Stand Agape or Offer "Agape"?

I've seen a couple of posts now that deal with forgiveness/kindness for the woman right after an abortion. After I commented on this blog, another poster responded that she didn't "get it," and she later went on to blog about this herself. Her point of contention seems to be that she has a hard time forgiving the repentant post-abortive woman too soon after the abortion. However, I hope to show that not only should we act kindly and forgiving toward those who are repentant immediately following their abortion, but we also need to be kind and forgiving toward those who are unrepentant following an abortion! This is a huge issue for many, and it is at the core of many things: being Christian, being a kind person, and being pro-woman (and pro-life). Forgiveness and kindness go hand in hand. Let's delve a little deeper.

There are 2 kinds of forgiveness: the kind God gives us and the kind we give to one another.
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matthew 6:12

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

In the ultimate sense, it is only God that can pardon sin. So our responsibility is more of a proper attitude, since we are Christ's ambassadors here on earth. This means that we cannot repay evil for evil. (Romans 12:17) We cannot hate the sinner. Instead, we need to show agape love toward the sinner. (More on agape love later if this is a new term for you.) We need to "be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32) We need to leave the door open for the sinner and long for them to drop in.

The best way to grow this kind of attitude is to remember a few things: (1) Remember the value of each and every human soul. We cannot be selective with whom we forgive and show kindness to. (2) Don't be selective in the sins that you think are forgivable. God lumps in the sin of murder with envy, strife, deceit, and malice. (
Romans 1:29) (3) Along the same lines, remember that we ourselves have grieved God: Remember "...to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another." (Titus 3:2-3) Last but not least (4) remember to be forgiving because it creates peace within yourself. Living with a bitter, unforgiving attitude will bring you down and create unnecessary stress. God doesn't want that for you!


So how should we act toward the post-abortive woman then? We need something called agape love. Agape love is defined as divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, volitional, thoughtful love. Agape love is more of a principal that we live out than an emotion that we feel in our hearts. The best description of agape love is found in
1 Corinthians 13, where Paul talks about the character of love. Let's look step by step:

1. Love is patient. In other words, love waits. It doesn't expect quick changes of heart in another person. When a woman has an abortion, usually there is no quick repentance. There can be, but usually the feeling of sadness and regret takes awhile to seep in. Sometimes days. Sometimes weeks. Sometimes years. Sometimes decades! God tells us what we should be doing during that time. We should be waiting for that person to realize what has happened. Not so that we can say, "It's about time!" or because we are waiting to feel superior to them, but rather, God wants us to wait so that when that woman realizes what abortion did to her, to her baby, and to God, she has a refuge in you...someone who can tell her of the forgiveness of God and extend hope to her. This isn't about us. This is about being a tool that God can use to shine his love on post-abortive women.

2. Love is kind. Proverbs 19:22 says "What is desirable in a man is his kindness..." Kindness is what is desired in you and I. Not frustration. Not a superiority complex. Just kindness. Seems too easy doesn't it? The truth is, being kind in the face of wrongdoing is the hardest thing to accomplish. Who wants to turn the other cheek? But to be desirable - someone that God can use in the life of a post-abortive woman - we need to be kind when no one else is. Luke 6:35 says, "...for [God] Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." What could be more Christ-like?

3. Love does not envy. I don't think any one of us envies the post-abortive woman. What we might envy is how some seemingly get through it so easily. Jealousy is the resentful desire for another's advantages. We might be jealous of the peace, prosperity, and relief that many post-abortive women experience. God tells us not to feel envy, however. I think He would desire us to, instead, pray that these women will be guided gently out of denial so they can experience healing.

4. Love does not boast. Agape love is selfless. It does not want others to feel second-best, and instead, it seeks to be uplifting and encouraging toward others. Be there with a kind, humble word to any post-abortive woman you deal with.

5. Love is not proud. Being proud generally means that you have a superior manner toward an inferior. This can consist of a demeaning attitude. One of, "I'm better than you." Remember that we have all grieved God at one point. We don't have the right to wag our fingers at anyone.

6. Love is not rude. It does not deliberately seek to offend others. We should not hold any contempt toward the post-abortive woman in our hearts, because if we do, that contempt is going to spew forth. You can't represent God with that attitude.

