I was 16 when I first learned about abortion—through one of my friends. 

She hadn’t meant to get pregnant. She hadn’t meant to have sex. She was on a date with a football player, and things went too far and she said yes, because when you’re 16 and in high school, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

Sixteen. Not even two decades of life under her belt and she was about to have sole charge of another. She had plans, this girl. Honor society, athlete, probably a college degree ahead of her. She had parties and drinking, her driver’s test, her first college roommate. Only 16. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. 

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. For 42 years, men and women dressed in suits and gold watches have been deciding whether girls like my 16-year-old friend should have the right to terminate their baby’s life. They’ve made it an issue not for waiting rooms, but for the television and political campaigns. They’ve made the lives of babies, carried by children too young to be mothers, a bargaining tool for elections and the drawing board. 

Fourty some years later, we, as a church, are still trying to understand how to handle the issue of abortion. Many in the Church would say abortion is morally wrong, and yet the law says it is right. How, then, do we go forward? How do we speak with a clear voice; yet develop a dialogue with grace and compassion amid the yelling and the noise? 

As a church, perhaps along with standing up for our beliefs in the courtroom and advocating for change, we should shift our focus to the young women like my friend in high school, who are struggling and facing a life-altering decision either way.

Here are a few ways I think the church can help fight abortion in the trenches, but also bring more compassion to the issue:

You, too, Have a Right to Your Voice. 

Part of the reason the “women’s choice” campaign has been so successful is because it acknowledges that women are not helpless. It gives a voice to women who hold this opinion, who want control of the situation.

I know that often, I don’t speak up because I am afraid of offending someone. I am as strong a feminist as they come, and yet, sometimes I find myself in situations where I don’t speak up about abortion because I feel like it’s not my place to tell another woman what she can do with her body. 

In this day, time and country, though, we do have a right to our voice, and while it may not be as welcome as the popular chorus of “women’s choice,” it is desperately needed. We must speak, to our friends, our co-workers, our supervisors, our students. If we do not speak up for these unborn babies, for the future of these women, who will? 

As Christians, we understand that life is sacred, that we were “knit together in our mother’s womb,” that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We must acknowledge the complexity of the issue, but also spread the message that there is nothing more precious than bringing forth life; that these unborn babies offer the world unspeakable value. We must not be afraid to speak.

The Gospel Speaks a Message of Grace, Not Guilt.

The last thing a young woman who just passed an unwanted pregnancy test needs to hear is that her pregnancy is a consequence of her sin. It is not a time for a Christian to flaunt their views about sex outside of marriage.

What a women needs to hear at that time is that they are carrying a little life; that inside them is growing a beautiful gift. These women should not be made to feel ashamed about being a single mother, about being pregnant outside of marriage, about having  a baby at the “wrong” time of life. Shame is one of the greatest reasons for abortion.

Rather, these women should be enveloped in grace and offered a strong circle of support. We should be a sanctuary to run to rather than a place to hide from. Let them see that we are Christians by our love. 

We Must Extend Grace to Women Who Have Had Abortions. 

Women who have had abortions are not outside of or exempt from grace. These women are loved by God, and should be shown compassion and forgiveness. Abortion is a tragic thing, but women who have abortions are not without feeling. Often, they are told they carry nothing more than a bundle of cells, that the “thing” inside them has not become a baby yet. As Christians, we are called to stand by these women in love. We don’t have to condone the abortion, but we should not condemn she who has had one. 

Abortion is a messy, hot button issue the Church has been addressing for years. As individuals, we might not be able to change the law, but we, too have voices that can be used to speak truth, grace and love. In the end, it might be that voice that makes the difference. 

Photo credit: Allen Graham – PDImages / Shutterstock.com