Abortion has been in the news lately, though you’d be forgiven for missing it with all the noise about same-sex “marriage” and the Trump victory. This year alone, Queensland has seen ongoing attempts to decriminalise abortion. Warsaw has seen thirty thousand people marching to protest (successfully) against a proposed ban on abortion in Poland.
And Australian feminist provocateur Clementine Ford has been promoting the #shoutyourabortion campaign which aims to overturn “the assumption that abortion is still something to be whispered about” that makes even “progressive, outspoken, pro-choice feminists” keep their abortions under wraps and only speak about them in corners, and in murmurs. For these women there is no regret, no shame, no grief, just relief and gratitude.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that, as a Christian, there’s much about this campaign that disturbs me. I can’t view abortion simply as a medical procedure that “deserves no more scrutiny or moralising than would the extraction of a cyst or tooth”.
Human Life: Objectively Valuable
It may be that some women do not feel a sense of grief or shame or guilt following an abortion, but that doesn’t mean that abortion is morally right or even neutral. Our emotions are unreliable moral guides, as is the approval or disapproval of others. Abortion is not wrong because it makes us feel a certain way or because of a social stigma perpetuated by secrecy.
It is God who decides these things, and Scripture tells me that God begins each human life, and that all human life is made in his image (Gen. 1:27; Ps. 139; Job 10:8–11). This means that each human life is precious, and has dignity and value assigned by God himself.
That’s the case too for early or unborn human life. In both Old and New Testaments, the unborn are spoken of as persons, and there is no suggestion that we start as a non-personal being, and then become a person at birth or at some point other than conception (Ps. 139; Isa. 49:1, 5; Jer. 1:5). In fact, the same Greek word is used for the unborn and for young children (brephos: Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; 18:15). It is also possible that the word translated ‘sorcery’ in the New Testament (pharmakeia), which is condemned as sinful behaviour, includes the use of drugs to cause abortion (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 21:8; 22:15).
Throughout Scripture, God is the giver of life, and it is he who decides when a life ends (Job 2:21). The message is clear, even if there isn’t a proof-text: abortion is ending a human life, and, unless there is a grave maternal risk, is an offense against God.
The grief and shame and guilt that many women experience following an abortion is more likely because God’s law is written on their hearts, than simply because of a cultural narrative (Rom 2:14–16). Absence of such emotions is a problem of the heart, not proof that abortion is right—or a human right.
Ending the Silence
However, while I can’t accept the underlying ideology of #shoutyourabortion, I do think Christians need to be talking about abortion a whole lot more than we do.
If the statistics are anything to go by, between a quarter to one-third of women in Australia will have an abortion in their lives. That is a lot of women: women in our workplaces, our families, our streets, and, of course, our churches.
Whether we know it or not, we know them—or, perhaps, we are one of them—and for all its problems, the #shoutyourabortion campaign presents us with a serious challenge: are our churches and friendships places where women feel safe to say they have had an abortion or are considering having one?
If abortion is never talked about, this is unlikely to happen.
I’ve been a Christian for over three decades, heard countless sermons and attended countless women’s retreats and Bible Studies, and in all that time, abortion has seldom been mentioned by the speakers neither men nor women.
When I hear the gospel being preached, the examples given of sins weighing on people’s hearts are things like lying, cheating on our taxes, losing our tempers, and so on—all definitely ‘sins’ for which Christ died, but all rather a long way from ending a human life, even one yet to be born. I even remember one preacher saying to the congregation: “no one here is a murderer, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t sinned.” While some might want to stop short of calling abortion ‘murder’, to a burdened conscience a statement like this might sound like a closed door.
If the only sins we speak about are polite everyday sins, is it any wonder those with deeper, darker secrets don’t feel free to speak of them? Is it because we think that those to whom we preach are only the most upright of sinners? Is it because we don’t believe the statistics about abortion? Is it because we’re afraid to offend or upset (women, in particular), or afraid to cross into a contested public space, where abortion is seen as a woman’s right? Surely, it cannot be because we doubt the blood of Christ is sufficient for these more weighty sins?
Whatever the reason, we need to stop being silent and start speaking about abortion. Not just to say that God’s word condemns it (which it does, and which we must not be afraid to say), but also to say to women who may have had an abortion, or to those who may have condoned or encouraged their partner, friend or daughter to have one, or to doctors and nurses who have performed abortions, that Jesus says to them all:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30
True healing. True forgiveness. True comfort. True peace.
Sharing Grief, Shame and Comfort
But it’s not just preachers who need to be speaking about abortion. It’s all of us. We need to ensure that our friendships, conversations, and Christian communities are places where women can speak of their abortions: places where they can share grief and shame, and know the sure hope of the gospel, and the comforting embrace of Christian fellowship.
If we never say it out loud, they will always be left guessing. I’m not suggesting we follow the feminists’ lead and shout about it, but simply, that we remove it from the taboo list. We may find doing so opens the door to a conversation someone has been waiting to have for a long time.
The message of #shoutyourabortion can be summed up like this: “If you’ve had an abortion, you have nothing to apologise for. But just in case anyone tries to make you feel like you do, know this: you have an army of people behind you, and we’re not whispering anymore”.
The message of the gospel is this: “If you’ve had an abortion, and you trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, you have no further debt to pay. But just in case anyone tries to make you feel like you do, know this: you have the Lord of Hosts behind you, and he loves you forevermore”.
We have the better message, so let’s start speaking it.
Images: Morten Liebach, Steenaire (inset); flickr
 Megan Best, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Ethics and the beginning of human life, (Matthias Media, Kingsford. 2012) 148. LSJ pharmakeia s.v. _