Laura Lynn Hughes shares her powerful testimony of choosing life, facing heartbreak, and advocating for the rights of the pre-born in a discussion based on her book, Choose Zoe: A Story of UnPlanned Parenthood and the Case for Life.
Laura Lynn Hughes: I would say that God is not mad at you. He’s madly in love with you. And He wants you to bring your pain, anything that you’ve ever been through to His Son, Jesus. It’s great to be able to take responsibility for when we have done things that have caused division with us and the Father.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Today on Focus on the Family, you’ll hear how facing an unplanned pregnancy was one of the most difficult, frightening circumstances that our guest faced and how it changed her life. Welcome to Focus on the Family, with your host, Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, my heart goes out to women and men in this situation that you describe. But we want them to know there’s hope - there’s hope in Christ. And that’s the key. God has a plan for every life - we believe that here at Focus on the Family. He’s the creator of life. And we also want you to know that if you’ve had an abortion sometime in the past, there is forgiveness and healing available through Christ. That is the great message.
Today, you’re going to hear about that hope and healing as we visit with Laura Lynn Hughes, the author of the book, . I love the title. Laura didn’t know it at the time, but her unplanned teen pregnancy would eventually reveal her life’s purpose. And I think that should draw everybody in, John. You’re gonna want to stay with us to hear this great story. Laura’s a strong pro-life advocate volunteering at a pregnancy clinic and speaking for life in schools and conferences. So with that, Laura, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Laura: Thank you.
Jim: It’s so good to have you. And we are really lifting up the pro-life effort. And I am thankful that the Lord seems to be dropping the scales from the eyes of those who do not see this from a spiritual perspective, that life in the womb is life. And I think you agree with that.
Laura: Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening. Those scales are coming off.
Jim: Those scales are coming off. I’m so excited. I mentioned the book title, and some may be wondering what Zoe, or “zoe”, means. Tell us what it is.
Laura: Well, in John 10:10 when it says, “The thief came to steal, kill and destroy, but I came” - Jesus came - “to give us life more abundantly.” That word, “life,” is zoe. And I use the term - Choose Zoe - in the book, because most people think that’s the name of the baby on the cover...
Laura: ...Yes, but it’s pronounced “zo-ay.” And it’s just a totally exciting thing, because it’s that life we can live here in the culture, we can live it now. We don’t have to wait till we get to heaven to - to live that, you know?
Jim: And experience it. It’s so true, you know, it’s interesting, that was - when I was 15, accepted Christ, that was the Scripture that the person who gave me my first Bible put in there. And let me say as a, you know, a new convert to Christianity, there’s a lot of book of John’s in the Bible. There’s First John, Second John, Third John and the book The Gospel of John, and that’s where that’s found. But what a powerful Scripture that really does describe the culture today, that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. That’s every aspect of your life. That’s your marriage. That’s your children. And then the Lord says, “But I have come that you might have zoe” - life - “more abundantly.” And that just touches me, because that was the first Scripture I memorized way back when I was 15 years old. Laura, you were raised in a Catholic home growing up, and you went to Catholic school. Describe your family life at that time. What was it like growing up?
Laura: Wow, I was raised in Montana, with a mother who stayed home...
Jim: I’m jealous already. I love Montana.
Laura: ...and did a lot of volunteering. And my family was very much so, in the Catholic faith. And they lived good deeds. And they also lived love and family. They really were living the pro-abundant life. And we went to Catholic schools. We went to Mass every morning before school and on Sunday. Every night at 6 o’clock we had dinner, and then we all went in, all 10 of us, got on our knees and prayed the rosary. We prayed for people that were sick in the hospital. We prayed for those in leadership and the president, and we would pray for, you know, just the culture of life to emanate into people’s families. So, I really saw Christian values played out.
Jim: Yeah, and I’m grateful to the Catholic community, especially on the pro-life issue. I mean, they have been there from the beginning, kind of steering the broader Christian community toward that resolution that life begins in the womb, begins at conception. They have been there.
Jim: And I deeply appreciate that. However, for you, as a girl growing up in a Catholic home, at 15 something happened and it changed your life. What happened?
Laura: Absolutely. Well, I fell in love, or mistook sex for love, however you want to look at it. But I fell in love with a boy. My dad had told us, “Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t be unequally yoked.” I knew those things. My parents taught us everything that you should teach children. But sex was not talked about much. So, I didn’t know there was gonna be feelings if you like a boy or kissed a boy. You know, I just was totally naive in that area. And so he asked, and we did, and I conceived just like that, yes.
