While I don’t recommend starting every dinner party conversation with this, it’s time Christians start talking about abortion much more frequently. By this I don’t just mean we should advocate the pro-life view among those that disagree (though I certainly think we should do that too), I mean we ought to talk about it with one another on a regular basis. This, I’ve learned in the recent past, is not a widely accepted view. For example, I’ve been told that Tyndale University College’s Student Council denied the Pro-Life Group’s request for funding to bring Michael Coren to campus because most people on campus are already pro-life. [UPDATE: I’ve since learned that the primary reason the funds were denied was concern that funding would also have to be provided to any future pro-choice groups that might form at Tyndale. The Council believed funding one would mean that had to fund the other, which they opposed.] (Thankfully the group was able to secure funds on their own and he’ll be speaking at Tyndale on March 2 at 7:30pm.) In a similar vein, I’ve received personal emails from people saying, essentially, that while they agree with my previous pro-life writings they thought it was a bit of “preaching to the choir.” Since it’s clear not everyone sees the value in talking about pro-life issues amongst “the choir” some justification of my opening remark is in order. While I’m sure there are more reasons available, I’ll focus on two basic reasons why Christians should talk about abortion more regularly: 1) it’s highly immoral and 2) many in our midst have had an abortion.
The Immorality of Abortion as a Reason for Talking About It
Here I’m not concerned about the actual argument for the immorality of abortion, but using its immorality as a basis for talking about it. If everyone already agrees that it is immoral, why talk about it? Well, the reasoning here is simple. When you come to believe something, like that abortion is immoral, it’s not as if you turn on a light switch and then if you come to disbelieve it you turn it off. Beliefs are not like on-off switches. Instead, they are much more like the dimmer control for your kitchen lights. That is, beliefs are held with varying degrees of confidence. This year the Toronto Maple Leafs are performing fairly well, especially compared to previous seasons. In light of that I might form the belief that they will make it to the playoffs this year. However, because they have not made the playoffs in six years I’m much less confident in that belief than I am in the belief that the Red Wings will make it to the playoffs.
The reason we ought to talk about abortion more regularly, even with those that already agree with us, is that many people that find it immoral may not be as confident in their belief as they could be. These people may currently find the pro-life position compelling but could be swayed from the truth if their belief is not strengthened. This is the exact reason why many Christians take the time to read material that demonstrate the historical reliability of the New Testament or that presents a rational case for the belief in God. When one engages in this type of reading the belief that God exists is strengthened and this person is more equipped to respond to attacks on that belief. Given that such a large number of people are not pro-life, especially as represented in the media, those that are pro-life need to continually hear strong cases for the position. Further, increasing one’s confidence in the belief that abortion is immoral also makes it much easier for pro-life advocates to find the courage to talk about this serious issue with those that find it morally acceptable.
The Prevalence of Abortion as a Reason for Talking About It
If the statistics on how many women have had an abortion are true then it is very likely that a fair number of people that attend our churches, small groups, and Chrisitan schools have had abortions. I often think this is the primary reason that many in various Christian communities today don’t want to talk about abortion — it would be too painful for those that have had one and now regret it. I find this to be a legitimate concern and am sympathetic with those that raise it. However, I don’t find it to be a compelling reason to not talk about abortion more regularly. Here too my reasons are twofold. Some among us, even among us Christians, may not regret having an abortion at all because they do not actually believe that personhood begins at conception. These people need to hear the pro-life case so they can come to recognize that they did do something morally wrong and seek repentance for it. Their not recognizing it was morally wrong does not excuse them from the fact that it was morally wrong. If we never talk about abortion in our Christian communities then these people will never be faced with their sin.
But what about those that do recognize the immorality of abortion? Why should we continually cause them to deal with their regrettable decision? Again, I’m sympathetic to this concern but think silence on the issue is the wrong way to deal with it. Should we demonize those that have had an abortion even after they have repented of their wrongdoing? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean we should never seek to encourage others in their pro-life belief simply because some very much regret their past mistake. Instead, we need to speak about abortion in the same manner that Jesus spoke with the adulterous woman. It’s nearly certain that Jesus calling her out in regard to her sin made her quite uncomfortable but Jesus didn’t just ignore her sin because of that. He was compassionate and affirming all the while being quite clear about what was expected of her. I see no reason that we cannot make the pro-life case in the same way. Is it morally wrong? Of course. Should we try to convince people it is morally wrong? Of course. Can we only do that by making people feel guilty about their past, now forgiven, sin? Of course not.
In fact, those that had an abortion in the past may need to hear us talk about it more regularly so they can more fully deal with their past mistake. I can think of times in my life when I’ve done wrong, repented of that wrong, but then never dealt with it any further than that. Because I didn’t want to fully face up to that wrong I just ignored it knowing that I was forgiven. But as any counselor or spiritual director can tell you, that’s no way to have a healthy relationship with God. Being forgiven is an amazing thing, but many times it’s simply the first step. We might need to go to other people that we wronged and ask them for forgiveness too. We might need to seek the help of counselors to help us move past feelings of guilt and regret. But if we never talk about abortion because we assume everyone around us agrees, we may be inadvertently making it easier for people to not ever fully deal with their past mistake. For those struggling with the emotional ramifications of abortion I recommend visiting Abortion Changes You. It’s not only a great resource for women that had an abortion but also for the other family members involved. Every time an abortion is carried out there’s, for example, a father that won’t meet his grandchild or a little girl that won’t meet her brother. That remains the case even years later. This organization has some good material helping people deal with these sorts of issues.
A Closing Remark
Throughout I have tried to refrain from talking simply about “women that have had abortions.” I’ve done this because I think it’s a mistake to think that abortion only deals with the woman carrying the child. Unfortunately, many of us can think of women that wanted to keep the child but were encouraged (or forced) into having an abortion by a parent, boyfriend, or husband. These secondary parties need to deal with their role in this immoral act just as the woman that actually had the abortion does.
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