"Forgiven and Set Free" - Rev. Art Chartier relates truth and grace to abortion PDF Print E-mail

By The Rev. Art Chartier

It's not often that a person gets a standing ovation at his own funeral. But that's what happened this past week to Cardinal John O'Connor, for his unwavering support of life. This spontaneous accolade was a testimony to his wonderful ability to maintain the balance between truth and grace. The truth: every unborn child is a gift of God with intrinsic value and the right to life. And grace: God forgives and heals women who have chosen abortion. It's the practical working out of God's healing grace that I would like to address here.

A few years ago, feminist Frederica Mathewes-Green conducted a series of focus groups for women around the country asking them why they chose to have an abortion and what could have helped them make another choice. The surprising results were compiled in a book titled, Real Choices.

Mathewes-Green found that for these women, financial and logistical circumstances were not the primary reason for their choosing abortion. The primary reason was lack of support for the pregnancy among those closest to them. The father of the child told the woman he would leave her unless she had an abortion. The woman's parents told her they would disown her unless she had an abortion. The woman's friends told her not to ruin her life by having a child. And on it went. Mathewes-Green found that most of these women felt pressured because of the laziness and disinterest of loved ones.

My friend Kathy had a similar experience.

Kathy was single, out of college and living on her own, contemplating grad school, involved in a long-term relationship with a man she expected to marry — and pregnant. She quickly realized that the relationship itself was in jeopardy if she did not get an abortion. She says, "I needed just to make a decision and do something — anything — to get out of the horrible mess I was in." In less than 24 hours from the time she discovered her pregnancy, she had the abortion and was on her way home. She says, "I felt a huge surge of relief that no one would find out that I had ever been pregnant, and I could just get on with my life." And she did, for the next six years.

Not all women are affected by abortion in the same manner. Some women seemingly have no regrets about their choice and no apparent signs of physical or psychological side effects. But many women do experience some degree of remorse and regret, even years later. For Kathy, feelings of fear, guilt, desperation and remorse flooded over her when she was pregnant with her oldest son. Her long-term relationship was over, her plans to go to grad school never materialized, she took a new job and eventually married a man who was "a breath of fresh air" in her life. But as she anticipated becoming a mother, she found herself thinking about the child she had aborted years before.

In fear and desperation, Kathy cried out to God, "Please don't allow my baby to be harmed because of what I have done." Gratefully, her son was born in perfect health. "For the next year and a half," she says, "I hungered on an emotional and spiritual level for God and his forgiveness." But it was not until after the birth of her daughter that she heard for the first time about God's desire to have a personal relationship with her through his Son, Jesus Christ. That's when she began to understand the amazing grace and lavish mercy of God. And, she experienced peace for the first time in years.

Kathy allowed God's truth to pierce her heart: the truth about what she had done in aborting her first child, and the truth about what God had done for her in making her his child. And Kathy experienced God's grace: a mercy and love that was far deeper than the emotional and spiritual scars of abortion.

As she openly walked through her pain and confronted her anger, guilt, denial and grief, she discovered the healing presence of God in her life — the God who loves her, who forgives her and who gives her hope.

I am told that the scars of abortion are often so deep that women have difficulty sharing their pain with others. Pre-abortion counseling does not adequately inform them about the possibility of intense emotional reactions, so women isolate themselves from others, thinking there is something wrong with them for not coping well with grief. Women of faith have the same problem.

Statistically, of the nearly 4,000 women who enter abortion facilities every day, almost one in five describes herself as a committed Christian. And many of the remaining women come to faith, or back to the church later in life. The church would be the natural place for them to go for help — it's the place where sins are forgiven and we are set free from the bondage of the past. But it's also the place where women feel most embarrassed and ashamed to even mention the sins of their past. I would like to help change that.

For several years in Fairfield County, small groups of women who have experienced some degree of remorse and regret have been meeting together for a 10 week Bible study. This confidential study is for women who want to repair their relationship with God. It's for women who have already decided that they will never choose abortion again. It's for women who want to experience God's love and forgiveness. The study, Forgiven and Set Free, was written by Linda Cochrane who lives in our area. She wrote it out of her own personal experiences of God's comfort and healing of her abortion wounds.

Linda writes, "As I sat for many hours with my paper, my pen, and my pain, I called out to God and he answered me. He delivered me from all my wounds with the healing touch of his promises. He promised to turn my wailing into dancing and he has. He promised that if my weeping endured for the night, joy would come in the morning and it has."

The Rev. Art Chartier pastors First Presbyterian Church in Old Greenwhich, CT. He also serves on the Board of Presbyterians Pro-Life. This article originally appeared in the Greenwhich Times, May 13, 2000.

The book Real Choices (Mathewes-Green, Multnomah Books, 1994) is out of print, however if you can find a copy, it is a valuable resource.

The Bible Study Forgiven and Set Free (Linda Cochrane) is available through Baker Book House. There is a companion Bible study for men, Healing a Father's Heart. Both books may be ordered through any local bookstore.

PPL has resources for your church to become equipped for ministry to those affected by abortion, including preparation for Bible Studies mentioned in this article. Click here for info.



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