by the Rev. Canon Mark A. Pearson
–Based on a talk given to the annual banquet of the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Addison County, Vermont, October 8, 2009. Pictured with Canon Mark is Lori Huessy, Center Director of Care Net of Addison Co..
To be “Pro Life” means to be more than pro child in the womb, essential as this is. It also means to be pro the woman who chose an abortion. God loves her, too, and wants to forgive and restore her. How do we minister to a woman who had an abortion?
1. Tell her God loves her and wants to restore her
Many women who have had an abortion think God must hate them. This is even true for many who do not yet possess a well-thought-through belief about the serious moral wrong of abortion. Therefore, we start with God’s love, not with a focus on sin. This seems to be God’s pattern in telling His story. Note that Genesis starts with the beauty of creation (chapters 1-2), only then dealing with what went wrong (chapter 3).
The woman (like all of us) needs assurance that God sent Christ to die in her place, for her sin, even for a sin as severe as hers. Show her such Scriptures
as 1 Timothy 1:15, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….” Tell her about the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, and how Jesus forgave her (Luke 7:36-50). Tell her the story of John Newton, the slave trader. God reached into his life and saved his soul, something he commemorated in his hymn “Amazing Grace.”
2. Help her confess the sin of abortion for the sin that it truly is
Assured of God’s love, she must now face the seriousness of what she did. Because the fetus — the BABY — in the womb is a human being, to kill it — for whatever reason — is to commit murder, no matter how inconvenient that pregnancy may have been. To move on in one’s life, the woman who had an abortion must recognize what she did was murder. Merely to feel the sadness of the loss of a child is not enough. The sin must be acknowledged and confessed.
People have sometimes said that to push this point is cruel. The fact is, NOT to push this point is cruel. NOT to push this point keeps one stuck. Yet, while you push the point, you love the person. People in the Recovery Movement know this truth. Step 1 in Alcoholics Anonymous is, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” My friend Bob Towsley notes, “It’s been my experience, as a recovering alcoholic who has attended AA meetings for almost fifteen years, that if one fails to honestly and completely surrender in Step 1, no progress can be made.” A person cannot be forgiven a sin until she confesses the sin.
3. Help her to own her forgiveness
For many the difficult part is not acknowledging and confessing the sin, but owning the forgiveness. When one realizes the horror or what he or she has done and has truly confessed it God, it is often hard to believe God has forgiven. Help her to understand that what counts is God’s objective promise, not her subjective feelings. Satan, if he cannot keep her from admitting her sin, will try to keep her from owning God’s forgiveness.
We may have to do this many times. Depression and suicide still attend those who feel the guilt of abortion. Telling them once that they are forgiven is often not enough. Keep pointing out such Scriptures as 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He Who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
A helpful ministry which both provides wise answers to the many questions surrounding recovery from abortion and which offers people healing retreats around the country is Rachel’s Vineyard. Check this out on line.
4. Name the child and give the child to God
When a child is born we give him or her a name. Historically the church baptized this child into the covenant of the faithful. Even those churches which have departed from this will do something, often some ceremony of dedication. Why would we not do the same with a child who was aborted? [The same is true for a child who was miscarried.]
Suggest her pastor have a brief service during which her child will be named before God and commended to Him. If one does not know the gender of the child, pick a name that works for both, such as Lindsey or Dana. Use the committal part of the burial office of the Book of Common Prayer (or similar) to commend this now-named soul to God.
Christian believers will see their children one day, safe with God and made perfect. Some people report a dream or vision in which they see their child happy in heaven. This is wonderful if God chooses to give it. Do not seek to communicate with this child (Satan will send a lying spirit masquerading as the child, opening one up to future demonic problems).
Some people are not at all sure about the importance of naming the child and commending him or her to the Lord, but such hesitation might demonstrate they are not yet totally sure that the child in the womb was truly a human being..
5. Forgive those complicit in the abortion
Some women, especially young or lacking financial resources or both, had an abortion because they were coerced by a parent or boyfriend. While they now need little convincing of the need to confess the sin to God, they remain stuck in the healing process because they are angry and bitter at the one(s) who forced them to have the abortion. Jesus makes it clear, though, that “if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).
This doesn’t mean God makes light of what they did. Rather, He is saying for the women to let go the bitterness and turn things over to Him. When God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” (Romans 12:19 referring to Leviti-cus 19:18) he means both (a) you let go the bitterness and (b) He will punish those who coerced you to kill a baby.
It’s a joy to visit Pro Life centers and meet children whose lives were spared because the actions of Pro Life workers. It’s also a joy to meet women who had done a terrible thing, but by God’s “truth in love” were able to be restored to God and set on a path to joyful discipleship. +