On March 13, in Dallas, TX, an organization you’ve probably never heard of is going to revolutionize the pro-life movement.
It starts with a kid from Philly, a bus in New York, and an idea that brought him quite by accident to the city where Roe v. Wade started — the city where he hopes abortion will finally meet its match.
David Pomerantz, 23, does not look like a pro-lifer or a practicing Christian. He looks like a vegan hipster with emo hair. As a matter of fact, he sort of is a vegan hipster with emo hair. If you visit his loft apartment in an industrial section of downtown Dallas, he will offer you fermented tea with organic honey. You can lounge in a beanbag chair and talk about art while he surfs his Macbook and plays indie music and talks about Jesus.
A polite, friendly young man with a laconic kid-from-nowhere accent and a direct blue gaze, David Pomerantz — “Dave” to his friends — does not jibe with the stereotypical image of the angry activist holding signs outside a clinic. And he doesn’t mind, because that’s not the kind of pro-life activist Dave is.
He hails from Philadelphia, but he was attending Word of Life, a two-year Bible institute in New York, when he met Chris Slattery and Julie Beyel of EMC (Expectant Mother Care), a Manhattan pregnancy resource center. He was astonished to find that EMC had formulated a “new model” for approaching women outside abortion clinics.
EMC had a bus equipped with a sonogram machine. By approaching women outside the clinic with the offer of free help, with no mention of a pro-life ideology, they were able to see a staggering success rate. In fact, by their estimate, about 70% of women who got on the bus for a sonogram decided not to abort. In one day, they saw nine women decide on life for their children.
They did some simple math, and realized that if this success continued, 15 to 25 women a week, or about 800 a year, would choose life.
Excited by the possibilities inherent in this new approach, Dave contacted his friend and mentor Joe Baker, who flew in from Philly to see the results firsthand. Equally impressed, the two began to ferment the idea that would become Save the Storks.
Dave was already planning on attending Southwestern Theological Seminary in Dallas, so he headed down south. With Joe Baker developing the art and marketing, and the generous help of Dallas-based organization Get Involved for Life and other private donors to bring to life a sleeker, smaller, more mobile ultrasound vehicle, they were off and running.
Save the Storks was born. Or, if you prefer, flown in through the window.
“We don’t want to intimidate anyone. We don’t want to force anyone. We just want to serve.” Dave is the Local Director for Save the Storks. Today, along with Daryl Harshbarger, Head Female Client Advocate, and Julie Beyel in town from New York, we are having pizza (some of it vegan) in Southeast Dallas. Dave is explaining to me why Save the Storks is a new kind of pro-life action.
“No one is offended by our activism,” he says. “We’re delivering a loving message in a strong way.”
Here’s what happens: a woman is walking up to an abortion clinic. She is approached by Dave or Daryl or another member of Save the Storks.
“Hi, how are you? Would you like a free ultrasound?”
This is the approach. There is no dangling rosary, no graphic pamphlet, no doom-and-gloom. Just an offer of free help from a non-threatening, friendly, smiling young person.
And then there is the Stork bus.
The stork was chosen as the mascot because of its comforting, unoffensive, nostalgic connection to motherhood and pregnancy. We can all remember old cartoons where a smiling stork would fly in a window and lay a swaddled baby in a crib.
What Dave and the others weren’t aware of until later is the text of Job 39:13-17.
The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but are her feathers and plumage like the stork’s?
She abandons her eggs on the ground and lets them be warmed in the sand.
She forgets that a foot may crush them or that some wild animal may trample them.
She treats her young harshly, as if they were not her own, with no fear that her labor may have been in vain.
For God has deprived her of wisdom; He has not endowed her with understanding.
This is the kind of thing that makes you whistle the Twilight Zone theme music.
The Stork bus, however, is free of all Old Testament references. It is a bright, lovely blue on the outside, and the inside is clean and free of clutter, with a welcoming but no-nonsense clinical feel. There is a little couch for the mother to sit on and speak to a counselor, and a padded bench where she can lie comfortably.
The ultrasound machine pulls out from underneath the bench. It is operated only by a licensed sonographer whose work is frequently reviewed by an OB/Gyn. In the back there is a small private toilet for pregnancy testing. It isn’t the slightest bit cramped or unpleasant; these mothers get only the best. The completed bus with the ultrasound machine was paid for by private donations to the tune of about $140,000.
The Stork bus is by no means the first mobile ultrasound vehicle — it was Chris Slattery’s mobile sonogram bus that inspired Dave and Joe in the first place — but it may be the smallest, lightest, and most practical. It doesn’t require a permit or special permission to park. It will fit in a parking space or even at a meter.
It is an abortion clinic’s worst nightmare.
So now this woman, who was going to go into an abortion clinic, is able to have a pregnancy test and a sonogram without ever reaching its doors.
But what happens now? She’s heard, “Yes, you’re pregnant! You’re this far along! There’s your baby! Here’s his heartbeat!”
So what does she hear next? “Good luck with that?”