7. Love is not self-seeking. Self-seeking behavior is defined as exhibiting concern only with promoting one's own ends or interests. Think of others instead, and look for ways to serve. Instead of thinking how much you are upset by abortion, drop that attitude, and put the concern where it belongs!

8. Love is not easily angered. Jackpot! This is the one that can make or break you in the eyes of the post-abortive woman. Do you walk around with a chip on your shoulder? At bad news, do you immediately launch into a tirade? Do you immediately get openly frustrated and disgusted when you discover someone has had an abortion? It's one thing to share the truth bluntly. It's quite another to share the truth with love. I've heard it so many times, "I told her just what a horrible thing she did." "I just can't even bear to talk to her anymore now that I know." If God is not easily angered, who do we think we are?

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It does not keep score. Do you make a mental note of all the things that a woman has done surrounding her abortion? How she callously referred to it as a "fetus," how she refused to listen to you, how she didn't want to look at the ultrasound, and how she seems to be perfectly happy now that she is no longer pregnant? That's not what love does. Love says, "While you did do wrong, I'm going to love you anyway, hope for your happiness, and pray for your healing."

10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. I think we would all agree that we don't have a problem with this one. The only thing I would add here is that not only should we not delight in the evil of abortion, but we also should not delight when a woman suffers from sadness and/or depression from an abortion. We shouldn't have the attitude of "I told you so" or "You're getting what you deserve." We should instead rejoice in the truth that God loves and wants to heal these women.

11. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love offers support, and it does so in a way that does not publicly shame others but rather quietly works to help. Love will give the benefit of the doubt. It does not quickly condemn but rather slowly works to bring about healing. Love believes that the post-abortive woman will be healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Lastly, love does not easily give up on anyone - no matter how difficult the situation and attitude.


Remember that there is always a bigger picture. As a representative of God and as a pro-life/pro-woman person, you are going to have an impact on post-abortive women that can last for a lifetime. She is always going to remember how the various people in her life treated her after her abortion. Who treated her with contempt for her decision? Who offered unconditional love? Who was indifferent and unhelpful? Don't let Planned Parenthood be her source for love and support. My prayer is that post-abortive women will be able to see us as the ones who offer her love, help, and support - before and after any decision.

See also:
The Biblical Concept of Forgiveness and The Challenge of Agape Love.


Common Ground Can Be Found

This blog entry verifies something I have known all along. Putting women first allows us to meet the "other side" on common ground. Although the writer does not want to make a habit out of discussing this, she was gracious enough to admit that we could maybe agree on some things.

Also, check out a pro-life perspective on the pro-woman approach here.

I've seen this reaction before to the pro-woman approach, and I take this as proof positive that this approach should be used the majority of the time. How else are you going to get pro-choice and pro-life persons to talk civilly?

Should Women Be Prosecuted?

In addition to there being concerns about women dying if Roe is overturned, there has been a rash of concern lately that women would be hauled off and locked up in prison for pursuing illegal abortion. AtCenterNetwork filmed this video of abortion protesters who were all caught off guard when asked if women should be punished for having an illegal abortion. There have been several blogs about this lately as well, for instance here, here, here, and here. I'd like to spend some time going through, what I think might be, an answer that a lot of us could agree on.

1. Should women be prosecuted? Women should not be prosecuted for pursuing or going through with an illegal abortion. Instead, the physicians (nearly 90% of illegal abortions were done by physicians pre-Roe) and the few laymen and laywomen that actually carry out the act of abortion should be the ones that are prosecuted. A law of this sort will discourage many physicians from doing an illegal abortion in the first place. ("It's not worth getting my license revoked!") In addition, women will be more likely to testify against the physicians that do their abortions if they do not have to face a penalty, which is an added benefit. Laypersons that perform an illegal abortion should be prosecuted, but not held to as high a standard as physicians.

2. Why shouldn't women be prosecuted? First and foremost, we need to realize that women, for the most part, aren't happily running off to their abortions. Usually, this is a decision that they put a lot of thought into. They usually have an abortion because of an external pressure in their life. Sometimes this is a partner. Sometimes it is financial constraints. Sometimes it is school or business pressures. It is true that some women just do not want children, and they just don't need to put a lot of thought into it, but I would say that is the exception to the rule, although certainly these are the ones who we commonly hear from. Women have abortions because if they do not, some area in their lives will be troubled, turned upside-down. They have an abortion as an act of desperation to keep things peaceful in their own lives.

