Contents Foreword by Ali Maegraith
1: Our God is a forgiving God
2: How do Christians decide right from wrong?
3: When does human life begin?
4: Could you be pregnant?
6: Keeping the baby
8: Abortion and the Church
A pastorâ€™s note by Barry McGrath
Appendix: The morning-after pill
About the author
Foreword A young woman musters all her courage and walks into her church. It’s not like last week. She’s feeling a little frightened— vulnerable. She rehearses happy, normal conversations in her head. Will her friends see the secret that’s written on her face? The sermon is on sexual sin … great. It won’t be long before the whole world knows that she’s stuffed up there. She casts her eyes over all the people gathered and wonders who she can trust to break the news to. She can’t tell her parents—not yet, anyway. She certainly can’t tell her best friend, knowing the way she likes to gossip. She knows she will have to tell her boyfriend. How could such a mature Christian guy have so little self-control? It’s all too much to cope with. She slinks out the back door during the final song.
T his prac t i c a l a n d a c c e s s i b l e book will be a wonderful resource for individuals and churches wanting to grapple with the issues of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. Not only does it set the record straight as to where God stands on abortion, A Life Already Started looks at how we can prepare and equip ourselves to love women who did not intend to become pregnant. Women who find themselves pregnant in difficult circumstances face enormous personal hurdles. These include navigating complex FOREWORD
relationships with their own parents and the child’s father, issues with accommodation and finances, and reactions from friends and family. This is all likely to happen at a time when they are feeling hormonal and struggling to keep their breakfast down. Dreams of falling in love, getting married with a beautiful wedding and then starting a family all begin to look doubtful. For some, the shame of being exposed in their church situation can be too much to bear. At least with abortion, the young woman may think ‘the only person who has to suffer is me’. For many women, including Christian women, abortion starts to look like their only choice. A woman who was seeking healing after an abortion said this about her decision: ‘The shame that I would have brought on my family and church was too much. I just couldn’t face them’. So in light of this shame, a child’s life is taken and a woman is left to feel the consequences of her decision for the rest of her life. Here Megan implores us to seek God’s plan and will. Why? Because God knows the things that give us life and he knows what will be harmful. Christian ethics become more than just rationally working out God’s rules. As creatures in relationship with the Creator, we can trust him to show us the choices that will bring us joy and healing. All too often the human response to sin is simply to cover it up with more sin. This gets played out with abortion every day. This book reminds us that there is another way, a better way, and that is to come to the realisation that the child in the womb is ‘already a life’ and to move forward from there. No-one experiences the implications of sin more acutely than a young woman who is facing motherhood much earlier than she ever planned or dreamed. However, the nature of the gospel is that God has already judged our sin in Christ and that, if we are willing, he can miraculously turn our personal failings into something that is used powerfully for his kingdom and for his glory. God can turn our mess into his message!
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This book is for also for churches. One pastor I spoke to about supporting single parents and women who were post-abortive said: ‘We haven’t actually experienced unplanned pregnancy in our church’. Given that one in three women will have had at least one abortion by the time they are 40 years old, it would be a rare or at least a very small church that has not been affected by abortion. It is immensely important that, as we talk about the life of the unborn, we remember the women in our midst who have already had a termination. This discussion can be a very painful one and we should proclaim God’s forgiveness and look for opportunities to minister to the needs of these precious women. There are some wonderful resources available for restoration in this area.1 Megan clearly shows us where God stands on abortion. She also reminds us to be people of love and compassion to those facing this kind of crisis. The age of ‘tut, tut, tutting’ is well and truly over. Unplanned pregnancy is difficult for all involved. Yet it is precisely at these times when our faith and love as a Christian community are put to the test. The blessings that come as a result of walking in obedience and love are always one hundredfold! Where a woman is facing the implications of raising a child on her own, she should know that God hasn’t left her to manage alone. Each young woman has the potential to move from a place of deep anguish to one of hope, as she seeks to give this new human life every opportunity to thrive in the world. Surrounded by loving and supportive relationships this is absolutely possible.
1 For post-abortion grief counselling, go to www.opendoors.com.au A portal for Australian resources including a phone counselling line can be found at http://www.abortiongrief.asn.au/abortion-trauma.php Tankard Reist, M 2000, Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief after Abortion, Duffy and Snellgrove, Melbourne. Cochrane, L 1996, Forgiven and Set Free: A Post-Abortion Bible Study for Women, Baker Publishing, Grand Rapids, USA. Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats http://www.rachelsvineyard.org.au
God is immensely practical. If you are reading this now as a young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, my prayer is that this book will draw you to God with your confusion, insecurity and pain. In him you will find peace and rest in the storm. God is leading you down a path that you may never have anticipated but he will never cease holding you as you walk it. Knowing his love, you can make decisions in confidence and without fear, even with great joy. May this book also be a catalyst for our churches to be places of refuge and genuine love for those in need of this kind of assistance. You could start a ministry in your church that supports single parents with counselling, babysitting or practical needs. Step up as a pregnancy support contact person in your church so that women know who they can go to for confidential help. Are there families in your church that have short-term accommodation available? Could you start a second-hand baby goods store? Are there mature women in your church who are able to lead women through post-abortion Bible studies? Let’s keep this conversation happening and keep our sleeves rolled up, for the sake of mothers, fathers and their unborn children.
Ali Maegraith Pregnancy support worker Coordinator, ‘Pregnant Alternatives’ Pregnancy Support Centre, Surry Hills NSW 2011–12
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Introduction I n A L ife A lr e ad y S tar t e d , we will be thinking about unplanned pregnancy: how it can happen, what it means, what the options are, and how we, as Christians, should think about it. We all make mistakes. Sex outside of marriage which results in pregnancy is just more noticeable than many other sins. This book has not been written with the intention of making anyone feel guilty. It’s about providing education in the hope that we will learn from our mistakes and make better decisions next time. This book was written for the girl who is unexpectedly pregnant, but her friends and family—as well as the baby’s father—will all benefit from the information it contains. (If you’re supporting a girl in this symbol.) situation, look out for the We live in a society where sexual activity is common and abortion is widely available. Abortion is seen as a socially acceptable safety net for unwanted pregnancy, whether it is due to contraceptive failure or contraception not being used at all. How are Christians to think about these current practices? How do we distinguish between what is socially acceptable and legally permissible, and what is right for Bible-believing Christians? We will look at the pain of unplanned pregnancy, God’s purposes for sex, and how we can be forgiven for our sin when we truly repent. INTRODUCTION
We will look at how to make an ethical decision on the options available: abortion, keeping the child to raise yourself, or continuing the pregnancy to birth and giving the baby up for adoption. If at this point, you (as the pregnant girl) are feeling broken, anxious and on the verge of panic, why don’t you jump ahead right now to the chapter called ‘A pastor’s note’ at the back of this book? Barry may well give you the encouragement and strength you need to continue considering all the options we discuss from here. What about the Church family? It’s important to support our brothers and sisters in Christ (as well as those who come to us for help) who are facing this dilemma. And so we look at the ways Christians can be ‘salt and light’ in our community and start to give women a real choice when it comes to abortion—by making it possible to keep the baby. This book is pro-life: it is written from the perspective of believing that human life begins at fertilisation of an egg by a sperm. We will explain why we think this is so and why we believe that unborn humans should be treated with respect from the time they are created.
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Finding a positive path in unplanned pregnancy by Dr Megan Best