The church has a serious abortion problem.
This is the second post in a four-part series on preventing abortion in the church. These posts are reprinted with the author’s permission from https://www.care-net.org/abundant-life-blog/what-every-pastor-can-do-to-prevent-abortions-in-their-congregation-pt-2
The church has a serious abortion problem. There are people who love Jesus who are terminating their pregnancies. Plus, they know that they are playing a role in ending the life of someone made in the image of God and that will intensify their guilt after the fact. That guilt can severely damage their relationship with God because people often feel unworthy to pray when they are dealing with major sin issues.
Abortion is not just a secular problem; it happens frighteningly often in our churches. The best research I’ve seen on this is from a demographically balanced survey that CareNet did of 1,038 post-abortive women in 2015. According to that survey, 36% of women were attending a Christian church once a month or more at the time of their first abortion.
These statistics force us to ask, “Why are so many Christian women having abortions?” I think it is often because a Christian woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock faces far greater social consequences than an atheist woman does.
When a Christian woman gets pregnant, she’s not only terrified of how this will affect her life and what will happen if her parents find out, but she’s also probably worried about what will happen if her pastor or youth pastor finds out.
And this is key: Many churches would handle this situation better than a woman would assume! Many churches don’t shame or kick women out if they get pregnant out of wedlock. I think many churches would rise to the challenge and do a great job of supporting this woman, but she doesn’t know that if she hasn’t seen the church deal with this issue publicly before.
Even though some churches would respond to an unplanned pregnancy well, the women don’t know that, so out of fear they abort.
Aren’t you condoning sin?
As I began sharing this idea with others, one of the common responses I regularly heard is that pastors often come down hard on the issue of unwed pregnancy so as not to condone premarital sex, or perhaps in some cases, to avoid even the appearance of condoning premarital sex.
Pastors, please hear me on this.
I’m not saying that you should publicly approve of the way she got pregnant. I’m saying you should publicly celebrate the life in her womb, and that her sin issue should be addressed in private, in the context of relationship. That may be with you, that may be with a different pastor or elder, or it may be with the leader of her discipleship or small group.
Unlike some other pro-life church activities, this change would need to come from the top down. It would need to be the pastor taking initiative to talk to the church body about what will happen in the future if someone in the church gets pregnant out of wedlock.
Regardless of how often, this is what pastors should make clear to the church:
- Here’s what we believe: It is not sinful in and of itself to be in the state of pregnancy. The actions that led to becoming pregnant may have been sinful, but there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a mother, with having a child growing inside your body. We love babies here, and we hate it when babies are killed.
- Here’s what we won’t do: We will not encourage anybody to have an abortion, because we believe that every unborn child is a bearer of God’s image. We will not kick a woman out of the church for being pregnant. We will not shame her. We will not let people tease her.
- Here’s what we will do: We will celebrate the life in her womb, and connect her with the local Pregnancy Resource Center. We will do our best to love unwed mothers well, the way Jesus loved the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. We will approach her with grace and friendship. We will teach our students and this young woman how to deal with shame through forgiveness. We will throw a baby shower for her (perhaps through her small group) and celebrate the baby’s birth just like we do all births in our church.
At the Pregnancy Resource Center, you will receive non-judgmental support and encouragement. We are here to provide free services, but also to sit, listen, talk, cry and help you figure out your next steps.