The Biggest Thing Missing From the Abortion Debate

Young black woman with a pregnancy test. Addressing the abortion debate.

Roe v. Wade and the abortion debate has been a volatile topic for decades. And the US Supreme Court’s decision overturning that previous ruling has placed the abortion issue once again on top of the cultural awareness. As an OB-Gyn physician, a woman, a Christian minister, and most importantly a follower of Jesus, I’m both happy and deeply troubled by this event.

It’s not the decision itself that troubles me; I believe Roe v. Wade was a faulty legal decision and that our country, women, and children are on-the-whole better for it being gone. Medically, ethically, and morally I’m absolutely convinced that human life begins at conception. But I’m troubled by what’s not being talked about.

Conception. The beginning. The root. We know how human conception happens. But we’re not talking about the root, the beginning, the conception of the abortion issue.

Loud arguments on both sides focus primarily on the moment a woman decides whether or not to have an abortion and what’s available to her (or not) at that time. Legal arguments are important. But legal arguments rarely if ever change a person’s heart and mind. And it’s the matters of the heart that seem so glaringly missing in the loud debates.

I want to consider some of those matters of the heart missing from the abortion debate.

Missing Persons

It’s a rare woman indeed, if there are any at all, who wakes up one day and decides, “Today I’m going to kill my baby, risk creating a lasting wound in my body and soul, and pick up a load of guilt I may carry for the rest of my life. Yup, that’s what I’m going to do today.”

A friend of mine who runs a pregnancy resource center held a focus group with women struggling with what to do about their crisis pregnancy. The women expressed that if they felt connected with one, one, caring person who would truly walk with them through pregnancy and raising that child, almost all of them would choose to continue the pregnancy.

Think of that. One, one, person in the life of a woman who is experiencing a crisis pregnancy can make a truly life-and-death difference. If you are a person who considers yourself pro-life, what does this say about where you can focus your energy?

And what does this say about the disconnected culture we live in?

But let’s back up earlier in the sequence of events. Back to conception.

How Did I Get Here?

Too much of the abortion debate begins once there’s a positive pregnancy test. But every person reading this knows how pregnancy happens. No sex, no pregnancy. No pregnancy, no abortion. Much has been made of the tragic possibilities of incest, rape, or carrying a seriously deformed fetus. Those are very important categories to discuss, but they form a statistically very small portion of “crisis” pregnancies. What about the much larger majority?

And that brings up very different cultural, emotional, and spiritual questions. What leads a woman to be in a position for an unwanted pregnancy in the first place? Which is another way of saying, What leads a woman to have sex outside of marriage? Or, what leads a woman to become pregnant in a marriage that is so unhealthy she can’t imagine bringing this child into it? (Again, we’re talking about the majority of pregnancies that end in abortion here, not the very important “exceptions” that need discussing.)

That woman who is making a decision about an abortion? It’s likely she does wake up and say, “How did I get here?”  Not that she doesn’t understand biology, but the matters of the heart that led her to get pregnant in the first place.

And sex education in school or messages about “wait for marriage” in youth group at church just aren’t working! Superficial responses to troubled marriages aren’t working either. When either culture or the church makes sex all about behavior this is what we get. We are not helping people deal with the matters of the heart around sex/sexuality or marriage and family.

Now we’re getting closer to conception.

Who Are We Talking About?

There are many kinds of women who wake up and wonder “How did I get here?” She might be:

  • the fourteen-year-old who has no father. She’s hungry for male affection. Sex seems the way to get that.
  • the seventeen-year-old who was exposed to porn at 10, got addicted, and has developed brain pathways that sex is the way to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
  • the college student who has heard “Don’t do it” for years at church but has never been helped to learn how to manage her empty soul. And it “just happens.”
  • the woman who recently left an abusive marriage. A relationship with a “safe” guy begins and sex seems a good way to feel connected and soothe her broken heart.
  • the woman in a toxic marriage who has tried to do everything “right” but now can’t imagine bringing a child into the emotionally or physically violent environment.

And what about the men? Few guys if any would wake up and think, “I’m going to get a woman pregnant today and that will lead to an abortion.” And some guys are deeply wounded when the mother of their child has an abortion. But again, what matters of the heart got him into the situation of getting a girl pregnant?

No stereotypes here and there are as many different stories as there are people. But can you see how matters of the heart are always at play? Perhaps you yourself are someone who has found yourself asking, “How did I get here?”

The pro-choice side would say to all these women, “Just end the pregnancy!” The pro-life side would say, “Don’t!” But is anyone talking about how to help these women, help you, deal with the matters of the heart?

One More Step to Conception

We’re getting close to the conception, the root, of the abortion issue.

What leads that woman, that man, perhaps you, to get in a position where pregnancy could happen? To have sex? To risk waking up one day saying, “How did I get here?”

At its root, it’s the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy that God built within every human heart and the ways evil has messed that up.

For humans, sex can never be “just sex.” There are always matters of the heart. And when humans go for sex instead of addressing those matters of the heart when they are starving for intimacy, all kinds of tragic things result.

I so wish we would spend more time addressing these matters of the heart and less time crying over and fighting about what happens after the positive pregnancy test.

What Now?

Perhaps we can use this cultural moment as an opportunity to consider and talk about these matters of the heart. What might that look like?

As individual followers of Jesus, we can ask:

  • Will I spend as much time and effort addressing the conception of the abortion issue–intimacy, sexuality, and matters of the heart–as I do abortion itself?
  • What have I been doing with the matters in my own heart around my need, desire, and capacity for intimacy?
  • Have I addressed the wounds I’ve accumulated, the lies I’ve come to believe, and the empty places in my heart, especially when it comes to sexual matters?
  • Am I offering authentic moments of connection and heart intimacy to others who are in need?

Together as the body of Christ we can ask:

  • Are we listening with compassion to those who hold differing viewpoints, seeking to understand without compromising our beliefs?
  • How safe do those who are struggling with sexual issues, unwanted pregnancies, or toxic marriages feel in our midst? Are we seen as a place they can find real help? Are we truly listening to their stories?
  • How can we help people, particularly young people, find healthy ways to address their need for intimacy instead of going to unhealthy sexual behaviors?

Addressing these deeper matters of the heart is not simple. Let’s use this cultural moment as an opportunity to do some of this deeper work.

Next Steps 

If this matters to you, here are a few appropriate actions to take.

  • Get equipped to have The Sex Talk with your children
  • Check out our Sexpectations course to deal with your own sexual story
  • Support your local pregnancy resource center with money, time, and prayer
  • Support or attend Rachel’s Vineyard, healing the pain of abortion for women and men

Your Turn: What deeper matters of the heart do you see exposed in this moment when Roe v. Wade is overturned? How can we as followers of Jesus use this opportunity? Leave a comment below.

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