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Emily Berning, co-founder and president of Let Them Live, shares on “Problematic Women” that she saw a gap in the pro-life movement. “Crisis pregnancy centers are amazing. They do so much work and save so many lives, but a lot of them don’t have the funding to pay for rent for women that come in or car payments for an extended period of time,” she says.
“That’s where we come in,” Berning, our Problematic Woman of the week, adds of her organization. “Because 73% of women who are getting abortions are doing it because of financial reasons.” Read the full interview with Berning, posted below, or listen on the podcast.
“Seventy-three percent of women who are getting abortions are doing it because of financial reasons,” says Emily Berning (not pictured) of Let Them Live. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com)
Lauren Evans: Welcome back to the show. It is now that time of the week, the time to crown our Problematic Woman of the Week.
This week [our Problematic Woman] is someone who is so passionate about the life issue. She spends her livelihood going out and finding women who need help and need assistance and gets them that assistance.
That woman is Emily Berning, the co-founder and president of Let Them Live, an organization whose mission reads, “Defending the defenseless against abortion worldwide.” Emily, you’re on the phone.
Emily Berning: Yeah. Great to talk to you, Lauren.
Evans: Yeah, we’re so excited. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about you?
Berning: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Emily. … When I was in college I really started getting passionate about the life issue and I went to work for the Leadership Institute, and that’s where I met my husband who’s also very passionate about the life issue.
We both live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is where our nonprofit Let Them Live is based out of. We are busy with three dogs and running the nonprofit.
It’s a joy to be able to do what I’m passionate about with my husband day to day and know that we’re helping moms and unborn babies.
Evans: That is so great. Emily, when did you really realize that you were pro-life?
Berning: My parents growing up were pro-life. I grew up in the Catholic Church. I think it was always implied that you’re pro-life and I always had that base level, being against abortion, but I didn’t really understand what Roe v. Wade was. I didn’t really form my own opinions.
When I was in college … I actually studied biology in college and I was on track to go to vet school. Then for some reason I sparked an interest in the topic of abortion. That’s when I really started reading a lot of books and forming my knowledge around the subject.
Being a biology major in college, it was basically a no-brainer to be pro-life because being pro-life is pro-science. Really college and then afterward starting work with Leadership Institute, doing the actual activism on college campuses really cemented my belief.
Evans: I want to actually talk a little bit about your time at LI and the activism that you did. What was your role at LI and how did doing activism in college and on college campuses prepare you to start an organization like Let Them Live?
Berning: Yeah. I worked for LI first semester in the fall of 2017, I was a field representative for the North East, New England region. I was in the Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Connecticut area, then I also got moved up to Vermont.
I had a lot of ground to cover and it was really awesome. It was a really great experience. I love LI and I learned so much about organizational leadership.
Morton [Blackwell] taught us so many things about how to go out and be a self-starter and start these groups. I basically became a pro at getting other people’s groups started on college campuses. I think that really led into my ability to be able to start an organization myself.
It also prepared me to handle a lot of the pushback that we get as a pro-life nonprofit on college campuses.
College campuses are extremely hostile to any conservative pro-life viewpoint. Being on college campuses and helping students deal with that has also prepared me to deal with that flack on our end as well.
Evans: There are so many great pro-life nonprofits out there. Why did you specifically want to start Let Them Live?
Berning: Yes. There are definitely a ton of awesome pro-life nonprofits. I think at first glance, it can seem like the pro-life movement is pretty jam-packed already with nonprofits that fill every part of the pro-life movement.
What we realized in forming Let Them Live was that there is an untapped market for financial aid and financial support for women who are on the edge, about to have an abortion, to help bring them back and choose life instead.
Crisis pregnancy centers are amazing. They do so much work and save so many lives, but a lot of them don’t have the funding to pay for rent for women that come in or car payments for an extended period of time. Some of them can’t do that at all. That’s where we come in. Because 73% of women who are getting abortions are doing it because of financial reasons. That’s from the Guttmacher Institute.
We thought, gosh, we can target that easily. Money is no problem … LI’s got the fundraising down. We’ve been to international school fundraising and things like that. We’ve learned so much.
Then we thought we can absolutely fundraise for these moms—something that other organizations haven’t tried yet or haven’t been able to do yet or that’s just not their focus. We wanted to fill that area and supplement the rest of what the pro-life movement is doing.
