Unplanned Pregnancies; Being a Church that Cares, Not Condemns
New findings reveal that women who have had an abortion, often feel the church is not a caring place for them, and at the time of their unplanned pregnancy, the church didn’t provide resources for them. In preparation for Sanctity of Human Life Day, we lay-out successful ways churches are ministering to women and men with unplanned pregnancies, or who are dealing with the aftermath of having an abortion.
Unplanned Pregnancies in the Church
Abortion is not something “other” women deal with, church-going women are just as susceptible to finding themselves with an unplanned pregnancy. According to the research, more than 1 in 3 women were attending a Christian church once a month or more at the time of their first abortion.
“Those numbers aren’t shocking to me,” said Tammy Kocher, Executive Director of New Life Family Services, an affiliate ministry of Transform Minnesota. “Abortion is not unique to the secular world, it happens every day in our churches.”
“I believe churches have done a disservice to their people by not talking about abortion, or by talking about it in a harsh, judgmental way. If a women is struggling with a crisis pregnancy, and the church has been silent or judgmental, it is unlikely she is going to confide in someone there. It is a very vulnerable time, and she needs to feel safe in order to receive the help she needs,” said Kocher.
47% of women say that churches are not a safe place to talk about pregnancy options, and 51% of women believe that churches do not have resources prepared to discuss options during an unplanned pregnancies.
We believe the church needs to be a place that offers help, support, kindness, and resources for women and men who are dealing with unplanned pregnancies. And yet according to the research, the church isn’t presenting itself as a place to turn to when a couple is at the critical juncture of contemplating abortion or choosing life.
More than half of church-going women say no one at the church knows that they have had an abortion.
“Churches can’t back away from the issue if they want to make a difference,” said Kocher. “When churches are willing to step out and talk about the issue in a caring and compassionate way, still holding fast to the truth that God created life, it creates a safe haven for this issue to be talked about, and it creates an opportunity for healing for those in the midst of pregnancy.”
Sanctity of Human Life Day
On January 22nd, the 42nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, New Life Family Services will help dozens of churches around the state celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Day. On Sundays throughout January, many churches are publically taking a stand for life; showing their church community that they are a safe, loving place for women to ask for help. New Life Family Services is sending staff and former clients to churches to share their stories, and share how churches can help women choose life when contemplating having an abortion.
Reverend Paul Tillman of Oakdale Wesleyan Church is one of those churches celebrating Sanctity of Human Life Day. Reverend Tillman knows too well that unplanned pregnancies happen inside the church family. When he was a senior in high school, a close friend ran away from home and returned pregnant. “With my friend’s pregnancy, this future and feminine issue became imminent and personal. With my mother’s encouragement, I not only maintained a supportive friendship with this girl, but also arranged a baby shower, and eventually did my first babysitting,” said Rev. Tillman.
How Churches Can Help
Today Rev. Tillman volunteers at New Life’s First Care clinics, as a peer counselor for men who come in with their partners for pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, he also teaches parenting classes to couples. “For me, affirming life, means also affirming fatherhood,” said Rev. Tillman. “As a volunteer, I can strengthen married men, single fathers, and teen boys who need the same support as my childhood friend.”
“The Conqueror’s program was a wonderful resource for our church. We provided the facility, and New Life provided the leadership,” said Mike Olmstead, Pastor of Evergreen Bloomington. “It’s one thing for a church to recognize they need to deal with the uncomfortable issue of abortion, but it’s a big jump to actually plan a curriculum and have people ready to lead it. Because New Life’s Conqueror’s resources were available, we were able to meet a real and profound need in our church.”
Olmstead hopes more people from other churches and from the community feel welcome to attend the Conquerors program at Evergreen Bloomington.
“People might want to deal with their issues (after having an abortion), but they don’t want to deal with their issues within their own church community. They feel safe going to a church, but awkward going to their own church. We’re a church that offers anonymity here,” said Olmstead.
“These women take a 10-12 week class, and the women in the church come around them and support them, and throw them a wonderful baby shower or celebration if they choose life; whether that be parenting or adoption,” said Cooke.
She plans to connect the new Embrace Grace group with other churches and pregnancy clinics, and it will serve any pregnant woman who wants to attend.
“I believe women who choose life are so brave, and deserve the church’s kindness, because the alternative is a woman who keeps it a secret and gets an abortion,” said Cooke.
Supporting Babies From the Beginning
Churches with a heart for adoption, often don’t realize that supporting the life of that child needs to start from the very beginning; when the child’s birth parents are weighing their options during an unplanned pregnancy.
“Adoption would never happen if it weren’t for the birth parents choosing life. Churches love adoption and support it from the back side, by supporting a family with a new baby. But they often miss the part where adoption typically starts from a crisis pregnancy,” said Kocher.
“I think a lot of Christians in the churches are focusing on the baby, and that’s awesome, but I don’t think there is a lot of sympathy and love for the women and her needs. We need to help these women keep these babies. The church needs to come around these women even after the babies are born, to support them with baby-sitting and offer wisdom and resources,” said Cooke.
“Churches are so much about healing, restoration, and changing lives, but they can miss the fact that there are so many people that are inhibited from having God’s great story of restoration by not talking about the issue of abortion and unplanned pregnancies,” said Kocher.
Don’t keep quiet, because nearly half of all women who have had an abortion believe that pastors’ teaching on forgiveness doesn’t seem to apply to terminated pregnancies. Churches need to teach the truth that God’s grace covers all our sins, Jesus didn’t die of the cross for select sins. Encourage your church leadership to be a forgiving, supportive, safe place for pregnant women to go to for help.
If your church would like to get involved with Sanctity of Human Life Day, or your church would like to learn how to be a better resource for people with unplanned pregnancies, email Brandie at New Life Family Services. Click here for a PDF bulletin insert for church services, and here for more information on how to offer resources at your church.