Jim: Right. You’re 15 at the time. And speak to that process of saying it to your dad. How’d that go? I mean, and really help the listeners who may not have ever gone through that experience. Speak to that first time you said to your mom or your dad, “I’m pregnant.”
Laura: Well, I actually did not do that. I did what any responsible 15-year-old would do and I hid the pregnancy. And I never told anyone. So, I let people guess. And once my mom found out, she said, “I’m going to go pick up dad from the airport tonight, and I’m going to tell him you’re pregnant on the way home.” And so, I called my boyfriend, and we went and hid in the church parking lot. And I came home about 3:30 in the morning, so it’d be in between the time my mom would go to bed from sewing and my dad would always get up and read the Bible about 4:30, 5. And so, I snuck in, in between. And there sat my dad across the room in a green velvet chair. And I just burst into tears. And he stood up, and he walked over to me. And he gave me a hug. And he told me that he loved me and that mom and him were too old to raise another child and that all he asked is that I would pray every single day what was best for my baby, whether it was me parent - and they would help guide me, or placing my child into the loving adoptive arms.
Jim: Wow, what a response. How did that make you feel, when your dad was so willing to be there for you?
Laura: It just took all the shame out of it, because Satan plays tricks on you, like, “Oh, now this is shameful. You’ll never be able to do this. You know, you’re not married. What’s your friends gonna say? What’s the church going to say? What’s the community going to say?” And to have the one person who helped bring me into this world and really valued life - the whole Imago Dei, we’re all made in God’s image - to have my dad parent me with grace like that, well, it just meant the world to me. It helped me to hold my head high. And it helped me to parent my own children.
Jim: Yeah, when you, as a woman - and I think only a woman can understand this at some level - but Jesus encountering the woman caught in adultery. Have you identified with that? I mean, it’s a different thing, but...
Jim: ...I mean, to feel forgiven?
Laura: Absolutely, to feel forgiven. And I think of the woman at the well and, you know, and five marriages and - or relationships, at least - and I think of what He did. You know, He gave them that living water. There was no shame. He didn’t point at their sin. Maybe when they walked away, He would say, “Sin no more.”
Jim: How does that, I mean, again, describe that feeling of the depth of that, that He could have, with the woman caught in adultery, and according to the law, should have, allowed them and conferred upon them the ability to stone her to death. That was the law. But He said, “No, whoever’s without sin? Let him cast the first stone.” And everybody walked away. That’s one of the most powerful messages in Scripture, I think.
Laura: It is. And He came to heal and to set us free. And how is that going to happen, if we point fingers and we condemn?
Jim: You know, Laura, I’m mindful of a woman who is wrapped, just filled with guilt. And in the church, I mean, some of the data is powerful about the number of women who have had abortions who are Christians, even, maybe after they made that commitment to Christ. What word do you have for them? I mean, they’re listening right now.
Laura: I would say that God is not mad at you. He’s madly in love with you. And He wants you to bring your pain, anything that you’ve ever been through to His Son, Jesus, because Jesus came to give us life - abundant life. He didn’t come to - and He may actually scorn the shame, so He did not come to point fingers. With that said, it’s great to be able to repent. It’s great to be able to take responsibility for when we have done things that have caused division with us and the Father.
Jim: Yeah. Let’s move forward, Laura. You’ve volunteered for over a decade in a pregnancy clinic in California. Given your past, what motivated you to get involved directly in clinic work like that?
Laura: Well, one of my daughters wanted to apply to counsel at Alpha. And she was only 16. And so, she was away at a missions trip, and Alpha came to church that Sunday, when she felt God had spoke to her about volunteering at Alpha. And Alpha was at my church the same day. So, I grabbed all the literature, and I grabbed one for me and one for her.
Jim: And Alpha is a pregnancy resource center, a pro-life clinic?
Laura: Yes, Alpha Clinics. And so, anyway, we decided to volunteer and go through the training together. And I just loved it. I always knew that I was supposed to be helping the young pregnant girls, but I didn’t feel quite called to it yet, if that makes sense?
Laura: I felt like I was raising my own children, and it was just perfect timing to be able to go in and help at the clinic.
Jim: And I would think part of that motivation, obviously, is many of these girls coming into the clinic, they’re 15, 16, maybe even younger. But those were the ages of the girls that you obviously were when you first got pregnant. Was that the motivation? Can I give them the right answer?
