A Better Way to Fight Abortion

What Scripture says about abortion—and what the Church can do about it.

[Editor's Note: Today marks 41 years since the Supreme Court declared abortion legal. On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we're republishing this article from last year that takes a look back at the Church's pro-life efforts and forward at what Christians can do about abortion.]

It is not very pleasant to speak about abortion. So why bother? The most compelling reason struck me vividly as I prepared a sermon to address another anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In reviewing many years’ worth of my own sermons on the abortion topic, what caught my eye and again captured my heart was not the debatable issues but the growing numbers I have used in those sermons over the years: 6 million, 8 million, 9 million, 16 million, 22 million, 27 million, 32 million, 35 million, 37 million and counting—the number of unborn children whose lives have been ended by abortion.

The magnitude of this tragedy, the loss of 37 million children knit by God and shredded by men, demands that we speak, renew our zeal, refresh our compassion and reignite our commitment to speak for “the least of these” that are so precious to God, regardless of the discomfort it causes us. And in the face of this, we must continue to ask: What should the Church say and do?

In our churchly attempts to influence popular culture, we may have been too quick to seek alternatives to the spiritual forces that are the true and greater powers influencing the direction of any society.

To answer this question, I am not going to focus on political strategies or picketing life-chains or the debates of the public square. I do not mean to minimize the importance of such measures or to say that the Church has no role in them. Rather, my intention when answering what the Church should do about abortion is to call the Church to what the Church does best. I want to challenge you to consider the unique contribution that the Church can make, to recognize that some of our tensions and frustrations with each other may result from trying to force the Church into patterns and practices that are outside her divine design. As a result, in our churchly attempts to influence popular culture, we may have been too quick to seek alternatives to the spiritual forces that are the true and greater powers influencing the direction of any society (Ephesians 6:12). And it is these spiritual forces that must be the chief preoccupation of the Church.

Teach the truth (about each child)

The fact that the child in the womb is a work and a wonder of God gives the Church the right and responsibility to insist that, though unseen by the world, the babe is a child, not a choice; a person, not a lump of protoplasm. This is the most critical truth that the Church must say. We must not believe that such statements are useless or will always fall on deaf ears.

The reason that pro-abortion advocates are so zealous that expectant mothers not be shown pictures or models of pre-born children is that when mothers see what is being destroyed by abortion, their hearts resonate with the biblical perspective that the unborn child is precious. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reports that when mothers see an ultrasound image of the child, an emotional bonding takes place even before the child's movement is felt. When technology lets us see what the psalmist says that God already sees in the womb (Psalm 139:11-16), then the divine imprint on the human heart whispers in the most powerful and deep chords, "This child is precious, and destroying this little one is wrong."

But it is not enough to say that the child in the womb is precious. Key in the abortion battle is not simply to affirm how precious the baby is to God, but to declare how precious is the mother (another child of God), whom God made and knows and touches.

To warn of sin's consequences and still to love is our calling, and it is the power of the Gospel against the greatest of evils.

Yes, “It’s a baby.” Yes, “It’s a child, not a choice.” But because mother and child are precious, we also say, “Mothers hurt when their babies die.” The Feminists for Life organization captures something of this truth with its motto: "Abortion hurts women, kills children and destroys families.”

Share grace

I have a younger brother who has had mental disabilities since birth. I have wished many things for him, but I have never wished that he were dead. I have discovered that part of the divine imprint on my own heart is to love as a precious gift one who is imperfect. If we really lose this capacity to care for the flawed, if all that we finally value are those who are whole, lovely and well-formed, then we will ultimately find we are incapable of loving anyone. For we are all fallen creatures in a fallen world, and if we must discard or kill what does not please us, then we will find there is no value in the old, the infirm, the incapable or our own imperfect lives.

Grace teaches us something different: that the unlovely are loved by God. This message may not only preserve the life of the unborn child who is in some way flawed or suspected of being flawed; it can also dissuade the mother who is seeking abortion. The shame that may be driving her to seek an abortion does not mean that she is unloved; a past mistake does not mean that she is unforgivable; even a past abortion does not mean she faces eternal rejection. And the man who may be urging an abortion because of his own fear of shame or disadvantage or retribution may also find new incentive to protect the unborn when he discovers the embrace of grace.

That embrace will mean nothing, of course, if it is not accompanied by meaningful love.

I believe, and I think you believe, that an understanding of who God is and what He has done is what is ultimately needed to turn people away from abortion. But if those who supposedly represent this God present themselves as angry, hateful and mean-spirited, then it is foolish to believe that their God will be perceived as anything different. To warn of sin's consequences and still to love is our calling, and it is the power of the Gospel against the greatest of evils.

Yes, we must politic and protest and publish, but the arm of man will not save us or these children. We must seek our God, with the Church doing what it does best: testifying to truth of the preciousness of life, preaching grace, demonstrating love and praying.

