Showing posts in 'Abortion Series'

Abortion revisited

Helen Thorne | 24 Jan 2013

In 1973, the law in America changed. The States legalised abortion. And it is estimated that in the region of 50 million abortions have been performed in the US since that time. But this week, 40 years on, the issue is being as hotly contended as it was when the decision was first taken. A poll recently indicated that 54% of Americans now believe abortion should be legal and 7 out of 10 of those surveyed said they did not want the law to be changed. But, in some places at least, the tide is turning back towards a pro-life stance.

Some individual States are taking a stand and making it next to impossible for abortion clinics to function. Mississippi has just one abortion clinic left and that is struggling to survive in the face of local laws requiring such organisations to have hospital-admitting privileges. Some Americans fear - others celebrate - the fact that 4 States are down to their last clinic and may soon have none.

But what, as Christians, are we to make of this hotly debated political issue, this desperately emotive pastoral crisis that impacts so many lives? How can we enact what the Bible teaches us about the value of life on a local and a national scene while at the same time supporting those women who are in crisis pregnancy? This time last year, we ran a series on Abortion on The Good Book Blog. Here are the links. We hope they will help fuel the discussions that we know many of our readers are having with Christian and non-Christian friends this week.

Abortion: what's going on?

Precious child or potential child?

Caring for those who have had an abortion

Supporting those thinking about abortion

Working for change in our nation

Abortion: Can a nation be changed?

Andrew Nicholls | 17 Feb 2012

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:2–4

At the heart of the Christian life is the call to “defend the cause of the weak.” When a mother makes the difficult decision to end the pregnancy, the child is desperately vulnerable. Babies cannot speak for themselves. Fathers don’t have any legal rights.

In the New Testament, the parable of the Good Samaritan shows us that Jesus really does care how we respond to those in need around us. The unborn are our neighbours and God’s people should not just walk past but try to love them.

Some of what we can do revolves around supporting individuals who are struggling (as we saw yesterday) but there is also much we can do to challenge our society that accepts abortion so regularly.

Changing our language

Many people choose abortion because they are unsure how to think of the unborn, and the language we use can demonstrate what we think. For example, I was 44 and nine months old last birthday. I was alive 9 months before I was born! I usually think of myself as one of two children, but if my mother miscarried, I’m actually one of three! Miscarriages and stillbirths are properly occasions for grief at the loss of human life, not simply a loss of “what might have been.” Our language can reflect these convictions about unborn life and perhaps provoke thought.

Changing public opinion

A more significant response is to join the effort to raise the debate and change the law. Opinions are formed in parliament and in the press, and Christians need to be willing to speak loudly and clearly for the unborn, without sounding unloving or judgemental towards the mothers concerned. When a woman is pregnant, there are two human lives who need compassionate care, not just one. We love the mothers most if we help them see what abortion is, and make it easier to do the right thing, and harder to do the wrong, with as much support as we can arrange. We need to say this – in letters, on TV, in parliament, on the internet, in any place we can find. The Christian Institute is one organisation that provides reliable briefings and practical ways to affect public opinion. Get their emails, and act on them! It’s often only a five minute job.

200 years ago Wilberforce and his allies were used by God radically to change a culture which approved of slavery. Abortion is more common than slavery was and even more serious.

God could use his people again. Pastors and people alike must keep caring most about heaven and hell, and about the gospel, But can we also, by God’s grace, also care enough about these parents and their unborn children to begin to act on their behalf?

Will we begin working and, far more importantly, praying for a change in our society?

Andrew Nicholls is the pastor of Christ Church, Kingston. Before moving into full time ministry, he was a doctor.

Abortion: Supporting those thinking about abortion

Andrew Nicholls | 17 Feb 2012

Churches can also make a huge difference to women facing a crisis pregnancy. But what does that look like? How can God’s people actually make a difference to people in these situations who might consider abortion as the way to solve their problem?

Supporting those known to the local church

Being pregnant is scary, and especially when there is no-one obvious committed to helping you cope. Women can feel lonely and/or afraid, and abortion can feel to some like it solves the problem with out much fuss. When someone in a “crisis pregnancy” is already known to a member of a church, we can find out what sort of help is needed and to try to provide it from within the church family. This often happens naturally, as pregnant women rightly attract sympathy and generosity. Baby equipment, meals, taking other children to give Mum a break, accompanying to ante-natal appointments, help in battling through the social security system or time spent chatting over a cup of tea all can help a woman feel she is not alone, and reduce the fear associated with childbirth and parenting. What once seemed impossible now feels hard but perhaps survivable. We sometimes take it for granted in the church family but for someone outside this sense of connectedness can be literally life-changing.

