In March 2012, the Irish Times ran a spread on the stories of Irish women who had abortions. The experiences differed. However, I was struck by the regret that was expressed by some of the women. One woman explained, ‘despite the fact that it has been five years since I had the abortion, it is something I think about it every day.’ Another woman said that she still mourns the loss of her aborted child thirty-two years on. You might remember the controversial case of Miss C, in 1997. Miss C was a thirteen-year-old girl from the travelling community who conceived a child after a brutal rape. She was accompanied to England for an abortion by staff from the health board. Sixteen years later Miss C told the Irish Independent, ‘I grieve for my lost baby every day.’ I know that the issue of abortion regret is hotly contested, and that there are women who say that they do not regret their abortions, but there are many who do.
I want to look at the issue of abortion in light of the gospel of grace.
The ‘woman who has had an abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had an abortion”’ (Russell Moore). Christians should be pro-life, but we need to be more than pro-life. We proclaim God’s offer of new life to all. We need to think of how we preach the gospel in the context of an abortion culture.
The Psalms tell us that God is ‘the giver of life’ (Psalm 34:9) and that he knit us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He is the giver of the planned and the unplanned pregnancy. He gives equal value to the female and male child. He blesses us with disabled and able-bodied children. He commands us not to kill (Exodus 20:13).
Jesus deepens this command not to kill, with his teaching on radical love (Matthew 5:43-44). We are to love the unborn, and we are to love those who promote the destruction of the unborn. We are to love the mother who has had an abortion, and are to love those who profit from the abortion trade. We call abortion evil, but we remember that God who sent his Son to die for evil people like us (1 Timothy 1:15).
I would like you to imagine that every time you talk about this topic, you are being overheard by a woman who has had an abortion. When you speak, will she hear you talking about a God of love? Will she see the God who longs to forgive her and bring her home? Will she understand that in Christ she will no longer be seen as that woman who terminated her child? The gospel is to be good news for her. When God forgives, he will remember her sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). Despite what any of us have done God delights over those he has redeemed.
The unborn are not the only victims of an abortion. The mother may be a willing victim, but she is a victim nonetheless. Her conscience is being violated in this act. Behind that mother’s choice there may be a man who supports her action. Indeed, if you vote to repeal the Eight Amendment then you will have a shared responsibly for every abortion that will be performed in this state.
I am glad to live in a country that has a constitutional provision aimed at protecting the unborn. However, I am also aware that this is a country that has a shameful history in the way it has treated young women who have got pregnant outside of marriage. One of the women interviewed by the Irish Times admitted that it was fear that prompted her have her abortion—including the fear of what her grandmother would think. Many a girl went to England for fear of the religious hypocrites who would have scorned her and her child for the rest of their lives. As Christians, we seek to shame nobody, for we believe in a Saviour who endured the shame of the cross in order to cover the shame that should have been ours (Hebrews 12:2). We thank God for the life of every child, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding their conception. When someone falls into sin we are called to restore them in mercy (Jude 23) and we to bring the gospel and then comfort those who are tempted to be filled with sorrow over their past (2 Cor. 3:7).
We need to speak about this topic with conviction, because the life of the unborn is precious in the sight of the Lord and the conscience of the mother matters. We need to think about this issue with humility, for we simply speak as sinful people who have been forgiven by an amazing Saviour.
April Hernandez was in and out of relationships in her teens, and after spending the night with one of her boyfriends she found that she was pregnant. She wasn’t going steady with this guy and she thought that her life was over. She thought that an abortion was her only choice. So very early one Saturday morning she went to a clinic in Manhattan. She had to slip past the protestors on her way in. She paid her money. She underwent the procedure. She immediately felt regret. She feared her life would never be the same again. When she came out of the clinic, an old lady forced a pamphlet into her hand and told her, ‘you’re going to hell for what you have done.’
After a few years, April began going to church. But she didn’t want to buy into ‘the whole Jesus thing.’ She would sit at the back of the church, where she felt comfortable and safe. The service was in Spanish and her first language was English, so she didn’t always understand everything the pastor was saying. But one Sunday morning she recognised that the pastor was saying the word for ‘forgiveness’ as he spoke. This had an effect on her, and she began to have a desperate desire to be close to God. As she cried, she heard the pastor say that if anyone needed forgiveness they should walk to the front. She went forward, hesitantly. The pastor assured her of God’s love. Then suddenly, she lost sense of everything around her and felt immense heat travelling through her body. She collapsed on the ground, and as she lay there weeping, she heard a voice whisper, ‘I forgive you, my daughter. Cry no more.’ Understanding God’s forgiveness changed her life. She felt free at last. She knew that what she had done was wrong, but that morning she was overwhelmed with the love and forgiveness of God (story taken from Metaxas, Miracles).
We must speak up for the unborn. It is a part of the Biblical mandate to give justice to the weak and rescue the needy (Psalm 82:3-4). This is the great women’s rights issue of our day—for the world has a hundred million less women in it than it should. Part of this is because little unwanted girls in some countries are left on the side of roads to die, are drowned or are thrown into rubbish bins. But most of missing girls are aborted because their parents wanted a boy instead. This is the great disability-rights issue of our day—for, as Doctor Peter McFarland told the Citizen’s Convention, ninety-percent of unborn children with Downs Syndrome are aborted in Britain and one hundred percent of them are aborted in Iceland. Finally, this is one of the great gospel issues of our day—for no matter how evil you may consider abortion to be and no matter how guilty you may feel for promoting abortion, keeping silent about this topic, encouraging an abortion or having an abortion, God’s grace is bigger (Romans 5:20) and God longs for you to know his forgiveness and cleansing, and to rejoice in being one of his precious children.