Two stories of gospel hope amidst the pain of complicated pregnancies

 
Dr Lizzie Ling | June 30th 2020

The following anecdotes are true stories but the names have been changed. They have been extracted from Talking Points: Abortion, a short book which offers Christian compassion, convictions and wisdom for the highly politicised issue of abortion in a society with competing values.

Beth’s story

“I was 19 when I went to university, and soon after I got there, I met my first boyfriend. I was madly in love and after being with him for six months, I found out I was pregnant. This wasn’t something I’d planned, and my reactions swung between “Wow, this is amazing” and “S*@%! Mum is going to go mad”.

Talking Points: Abortion

Talking Points: Abortion

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Helps Christians to think biblically, speak wisely and act compassionately on the complex issue of abortion.

I really think there would have been a good chance of my keeping the child—an abortion wasn’t inevitable. However, I’d never forgotten the way my mum had responded when my older sister, who wasn’t married, got pregnant and had her son. She pushed her away; went on and on about how stupid she’d been. My dad too. “Well, that’s her life over,” he said. “What will so-and-so think? Will we ever live this down?” The shame they felt was palpable, and I was about to add to it. On top of that my father had just retired on the grounds of ill-health, and this was the last thing he needed. And so, I decided to have an abortion.

It was not something I took lightly at the time. I think I knew it was wrong back then. Today, I’m sure I should never have done it, and I wish I hadn’t. One way or another the shame of it has hung over my life ever since. I’m now 46. Sometimes, when I see a baby or a small child, I’m reminded of the child I might have had. I wonder what he or she would have been like. I could have been a grandmother by now.

But despite regret and shame, I have hope. When I am reminded of what I have done (and it was, at the end of the day, my decision), I remember that Jesus has died for me. He loves me despite what I have done. I am completely forgiven. And for that I am very, very grateful. One day, I will meet him face to face. I am also filled with hope that I will meet my child because I know that God loved him/her—even though I chose not to.”

Monique’s story

“Our baby was called Anjou. She had Edwards syndrome which is a chromosomal abnormality like Down syndrome, although very much worse. Only 5-10% of babies survive the first year.

Anjou’s problems were first picked up on a routine antenatal scan. I was happily married to Andy, and we already had a healthy two-year-old daughter. Life was good, and we felt that nothing could go wrong. 

Since one in four US women and one in three British women will have an abortion at some stage in their life, it would be a mistake for churches to think that this is a problem that doesn’t affect them.

The news about Anjou was devastating and led to the inevitable discussion with medics about terminating the pregnancy. After all, what’s the point in continuing with the struggle and strife of a pregnancy where the child would not survive? But from the moment we heard the horrific news, Andy and I both felt that we wanted to continue with the pregnancy and care for our daughter until she died. It was a gut response because we believed that God was in control, and that this was a precious life that he had given to us to care for.

Anjou was born on the 18th March 2002, and four days later we took her home and cared for her until she died. We had an endless stream of visitors, many of whom cried as they held her. Sometimes it was for our pain; sometimes for theirs—such as the elderly lady who’d had multiple miscarriages and never had the opportunity to mourn. Anjou had the ability to reach deep into the lives of others, exposing pain and healing hurt.

I grew up in South Africa, and around the same time, thousands of other African women were losing their babies—this time to HIV. So we set up a charity that over the last 17 years has helped around 400,000 African children as well as their families.

Anjou, tiny and helpless, lived for only 47 days, and yet she touched and changed the lives of many. The pain is still there, but what I find so miraculous is that out of something so hard God can do something so beautiful.”

Not an “out there” problem

Since one in four US women and one in three British women will have an abortion at some stage in their life, it would be a mistake for churches to think that this is a problem that doesn’t affect them. One American study showed that 13% of those having abortions described themselves as evangelical Christians

The truth is that abortion deeply affects many women in our churches and congregations.

Often, the first reaction to an unwanted pregnancy is not calm and rational thought but panic and a desire to fix the “problem” quickly. Abortion can be a very tempting practical solution, especially in the face of powerful pressures—family size, career, finances, and so on—and the potential for these things to destabilise relationships, marriages and family life.

Although we would hope that other church members would be loving and supportive, many women feel isolated and alone at these moments and find it hard to talk openly. Single women and teenagers are likely to find their situation particularly difficult and feel very ashamed in a church context. And then there are those women who, having had an abortion sometime in the past, continue to live with the consequences. For many, the long-term emotional pain is a reality, and this can be severe. 

Developing church cultures where people feel that they can talk about these things without the fear of judgment will go a long way to ensuring that they receive the love and care they need. It will also help to protect the church from the steady drip-drip erosion of the prevailing culture on our thinking and beliefs.

This is an extract from Talking Points: Abortion. In this short book Lizzie Ling and Vaughan Roberts survey the Christian worldview and help us to think biblically, speak wisely and act compassionately as we engage with the people, the questions and the heartache surrounding abortion, in a society with very different values.
 

Dr Lizzie Ling

Lizzie Ling was a GP for many years, and worked in Southern Africa for over 10 years supporting local churches as they cared for those affected by HIV/AIDS. She is now the Associate Minister for Women at St Ebbes Church in Oxford, UK. She loves new challenges, cooking and entertaining, and the company of good friends.

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