Post-abortion ministry occupies a large space in the pro-life community, partly because so many women who've had abortions find validation in it. Here's a community that agrees with them that abortion is bad and should be stopped. Here's a community that understands why it hurts and has given them voice. It makes them feel at home, while the pro-choice movement denies them a place.
Everyone in the pro-life movement knows abortion does something irreparable to the unborn baby. For that reason, we also know it's something a person can come to look back on with deep regret. Yet, it's also something from which a person can recover. On that basis, most pro-life ministries reach out to post-abortive people with open arms, offering support groups to women as well as men.
Not all methods for dealing with past abortions are created equal, however. If the question is, "What should a person do with the pain or guilt of abortion?" we can understand there'd be quite a wide divergence of answers because there are various assumptions or beliefs concerning sin and redemption.
Some in the pro-life movement deny the reality of guilt and a God who demands an accounting for actions. They deal with post-abortion pain solely on the basis of psychology. Because the psychological risks and complications of abortion have been well documented, it's helpful for therapists to inquire about a woman's abortion history and watch for adverse reactions. It helps if counselors affirm the difficulties associated with abortion, but this may not go far enough.
Other approaches deal with the problem spiritually, but tend to "specialize" abortion by emphasizing it over other sins. To be sure, abortion is special in the way it often compounds sins -- from sexual immorality to secrecy and the taking of an innocent human life. Post-abortion "syndrome" or "trauma" also manifests itself in an array of powerful emotions -- anger, grief, despair -- that may not be involved in the aftermath of other sins. Nevertheless, pastors and other Christian counselors should be able to talk about forgiveness from abortion in much the same way as they would deal with someone over any sin.
Several post-abortion books suffer from sloppy, or non-existent, editing. Post-abortion suffering ought not to be so special that books or Bible studies about it are exempt from theological review. Indeed, because abortion is such a pervasive problem -- with something like 43% of US women having an abortion in their lifetimes -- it deserves serious attention from pastors and theologians.
Sloppy theology yields these extra-biblical recommendations:
- Visualizing the aborted baby alive in heaven, in the arms of a loving Jesus.
- Asking God to reveal the aborted baby's name so that forgiveness can be sought and obtained from the baby.
- Forgiving oneself when bad feelings persist.
Nowhere in Scripture do we find a basis for these practices. On the contrary, Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin. If God's word says Christ's work on the cross is the basis for justification, then we must accept it as fact, no matter what it is we've done. Faith like this honors God. Our feelings will follow.
As we've evaluated various methods of post-abortion ministry, we've found other things to watch out for:
- Making the cross of Jesus more about our pain, particularly the pain of abortion, than about satisfying the holiness of God. Christ died for the pain that our sin caused God. The best post-abortion books and Bible studies will put God's holiness first.
- Failing to use biblical terms -- exchanging a weighty concept such as "being reconciled to God" with "healing." Sin is not a sickness and "health" is not an adequate substitution for "justification."
- Similarly, many programs urge people to "embrace God's love" rather than "believing" Christ or "receiving" His forgiveness.
- Speaking of forgiveness for an abortion apart from salvation in Christ, as though that were possible.
Here are some resources that are God-centered and deliberately careful in their explanations of sin and redemption:
- Living in His Forgiveness, by Sandy Day (Caleb Ministries)
- Forgiven and Set Free, by Linda Cochrane
- Binding Up the Brokenhearted, from Healing Hearts
- Healing a Father's Heart (for men), by Linda Cochrane and Kathy Jones
- Reconciled, an online course for men
Some post-abortion ministries prefer to draw women in who aren't ready for talk of God or participation in a Bible study. Surrendering the Secret, by Pat Layton (Lifeway) starts out focusing on women's pain in abortion but is faithful in its closing message about God's holiness and her need of forgiveness for sin.
Other reliable resources: