We Need to Talk About Abortion

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Abortion is wrong. This is the consistent message of evangelical churches. This is also the consistent message of the Christian Reformed Church. But I wonder, how are folks in our pews receiving that message? Are there better ways for us to talk about the tragedy of abortion—ways that invite people into the church for healing rather than isolating people from the church?

As I read some of the things that Christians, pastors, and churches say about abortion, I think about the women and men that I know who are post-abortive. When I recall my days as a volunteer counselor at a pregnancy care center, I can still hear the pain in their stories. I can still see the shame on their faces. I can still hear their voices tremble as they talked with me.

--The young woman whose Christian family disowned her for getting pregnant, and told her that she had to get an abortion so that her parents wouldn’t look bad in their church.

--The man whose girlfriend had an abortion and gave him no choice in the matter.

--The couple that already had five children and couldn’t imagine having one more mouth to feed while they were both unemployed.

--The fourteen-year-old girl raped by her uncle and forced by her Christian parents to have an abortion.

We need to talk about abortion. But how we talk about abortion matters.

People have abortions for many reasons. The most common reasons cited are 1) the lack of support from family or a partner; 2) a lack of financial resources; 3) that having a child would interrupt plans for education or work; or 4) that having another child would take time and resources away from the children a woman is already parenting.

I had my own set of assumptions and misinformation going into work as a pregnancy counselor. I was surprised to learn some of the following things about abortion:

  • All women and men do not experience abortion the same way. Some feel a lot of shame. Some feel none. For many, the decision to abort is a difficult one. For some, it’s a no-brainer. Just this week, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry asserts that having an abortion is not detrimental to the mental health of a woman.
  • Every woman who has an abortion does not necessarily choose to have an abortion. Some are pressured, or told, by a partner, parents, or others close to them that they must have an abortion or there will be negative consequences.
  • Many people do not have all of the information they need. It was discouraging to hear how little women understood about how their own bodies work and the basics of reproduction. Few knew the facts about what having an abortion entails.

We owe it to everyone to educate each other about reproduction and abortion. We also need to create spaces in our ministries to extend the love, mercy, and grace that we have in Christ. Women considering abortion don’t need someone to pat them on the back and tell them that everything is going to be okay. They need education, resources and support.

Here are a couple of ideas for ways that your congregation can create spaces for talking about abortion with grace and truth.

For Young Adults or Adult Education: Watch the film If These Walls Could Talk and discuss as a small group. This film, produced by HBO, is rated R, so it is recommended that group leaders watch the film beforehand and warn people about the content.

  1. What reasons do the characters in the film have for considering or choosing an abortion?
  2. How did you feel about the film’s portrayal of abortion procedures?
  3. What do you think of the film’s portrayal of Christians?
  4. What message do you think the filmmakers are trying to send about abortion?
  5. Read Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1. What do these passages tell us about how God sees human life?
  6. How can we talk about abortion in ways that are both honest and sensitive? Or to put it another way, what would you say to a friend who is considering an abortion?

For parents and children: Connect parents with the tools they need for talking with their kids about sexuality in age-appropriate ways. Many parents feel ill-equipped for having these conversations, and need assurance that their kids do not need a one time “talk” about sex, but parents who teach a healthy, biblical understanding of sexuality as a way of life.  Here are a couple of resources for that:

To learn more about abortion, how to talk about it, and how to best support women considering an abortion visit justice.crcna.org/abortion.

How about you: What resources would you recommend for creating space for conversations about sexuality and abortion in our families and Christian communities?

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Community Builder

Thanks Shannon for a thoughtful article. We do need to talk about abortion. And we also need to remember that we are called to love one another, including people who face an unwanted pregnancy. We live in a very, very broken world where children are not always valued or loved as they deserve; where the amazing ability of women to bear new life is not always celebrated as the miracle that it is; where men don't always take their share of responsibility for the children that they have fathered; and where sexual violence has reached almost epidemic proportions; and this list could go on... Abortion is wrong; so are many aspects of this broken world that lead up to abortion. How do we talk about abortion, and also reflect the love and compassion of our Savior.

Thank you for this post. It helpfully reminds us of the various pressures women with unplanned pregnancies face.

You said of women seeking abortion counseling that "few knew the facts about what having an abortion entails." Yet, when I sent a link giving a clinically accurate, non-graphic description of what happens during different abortion procedures with a suggestion it be posted for information on the OSJ abortion page it was rejected. If you didn't like that one, perhaps you could find another. As you said about women seeking an abortion, "They need education, resources and support."

Community Builder

As this piece states, "We owe it to everyone to educate each other about reproduction and abortion. We also need to create spaces in our ministries to extend the love, mercy, and grace that we have in Christ." This is why this piece concludes with a request for recommended resources that speak the truth with mercy and grace. 

Community Builder

I'm curious about what the link was, and why it wasn't posted. Also wondering why you didn't try to post it here.

I believe that any discussion of abortion needs to include the underlying reasons that would lead a woman to make such a decision. I like to refer folks to feminists for life. Perhaps if we lived in a perfect world, there would be no need for abortion; we're not in heaven yet. Personally, I would like to see abortion become very rare, and I'm happy to work toward that end. 

