“People look to pastors…”
|Pro-life legal case brings healing and pastor involvement|
When it comes to pro-life matters, one could make the case that Nada Higuera is much more than a bench player.
Sixteen months ago, the Advocates for Faith & Freedom attorney brought home one of the most significant pro-life court victories in California in recent memory. Her success in the courtroom, coupled with a heartbreaking story involving her own abortion, has resulted in numerous inquiries to speak at engagements all across the country. Even so, Higuera said she believes lasting victory will only come through the committed actions of pastors.
“People aren’t looking to me for leadership,” she said.
“I’m not necessarily a leader. People are looking at the pastors … I think that’s what it’s going to take because pastors are the ones who are shepherding. When it comes to taking action and leading, that’s where we need pastors. Nobody else can do that. Nobody can do that besides pastors.”
That is why Higuera and her colleagues at Advocates for Faith & Freedom frequently partner with Church United to provide equipping events for pastors.
“The work is crucial to actually changing the direction that California is headed in because there are so many Christians in the state of California,” she said, adding that they also provide pro bono advice on what pastors are allowed to do from the pulpit — often far more than they realize.
“If we get them equipped and activated through their pastors, there is no telling what we can do,” said Higuera.
In a progressive state like California, there is plenty of need for equipping and activating, thanks to the toxic combination of liberal legislators and activist judges who have re-shaped the Golden State over the past several decades. In the last decade alone, activist forces have enshrined LGBT rights above religious liberty and created an unequal playing field for pro-life ministries. However, those forces took a hit in October 2017 when Higuera successfully sued the state of California on behalf of her client, the Scharpen Foundation, operators of the Go Mobile For Life pregnancy clinic.
Pastor Scott Scharpen filed suit alleging the state’s so-called FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency) Act violated his free speech rights by compelling him to promote abortion services, despite his religious beliefs. Specifically, the law required pregnancy care centers to post informational signs in their lobbies — with at least 22-point type — referring clients to abortion clinics. The pro-abortion messages were also required on all literature and websites.
“The whole notion of being compelled to share information with our patients about abortion availability, which is contrary to our mission and purpose, is fundamentally wrong,” Scharpen declared in a statement released by Advocates.
The case gets personal
While building her case for Pastor Schapen, Higuera became pregnant with her second child, prompting some inner work. The more she focused on the law’s potential to silence her client, the more Higuera realized she had been silencing her own voice by maintaining a long-held secret: a decade of childhood sexual abuse that led to a forced abortion at age 16. The abortion was arranged by her parents, devout Muslims who never discussed sexual matters — and who viewed women who became pregnant out of wedlock as unclean. She had the abortion without being told about her options, what the procedure would entail, or anything about the fetal development of her child. Taxpayers, she added, footed the bill.
“I would love for people to have to see what happens during these abortion procedures because, especially for me, I wasn’t shown a sonogram,” the attorney said.
“It was so easy and seamless, almost like going into a store to pick up a gallon of milk. Get it. Walk out. They didn’t show me any research. There was no information. I couldn’t tell you today how far along I was, whether I was four weeks along or four months along … They are supposedly all about information and facts, but it was so dark and everything was hidden [so hidden that California is one of only a few states that refuses to release annual abortion figures to the Centers for Disease Control]. There should be mandated information as to what they are going to do.”
After her abortion, Higuera buried the experience and moved on with her life. She went to law school and converted to Christianity. Her abuser, a Middle Eastern immigrant who was invited to live in the family home by her Palestinian parents, fled the country without being held responsible for his crime.
“I have an appreciation for our freedom and our constitution, knowing that if I was born where my parents were born I would not have the right to free speech or the freedom of religion and in most of the Middle East I don’t have that luxury,” Higuera said. “In fact, I could be sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. I don’t take that lightly, and that’s why I am so proud to be living in America. I know it could have easily been different for me.”
More than a decade later, as both the court case and her pregnancy advanced, so did an internal tugging. Was it time to share her story? She started with her co-workers at Advocates who lauded her for her courage. Last year, Citizen magazine featured her journey, which has since led to invitations to share her testimony at various Pregnancy Care Center events across the country. The self-described introvert said she can’t fathom how the Lord orchestrated it all.
“To think that people are inviting me to speak to hundreds of others on a stage with a spotlight on me, talking about my sexual abuse and my abortion,” she said. “It is weird to me, but I don’t take it lightly. It’s an honor. Every time I speak it shows me God’s grace, His transformation, and what He can do. It never gets old.”
God’s grace also showed up in the courtroom, where Pastor Scharpen won his case against the state of California. The judge also awarded attorney’s fees to Advocates for Faith & Freedom, although a year later the government still hasn’t paid the judgment. In addition to the Scharpen case, several others were filed in federal court. Last summer, these cases prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court. For the federal case, Advocates filed a friend-of-the-court brief, supplying all the evidence they presented in Scharpen Foundation v. Javier Becerra, including the judge’s ruling.
“I think our case impacted the United States Supreme Court decision,” Higurera said. “The Supreme Court justices asked questions during oral argument about our case and about the research that we did.”
Paying it forward
Higuera said that in the aftermath of the Scharpen case, she remains committed to helping resource pregnancy care centers and expanding their profile in the community.
“I’m using my story to help other women,” she said. “I didn’t even know that pregnancy care centers existed.”
She is confident that, with the help of pastors, the tide can turn.
“When you think of it, there’s a lot of hope through the pastors because of the sheer numbers of Christians in California,” Higuera said. “Imagine if we all voted and we voted for life. I mean, we could take it over.”
“If the pastors stand up, then yes, there is hope. But all the hope right now rests on the pastors engaging their congregants. If they don’t do that, there is no hope. Honestly, who else? What else is going to happen?”
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