Evans: How do you do fundraising for these moms? Do you go out and do more direct mail? Do you out meet with donors? Do you fundraise online?
Berning: Yeah, it’s a little bit of all that. We will be working on a direct mail program here pretty soon. My husband is actually … a social media guru.
We built Let Them Live up from the ground on social media from zero likes to I think we have combined on our three social media platforms—Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—we have probably over 70,000 followers. Because we built that up, we’ve been able to run a really effective crowdfunding campaign.
Typically, what a situation will be is we ended up contacting or getting contact with a mom who’s referred to us possibly by a crisis pregnancy center or a sidewalk counselor. Then if it’s an emergency, which it usually is, the abortion is usually scheduled for the next day or the next week. We will run an emergency fundraiser for her on social media and crowdfund.
We have an amazing donor base that have been so generous. We always contact our donors. They’re always very happy to help. Pro-life people are very eager and excited, for the most part, to contribute to something like this, because it is directly helping a mom choose life. Then we have a few other larger donors that we go to meet, have meetings with, things like that.
It’s few different areas. I would say social media has been the biggest money-maker for Let Them Live and for these moms.
Evans: … The money that you raise and you give to these women, where does that money typically go to?
Berning: We never give money directly to the moms. That’s something that we always clarify and always make sure … all of our donors and everybody knows is that if we raised $25,000, … we’re not mailing a check to the mom for $25,000. We’re taking every step possible to ensure that the donor money is being used wisely.
I feel I am a steward of their money, so I like to make sure that is taken care of. Typically, with a mom we will pay her landlord directly if that’s the problem. Or, gosh, the other day I paid a Verizon bill, I’ll pay gas bills and utility bills, things like that. We’re always paying money directly to where it’s being due.
Evans: You mentioned that you work with crisis pregnancy centers and different folks to find these women, but once you find these women, what is your relationship with them like?
Berning: Yeah. We actually are transitioning right now, which is great. We are bringing on a couple of crisis pregnancy counselors or people to connect with the pregnancy centers and manage the cases, manage the case load of the moms.
For the longest time I’ve been the one and my husband’s been the one talking to the women. We will get to know them, get to know their situation a little bit, figure out their financial situation. It is a very deep, personal relationship because we are asking questions that other nonprofits probably won’t be asking these moms.
We basically want to get to know them as a person. We try not to make it a very businessy because these moms are on the edge.
Essentially, the pro-life movement does have to refocus on these moms because, ultimately, they’re the ones walking into that abortion clinic and they’re the ones who [are] ultimately deciding to do that.
We want to reach them where they’re at. We will counsel them for as long as they need. Talk to them, be available to them. Then once they say, “OK, I can, I think I can accept your help,” we have a contract and an agreement for them to sign and then we can proceed with helping them.
We have to have a verified ultrasound and things like that from our crisis pregnancy center. We do a lot of that back-end stuff as well. We do go visit them sometimes as well.
We just got back from Atlanta a few weeks ago visiting one of the moms that we’re helping. She was just really struggling. Her parents don’t support her, the father of her child left and said, “Here’s money for an abortion.” She was really struggling so we decided to fly down to see her and that really helped nurture that relationship between us.
Evans: How relieved are these women once they find out that this financial burden is taken off of them?
Berning: My gosh. It’s like night and day, really. We have so many stories and comments and testimonies from these moms …
We actually created a banner for CPAC [the Conservative Political Action Conference] because we’ll be tabling at CPAC, little shameless plug there. We have a banner of all these statements from the Let Them Live moms and a lot of them are so clear as day: “If you hadn’t helped me and relieved me of this financial burden, I would have made the worst decision of my life in having an abortion.” It’s just palpable.
These moms … even if we’re just texting, it’s just so obvious that money was clouding their view and the burden of their bills was really hanging over them.
I’m like anybody else, we all understand financial burden, we all understand having bills that have to be paid and maybe understanding that you may not have enough money in the bank to pay for those bills. Any financial help is such a relief and can really, really change a person’s mind.
These women don’t want to have abortions. They don’t want to go in there and do that, but they feel they have no other option. When we come in and step in and help them take over their bills, they feel they are seeing with clear vision.
Evans: Why do you think the financial burden drives so many women to having abortions?
Berning: That’s a great question. I think a more broader look at this is human nature. A lot of people are motivated by money. We see that in our culture today, it’s ingrained in our culture, in American culture today. The having money means you have value and if you don’t have money, you’re going to have to do other things in order to make it work.
