Evil often begets more evil. While many who support so-called abortion rights believe they’re serving needy women, they’re overlooking one critical reality: Women are often brought—reluctantly—to the abortion doctor. These women are compelled toward abortion not by their own empowering, my-body-is-my-own sense of autonomy, but by another person seeking control. Angry boyfriends, angry husbands, angry mothers, angry employers—these are so often the wind at the back of an abortion-minded woman.
Women may fear something else, too: adoption. Though morally clear, the thought is often experientially vague: It seems, or feels, much less repugnant to have a hidden medical procedure in the first weeks of pregnancy than to consciously hand over a smiling, babbling baby to a woman whose body never knew him or her. It’s cognitive dissonance, sure, but it’s a real—and understandable—fear.
Fear Is Familiar
Before my work at the pregnancy center, I may have quietly scoffed at the above. I meant well. I had read the books, seen the gruesome photos, and heard the apologetics. I believed that if the pro-life movement could successfully convince naysayers that a baby is a baby—imbued with all the God-given value of human life from the moment it is created—the debate would be over.
But then I started volunteering at the center. And then I became pregnant.
My pregnancies with my daughters were a revelation—and not necessarily a welcome one. I suffered health issues during each; some the typical pregnancy discomforts, others more serious. And despite my situation—which included financial stability, a supportive family, top-notch health care, and the fact that we had planned for these babies—I was still terrified. In my worst days, I identified with women who seek a way out.
Meet Fear with Empathy
Objective arguments against abortion based on an unborn baby’s humanity are true. And they have their place. Even images of pre-term and aborted babies may be persuasive—though in recent years many have begun to question their efficacy. But these arguments and photos usually aren’t best employed on the sidewalk outside an abortion clinic.
As ambassadors of Christ, we must remember first that women considering an abortion are often in a state of panic. And acknowledging that fear has the power to greatly alter our behavior.
Women considering an abortion are often in a state of panic.
When we presume others’ best intentions, we’re more likely to be softer, less frustrated, and more forgiving. If I can train myself to assume that the aggressive driver on the highway is actually rushing to the hospital, my anger toward him or her melts. And if we can train our hearts to recognize that a woman seeking an abortion is actually afraid—and even to accept that we would be feeling fear ourselves, were we facing her circumstances—we can shake off our unproductive anger and put on, instead, love and empathy.
Caring for the Fearful
That means one of our first steps in ministering to a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is to acknowledge her fear. Don’t judge it, don’t shrug it off, but take her seriously. It is scary. Don’t offhandedly offer adoption as a quick solution. Don’t immediately start in on the logical fallacies of pro-abortion apologetics. Let her be afraid, and tell her she’s not alone. (Better yet: Mean it.)
Once we acknowledge her fear—and, if she’ll allow it, pray for her—we can start to talk through potential solutions to her various worries. If an angry parent is threatening to kick her out, we can explore other housing options. If a boyfriend is threatening violence, we can talk about calling the police (not to mention ending the relationship). If she’s worried about financial instability, we can help her explore the various public and private options for help. Many communities offer vast resources for women facing crisis pregnancies—think free cribs, free parenting classes, free prenatal care—and most local pregnancy centers can navigate the road to those resources with expertise.
If a woman in crisis grants us the privilege of facing her fears with her, we may also have the opportunity to point her to the One whose perfect love casts out all fear. Life—and especially bearing life—requires physical, emotional, and financial resources that can ignite terror should they be hard to find. But as we help women find them, we also earn the relational capital to tell her about a God who clothes the lilies, calms the storms, and surely comforts us all the days of our lives—even the really, really scary ones.