Faith Issue: Why Do Christian Women Continue to Have Abortions?

The Church is strident when it comes to protecting the life of the unborn. So, why do Christian women opt for an abortion despite the official policy of the Church opposing abortion in the strongest terms?

According to Abortion Statistics compiled by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, '"Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as "Born-again/Evangelical."'

It is significant to note that only 23.7% of women obtaining abortions are not religious. That means 76.3% of all abortions are obtained by "God-fearing" women – with 68.7% identified as Christian women; and 18% of all abortions are obtained by "born-again/evangelical" women.

The official stated position of the Church does not seem to translate to requisite practice by church-going Christians. That fact was recently borne out in a study Commissioned by Care Net showing that 4 in 10 women having an abortion are churchgoers. In that study it is shown that in a survey of 1,038 women having an abortion, "70 percent claim a Christian religious preference, and 43 percent report attending church monthly or more at the time of an abortion."

The following is the opening paragraph of a July 27, 2018 op-ed in The News & Observer, by Rebecca Todd Peters:

"There is a dominant belief that Christianity and Christians are against abortion. In fact, many Christian communities accept abortion in certain circumstances. That abortion is acceptable in some cases means that the real social question is not whether women can have abortions, but which women and for what reasons?"

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She pointed out that a Pew Research Center study in 2013 found that except for Roman Catholics, all other denominations, including "the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), and the Missouri Synod Lutherans concede that abortion is justifiable when a woman's life is in danger. The LDS, the NAE, and the Episcopalians also specifically mention that rape and incest are considered justifiable reasons to terminate a pregnancy."

There are other reasons that I will discuss in a moment, but Christian women continue to have abortions because they do not see the Church speaking to their situation with its overarching Pro-Life platform. There is a tension between policy and practice which goes to the need for the Church address the issue more convincingly. The Care Net study found that "Many women with unplanned pregnancies go silently from the church pew to the abortion clinic, convinced the church would gossip rather than help." (Emphasis, mine)

A mere 7% "discussed their abortion decision with anyone at church," and the church had no influence on 76% in making their decision. McConnell said "The results point to a church culture that often lacks grace." This seems to be supported by the impression of the women who had an abortion as indicated by the study:

Two-thirds (65 percent) say church members judge single women who are pregnant.

A majority (54 percent) thinks churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options.

Fewer than half (41 percent) believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
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Only 3 in 10 think churches give accurate advice about pregnancy options. (Emphasis, mine)
In response to the Care Net study, Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, said: "That's a huge opportunity for the church to have an impact on those decisions." This is not an issues of conservative versus liberal views on abortion. Christian women continue to have abortions because they do not trust the Pro-Life arguments of the church. They think the church oversimplifies decisions about abortion options, is not prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies, and gives inaccurate advice about pregnancy options. Those are not the views of ungodly liberals. Those are the views of Christian women!

As promised above, there are other situations that would lead Christian women to choose an abortion. The medical reasons for abortion in the United States have increased from 17% in 2008 to 23% in 2011. For early abortions up to nine weeks it increased from 26% in 2008 to 36% in 2011. Removed from the emotions of politics and religion, medically, there are more reasons than we might have thought that would make a clinician recommend an abortion, and that faithful, rational, pragmatic Christian women will consider.

A clinician may recommend an abortion in abnormal pregnancies in cases of ectopic pregnancies, a non-viable intrauterine fetus caused by "abnormal implantation or chromosomal defects," premature rupture of fetal membranes of "bag of water" before the fetus becomes viable to survive outside the uterus," and placental separation which will cause heavy bleeding.

Medically necessary abortions are considered in fetal abnormalities such as fetal congenital birth defects which are incompatible with life, often ending in death shortly after birth. These include, spina bifida and other spinal abnormalities such as meningocele, myelomeningocele. There is anencephaly where the brain doesn't grow, conjoined twins, severe heart or kidney abnormalities not compatible with life, maternal infections and toxins passing from mother to fetus, and genetic disorders.

There are also considerations for the medical condition of the mother such as cardiovascular diseases, renal disease, preeclampsia, cancer, and intrauterine infection.

With Christian women continuing to have abortions in spite of their Pro-Life faith, McConnell went on to note. "...if they don't start experiencing something different than what they've seen in the past, these numbers aren't going to change." My view is that the church is missing the human and compassion factors, and perhaps, most importantly, it is speaking more for an institution of letters rather than a church of people.

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