As the videos about planned parenthood are coming out the reactions on social media are understandably horrified. Many are speaking out and raising awareness which is good but I want to make sure we are aware of the message that we are sending. Oftentimes we fight a problem by focusing on guilt tactics and forget the reason we’re fighting the battle is because God loves the people being held hostage by it. The babies and the mothers. We need to make sure our rhetoric does not fuel the fear and guilt that’s already there.
How do I know there is fear and guilt, because I had an abortion. At 18 years old I went to my gynecologist for a checkup and I remember looking around to see who the nurse was talking to when she announced “your pregnant.” Shock took hold as I went through the remainder of my appointment and the doctor told me if I decided to keep it or get rid of it I’d have to go somewhere else, because they didn’t handle either. I remember walking to my car and driving home, shock subsiding just enough for panic to take its place. On my way I called my closest friend who frantically told me, without missing a beat, that I had to get an abortion.
I told my boyfriend when he got back into town and his reply was that this information didn’t make what he was about to do any easier and promptly broke up with me. He told me that if I decided to get rid of it, he would help with the expense.
I told another friend of mine, who was the first supportive voice. He said if I decided to keep it he would help me, yet knowing the circumstances of his life I knew this was a sentiment more than a reality. But once again the question of whether I’d get rid of it came up. Why did everyone keep bringing that up? Why did everyone keep presenting abortion like it was a viable option? In some cases like it was the only reasonable option?
I was scared, panicked, alone, and had no idea what to do. I was living off student loans and ramen noodles and in the midst of that panic induced haze I couldn’t see past my “flight” instinct, and so I made the choice to have an abortion.
It didn’t take long for me to regret my choice. No one told me it was wrong. No one chastised me for my decision. We all moved on like it had never happened. Everyone except me. I’ve regretted my decision every day. I’d have a 9 year old son or daughter right now had I not made the choice I made. I’ve lived with guilt and shame that no one needed to inspire. It came on its own and lived quietly in the corner of my mind, until the days it wouldn’t be silenced.
For years I couldn’t fathom forgiveness. I dreaded anyone finding out. If I’m honest I still do. But eventually I found the forgiveness of Christ. It wasn’t until I was broken that I could see my brokenness. It wasn’t until I despised myself that I could see my need for Christ. It wasn’t until my shame was too much for me to bear that I could see my need for grace, and in that place of shame and guilt and self loathing God met me in the person of Christ and redeemed me. He poured his grace and love out on me and showed me that I needed him all along. That I’d been pretending I was righteous before, but through this sin I couldn’t help but face the fact I’m not righteous at all, that Christ’s righteousness is all I need.
We’re all sinners in need of a savior. Every single one of us has defied God in some way. Every one of us has tried to be righteous on our own, and we all carry the guilt until the day when it is too much and we surrender it all to Jesus. And that’s the day we realize that Jesus came not to save the self righteous but the sinner, that he came to save you and me (Mark 2:17). And when we understand that, when we accept that, we are able to live in the knowledge that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
But that’s a long road. That’s a painful road. Realizing you have been forgiven and walking in that forgiveness is a daily struggle. It’s not easy to remember that you are loved despite yourself. It’s not easy to let go of the guilt and shame. And that’s where the church needs to be. We need to love the mother as much as we advocate for the unborn, because both the unborn and the mother are in need of God’s grace and forgiveness, love and mercy. We as the church are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are the ones he has called to show his love. The cold-hearted caricatures of women choosing convenience over motherhood are simplistic and the exception rather than the rule. These women are scared. They are not thinking rationally in most of these circumstances. I sure wasn’t. They are reacting rather than responding and they need our love, support, and help. To speak out against abortion requires us to climb into the trenches with them and walk with them through the hard times, otherwise we’re no better than the Pharisees who preached rules without grace. Religion without love. Obedience without relationship. We need to love more than we hate and we need to help more than we condemn. If we want to see women stop choosing abortion then we have to help them when they choose life. Not just a pat on the back and a good job. We need to really help them, financially, relationally and in tangible ways that make it possible for them to walk away from the escape hatch, ways that make it clear they are not alone. Because alone and afraid is exactly the way most of these women feel, alone and afraid before they make the decision and even more so after.
Truth with Grace
The reality is that human life begins at conception. There is no way around that fact. If it wasn’t a human life then there would be no concern of a baby. We consider fertilized sea turtle eggs as sea turtle lives, which is why we protect them by law. If a fertilized sea turtle egg is a sea turtle, then a fertilized human egg is a human. No matter how much I wish that weren’t the case so that my actions hadn’t taken a human life the fact remains that it was a human life and I was the one who ended it. Our desire for something to be other than it is doesn’t change reality.
But there is good news. No matter where you are on this spectrum, Christ loves you and you don’t have to walk this journey alone.
For those pregnant and scared, those considering abortion I want to encourage you not to make the same mistake I did. Don’t react. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think past your fear. Nothing is ever as terrifying as we imagine. The way we imagine our future when we’re afraid isn’t how it has to be. God is bigger than our fears and keeping your baby may turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made if you can fight back the panic long enough to picture a brighter future.
There are resources all around you to help you financially and relationally as you learn how to be a mother. Here in Jacksonville, First Coast Women’s Services provides material aid for women choosing life for their babies. Central Florida Pregnancy Center is a great resource for those in the Central Florida area. Online for Life is a national resource that can help get you plugged in with resources in your state. Many local churches are partnered with these organizations so if you can’t find one in your area, call one of the churches in your home town and they should be able to help you get plugged in or google “Pro Life Centers”.
For those that have had an abortion, God still loves you. That may be hard to believe right now, but your decision wasn’t a surprise to him and his love is not conditional upon your behavior. All of our sins hadn’t yet taken place when Christ died for us. So your abortion is no less covered by Christ’s blood then your neighbor’s lying. Christ died for you too and wants to redeem you to himself. He loves you even through this and will heal you if you let him.
There are healing resources out there for you too. Many of the women’s centers and pregnancy centers that offer help to pregnant women also offer classes on healing after abortion and so I would encourage you to reach out to those centers listed above. Get plugged into a church, where you can learn and grow, and get connected with people that love Christ and will help you heal. If you encounter a negative response by a church, find another church, because God does love you and he has not given up on you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Remind yourself every day that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) until you believe it. Because he paid the ultimate price so that you could be restored to him. Jesus loves you more than his own life and “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38).
For those who have found healing after abortion, please don’t remain silent. I’ve remained silent for far too long because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I’ve put off writing this blog more times than I can count because I was afraid, but God, some good preaching on Sunday, and my best friend reminded me recently that God uses our stories to show the world his love. Our fear paralyzes us but faith that God is God and that he is bigger than any circumstance allows us to move forward in him. I have no idea what the fall out from sharing this post will be in my life, but I know that God will use this to help some woman heal or chose life. God will create beauty out of a tragedy and he will reach some heart out of my willingness to share my story. God will use your story to help someone heal or chose life if you are willing to trust him and speak up. Three of the most influential people in the Christian faith took a life, Moses, David and Paul. Look how God used their stories of redemption to further his kingdom. He can use yours too.