We’ve taken some time to sit with the speech Abby Johnson gave about abortion at the Republican National Convention because it was troubling in different ways. We’re glad for the ability to re-watch, ask God for insight, and talk it through as a team. We’ve come to the conclusion that the speech reflected only part of the story of what is happening around abortion, and we hope our thoughts help you process the full story.
As we listened to Abby’s traumatic experience in her work, we grieved with her. We believe God grieves, too, as abortion isn’t his plan for women or children. The very way He designed pregnancy was to intertwine a woman and a child, both biologically and emotionally, making it impossible to try and help one while bypassing the other.
The Whole Story
This theological truth highlights a part of the story left out of the speech. Abortion is a complex issue involving two people, yet each political party focuses on the needs of only one person in the equation. As Christians, we must respect God’s design and ask Him how we can work for the dignity and welfare of both people.
Which brings us to another missing piece of the story. When Abby witnessed the abortion she references in her speech, it was for a woman who had decided abortion was her only option. That woman wasn’t forced there by the abortion provider or legislation. Numerous bodies of research show that she was most likely there in response to the panic, isolation, and shame of the unintended pregnancy. She felt her life would be over if she continued the pregnancy. This is the narrative that drives abortion.
We appreciate Abby’s courage in telling her own experience of having 2 abortions in the 2019 movie, Unplanned. In the film, she is pressured to have the first abortion by an abusive boyfriend 10 years her senior. He becomes more abusive after they are married, and when she summons the courage to leave him, she finds out she is pregnant and has another abortion. In the movie, we can see panic, isolation, and shame leading her to both of these decisions. We recognize these as themes consistent throughout the 15 years of qualitative research we have done with women facing unintended pregnancies.
This constant theme of “my life as I know it will be over” runs through the research from 2008 all the way through 2019. This narrative is real and causes women to go into survival mode, believing their only options are abortion or overwhelming struggle as a mom. Choosing abortion is a gut-wrenching, difficult decision for women, and never one that any woman wants to face in her lifetime.
We believe this narrative to be the real enemy behind abortion. And it is allowed to run unchallenged in our culture because no one is telling a different story. No one is saying, “Hey, there is another option. There is a way you and your child could both thrive.” When the enemy is the narrative, grace and support is the answer. We believe the church to be uniquely positioned to tell a new narrative.
A New Narrative
Abby’s parents are Christians, so we can assume she had some knowledge of a local church. Because of our research, we know the church is often a source of shame and judgement for women facing unintended pregnancies. We wonder if Abby felt safe enough to go to her Christian support system and why she ultimately chose a clinic. Whatever her process, the outcome is not uncommon. A 2015 Lifeway study found that 4 in 10 women who have abortions are regular churchgoers, yet only 7% of them talk to anyone at their church about their decision, fearing judgment.
Only grace, acceptance, and support can change the negative narrative for a woman, helping her see that maybe there is a way both she and her child could thrive. How can we possibly unleash enough of this grace and support to change such an ingrained cultural narrative? Where is there a group of people who, at their best, are already living lives of grace and support for each other in their time of need? The Church is called to be such a group of people.
We know this speech was at a political convention, yet there was an overall Christian tone. Abby is a professing Christian and left out any place of responsibility for a Christian except to align with a certain political party. Given the research and truth of why women have abortions, this isn’t telling the whole story of how Christ is calling Christians to engage.
The Third Option
Political platforms are created by imperfect humans. As long as each platform continues to focus on only one person, it can never fully encompass the heart of God on an issue so important to Him. As Christians, we don’t have to accept this either-or approach. Instead, we can look to all the instances in the Gospels where Jesus addresses a false binary question (usually meant to trap him) with a third, Kingdom answer:
• Do we pay taxes to Rome or not? (Mark 12: 13-17)
• Do we stone this woman or not? (John 8:2-11)
• Who sinned to make this man blind, his parents or him? (John 9:2-3)
• Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? (Luke 14: 1-4)
We can ask Jesus to give us a “third option” answer like he gave to the religious and political leaders of his time.
And we believe that third option answer is this:
When Christians have a grace-centered response to abortion, they will be able to create communities where both women and children can thrive, more fully reflecting God’s heart, and creating a third option in the pro-life/pro-choice divide.
Imagine if our local churches were known for being the place to go if you wanted to know that your life isn’t over. What if the church offered a way for you and your child to thrive? What would that do to the abortion rates in our country?
This is the hope that comes from asking God to show us the full story. Thank you for taking the time to read this and do just that. We are praying for all of us, the Church. That together, we can catch a bigger vision and release His Kingdom solution.