Simply put, women should not be prosecuted because it would send the wrong message. It would send the message to women that not only might their life be miserable if they do decide to give birth (which is how they see it), but there's a chance that if they abort, they might be thrown in jail. It sends the message that society does not care about women. Where would she find hope and compassion then? Remember, she isn't going to trust the vast majority of pro-lifers who took her choice away and threaten her with jail time. She's going to seek out that illegal abortion if she can't find a way to make giving birth work for her.

3. What if a woman tries to do her own abortion?
Coat-hanger abortions are always the rallying cry amidst the pro-choice movement. More commonly, a woman will try to swallow a mixture of herbs to induce an abortion. Again, this is an act of desperation in most cases, where the woman is doing what she thinks is right. She feels she has no other recourse. If a woman attempts her own abortion, it should be viewed as an attempt to harm herself, much like a suicide attempt. She should be helped. She should be stopped if possible, but she should not be prosecuted.

4. But isn't abortion the murder of a child - why the inconsistency here? First, I don't characterize abortion as murder. (I can hear the gasps.) I don't.
Murder, to me, carries some sort of malice with it. Women that have abortions don't do so out of malice. Abortion is a form of killing though. It does end life. To many women, however, they seriously think that it is them or the baby. Therefore, it is compassion that should be given toward the women who are considering abortion (illegal or legal) as well as toward those that have an abortion.

It is the physician - the one that is put in a place of authority to protect and do no harm - that should be culpable. The physician is not in the middle of a stressful situation. They have the insight and the knowledge to be able to say, "No, but here is another way." There is not a lot of precedent for this line of thought, but there are other situations where the pursuer is not held liable for the actual event. Take
assisted suicide, for instance. In some states it is illegal to assist someone to attempt suicide, but the person who hires the physician is not charged with a crime. In another instance, alternative therapies that go wrong create a situation where the authority figure (doctor, counselor, whatever) is held responsible, while the client and/or the client's parent are not. Medical malpractice demands that physicians be held responsible in the face of the desires and demands of their patients, no matter how compelling.


This is such a cursory look at this, however. So much is needed before we can honestly expect women to not turn to abortion. If Roe was overturned tomorrow and things remained the same, the illegal abortion rate would be right around the legal rate right now, dropped only because of some physicians who would not risk the punishment. It is society that would need to change in order for women to feel supported and comfortable giving birth instead of aborting - meaning our attitude towards woman in the popular media, our attitude toward pregnancy in the workplace, our attitudes toward the unborn (meaning both we should not discount the fact that the fetus is a developing human but nor should we hold the fetus above the concerns of the woman), and our attitude towards unwed mothers and women who seek abortion.

Support for women - starting now - is paramount. Stop holding the rights of the unborn (who don't have any legally right now) above her concerns, desires, and needs. Start educating women about their fertility cycles and birth control options. (There are only 2-5 days that a woman can get pregnant during her cycle. Why aren't we making that known??) Family planning can and should exist, but it should not involve abortion. Start holding the men accountable when they threaten to leave if a woman wants to parent. Why aren't they shunned the same way single mothers and women who abort are? This isn't going to be an easy thing to do, and this is only the tip of the iceberg, but this is what is necessary to make abortion the option that is just not thought of by the majority of women.


Overturning Roe v. Wade

Right now there is much being said about what will become of Roe V. Wade, what will become of abortion if Roe is overturned, and what will become of women who want an abortion should Roe be overturned. The media has gone ga-ga, reporting false statements, for instance the statistic reported by Senator Barbara Boxer, and emotionally-charged remarks are flying at the websites of NOW and NARAL. They are reporting that women will die in droves, and legalized abortion will come to an end if Roe v. Wade is overturned. I'd like to take some time to cast a pro-woman light on this for you.

Figures never lie, but liars sure do figure. - Mark Twain

The biggest and most-useful lie that the pro-abortion movement has spread has been the one that says that there are just too many desparate women seeking abortion to be able to do anything but legalize abortion. The problem is too big they say, and we cannot jeapordize the safety of women. After all, no one wants to send masses of women to their death beds. If legalizing the abortions that will occur anyway will help to save the lives of thousands of women every year, then we'd be hard-pressed not to support the law. Right?