Laura: Absolutely, and they were even younger than that.
Jim: Yeah, you have lots of stories. In fact, Tiffany is one that is captured in the book. What was Tiffany’s story, and why did that capture your heart?
Laura: Tiffany was so smart. I, for the first time, wanted to see what was going to happen in Tiffany’s life, because I always wonder what’s going to happen in the child’s life. And Tiffany was just so remarkable, you know...
Jim: So, she came to the clinic and looking for what?
Laura: Yeah, she came to the clinic, fist raised in the air, “No white, Republican man’s ever gonna tell me what to do with my body!”
Jim: Okay, so she had the talking points down.
Laura: And she was in college. And I said, “Okay.” I’m thinking, “I’m not a man, so let’s start there, you know, let’s talk about it.” And what I loved is she had really gone over her research. She looked at life in the womb. She looked at abortion. She looked at the risks. She looked at adoption. She went to the church - to my church. And my pastors took her through life in the womb. They showed her what the Bible says about the life and took her through some fetal development. And so, the church and the pregnancy clinic, we joined hands with her story. And it’s a powerful outcome. So, she has her little girl. And she’s running a Celebrate Recovery at her church. And her and her boyfriend are, they co-parent. And she’s in college. And so, she’s beat all the statistics and all the odds, and I’m just really excited to see. It’s so fun to see her and her little girl, Alaska.
Jim: Can I - let me ask this question. Looking at Tiffany now - and how many years ago did she have this baby?
Laura: About five years now.
Jim: Okay, so you have that much and she has that much history now with this child. Does she have any regrets? Have you talked to her?
Laura: Absolutely no regrets.
Jim: I mean, isn’t that wonderful? That, to me, is the power of that testimony. And that’s the testimony you’re going to find over and over and over again, that a woman who did decide for life, either through adoption, or to raise that baby - sometimes in difficult circumstances - that the choice to allow that baby to be born and to live and to honor God in that way is the guiltless approach.
Laura: It is.
Jim: It’s the way to go, because God’s in control, right?
Laura: There’s no regrets.
Jim: Absolutely. And they find help in the church. So often they’re told, “You’re not going to find help there.” But through the pregnancy resource centers and the churches, when they’re functioning well, they’re going to find lots of help and support.
John: And if you’re feeling like, “I’d like to try to talk to somebody, but I don’t know a church, I don’t know a pregnancy center,” call us, please. We have caring counselors here. They will listen to you. They’ll talk things through. They’ll pray with you. Our number here at Focus on the Family is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Online, you can find a lot of great help and resources, including the book by our guest, Laura Lynn Hughes, called, . That’s at focusonthefamily.com/prolife.
Jim: Laura, let me ask you, we touched on it, these younger girls that come into the clinic, what are their ages? And how do they inspire you in terms of their decision making?
Laura: Well, we had three 12-year-olds in my town in one month.
Jim: Okay, let me just pick my jaw up. Three 12-year-olds? 12-year-old girls, precious little girls who are coming probably by themselves, or with some other person other than their parents...
Laura: By themselves.
Jim: ...Into the clinic? Man, I can’t imagine the fear that they have though, too, to have the courage to be able to do that as a 12-year-old. That’s amazing.
Laura: They’re very young. They’re very naive. They’re very immature. But they’re also very open to the truth. And when they come in, you might only have a little bit of time with them, because once you realize that they’re 12 years old, then we’re mandated to report.
Laura: So, then you’re talking to police, or CPS, or both. And you may not get to see that little girl again. So, for me, I want to encourage her, let her know how important she is, let her know that the life inside of her, you know, I can tell her that development at the time, because I might not be able to see her again.
Laura: You know, and if she would like I can pray with her.
Jim: And this could be the last time she hears “pray for your baby,” you know, “be mindful of your baby and its future.”
Laura: Because when you take the focus off of your situation, when the fear goes away, and you’re able to focus on the love for your child, then you can make a decision that you could both live with.
Jim: Laura, this may be a really tough question, but I think I need to ask it. So many people, I think both in the church and outside the church, possibly, would say in that situation, is it ever the right thing to do to let that 12-year-old have the abortion?
