Since The Jericho Plan was originally published, evidence has continued to emerge about the significant role, scope and intensity of coercion involved in many abortions. Even under liberal abortion laws, this is an internationally recognized human rights abuse, yet it is seldom reported or acknowledged, much less stopped.
When looking at the “big picture” of abortion, the reality of coercion defies conventional beliefs and deceptive “pro-choice” media rhetoric.
It is important for pastors and other leaders to preface discussions about abortion with acknowledgment of other issues that often surround pregnancy- or abortion-related experiences. This can include assault-related pregnancies and other crimes and injustices, including unwanted, coerced or forced abortions, pregnancy-related abuse, discrimination and violence, or even homicide, the leading killer of pregnant women.
This prelude, which is part of the abortion story for many (not all) individuals or families, should be clearly acknowledged with our compassion, along with reference to available personal, practical and spiritual or moral support, help and healing for individuals and families facing challenging pregnancy-related or post-abortion issues.
From sexual-assault or abuse-related pregnancies and coercion, discrimination or even violence against pregnant women to post-abortion issues that are often shunned, stigmatized, denied or dismissed by experts and others, it’s important to address this issue that is not “one size fits all.” Our acknowledgement, compassion and advocacy will help defend and protect authentically pro-woman and pro-life rights and values in our society.
Join the Church Awareness Project to get a free copy of The Jericho Plan and supporting materials, including the latest evidence about coercion, to help educate your pastor or others about these issues. Read more about coercion plus another short Jericho Plan book excerpt below:
The Role of Coercion
Contrary to political rhetoric, research indicates that most abortions are unwanted or coerced, and that many (if not most) women who have abortions would have carried to term if they had the necessary resources and support to do so. This is an internationally recognized human rights abuse that is seldom reported or publicly acknowledged.
Coercion plays a significant role in most abortions. It takes many forms and often comes from all sides. It may involve deceptive, profit-driven abortion businesses that exploit unsupportive, negligent or coercive support networks or individuals and families in crisis. Coercion can escalate to aggressive tactics, including violence or even homicide if women resist an unwanted abortion.
When we help and advocate for women, we will also be helping their unborn children. Conversely, we can never hope to succeed in our efforts to protect the rights of the unborn without first and foremost protecting the true rights of women. Brute-force bans on abortion will not create a pro-life society. But helping mothers through an aggressive defense of women’s legitimate rights will.
It is in this very same sense that the late Pope John Paul II insisted that it is necessary for those who oppose abortion to become “courageously ‘pro-woman,’ promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women. It is precisely the woman, in fact, who pays the highest price, not only for her motherhood, but even more for its destruction, for the suppression of the life of the child who has been conceived. The only honest stance … is that of radical solidarity with the woman.”2
Learning Our Lessons, Too
Many pro-lifers scratch their heads in confusion, wondering, “How can God have allowed this to go on so long?” So many millions have die of unborn children have died, and so many women, men and families have been harmed. Yet we seem no closer to changing the situation than we were decades ago. How can God allow this to continue?”
This is an important question. As Christians, we believe that from every evil happening, God can resurrect something good—at the very least, the healing of hearts and relationships, and often much more. And because the onslaught of abortion is so terrible, we must pray with hope that there is an awful lot of good which God intends to resurrect from this great evil. Greater respect for the unborn and for the rights and dignity of expectant parents, and for the sanctity of life is one lesson which our society is certainly intended to learn. But it is by no means the only lesson we are meant to learn.
Compassion for the Pregnant Woman
Pro-lifers have clearly done a tremendous job in the last several decades to offer education and support for those who are facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies, and for those who do not have the support of a partner. But there is much more that must be done. Churches, families, friends, and employers must make even greater efforts to be supportive of every pregnant woman or single parent, no matter how the child was conceived.
