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Secret Grief

by Frank Dabbs


The New Testament and the teachings of Christ are silent about abortion, although in Jesus’ day, abortion induced by herbal potions was widely practiced throughout the Roman Empire.

It is not silent about the unconditional love, enjoining Christ’s followers to fulfill his law of love by bearing one another’s burdens and by being kind, tender-hearted and forgiving to one another.

Secret grief is the burden of Christian women who have had abortions and believe that if they disclose to other Christians, they will be judged and even shunned. “Abortion is a tragedy and a spiritual crisis. Christians are missing a ministry if they treat abortion as an issue and don’t offer love and care to a post-abortion woman in the pew next to them, says Cindy Palin.

Palin is the director of the Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre in the town of Olds.

An unplanned and unwanted pregnancy is “a person not an issue,” said Palin, a Baptist Christian, mother of three, singer song-writer and author. “There is a need for Christians to reach out and embrace post-abortive women.”

Christians spend time and energy protesting abortion and picketing outside abortion clinics.

Patient lobbies, such as the Wilberforce Project in Alberta, may prevail to have pro-choice politicians reopen the abortion debate.

Meanwhile, Christians can reach out and embrace post-abortive women and those who are considering an abortion choice, Palin advocated.

Pregnancy centres who are in the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS) have post-abortion recovery and education programs for women who are struggling with loss and the emotional and spiritual issues that follow an abortion.

Post-abortion stress symptoms include denial, depression, feelings of shame, regret, guilt, and sadness, low self-esteem, emotional numbness and intimacy issues, alcohol and drug abuse and repeated abortions.

This is a national mental health issue as well as a spiritual crisis. CAPSS estimates 100,000 abortions in Canada each year and 3.2 million since the procedure was legalized. Each one produces a legacy of stress that extends to the biological fathers.

Care Net is an evangelical, pro-life Christian organization of crisis pregnancy centers. Lifeway is the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The two organizations collaborated on an abortion study and found that a third of the women who chose abortion attend church regularly and three quarters of them said the church had no influence on their abortion decision. Half of the women who attended church did not inform other congregation members. Only seven percent discussed their choice with someone in the church. The women said that when they considered abortion, a third of church people were judgemental and a quarter were condemning. Only 14 percent were caring and loving in their response. Only 38 percent of women who have had abortions agreed that churches are a safe place to talk about abortion choices.
Half of the women think that pastoral teaching about forgiveness doesn’t seem to apply to pregnancy termination. Less than half said that pastors teach that God is willing to forgive past abortion decisions. Only four in ten agreed that pastors are sensitive to pressures a woman faces with an unplanned pregnancy.

In its booklet, Healing Conversations, The Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services, reprinted an anonymous letter from a post-abortive woman to her pastor.
In it she wrote, “Life has become unbearably painful for me. I don’t know how to explain this pain to you although deep down I really believe you may have an answer of hope for me.

“I’m scared. I’m afraid I’ll feel worse if I break the silence . . .

“I’ve had an abortion. I know I’m not alone. So has the woman sitting beside me and over by the far door. I also recognize the woman three rows in front of me. And we all have partners who are hurting too.

“Pastor, please start the conversation for me . . . I need someone to open the door of hope . . . you can be the beginning of the healing journey I, and others, have been longing for.”

In his 1995 encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae, on the sanctity of life, Pope John Paul II wrote to women who have had an abortion, “it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed.

“Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly.

“If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace.”

There is a text in Psalm 34 to guide the post-abortion ministry. “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” There is another in Hebrews 12, “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.”