By Lindsey Bell
Not long ago, I overheard a couple of women talking about a young lady who was planning to get an abortion. “If she just knew it was a baby—a living child—there’s no way she would get an abortion.” The two women agreed that what they needed to do—and what God had called them to do—was to help this young lady understand that the fetus growing inside her wasn’t just a fetus but was also a child.
These women had the best of intentions. After all, they were trying to save a life. Nonetheless, I’m afraid they might have misunderstood something about women considering abortion. Many women with unplanned pregnancies don’t want to get an abortion and know their fetus is a child—but they don’t feel they have any other option.
It’s not that abortion is a good option. It’s that—in their minds—it’s the only option. It’s the only way they think they can continue their education, maintain a healthy relationship with their parents, or keep their boyfriends. Abortion, therefore, is often not what they want to do but what they feel they must do.
Unfortunately when we—as good-hearted, loving, Christian people—only try to help people understand their fetus is a child, we’re not fully giving them what they need. From my years of volunteering in a pregnancy care center, I’ve discovered several things that those facing unplanned pregnancies don’t need, as well as several things they do need.
What They DON’T Need
A 15-year-old girl who just found out she is pregnant does not need a lecture about her choices—at least not yet. She first needs a hug. Most likely, this young woman already knows she made a mistake by sleeping with someone (especially if she believes in Jesus or grew up in church). What she doesn’t know is what she’s going to do next. She doesn’t know how she’s going to finish school, tell her parents, or pay for childbirth.
A young man who recently learned his girlfriend is pregnant doesn’t need angry judgment. He first needs our acceptance. That doesn’t mean, of course, we ignore sin. What it does mean is that we show him our love before we do anything else.
What They DO Need
Those facing unplanned pregnancies don’t need our judgment, our lectures, our sermons, or our gossip. Here are things they do need:
Love—I know it might seem simple, but often it’s not, especially when it’s our son or our daughter facing the pregnancy. The more natural reaction might be anger, frustration, or disappointment. Though these emotions are certainly understandable, they don’t improve the situation.
Instead, choose to love. Give a hug. Offer a shoulder to cry on. Put off the lecture for another time. Our kids will never listen to what we say if they don’t know we’re saying it from a place of love. Love first.
Help—A second thing those facing unplanned pregnancies need from us is help. When I was 25, married, and pregnant with my first child, I was overwhelmed. Imagine being 15, unmarried, and facing an unplanned pregnancy.
One thing we can do that these men and women really need is offer practical assistance:
• Help them apply for Medicaid if their insurance does not cover pregnancy.
• If they need verification of pregnancy for their Medicaid application, offer to take them to a local pregnancy center. Many of these offer free, confidential pregnancy testing. Some even offer limited obstetrical ultrasounds and testing for sexually transmitted infections.
• Help them get into care with a doctor. (Keep in mind that many doctors will not see Medicaid patients until the patients have received their Medicaid cards.)
• When they’re ready, talk with them about their options. Share information about both parenting and adoption. Many people don’t even think about adoption because they think it would be too hard to “give up a baby.” Make sure they understand they aren’t “giving up a baby” but choosing a wonderful home for their child instead. Also make sure the couple understands the options: open, closed, and semi-open adoptions.
• If they are thinking about abortion (or you get the impression they might consider it later), talk to them about the risks. It’s a medical procedure, so they need to be aware of the possible complications. Keep in mind, though, it’s still not helpful to preach. They will only listen to your words once they have seen your love.
• Offer to go with them as they talk with their parents, boyfriends, or any other significant people in their lives.
• Help them think through some of the challenges they might face and how they will overcome these challenges. Some things to consider if they choose to parent include: housing once the baby is born, childcare during school or work, finances, etc.
• As the pregnancy nears completion, help them prepare for delivery and newborn care. Share a book that might encourage them. Be willing to listen to any fears. Offer to attend a parenting or breastfeeding class with them.
• Help them find a job if necessary so they will be able to support their child once he or she is born.
• Provide for some of their needs. Babies require a lot of stuff: strollers, car seats, swings, blankets, clothing, etc. Prepare a baby gift basket for the couple.
Jesus—A third thing those facing unplanned pregnancies need from us is Jesus. God often uses a crisis to bring people to him, and an unplanned pregnancy—especially for a young couple—is certainly a crisis. Don’t be afraid to share about the love and forgiveness of Jesus with those facing unplanned pregnancies. He, more than anything else, will help them through the difficulties that lie ahead of them.
One story I love to share with those facing unplanned pregnancies is the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery from John 8. When the religious leaders brought this woman in front of Jesus, they heaped judgment on her. I can picture them, gathering stones, glaring at her with self-righteous eyes, condemning her, and anxiously waiting for the moment Jesus would tell them to begin the stoning.
Jesus, though, didn’t do what any of them expected. Instead of judging her, he loved her. He challenged the religious leaders to look into their own lives, at their own sins. Then, as each of them walked away, he said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. . . . Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
Those facing unplanned pregnancies need to know Jesus still loves them. They need to know they aren’t “ruined goods,” as one woman once told me she felt she was, and they need to know God still has amazing plans for them.
When Jesus saw someone caught in a sin, he didn’t lecture her, judge her, or gossip about her. He challenged her to more, and he did it in such a way that she never doubted his love for her.
That’s exactly what we should do too.