Recently, I’ve been seeing more comments regarding abortion than ever before. Since the Dobbs decision, people are talking more openly, which I think could be a good thing, if the conversations are handled well. This post, I hope, will equip you for the conversations that will happen now that abortion is no longer a federally protected service.
ABORTION AS POLITICS
I have heard many people say they try to avoid discussing abortion because they don’t want to get political. But abortion has not always been considered a political issue.
Five of the seven Justices who voted in favor of the Roe v Wade decision were appointed by Republican Presidents. Many people who vote Republican would support legalized access to abortion, and there is an organization called Democrats for Life. It’s not an issue that is simply about Democrats and Republicans. But it is a moral issue, and everyone should have an informed opinion.
In this post, I’m borrowing heavily from the book What to Say When by Shawn Carney and Steve Karlen. Another book I’m gleaning information from is Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing by Alexandra DeSanctis and Ryan Anderson.
STEP ONE: GRACE AND TRUTH
Obviously, abortion is a very emotional issue if you’ve had any personal experience with it. One of the things we need to do to prepare ourselves for conversations about abortion is to prepare our own hearts and minds.
God’s desire for each one of us is that we know and walk in righteousness because we know and walk with Him. God is full of both mercy and truth. He always knows the appropriate response to people. And He can teach us to be the same.
But most of us lean more toward the mercy side of things or the truth side of things. If you’re a truth-leaning person, you may need to be reminded of what Jesus’ brother, James said:
The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20
If our desire is the same as God’s desire – righteousness – and if we know human anger doesn’t produce that righteousness, then we will rid ourselves of anger in our speech and thoughts toward other people.
On the other hand, those of us who lean more toward the mercy side of things need to be reminded of this Proverb:
The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. Proverbs 12:10
In our own wisdom, things that we think are compassionate can actually be harmful. We need God’s wisdom to guide us in all truth so we can see His intention toward humanity.
So, step one will be to take our hearts before God and ask Him to rightly order our minds and emotions to prepare us for what can be emotionally charged conversations.
And don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume someone believes like you do just because you go to church together or seem to agree on a number of other issues.
STEP TWO: ASK GOOD QUESTIONS
Asking a series of questions is not natural for most of us in a conversation. We tend to trade information and opinions: you share, then I share. But asking questions – with a sincere desire to know, not just a desire to win an argument – shows respect for and interest in the other person, and it gives you good insight into why they may think what they think about abortion so you can have a good discussion.
Train yourself to talk like a Jeopardy contestant.
Many people are very kind and well intentioned, but they never really thought about what abortion is. I used to be one of those people.
During my early adult years, I landed on “I would never choose an abortion for myself, but I wouldn’t want to take the choice away from other women.” I had never investigated the procedure. I had seen bad examples of pro-life demonstrations and heard ugly comments. I didn’t think of myself as one who advocated for abortion, but I didn’t want to be aligned with those I had seen who opposed it, either.
I would have benefitted from the kind of direct conversation I’m suggesting today.
QUESTIONS TO ASK*
- What is an abortion?
This is a helpful question because Planned Parenthood has done an excellent job of sanitizing the language concerning abortion. If you look at their material, they will talk about an abortion as emptying the contents of the uterus or something like that. The process sounds very minor and free from distress or pain. They don’t use the word baby. They rarely use the word fetus.
For some of you, maybe my use of the word baby just now feels uncomfortable or like I’m being unnecessarily aggressive. That’s, again, because the Planned Parenthood and media portrayal of abortion has been so sanitized.
Besides elusive language, there are misunderstandings about what an abortion actually is.
An example: My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. The baby’s heart had stopped, and I had a DNC to remove the baby’s body and clear my uterus. That is not an abortion. But sometimes people – even medical professionals – refer to it as an abortion. This first question would clarify the term.
- How do they actually do an abortion?
- Why do you support abortion?
Many people don’t support abortion, but don’t want to take that choice away from someone else. Again, the questions help clarify what we’re actually saying when we say abortion should be a legal right.
- When are you comfortable with a baby being aborted?
- Does the value of a person change depending on whether their parents love them or not?
- Does everyone really deserve a chance to life, or do you think circumstances could change that?
- 37% of abortions are Black Americans, although they’re 13% of the population. Do you think that’s good or bad?
