As you prepare for Sanctity of Human Life month, here are five things to consider before talking about such a difficult topic.
By Mary Holloman
History was made in June 2022 when the Supreme Court overthrew Roe v. Wade, a decision that was the law of the land for nearly 50 years. The ruling we hoped for, prayed for, and fought for—the ruling many wrote off as impossible—is now reality.
The post-Roe world is here.
People are discussing and dissecting this landmark decision on every platform, in every context, and from every angle. People who’ve not thought or spoken about this topic are now exploring it on their phones, in the workplace, and at the dinner table.
Whether you’ve talked about the sanctity of human life from the pulpit before or not, one thing is certain: The church can’t afford to not address abortion.
So, what does it look like to talk about such a difficult topic in a truthful but also loving and compassionate way? And how, if at all, should we talk about the sanctity of human life differently now that Roe is overturned?“The church can’t afford to not address abortion.” — @mtholloman Click To Tweet
In order to speak effectively, we must first come to grips with some uncomfortable truths about the men and women sitting in your pews each Sunday. We must acknowledge these realities if we hope to see God’s people create a loving culture of life in our world. Here are five tough truths to tackle as you prepare for Sanctity of Human Life month.
1. Your congregation may not even know what abortion is
Words matter, and the pro-abortion movement knows this. That’s why they’ve rebranded and repackaged “abortion” with terms like “abortion care” or “women’s healthcare.” If you Google “what is an abortion,” the entire first page of results contains phrases like “the termination of a pregnancy” or “the removal of an embryo.” And Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, describes it on its website as the removal of “pregnancy tissue.”
Such communication is powerful and effective. These terms serve to normalize and sterilize abortions while also dehumanizing the unborn persons targeted by each procedure.
So, what is abortion, really? It’s the willful, intentional ending of a human life, usually by poisoning, dismembering, and/or inducing cardiac arrest. Does your congregation know this? Do they know how gruesome it is? Educating your church on abortion doesn’t mean it’s necessary to show pictures or go into excruciating detail. But ignorance fosters passivity. And we are doing God’s people a disservice if we do not shed light on the dark work of abortion (Ephesians 5:11).
2. Your congregation probably hasn’t made up its mind on abortion
According to a study from Lifeway Research and the Land Center of Cultural Engagement, only 53% of American Christians who attend church weekly consider themselves “generally pro-life.” Consider the implications of that statistic: Half of your congregation doesn’t identify as pro-life, and the other half is “generally” pro-life. That means most individuals in your church haven’t settled the issue of abortion in their hearts. To assume they have could be detrimental.Only 53% of American Christians who attend church weekly consider themselves “generally pro-life.” Click To Tweet
The same study found some of the strongest factors that impact individuals’ views on abortion are women’s rights (i.e. the right to choose), health and medical issues (i.e. the life of the mother, a child’s quality of life), and morality. Many feel the tension between each of these factors and haven’t taken the time to work out their convictions. By addressing abortion from a biblical worldview, you can help your church members work through and solidify their beliefs on this issue.
3. Your congregation may not fully understand the impact of Roe’s overturn
Misconceptions about abortion in the U.S. have run rampant since the ruling against Roe in June. Many believe abortion is now illegal or that women experiencing ectopic pregnancies or miscarriages will not receive care. None of these things are true. It’s vital that we encourage our congregations to seek out reputable sources and refuse to spread misinformation. (If you’re not familiar with your state’s abortion laws, you can find them here.)
What’s the simplest way to sum up the impact of Roe’s overturn? Abortion regulation is now returned to individual states. Roe v. Wade established a woman’s universal, constitutional right to an abortion for any reason at any point during pregnancy. When Roe was overturned, the Supreme Court ruled that Roe was unconstitutional. (You can read the top quotes from the court decision here.)
4. Your congregation is filled with abortion stories
While we must speak honestly about abortion, we also cannot forget to bathe every word in compassion and grace. Estimates show as many as 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in her lifetime. That means your church is full of women and men living with the pain of abortion.More than 2 in 5 women were attending church at the time of their abortions, but only 7% of women discussed their decision with anyone in their congregation. Click To Tweet
According to a Lifeway research study, half of men whose partners received an abortion were attending a Christian church at the time. Another Lifeway Research study found more than 2 in 5 women were attending church at the time of their abortions. But only 7% of women discussed their decision with anyone at their church. Does your congregation know there is healing after abortion? Do they feel safe sharing stories? How does your church or local pregnancy center offer support for those who are post-abortive?
5. Many in your congregation feel they have no place in the pro-life movement
There is an entire subset of people in your church who are burdened by the issue of abortion but feel ill-equipped to do anything about it.
There are many ways to combat this restlessness. If you want to see your church’s passion for the sanctity of life grow, one of your first steps is to connect with your local pregnancy resource center (PRC). PRCs are uniquely equipped to serve mothers and protect life in your community. By partnering with these centers, you are funneling members of your church toward organizations where members themselves can find their places in the pro-life movement. PRCs provide opportunities for individuals in your church to give financially, volunteer, serve as mentors, teach parenting classes, host baby showers, and more. Contact your PRC before Sanctity of Human Life month and ask how your church can get involved.
Men and women in your church want to step up. Be ready to show them how.
The Truth that sets us free
Abortion is divisive because the gospel is divisive. Abortion is a direct attack on the character and holiness of our great God. And the enemy would love nothing more than for every pastor, leader, or teacher within the church to avoid discussing it at all costs.“Abortion is divisive because the gospel is divisive. Abortion is a direct attack on the character and holiness of our great God.” — @mtholloman Click To Tweet
The overturning of Roe has created a world where church members are quietly wrestling with their own thoughts and convictions—fearful of the world’s rejection if they stand for life and the church’s judgment if they don’t.
In a world where thousands of voices are screaming at your flock to live their truth, the men and women in your pews must hear your strong but gentle voice pointing them to the Truth.
And for every man or woman who has felt heartbroken, conflicted, or imprisoned by the dark work of abortion, it is this gentle Truth that will set them free.
To find out more about how your church can build a healthy relationship with your local pregnancy resource center, contact The Pregnancy Network’s Director of Partnerships Allison Herrington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary is the communications coordinator for The Pregnancy Network in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has written for numerous organizations, and is a contributing author for two books. Her debut picture book, The Anxious Lily (End Game Press) releases in 2023.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.