Except for this...the numbers are exaggerated to unrecognizability. The most often quoted statistic states that women died at a rate of 5,000 to 10,000 women per year prior to legalization. It was a version of this statistic that rolled off the tongue of our beloved senator from the state of California last week. This statistic was taken from a book in 1936, written by Dr. Frederick Taussig, entitled "Abortion, Spontaneous and Induced." Dr. Taussig was a supporter of abortion rights. However, in 1942, Taussig appologized for using "the wildest estimates" to come to the conclusion he had. Likewise, the founder of NARAL, Bernard Nathanson, is also on record stating: "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In NARAL, we generally emphasized the frame of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always '5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.' I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the 'morality' of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible."

The truth is that women pre-Roe did not die at a rate any larger than today's abortion deaths, even taking into consideration the percentages of women who were having abortion then compared to now:

  • The number that comes closest to 5,000 took place prior to the emergence of antibiotic use, in 1942, with approximately 1,400 women dying that year from abortion. (JAMA)
  • From that point on until legalization, abortion deaths fell from 1,400 to a little over 100. (JAMA)
  • The Centers for Disease Control states that in 1972, 39 women died from illegal abortions.
  • In 2000, the CDC states that 11 women were reported as dying from legal abortion.

What makes the pro-abortion crowd think that those numbers are going to sky rocket out of control all of a sudden, and why would they climb higher than the death rate associated with abortion before antibiotic use started? 90% of abortions done prior to Roe in 1973 were done by physicians - they weren't done by the coat-hangers that are so defiantly paraded in pro-choice rallies, and there is no reason to think this statistic would change now. With the use of antibiotics and aseptic techniques, how could the number possibly climb to 5,000 deaths per year? Remember the words of Bernard Nathanson, the founder of NARAL, anything within reason that had to be done was permissible. These untruths are being spread simply because they want the law to remain the same at any cost.

Missing in this argument, however, is the reality that should Roe be overturned, abortion would not be outlawed. When Roe was put into effect, it superceded the rights of many states that had already ruled that abortion is illegal. If Roe were to be reversed, the state laws would be the "law of the land." It would be up to the individual states to decide whether or not abortion should be legal within their borders. I suspect that most red states would outlaw abortion, while the blue states would keep it legal. The states where it would become illegal to have an abortion would, no doubt, see a rise in illegal "back-alley" abortion. (Note: The term "back-alley" does not refer to where the abortion was done, but rather it refers to the door where the woman had to enter the clinic to keep from being seen and reported.)

We have a lot of work ahead of us if Roe is overturned. It's easy to say, "Abortion is illegal in my state now - my job is done." If this is what you're looking forward to, you have another thing coming. As pro-women pro-lifers, we need to be thinking about how we can create a society where abortion is no longer desired, where women will feel so supported in their pregnancies that they will not want to seek out that illegal (or legal) abortion, and where women are educated about their fertility so that they know how to avoid intercourse that might lead to a pregnancy. How do we do this? We commit to putting women first. It's as simple as that.


Must Pro-Life Christians Cite Scripture?

This is a wonderful blog entry about why using secular reasoning in a secular world will work and should be used.

I know many many wonderful pro-life counselors who use the Bible every chance they get to point out why women should choose life. These counselors also often point out the path to salvation in the same setting. I also know that these dear men and women do this with the best of intentions; however, this does not work well for the women faced with this choice. If they disagree with you based on your Christian faith...if they disagree with you as the messenger, they are going to reject your message.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
This is the verse that is commonly held up by pro-lifers (and many other groups in other settings) claiming that the Bible is sufficient to make the case to choose life. There is a problem though. Do you notice the phrase "that the man of God...?" This verse clearly states that the Bible is good for teaching, reproof, correction, and training for the believer - for the man of God. So that he (or she) might be equipped for every good work. It does not state that all men will be equipped through biblical teaching. Gregory Koukl from Stand to Reason does a great job of explaining this in further detail, and I encourage you to read it.

If a woman is a Christian, I certainly encourage you to share Scripture with her. If she has faith in God, it's important that she consider and be reminded of what His Word says on the matter. However, when the woman shows no history of faith, a time of crisis is not the time to share God's Word with her. Why? It does not get to the root of the problem as she sees it. If you’re upset about not having enough money and I supply you with a gret cookie recipe, you’re going to wonder, “Is she even listening to me!?”