I didn’t even want to use this statistic because it’s combining two very tricky topics: abortion and race. But the two are tightly linked, and we need to consider whether that is a good or bad thing.
- Do you think the actions of our parents make us any more or less valuable?
You want to ask several questions before you share any of your own opinions.
Now here’s some food for thought about some of the more common responses you’ll hear in support of abortion:
A WOMAN HAS A RIGHT TO CONTROL HER BODY
This may be the most common idea supporting legally protected access to abortion – my body my choice.
But consider this: no one has a right to absolutely control what they do with their body. Non-smoking areas, for example, limit smokers’ bodily autonomy. In the Houston Medical Center, near where I live, there is no smoking in the buildings, no smoking outside near the buildings, no smoking as you walk along the sidewalk or in the parks. There are small, designated smoking areas painted out far from where other people will be walking. The reason, of course, is that the smokers don’t have a right to expose other people to secondhand smoke, which we know to be very harmful to our health.
Similarly, it is reasonable to expect a mother’s control over her body not to extend to the point of purposefully harming the baby. There are two lives at stake, and both deserve protection.
It’s important to remember the natural way to end a pregnancy is childbirth. A woman does not have to breastfeed or even care for the baby once it’s born. Expecting a mother to refrain from ending the life of her baby during the nine months it is developing in-utero is reasonable.
And there’s a destructive view that underlies the control her own body idea. Once you see it, you recognize it’s woven into a LOT of our culture.
Let’s see how you do with this pop quiz: who will never be pregnant – men or women?
A WOMAN HAS A RIGHT TO CONTROL HER BODY WOMEN NEED TO BE LIKE MEN
The underlying idea is that a woman needs to be more like a man in order to be equal or successful in life.
Here are a few ideas to think about from Tearing Us Apart by DeSanctis and Anderson:
“(abortion) allows men to view women as always sexually available without any marital commitment or promise of stability required, and it allows employers and society as a whole to treat the male body as the norm and female fertility as a problem to be solved rather than a reality to structure social relations around.” (emphasis mine)
Also from Tearing Us Apart: “Pro-choice activists…reject the bodily nature of women and use abortion to pretend that their bodes can function like those of men.”
But why should we treat that as the ideal? A healthy fertile woman will have a high likelihood of pregnancy if she is sexually active. That is the way her body is supposed to work. If our culture began to structure social relations around the reality that women bear children, a LOT would change. And women would be more free to be women.
Another common idea is that abortion is basic healthcare. But what does that mean?
Merriam Webster defines healthcare as “efforts made to maintain or restore physical, mental, or emotional well-being especially by trained and licensed professionals.”
As I mentioned above, pregnancy is a healthy result of sexual relations, so why would we use language that categorizes it as if it were a disease? When a woman is pregnant and wants the baby, we don’t treat her as if her health is somehow impaired. Our language and thinking about pregnancy are inconsistent when we categorize abortion as healthcare.
MEDICALLY NECESSARY ABORTIONS
But what about medically necessary abortions? No one wants a mother’s life or health to be endangered by a pregnancy. People aren’t lacking compassion.
I hear some pro-life advocates say there is no such thing as medically necessary abortion because medicine has advanced to the point that no doctor would have to kill a woman’s baby in order to keep the mother alive.
However, I searched “medically necessary abortion” and got lots of results, including at least one gynecological professional organization, saying there are medically necessary abortions. So what gives?
I read through the details and found several posts that named a specific condition: premature rupture of membranes (PROM). The common claim is that PROM before 20 weeks of gestation requires an abortion.
So, I searched PROM and I found how doctors treat it.
They will give the mother antibiotics to treat any potential infection. They will administer steroids in order to speed the development of the baby’s lungs. The mother will be put on bed rest to try to prevent labor, but if she goes into preterm labor, they will deliver and treat the baby.
A baby born earlier than 20 weeks is very unlikely to survive, but the care is for both the mother and the baby. There is no need to purposely kill the baby simply because the amniotic sac has ruptured. For a doctor to suggest otherwise is disingenuous.
Other conditions that were listed as “abortion necessary” had to do with heart conditions and high blood pressure. I did not research each condition, but I suspect I would find similar results.
HEALTH RISKS – PHYSICAL**
Not only is abortion not healthcare, but it is also physically harmful to the mother.
