The topic of abortion stirs emotion and opinion in the Christian community.
How can abortion be legal? How can a couple allow their own child to be murdered? Why do some parents encourage their daughter to terminate a pregnancy? We all have powerful feelings on the subject, but the poignant question for this article will be: How do we respond to men and women in the church who have experienced an abortion?
Women faced with an unplanned pregnancy undergo tremendous stress and anxiety. A woman may terminate a pregnancy in order to maintain a significant relationship with parents, a boyfriend, or peers. She may want to finish school and pursue a career or she may be afraid of the added financial and emotional strains of single motherhood. She may not fully understand the ramifications of an abortion, or she may subscribe to the deception that it is not a baby inside of her, “just a lump of tissue.” A woman may have an abortion for many reasons, and most of these are born out of intense feelings of fear and failure.
Abortion is a carefully guarded secret. Nobody knows about the procedure except the individuals the woman chooses to tell. Most women and their partners experience emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences following an abortion. Some may feel the effects of the abortion immediately, and some may not until later in life. A male partner will experience most of the emotional symptoms that a woman passes through following an abortion. Guilt is the overwhelming feeling that post-abortive men and women face.
Consequences in Silence
Men and women who have gone through an abortion often suffer from the consequences of their decision in silence. Many are afraid to share their experience with others for fear of rejection or disapproval. The Christian community must examine how we discuss abortion issues and the men and women involved in the decision. We need to demonstrate compassion and empathy as a means of spiritual restoration to the individual.
Romans 3:23 states, “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” When we choose to accept God’s gift of salvation, we are redeemed by God’s grace. We do not acquire it by our own effort. It is God’s gift through His Son Jesus that allows us to have fellowship with God. Christians are not exempt from sin. We struggle with issues that we must submit to God. The same is true for men and women who have experienced an abortion. The story of King David and Bathsheba is one of fear and murder. Yet King David was known subsequently as a “man after God’s own heart.” How could someone who had an affair, killed the woman’s husband, and did it all in secret be loved and accepted by the creator of the universe? God loves all of us unconditionally.
As a community of believers saved by grace, we need to extend God’s love and compassion to those who live with the consequences of an abortion. When post-abortive persons decide to share their story with us it is important that we be active, non-judgmental listeners. As the persons share, validate their story and feelings. Many individuals that have experienced an abortion view themselves as unworthy to receive God’s forgiveness. It is important for the individual to ask God for His forgiveness, but it is also important for him or her to accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
Since abortion is done in secret, the person will have had no opportunity to pass through the stages of grief. Encourage the person to grieve for the loss of his or her child. He or she might want to name the baby, make a small memorial, write a poem, or do something else that would help bring closure. When the person is ready, have him or her share the unique story of God’s healing so that others can be encouraged and brought to wholeness as well.