Several news agencies reported last week on a 16 year old girl whose parents tried to force her to abort a baby that both she and the father wanted. Sidewalk counselors at an Austin abortion facility witnessed the attempts of the parents to forcibly drag the pregnant girl into the clinic and called 911. The Alliance Defense Fund assisted the girl in obtaining a temporary restraining order after she was literally dragged by her parents to two different abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood. One day later the girl’s parents signed a court order agreeing that they will not force her to have an abortion.
The actions of these parents seem twisted and bizarre. Yes, a 16 year old is very young to face the responsibilities of parenting a child. I can understand the disappointment they might be feeling. Their dreams for their daughter probably include a college education, a career, a wedding, and then someday children. They may feel their daughter’s early pregnancy threatens those dreams.
It is true her life will be changed by pregnancy. The next nine months a child will be growing and developing in her womb. Her decisions about nutrition and activities will have direct impact on someone’s life other than her own. If she reacts responsibly, she will need to limit her own desires. The pregnancy could delay her high school graduation or the start of her college education. If she decides to parent her child, she may need to work while she takes classes. Realizing her dreams may take more effort and time, but pregnancy and parenting are not insurmountable obstacles. In fact, she may be far ahead of her peers in her ability to accept responsibility making her more attractive in the job market over time.
The real problem is not the pregnancy of the daughter, but the wrongheaded thinking on the part of this 16 year old girl’s parents. For them, their own grandchild in the womb of their daughter is a problem and they see abortion as the solution! Their attempt to force their daughter to have an abortion speaks volumes about where their concern lies. They are not looking out for their daughter’s best interest at all—but their own. No doubt, their concerns are based in the realities of the cost of medical care during pregnancy and the financial cost of raising a child. They are no doubt also unwilling to have their own lives disrupted. Clearly they have no concern that their daughter may experience grief, guilt, and regret as so many women do in abortion’s aftermath. Have you heard the stories of women who regret their abortion and are Silent No More? The negative feelings that so often accompany abortion are increased when the woman feels she has been coerced or forced into having an abortion she did not want. Studies have shown that women who have abortions are at increased risk for depression, substance abuse, promiscuity, broken relationships, and breast cancer. No, these parents are not concerned about abortion’s effect on their daughter.
Even more, these parents ought to have concern for the spiritual well-being of their daughter. What effect will taking the life of her unborn child have on her relationship with the God who created that child? What response in this situation will draw her closer to God? What will help her grow and mature in understanding the trustworthiness of God and His great love for her?
Sadly, these parents will not find helpful guidance from the Presbyterian Church (USA). Our denomination is conflicted on the issue of abortion. Our policy supports a woman’s right to choose abortion as a “morally acceptable” choice in certain circumstances and at the same time says that the “taking of human life is sin”. It excuses this conflict by saying we “don’t know when human life begins”. Frankly, we all do know, but as a denomination we refuse to acknowledge what is clearly true from Scripture and from medical science. Our conflict was evidenced in July at the General Assembly when an overture asked commissioners to speak out against forced and coerced abortions. Commissioners did so, but not before adding language that also spoke against forcing or coercing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. We have lost our moral compass on this issue!
The real solution to the conflict in our church is the same as the solution for these parents. We love the woman best when we express unconditional love for her, point her toward the Creator God who has begun a new life inside her womb, and walk with her through this experience as long as it takes. In offering assurance of unconditional love and practical support, churches and parents have an opportunity to model God’s grace--grace that accepts, forgives, restores, and brings growth.
In a relationship of loving support parents and churches can guide a young woman in evaluating her own readiness to parent and whether or not the baby’s father is committed to helping and supporting her. They can assist her in exploring the option of adoption and help her understand this as a life-giving choice that blesses a couple who may be unable to have a biological child. They can encourage her to think reasonably about the responsibilities of parenting and if she decides to parent they can walk with her through that—picking her up when she stumbles just as they taught her to walk as a toddler. An early pregnancy is not the end of a girl’s life—but abortion always ends the life of the child in the womb!