For many, the church is a place where phrases like “God loves you,” “You are forgiven,” and “Grace” are commonly heard. Although these words are intended to convey love, acceptance and forgiveness, when it comes to sexuality and unplanned pregnancies, it seems a large number of religious-minded women are turning to Planned Parenthood instead of the church for answers and solutions.
Christianity Today contributor Julie Roy, writing in response to an article published in Marie Claire, learned the unsettling truth that tens of thousands of professing Christians are privately turning to Planned Parenthood for services such as birth control, preventative care, and abortions.
Those findings, published as ‘Why Are Evangelical Women at Planned Parenthood?,’ shocked Roy, but even more surprising was the number of Christian women who get abortions every year. Some of the most recently reported statistics indicate over 50% of women obtaining abortions align their faith beliefs with either mainline Protestant, evangelical Protestant, or Catholic.
Since the number of unplanned pregnancies in the United States, although declining, remains upwards of 45% of all pregnancies, there are a whole lot of women facing a pregnancy decision that was not part of their life plan. These numbers reflect a significant number of women claiming an affiliation with the church and ultimately walking through the doors of Planned Parenthood for services, including counseling for an unplanned pregnancy and abortion.
Why is it that so many religious-minded women represented within this category avoid the very places and people who are called to represent grace and forgiveness, sort of like Jesus, when they experience an unplanned pregnancy?
For a woman who may have grown up in the church hearing about God’s design for sexuality, and finding herself pregnant and/or in an unhealthy situation, unique worries and shameful thoughts may flood her mind. In her heart she most likely desires acceptance and a safe place to process her unplanned reality. Yet, in her head, it may be the fear of shame, guilt, or judgment that ultimately determines who she will call.
And here begins the internet search for answers. Quick answers. Permanent answers. The ‘nobody will ever know’ answers. So, a call is made to Planned Parenthood and not to a support circle in her faith community.
Soon, the idea of pregnancy termination sounds like a reasonable or even best option. And maybe the nurse agrees. Maybe her friends agree or even her mom. A decision is made and pregnancy is terminated – just like that. Too often, fear and shame replace compassion and understanding and two lives are forever changed.
We often hear stories ending like this and we ask ourselves why. Why are the very places proclaiming grace and forgiveness often avoided when presented with unforeseen difficulties? Has the church forgotten how to live out grace in tangible ways?
If the church pews are not filled with single mothers, blended families, and people from diverse backgrounds, then maybe the church has some work to do to more closely resemble the One it represents. If what Christianity proclaims is true, then we are all equally broken and we are all in need of the same redemptive forgiveness.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Women do not need to make difficult decisions based on fear and shame, and we are not defined our choices. If an abortion decision is part of your past and if you struggle with feelings of remorse, guilt, shame, depression or other challenge related to this experience, there is HOPE and there is help. If you are facing a decision regarding a pregnancy today, you deserve a friend who will listen and help you pause long enough to breath and make your best choice. Hopefully, when you find that friend who is willing to listen, he/she will encourage a comprehensive consideration of your choices, including mind, body, and spirit.
Whatever the case, here are 2 truths worth remembering:
- You are not alone
- There is always hope
We are here when you need us. Please reach out for support at anchorofhopewi.org