In no way am I downplaying the importance of the Word of God. I love the Bible and enjoy searching it for answers to life's questions. I am saying that this parallels her thought process. She needs answers - concrete help: money, a friend, a place to live, answers, medical treatment, support to stand up to pressure, etc. She does not want to hear about how much God loves her or her baby, how sinful abortion is, how God won't tempt her beyond what she can take, etc – even though you and I know this to be true. As a matter of fact, this approach is likely to be damaging in 2 ways, (1) it's going to push her away from you, making it difficult for you to reach her with the crucial information and support that she needs to choose life, and (2) it's going to cloud the way God Himself appears in her eyes, making Him seem distant and unaware of what her needs and concerns are.

This time of crisis is not a good time to approach her with God. You might as well serve her filet mignon on a trashcan lid because the presentation is totally wrong in this case. She’s jumping head first into disaster. A pro-woman approach would be to first talk to her about what is going on in her life that would bring her to this. Listen to her concerns. Find answers to her problems. Get the core of the immediate problem out of the way. When you’ve “talked her down” – then you can share your faith with her. Until then, live the Gospel – don’t preach it.


Ever Wonder Why?

Have you ever wondered why it is that even though we feel so strongly about being pro-life, we have so much medical, spiritual, and testimonial evidence on our side, and we are willing to get out there and give 100% of our hearts, souls, and minds, we still fail, much of the time, to bring women to a life decision? Have you ever stopped to think about that? One-half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion. One-half! Does that sound like a winning number to you? Is the other half won over by our wisdom, charm, and assistance? Although there are no numbers I can verify (which doesn't make me feel secure), I would hazard to say that the other half is broken into 2 groups - one group has an unintended pregnancy but will not abort for various reasons, and the other group is the group that decides, after weighing out the abortion option, that she will give birth to the child.

In short, half of pregnancies are unintended. One-quarter of those pregnancies result in birth because the mother will not consider abortion, and the other 3/4 of those pregnancies involve a mother who actively decides between abortion, parenting, and adoption. 66% of those women...the deciders...choose to have an abortion.

Ladies and gentlemen, since the truth is on our side, surely we can do better than a 33% success rate! Couldn't it even be said that a 33% "success" rate isn't successful at all?

Something needs to change. Something isn't working - based on those numbers and based on what I have seen and heard throughout the "deciding" community, in which I am firmly ensconced. Women are thinking that they will be helped more by the abortion advocates than they would be by the pro-life advocates. I know why. It's not a state secret. Women feel that the pro-choice community is concerned for them while the pro-life community is not.

Let's think for a moment. What in the world would give them that impression? I think our respective titles say it all.
Pro-life. What does that invoke in you? It has a beautiful ring to it, doesn't it? Who could be against the life of a beautiful unborn child after all? Who could be against life in general?

But, to the deciding woman, she hears you caring about her baby's life - and not her own.
Pro-choice, however, well, that has an awfully nice ring to it when you're a deciding woman. If I'm a deciding woman, I'm going to hear "it's about you" from the pro-choice crowd. I'm going to hear "this isn't about the life of your baby, it's about your life" from the pro-choice crowd. I'm going to hear "an abortion will help you regain control" from the pro-choice crowd. I have to tell you, when you're in a situation where your entire life will be uprooted and flushed down the proverbial toilet by having a baby, that is going to sound very enticing. Wave a magic wand...everything goes back to normal...

How can we fix this? How can we change the way the deciding woman feels about the pro-life community? Again, this is not a big surprise. If Planned Parenthood et al. is able to comfort these women, make this about them, and "solve" a "problem" they are having, that is what we need to do as well, but for some reason, many pro-lifers feel that to talk about anything other than the baby and/or God in this situation is to break some kind of ethical/moral code. Where is it in the rulebook that we aren't allowed to make this about the woman? Making this about women will gain trust and offer concrete, tangible help.

I do not mean that this should be done in a manipulative way, however. We need to care for the women on the exact same level that we care for her unborn child. If you cannot do that, dear reader, you are not going to be as successful as you could be as a life advocate. You are going to keep pulling in the same sorry statistics. I, for one, am not happy with that. Can we ever end abortion? No. Not without a miracle. Can we make it rare? Yes - if we're willing to reassess the way we have been operating and make room for change.

Until next time...