Supporting those unknown to the local church

The trickier people to reach are those women whose pregnancy the church never hears about but who go in their thousands every year to have an abortion. How can a church begin to care for those women and their children?

One idea, which by God’s grace has borne fruit in our church and in many others is a Crisis Pregnancy Centre. Trained counsellors offer time to listen and talk through all the options available to a woman in a crisis pregnancy. They give accurate information about what abortion involves, how it is done, and what the consequences might be. They discuss giving the baby for adoption, and keeping the baby long term. They listen to the factors bearing on a woman’s decision, and offer empathy and understanding. In some centres, the focus is on helping the woman explore her own feelings and instincts, while others provide clearer advice about how to proceed so as to protect the new life entrusted to her. Counsellors can help her think properly about the decision, and offer whatever help she may feel she needs in order to see continuing with the pregnancy as a viable option for her.

In all centres, clients can be anonymously prayed for, and there can sometimes be precious opportunities to share the Christian good news that is the most wonderful resource we can offer.

The centre is advertised as widely as possible – for example, to local GPs, abortion providers, family planning clinics, local radio and press, on hoardings and, of course, on the internet. Affiliation to a national network can provide a share of their internet presence and telephone contacts, as well as training, mentoring and support to get started and keep going. Nearly 200 centres already operate in the UK, many through affiliation with Care Confidential. Image in Manchester or Tyneside Pregnancy Advice Centre are other good points of contact.

Could your church start one? By God’s grace, ours did!

Andrew Nicholls is the pastor of Christ Church, Kingston. Before moving into full time ministry, he was a doctor.

Abortion: Caring for those who have had an abortion

Andrew Nicholls | 16 Feb 2012

In our right enthusiasm to protect unborn children, Christians have at times come across as harshly judgemental towards those who have had an abortion. Such a stance runs contrary to the grace of God. The mandate to love our neighbour has to include all those who have chosen to make the complex decision to end a pregnancy.

Abortion is an act that ends a human life so it is not surprising that many women experience some after-effects. Aside from the possible physical complications of the procedure, up to 10% of women will experience significant psychological issues. These can range from recurrent, intrusive and sometimes disabling awareness of guilt, to stabs of painful remembrance associated with anniversaries, birthdays or seeing a child of the same age as an aborted child would have been. Some women report that no day passes without the abortion coming to mind at some point.

With one in 3 women having at least one abortion it is inevitable that there are many women in, and connected with, our churches who are struggling with their own histories of abortion.

So how can the church love and pastor such people?

  1. Raise awareness: Abortion must be raised as an issue to be addressed by the gospel. Churches should be teaching and preaching on abortion because it is something that affects many – secretly and deeply. Far better to raise the issue tactfully and clearly, so that it may be addressed by the gospel, than to keep the whole issue permanently under wraps for fear of causing pain.
  2. Point to forgiveness: We all need reminding that, deeply serious though it is, abortion is not an unforgivable sin. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” (Is 1) Our God is gracious - the blood of Jesus washes all sin away. Women who have had an abortion need to be invited to come to Christ for this forgiveness, and all of us who might talk to such women need the confidence to go as far as the gospel goes in assuring complete and everlasting forgiveness.
  3. Encourage community: Some women will benefit from extended opportunities to talk through their experiences. Non-Christian women can be considerably helped just by the chance to speak, but they can also be offered the uniquely precious gospel of Christ which alone can bring real freedom from horribly oppressive guilt. Alongside deliberate talking, deepening friendships of genuine compassion and affection are essential to communicate the reality of Christ’s acceptance.
  4. Provide counselling: Many Crisis Pregnancy Centres offer post-abortion counselling. Typically offering a process over 12 or more sessions, trained counsellors help women move through the sometimes debilitating guilt and sorrow. Such support is a compassionate response to a serious but unmet need in our sin-ridden world.

Andrew Nicholls is the pastor of Christ Church, Kingston. Before moving into full time ministry, he was a doctor.

Abortion: Precious Child or Potential Child?

Andrew Nicholls | 16 Feb 2012

Emotions run high when an abortion is being considered. And so they should – a lot is at stake: For the mother, for the often forgotten father, and especially for their … what? Unborn child? Foetus? Blob of cells? Parasite? Potential-but-not-yet-fully-human offspring? At the heart of the abortion debate lies the crucial question: who or what is being aborted?

Looking at the Bible, there is good reason to believe that every unborn child is both precious and human from the point of conception. Why?

