Among the savage battlefield where rages the spiritual battle for the heart of humanity, the unassuming red brick house occupied by AIM Women’s Center in downtown Steubenville may be one of the most epic. Every man, woman, and child is a battlefield between the principalities and powers, but among the battles raging, no battle is as all-encompassing of humanity as the battle against the utter evil of abortion and the damage it does to the women—and men—involved.
AIM started as a hotline in 1987, when a local couple felt God was calling them to make themselves available to women in crisis pregnancies who had no one else to turn to and were considering abortion. They would take calls 24/7 and do everything they could to secure assistance—housing, supplies, whatever.
25 years later AIM Women’s Center has a residential home repurposed for their needs in downtown Steubenville where they get about 1,000 girls coming to them every year for assistance.
When I listen to their stories I think of Revelation 12, the confrontation between the Woman in labor and the great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems, waiting to devour the child the woman shall bring forth.
These women are waging a battle agains the principalities and powers that seek to destroy humanity at our most vulnerable points: the hearts and wombs of women.
Their weapon is love. Their tools are their smiles, their kind words, their undivided attention, the truth they share, and a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine.
They get amazing support from the community—strollers, diapers, baby food, cribs, carriers, toys, car seats, and even a ladies group that knits baby blankets for them to hand out. Last night their annual gala fundraising dinner had 560 in attendance.
I had the privilege to sit down with Sharon Maedke, the soft-spoken director for more than a decade, and Ginna Dombrowski, the nurse, and “mother to us all,” who runs the ultrasound, and who, every year at the gala dinner, cannot get through a 5-minute talk about the girls who have come to them, including some who have opted for abortion anyhow, without breaking down in tears.
They said to me, over and over again, “We are here for the girls. We convey to the girls that we care about them.”
By their fruits you shall know them.
They are now seeing some girls come through their door who are the daughters of girls who came to AIM in the late 1980s. Girls who may not be alive had AIM not been there for their mothers.
“I’m so happy I came here: I know that you care about me.” They hear this often, along with, “You treated me like i was somebody.” All these girls want is to know someone cares about them and that their life is not ruined if they do not have an abortion.
I keep calling them girls, not to diminish them, but because they usually are: high school—or junior high—girls who are under pressure to have an abortion: pressure from uncommitted boyfriends, and frequently from their own mothers.
Maedke told a story of one girl who came in years ago who burst into the house with her friends, full of life and joy. She had a positive pregnancy test and was happy and excited to be a mother. Sharon did not see her for a long while, then one day the girl returned with a friend who was in for a test. Sharon said she kept looking at the girl, just wondering how that could possibly be the same girl who had come in so full of life: she was a shell of that vivacious girl. The girl finally leaned in and whispered, “My mom forced me to have an abortion.” And she burst into tears.
Maedke said that while she was sure the mother thought she was doing the right thing to help her daughter have the best chance at a good life, clearly the girl was a wreck. “Her life is totally different,” Sharon said. “Having a child that young would have changed her life, too…but it wouldn’t have devastated her life.”
“That’s why we do what we do. We try to love them where they are, to encourage them to stay in school, to have a future.”
That girl was one of the reasons they began doing Rachel’s Vineyard retreats for post-abortive mothers and fathers, to help them work through the pain that has lingered in their hearts. One married couple with other children was on the verge of divorce because of an abortion years prior. They came to the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat as a last-ditch effort after counsellors had not helped. On that retreat the husband finally came to understand how the abortion had damaged his wife’s heart and what she was struggling with. He had been unable—or unwilling—to see it before. The retreat opened his eyes, lifted the veil, and they found healing together. They now have a happy marriage.
They also have a program they call “Bridges” where expectant and current young mothers can come for mothering classes and help with things around the office to earn things like diapers and formula and strollers.
One young lady about to enter college on an athletic scholarship came in for a test which was positive. She was certain she had to have an abortion so she could keep her scholarship. Sharon worked with her and worked out a plan and helped set her up with assistance for college-aged mothers. She went to college and kept her scholarship.
Another girl came in with her mother, both of whom were abortion-minded. While the mother was waiting outside the girl and Dombrowski went in and did the ultrasound. The girl kept asking, incredulously, with wonder and awe, “is that my baby? Is that my baby? Is that my baby?” When Sharon brought the mother in, the mother took one look at the screen and stopped cold in the doorway, agape. She finally spoke, “I thought there was nothing there for the first three months!” They kept the baby.
“When they see that ultrasound, no matter how much they thought they wanted that abortion, when they see that baby, hearts are melted,” Maedke said.
Recently they began doing even more education programs to equip the girls to resist the abortion-minded pressure they get from boyfriends, mothers, fathers, friends. One girl who was in for an ultrasound, as she was about to leave, told them that her mother had already scheduled her for an abortion the next day. Sharon and Ginna put together information for her about what abortion entails and what it does to the woman’s body and gave her a copy of her ultrasound picture. The girl took it home and gave it to her mother. Her mother called and canceled the abortion.
At one talk Sharon was asked if they gave out birth control pills. She responded that they do not, because the pill does not prevent anything—it does not effectively prevent pregnancy, it does not prevent STDs, and most definitely does not protect the girl’s heart. It is a lie. She said the woman who posed the question sat down and there was some uncomfortable shifting in chairs.
Before I left Maedke told me a story that one of their volunteers, a saintly woman who has since passed away, told her. She was in line at the grocery store behind a young mother and her daughter. She was smiling and cooing at the child who was giggling back at her. The young mother turned and looked at her and her face changed. She looked away, and then looked back and said to the elderly woman, do you recognize me? The woman admitted she did not. The young woman said, you were at the desk when I came into AIM for a pregnancy test. I was going to have an abortion if the test was positive, but your kindness and the welcoming treatment I experienced there changed my mind. This is my daughter, the light of my life. Thank you.
The stories go on. The tears flow. The battle rages for the hearts of women and men. In Revelation we are told that when the dragon realized he was defeated he went off to make war on the rest of the woman’s offspring. Yes, he did, and that red brick house in downtown Steubenville is a great battle ground where these holy, determined, loving women are fighting an effective campaign against him.