Taken from The Hardest Sermons You'll Ever Have to Preach by ROBERT RAYBURN; John Collins. Copyright 2011 by Bryan Chapell . Used by permission of Zondervan.

155 Comments

Katy Brown

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Katy Brown commented…

@ Emily Northam and others. Emily, you wrote" I doubt the author has ever been in the position of needing an abortion. Never experienced being abandoned by his partner only to find out he was pregnant, with no resources and no help. He was never a teenage girl who came from a poor or split family, who had no one to turn to and no money to even care for a child. Do you or the author know what the fear feels like? Like your world is crumbling. The world's weight is on your shoulders and you are beyond terrified because of what people are going to think, what is going to happen to your future plans, how are you going to work and care for a child?"
Well, I do know what that feels like and I completely disagree with your comments. Back in 1974, I was 17, pregnant and unwed. My boyfriend had broken up with me a couple of weeks before I found out I was pregnant. My parents had divorced when I was 12 and my teen years were very rocky, with drug and alcohol abuse, dropping out of school, a couple of foster homes, etc. I was terrified and alone, with no clue what I would do. I seriously considered abortion. Several of my friends had had one and said it was "no big deal".
Here is what I DID do. I turned to God and trusted Him. I was not religious at the time, didn't attend church, but somehow I knew that if I made the RIGHT decision, to give my baby Life, that He would honor that, and take care of me. And that is exactly what happened. I ended up marrying my boyfriend, (also 17) who is now my husband of 38 years. My daughter, whose life hung in the balance that day, has been the joy of my life and my best friend. She has blessed me with 3 grandchildren who have multiplied my joy a thousand -fold. Because I made the decision to trust God and step out in Faith, I have been blessed immeasurably more than I could have ever imagined.
This is what is missing in your argument and so many of the arguments that women are making today, in defending a choice for abortion. You are leaving God out of the whole thing. When we take that decision in our own hands , when we "choose" to abort, we prevent God from being able to do anything to help us. Basically, we cut Him out of the picture. God created that Life in the womb. He doesn't create a new life haphazardly or for no reason. He desires that child to LIVE. God CHOSE for that child to be created. No human should ever "choose" to destroy what God has created. We cannot base our decisions on what we can see today. Only God knows what the future holds. To say we must abort a child because we cannot see a way forward, is to say that God is powerless and can do nothing for us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Don't you think that is true for the unwed teen too? I KNOW it is.
While I agree that God's heart is broken and that he also mourns alongside those who have made the choice to abort, He would NEVER condone the "choice" to end the Life that He created. There is NO circumstance in which God would "approve" our "choice" to terminate the Life that He so carefully formed and brought into being. (see Psalm 139) If you believe that, you are seriously being deceived by the Evil One. God is the Authority over life and death, not we humans. Our ways are not always God's ways. We cannot see what the future holds, but God KNOWS what the future holds. We are to step out in Faith (a scary thing to do, I know)and trust Him. He has promised to work in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him. And God always keeps His promises.

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Kristina Sears

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Kristina Sears replied to Katy Brown's comment

And yet even as a woman, you leave women completely out of the equation when it comes to abortion rights.
At least you're admitting the only prominent argument against said rights is a religious one. Legislating religious-based morality is a priority for too many, however.

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Maria

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Maria commented…

my co-worker's mom makes $76 an hour on the internet. She has been without a job for ten months but last month her paycheck was $12933 just working on the internet for a few hours. Here's the site to read more, Run70.ℂOℳ

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Matt Riggins

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Matt Riggins commented…

I was having this conversation with a friend about abortion, and I am definitely pro-life, but he brought up an interesting point. If we think "big picture" - based on what we know about our world and our God - isn't it "better" off for a child to be aborted (assuming they are immediately ushered immediately into Heaven) then to be born into a bad situation and possibly never get saved then to spend eternity separated from God. Not saying I agree with him, but I'm curious what the best response to that would be. Any opinions?

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Katie Neves da Rocha

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Katie Neves da Rocha replied to Matt Riggins's comment

I do believe that only God can tell which fetus will end up in heaven or hell. Aborting a fetus on a 'what if' scenario is playing the Devil's advocate, and I make it a habit to NEVER advocate on behalf of the Devil.

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Sallie Boulos Sophy

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Sallie Boulos Sophy replied to Katie Neves da Rocha's comment

Hi Matt, That is a good point to consider. However, if one actually looks at who is getting abortions, it is minority women who feel like they don't have a choice. Often they do not have access to resources and support. It may not be because they don't want a child, but because they don't believe they have the means to provide :(. Here are some stats:
WHO HAS ABORTIONS?
•In 2009, 85% of all abortions were performed on unmarried women (CDC).
•Women living with a partner to whom they are not married account for 25% of abortions but only about 10% of women in the population (NAF).
•In 2009, 55.3% of abortions were performed on women who had not aborted in the past; 36.6% were performed on women with one or two prior abortions, and 8.1% were performed on women with three or more prior abortions (CDC).
•Among women who obtained abortions in 2009, 40.2% had no prior live births; 46.3% had one or two prior live births, and 13.6% had three or more prior live births (CDC).

