ASHLAND, Pa. — Before abortion was legal, people from all over the world, including movie stars and the political elite, flocked to Ashland, Pennsylvania to see Dr. Robert Spencer. The land where Spencer's clinic once stood has new owners and a new purpose.
He was known as "The Angel of Ashland." Doctor Robert Spencer ran a clinic in the borough starting in the 1920s, delivering medical care and risking his life to save injured miners, going into the mines himself.
But Spencer is best known for what he did in the early hours of the morning. Before the doors of 531 Centre Street opened for the day, Dr. Spencer quietly ushered in dozens of women for abortions. In the decades before the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, Spencer performed more than 100,000 abortions.
Paul Eby pastors Restoration Ministries in Shamokin. He and his wife Beth learned the history of this place in 2016.
"We started coming up here just to pray for the community and we came up here the one day and saw a 'for sale' sign on the building," Pastor Eby recalled.
Eby said he felt called to buy the property and reached out to the owner.
"After they closed, someone told [the owner] about the 100,000 babies and they never stepped foot in the building," Mr. Eby said. "I asked her about selling it to us. To make a long story short, they ended up giving it to us."
The Eby's said they wanted to preserve the building and use it for a new ministry, Mercy House of Ashland. But in early 2020, structural damage forced them to tear it down.
"We had to completely get rid of it for safety reasons, but also we did feel like that was the best way; start fresh then," said Beth Eby, member of Deeper Still Ministries and Paul's wife.
They're trying to acquire the adjacent lot to build a new facility.
"Our heart is to have a building and to be able to minister people before they go down that road," Beth said.
"We also know that there's women and men out there that are suffering trauma because of the abortion," Paul added.
"For people, if they find themselves pregnant or scared, whatever their circumstances is, there's no judgement," Beth said. "We just want to help."
The Eby's said they've received support from some significant donors, pushing the project along. They need to buy one more lot before any work can begin. The couple says they want to bless the Ashland community with what they're calling a place for healing.
You can find more information at the Mercy House of Ashland website.
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