Nope. Save the Storks is directly connected to Get Involved for Life and the two pregnancy centers it operates in Dallas, one uptown and one downtown. Also, needless to say, any expectant mother will be welcomed by whatever pregnancy center is closest to the bus at the time. The Stork team is prepared to call a cab for the mother if she needs a ride.
In other words, unlike the abortion clinic, the Storks and the pregnancy centers are in it for the long haul. They are going to get her what she needs to take care of herself and her baby, body and soul.
“The heart of this ministry is the Gospel,” says Dave, after asking for more vegan marinara sauce. “There are two causes every Christian should take up: orphans and widows. This encompasses both.”
It is part of Save the Storks’ mission that every woman who steps on the bus hears the Gospel message. While this may seem off-putting to some, to the Storks it is an essential aspect of caring for the mother that goes along with the physical support and counseling she will receive through the pregnancy center.
“She is just as important as that child,” says Dave. “We aim to improve her quality of life… The major issue here is the devaluation of life, and the answer to every injustice on earth is the church of Jesus Christ.”
“Our ministry is designed to meet all the needs of the woman,” says Daryl. At the pregnancy center, every mother will receive whatever her personal situation calls for, be it help with affordable medical care, legal aid to escape from an abusive boyfriend, life skills counseling, mental health counseling, spiritual guidance, and more.
Which of course begs the question: if the Storks’ mission is in fact successful and Dallas pregnancy centers see 800 or so more mothers every year, how will they handle the added demand for resources?
The answer is simply: us.
“The churches need to stand up and start giving to their local pregnancy centers,” says Dave.
Without the generous help of good-hearted people giving what they can, pregnancy centers can’t work, and by extension neither can the Storks.
Abortion clinic workers and management are used to seeing protesters outside their clinic. What they are not used to is a name brand.
The Save the Storks bus is slick, recognizable, welcoming, and — horror of horrors — it sits in between a mother and the abortion clinic doors. With a simple offer of no-strings-attached help — “Would you like a free ultrasound?” — and a bright, comforting image, it appeals to the desperate woman before she reaches the clinic.
She is not confronted. She is offered help. And while I firmly believe that virtually all sidewalk counselors and activists outside clinic are there for no other reason than to help women, the Storks are able to present help first. That is the key. The average clinic sidewalk approach is, of necessity, “Please don’t kill your baby. Here’s why. And here’s help.” Because they have their awesome bus, Save the Storks are able to say, “Here’s help. Now please don’t kill your baby. Here’s why.”
Because they don’t have to lead with agenda, there are no warning bells for a desperate and defensive mother. There is only a friendly face.
This new model will absolutely revolutionize the front lines of pro-life activism.
What is the battle cry of the pro-abortion movement? “Choice!” It is their mantra. What do you constantly hear from abortion advocates? “These desperate women feel like they are out of options.”
Right here, on four wheels, parked in front of the clinic, is another choice — one they might not even know they have. Inside that bus is an image of their baby waiting to be seen. Connected to that bus is a support system — in short, options.
Dave and the team have high hopes, and they should. The approach is breathtakingly simple and, if early tests are any indication, profoundly effective.
As mentioned, the Storks take to the streets of Dallas on March 13. Meanwhile their website is up and running at SaveTheStorks.com with the purpose of raising money to take the program national. A Save the Storks bus is not cheap, and it takes people to run it. While Dave and his team get things off the ground in Dallas, Joe is in charge of building a national movement.
The thought of a Stork bus in every major city in America should bring a smile to your face. Every one of these buses represents hundreds of lives saved every year.
I have met Dave and the gang. I have been on board the Stork bus. And I have never been more excited about a pro-life idea than I am about this one.
You probably are having the same reaction I did. You are probably thinking: “What can I do to help?”
First: spread the word. Use Facebook, Twitter, Twitbook, whatever, to share with people how awesome this is.
Second: go to SaveTheStorks.com now and volunteer. They need all kinds of stuff — bloggers, artists, counselors, you name it — all across the country to be part of their national team of Save the Storks volunteers. Whatever your talent is, Save the Storks can probably use it to help get Stork programs off and running across the country. You — yes, you! — can be a part of this movement from the ground up.
Third: donate if you can. Save your Starbucks money for a few days and buy a ridiculously cool Save the Storks T-shirt. Wear it and tell people about it. (I promise they’ll be curious.)
In just a few days, Dave, Daryl, and their remarkable bus hit the streets of Dallas, the city where abortion rights were born. As a native Dallasite, I hope what started here is ended here. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Save the Storks becomes a major factor in helping Dallas — and the country — see an end to abortion.
UPDATE: To see what Save the Storks is doing today in 2016, visit their website and read about their amazing progress and expansion around the nation.
Kristen Walker is a writer and comedian who makes people mad on the Internet. She is Vice President of New Wave Feminists and enjoys taxidermy, yachting, and 19th century French poetry. Stalk her relentlessly for fun and profit.