Moving Beyond Pro-Birth

(This is not a critique, but what I believe is an honest starting point for a dialog regarding mothers and babies and how the church can be the embodiment of the love of Christ)

I have seen so much passion regarding this issue, so much time, energy, finances, thought and more being poured into the anti-abortion stance by Christians and christian groups. I’m not sure that I’ve seen so much passion from the church in the USA regarding any other issue (at least from my limited perspective).  I’m excited to see so much passion by the church (though at times I feel it is misguided) and I want to empower people to direct that passion to love for babies, children and mothers (completely families). I have a hunch though.

I’m starting to think and believe that the church isn’t pro-life at all. If you could call the church anything regarding this issue it would be “pro-birth”. When I look at the church wholistically and specifically regarding the issue of abortion I see a drive to insist that the only moral route for a pregnant mother is for a baby to be born. But before and after that I see very little effort by the church as a whole to live through our actions a truly “pro-life” stance. Let us love in actions and in truth.

So, that being said, here is my beginning list of ways the church can and should be The Church regarding the issue of pregnancy, babies, families, birth and abortion. I want to start with the ethos of the communities.

Looking at the statistics (regarding premarital sex) and beliefs (against abortion), I find it a little odd that (with one exception) I have never seen a young woman who was pregnant out of wedlock in any church or youth group I attended or was a part of (nor at Wheaton College where I went to undergrad). This concerns me on two levels. First, it says that couples that are getting pregnant and are unmarried are disappearing from the church, or could be secretly having abortions, because of the obvious social acceptableness of being pregnant and unmarried in the church. Secondly, it means the church, by and large, is an extremely uncomfortable place for a woman (or couple) who is pregnant to come to and find a support system.
The church is failing to live out it’s roll because we are shouting condemnation and judgement so loud no one is comfortable coming to us for the love of Christ.

Pastors and Youth Pastors need to take the roll of shifting the ethos of the church to be a welcome place for pregnant teens and unwed mothers (by and large it is not). Sermons need to be preached from the pulpit (of grace, not of condemnation), individuals and families need to be loved, cared for, apologized to. Students need to feel comfortable coming to the parents, youth pastors, or friends, for help regardless of the circumstances.

In addition, the church should be living by example a holistic love for people through out the life span, regardless of circumstance. By and large, most churches in the US participate in meager acts of charity (again, this has been my experience).  A person, of any age, should be able to walk in the church door and have their needs met. And I mean that to an extreme. (I’m talking church, not government, so feel free to accuse me of being a complete church socialist or communist ;).  Every man, woman and child within the vicinty of a church should be able to come there and have something to eat, proper clothes and a roof over their head (my church here is far short of that as well, and my own life does not live up to this standard I admit). It says something about us in the church when we claim to be pro-life, but we spend are money and resources on ourselves just like our neighbors while children go hungry around us and woman feel unable to go through with a pregnancy.

Lastly, we as Christians should be in relationships that would allow us the opportunity to intervene and shower our love and support on a woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy. I’ll be the first to admit, I have very few relationships that would put me in a position to help someone and support them before they made a decision. Abortions, by and large, are done in secret, many times because they want to keep the pregnancy a secret. If I was a young pregnant mother, Churches and Christians would likely be the last place I would go, you can feel the venom of condemnation and judgment just imagining it. We need to be those people of unconditional love. We need to be the people that a young pregnant couple could come to and ask for our support in making the right decision, and that we would love them in action, unconditionally. I fear the church (myself included) is not at that level of relationship with the woman (and men) who are being faced with these decisions, and we need to be. I think this is one of the churches great moral failings.

[photo credit]

17 thoughts on “Moving Beyond Pro-Birth”

  1. While I was a Taylor (“Wheaton by the Cornfields”), a friend in my dorm found out she was pregnant just weeks before graduating. She was terrified that someone would find out, that she’d get kicked out of school, that she wouldn’t graduate. She was sure she would be ostracized socially from her friends at school and planned on never attending a homecoming.

    I was glad I was able to love on her, support her, encourage her in her in her choice to not only keep the baby, but also keep her graduate-school plans. The road trip with my pregnant friend to find an apartment at her new school is one I’ll never forget. Last I heard, her little boy is growing up fast, she finished her doctorate, and is in a much healthier relationship with a very respectful guy who loves her son very much. Can’t say that all our Taylor classmates were so supportive.