I think that money, it’s a huge motivator for things. Lack of money is often the same way. Not having enough money makes you not really think correctly and makes you make drastic decisions. Even though most people would be OK without having an abortion and not having money.
I think money is such a weird influence on human beings in general. That’s why we try to step in and take that burden away because at the end of the day, money is just money. If it’s $2,500 or $15,000, that will help ease a woman’s mind and help her to back out of that abortion, then we’re totally going to do it for her.
Evans: Yeah. What a small value compared to a human life.
Berning: Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of people put so much value on money in our society, but we don’t step back to think, “Well, gosh, what is this human life worth, though?”
If a mom said, “I am $100,000 in debt and I don’t think I can do this,” we would find a way to get rid of that or at least help that burden, take that burden off of her. We would do it, for sure.
Evans: That’s amazing. How does adoption play into what you guys do?
Berning: Adoptions [are] very interesting and awesome. We’re huge, obviously, advocates of adoption. My sister-in-law was adopted from China 13 years ago and so we’re definitely huge advocates of adoption.
We get reached out to all the time by adoptive couples, people ready to adopt saying, “If any of these moms decide that they want to put their baby up for adoption, we will do it. We’ll take care of all their expenses.” Things like that. …
The wonderful part is that there are so many people ready and willing to take on another person’s child.
The sad part is that … something very common that I hear is that, I’ll ask a mom, “Have you considered adoption?” She’ll say something along the lines of, “I couldn’t do that. It’d be too painful to put my child up for adoption. I will either keep it or kill it.” Basically, keep it or have an abortion.
Some moms do consider it and then they don’t end up doing it. They’ll end up parenting. Yeah, sadly what I hear from the moms [is] that they don’t want to do an adoption and that they’ll either, like I said, have an abortion or keep it.
This is definitely conversation that needs to be had. I do my very best to put that out there and in the social media sphere and outside pro-life people because I think a lot of people think it’s a very easy decision. On the outside looking in, sure, but the adoption process is very gruesome or grueling and it’s very difficult. For the moms it’s a very difficult decision, too.
We get a lot of pro-life people that will comment on our posts saying, “Put it up for adoption. Put it up for adoption.” A lot of moms don’t want to make that decision. If it comes down to it and she says, “I would rather have an abortion than do an adoption,” we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that she doesn’t have that abortion and that will involve taking on her financial burden.
I think the pro-life movement does need to shift a little bit and see that sentiment that the moms are having.
Evans: One interesting component of Let Them Live is that you guys work with the pro-choice community, correct?
Berning: Yeah, yeah. Honestly, in our minds, the more moms and babies we can help, the better.
There is, I don’t know how big, but a portion of the pro-choice community that does things to support us and people that have donated to us before that identifies as pro-choice. We’re pretty proud to be a pro-life organization that bridges the gap.
Evans: How do you think that the media and all the coverage that it gives to movements like “Shout Your Abortion,” how does that affect the young women that you guys are counseling and helping?
Berning: I think that the culture, especially with the Shout Your Abortion movement and book, the culture is if you don’t know what to do in a situation, in a crisis pregnancy, it seems the default is to go have an abortion.
It seems that the sentiment is you can just go have an abortion. It’s a quick fix to your problem. No problem at all. It’ll be in and out in a couple of hours and you’re done. You never have to think about it again.
That’s the sentiment that the Shout Your Abortion campaign presented by picking and choosing only women who are masking a lot of the underlying feelings that come after abortion.
Women that are in these crisis pregnancies are only hearing that abortion was amazing and abortion was the best thing they ever did. Things like that. They’re getting a very one-sided perspective.
It’s actually awesome that you brought up “Shout Your Abortion” because after I read that book, I was really angry because I know so many women who are post-abortive that do not feel they want to shout it from the rooftop.
It’s a platform for women and men who have had abortion experiences that regret it to share their story because they were left out of the conversation completely because they don’t have an abortion story that fits the narrative of the abortion lobby.
“Shout Your Abortion Too” gave a voice and gives a voice to those as women and men as well that obviously were hurt by their abortion experiences. We’ve been circulating that around pregnancy centers, sending that directly to the moms to give them a more balanced view of the actual abortion to date.
That book has actually helped four moms cancel their abortion by reading the book alone. I think it’s important that there’s a more balanced perspective of … how [abortion] can actually affect these moms.
