Thousands, maybe even millions, of women sit in American churches each week, hurting silently because of a past abortion.
Abortion is tragically common even among American Christians, despite Christian teachings about the sanctity of life. In 2014, 24 percent of women who had abortions identified as Catholic, 17 percent as mainline Protestant and 13 percent as evangelical Protestant, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
For many years, Susan Chorley, a Baptist minister from Boston, Massachusetts, was one of the women who remained silent about her abortion in church. Chorley shared her story with The Daily Beast this week and urged churches to offer compassion, empathy and healing to women who have abortions.
Unfortunately, Chorley also argued that churches should accept women’s decisions to have abortions. She never mentioned how that decision destroys the life of an innocent human being in the womb, or how Christianity teaches that killing an innocent human being is wrong.
The Baptist minister said her decision to have an abortion was “wrenching,” and it left her feeling “sad” with a sense of “loss.” Still, she justified her decision to abort her second child 12 years ago.
I was serving in a congregation in New England at the time I realized I was pregnant. I was far away from family and friends. I had always imagined I would have a second child and I knew that it would be a struggle on our family financially as well as add to the stress of our marriage, which was starting to fall apart. I didn’t want to bring a baby into the world that would feel it was a burden—and I prayed to God to help me make the best decision I could in a situation that seemed impossible.
Later, she added:
Faith is so much more than judging right from wrong. Faith is about how we make meaning in our lives, how we understand our God, and how we live our values. Decisions about whether and when to grow one’s family carry the deepest meaning, and religious women make this decision in conversation with God, just as we do every decision.
Chorley is correct that churches need to do a better job of reaching out to women who have had abortions, but she never acknowledges that the root of these women’s pain is the abortion itself. To prevent more pain, churches should not accept abortions. Rather, they should be doing more to help stop abortions by offering pregnant and parenting families love and support.
Abortions are not the answer. They are not good for women or their unborn children. Not only do abortions kill unborn children, they often cause mothers to suffer intense emotional and sometimes physical pain. A number of studies have linked abortion with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, suicidal tendencies and other psychological problems. Abortions also can have profound emotional effects on other members of the family, especially fathers and siblings of the aborted child.
Churches should be places where women and families can find healing and forgiveness when they are suffering because of an abortion. Debby Efurd, director of Post-Abortion Support for Involved Life in Dallas, Texas, explained that churches must reach out with compassion and understanding toward those who are hurting and need forgiveness.
“Understand their need for forgiveness,” Efurd wrote in 2013. “Many believe that because they knew it was wrong and did it anyway, abortion is a sin too big for God to forgive and often are unable to forgive themselves.”