Planned Parenthood recently announced a move away from the label "pro-choice," following survey results showing nearly 25 percent of voters do not identify with traditional abortion labels and another 25 percent do not have strong associations with a political platform.
On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this is where we find ourselves. While most of us have strong opinions on abortion, the political framing of the issue remains polarizing and unable to fully communicate what we believe and feel. We've become strangely disconnected from such an important issue.
Since we don't often think, talk or pray about abortion outside of politics, we also can't expect much to change. The survey results led me to ask: Is God calling his people to move beyond a political platform on abortion and offer a complete expression of his heart?
Most Christians agree that God creates all life, beginning at conception. Psalm 139:13-18 paints a vivid picture of a loving God being intimately involved in forming each of us, with a specific plan for our lives. He could have chosen to bring us into the world in any number of ways, but his design is pregnancy. Pregnancy has to be a major part of our theology when we look at abortion. It's a time and an experience like no other: for nine months, the welfare of the child and the woman are intertwined. Everything done to one impacts the other.
Political platforms fail to offer a complete expression of God's heart because each side chooses one individual's needs to focus on. Pro-life focuses mainly on the needs of the child. Pro-choice focuses mainly on the needs of the woman. God wants to meet the needs of both. We must engage in work that addresses the needs of child and mother, creating an environment that supports both during and after unplanned pregnancy.
A single woman often experiences an identity shift during an unplanned pregnancy that leaves her believing she has become "that girl." Research at the pregnancy center I lead in Chicago shows how a single woman expects shame and judgment on such a scale that life as she knows it will be over. She feels she either has to have an abortion to try and become herself again, or she has to resign herself to overwhelming struggle as a single mom.
We've also found that when we show grace to a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, when we offer acceptance and support, it can change the way she thinks about herself, her future, and the future of her child. There's not a lot of grace in our culture for a single woman who gets pregnant unexpectedly. The standard wisdom is that she has just wrecked her life, de-railed her future. And yet we expect these women to go ahead and have their babies without outside support?
I've heard accounts from single women whose churches would not hold baby showers for them when they were faced with unplanned pregnancies. A Christian response of grace, acceptance and support would look more like this:
- We can acknowledge that pregnancy is not a sin. Rather, sex outside the context of marriage is the sin. We can also acknowledge that many more Christians are engaged in sexual immorality, including pornography, than just women who get pregnant. We must talk about our theology of sexual purity all the time and with everyone involved, not just women facing unplanned pregnancy.
- We then can apply grace. We all need God's forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and grace offers us the path towards transformation through the power of the Spirit.