Pro-Life Clinics as Missional Ministry
When it comes to pro-life advocacy, Christians must increasingly speak with compassion and grace. The decision to keep a baby or to abort it involves real people and personal decisions. Often, calloused statements have tainted the pro-life cause as being "anti-women." We must defend the unborn without demonizing those who disagree.
The Scriptures remind us that abortion is a symptom of a deeper human condition. Sin is the sickness that infects every human heart. Its fruit, James 1:15 reminds us, is death. But if sin is the problem, recognition of sin is the gateway to the cure—not just for abortion but for every other social ill. Adam's tragic moment in the garden didn't surprise God, and neither does the injustice of abortion. The entrance of sin into the world triggered God's eternal plan of rescue, fulfilled in the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ (see Romans 5:18-21).
So if the church lives on the grace side of abortion and other social sins, victims of sin's devastation should find in the church the transformative power of the gospel as the redeemed work with God to restore justice to a fallen world.
For the millions who have made the choice to end a life, there's a river of forgiveness available that flows from Immanuel's veins. As hymnwriter William Cowper powerfully states, "Sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains."
Because God's redeemed people have experienced this grace and carry this message, the church—more than any other institution in society—is uniquely positioned to bring hope for overcoming the tragedy of abortion. We have a variety of tools in its arsenal for promoting a culture of life. The greatest is the gospel itself as it's proclaimed from pulpits and across dinner tables. But as we engage the lost in the community, there's another powerful opportunity to both save unborn babies and also minister to unwed mothers with compassion and grace: crisis pregnancy centers.
The real heroes in the fight for the unborn may not be the politicians or the preachers but the nearly 40,000 volunteers around the country who work tirelessly with young, unwed mothers. I've worked with a few of these volunteers in our local community and have been impressed by their heart for the welfare of the young women who come into their care.
According to a recent survey conducted by a consortium of national pro-life organizations, perhaps 90,000 lives have been saved by the nearly 23,000 crisis pregnancy clinics across America. Most offer ultrasounds to clients, which is highly effective, as an estimated 60 percent of women who view an ultrasound choose life. These clinics not only walk women through various options but also offer parenting support and training, free resources such as diapers and food, and even post-abortive counseling.
Incredibly, the vast majority of crisis pregnancy centers run on a shoestring budget. Most are staffed by volunteers and funded by local churches. They see about 2 million women every year, with each center averaging about 350 to 400. Despite being largely understaffed and underfunded (29 out of every 30 CPC workers is a volunteer), they serve on the front lines, rescuing the unborn from the edge of death.1
In her book Blue Like Play Dough, Tricia Goyer shares how her experience as an unwed mother motivated her to become a powerful advocate for unwed teenage girls. In her Montana hometown, she led the effort in her church to launch a crisis pregnancy center. It began as one room, supplied by the meager donations of Christians and churches in the area who supplied used clothes, baby toys, and essentials such as diapers, formula, and wipes. After running a few advertisements in the local newspaper and on the radio, they were surprised at how many young girls began to knock on the church door. In one year, the abortion rate in their town had dropped by one-third.2
Mountain of Motherhood
There are millions of women and young girls living in our neighborhoods who are pregnant and alone. Their boyfriends escaped in fear, and their families might have rejected them. They're facing the mountain of motherhood and wondering how or even if they can raise a child on their own.
This is where the church is uniquely positioned to respond with the gospel, lived out with grace and compassion. Imagine if conservative Christians invested less in political-action committees, candidates, and partisan media and instead opened their wallets to support crisis pregnancy centers. What if we doubled and tripled the number of clinics around the country? What if we worked together to build hundreds, if not thousands, of such centers in America's urban centers?
Supporting local crisis pregnancy centers allows us as Christians to live out our pro-life ethic before a watching world. It puts flesh and blood on our beliefs, pouring the gospel into the hearts and lives of those God has called us to love. Being pro-life is so much more than a political slogan. It's a gospel call to be like Jesus, to give our lives on behalf of the most vulnerable.
This article has been adapted from Daniel Darling, Dan King, and Dillon Burrough's new book, Activist Faith: From Him and For Him (NavPress, 2013).
1 "A Passion to Serve: Pregnancy Resource Center Service Report, Second Edition," in A Passion to Serve.
2 Tricia Goyer, Blue Like Play Dough (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2009).