Incidences of preterm labor increase 30% after one abortion, and 200% after two. Black women already have increased rates of preterm labor, so this particularly impacts them and impacts the survival rate of any future children they may want (jump to the summary on page 15 here to read the details).
Chemical abortions account for the majority of abortions now. A recent study (2021) found that the hospitalization rate for complications from chemical abortion is twice that of surgical abortions.
Not only is abortion physically harmful, but it is also mentally harmful.
HEALTH RISKS – MENTAL**
A Mental health meta-study from 2011 showed that post-abortive women have an 81% higher risk of mental health problems compared with women who had not had an abortion, even after controlling for prior psychiatric health problems. A 2019 analysis (p.6) showed a rise in:
Anxiety disorders 34%
Alcohol abuse and suicidal behaviors increase by over 100%. For example, if 40/100 women were suicidal before having an abortion, over 80/100 would be suicidal after. That’s what an over 100% rise means.
Marijuana abuse increased by over 200%
WHAT ABOUT RAPE OR INCEST?
Rape and incest are both horrible violations against a woman or girl. We should never minimize the trauma of either one. Even if only one unwanted pregnancy a year occurs because of rape or incest, that is one too many.
But responding by killing the baby is punishing the child for the criminal act of the parent. The question posed toward the beginning: “Do you think the actions of our parents make us any more or less valuable” addresses this difficult scenario. The baby is innocent and deserves to have its life protected.
Further, inflicting additional trauma on the mother is not the way to heal a trauma.
Women who have been raped and aborted the pregnancy report having two trauma anniversaries: the rape which reminds her of the abortion, and the abortion which reminds her of the rape. It creates a trauma cycle that will be exceedingly difficult to overcome, as we saw with the mental health stats.
But many women who give birth report that it is a healing thing. Hope, life, and love can come out of a horrible tragedy.
LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION
When you’ve asked questions and have heard the other person’s thoughts, you’ll want to be clear about your own stand.
Advances in scientific technology show that life begins at conception. Immediately after an egg is fertilized, the cells begin dividing and those cells are alive.
I had a dream when I was pregnant with my second son that I gave birth to kittens. I was upset because I already had a cat; I wanted a baby!
Of course, we never give birth to cats because what develops inside of us is human. Human life is beginning from the very moment of conception.
Abortion is the deliberate termination of an innocent human life therefore I am morally opposed to it.
I would have benefitted earlier in my life from people asking me clarifying questions. I hope you feel equipped and encouraged to do that for someone you know who could benefit.
WHY IT MATTERS
And why does this matter, anyway? If the world were full of only horror and hopelessness, it may be a blessing to never be born. But life is good and full of beauty. And life is full of hope. Women don’t choose abortion out of a sense of hope. They often aren’t choosing abortion at all, but feel they have no other choice. But even the darkest situations have hope.
If you’re reading this and you chose abortion because you thought it was your only choice, or maybe you thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, or maybe the people in your life who should have supported you didn’t – I’m sorry.
My hope for you is that you heal. The same God who creates life is the God who heals. If something as horrible as Jesus’ crucifixion gives us life, then God can take something like abortion and turn it into forgiveness and purpose, which is beautiful.
A FINAL STORY
I had a friend who was sexually abused as a child. She acted out during her teen years by being sexually active with many boys. She got pregnant twice and had abortions.
In her 20’s, she became a Christian. She began to heal from her emotional traumas. She got married and they moved to Africa doing mission work. While they were in Africa, she became pregnant with their first child. Because of damage done from the abortions, she went into pre-term labor. Her baby did not live.
Her second pregnancy was successful, but only after doctors took extraordinary measures to keep her from going into preterm labor. They later adopted another child.
This friend volunteered as a counselor at the local Pregnancy Resource Center. She was an amazing person to know, and her story helped many other women heal.
That is a snapshot of the type of healing that can come from the destruction of abortion. Healing is possible. But let’s cultivate a society that celebrates life, so the damage won’t be done in the first place. Let’s celebrate women as they are designed and learn to view children as a blessing. Let’s work to create a culture that embraces the idea of family and responsibility as a good thing so abortion will be unthinkable.
*This is a sample of questions suggested in What to Say When
**stats are taken from Tearing Us Apart.
Photo: At the 2017 March for Life Copyright (c) 2017 James McNellis