"Unplanned" Actress Keynote Speaker
at 32nd Annual NLC Banquet
By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — Ashley Bratcher still gets emotional when she thinks about the possibility that she almost never had a chance to step foot on this earth. But God knew all along that He formed her in the womb to one day be the face of the pro-life world.
“I was seconds away from not being born,” the award-winning actress of the box office hit, “Unplanned,” told more than 600 supporters during the 32nd annual New Life Counseling Pro-Life Banquet on October 3, at the Lake Charles Civic Center.
Bratcher learned about nearly being a victim of abortion soon after landing the role of Abby Johnson, the former director of Planned Parenthood who switched to the pro-life side in 2009.
When Bratcher received the call offering her the role in 2018, she was told she needed to be on a plane in five hours to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and packed for seven weeks.
“I was in Stillwater for three days before my mom called, and I realized she had no idea where I was,” Bratcher said. “I hesitated to tell her what movie I was filming because my mom had openly shared with me that she had an abortion when she was in high school.”
As Bratcher was explaining Abby’s story to her mother, she remembers her mom breaking down and crying uncontrollably.
Her mother said, “Ashley, something you don’t know is when I was 19 years old, I was at the abortion clinic for a second time. They called my name. I was in the room to abort you. I was on the table when I got sick to my stomach and could not go through with it. I got up, and I chose you.”
It was then that Bratcher realized it was always God’s plan for her to portray what she believes to be one of the greatest pro-life stories of her time.
“From the moment of conception, God had a plan for my life to take me from where I was to plant me in that role,” Bratcher remarked. “It was such a Jeremiah moment when God said, ‘I know the plans I have for you.’”
Ashley’s own pregnancy with her high school sweetheart, now husband, was unplanned early on in their rocky relationship. But it would be the catalyst for Bratcher to understand God’s love for her.
“When I looked at him and held our son in my arms, for the first time, it clicked. “If I can love him so much after just meeting him, how much more must our Heavenly Father love us,” she said. “I finally understood that I have a Heavenly Father who wants to know me and who wants the best for me and wants to have a relationship with me.”
Bratcher said she attributes the birth of her son to saving her life, because “that is when I gave my life to Christ,” she shared. “About a month after our son was born, my high school sweetheart and I married.”
Thanks to her three grandmothers, Bratcher had a God awareness growing up even though she did not have a personal relationship with Christ.
“It’s never too early to plant seeds of faith in the lives of your children,” Bratcher emphasized. “My grandmothers planted those seeds in my life. Even through my struggles, I knew that God existed.”
While many in Hollywood said her role in “Unplanned” would ruin her acting career, Bratcher still enjoys filming while also serving as a pro-life ambassador with Heartbeat International and Save the Storks.
New Life Counseling Launches
Mobile Medical Bus
Tabitha Dugas, Executive Director of New Life Counseling and New Life Medical Services, announced at last year’s banquet the game-changing news of the pregnancy resource center’s plan to go mobile.
This year, guests had the chance to see the state-of-the-art mobile medical unit — the first of its kind in Louisiana — as it was parked inside the Civic Center coliseum.
“The mobile unit will launch in Jennings as the first partner city,” said Dugas about the effort to reach abortion-minded women with no transportation to a pregnancy resource center. “The goal is to serve in at least three additional locations as we expand into rural areas of Southwest Louisiana and continue the battle for the lives of the unborn.”
The mobile medical unit offers vital services including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STI/STD testing and treatment, virtual parenting classes, peer counseling, local medical referrals, and access to the Abortion Pill Reversal.
“Save the Stork buses bridge the gap between pregnancy centers and women so they can access quality health care, free of charge, no matter where they are,” Dugas pointed out.
Pregnancy centers across the country have saved an estimated 12 million babies from abortion over the past four decades, according to Dugas, making the mobile medical bus a critical part of New Life Counseling’s mission.
Another first for the local resource center was the addition of the Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) option for clients in May 2022.
“Since we added APR to our list of services, women who regret their decision after taking the first abortion pill now have a 70 percent chance to save the baby’s life,” said Dugas, noting that the woman must seek help within 72 hours of taking the first pill.
“In August of 2023, we received that exact request. We are excited and grateful to announce that New Life Counseling had the great privilege to successfully reverse an abortion of a young woman living in Texas about 50 minutes from our center,” Dugas shared.
From Houston to Baton Rouge and as far north as Ruston, New Life Counseling serves as the only pregnancy center offering the reversal protocol.
Support from the community has not gone unnoticed by Dugas as she acknowledged several organizations during the banquet such as Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Kiwanis Club, and the “tremendous efforts” by the Knights of Columbus.
“In addition to organizing numerous baby bottle campaigns, the Knights of Columbus ultrasound program has provided us with not one but two state-of-the-art OB ultrasound machines, and most recently the addition of the Knights ASAP — Aid and Support After Pregnancy — Matching Funds Program,” said Dugas, asking those members in attendance to stand. “We are deeply grateful to the Knights of Columbus commitment to our cause.”
With so many services, support groups, and volunteers, Dugas said that every service provided by New Life Counseling has seen substantial growth with an “impressive 92 percent of women choosing life before they leave our doors.”
Dugas said her hope for those attending the banquet is that they leave equipped and inspired to join New Life Counseling in its essential life-saving ministry.
For more information and a list of services offered by New Life Counseling and New Life Medical Services, located at 631 East School Street, visit www.newlifecounselinglc.com and https://newlifemedicallc.org; or call 337-474-7003.