Evans: Wow, that sounds incredible. If any of our listeners want to read the book or buy the book for someone else, can you let us know where they can purchase that?
Berning: Yeah. We are going to be putting it on Amazon pretty soon, but it is on our website letthemlive.org and it’s up there. We just ordered another round. They’re $30. The proceeds is all a donation to Let Them Live for the moms in crisis pregnancies. It’s going toward a good cause and you can be able to participate in the stories that are in there.
Evans: Speaking of stories, before we wrap, I wanted to ask you, do you have one story that really shows the impact that your organization has?
Berning: Yeah, absolutely. Let me pull it up really quick. It’s on one of our banners … I talked about the statements that we had from the moms and I think that some of these are very impactful. Maybe I can read you some of their quotes because there’s so many women that we’ve worked with that have become basically a part of our family.
One mom, her name is Miriam and she was actually given money by the National Abortion Federation to go have an abortion.
That’s another reason why we do it. We do it because there are organizations out there that are giving women money to have abortion. If there’s organizations giving women money to have abortions, there need to be organizations giving money to women to choose life.
Berning: Miriam … texted me this, gosh, a couple of months ago and said, “I wouldn’t be this far in my pregnancy if it wasn’t for you. You have done a lot more than others have my whole life and it’s nice to not feel so alone for once.”
That hit because a lot of these moms … don’t have family around, and if they do, they’re typically being pressured into abortion. They don’t really have any support and that breaks my heart because these are human beings trying to make it in life. It made me feel really good that we are there for Miriam.
Atoria is another really great, great story and great save. Atoria lives in California and when she got in contact with us, she was about 19 weeks pregnant. …
It’s really scary when we have moms in California because abortion is paid for. They can have abortion basically up until birth. It’s pretty much free for all in California.
She was very back and forth. She canceled her abortion a few times and then rescheduled. One day she called us and she said, “I’m sorry, I have to have this abortion.”
We knew she was so alone. My husband and I hopped on a red-eye immediately to fly to San Francisco. We went to her and we told her we were there for her and we showed her we were there for her and she started crying to me.
She said, “Emily, I was about to have a two-day abortion and then after my abortion I was going to go to this one parking garage and jump off the parking garage and commit suicide.”
I thought, “My God, if we hadn’t been there, not only would her baby had been aborted, but she would have jumped off a parking garage.”
Berning: In that moment it hit me, there’s a reason we do this work and this is the dirty work that nobody wants to do.
Everybody wants to do a lot of the froofy activism. Yes, it’s great to talk about how abortion is so bad and all these things, but at the end of the day, we have to get down and dirty. We have to get our hands dirty. We have to get into these situations with these moms to save their lives and to save their baby’s lives.
It is not work that is fun. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also rewarding because Atoria’s baby is going to be due March 1st and Miriam’s baby’s due March 7th.
We’re going to be flying all over the place from coast to coast meeting these babies, seeing these moms enjoying life. That’s what I’m most looking forward to because we’ve been through so much with these moms. They’re our family and … it’s the best work. It really is.
Evans: Wow. That is incredible. I just want to pivot, one last question we ask every guest on our show … is, do you consider yourself a feminist? Yes or no?
Berning: Yeah, yeah. I hate that word though because I am not a feminist in the sense that how the left has taken that over. I hate what they’ve turned it into.
I’m like a Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul feminist. The real feminists that fought for real rights for women, the right to vote and they were pro-life and they recognized the dignity of a pre-born child and they recognized the dignity of the woman and how abortion destroys that dignity.
If I say I’m a feminist, I’m one of those feminists and not one of the women’s marchers wearing the pussy hat.
Evans: Awesome. I love that. I love that everybody has such a great answer. It’s always different but it’s always so great.
Berning: Yeah, we have to take that word back. Pro-life is pro-woman. There was a great graphic I saw. Our graphic designer for Let Them Live, she did something, it says “If your feminism is pro-abortion, it’s not feminism.” That’s the angle that the pro-life movement has to take.
Evans: Yeah, no, that is great. If our listeners are interested in learning more about your organization, where can they go?
Berning: Social media is the best place. Facebook: Let Them Live, Instagram, Twitter. Our Instagram is pretty popping right now. Also our website, letthemlive.org.
Evans: That’s great. Emily, thank you so much for your time today.
Berning: Yeah, thank you so much, Lauren.