This article was originally written for our Sanctity of Human Life Sunday bulletin insert back in 2005. Then it was repurposed for a March 25, 2013, "Monday Musing" blog post. Since this is an issue that never goes away -- and has been in the news regarding a pregnant teen and her Christian school -- it's good to revisit it again. The principles are still sound and relevant.

Most women who obtain abortions say they rarely attend church, if at all. According to the research, Protestants are actually under-represented in the population of women having abortions. But it's troubling to learn that "one in five abortion patients [of those reporting a religious affiliation] identified themselves as born-again, evangelical, charismatic or fundamentalist."1

The bottom line is, too many teens from Christian homes wind up at an abortion clinic. They know having sex before marriage is wrong, and don't want to disappoint their parents by admitting their sin and the pregnancy that results from it.

Their reaction is almost as old as time. After Adam and Eve sinned, their natural inclination was to hide and cover up. From Eden on, sin has driven us away from God and each other. Yet the good news is that the cross of Jesus Christ brings sinners back together and to God.

Redeemed people should know better, but sometimes the messages we send our teens express an utter lack of grace: "Don't bother coming home if you get pregnant!" "I'll disown you if you ever humiliate me that way!" or "You'll be expelled from your Christian school!" . . . as though unwed pregnancy is the unpardonable sin. 

 
As revealed in a "Which is Worse?" blog post, having a baby outside marriage is less acceptable to Americans than is the act between unmarried partners leading to pregnancy (58% to 66%). What's wrong with this picture?2

Sometimes teens mistakenly perceive this is how adults will respond without having heard anyone say such a thing to them. It's appalling to think that babies have died as a result of a false assumption. Parents would be horrified and heartbroken to learn a grandchild has died on that basis.

Let's get one thing straight: Sexual sin is wrong whether it results in pregnancy or not. And pregnancy is God's gift despite sin. Unborn babies ought never be punished for the sin of a parent.

Teens may be confused on this point and see ending a pregnancy as a way to avoid admitting sexual sin. Some parents of wayward teens may also see abortion as a way to preserve their reputations. 

Pregnancy may be a consequence of sexual sin, but not always. When it does occur outside marriage, it is a sign of something wrong. The message that's too often heeded is this: "Get rid of the unborn baby and get rid of the problem." 

Abortion does not, however, solve problems. It does not bring the freedom, joy, grace, acceptance, love, peace, blessing, and hope that confession of sin provides. No, instead it compounds the sin and sorrow.

How can we spare each other the pain? What messages can parents, churches, and Christian schools give teenagers to help them understand both the sinfulness of sex outside marriage and the futility of hiding a resulting pregnancy under the cloak of abortion? Can we encourage confession and pave the way for transformation . . . long before our children face these temptations?

Here are some things we can all do:

  • Leave doors of communication open: "You can talk to me about anything." 

  • Express a willingness to help in times of trouble: "Whatever happens, we'll get through it together."

  • Be honest and mature about your emotions: "I may feel hurt and get angry when you disappoint me, but I'll never stop loving you."

  • Show mercy to anyone who confesses sin (sexual or otherwise), following Paul's example in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8: "You are forgiven."

  • Demonstrate compassion to families who struggle with their teenagers' unplanned pregnancies: "How can I help?"

  • Celebrate every baby's life, regardless of how he or she was conceived: "Thank you for not choosing abortion!"

Where will a teenager go when she becomes pregnant outside marriage? To her parents or to her friends? To the pregnancy care center or to Planned Parenthood? To her church or to the abortion clinic?

No one wants to become an unwitting accomplice in an abortion. Therefore, let's not abandon anyone to abortion through a thoughtless comment. Let's choose our messages wisely.

1. "Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008," Guttmacher Institute, May 2010, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/characteristics-us-abortion-patients-2008, page 9, accessed 6/21/2017; note that this would be 15 percent of the total number obtaining an abortion (20 percent of the 75 percent who report a religious affiliation). An earlier study found that 13 percent of women obtaining abortions call themselves 'born-again' or 'evangelical' (Jones et al., "Patterns in the Socioeconomic Characteristics of Women Obtaining Abortions in 2000-2001," Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 34:5, September/October 2002). The pattern continued, for the most part, in the most recent report: "Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients in 2014 and Changes Since 2008," Guttmacher Institute, May 2016; accessed 6/19/2017.

2. Gallup Poll Social Series: Values and Beliefs, Gallup News Service, May 8-11, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/file/poll/170798/Moral_Acceptability_140530.pdf, http://www.gallup.com/poll/170789/new-record-highs-moral-acceptability.aspx; accessed 7/7/2014.

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