In my mid-twenties, I became pregnant. At the time I was unsaved and unmarried, and I had grown up in a church that taught that babies weren’t human until they were born. Many of my friends had abortions, so the solution to my dilemma seemed obvious.
Even as an unbeliever, my abortion was traumatic. But it was only after the Lord saved me that I realized the full weight of what I’d done. The guilt and shame were so overwhelming that it was nearly ten years before I told anyone other than my husband what I had done. Although I knew the Lord had forgiven me, I wasn’t sure my believing brothers and sisters would.
The evangelical church resoundingly condemns abortion–and rightly so. It is a scourge in our nation that the wrath of God is surely coming against and we should be doing everything in our power to bring an end to it. But how should the church respond to post-abortive women? How should we think about her, and how can we care for her?
Remember the Gospel
There is no “cookie-cutter” way to care for post-abortive women because each woman and her story is different. But I believe remembering the gospel is the first step. We should allow the gospel, and all that it teaches us about God, ourselves, and others, to shape how we care for post-abortive women.
The gospel teaches us that God is rich in mercy (Eph 2:4) and full of love for fallen people (John 3:16). Likewise, believers are to be full of mercy and love towards others. Remembering that it was God’s mercy and love that kept you from falling into the sin of abortion should fill you with the same mercy and love for the post-abortive woman.
The gospel also teaches us that all people are born dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3) and that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Whether we’ve participated in an abortion or not, we all come to the Cross of Jesus in the same condition; dead sinners. Remembering this keeps us humble, and helps us avoid sinful boasting that says, “I could never do that.”
Given the rate of abortion in our country, chances are high that there are post-abortive women in your church. You may know about their past, but it is likely that they’ve never told anyone about their abortion. Like me, they may have decided to hide their abortion out of shame and fear of rejection.
Knowing this, we should be careful how we speak about abortions and post-abortive women. Remember to not speak about abortion in an “us versus them” way, or in a way that disparages post-abortive women. Tone is important, too. Is our tone prideful or full of compassion? Remember that there may be a post-abortive woman listening to everything you say. Will your words bring her condemnation or healing and hope?
If you’re a pastor or in leadership at your church, remember to keep post-abortive women in mind when you preach or teach on the issue of abortion. If she’s a believer, she needs to be reminded of the forgiveness that is hers because of Christ’s work on the Cross. And if she’s an unbeliever, she needs to hear about the forgiveness that Christ offers to all sinners.
If you’re a friend of a post-abortive woman, remember her on Mother’s Day and Sanctity of Life Sunday. These days can stir up guilt, shame, and sorrow in her. Send a text or a card reminding her of how greatly loved and forgiven she is. Sit with her in church on these hard Sundays and take time to pray with her.
Caring for post-abortive women is one of the many good works Christ has commanded his church to do, and it starts with remembering the gospel and remembering her. May the Lord make our churches into places of refuge, not only for post-abortive women, but also for all sinners.
Mike and Patti Withers have been a profound influence at Immanuel, where Patti serves as Women’s Ministry Director. They have both exercised their gifts for ministry in many different ways and are widely trusted and looked to as ‘parents’ by many younger couples. The Withers are proud Texans and Patti totes a “don’t mess with Texas” coffee mug around the offices. Patti has filled many roles at Immanuel and is currently serving as our Women’s Ministry Director, where she oversees discipleship structures for women and equipping future women leaders.