  2. “If I was a young pregnant mother, Churches and Christians would likely be the last place I would go”.

    Great observation… and something we can change easily if so inclined.

  3. I’ve encountered two churches within the last year wherein they refused to allow a baby shower for an unwed mother in the church. I am sickened by this. It appears that the church wants to put degrees on sin. Is it ok to have a baby shower for a married mother who gossips, or lies, or back-bites? We ALL sin and fall short of the glory of God.

    I was told at one of the churches that a shower couldn’t be held because the young woman’s sin was “visible.” Wow. In God’s eyes, all sin is transparent.

    If anyone knows of a Baptist church in the Louisburg/Wake Forest/Raleigh North Carolina area that does not condemn people based on the degree of visibility of his/her sin, please let me know.

  4. Yeah, I agree. This past year I volunteered as a counselor/parenting class leader at a local crisis pregnancy center. They did a great job of helping to avert abortions and even trying to equip the women on what it means to be a parent. But after the birth? Nothing. I kept thinking about how when I had my daughter it was the hardest year of my life, especially the first six months, they were hell. I had postpartum depression, a husband who was home all the time, and tons of family that babysat and supported me through it all…and I STILL had such a hard time adjusting to motherhood. I kept thinking about all these teenage moms who didn’t necessarily have all of that and wondering how they were going to do as a new mom. I moved to another state recently, so I didn’t have time to really pursue it, but every time I asked someone about the lack of ministry to these girls after the birth, it seemed to be something that just didn’t fit in their mission of lowering the abortion rates. Right now I’m praying about what it would look like for me to start some sort of low-key ministry to women like these in my new city.
    The other thing I was reminded of was a friend of my sister’s recently who found-out she was pregnant. She’s an international student at the local university who comes from a Muslim family and country and would certainly be killed or ostracized if they ever found-out she got pregnant. She lived with relatives so it wasn’t something she could hide. She felt like her only option was abortion. My sister told her that there were people at our church who could help her and take her in, and I think she was totally on the right track. The girl ended-up getting an abortion anyway, but it made me realize that this is the perfect situation for the church to really put actions behind words. If you knew this girl, would you welcome her to come live with you and have her baby (either to raise or for adoption)? When the rubber hits the road, how involved are we wiling to really get besides encouraging a girl who could possibly lose her life and everything she’s known to not have an abortion? Pretty easy for US to say.

  5. Ariah,

    I think you are right. We need to walk the walk. An essential part of being pro-life (or pro-birth for that matter) is to recognize that pregnancy, whether in or out of wedlock, should never be considered shameful. Certainly the conception may have been the result of a mistake, a sin perhaps, but we must ask ourselves whether a sexual sin is really powerful enough to taint the beautiful miracle that God is knitting together in a mother’s womb. Our very faith is built on the tenet that God brings order from chaos, He brings good in the midst of evil, and He triumphs in the face of our mistakes. If we really want to call ourselves pro-life (or pro-birth), it is a profound mistake every time we shame the life we are trying to protect or shame the mother who carries her.


  6. My boyfriend’s sister had to apologize publicly for her teen pregnancy in front of her entire church … even though she happily raised her wonderful daughter and did marry her father. (They are still married, with three more kids, nearly eighteen years later.) Stories like this horrify me and drive me away from wanting anything to do with a church. You are absolutely right. Pro-birth needs to be backed up with unequivocal, non-judgmental support of pregnant women and mothers, at least if there is hope of drawing ever drawing other people like me from the outside in …

    Though I didn’t grow up in this type of church, similar concerns about respect for women in difficult situations (even beyond of my strong pro-choice beliefs) were a large part of my decision to leave.

    I do advocate publicly for pro-choice positions, and I have a good friend who used to be a lobbyist for a prominent pro-life organization. We had a discussion once, brief, where we didn’t try to change each other’s minds but agreed that both of our positions stemmed from love and nothing else. There were tears in our eyes when we hugged then. Less emotional (more just good, goofy friends) is the genuine hug we shared in the state capitol when we were lobbying for the same bill on very different sides. If you could have seen all the political insider jaws drop! Anyhow, what I’m saying is that truly embracing love for all people and their potential, and understanding how love shapes different views is what can bring distinct sides together and, ultimately, make life better for everyone, no matter how we see it.

