On Abortion and Real Love

I have the privilege of being able to counsel a lot of women who are seeking abortions. I can tell you that the majority of them are seeking to end their pregnancies not because they feel like it would be a fun thing to do, but because they are scared out of their minds and feel that they have no other option.

Many of them are in situations that are incredibly difficult, and will become more so with a child involved. I’ve seen drug addicts, women with abusive boyfriends and husbands, girls whose parents will kick them to the curb if they knew they were pregnant, women who are completely alone and have no support system for raising a healthy child. In those cases, I have no idea what to tell them.

Yes, there may be a lot of resources for them out there, but many of them really won’t help. They need something I cannot give them a brochure or a number for. In those cases, the only argument against ending their pregnancy is that it is murder. It is ending a baby’s life. It is selfish. It is not love.

To someone who doesn’t know who Jesus is, the anti-abortion argument will not make sense. They may very well go to church twice a week and read their Bible every day and know plenty about Jesus.

But that doesn’t mean they know who He is. To know who Jesus is, is to know that He died for you. To know that He laid down His very life for you. To know that He set aside all that He loved and went willingly forward to His own death.

Carrying a baby, birthing a baby, and raising a baby all involve complete forgetfulness of self. It involves losing your own body to another, giving up vanity and peace of mind. In a culture unfamiliar with what real love looks like —the act of putting aside your own wants and needs for another— having a baby you did not plan makes no sense.

I have found in my experience with women who are seeking abortions that they almost always know it’s the wrong thing to do. I think you will meet very few pregnant woman who have seen that tiny heart beating on an ultrasound screen and still say that it’s perfectly okay to end that child’s life. That’s just not their concern in the moment.

More often than not, they feel that they have no other option. They feel that they will lose their own life. To someone who doesn’t know Jesus well, the thought of laying down their own life for another sounds counterproductive and horrifying.

It’s laid out for us perfectly in Scripture what love really is. 1st Corinthians 13 says that love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, does not seek its own, does not rejoice in iniquity, etc. Most of us know that passage well —it’s read at weddings and people like to put it in their Instagram captions.

But that doesn’t tell us the full story. We know John 3:16, which tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” We put that one on phone cases and bumper stickers, but I’m not sure people realize how dark that passage really is.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. When we think of love, we think of Jesus healing the blind and eating with sinners and comforting widows. We don’t think of the most loving thing He ever did. He laid down His life for us. He went to the cross, bleeding and crying and suffering, and willingly put Himself in indescribable agony because He loves us.

That’s what love looks like. Not saving the last donut for your brother or sister or spouse, but denying yourself what you really want and need so that another person can have life.

The anti-abortion argument won’t work in a culture still unfamiliar with real love. There is plenty of scientific evidence telling us that unborn babies can hear and feel pain. We know there’s a heartbeat at 3 weeks. We have a lot of facts that even people who are pro-abortion will admit are correct.

But the reason that doesn’t change minds or put laws in place is because we still don’t know what love is. Because we still believe that the most important thing is our comfort, our wants, our life.

We like to focus on the happy rainbows-and-sunshine side of love. But the horrifying, gut-wrenching, confusing reality of love is Jesus on the cross. It’s our Lord suffering immense pain, and for what? So that we can live. Love isn’t easy. It isn’t supposed to be.

The practical response to our abortion problem (and it is our problem) is more resources, more churches with programs helping families in desperate need, more voices speaking the truth. The truth that real love is denying yourself. Not screaming in faces that abortion is murder and God’s wrath will come upon them (that may be true, but it’s usually not the truth they need in that moment), but rather the kind, grounding, strong love that Jesus shows us.

 I don’t mean Facebook posts and “don’t kill your baby” bumper stickers, but action. Volunteering. Donating. Starting things. Seeking these women out and helping them.

The Lord tells us to love not in word but in deed. Stop thinking of these women as a people group who murder for fun; think of them as children who are lost and afraid and need our help.

As the people of God, we are called to live differently. To love differently. We are how these women will learn to love. This means we love them and do whatever we can for them whether they are considering abortion, have an appointment next week for one, or had the procedure months ago and don’t know how to recover.

Jesus loves the women who are alone and struggling and scared out of their minds. He died for the ones sitting in waiting rooms with shaking hands and wide eyes. Be Christ to them. Die for them. You may be the only example they ever see.

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-17)

MargaretAnn Leithart volunteers at the North Jefferson Women’s Center in Fultondale, Alabama. This essay is dedicated to the Center’s Director, Julie McLendon.