Lisa C. Searle began attending an Assemblies of God church in 9th grade, not too long after she began volunteering at a Goldsboro, North Carolina, hospital helping mothers of newborns. The experience in the labor and delivery unit only strengthened her resolve to someday become a midwife who could help women deliver their babies.
After graduating from high school, Searle entered Barton Nursing School in nearby Wilson. As she neared completion of her studies, she realized she needed practical gynecological office experience in order to realize her midwife dream. Even before she graduated, a women’s health clinic hired her in 1995. But Searle faced a dilemma: she would be assisting in women undergoing surgical abortions.
Although such a job conflicted with her religious beliefs, Searle tried to justify accepting the position: it paid good money and she would gain valuable health-care experience to further her career. Searle kept her new employment a secret from her parents.
“I was in a rebellious phase,” Searle recalls. “I was young, and for the first time I felt like I could make my own decisions and do what I wanted to do.”
But the more she worked at the facility, the more miserable Searle became. She already had stopped attending church before taking the job.
“All they did was abortions,” Searle says of the clinic. “I really struggled with the babies I saw. There was so much sadness and darkness in the recovery room.”
A solution seemed to come in 2000 with federal government approval of a two-part drug that induces a chemical abortion at home. A pregnant female first takes mifepristone (RU-486), which blocks the effects of progesterone, a hormone that prepares the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg. One or two days later, the woman takes a second drug, misoprostol, which expels the developing baby from the uterus.
The RU-486 abortion is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional abortion. Of the estimated 1 million abortions that will happen in the U.S. this year, 400,000 are expected to be the chemically induced type — in a client’s residence, rather than a surgical abortion at a facility.
The facility granted Searle’s request that she be put in charge of the program administering the abortion pills. That way, she reasoned, she wouldn’t have to see the aborted babies.
By 2005, married to her husband, Michael, and pregnant with their son Costin, Searle left the profession she had known for a decade. She felt she couldn’t work in an industry that destroyed babies as she felt one moving inside her.
Still, the heaviness didn’t lift.
“I was buried in guilt and shame, disgusted with myself,” remembers Searle, now 47. “It was a very dark time in my life. I was far, far from God.”
Ultimately, Searle cried out to God for forgiveness, which put her on the road to recovery. In 2009, the Searles began attending Church Alive in Fuquay Varina southwest of Raleigh.
Searle didn’t reveal her secret past life with founding co-pastor Laura A. Lee until a year ago. Lee convinced her to speak about it in March on a women’s ministries panel at the church.
Three years ago, Searle went through a Bible study with former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, which brought her more healing. Searle says Johnson’s ministry And Then There Were None provides multiple phases of healing retreats for those who have been damaged or exploited by the abortion industry. A counselor is available by phone anytime.
Johnson, who wrote the book Unplanned — which details her transformation into becoming an anti-abortion activist — urged Searle to become involved in abortion pill reversal.
Starting in 2013, Searle spent four years as a nurse manager of a pregnancy resource center. For two years, she worked as a nurse consultant for the hotline, before being hired a year ago at Heartbeat International. As health care team manager, she oversees the Abortion Pill Rescue Network. Heartbeat International, which is affiliated with 2,700 pregnancy care centers around the world, has administered the Abortion Pill Reversal Network since 2012.
In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the use of mifepristone and misoprostol an additional three weeks — up to 70 days into a pregnancy.
However, pregnant women still have a last resort — if they decide to not end their pregnancy — soon after taking the first pill.
Females who have misgivings after ingesting the first dose can call the around-the-clock hotline and be referred by a trained nurse or consultant to a medical provider in her area. That physician will start the pregnant woman on a medication called progesterone, which can safely reverse the effects of mifepristone. If intervention can occur within 48 hours of taking the first pill, this will reverse the effects of the abortion pill for two-thirds of the cases. More than 1,000 babies have been saved as a result of the abortion pill reversal. There is no increased risk of harm to the baby caused by taking the drug, doctors say.
Searle, who with her husband also has an 8-year-old son, Asher, no longer advocates keeping quiet about the topic.
“So many Christians don’t talk about abortion, but we need to be real,” Searle says. “We need to teach our children — and congregations — that it is not just a sin, not just against God’s will, but it is the taking of a human life.”
Lee, 48, agrees, noting that an estimated one in four church-attending women has had an abortion. Church Alive recently raised over $40,000 toward the purchase an ultrasound machine for a local pregnancy care center, which will show expectant mothers a detailed image of their unborn child.
Meanwhile, Searles urges Christian women struggling emotionally with a past abortion to seek help. SaveOne is an AG-affiliated abortion recovery ministry.
“It is so important that people do not suffer in silence because of the shame and guilt that abortion causes,” Searle says.
Photo: Lisa Searle (far right) spoke on a panel that included (from left) Sarah Johnson, Keisha Spivey, Laura Lee, and Susan Ross.