Why we should change the way we speak about miscarriage

Recognizing the value of life during pregnancy and infant loss awareness month

October 13, 2020

Sitting in the exam room, my heart was shattered by the news of my miscarriage. In an effort to bring comfort, the midwife declared, “You’ll have another baby!”

I didn’t want another child, I wanted this one. The one I’d carried for nine weeks and deeply loved.

Her words haunted me as I labored our baby in the hallway of our home that night. They whispered again and again as I went on to lose two more precious babies. 

Words reveal our beliefs

Since facing recurrent miscarriages, I’ve had the opportunity to encourage other women struggling with this loss. I’ve become familiar with the comments said to those who lose babies in the womb. These comments, spoken from loved ones, church friends, and even strangers are said to comfort the sufferer, but instead leave them feeling unseen in their grief. 

More heartbreakingly, when reading between the lines, we may find underlying misunderstandings about unborn children. It’s helpful to think through what we’ve said about miscarriage in order to comfort those around us and uphold the value of life.

At least . . . 

Spoken with good intentions, comments like “at least it was early” or “at least you can get pregnant” or “at least you have children,” not only belittle the pain of a woman facing miscarriage, but unknowingly challenge the value of life in the womb. 

Though everyone grieves differently, whether a woman loses her baby at five or 20 weeks, whether she has children or not, she lost her baby. A real person—an image-bearer of God. “At least” statements are rarely helpful. Instead, let’s say “I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby.” This acknowledges the pain of the mother and the valuable life of the child.

Another baby

Just as the midwife declared I’d have another baby, many women hear the same words spoken over them. Comments like this are unhelpful because they point the sufferer to fix her eyes on the gift rather than the Giver. It’s also hurtful to women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss or face infertility after losing their baby. It’s possible she may not have another child. More than that, it diminishes the value of the life that was lost. Babies aren’t band-aids. Babies don’t replace babies. 

Instead, let’s acknowledge the loss of their child and seek to gently point their eyes to Jesus. Let’s we weep with them over the loss of their unborn baby and as the Spirit leads, share the beautiful truth of how God is near to the broken-hearted—how in grief, he gives more of himself (Psa. 34:18; 147:3). Let’s remind them that he is their Good Shepherd, walking with them down this painful path that leads to greater joy (Psa. 23). 

God protected you

I recently asked women to share comments said to them by fellow believers regarding their miscarriage. One of the most common responses was this: “God was protecting you from a baby with a disability.” How heartbreaking.

Let’s learn a better, more compassionate way of approaching pregnancy loss for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the sake of the unborn.

Of all people, Christians should be advocating for the value of every life—including the lives of unborn babies with disabilities. Is it better that a mother would lose her baby rather than getting to know and kiss and raise her child with disabilities? What does this preach to the culture that advocates for the brutal abortion of disabled children? 

Every person, whether they have special needs or not, is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psa. 139:13-16).

The “12-Week Rule”

There’s a rule regarding pregnancy announcements that tells women to keep their pregnancy a secret until the greater risk of miscarriage passes. The purpose is to “protect” them from having to share the news of the death of their baby. 

The decision to share about your pregnancy or miscarriage is highly personal, and there isn’t a right answer. But telling a woman not to share further adds to the shame surrounding pregnancy loss. The death of a baby before 12 weeks is still the death of a baby. One that deserves to be rejoiced over and grieved as the image-bearer he or she is. 

What would it look like to unbelievers if instead of encouraging secrecy, more Christians rejoiced in a woman’s decision to share about the youngest of lives in the womb?

Cultural influences

I wonder how many of these things stem from how our culture champions abortion. As Christians, we would be wise to ponder whether or not the statements we make regarding babies lost in the womb line up with how God views them. 

Would he say, “at least it was early” or “I spared you from a child with disabilities”? Perish the thought! Every human life is a wonderful work of God, created to bring him glory, even the most fragile of lives.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psa. 139:13-14a ESV)

Grace for our lack of understanding

Before experiencing pregnancy loss, I misunderstood it. When a friend lost her baby I thought it was sad, but I viewed it as a loss of a dream, not her beloved child. I’m grieved at my indifference. Yet, there’s grace for those of us who have been insensitive or who haven’t upheld the value of the unborn as we should.

If you’re heartbroken over the way you’ve handled the suffering of your sisters in Christ or the way you’ve spoken of babies lost in the womb, bask in the grace of Christ. He’s taken upon himself all our sin and shame so that we don’t have to wallow in our mistakes (1 Pet. 2:24). 

For those who’ve been hurt by comments of others, I pray you would seek to have grace for them, with a heart of forgiveness (Col. 3:13).

Let’s learn a better, more compassionate way of approaching pregnancy loss for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the sake of the unborn.

Brittany Allen

Brittany Allen is a wife to James and a mother to Theo and three babies lost through miscarriage. She’s a writer, occasional speaker, and theology lover. You can read more of her writing on her blog at https://brittleeallen.com/. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24