Laura: Well, physically, if she’s not really ready, then they will do a cesarean section. But that can happen anyway in today’s world with pregnancy, where it’s never a guarantee that we’ll be able to have a natural delivery. And the girls that I know that are that young, even the ones that was incest, or even the girls a little older even that were raped, I’ll tell you this, the most common thing that I have heard is that they wanted to sometimes take their life, or - because it’s very common that the girls six times more when they’re a teenager will commit suicide after having an abortion within six months.
Jim: After the abortion?
Laura: And so, it’s very important to be able to support them in their grief and in their trauma. And those girls and the girls who are raped, they will tell you, “I wanted to take my life. My baby saved my life.”
Jim: Boy, what a statement.
Laura: It’s powerful. I’ve heard it every time.
Jim: That is, I mean, it’s breathtaking that a child of that age has to make that kind of dramatic decision.
Jim: Laura, let me save the best for last here, because as you were writing this book, , a stunning revelation came to you about your own daughter. What happened?
Laura: Well, I was writing, and I knew I was going to include abortion and abortion recovery, because we do have that ministry at our church. And so, I wanted people to not just look at this as pro-life, we only care about the babies because anyone in the pro-life community knows that we care about discipling the young man and the young woman with the crisis pregnancy and we care about those who have been lied to and have chosen abortion. And the pro-life ministry is a caring ministry. And it encompasses all things. And I didn’t know who I was going to use yet in the story. And I got an email. And I read the email. And it was from my daughter. And she’s mentioning that in high school that she had a secret abortion.
Jim: This is the first time you had heard it?
Laura: And I pushed delete. I pushed delete on that computer. And - and I went upstairs. And I, like, erased it from my mind. And then I thought, “Oh, my gosh,” and then night after night I was in a fetal position.
Jim: Oh, my.
Laura: And my chest was heavy. And I was, like, I’d only lost my grandma and my mom, but it was that type of grieving, you know, I’d lost a grandchild. And here I fight for the young girls and my own daughter, the laws didn’t protect her. They took my parental rights away. And she was able to go in to Planned Parenthood and have an abortion. And so she had to go through that. And she had to lose a child and go through a medical procedure all on her own. My kids never went anywhere by themselves. Like, I’m a mom. I would have never chosen that for her. I also would have never wanted her to go through something like that completely alone. And so, she had so much recovery already happening in her life. And she said, “It’s a part of our fabric. It’s a part of our pro-life story.”
Jim: Well, and the great, you know, part of the story is that she became the director of the clinic, right?
Laura: Oh, it’s so exciting.
Jim: I mean, wow, you have to be so proud of her.
Laura: And that was the next email, fast forward a few years. So, I’m at my job, and out comes some printing. She had sent a form to my job. And it was actually an application for Alpha. And so, it comes into my - my printer. And I read it. And I’m, like, “No way!”
Jim: From your daughter. Would you like to be a volunteer at our clinic?
Laura: Yeah, even in the ‘70s my mother was with the Alpha pregnancy clinics. It was called Alpha Crisis, at the time, in Montana. And my sister, Debbie, also, and my sister, Barb, did the phone calls, and my daughter, Jazzy. And so, it’s really exciting to see that it’s a family - family affair.
Jim: Yeah, that’s something. Laura, behind every unplanned pregnancy, obviously, there’s a young man, or a man involved. We need to acknowledge that. Sometimes a boyfriend or husband, they can bring a lot of pressure on that young lady or that girl to get the abortion, threatening to leave them or divorce them, if they’re married. What are some of your experiences dealing with that kind of pressure for that woman?
Laura: Yes, the man is still the number one coercer and pressurer for abortion. The second is their own mother, which is very sad. And it’s growing, because we have so many post-abortive moms that are now offering it to their own children. But with the young men, it’s very important that men in church and fathers teach men what it’s like to be a man and to protect and to provide for their child, because there’s, like, this, you know, open borders of sexuality and then when it comes to pregnancy, it’s all on the woman’s plate. But there are times, too, when the woman makes a decision and the boy really wants the child and has no...
Jim: No voice.
Laura: ...rights, whatsoever. But when you look at what a woman’s going through - and back when I had my daughter, my boyfriend was not saying abort, but it was also a really terrible relationship. Very - way too young for having sex. And so, that’s what I speak to.
Jim: For sure, yeah, 15, 16.
Laura: Yeah, that’s what I speak to with the young girls, is that hurt and that heartache and their value and how can we mend that, because that drowns out the voice of a boy saying, “You’re not important, the baby’s not important.” So, the key is to always build up the young lady. And once in a while the men come in, you know, the young teenage guy, even.
