Brandy Meeks and longtime Vitae Foundation President Debbie Stokes were both at the Pro-Life Women’s Conference in Indianapolis when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling.
The Court’s decision reversed the 1973 and 1992 rulings that had legalized abortion-on-demand throughout the United States, and returned the authority to regulate abortion back to each state.
“I wanted to be joyful, I wanted to be grateful, and to an extent, I was,” Mrs. Meeks recalled. “But the joy was coupled with an overwhelming sense of responsibility — that God needed something more from me in this next phase.”
That phase began for Mrs. Meeks the minute she said “yes” to succeeding Mrs. Stokes as Vitae’s president.
“When Debbie and the Vitae board came to me, it gave me a sense of relief, of peace, to be able to see the next step on the stairway, to know that God was putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” said Mrs. Meeks.
Vitae Foundation is a nondenominational, national media outreach organization headquartered in Jefferson City.
Its purpose is to use cutting-edge research and media outreach to assist women who are facing unplanned pregnancies and to help create a culture in which abortion is unthinkable.
“Vitae leads the world in its research of abortion decision-making, tests its findings using digital media campaigns, and shares best practices at no cost to pro-life peers worldwide to encourage a culture of life,” Mrs. Meeks noted.
With the unanimous approval of the Vitae board of directors, Mrs. Meeks assumed the role of president on Sept. 1.
“Now is the time to finish the mission,” she stated. “It’s so much bigger than saving babies. It’s saving babies and helping women be able to choose life, and helping families reach their fullest potential.
“And it’s about saving generations from the heartache and loss and grief of abortion,” she said.
“A powerful force”
Mrs. Meeks returns to Vitae, fortified with an impressive network of experience and contacts, as well as a passion for collaboration.
She previously served as Vitae Foundation’s director of marketing and research application before working alongside former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson.
Mrs. Meeks has been working in the pro-life movement for over 10 years, including time as a pregnancy resource center director and as co-founder of Cornerstone Marketing Strategies, which helps life- and faith-affirming agencies.
She’s excited to be back at Vitae, helping to chart the organization’s course into a new era, brimming with potential.
“Brandy brings experience, passion, energy and a deep faith to every challenge she takes on,” said Mrs. Stokes, who will continue serving in an advisory role. “She will be a powerful force leading Vitae into the future.”
Mrs. Meeks said it’s imperative for Vitae to “keep working to make abortion unthinkable in this Post-Roe era.”
“Vitae’s research and messaging can absolutely influence that change,” she said. “I’m humbled and honored to lead Vitae Foundation with new innovative strategies and collaborations at such a critical moment in our nation’s history.”
Mrs. Stokes focused on promoting Vitae’s research efforts throughout her four years as president — including two large-scale research studies in the past year, in addition to several smaller, supporting studies conducted in later phases.
She said the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to overturn Roe was a significant factor in her decision to step aside.
“Vitae has great potential to change the culture,” she said, “and it needs leadership that has the energy and expertise to make that happen. Brandy is that person.”
With all the opportunities in the post-Roe landscape come new challenges and potential obstacles.
“This is a very important time, and something we’ve been building up to,” said Mrs. Stokes. “We’re reaching back to our roots and working on building up a culture of life, a culture where every person is valued, not just the unborn.”
Only within that context can abortion ever become truly unthinkable, she said.
Vitae’s work falls into three categories: research, application of that research, and societal education.
Mrs. Meeks said current developments will prompt Vitae to shift some of its focus within those categories.
She cited the ease of ordering chemical abortifacients online, along with big tech companies’ efforts to squelch Vitae’s targeted digital outreach to abortion-minded women searching the Internet and social media.
“Now more than ever, we need to get out in front of all of that, continue to do the research and build on our past research to understand the window we have and the words we can use to help these women,” she said.
She called to mind Vitae’s famous “Think About It” TV ads from the 1990s, which were designed to help lead people of all ages away from the prevailing abortion-first mentality.