I had to search for the link. This is the one I suggested for the OSJ abortion page: http://abortionprocedures.com/

Unlike too many anti-abortion sites, I found this one to be medically accurate without being too graphic and without hysterical screeds against women who get abortions. It clearly explains the four types of procedure, and at which stages of pregnancy they are used.

 

  For what it is worth.............I was fortunate enough to have friends who could openly discuss "abortion." In those discussions I gave an example of ..."What would you do ?"

A woman discovered that she needed to go up to the grocery store to get some food for the next day's lunches for her family. It is about 9:00pm, it is dark, when she parks her vehicle in the parking lot and goes into the store to buy her groceries. She comes out and starts to put her groceries into her car when she is grabbed by men who had parked next to her in a van, and throw her into their van and close the door.

There were 5 men in the van and they all took turns raping her while having a knife held against her throat to keep her from yelling out for help.This is known as a criminal rape !

After they all took their turn they threw her out on the parking lot pavement and took off in their van. 

Someone spotted her laying there and went to her aid. They immediately called the police and an ambulance. They took her to the hospital to have her treated for the rape, and checked her out for injuries to her body.

NOW...because this woman was in her fertile stage, she could have gotten pregnant by anyone of the 5 men that raped her !

If she takes a RU 486 pill immediately and another pill 8 hours later, she most likely would NOT get pregnant.The doctors would also have to check her out for any diseases she may now have from the 5 rapists. If she don't take the pill, she could have a baby with a terrible disease, besides the mental anguish she most likely will need professional mental care and counseling.

This is the question; Do you consider the treatment the woman had from the doctors a form of an "abortion" or the proper physical and mental treatment she should have ? Maybe the word "abortion" should not be used in such a case, For the victim's sake it should be called a criminal assault. The word "abortion" is damaging enough if used in an unexplained manner.

YOU make the CALL !

 

deankoldenhoven@yahoo.com

 

    

Community Builder

Seems we also need to talk about rape. Most rape happens by someone who is known; and all rape is criminal. There is no criminal vs. non-criminal distinction for rape (even though the vast majority of cases do not end in the criminal justice system).

Community Builder

Thank you for sharing this story. Too often our conversations about abortion are about an "issue" and not real people, made in the image of God, who have been victimized.

Thanks for this account, Dean. Like Shannon said, we too often make abortion about an issue rather than real people.

In answer to your question about how to advise in a case like this, I would likely encourage that as soon as the rape kit was complete the hospital should be asked to immediately perform an emergency D&C. Not all will agree, but I would see this morally as preventing pregnancy, akin to taking the pill, rather than terminating a pregnancy.

I agree the church does need to talk about abortion. I am curious about this statement in the article  "Just this week, a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry asserts that having an abortion is not detrimental to the mental health of a woman." Is the author or the OSJ agreeing with that statement? AAPLOG (The American Association of ProLife OBGYNs) has many professional position papers that would argue to the contrary, which I happen to agree with. I have the privilege of working with women making pregnancy decisions. I have seen some of the emotional trauma abortion has caused men and women. When talking about abortion Christ's love, forgiveness and grace must always season the conversation.

Community Builder

Hi Beth,

The summary conclusion of the study sited (involving over 900 women over a five year period) compared women with unwanted pregnancies who were denied an abortion, with those who had an abortion. The summary conclusion, says, "In this study, compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes. Psychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged. These findings do not support policies that restrict women’s access to abortion on the basis that abortion harms women’s mental health."

That being said, abortion affects women differently. A previous non-CRC congregation that I attended for over a year offered a post-abortion support group as part of its ministry offerings - a welcoming announcement was listed in the bulletin every week. This seems to me to be a valuable ministry, offering a safe space to those who need to explore with others, others who understand because they've been there, the intense feelings that surround their decision. It was wonderful to be part of a church that so powerfully, and in so many ways, sent the message that we are all sinners, saved only by God's grace. In that kind of environment, difficult issues such as this could be freely acknowledged.

PS - I'm a strong believer in support groups, for all kinds of issues and addictions, not just abortion. There's a strong connection to discipleship in support groups within a congregational setting, and I believe we have a lot to learn. How can we learn to support one another in our state of fallenness and grace?

 

 

 

Community Builder

Thanks for your comments, Beth. I added the note about the study in JAMA Psychiatry because it got quite a bit of news last week. Like you, it contradicts most of my experiences with post-abortive men and women.  

 

In reply to Bonnie Nicholas about the word "rape" stating the " all rape is criminal." I talked with the Deputy Chief of my City and asked him about the correct wording for "rape." Being that we don't talk about this subject very often, I thought I would be educated !

He replied; With a weapon- -aggravated criminal sexual assault

                   Without a weapon- - sexual assault

                   Illinois does not use the term of rape..

I believe that when talking about a sensitive subject like "abortion" we should try to be thinking on how the law frames the situation, and also on how the medical profession chooses their words. The layman's term, miscarriage is used when a woman delivers a nonviable fetus. The short, medical term is; "she aborted." Now, if someone retells that event, and states that Ms. or Mrs. X had an "abortion", rather than say the medical, "she aborted", one could see how this event could have a damaging effect to Ms or Mrs. X life !

I think that when discussing this subject, "abortion", we should have a short personal prayer to choose our words properly.I know I need to say that prayer ! I am pleased that the CRC is openly discussing many issues in its Network News ! Please continue this practice !

Dean Koldenhoven

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