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.
- What reasons do the characters in the film have for considering or choosing an abortion?
- How did you feel about the film’s portrayal of abortion procedures?
- What do you think of the film’s portrayal of Christians?
- What message do you think the filmmakers are trying to send about abortion?
- Read Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1. What do these passages tell us about how God sees human life?
- 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:
- Talking to Your Kids About Sex by Ron DeHaas
- What's the Big Secret? by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
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?