What can Christian leaders do to save young mothers and their children from abortion, when government, culture, and the media push it so relentlessly in our troubled times?
It is indeed a burning question as we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary this month of the Roe v. Wade decision that has given license to some thirty-five million abortions.
We have lost nearly a third of all children conceived in the United States since 1972. Approximately two thirds of the 35 million abortions were performed on white, middle class women. African Americans rank second among those receiving abortions, with a variety of other minorities constituting the remaining four percent. More than 40 percent of all abortions are performed on patients for the second time around.
Perhaps the most sobering statistic for pastors is that about 18 percent of women getting abortions identified themselves as Evangelicals or born-again Christians. The percentage of abortions sought from the conservative Christian community, some experts say, could even be higher.
Since the tragedy of Roe v. Wade, we've come to grip with some sobering realities. One is that overcoming abortion is not ultimately about politics or public relations. It's a battle against the spirit of the age, against a sex and death culture, and against the spiritual forces of evil. It's about winning the heart of a young person who is faced with an unplanned, crisis pregnancy and is trying to decide what to do about it.
On a practical level, it's about reaching this lost and dying generation of young adults before the abortionists do. Just as importantly, within the church it's about strengthening our teenagers in their commitments to sexual purity and to protecting the lives of unborn children.
Abortion in the Church
As we battle the abortion mindset in our society, we must also look within our own congregations. Each year an estimated 600,000 young parents from the Evangelical community abort 300,000 children. In the process, 1.2 million grandparents are added to the number of those related to an aborted child. Consequently, most of us within the church community are either related to an aborted child, or we know someone who is. Often, we may not realize that people with whom we are close are carrying the burden of a secret abortion.
The leaders of Promise Keepers rightly saw the need for a corporate repentance for abortion during the Sacred Assembly in Washington last October. Such repentance must occur throughout the entire Church. The abortion crisis within the Christian community demands that we deal directly with the issues of sexual sin and abortion and equip the parents of teenagers to do likewise. At the same time, we need to show that the church is a safe place where those who are facing crisis pregnancies can receive compassionate, positive alternatives to abortion.
These battles are hard fought, indeed, for Americans have a distorted image of the pro-life community. A Gallup poll showed that Americans view pro-lifers as more violent and uncaring toward women than those who are pro-abortion. This distorted view is in large measure attributable to the media, which is hostile to the pro-life position. Consequently, those who destroy babies are viewed as more compassionate than those who are trying to save them.
Pro-lifers have made countless attempts to get the real story told, but the secular media continues to promote a pro-abortion perspective. As a consequence, many women have never found the help that is available to them at their local crisis pregnancy center.
False perceptions generated through media have also kept the pro-life cause from making significant progress through politics. Who would ever have dreamed that the American people would reelect as its president a man who thinks the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure should be legal?
Meeting the Real Needs of Women in Crisis
Studies show that most women don't want to undergo abortions. Most women who succumb to it, do so out of fear and desperation. Often they are being pressured by partners, parents, and friends to eliminate their problem. But abortion is more than a terrible act of violence that takes the life of an unborn child. It is also an act of violence against the child's mother. One feminist compared a woman considering abortion to an animal caught in a trap, driven to gnaw off its own leg as the only way to escape. In one survey, ninety out of 100 women who had abortions said that they would have preferred a positive alternative if only they knew one was available.
The natural, God-given revulsion women have toward abortion, the fear of abandonment, and the longing to be loved at the time of crisis, call for effective compassion.
Marketing our Love
It has become increasingly obvious that to battle the pro-abortion culture, to address abortion in the church, and to show Christ's love to hurting women, we must embrace and advance the compassionate alternative offered through crisis pregnancy centers.
The local church should be able offer a girl who faces a crisis pregnancy access to all the practical, medical, emotional, and spiritual help she needs to choose life for her baby. Since traditional media tends to filter out our message of effective compassion, we may have to utilize alternative media through which we can "market our love" more effectively than our opposition markets its services of death. Abortion advocates are "killing us" in the market place. Couples faced with a crisis pregnancy are many times more likely to encounter a pro-abortion message through advertising and general media. Pro-lifers need the right medium and the right message to reach those women who think abortion is the only real choice.
One option for countering pro-abortion propaganda is for Southern Baptist churches to unite locally in citywide media campaigns. Through consistent, professional advertising they could speak to the felt needs of girls and women facing crisis pregnancies. Such a campaign would provide easy access to local pregnancy caregivers. Pastors Ed Young of Houston's Second Baptist Church and Ken Whitten of Idlewild Baptist Church of Tampa are spearheading such campaigns in each of their cities to reach abortion-minded women.
If churches would unite and cooperate around such efforts, those who face abortions, as well as the surrounding community, would see unity and compassion at work.
The Essential Hope
Christ is the only hope of the people we serve through crisis pregnancy ministry. If Jesus is taken out of the equation, crisis pregnancy outreach becomes just another welfare program, without the ultimate source of power for forgiveness and healing. Prospective clients of crisis pregnancy services need to know true love, the Author of love. They need strength beyond themselves if they are to take responsibility for their decisions and to make positive choices about sexual behavior and pregnancy. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers offer the opportunity not only to choose life for their babies, but also to choose new life for themselves.
The battle over abortion can be won, not just through political campaigns in Washington, but through unified, media-based campaigns of compassion in our local communities. Our greatest weapon is the love of Christ, which can awaken and strengthen every mother's love for and desire to choose life for her baby.
Ken Connor, Chairman of Care Net, is a national leader and spokesman for the pro-life movement. He and his family are members of Celebration Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla. Guy Condon, president of Care Net, was previously the president of Americans United for Life, and has served in the pro-life movement twelve years.