Abortion is very widespread in our society: 34% of all women in the UK will have at least one abortion in their lifetime.* Statistics show this is constant across most population groups within the UK, possibly including Christians of all denominations. It is therefore helpful to understand why so many people experience an unintended pregnancy followed by an abortion because the sheer scale of what is happening puts us all at a far greater risk of abortion that we realise. Far from being something that only happens to others this is an issue which has the potential to confront us personally in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. We believe that understanding the hidden issues that come up on our course could help a reader avoid both an abortion and an unintended pregnancy in their own life and also the life of their family.
The challenge for us today is to know how we can use knowledge from the Post Abortion Healing Course to gain an integrated view of abortion that is consistent with our desire to control our fertility and our lives and also our faith.
Forming an engaged view
There are two useful theoretical steps that we can take towards forming an engaged view of abortion:
Firstly, move from the abstract to the personal. NOT: ‘should a woman have the right to an abortion?’ BUT: ‘would I personally have an abortion?’
Our view need not be framed solely by the question of women’s rights because abortion is legal and has been for fifty years. The question therefore is not “should a woman have the right to choose an abortion?” because she does. The real question is: “am I personally going to have an abortion?” or: “are there circumstances when I would?” or “am I engaged in behaviours which leave me exposed to an abortion?”
Secondly, move from the extreme to the ordinary. NOT: for rape or disability, BUT the most likely situation of contraceptive failure or misuse.
One of the key factors in the widespread acceptance of abortion in the 1960’s was the idea that abortion should be allowed in the exceptional cases of rape or disability. The truth is that over 95% of all abortions are as a result of personal preference, mainly due to contraceptive failure or misuse. The real question therefore is not: “would I have an abortion as the result of an extreme circumstance?” but: “would I have an abortion as the result of contraceptive failure or misuse?” These are the real questions we need to be asking ourselves if we are going to form a consistent view.
We would like to suggest three practical steps that we could begin to take as individuals which might assist in avoiding an unintended pregnancy or an abortion in our own lives or families.
- If you are in a relationship it might be helpful to discuss the possibility of pregnancy despite taking contraception. Not just “Shall we use contraception?” but “what shall we do if the contraception does not work?” You may be planning on not having sex before marriage, but is it still worth asking yourself, if you did end up having sex and got pregnant, what would you do? Even in a long-established marriage this would be a helpful conversation to have as around 50% of all abortions now occur within marriage or a long term stable relationship. If the reply heard by a woman was: “we would have to see at the time” or “I would do whatever you wanted to do”, I would advise pushing further into the subject. Enquire: “What do you mean by that? Would you be prepared under any circumstance to have the child? What do you think about abortion?”
- If you are a man ask yourself what would you do if your partner came to you and said she was pregnant? It is helpful to understand that to a woman it is the immediate reaction that is important. Would you be able to commit yourself immediately to the support of the child? Absolutely the worst place to start thinking about abortion is in a crisis, so if you have not done so before why not talk through the issue of abortion with your partner today? Would you want her to have an abortion?
- If you are a parent of a teenager we would encourage you to start discussing this as a family. The main conversation that needs to take place is not so much with the teenagers as between the parents, or if you are a single parent perhaps with a trusted friend. What would you do if a daughter came to you and said “Mum (or Dad) I’m pregnant” (or if a son said his girlfriend was pregnant)? Would you be able to offer your unconditional support? Would you be able to say “we will take the child and raise it as one of our own?” Actually the problem of teenage pregnancy is not as great as we think. What would be helpful is not so much to talk with teenagers about abortion as to encourage them to come and speak to you first, whatever the situation. Offer them your unconditional support and tell them whatever the situation you will get through it together. This may pay off later in life should a crisis occur when they are in their 20’s or 30’s. (To assist in this please see in our resource section the booklet: Unplanned Pregnancy, Talking with Teenagers).
Shaping an effective view consistent with our faith
We believe that the correct Christian response to the issue of abortion is to decide not to have one and to live this out as an intentional value. This means not only understanding what our faith tells us about abortion but living this out in our lives. What is the most inconsistent belief to have about abortion? Surely it would be to believe it was wrong but then to have one, which is the position we see time and time again on our courses. We once had a woman on our course who was wonderful, intelligent and articulate. She was passionately anti-abortion and used to protest outside abortion clinics. But when she became unintentionally pregnant she had an abortion. Her theoretical position was not able to stand when an unforeseen event occurred.
Finally we would encourage us all to re-capture the wonder of creation and marvel at the gift of life. Perhaps we could reflect on what the Bible tells us about creation by meditating on Psalm 139,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
*Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2011). The care of women requesting induced abortion. London: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, p.1.