“Instead of asking, ‘What are you going to do?’ – that’s what everyone was asking me – she asked, ‘What do you need?’”
This comment from a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy illustrates the power a simple question has to change the tone and trajectory of an entire conversation. Have you ever had a similar situation? You were devastated from a loss, or confused about an important decision you had to make, and when you talked to a friend they skipped empathy and moved straight to a solution? Or to make things worse, they gave you advice that was loaded with their own agenda?
We know from research that a woman facing unplanned pregnancy is often experiencing shock, fear of losing her identity, and panic related to her future. Yet most of her interactions with people don’t ever touch on those things. Friends and loved ones often move straight to this question: “What are you going to do now?”
The reality is that most of her conversations will center around this topic—the decision about what she’s going to do. Even when a woman goes for professional help—whether it’s a doctor, a facility that provides abortions, or a pregnancy help center—this is often her experience.
But here’s the rub – what she’s going to do is directly impacted by what she needs. By not asking what she needs, we never get to the root issues driving her decision. If we focus on the decision alone, we unintentionally communicate that she isn’t important outside of her pregnancy. When we don’t ask about her feelings and needs, we fail to validate her experience. Both of these missteps can deepen a woman’s feelings of isolation, leaving her to feel misunderstood and pushing her to believe that she’ll just need to figure things out on her own.
But when we focus on what a woman needs, we begin to change the conversation around unplanned pregnancy and abortion—both inside and outside our church communities.
It changes the conversation with women by giving them a safe place to feel heard, seen and valued for who they are. It gives them space to stop and take a breath and think about what is behind the panic they are feeling. It allows them time to sit with someone who won’t judge them, but who will listen and help them find what they really need. When we allow this to be our starting place—then reinforce it by connecting women to helpful and practical resources—we empower women and communicate acceptance and support in a powerful way.
It changes the conversation within our communities by giving us a new way to talk about unplanned pregnancy and abortion that values both the woman and the child. Ask a friend or neighbor what they think about Christians and abortion; chances are they will mention something about not “seeing” the woman or her very real needs. Or they might bring up concerns about a manipulative agenda.
There are few things I love more than to tell someone about the ProGrace Approach and watch them absorb the fact that as Christians, we not only care about the child, but focus on the needs of the woman. We have an amazing opportunity to proclaim that God wants both the woman and the child to thrive—and we have a great starting point for many conversations that demonstrate the love, grace and transformative power of God.
Because ultimately, that’s the conversation I want to be having.
By Angie Weszely (@AngieWeszely)