Written by Lisa Sergent, Director, Communications & Assist. Editor –Illinois Baptist State Association
Nearly 1.4 million abortions have been performed every year since the United States Supreme Court made abortion legal 35 years ago. Today, there are five clinics in Illinois providing abortions, ending the lives of 46,467 infants in 2006 alone. At least 87 pregnancy care centers are located around the state with the mission of showing women abortion is not the answer.
Granite City, Ill. is home to one of the abortion providers – Hope Clinic, the only clinic in a ten state radius where women can have an abortion up to their 24th week of pregnancy. Its website boasts of performing 6,000 abortions a year. Featured prominently on the website is the clinic’s slogan, “Where there is choice, there is Hope.”
Countering the work of Hope Clinic in Granite City and standing as a true beacon of hope is New Beginnings Pregnancy Care Center. New Beginnings opened 21 years ago and now has additional locations in Fairview Heights and Edwardsville. Last year New Beginnings saw 600 new patients and served 1,300 others. Patients received pregnancy testing; information about abortion (no one is ever referred for an abortion, regardless of the situation), adoption and parenting; ultrasound; physician referrals; and childbirth and parenting classes along with free baby supplies for those who complete the classes. The center is working to offer counseling programs for the men affected by pregnancy and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Kathy Sparks, the clinic’s executive director and one of its founders, previously worked in an abortion clinic assisting in performing abortions. After a near divorce and failed suicide attempt, Sparks accepted Christ. Just days later her husband, Mike, accepted Him too. It was after that, while assisting a doctor performing an abortion at 23 weeks, God showed her the truth. Sparks left her job at the abortion clinic.
The idea for New Beginnings Pregnancy Care Center came soon after. “The Lord used Mike and me to begin this ministry,” she said. “There was nothing like it on this side of the river.”
“God crossed our paths with five other believers. That’s been 23 years ago. I’ve been executive director for 21 years. I give God all the glory. I am just a small part of what He does here.”
“The average age of our clients is 18-22,” Sparks said. “Our youngest client was 12 and the oldest was 54.”
Counseling services at the center include a presentation of the Gospel. “The overwhelming majority of our clients will stay and hear the entire thing,” Sparks said. In 2007, 96 percent of their clients heard the Gospel and 11 accepted Christ as their Savior.
Clinic counselors must be Christians and belong to a local church. Counselors receive 21 hours of training plus time spent assisting other counselors until they are deemed ready to counsel on their own. Additional training in evangelism is provided to ensure each can give their own personal testimony.
“Probably half of the women who work in this ministry have had abortions,” noted Sparks. “We work with them to make sure they understand forgiveness and are not atoning for having an abortion.”
Seven years ago, the clinic received its first ultra sound machine. Statistics show the number of abortions drop radically when women receive ultra sounds and are able to see the developing child in the womb. After installing the machine, “We absolutely noticed a difference in the amount of women who would change their mind [about having an abortion],” Sparks said. “We saw client numbers increase and an additional 15 percent of the women decided not to have an abortion.”
The clinic also promotes an abstinence-only program. “Two and a half years ago the Lord stirred my heart to make it bigger and better,” said Sparks. She discovered ReL8, a program developed for public schools that uses biblical principles. “It’s amazing how God has really opened things up to come into the middle and high schools.” The ReL8 program serves a 23 county area in downstate Illinois.
Sparks is dedicated to exposing the truth about abortion and sharing Christ. “My life is the definition of Romans 8:28. My experience working in an abortion clinic has given me the motive and passion to share Christ in a tangible way.”
For more information about New Beginnings Pregnancy Care Center online go to nbpcc.org. The ReL8 abstinence program’s website is located atmyrel8.com.