Working in the pro-life movement, I hear many stories of women that have experienced an abortion struggle with shame and regret silently in our churches. Lifeway Research published that 36% of women were attending a Christian church once a month or more when they made their abortion decision and 70% of women that have experienced an abortion indicate that they are Christian. They are sitting in our pews but not feeling as if they can run to the church for wisdom and guidance with their life-changing decision. So then after they choose abortion, they are immediately filled with shame and regret, not feeling that they can ever talk about their abortion experience.
Recently I met a woman and her husband and they are both pastors at their church. She had always hid her past abortion with everyone in her life other than her spouse because she feared it would bring condemnation. As a result, she had never completely healed.
She told me that one of the members of her church gave her a flyer about hosting a support group for women with unexpected pregnancies and wanted to get permission to lead the group at their church. As the pastor was reading the flyer, she felt an immediate sense of anxiety overwhelm her. She felt as if the entire church lobby full of people had stopped what they were doing and were all staring at her as she was reading this pro-life flyer. She quickly put the brochure away and directed the woman the pastor she should connect with to start the small group.
She processed her feelings over the next couple of days and began realizing how the pain and regret from her past abortion was holding her captive in more ways than she even realized. Her husband was the only person in the world that knew her story but she was beginning to feel that God was calling her to live more authentically but how could she fully do that when she was still chained to shame, guilt, fear and condemnation? So she decided to face fear and trade it for living freely because she knew that God called her to be free.
This pastor bravely reached out to the woman starting an Embrace Grace group and asked if she could also help assist in leadership. The woman agreed and they served the single and pregnant moms each week. It was so healing for her to love on the moms and be the person that she wished she had years before when she made her abortion decision. By the end of the semester, she had gathered the courage to tell her story to the young moms and she was met with grace and love from them.
Before her brave choice to share her story, her past was seen as a stumbling block but she now sees how God turns all things for good for those that love Him and her past is now her fuel in finding the calling God has for her present and future. She is now seeing single and pregnant moms being freed from their own chains! Free people, free people!
How many other women and men feel disqualified from serving in your church because of the shame and regret from their past abortions? I think it’s a lot more than you think. In that same study mentioned above, they reference that 49% of women that have had an abortion agree that pastors’ teachings on forgiveness don’t seem to apply to terminated pregnancies. But we can change that perception in our churches by talking about abortion from the pulpit – both the help offered if someone finds themselves with an unexpected pregnancy as well as the hope and forgiveness that Christ offers for those with past abortion experiences.
I believe the church can be a catalyst of change in hearts on the issue of abortion. There are over 300,000 churches in America and if we are all doing what we can, with what we have to help a woman feel empowered in her life decision, not only in her pregnancy but her whole life, it would change everything. It would no longer be a factor in her decision on whether abortion is illegal or not, abortion would become unthinkable for her. And creating an environment in your church where women and men receive Christ’s freedom offered from their past abortions, can result in your entire church changing for the better!
AMY FORD is the President of Embrace Grace, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed for the purpose of providing curriculum and leadership support for churches nationwide to open their arms to young women with unplanned pregnancies. She is also the author of Help Her Be Brave: Discover Your Place in the Pro-Life Movement and the co-host of the Help Her Be Brave Podcast show which can be viewed at helpherbebrave.com. Amy resides in Arlington, Texas, has been married for 21 years, and has four beautiful children.