If abortion had been illegal, would my church have been any more helpful than they were with it being legal? While many in the church strive to make abortion illegal, not that many have thought about actually empowering women to choose life.
We can’t save the baby without caring for the needs of the mama.
~ Joni Williams Shepherd
How Does the Church’s Response to Unwed Pregnancy Affect Choice?
The church’s response to my predicament would still have left me to figure things out alone. There was nothing in place at my church to help me. No resources, no shoulder to cry on, and absolutely no discipleship in turning my life around. The church counselor was obviously prolife, but what good did that do me? While Christian activists fought to make abortion illegal, they were nowhere around to help me navigate a healthy choice in the meantime. If there was a local pregnancy center or adoption agency, I received no referral.
The church wanted me to not have an abortion, but not badly enough to actually do anything to help me in practical ways. While we see abortion restrictions increase in the US, I’m not sure the church is much better prepared to help frightened young pregnant women like myself than they were in 1980. Unfortunately, in a pregnancy crisis, the first place most people, including Christians, think of going for help is Planned Parenthood, not their local church.
As two major studies show, the segment of the population that has the majority of abortions is self-identifying Christians. More than any other segment and more than all other groups combined!, Over 36 percent of women surveyed attended church regularly at the time of their first abortion. Up to 89 percent indicated that the local church had no influence on their decision. More than half who were Christians at the time of their first abortion currently attend church at least once or twice a month. These are no insignificant facts! They shouldn’t be a surprise considering how the church often poorly handles unwed pregnancy, and there’s rarely a word about abortion, especially the trauma it causes moms and dads and the collateral damage to literally everyone. We act shocked when a young woman gets pregnant because (whispering) she had sex outside marriage, (as though the rest of us never sin)! While we want to save babies, we often overlook the mom and the care she needs from us to choose life.
Christians have more abortions for the same reason that David killed Uriah the Hittite after impregnating his wife – to cover up our sexual sin. We do it with no one the wiser. Nearly 50 years past the legalization of abortion in America, it’s time we get a comprehensive and compassionate grip on this!
How Can the Church Do Better?
For the most part, with the exception of a proactive congregation here and there, the church is not ready on multiple levels for abortion to be illegal. It was never even ready for it to be legal. Some in the church believe it should remain legal. Regardless of its legality, what are we doing in our churches to make choosing life easier? What reasons are we giving women and couples to come to us for help?
To be clear, I hold no grudge against the church because I am fully culpable of taking innocent life, a repentant sinner, saved by undeserved amazing grace. However, like my situation, the church unfortunately (and often unknowingly) plays a role in many abortions across the nation. Even silence is a role. The enemy has blinded us to the fact that his favorite playground, when it comes to abortion, is in the church and in the lives of Christians. I believe he prefers that we continue the fight against abortion solely through legislation and remain blind to this area in which he is seldom challenged. Satan does not fear a law being changed nearly as much as he dreads and hates a heart change.
I come to you in the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ with a charge to start being the Light in this area by becoming a safe place to run in crisis. We have the power, in Him, to greatly reduce the senseless loss of life to abortion among Christians and in the world in far more effective ways. When we begin treating the unwed pregnant woman as Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery – by protecting her from our senseless, arrogant judgment and caring for her immediate needs before we address her sin – we will have a lot more babies to hold in our nurseries!
By Joni Williams Shepherd
Joni Williams Shepherd is the Executive Director of Hope and Grace International and author of two books that help equip the church to address abortion with hope and grace. To start the conversation, Memoirs of a Christian Who Chose Abortion gives perspective of a the journey of a fellow Christ-follower who lost two children to abortion and found redemption and healing through repentance and the grace of God. Why Can't We Say the "A" Word in Church? (Overcoming Our Dirtiest Secret with Hope and Grace) contains the stories from Memoirs in less detail, along with The Scenario of abortion and its ensuing trauma in the world and the church, The Dilemma the church faces in addressing abortion, and The Remedy for how to address abortion in the church comprehensively and with compassion.
 Guttmacher Institute, 2014. Cited May 18, 2022. Online: https://www.guttmacher.org/report/characteristics-us-abortion-patients-2014.
 LifeWay Research, 2015. Cited May 18, 2022. Online: https://research.lifeway.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Care-Net-Final-Presentation-Report-Revised.pdf.