What if women with unplanned pregnancy came first in church?
Ever since the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I have just felt a sinking in my soul. This has perplexed me because I am pro-life: I do believe that life begins at conception, and I have also volunteered at a crisis pregnancy ministry in their care center. I think that God has given me the burden of so many women who are terrified, indignant, or just angry at the ruling. I know also that this is a pivotal time for the church in the way Christians proceed from this place, and I fear and see that in many ways the response has not been Christ-like and may turn people away from Jesus.
The purpose of this writing is not to argue my position on Roe but to lay out a path for Christians in the light of Roe. The right to an abortion will now be decided by individual states. But the support and care of women in these situations is firmly in the hands of the church…or at least it needs to be.
In church recently, I was blessed to hear the testimonial from a young woman who at age 19 found herself with an unexpected pregnancy. Raised in a church and youth group, she knew that the last place that she could turn was her church as there would be no grace for her there. By the grace of God, she kept the baby with her life forever altered for the better. She cast a vision for how the church in the future could care for mothers in similar situations: Mentorship, grace, and community. Unfortunately, many churches offer none of these and instead focus on the shame. It is not difficult to figure out how Jesus would have responded to an unwed mother in crisis.
I have some first-hand experience with mentorship, grace and community. For 3 years, I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center in Fayetteville, which is an amazing place, which seeks to support women who make the choice to have their baby. During the pregnancy, women would come to our clinic to watch videos about the birthing process. After pregnancy for 8 months, they would continue to come to learn more about child rearing. As a care counselor, I listened, prayed with our clients, formed relationships with them, and just loved them. Clients earned “mommy bucks” for coming, towards which they could use to purchase diapers and other child-related items that were donated to the cute store on site. Each and every week, we were all witnesses to the transformation of these women through the love of Christ.
There was one client who I was blessed to befriend. She was not married and definitely did not expect her pregnancy. She made the hard decision to keep the baby, separated from a huge group of unhealthy people, and began the process of making her life condusive and healthy to raising a child. After she graduated from our program, we continued to stay in touch. I would receive regular texts from her with questions about her then 1 year old. Sometimes she asked my advice about financial matters. Sometimes she had questions about God. Without question, God used this child to grow this woman up: To clean up her life, help her make better choices, buy a house, and begin down a road of faith. Her parents deceased, she regularly tells me that I am the one person she can count on in this life. It is an honor. She really doesn’t have anyone else pouring into her life except me. I feel like this is what I am called to do as a Christian: Not to lecture and not to shame but to support, love, and encourage.
My church is a financial sponsor of this pregnancy center, and some people choose to volunteer there. But their program often reaches capacity, and the timing on the classes doesn’t always fit people’s schedules. In this post-Roe world, I can imagine that these types of clinics are going to be busier than every. So instead of moping in my post-Roe funk, I have taken some positive steps within my own church to have a conversation about reaching out to women in crisis the way Jesus would. What if my church was where women with unplanned pregnancies came first? What if we could pair women with a mentor for support and to walk along-side them? Could we help women in crisis to find community that would truly transform their lives? Are we qualified or trained? Heavens no. Have we raised our own kids and have a heart for others? Absolutely. And are we willing to shower women with the same grace that we have received in our own lives? The possibilities are limitless.
To me, this is the correct definition of pro-life: Valuing the life of a fetus as we walk along-side and love the new mother and child. Are there other systemic issues that need to be addressed. Absolutely. The list is long from paid maternity leave, affordable child-care, and quality and available childcare. None of these should be political issues, and I call upon Congress as well as the General Assembly to tackle each and every one if them in single-issue bills without other amendments attached. I would venture to say that any politician that opposes abortion but is not willing to make the systemic changes is a hypocrite and does not deserve to have a voice on this issue.
I know that there are many other thorny issues related to abortion such as the life of the mother, rape, and incest. Legislators who have made policy without accurate medical information or considered the social/emotional/financial concerns of new mothers have not made good laws: They have simply imposed their views on others without taking care of women and children the way Christ would have. Furthermore, the dogmatic approach that does not address these issues is generating anger and resentment towards the church and Christians.
In closing, my heart is a little less heavy now that I know what I can do to help. I know that I am called to serve and to love. It is a good place to be. The storm is undoubtedly going to continue to rage around this issue. I am going to do what God has shown me to do, and I would be honored if you would create a movement where you live to support women and children in Arkansas. Arkansans, we are likely to have a bunch more babies in the coming year! Who will be Jesus in the flesh and walk alongside these neighbors. The answer is not someone else’s mirror: It is in your own.