doors even one day and we never turned away an abortion-determined client. We recognize the hand of God all over this ministry,” she said.
Valerie Millsapps, CEO of the Pregnancy Resource Center in Maryville, shared Veteto’s enthusiasm for the court ruling and also has taken precautions. “My first reaction was tears and complete shock that this was really happening. I knew it was a possibility, but never thought it would be here unraveling among us,” she said.
Millsapps acknowledged “there have been a lot of concerns and destruction in other states, but we have incredible people that are watchful eyes for us in the community and the amazing local law enforcement that has been so gracious to look out for us.
“We have taken extra precautions to protect our centers both here in Maryville and Sevierville and our mobile clinic that we take to various rural counties in East Tennessee,” she said.
As to ministry, Veteto observed that “the number of unplanned and often unwanted pregnancies will continue just as it has long before the ruling. For this reason, we do not see our numbers decreasing.”
While Tennessee has laws in place to prohibit abortion, many states do not, she continued. “To simply say that abortion is illegal in all of America is a misunderstanding of terms. Actually, women who would have been seeking an abortion last week will still be seeking an abortion this week. The fact that it may be hard or illegal for her to get an abortion in her own state doesn’t mean she won’t simply go across state lines to get what she wants.”
Millsaps agreed, adding she thinks pregnancy care centers will be even busier in the days ahead. “We will see an increase in those we serve and we already have this week. In all reality, on average 27 abortions take place in the state of Tennessee on a daily basis. Where will those women go?
“We need to know where our local pregnancy care centers are so women and men can get all the love and support they need as they choose and cherish life for their babies. We stand ready along with many pregnancy centers across our amazing state to serve the increased need, but we cannot do it alone. We need more hands and feet to help us carry out our mission together,” Millsaps said.
Veteto shared that the Birth Choice mission statement for more than three decades has stated that, “Our mission is to extend Christ-like love in a compassionate and responsive manner that values the family and empowers women and their partners to choose life.”
“For all of us here at Birth Choice, our mission is still the same today. God has never called us away from that mission.” B&R — This article includes reporting from Baptist Press.