  1. Creation. All things are created by Jesus, including the unborn (John 1:3). Just as we answer to God for the way we treat our friends, a developing embryo is not ours to do what we want with, but his first and last. In Psalm 139:13, David recognises that “you [God] knit me together in my mother’s womb”. Even though we’re gaining scientific understanding of the processes, it’s God’s creative miracle each and every time. We know the physics of stars, but we still gaze in awe at the night sky. In the same way, we know something of how one cell turns into a baby, but each is still a sign and a wonder, pointing to the creator of all. We must find out from the maker’s instructions how he expects us to treat the unborn.
  2. Humanity. David says “you knit me” together. In making his body, God was making David - not a pre-David, a potential David - but David. God knew him as he multiplied the cells and gave each its place. God knew David in the womb, though David himself knew nothing. Stronger evidence still is the humanity of Christ. Christ was fully human, like us in every way. It was a miracle - a virgin conception. Christ’s humanity began then. Mary, Elizabeth, and even the unborn John the Baptist recognised it (Luke 1:30-45). Jesus’ human life, like every human life, began in the womb.

Abortion matters because every one of the 200,000 every year in this country, is ending a human life, made by God, in his image. God takes that very seriously (Genesis 9:4-6). That makes it an important issue – for the doctors and nurses involved, for the MPS who make the laws, for the women who make that choice, for the fathers behind the scenes. Most of all, it matters for the glory of God. Unborn babies are his work, his image, his children.

Andrew Nicholls is the pastor of Christ Church, Kingston. Before moving into full time ministry, he was a doctor.

Abortion: What's going on?

Andrew Nicholls | 15 Feb 2012

Nearly a quarter of all pregnancies in the UK end in abortion. 1 in 3 women will have one or more abortions during their life. And that makes it one of the most common social phenomena…

It’s not an option that many take lightly. Women who choose abortion often find it a hard and painful process. They deserve our deep, compassionate concern. But most women make their decision in a culture which teaches them, through the law and by common practice, that abortion is a good option.

Theoretically women considering an abortion should be able to access comprehensive and impartial advice, though the debate over whether this is actually happening continues to rage. But even when such advice is offered well, the gospel is unlikely to be included. Not included, that is, unless we speak…

Over the next few posts, we are going to dip a toe into some of the key issues and important pastoral imperatives that surround this difficult debate and look at how we can think and act with humility and for the glory of God…

Abortion: A pastoral word

It’s an emotive subject which touches the lives of many. Some of you reading this blog will have taken the decision to end a pregnancy in the past and are struggling with the aftermath, or you’re trying to pretend it didn’t happen or doesn’t matter. Others of you may be a relative or friend of someone who is hurting. Maybe you are in a crisis pregnancy right now and the option of abortion is looming large in your mind...

If any of those things are true of you, please let us encourage you to seek support from your church. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are your family and they are there, in part, to love you and encourage you to look to Jesus as you struggle with the past and the present. If you are open and honest with them, there should be no condemnation – just a desire to spur you on. After all, every Christian knows that life is sometimes incredibly tough and complex. All of us struggle to do what God would want a lot of the time. And the glorious message of forgiveness and grace is open to all.

In fact, it’s the knowledge that we are loved by Christ and forgiven by Christ despite who we are and what we’ve done that gives us a wonderful freedom. It means we can honestly confront our flaws and failings, rather than trying to cover them up or deal with them ourselves. Whatever we’ve done, whatever we do, we can freely admit them to our King (who, after all, already knows), and give them to Him to deal with once and for all at the cross. The Bible does challenge us not to deceive ourselves when it comes to things God says are sin—but it also always points us to the place we can see our sin taken, paid for and wiped away—the atoning sacrifice of Christ. We all have things in our past or our present that we are struggling to confront, or struggling with the guilt of. If you’re feeling that particularly when it comes to this issue, 1 John 1 v 8 – 2 v 2 is a great place to turn to.

Much of what is contained in the following blog posts is a biblical glimpse at what abortion is and how churches can respond. We’re not going to be looking at individual people’s stories or dealing with the desperately heart-rending situations that victims of rape or life-limiting health problems face. There is help and direction from God’s word for all these, but it won’t be a focus here. Nor are we going to be offering more pastoral advice to those who are struggling right now... That’s something that needs to happen in a church community, not via a blog. Our aim is to help equip church leaders and members with an understanding of some of the issues in the abortion debate and to encourage them to be proactive in establishing structures to support those in crisis pregnancy and post-abortion. We hope that this will be helpful, even if it doesn’t fully resonate with where you are at right now...

Andrew Nicholls is the pastor of Christ Church, Kingston. Before moving into full time ministry, he was a doctor.

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