Whether real or perceived, the stigma of unplanned pregnancy and abortion is an important issue for pro-lifers to address, especially in Christian churches, according to a new study.
A report by LifeWay Research found that many women facing unplanned pregnancies go silently from the church pew to the abortion clinic because they are afraid of being judged rather than helped.
“More than 4 in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended a pregnancy,” according to the study, Baptist Press reports.
Only 7 percent discussed their abortion decision with someone at church; and 76 percent said the church had no influence on their decision to abort their unborn child, according to the study.
“That’s a huge opportunity for the church to have an impact on those decisions,” Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, told the Christian news outlet. He called on churches to openly extend more grace to women facing crisis pregnancies.
“Women are perceiving judgment from the church, and that’s probably partly because there are clear teachings in the Bible including about how and why we make judgments,” McConnell said. “However, if they don’t start experiencing something different than what they’ve seen in the past, these numbers aren’t going to change.”
Among women who have had an abortion, according to the study:
- Two-thirds (65 percent) say church members judge single women who are pregnant.
- A majority (54 percent) thinks churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options.
- Fewer than half (41 percent) believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
- Only 3 in 10 think churches give accurate advice about pregnancy options.
A strong majority of the post-abortive women who were surveyed identified as Christians, with 43 percent saying they had attended church monthly or even more often at the time of their abortion, according to the study.
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“But distrust of the church’s response is widespread, the survey shows. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believe church members are more likely to gossip about a woman considering abortion than to help her understand options,” according to CareNet.
“When weighing an abortion decision, women say they expected or experienced judgment (33 percent) or condemnation (26 percent) from a church far more than caring (16 percent) or helpfulness (14 percent).”
Most women would not recommend that a friend or family member facing an unplanned pregnancy discuss it with someone at church, according to the study. And only about a third of women called church a “safe place” to discuss pregnancy options, the study found.
“While much work needs to be done to equip the church to help women and men with their pregnancy decisions, there are positive signs that many churches will be receptive to efforts to implement programming that addresses this need,” said Roland C. Warren, president and CEO of Care Net.
According to the survey, women who attended church regularly were much more likely to say they had a positive church response to an unplanned pregnancy or abortion, than those who rarely or never attended church.
Supportive responses from the church are key, McConnell said.
The survey, conducted by CareNet, included 1,038 women who had abortions.