Human Coalition: using metrics, marketing, and big data to end abortion in our lifetime
December 19th, 2018 / By: Rob Collingsworth / comments
Ten years ago Brian Fisher was a passive and somewhat reluctant prolife Christian.
“As I began to understand the prolife movement, I was sort of fascinated, but at a very surface level,” Fisher said. “I never saw myself doing this work.”
As co-founder and president of Human Coalition, the largest prolife organization in the United States, that work includes innovating strategies to reach what he refers to as the “abortion-determined woman” utilizing techniques that sound like they’re straight out of Silicon Valley.
And although much of their work is accomplished by savvy marketing and complicated algorithms, according to Fisher the church is at the center of Human Coalition’s strategy.
“We realized that the church was the necessary piece of ending abortion,” he said. “The Christian worldview is really the only viable prolife worldview, and so that means that the church is the only institution on the planet to actually enshrine or promote the prolife ethic.”
For JR Vassar, pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, working with Human Coalition has helped his church to understand and act on that conviction.
“Our partnership with Human Coalition has provided a tangible way for us to express our conviction that every life, from womb to tomb, is of inestimable worth, made in the image of God and worthy of honor, protection, and care,” Vassar said. “Partnering with Human Coalition has given us an outlet to equip and mobilize our people to contribute to the work of rescuing children and serving families.”
Church at the Cross recently finished beta testing an apologetics curriculum designed by Human Coalition aimed at helping churches teach their congregations to better articulate their convictions about life.
Amanda Stevens, who works as the New Life Advocacy leader of the church’s Life Task Force, helped lead the group of 15 church members through the class, which is the first course to be rolled out through the new Human Coalition University.
“We just had an overwhelming response from people saying, ‘more people need to hear these things, they need to take this class, they need to read more about what’s going on with abortion and about how we can talk about it,’” Stevens said. “If we could get this type of class into more churches, I think we would start seeing God’s people rise up to the occasion of making abortion unthinkable and unavailable in our lifetime.”
As they roll out more classes, Fisher says their ultimate goal is to make the Human Coalition University offerings widely available online so that individuals and small groups have a ready-made tool to help combat what he says is the church’s biggest problem: silence.
“We have bought the lie that abortion is a political issue or not something to be dealt with by the church,” Fisher said. “The prolife churches on the whole, and again I count myself among this population at least until my mid-30s, do not actually value life in the womb the way that God values life in the womb.
“Oftentimes it’s a mixture of fear and ignorance that keeps them silent,” he said. “We want to give them courage and education.”
The Village Church came alongside Human Coalition a few years ago with the lead gift for one of the organization’s mobile clinics, which travels around the Metroplex offering free sonograms and counseling. The partnership also gives church members the opportunity to serve women struggling through the decision of whether to go through with an abortion.
“In the years that we’ve worked with them, it’s largely been connecting folks who want to serve in a significant way in contending for life,” said Jared Musgrove, groups pastor at The Village. “Sometimes it can be difficult to connect with people, especially here in the suburbs, because it can be such a private, hidden, sometimes shame-ridden matter.”
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village, sits on Human Coalition’s Advisory Board alongside other Southern Baptists like Danny Akin of Southeastern Seminary and Owen Strachan of Midwestern Seminary.
While the church is a key component of Human Coalition’s five-part strategy to see abortion come to an end, their work extends far beyond the pew.
“In 2007 we began to test this idea of using technology and business practices to actually save lives. And the original concept was super simple,” Fisher said. “There are 1.85 million searches a month in the U.S. for abortion procurement terms. Let’s go find some of them and see if we can instead give them the option to speak with a prolife agency instead of an abortion clinic.”
They didn’t know it at the time, but they were the first people to beta test the use of internet marketing to reach women planning to abort.
The first baby was rescued on June 22, 2010, a day Fisher describes as his “personal catalytic moment.” In 2012, he and two friends left their corporate jobs to start Human Coalition full time, with laptops on tray tables in his living room.
“Our desire now and our mission is to become the national competitor to Planned Parenthood,” Fisher said. “And to win.”
In 2010, 15 babies were rescued. In 2018, that number was over 3,000.
“But the goal is to rescue 3,000 a day, not a year, and that’s where we’re headed.”
According to Fisher, the original model was to be just an internet service pointing women to prolife agencies.
“The original ministry plan in 2012 was all about being a lead generation service for the pregnancy center movement,” he said. “But within about 60 days that plan was shot, because we began to track all of the calls that we were generating and only 42 percent of them were being answered.”
Their first solution was to open their own call center, which now operates six days a week out of the bottom floor of their Plano office.
To address the consistency of care problem, however, some executives at Chick-Fil-A suggested that Human Coalition needed to own and operate its own clinics. And so in 2014, the group acquired two existing pregnancy centers and converted them to their new model of care.
Within 12 months, the number of babies being saved increased by 600%.
“The marketing outreach to this population of 1.2 million women a year who are high at risk to abort is a lab. We’re always testing new ideas to try to figure out how to find them, how to persuade them to call us,” Fisher said.
This laboratory-style approach includes testing how women respond to different agents—male, female, those who have had abortions, those who haven’t. They took this data and built a decision tree that helped them improve not only their methods of finding women who are considering abortions, but also their ability to serve them over the phones and connect them to care centers.
“We realized that having standardized technology, a standardized, systematic method of care, the ability to test new ideas of serving women in the clinic, and having paid staff that were trainable and accountable made an enormous world of difference in our ability to serve a woman who, frankly, in her life has not been served, she’s been abused and exploited,” he said.
The next step was to extend the offerings beyond just prenatal counseling and clinic services into a component of their strategy they now refer to as the continuum of care.
“We thought, you know what, it isn’t enough to offer a pregnancy test and an ultrasound,” Fisher said. “We actually need to figure out how to help these women with all of the obstacles in their life that are causing them to want an abortion in the first place.”
By hiring a social worker with the role of creating a holistic network of care, they are now able to address many of those underlying causes, which in turn has led more women to choose life for their babies.
“A woman who thinks she wants an abortion is that way because she thinks she doesn’t have any other options,” Fisher said. “There are very very few women who are out there who are saying gosh, if I get pregnant I want an abortion. That doesn’t happen.”
For Sean Martin, the senior director of church outreach, partnering with churches and getting resources into their hands is the best way to see abortion come to an end—even when it entails overcoming the obstacles of fear and ignorance.
“Our role with the church is to light that passion for life within the church and trust that the Holy Spirit will move in the bride of Christ to accomplish his will in America,” Martin said. “We believe his will is to bring an end to abortion in our lifetime.”
But according to Amanda Stevens, maybe there is a reason that time hasn’t come yet.
“I wonder if God is waiting to end abortion because his church hasn’t gotten involved,” she said. “How much more glory would he have when abortion ends if it were his people that clearly put it to an end?”
To find out more information on how you or your church can get involved with Human Coalition, you can visit humancoalition.org.