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Abortion, Pregnancy Scares, and Perfect Love

For the first 30 years of my life, I was, like everyone else I knew in my family, my schools, and my workplaces, fiercely pro-choice. Today, and for the past 20+ years, my views are unapologetically pro-life. So I’ve totally changed my position on this issue, but equally importantly, I’ve also changed my attitude.

Where I was once loudly adamant, even angry, in my pro-choice views, I’m considerably more thoughtful and measured with my words as someone who is pro-life. Yes, I’ve probably mellowed with age, but as someone who has been on “the other side,” I also have an empathy that I wouldn’t have otherwise had for women who face unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

Back when I believed strongly in abortion rights, the very thought that a woman’s legal right to an abortion could be taken away was absolutely terrifying to me. And I believe that’s still the case with most pro-choice women today, especially those of child-bearing years. You may see anger in their faces and hear it in their voices, but it’s likely that underlying that anger is fear. Fear of loss of control, fear of personal harm, and fear of being shackled to an uncertain and frightening future.

Now, I’ve never actually had an abortion, although I did come close—in my own head, at least. When I was in my late teens, years before I became a Christian, I had a pregnancy scare. I immediately panicked, but consoled myself with the reminder that if I was pregnant, I knew right where to go for an abortion because a close relative had gone there just a few months before. (This was in the 1980s, when nearly 20,000 abortions were performed in my state alone during every year of that decade.) I knew without a second thought that I would choose this path—the alternative never once entered my mind. The thought of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy terrified me, and the only possible outcome I could envision was a visit to a doctor and the elimination of the problem. The cost to me, whether financial, physical, and/or emotional, was worth whatever it took.

But none of this came to pass because I wasn’t pregnant after all. (There, but for the grace of God, go I.)

What I had was a “pregnancy scare”—a phrase that’s been used by generations of women to describe the predicament I was in. It’s a fear unlike any other, and one that men will never quite understand (I have no doubt they are secretly grateful for that). In an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, something is happening inside your body that you have no control over. Something you didn’t ask for and don’t want. Something that would change your life forever in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. Something that you feel completely unprepared to deal with—emotionally, financially, physically, or otherwise. Something that you will eventually have to tell others about, including people who may be extremely disappointed or upset with you.

Even in the best of circumstances, with a wanted pregnancy and a secure home life,  every woman who has been pregnant knows the feeling of vulnerability and loss of control over her body. It’s true that the physical demands of pregnancy are different for everyone, and vary greatly in degree. But the feeling of a loss of autonomy or control, along with limited options on how to deal with difficult changes, is real for every pregnant woman. Sickness at the beginning and fatigue and an extreme sense of vulnerability at the end are common. Jesus himself specifically mentioned pregnant and nursing women as especially vulnerable when he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:23). Every woman who has been pregnant knows exactly why Jesus singled out this particular subset of people for his warning.

Acknowledging first the fear associated with pregnancy is the basis for talking to, ministering to, and even changing the minds of women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy and are considering or seeking an abortion. This simple, compassionate consideration seems to have been forgotten by many pro-life activists over the years. A pregnant woman’s fears may include the experience of pain and suffering, not being able to afford a child, not being able to care for a child, losing her boyfriend or other relationships, losing educational or work opportunities, losing her independence, and more. It’s a fear of the unknown—of her life being altered in unpredictable and alarming ways.

Society in general does a poor job of encouraging women through these very real fears. Instead, pregnant teens and young adults often hear only that their lives will be forever changed in negative ways if they have a child. The focus is on what will be lost, not gained, through motherhood, and that the most prudent thing to do is to terminate the pregnancy.

So I’m thankful that there are life-focused pregnancy centers that provide prenatal and newborn support to women who have opted out of an abortion. I’m thankful for organizations that provide prenatal care, diapers, formula, counseling, clothing, housing assistance, and more to women who have chosen to let their babies live. I’m thankful for adoption agencies and those who specialize in placing babies with grateful parents when a pregnant teen has chosen life for her child. I’m thankful for those who approach this volatile topic with love and kindness, and with sensitivity toward the fear that any woman or girl faces when finding herself unexpectedly pregnant. (The father of the child, of course, ought to be providing all of these things and more, but in our fallen world, we all know that that doesn’t always happen.)

There’s a lot that’s scary about pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child. When I had my pregnancy scare years ago, I had no one to speak hope and love into my life. Since becoming a Christian, I’ve often asked myself, when people are going through a frightening and stressful time in life, how do they do it without Jesus? How do non-Christians deal with such difficulty, such pain, such heart-rending decisions? Average, everyday life is hard enough—how do you get through the hardest parts without Christ?

In the Bible, John tells us that perfect love casts out fear: “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” (1 John 4:17-19, NLT)

There is no changing a woman’s mind about her unplanned pregnancy through anger, yelling, snarky memes, graphic pictures, or other fear-inspiring or punishment-focused methods. We don’t have to ask “what would Jesus do?” because we already have the answer. We can’t love perfectly, but God can, and does. It’s our job to share the love of Christ, in whatever way he calls us to do it, and be God’s instrument of perfect love for women who may otherwise have no hope.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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