•Women between the ages of 20-24 obtained 33% of all abortions in 2009; women between 25-29 obtained 24% (CDC).
•In 2009, women aged 20-29 years had the highest abortion rates (27.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20-24 years and 20.4 abortions per 1,000 women aged 25-29 years) (CDC).

•50% of U.S. women obtaining abortions are younger than 25; women aged 20-24 obtain 33% of all U.S. abortions and teenagers obtain 17% (AGI).
•In 2009, adolescents under 15 years obtained .05% of all abortions, but had the highest abortion ratio, 785 abortions for every 1,000 live births (CDC).
•Black women are more than 4.8 times more likely than non-Hispanic white women to have an abortion, and Hispanic women are 2.7 times as likely (AGI).
•The abortion rate of non-metropolitan women is about half that of women who live in metropolitan counties (NAF).

•The abortion rate of women with Medicaid coverage is three times as high as that of other women (NAF).

•37% of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 28% identify themselves as Catholic (AGI).
•At current rates, nearly one-third of American women will have an abortion (AGI).

I believe as followers of Christ, we should be providing more help to expectant mother so that pro-choice means something entirely different.

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Chris Kanas

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Chris Kanas replied to Sallie Boulos Sophy's comment

I used to hold that opinion. Then I realized that I was limiting God by what I saw in the world. Only God knows the full life of that fetus. And to say it is okay to discard a fetus because of what we see and expect is to rob God of what God can do. We have to let go of excusing our actions by what the world does. Yes, the big picture is the world is cruel. But the BIG big picture is that God is bigger than the world.

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Kim

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Kim commented…

Here's the thing. As a woman who's had multiple abortions and became a Christian because of the love of the director of a pregnancy care center, I am pro-choice, AND pro-life. When we're willing to stop the beating hearts of our own children, the problem isn't elective abortion. Abortion is a symptom of a much, much deeper problem.

Both times I ended the lives of my children, I was faced with people holding up signs calling me a killer. I did not want to do what I was doing. I had no family or any kind of help. I had nowhere to turn and no one came to me and said, "let me help you." They held up signs. Or they told me to give my baby up for adoption. Adoption isn't the answer. Not when there are 10 year olds languishing in foster care that no one wants in favor of a brand new baby that they'd rather take for their own than help that child's mother be the parent that they God chose for them to be.

I came to Christ as a homeless, pregnant prostitute. Having been left by my husband at a shelter. I finally understood what love was when a stranger met me where I was in my filth. And then she did the dirty, inconvenient work of not just living Christ's love but actively choosing to teach me what it was through daily help with learning how to be a mama the right way. The word tells us that the Lord even uses the wicked for his purpose. No one's life is without purpose and meaning in God's ultimate plan. And even if for some reason it was, that's not a decision that we're called to make. I am now a mother of two and have made some horrendous decisions in my lack of understanding of what it means to be a believer and even a whole human being. My life has gone from one tragedy to another as a result of who I've been and the way I was raised.

I can't say that I've done much good for anyone. My mother was an addict while she was pregnant with me and still is today. She had every reason to get rid of me. But the Lord has used my desperation to reach out to the utterly hopeless and thrown away because I am one of them too. And I'm humbled and grateful that he's used that to ensure that the most forgotten know that they are precious to him not just through me, but my children as well.

It would not have been better for the testimony of the reality of the God of the Impossible had either myself or my children been electively aborted. I know this to be absolutely true. At the end of the day, telling a broken woman to give her baby away, or that she's a murderer weren't enough to bring me to the foot of the cross and they won't be enough for anyone else. We have to love them, period that's it. It's not convenient and it's time consuming and frustrating but it's the love of Jesus Christ - practically applied. That's the only answer.

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Chris Kanas

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Chris Kanas replied to Kim's comment

Great testimony Kim. By God's grace, you have witnessed a story that I'm sure many can Identify with. I have nothing to add since you very well so expressed your opinion which has a lot of value. Thank You.

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Jonathan Avants

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Jonathan Avants commented…

Is a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest "knitted by god?" You are wrong to claim that every life in the womb is special and a blessing. And it is horrifying to bring in the heaven and hell side of this. Would god really judge a fetus on whether it deserves damnation? If not, and they all go to heaven, well...that's another scary thought, since Christian would have a method of "saving" everyone.

This issue is just another mind-boggling part of religious, in this case Christian, morality.

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