Mothers' Refuge

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      Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court decided women have a constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy, things may be about to change. A leak of a draft decision obtained by Politico suggests the Court will soon overturn that case and return decisions on abortion to each state. Across the country, states have been busy passing legislation to either limit or protect abortion rights. Texas already adopted a ban on most abortions after about six weeks. Amid the heated debate, one couple near Dallas is approaching the issue from another angle, as Scott Thuman reports.

      Scott: When you look at a piece of property like this, is it easy for you to envision it? Do you see this all in your head right now?

      Aubrey: Yeah, yeah. I mean, and I have from the beginning.

      In this wide-open part of northeast Texas, traditionally used for farming, cattle, or oil, a much different vision. One that struck Aubrey Schlackman out of the blue Dallas sky while driving home one day.

      Aubrey: I drove past a big ranch that was for sale, and it was just this spark of an idea. Bryan was at work, so I sat on it and thought about it all day and just realized that all of these things that we've always wanted to do that are really unique to us all fit into this one thing.

      What she thought of and pitched to her husband that night was a ranch. One where pregnant women, with more challenges than financial or family support, could live together, in a community, through their pregnancies, birth, and for one full year after.

      Aubrey: The qualifications, first, are single, pregnant, with existing children. Because, realistically, there are more opportunities out there for first-time moms. The maternity homes, in general, are limited to a mom with a baby, just due to space.

      Bryan Schlackman: Our setting is the fact that it's on a ranch where there's peace, there's healing. It's in a rural, beautiful area, instead of the hustle-and-bustle urban area where they don't feel safe. That's what's special about it, and they're going to have their own cottages, their own small homes where they get to live and relax and rest. They're still going to be working, expectations are to still to have a job, but they get their own place for at least 20 months to help rebuild their lives.

      Their idea came before Texas passed its controversial heartbeat law, restricting most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually in the first six weeks, when many women may still be unaware they're pregnant, and gives ordinary citizens the power to sue women, doctors, or really anyone helping provide that procedure — even the Uber driver who brings a woman to the facility.

      Scott: There are a lot of people who look at the Texas Heartbeat Bill, a lot of people who look at this and say what a restrictive, terrible thing to not allow these women to have that choice.

      Bryan: That is not our realm. It doesn't matter what the laws are going to become. We are still here to help these moms. I'm going to be straight up — it is a difficult position.

      Aubrey: Honestly, we felt this calling and started this process in 2020, way before — even here in Texas — the heartbeat bill was anywhere near.

      Scott: How does that play into this?

      Bryan: It accelerated it.

      Aubrey: It did accelerate the need, obviously, because now these moms have that in front of them and don't have the option for an abortion, which, in some ways, for the pro-life movement, is a good thing. But then you have to step into that space.

      Gov. Greg Abbott: Our creator endowed us with the right to life.

      A space fraught with passionate fights currently playing out in statehouses across the nation, where more than 100 new abortion-related laws have been passed since the beginning of 2021, and in Washington at the Supreme Court, where pro-life Americans are hoping a ruling due this summer could fundamentally rewrite, or even overturn, the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

      Mike Pence: As we stand here today, we may well be on the verge of an era when the Supreme Court sends Roe vs. Wade to the ash heap of history where it belongs.

      Aubrey and Bryan share the former vice president's wish and went to Washington in December to publicize their project, called Blue Haven Ranch, on his podcast. They make no bones about where they stand.

      Bryan: I'm unapologetically a Christian, and we're unapologetically pro-life.

      Scott: How big is religion in this goal?

      Aubrey: Sure. I mean, I think our faith is key in our motivation to do this.

      Bryan: It is an overflow of what we believe. But we're not imposing our beliefs on anyone. And there is no prerequisite that the women that join our ranch have to be Christian. A lot of the people that have left comments, the nasty comments, thinking that we're some kind of cult or we're a breeding ground for —

      Aubrey: I don't know.

      Bryan: —for babies, like as a business, like crazy, crazy ideas.

      Finding land and building the ranch is in the near future, they hope, but they're not waiting. In fact, they're already supporting five mothers, at times paying their rent or even hosting them personally on their own property in this garage-turned-apartment.

      The goal once they land the right spot: to eventually host more than a dozen new mothers in their own cottages, and four other families living on the property to provide on-site help.

      Scott: And I'm guessing that you're hoping that what you do will inspire others?

      Aubrey: Absolutely.

      Bryan: Yes. That is what we want to happen because we want to see all needs met for all moms in America.

      Needs that keep growing, as political battlefields do too. For Full Measure, I'm Scott Thuman in Texas.