The silence was deafening. Carol’s heart was in turmoil. I thought I could trust her. I didn’t think she would reject me. I never should have told her. I will never share this with anyone ever again.
Carol Everett, a former abortion clinic director turned pro-life advocate, sat in a car with her good friend Barbara. For the first time in her life she had shared a dark secret, something that had haunted her for years—she had aborted her third child.
In the face of her admission, her trusted friend was silent. Carol felt hurt and rejected. Later, Barbara explained, “I didn’t say anything because I was afraid of saying the wrong thing.”
Barbara cared deeply about Carol but she did not know how to help her .
Many of us feel like Barbara. We care about the post-abortive men and women in our lives. We want them to find hope and healing, but we do not know how to help them so we never say anything. We may fear inadvertently heaping guilt or condemnation onto these precious men and women with our words. Many of us feel if we are silent at least we will avoid doing harm.
But in reality, silence can be harmful. It can be just as condemning as poorly chosen words.
So how do we lovingly reach into the lives of those who have chosen abortion?
I have spoken with many post-abortive women who have found hope and healing, as well as leaders who seek to reach out to these men and women. Here are some simple suggestions I have gleaned from these conversations.
1. Ask about their story.
If a friend, family member, or total stranger shares with you that they had an abortion, begin by asking questions. Good questions show that you are interested and willing to hear their story.
Ask questions like: What were the circumstances you were facing at that time? Did other people know about your pregnancy/abortion? Were they supportive? Did you feel pressured to get the abortion? How did the abortion affect you emotionally/physically? Have you shared about your abortion with others?
When you are asking questions, be careful not to get too personal or ask questions that will make the person you are speaking to feel defensive. Questions like, “Did you ever consider adoption?” can be good, but can also cause the person to shut down. Pay attention to their body language and vary your approach if they seem uncomfortable.
2. Show sympathy.
When they share their story and all that they were facing at the time, show sympathy. You do not agree with the way they resolved their difficult circumstances, but it does not mean you cannot sympathize with the circumstances and pain they experienced.
Many of us fear that if we agree certain circumstances are incredibly difficult, we somehow discredit our belief that abortion is wrong. This is simply not true. We should oppose abortion out of love and compassion for preborn children. That same love and compassion should drive us to care about difficult circumstances women and men are facing. Communicating that concern is natural and helpful.
3. Don’t pretend that abortion is no big deal.
For many of us, talking to a post-abortive man or woman is terrifying because we do not want to add to their pain. As a result, it may be tempting to downplay the evil of abortion. After all, what’s done is done. Acknowledging that abortion is wrong will not bring a child back.
It is important that we do not downplay the evil of abortion because repentance is necessary for healing. Men and women who have found healing after abortion tell us, the first step to healing was acknowledging their child’s life was ended through abortion.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you are a Christian, it should make sense. Christians believe we are forgiven and cleansed from sin when we repent and trust Christ for salvation. Throughout our lives, the Holy Spirit works to convict us of sin. Until we see sin as sin, we cannot repent of it and find healing from it. This is true of the sin of abortion as well.
4. Acknowledge their need to grieve.
Christians easily acknowledge a post-abortive man or woman’s need to seek forgiveness from God, but we often forget that they also need time and space to grieve. A real, living, unique child was lost in their abortion.
Those of us who have never experienced abortion often expect these men and women to receive Christ’s forgiveness and find instant healing and peace. For many post-abortive men and women, however, healing is a process. They need time to grieve and they need our love and understanding as they seek healing and wholeness.
5. Connect them to resources.
For most men and women, healing after abortion is a process best accomplished in community and with help from others. Many pregnancy help centers offer counseling and classes for post-abortive men and women. Deeper Still is a ministry which offers weekend retreats for men and women who have chosen abortion. There are many other resources as well. Here are links to a few: Project Rachel, Ramah International, Abortion Changes You, and Rachel’s Vineyard.
6. Be persistent and pray.
If you know someone who is post-abortive, I would encourage you to reach out to them. They may not be ready to talk yet. If they are not ready, be patient with them and do not give up on them. You may be the only person who knows about their abortion. Pray for them and continue to look for opportunities to reach out to them.
Abortion is the biggest social justice issue facing our country. It is highly politicized. But for the thousands of men and women who have lost a child to abortion, it is also a spiritual issue. For many, it is the greatest roadblock to faith in Christ.
One post-abortive woman wrote to Justice For All, the ministry I work for, and said in part, “I still hurt and pray that God and my baby forgive me.”
Friends, the question is not, “Will God and her baby forgive her?” The question is, “Who is going to share the message of Christ’s forgiveness with her?” If you are a Christian, that is your calling. I beg you to take it seriously.
- Everett, Carol and Shaw, Jack. Blood Money: How I Got Rich off a Woman’s Right to Choose. Multnomah Books. 1992.