    Thanks for elevating the discussion again.

  7. In Madison, Wisconsin a collaborative effort of Christians has resulted in creation of Elizabeth House, a home for single women facing pregnancy alone. Elizabeth House offers residents safety, mentoring, education, counseling, financial and personal support, medical assistance, and life-skills planning. Most residents remain at ELIzabeth house through all or most of their pregnancies and 6-12 months after the child’s birth.

    Providing this kind of support requires a great deal more than just saying, “Oh, those Christians should….” Many Christians in the Madison area – both those with deep pockets and those without – have contributed thousands of hours, many hundreds of thousands of dollars, and physical labor to build and maintain this facility.

    This kind of ministry is possible. It is also costly and resource-demanding for everyone involved. To be quite frank, the young women seeking help from Elizabeth house have often brought multiple needs to the table. Residents need high school diplomas, psychiatric care, basic parenting skills, clothing for both mom and baby, money, medical care, basic life skills training, re-parenting, etc. etc. etc. This ministry requires the services of a full-time counselor/social worker, full-time house parents, and volunteer teams of tutors, mentors, “befrienders,” fundraisers and others.

    I am in pastoral ministry, primarily working with women survivors of abuse. In my 40 years as a Christian feminist I have observed that some people offer little or no support to unmarried mothers after their babies are born because of ignorance, lack of sensitivity, or religious legalism. I have also observed that some other people simply don’t know where to start and the needs seem overwhelming.

  8. Questions: Those who shared some personal stories of family or churches they’ve been a part of. Do you mind if I (or you) post those stories on Wednesday’s post as well?

  9. Ariah,
    Thank you so much for writing this. I think it is an excellent challenge to all persons who profess to follow Jesus to live with open arms, to love those struggling with how they can continue to live their lives the best they can.
    I unwed and pregnant at 20 years old. The father, now my husband, and I decided we would get married and we went to a church. Our premarital counseling fell short in so many ways because it felt that because we were already pregnant, we did not really need to discuss much about how to live as a married couple. Just because we had already had sex, we did not need to talk about it or how it would play out in our married life. I did not know at the time what a joke that “counseling” was, but now, looking back, I wish I could help others in similar situations.
    Now, my husband and I work with the youth ministry at our church. Our daughter is 5 1/2 and we have been married 6 years. If you do the math, you can figure it out that I was 5 months pregnant when I was married, but it hardly comes up with people at church because we are not in that situation now. It is true that I have yet to meet a pregnant teen in this community. It is thought provoking because there is a very publicized women’s facility in our community that provides abortions and other female medical services. How do we approach this topic respectfully and yet taking a radical step in making those “secrets” come out so people can grow and have healthier lives?

  10. Great post neighbor!

    A couple stories – when I was a youth pastor in a small mid-west city a girl in our youth group got pregnant – by one of my wrestlers where I coached … people offered her support – but by the time we knew the boy’s mom had already made arrangements to take her to another city for an abortion – one day she skipped school and came home very empty – about 2 years ago we got a christmas letter from this woman and her family – she told us how she wished she had listened to us – how hard life had been and how she has finally found healing ..

    story 2 – while here in MPLS one of the boys on the block (lived half-way ‘tween Ariah and I) who also came to church and our youth stuff – came over after school when he was 15 – to tell me his girl was PG – I said there is always a God way to deal with every situation – even with the mistakes in our lives – his girl kept her baby and was very active in the church and youth group – even speaking to other girls (while expecting and after the baby came) about not being sexually active before marriage… she even went with us on a mission trip to MX while 8 months pregnant – it was a real teaching – learning – experience ….

    I wish I could say everything worked out perfect with them as a couple – they never married – but my neighbor kid is now a young professional and still very involved and committed to his first child…

    I’m glad you are probing into this issue like this, AF. – never easy often messy – very human!

  11. Similar to Elizabeth House that Julia described, Room at the Inn ( in Charlotte is an outreach program and residential service (for up to 24 months) for pregnant mothers and their children. There are many services they provide. I know the catholic church here supports this place, as I’m sure some other churches in the area do as well. We can always do more, but programs like these are a good place to start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *