This letter is in response to Rev. Martyn McGeown’s article “Abortion: the Culture of Death” in the January 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer. While reading the article, I had to lay it down and stop reading it several times because it was so disheartening. Although the content about women advocating for and endorsing abortion was heartrending and disturbing, this was not the reason for my being disheartened. For a denomination—the PRC—that proclaims and promotes grace (like no other denomination does) as the ultimate covering for the worst of broken sinners, there was little mercy given to women who have fallen for the lie and had an abortion. The tone of the article, overall, seemed harsh and appeared to lack understanding of the circumstances that lead women to have abortions. The circumstances—poverty; lack of family, spouse, or church support; drug/alcohol use; and even selfishness—are not excuses for having an abortion, but they should give us pause as grace-believing Christians. Most telling is a short sentence in the letter posted by user sacredthrowingaway: “It wouldn’t be fair to bring a new life into a world where I am still haunted by ghosts of the life I’ve lived.”
World magazine also had an article addressing the letters written by these women, and it concluded by expressing that the church is the place that needs to be offering solace and comfort to women that have had abortions. Who else can extend this to them? And in what other way could they be led to repentance, grace, and forgiveness? This is true whether these are women within our own church or women in the community.
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without [out siders], redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” ().
Prayers that the articles in the Standard Bearer would represent Christ and His grace well.
While the purpose of my article was to expose the moral evil of abortion, and to answer some of the arguments of pro-abortion advocates, the sister is right to remind us that as Christians we need a gracious response to this subject. Clearly, to scream “Murderer!” at everyone who has had an abortion is not helpful. I know that there are Christians who counsel broken sinners who have had abortions, and who even offer alternatives (such as adoption and support through pregnancy) to women who are in such desperate situations that they are considering abortion. Such organizations, although not the church, do good work. I would welcome more information on such (especially Reformed) organizations, if the sister would be willing to provide it.
Also, if she could give some practical advice on how to deal with such people as (the anonymous) scaredthrowingaway, I would be glad to learn. If scaredthrowingaway came into one of our churches, pregnant, poor, and alone, how would we receive her? Would we avoid her? Would we talk about her behind her back? Would we tell such women that they must not have an abortion, and then send them away empty with pious words, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled” (). I hope and pray that we could offer her more than condemnation.
Nor must we be so self-righteous as to imagine that abortion could never be a temptation for our members. If David could seek to hide his sin of adultery by committing murder, how much easier would it be today for a fornicator/adulterer among us to take advantage of the anonymity of the abortion clinic or medical centre to hide her sin by committing murder. Young women can have abortions today (a dangerous medical procedure!) without parental notification. Apart from the destruction of the baby, the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences of abortion for woman are often devastating. We need to be prepared to help such women and their families. Some women are haunted by the ghost of abortion for the rest of their lives. When we preach from the Heidelberg Catechism LD 40 on the sixth commandment, we (rightly) condemn abortion in the sermon, for it is murder. I thank the sister for the reminder that I need to preach that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin—even the sin of abortion!
However, not all abortion-seekers and advocates are “broken sinners.” In fact, as Canons III/IV:Rejection of Errors says, “…to offer unto God the sacrifice of a broken spirit is peculiar to the regenerate and those that are called blessed (scaredthrowingaway ; ).” We are seeing an increasing callousness in sinners today, women prepared to murder their offspring with hardly a pang of conscience. Emily-Letts, who filmed her own abortion, is a case in point. She reminded me of : “Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.” Even would need to be brought to see her sins, before the gospel of Christ could be good news to her.
In John 8, Jesus encountered a broken sinner, who had been caught in the very act of adultery. Gleefully, the Pharisees prepared to stone her to death, hoping to entrap Jesus in the process. Utterly merciless they were. Jesus’ response to that women is very significant, and blessed. Having dismissed the Pharisees, He addressed the woman: “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” (). She responded, “No man, Lord,” to which Jesus replied, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” ( ). We need to include both truths in our response: Jesus does not condemn penitent sinners, and forgiven sinners are expected to go and sin no more.
When I encounter broken sinners, I pray that my attitude will be Christ’s, and not the Pharisee’s.
Rev. M. McGeown
Limerick, Republic of Ireland