The other day, I swerved. A car came into my lane, and in reaction I swerved into the lane on my left. I was met with a honk, and I am sure some choice words, as I made my way back into my proper lane. Everyone was fine, but in that one moment, lives could have been changed.
As I continued on my way to work, I wished I had reacted differently. Given time to reassess, to think about what the potential outcomes could have been, I would have made a different decision. I would not have swerved.
As my day progressed, I gave more thought to this event and how it related to the clients I work with. At the pregnancy care center we interact daily with people facing unintended pregnancies. These people have had the unexpected push them out of the paths they were on, changing the trajectories of their lives.
My swerve into the other lane deepened my understanding of these often vulnerable and broken people I work with.
Swerve for Protection
Don’t we all have the instinct to swerve? If something unpleasant or threatening enters our path, we want to avoid it or put it behind us as quickly as possible. When a client is faced with a pregnancy she did not plan, I am not surprised when she wants that pregnancy to go away. The quick fix of an abortion is so appealing: simply swerve away from the problem and then jump back into your lane as if it never happened.
I think of Susan (name changed), who recently left an abusive relationship and was trying to keep her two young children, one with special needs, safe and out of poverty. Looking at a positive pregnancy test, she says she knows she will regret an abortion but cannot think of another way. She believes a quick swerve will allow her to stay on her already bumpy path and will protect her family from being pushed over the edge.
Swerve for Survival
I have been blessed to know since my youth that I am precious in God’s sight. I believe each life is a valued, precious creation made by God.
But not everyone is a Christian; most of our clients would not identify as such. I don’t expect them to hold the same beliefs as me on issues such as the sanctity of life or sex before marriage. Paul reminds us that we should not expect non-Christians to adhere to the same moral beliefs we hold (1 Cor. 5:12; Rom. 14). Holding my clients to expectations based on my beliefs is not realistic, and to do so would not keep my heart open to hearing their stories.
In this postmodern age, a swerve in the name of self-preservation is often encouraged and at times even celebrated. Our “me”-driven society is telling people to “live their own truths.” If my swerve, or your abortion, ends someone else’s life, that is a necessary though maybe unfortunate consequence.
For Janelle (name changed), a client in a long-term, monogamous relationship, an unexpected pregnancy while using birth control caught her completely off guard. She was about to enter law school, the next stop on a long road she and her immigrant parents sacrificed much for. She believed becoming a parent at this stage would end her dream of being a human rights lawyer. She was seven weeks pregnant; her Islamic faith says the soul does not enter the body until 120 days after conception. For Janelle and her partner, an abortion would serve their understanding of a greater good.
I unashamedly believe life begins at conception and should be protected. My points above are not meant to argue that abortion should ever be the answer. My purpose is to bring to the readers’ attention how appealing it is for people to swerve, to choose an abortion, for a range of selfish to altruistic reasons. I hope readers will use grace when discussing this difficult topic, because you never know if—or why—someone has swerved.
Yet I also hope this article will encourage Christians to action. The Guttmacher Institute reported in 2014 that 54% of people who have had an abortion identify themselves as Christian (bit.ly/343sLBH). This means there likely are people attending our churches who have had and/or are choosing to have abortions.
The day I swerved, it could have ended differently. Something terrible could have happened. I believe my loved ones would have forgiven me, and with God’s grace, I would have one day forgiven myself. My plea to you, my fellow believers, is to offer that grace and forgiveness to each other and to yourself if abortion has touched your life.
I also believe that if I were more knowledgeable and practiced in defensive driving, I would have reacted differently.
Dear Christians, we need to talk about the sanctity of life in our churches. We need to be well-versed in why each life is precious. Peter reminds us to be “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Our children need to hear repeatedly that they are valued. They need to hear messages such as “You are worth waiting for” coupled with phrases that remind them there is grace for all repented sins. It needs to be preached that abortion ends a life, and as a greater church we should mourn each life lost.
From those same pulpits needs to come the truth that in God there is hope and forgiveness for all sins. To defend ourselves against the temptation to swerve, we need to know how to respond differently. And if someone does leave the path, we must not use shame to prevent someone from getting back on the road.
Katie (name changed) called to ask where to get an abortion. When gently asked why she felt abortion was her only option, she answered, “I’m not gonna bring a kid into this world to have to go through the same **** I’ve gone through.” She then shared about her battle with depression and her periodic attendance at a local church. How can someone see the value in another life if they don’t see the value in their own life? Without seeing her own value, Katie had no defensive skills to fight against the pull to swerve.
Whether abortion is legal or not, abortions will take place. With society and governments moving away from Christian beliefs, abortion as a reproductive option most likely will remain. But Christians can remind others that they are loved and that each life is uniquely created and has a purpose. Seeing life through this lens could make choosing to end a life by abortion unthinkable.
By listening, not judging, and offering emotional and physical support, you are saying you see the value in another person. In your eyes and actions, they may see God’s love for them. If we can protect people from feeling alone and unloved and instead build them up, they may want to make choices to defend their worth and the worth of the unborn.
Be prepared to serve in the swerve.