“We’ve always been about making abortion unthinkable,” she noted. “That requires a cultural change. We have to make sure we’re going back to connect with our audience and help them see why life is so valuable.”
Three decades of Vitae research has yielded invaluable information not just on how to speak to women who are pregnant and abortion-minded, but to break that down by age, geography and numerous other factors.
“It’s about people truly being able to see the value of human life,” said Mrs. Meeks. “We have to understand the psychological impact of abortion and all the life issues. We have to continue to do the research. We have to finish the mission.”
Mrs. Meeks noted that while elective surgical abortions have all but ceased in Missouri, abortion-causing drugs remain available.
“That’s one more reason why our research is so important,” she said. “We need to educate women about the risks and side-effects of the abortion pill.”
She said taking the doctor out of the equation and having women complete the entire process on their own will amplify the symptoms of post-abortion syndrome.
“It’s terrible enough that it ends the life of the child,” Mrs. Meeks stated. “But it’s even more complicated what she’s going to have to deal with — having to deliver her child at home by taking the abortion pill.”
She believes the first step toward galvanizing public opinion against abortion is to present it as the human-rights issue that it is.
“One thing we all have in common is our responsibility to care our fellow human beings,” she said. “It’s vital that we’re stepping up and truly fighting for the most vulnerable among us, for those who can’t fight for themselves.”
Mrs. Meeks is keenly aware that pro-lifers never fight alone.
“God can do tremendous things,” she stated. “Life is a gift from Him, and that’s the root of everything we do here.”
Mrs. Meeks and her husband Matt have four sons and a daughter, ranging from college to middle school.
Mrs. Meeks was raised in a family of faith that helped lead her toward a bedrock respect for human life.
“Being a wife and a mother to five kiddos — those values that are instilled in you as a child and teenager become so much more concrete as you’re raising a family and seeing the beauty within the kids you’re raising — and the struggles,” she said.
“It’s always an adventure!” she stated. “But it has always been our family’s mission to protect life, and we try to look for every opportunity to reinforce those values with our kids.”
“Excitement and energy”
Vitae’s transition from president to president has been seamless and organic, based on a shared vision and mutual respect.
“Brandy brings a new level of excitement and energy, and the people here are very excited about that,” said Mrs. Stokes, who served Vitae in several capacities since her arrival in 1998 and as president since 2018.
“They see her bringing in new skills and ideas, a keen understanding of marketing and a wide view of the things that are going on out there,” Mrs. Stokes added.
Mrs. Meeks said Mrs. Stokes helped build Vitae up to a point where it can truly grow and expand.
“Debbie led Vitae Foundation to a place of immense strength during culturally tumultuous times,” said Mrs. Meeks. “There are things we wanted to do that we weren’t in a position to do before, but we are now.”
She said she’s committed to continuing Vitae’s research “to deepen our knowledge about abortion and the way it’s affecting our current culture.”
“We’re looking for innovative ways to solve old problems,” she stated. “New technology and new research have helped us see things through a clear new lens.”
Mrs. Meeks said she’s honored to be able to work alongside Mrs. Stokes and the Vitae Foundation’s founder and strategic advisor, Carl Landwehr.
“Carl continues to serve at the organization and is greatly valued for his wisdom that he has continually brought to the table throughout Vitae’s 30-year history,” she said.
She said she can feel the warmth of God’s love when she’s engaged in pro-life work “because it’s so close to His heart.”
She asked for prayers for God to continue to pour wisdom into her, encourage her, and help her surrender to whatever He is asking of her and whatever sacrifices He needs her to make.
“This work is not easy,” she noted. “But God not did not call us to be comfortable. He called us to remain faithful.”
She believes people can help create a culture of life by engaging in meaningful discussions with friends and family members.
“Not to preach, not to yell, but to engage and listen,” she said. “We don’t need to cower, we need to be encouraged. We need to know what resources are available out there.”
It’s also important to know how to lead people to the healing they need after having an abortion, she said.
“Love well, and focus on that,” she said.
“We’re all about loving people well,” Mrs. Stokes added. “No judgement. Only love.”