She was a regular churchgoer who had grown up in a Christian family. But when Jackie* became pregnant after a divorce and a season of uncharacteristic promiscuity, she panicked and got an abortion. “I just got into this very devastated, dark place,” she told me. “I can hardly even believe that I ever was that person—scared to death. I grew up in a family [where] nobody had a child out of wedlock. … I just couldn’t imagine telling them about being pregnant.”
Jackie was the first post-abortive woman I ever interviewed who had gotten an abortion after becoming a Christian. What made her story even more troubling was that the person who had driven Jackie to Planned Parenthood was a friend from church. Her friend knew just where to go and what to do because she had gotten an abortion about 10 years prior—when she was a student at an evangelical college.
Since interviewing Jackie, I’ve learned that thousands of professing Christians get abortions every year. This unsettling fact was recently reported all too smugly in the feminist magazine Marie Claire. The article, titled “The Secret Evangelicals at Planned Parenthood,” announced, “They may demonize the health clinic in public, but throngs of young Christian women are patronizing it in private for birth control, preventative care, and yes, even abortions.”
I can’t deny the article’s basic assertion: Evangelicals are using Planned Parenthood. But I strongly deny the article’s conclusion: Evangelicals need Planned Parenthood.
The writer treats abortion as a viable solution, ignoring the fact that it takes an innocent life and saddles women with a lifetime of grief and regret. Sanya Richards-Ross, five-time Olympic gold medalist and an outspoken Christian, recently revealed that she had an abortion just before the 2008 Games. Though the decision enabled her to capture Olympic glory, she called it “a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal. Abortion would now forever be a part of my life.”
Richards-Ross’ experience is not isolated. According to the Elliot Institute, post-abortive women are 65 percent more likely to suffer long-term clinical depression. They’re also more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment; suffer from eating disorders, sleep disorders, and generalized anxiety disorders; and abuse alcohol and drugs.
The Marie Claire report merely shows that evangelicals are making tragic decisions, not that they should make those decisions. Even so, it provides one very valuable insight: Many evangelical women don’t trust the church to be a safe place to discuss sexuality. When they face crises, they often turn to groups like Planned Parenthood instead of their Christian community for help.
According to a 2015 LifeWay Research study, only seven percent of churchgoing women who have had abortions have discussed their experiences with anyone at church. Two-thirds of these post-abortive women said church members judge single women who are pregnant, and fewer than half believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
Clearly, the church has a major problem. But before addressing it, we need to understand the facts.
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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Julie Roys