Article Jan 19, 2016

The gospel at the abortion clinic's back door

Of all the gore and carnage one can imagine about abortion clinics, one of the most horrifying accounts I’ve ever heard was shockingly bloodless.

I heard this story from my wife, who for several years worked as a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, one that stood directly next door to this town’s lone abortion clinic.

This clinic provided abortifacient treatments for some and abortion procedures for others. Appointments would be scheduled together all at the same time, and women would arrive early in the morning—under the cover of darkness. Women were often dropped off near the building but not directly in front of it due to its location in a busy downtown area. These women would then have to walk a short distance from their car to the inside of the abortion clinic. Here they would often be met with pro-life advocates from area churches either pleading with them to reconsider or standing in silent prayer. Here, too, these women would be met by “escorts” from the abortion clinic, whose job it was to shuffle these patients past the “hateful nuisance” of those who would dare come and “badger” defenseless women.

It was the scene after the procedure, though, that is etched in my memory. Following the procedure, women leaving the abortion clinic were met with a far different reality. This same sidewalk, hours before filled with activity, now stood empty. These women who had been the focal point of everyone’s mobilization efforts were now objects of absolutely no one’s attention. The overwhelming chaos of the morning was met with the suffocating silence of the day. And in this moment of emotional rawness there these women often stood, abandoned and alone.

For Christians, this should be a sharp reminder about what we say we believe about human dignity and gospel ministry. On the one hand, we should not be surprised at this scene. After all, behind the predatory abortion industry and the legislation that props it up there exists a war on women waged by an Enemy far more cunning and sinister. That the façade of support and the prospect of relief prior to an abortion is met with exile and accusation following an abortion should not be surprising to those of us who know Satan as an accuser and terrorist of the soul.

On the other hand, this scene should compel us to action. In the case of this crisis pregnancy center, staff would often walk over to these women as they stood outside, offering them help and talking to them about their lives and the gospel. As Christians, we must not forget that being pro-life means caring not only about the unborn child made in the image of God but also about the mother carrying this child and the guilty conscience left in an abortion’s wake. What message do we as Christians send when the only time these women in crisis see us is when we’re offering warnings of judgment on the way into the abortion clinic? Are they right to wonder if we are any different than all those other people who abandoned them as they stand alone on the sidewalk afterwards? If our only communication with these women is a warning of the sin of abortion as they enter the clinic, is it not alarming that this is the exact same message Satan speaks to them on their way out?

Being gospel Christians means being committed to a full-orbed vision of human dignity. A global missions strategy that consists only in collecting professions of faith and moving on while failing to make disciples would rightly be deemed woefully inadequate. In the same way, a pro-life strategy for ministering to women in crisis that consists of only a word of warning on the front end is not faithful to the prophetic witness, which always joins the warning of judgment with the offer of mercy. Being gospel-focused means that we show up not just to protest and plead when everyone is watching but also that we offer a word of hope and gospel when no one is.

As we minister to women in these situations let’s stand for the unborn and continue to bring a word of warning at the front door of the abortion clinic as we work to end this societal injustice. But let’s also be faithful to carry a word of gospel mercy to the loneliness found at the abortion clinic’s back door. And as we minister to women in “crisis pregnancies” let’s remember that even though a physician can terminate a pregnancy, he cannot remove the real crisis. Let’s point them to the One who can through atonement and new birth.

2019 Evangelicals for Life