State right-to-life groups gather for first-ever conference

SIMPSONVILLE—Pro-life activists from across the state gathered Sept. 8 for what some viewed as a long-overdue opportunity to share what their ministries are currently doing to protect the unborn, and what needs to be done going forward.

Around 50 people heard presentations, testimonials and prayers from a dozen pro-life organizations at the inaugural South Carolina Life Conference. The day-long ecumenical event was held at the Community Chapel of Greenville.

“The conference is a way of coordinating all of our efforts,” said Stephen Bryant of Greenville For Life, which sponsored the event along with A Moment of Hope. Greenville For Life conducts a sidewalk ministry outside the Greenville Women’s Clinic, while A Moment of Hope has a similar ministry outside a Planned Parenthood office in Columbia.

“We hope this will be an ongoing effort to connect all of the pro-life groups in the state,” Bryant said.

Ministries include Bethany Christian Services, Carolina Pregnancy Center, Citizens for Life, Daybreak LifeCare Center, Light & Life — Presbyterians Protecting Life, Palmetto Family Council, Piedmont Women’s Center, Personhood SC, Sidewalk Advocates for Life and 40 Days for Life.

Jim Canvin, who co-chairs the respect-for-life committee at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Seneca and is active in 40 Days for Life, among other pro-life ministries, said that in the past, the various groups seldom communicated with each other.

“You would think they would,” Canvin said during a break in the conference. “I would love to see this effort expand into other states and their organizations,” he said, adding that it could help in recruiting more and younger activists.

Carrie Gifford, of Greenville Sidewalk Advocates for Life, was one of several presenters who expressed the need for more volunteers.

“Sidewalk advocacy ministry is currently an underserved ministry,” Gifford said, noting that there aren’t enough volunteers to adequately cover the hours of operation outside the Greenville Women’s Clinic.

“Our goal is to fill every hour the clinic is open, plus one hour before opening and closing,” Gifford said.

The ministry needs more than 100 volunteers to reach that goal, she said, “but here, in the Bible Belt, in this pro-life community, that shouldn’t be hard. We need very little money and lots of prayers.”

Brennan Aschleman of Daybreak LifeCare Center, a pregnancy care center in Columbia, said each organization in the pro-life community must work together “to fight this battle,” adding that abortions won’t be eliminated through legislation, but by changing “hearts and minds.”

Aschleman said voters need to elect people who will protect religious liberties so the churches and pastors can “do their job and assume their rightful role in our culture once again.”

“We may see the doors of Planned Parenthood closed, and I pray that we do. We may see Roe v. Wade overturned, and I pray that we do. However, all those things will be incomplete unless this community comes together and seeks to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, so hearts and minds can be transformed, so abortion is not only illegal, but unthinkable,” Aschleman said.

Organizers of the conference said they plan to hold the event annually, rotating locations between the Upstate, Midlands and Lowcountry.

Miscellany/Terry Cregar: Dr. Robert E. Jackson Jr. talks with Anne Huff (seated) and Anne Shell during a lunch break at the South Carolina Life Conference held Sept. 8 in Simpsonville.