Emily Berning is the president of Let Them Live—a pro-life, nonprofit organization located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that she cofounded with her husband, Nathan. Their mission is to save babies from abortion by financially supporting women who are experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Researchers have consistently found that one of the main reasons abortion-minded women seek abortion is an inability to afford a baby. Emily and Nathan Berning envision a culture where women never feel like abortion is their only option, simply because they cannot afford a child.
During Emily’s junior year at Colorado State University, she became interested in the pro-life movement. She led the Students for Life chapter at her school and found an inner passion for pro-life activism. She graduated with a biology degree in 2017 and met Nathan that summer at the Leadership Institute—a nonprofit organization that provides training in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications. “Right away, Nathan encouraged me to start a pro-life nonprofit,” Emily said. “We got involved with lobbying. We wanted to sway the vote.”
For a time, that’s what they did. They married in September of 2018, and not long after, they felt God pushing them to change directions. “Nathan is a night owl, and one night, he was up late reading posts in a pro-life group on Facebook,” Emily said. “He read a post written by a woman whose cousin had an appointment for an abortion because she couldn’t afford to have the baby. The woman was hoping that someone in the group could talk with her.”
Nathan woke up Emily and told her that they needed to empty their bank account so they could help the woman keep her baby. Remarkably, Emily agreed. “We knew that that mom didn’t see any option other than abortion, so we didn’t see any option other than to help her choose life,” she said.
Because of the Bernings’ financial help, the woman canceled her appointment and kept her baby. Emily and Nathan started researching the reasons women choose to abort and found that the financial burden of pregnancy and childrearing was a huge factor in many women’s decisions.
Saving lives one at a time
The couple had recently watched the movie Schindler’s List—the 1993 film about German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. At the end of the movie, Schindler is gifted a ring engraved with a quote paraphrased from the Talmud, which says, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” That quote solidified their mission in their minds, and it impacted Emily so deeply that she had the words tattooed on her arm.
“Schindler used money to save lives,” Emily said. “We wanted to do the same with the unborn.” In March 2019, Let Them Live became an official nonprofit.
Breaking financial barriers
Emily and Nathan wanted Let Them Live to work differently than other pro-life organizations. “Pregnancy centers help every woman who needs help,” she said. “We wanted to focus on women who are considering abortion because of the financial burden.”
Most of the moms are referred to Let Them Live by partnered pregnancy help centers, sidewalk counselors, and members of the pro-life community. They use an extensive verification process to ensure that the women are actually pregnant. This includes regular ultrasounds from an affiliated center, a photocopy of her driver’s license, and multiple phone and in-person meetings.
To prioritize their resources, Let Them Live uses a triage system. Red means that the woman has an abortion scheduled. Orange means that she is seriously considering abortion and may schedule one soon. Yellow and green are the designations for moms who are not abortion-minded but who do need financial help. “We work with pregnancy centers and our other partners to get help for the yellow and green moms. The red moms need immediate relief, and we must act quickly to help them,” Emily said.
During the initial phone call, the woman meets with a counselor—usually via Zoom—and they discuss the woman’s circumstances and her immediate financial concerns. They make a financial plan for the mom and tailor it to her unique needs. This often includes paying for rent, utilities, car payments, gas, and food, but the moms are never given direct cash support. Let Them Live obtains the necessary log-in information so the group can pay the mom’s bills directly to her creditors. Each mom is required to sign an agreement stating that she will not seek an abortion after accepting financial assistance from Let Them Live.
Moms also receive counseling and assistance in finding full-time employment, and they attend financial literacy classes. “While each mom’s plan is different, generally, the help we offer tapers off as they get closer to delivery,” Emily said. “We want to set them up for success and help each mom become independent and financially stable by the time her baby is born.”
To help the moms with emotional support, Let Them Live offers support groups on Zoom, which continue after they deliver. The organization also helps each mom find support at pregnancy help centers in her area.
While Let Them Live is not officially a religious organization, they do offer spiritual counseling. “During the initial call, we will ask the mom if she is part of a church,” Emily said. “When we talk with them, it’s clear that many moms are looking for something deeper. If they’re open to it, we talk about faith and help them find a church.”
The organization’s fundraising comes through crowd funding. Each week, they post on social media about a specific abortion-minded mom who is seeking help. “We share her story and run an online fundraiser to raise the money to meet her needs,” Emily said. “Our chief financial officer is an attorney, so he will negotiate with the mom’s creditors to have any past due fees removed, so we can ensure that funds are spent wisely.”
Donors can contribute funds to a specific mom’s needs, or they can donate on a monthly basis. Let Them Live also has an “Adopt a Mom” program, which is a one-on-one sponsorship program. Often, churches will raise funds to adopt a mom. Individuals can create fundraisers, like a GoFundMe, on the website I Fund Life (see Ifundlife.org) to raise money for a particular mom. The average amount of financial help per mom is about $19,000. Many of the moms live in states with higher costs of living, so it takes more funds to meet their needs.
The Dobbs decision has only strengthened Emily’s resolve. “We can’t just coast,” she said. “Many companies and organizations are now offering to pay for abortions, as well as the travel expenses. Let Them Live is in direct competition with organizations that fund abortion, but we want to fund life.”
Let Them Live offers more than financial help to these moms. They build relationships with them. Emily and Nathan are still in touch with 95% of the moms they have helped. “They send photos and videos of their babies,” Emily said. “I love hearing moms’ testimonies after they give birth and seeing the transformations in their lives. Many of them are lost and broken when we first meet them, and seeing them turn into wonderful mothers to their babies is so gratifying.”
A few of the mothers have even invited Emily and Nathan into the delivery room when their babies were born. One especially amazing story involved a mom in San Francisco. “While attending a pro-life conference there, Nathan and I met a sidewalk counselor who connected us with this mom,” Emily said. “She was a sex worker who was living in her car. She was 20 weeks pregnant, and the dad wanted her to abort. We counseled her, but she was reluctant to accept our help.” After weeks of counseling, the mom finally agreed to accept help and carry her baby. Right away, Let Them Live sent her a gift card for groceries. Then the mom called and said she’d be mailing the gift card back. She had decided to abort. When several messages went unanswered, Emily and Nathan got on a plane to San Francisco. “We got the mom a hotel room and some food,” Emily said. “We flew out there because we wanted her to see that we were serious about helping her.” That mom accepted their help and gave birth to a baby boy in March 2020. Emily and Nathan were there with her. “It was a surreal moment, holding her baby,” Emily said. “That mom had planned to abort and then commit suicide, so God used Let Them Live to save two lives.”
Another mom was at Planned Parenthood, waiting for her appointment to abort. She saw a Let Them Live post on Instagram and messaged them from the bathroom at the clinic. She didn’t want an abortion. She just didn’t see any other option. “When she realized we could help her, she left the clinic and chose life,” Emily said.
To date, Let Them Live has saved the lives of more than 600 babies. It is truly an organization founded on love—an organization that cares for both moms and babies, one at a time.
For more information, visit letthemlive.org.