33,000: the number of Canadian women having abortions this year who have previously had an abortion. That’s according to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada: “At least one third of women undergoing induced abortions in Canada have had a prior abortion” (2012; 34(6): 536).
There’s no doubt that people of good will should do soul searching and ask, “Where were we before her first abortion? Did we try to ‘rescue those who are being taken away to death’ (Proverbs 24:11)?” But now, added to those questions are these: “Where were we after her abortion? Did we say anything?” All too often there’s silence. Consider the most obvious place where one should expect to hear about abortion—churches—and how infrequently one hears pastors preach about the forbidden “A”-word. Why is that?
Perhaps some fear an angry backlash from congregants who don’t share God’s view on child sacrifice. Those clergy could be reminded that that’s not surprising given we were told “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings” (2 Timothy 4:3). They could be reminded that they, our shepherds, are called nonetheless to “convince, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Timothy 4: 2).
Others would say their reticence is rooted in not wanting to burden the guilt-ridden with judgment: “Women in my church have already had abortions,” a pastor may declare. “My preaching won’t bring their babies back; it will just make the moms feel worse.”
I could point out that a compassionate, Spirit-filled preacher wouldn’t make an unhealed woman feel worse, but rather would give her hope that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). I could point out that a healed post-abortive woman would listen encouraged, knowing other women could be spared her pain thanks to a preaching they’re hearing that she herself never heard.
But what I’d really like to point out to such a pastor is that the post-abortive in his church are pre-abortive. They are at great risk of repeating this lethal sin. And if he fails to “[teach] them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded” (Matthew 28:20), the woman who currently has one abortion to repent of, may soon have two. If we withhold a truth that will not only set her free of her past, but also prevent her from repeating her mistakes, then that woman’s sin of commission becomes our sin of omission.
A couple years ago when my colleagues and I were displaying abortion victim photography in Calgary, a woman confided in me that she had had an abortion in Edmonton just a few months prior. She said through tears, “Nobody told me it looked like that.” Tragically this woman made the choice she did because she was ignorant. Incidentally, she’s the exact kind of woman some pro-lifers use as a reason for why abortion victim photography shouldn’t be shown—“she’s already had an abortion” they say. Well yes she has, but she could be part of the 30,000 that will have another one, so wouldn’t you rather she grieve the loss of only one child rather than two? Delivering the pro-life message is just as important for those who haven’t had an abortion as it is for those who have.