Jim: With the girl?
Laura: Yes. And that’s really exciting. And we’ve got materials that they can watch. They can see what’s going on in the womb. They can come in and see the ultrasound their self. And that’s so powerful. And those are usually a positive outcome, as far as giving birth to the child.
Jim: Yeah. Laura, let me, at the end here, we need to provide that kind of practical help. Someone today may even hear from their teenage girl, you know, “Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant.” What are some things they can do? Where do they turn for help, especially if they’ve never been through this before? What can they do that’s biblically informed? And where do they go?
Laura: Well, as you know, Focus on the Family has all kinds of literature that they can look up.
Jim: We appreciate that.
Laura: (laughter) And the most important thing is just to realize that the daughter really needs love. She needs care. There’s so many resources out there. There’s a pregnancy center, almost in every town now. And so you can just Google your area, and where a pro-life pregnancy center would be. So, if you don’t know what to do, get them in to someone where they can physically see someone that can counsel them and help them through this and navigate through it, because you’ll get all the adoption options, you’ll be able to see what abortion does, and actually the risks of abortion. But you will have all the parenting and medical needs met. You’ll be able to get all the resources in town that you may need. And it’s just a phenomenal place to come.
Jim: Yeah, that is so good.
Laura: So you’re not alone.
Jim: Right, you just need to make people aware that you need help.
Jim: And that sometimes is so difficult. But I would encourage you, if you’re in that spot, do it. Start with a call here to Focus on the Family. Laura, one thing that we’re so proud of, I think for over 15 years now, we’ve done something called Option Ultrasound. And it is a great program. We work with hundreds of clinics around the United States, pregnancy resource clinics. Robyn Chambers is the one who...
Jim: ...heads that up. And, to date, we have saved an estimated 425,000 babies. And I want to say thank you to the donors who have made that possible.
Jim: It’s one of the easiest things to raise money for when we talk to our donor community to say, “Will you help save a baby’s life?” And I’m so proud of the Christian community saying, “Yes!” And we have gotten that down to $60. You know, when you think of an abortion, Laura, it costs about $600 to take a baby’s life.
Jim: And it costs only $60 to save a baby’s life. And so, I’ve got to beg and plead and just say, will you help us do that? Would you give us $60, so we can in turn take that resource that you gave us and turn it toward Option Ultrasound? And that helps us put a ultrasound machine in a clinic, to train a clinic to operate the machines, et cetera, so that when that 15-year-old girl, like Laura was, can walk into the clinic, they can actually see the image of their baby - the heartbeat and perhaps, depending upon development, the fingers, the toes, that baby sucking its thumb right in the womb. And let me say boldly, this is life. It is a live human being. All it needs is time to grow a little bigger. And for those in the abortion community, I would hope that you would think about that. Think about what you’re doing. There’s so many better ways to deal with this than ending the life of a child. And I think, together, we can do that.
John: Well, we invite you to join us with our Option Ultrasound program. Your monthly gift, or even just a one-time gift will make a big, big difference as we continue to help moms decide to keep their babies. So please, consider that monthly gift if you can, or if not, a one-time gift still makes a big, big difference. You can donate, reach our counseling team, ask questions, find resources, including this great book by Laura Lynn Hughes, . All of this available when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can find out more about what Focus on the Family is doing to save life by stopping by our special website: focusonthefamily.com/prolife.
Jim: And John, let me remind everybody. Tomorrow, in Times Square, right there in New York, we’re gonna be - at 3 p.m., we’re gonna be doing our Alive from New York presentation. There’s gonna be...
John: It’s a celebration of life.
Jim: It is. There’s gonna be music and speakers, and then the keynote speaker will be third-trimester, 4D ultrasounds.
I hope you’ll join us in New York tomorrow and be a part of it. Come to the Focus website. Register to be there, even at this late time. Just go and - and, sign up, and then be a part of it. If you can’t, we’re live-streaming it, as well. We need to support children in the womb, and this is a great way that your voice can be heard.
John: Yeah. I do hope you’ll pray with us for the event in Times Square. And you can find all the details, again, at our special site, focusonthefamily.com/prolife.
Jim: Laura, with all of that - that was a lot right there - but we are grateful for your story, your testimony and for your daughter and her testimony and what it means for not only all women of this country, but for the men in their lives as well. Thank you.
Laura: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
John: Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back on Monday, as you’ll hear what happened in Times Square with our Alive from New York celebration. And once again, we help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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