There is no denying the fact that, in previous decades, there have been righteous and judgmental Christians or others who discriminated against or shamed women facing out-of-wedlock pregnancies or other situations. And it is equally true that this condemning attitude ended up adding to the pressures on women to have abortions or led those around them to insist they abort. For this, our communities share in the guilt of abortion. Societal pressures can also be keenly felt by those who are victims of assault-related pregnancy. Snap judgments, presumptive gossip or one-size-fits-all conclusions can magnify the pressure of already difficult situations.
If we are to be truly Christian, we must strive to live by and promote the principle that every pregnancy, every birth, is a gift from God. No matter how the pregnancy occurred, no matter what the physical gifts or disabilities of the child, every child is a blessing from God, an opportunity and challenge to follow Him in the way of love. When this gift is received those who may not be prepared to be parents because of their youth, the unstable situation in their lives, lack of marriage, or another reason, it can offer a tremendous opportunity for growth, love and self-sacrifice. In any case, becoming pregnant should never be seen as a “punishment”, but as a chance to change one’s life and start anew.
As a Christian community, we must avoid snap judgments, cherish life and charitably invite others to seek God’s will in their lives. To do this, we must believe that every child is a gift from God and emphatically spread this message.
Therefore, the birth of every child should be an occasion of joy, not of shame.
While some churches may fear that welcoming an unexpected, challenging or out-of-wedlock pregnancy will encourage sinful or irresponsible behavior, we should remind our flock that things are not always as they appear to be. Nevertheless, it is worth reminding the flock that extra-marital sex is a serious sin, but not an unforgivable one. Young people announcing a pregnancy may be experiencing any number of personal difficulties unknown even to those close to them. Blanket shame and condemnation are not helpful and we should support them in their efforts to take responsibility for their own situations and discern God’s will for their lives. They need to know that we, their families, their church, and their society, want to continue to help them along that path, over which we too must struggle.
During the last several decades, Christians have truly come a long way in learning this first lesson. Concern for the unborn who are threatened by abortion has no doubt played a role in teaching this lesson. Nonetheless, the witnessing work of our many crisis pregnancy centers and the compassion of so many parents toward their single mother/daughters are evidence that this lesson is being learned. Let us pray that it is never forgotten. ***
Compassion for Those Who Have Had Abortions
As a Christian community, however, we are not as far along in learning the lesson of compassion toward those who have actually been involved in abortion. Many goodhearted people continue to recoil in horror at anyone who could “kill her baby.” They wonder, what kind of monster could do such a thing? For many, judgmentalism comes much easier than compassion because they lack insight into the many issues that often surround abortion. This may include negligent, deceptive, conflicted or even abusive counseling that goes on in many sectors of society. Or, it may include the tremendous pressures, “behind closed doors” coercion and feelings of despair which often surround abortion.
This is the second lesson which we must learn from the abortion holocaust before we can expect to conquer it. We must learn that abortion is often an act of coercion or despair. It is not typically something done from a vindictive heart. It is more often the result of a multitude of factors, which may include exploitation during a vulnerable time where many may feel trapped and helpless. Studies show that many are acting against their will and against their consciences due to because they feel they have no other choice.
This is one way in which books like Aborted Women, Silent No More have helped to increase the understanding of pro-lifers and others on all sides of this issue. By reading the stories of women who have had abortions and by seeing what drives them to abortion businesses, pro-lifers are learning more and more that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” This understanding can increase our understanding, acceptance and compassion. Over the years, this understanding has finally established a firm foothold within the pro-life movement, but it is still far from being universal among Christians in general.
This issue, too, will be discussed at length in the following chapters. Let it suffice for now to say that Christians must refrain from condemning and judging the women and men who have been involved in or affected by abortions. Snap judgments overlook a multitude of injustices, abuses and other issues often stack the deck against vulnerable individuals and families. And, such a perspective will not free those individuals and families from the shame, stigma or guilt that so many already feel intensely. Instead, we must concentrate on maintaining a non-presumptive perspective while also sharing with others our understanding, our willingness to help, and the hope of God’s great mercy. To do this effectively, we must give them more than our words; we must give them our hearts.