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After years of working with Lutherans For Life and CareNet, I have heard many horror stories of young Christian women trying to deal with their unplanned pregnancies. In a local Christian high school in my area, I was told of a young student who, upon finding out she was pregnant, threw herself down the stairs hoping to cause a miscarriage. In another local church, a church youth worker became pregnant, and after pressure was exerted by the parents, she was eventually dismissed from her position. I remember talking to the Christian mother of a daughter who as a member of a pro-life Lutheran congregation felt only condemnation and judgment from her church friends when they learned of her daughter’s pregnancy.
According to a 2015 LifeWay Research study, only seven percent of churchgoing women who have had abortions have discussed their experiences with anyone at church. Two-thirds of these post-abortive women said church members judge single women who are pregnant, and fewer than half believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
The church has a hard time balancing an abstinence culture with a prolife culture that wants women to choose life for their unborn child.
As Christian author Julie Roys notes, “Christians often fall into one or two ditches when dealing with sin in their own communities. Either we completely overlook it and err on the side of compromising holiness—or we fail to forgive, punish harshly, and miss the heart of the gospel. What’s needed is a proper view of biblical discipline—a practice that seeks to restore and heal, not wound and punish.”
Which ditch are you in? Is there a compromise position? To me, the extreme danger is pushing young Christian women in an unplanned pregnancy to abortion because of the shame they feel and the judgment they expect from their church. Aren’t we only compounding the sin when through our actions we push young women to abort their children? Can’t we as the church encourage sexual abstinence until marriage and yet provide compassion for those who fail and become pregnant? I remember talking to my girls when they were growing up. “Yes, God’s design is for sex within marriage, but if you make a mistake, I will always love you. You can come to me and I will help you.” Can’t we in the church take the same approach? Educate our youth on God’s plan for their sexuality realizing that some will fail and we will need to welcome the new lives that God has created.
At CareNet, we worked with women’s groups within churches to provide support for some of our clients who were keeping their babies. What a wonderful way to live out Christian compassion. The young girls were encouraged, prayed for, loved unconditionally, and given a baby shower. We did not judge their behavior. That was up to God. Certainly, young women within our church deserve the same, if not better. Young women within our churches are watching how we as the Christian community treat unplanned pregnancy within our own four walls. Yes, it is very important to educate our people on the dangers of abortion and the value of life. But we will fail as life advocates if we do not demonstrate compassion for those among us who find themselves caught in the web of unplanned pregnancy.
Diane E. Schroeder is a former president of Lutherans For Life.