This article originally appeared here.
This is a historic year for America. The 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationally, has been overturned. However, it’s not the end of abortion in this country. The court’s ruling means each state will now decide its own regulations.
At such a moment, the church will undoubtedly be asked, “What are you going to do?” In response, we must be ready to constructively apply the biblical teaching of the imago Dei in a way that extends beyond our theology to our everyday practice.
Imago Dei, the beautiful truth that humanity is made in the image of God, gives all people inherent dignity and value. It means that dignity is not about what we do, but about who we are as image-bearers. This truth should shape not only the way the church engages with dignity issues in culture but also how we treat those we come in contact with along the way.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, there will be scores of women with unexpected pregnancies who don’t know where to turn in their moment of crisis. This is not a time to gloat over a victory, nor is it a time to lean back and think the issue is resolved. The church has an opportunity to humbly step in and provide loving, compassionate, holistic care.
If the church wants to engage the current moment and stand for life, it must be a reflection of God’s love and truth for the sake of his glory. Our ultimate goal in pro-life work is not merely to save a physical life; rather, our ultimate goal should be to care for people in a way that leads them to know the One who can save their souls. In the process, physical lives will be saved as well.
Many Christian leaders make the critical mistake of assuming abortion is an issue out in the culture, but not in our churches. In a survey of post-abortive women, 70 percent claimed a Christian religion, and 43 percent were attending church at least monthly at the time of their first abortion. Engaging abortion isn’t just about what we do in our states and communities. It’s also about how we care for women in our church pews.
As we consider how the church can effectively engage abortion, it’s also helpful to know why women tend to seek abortions. In a recent survey of 1,000 post-abortive women, 76 percent said they would have preferred to parent had their circumstances been different. The vast majority of women do not want to end the life of the child in their womb, but often feel they have no other realistic option based on their challenging circumstances. For those women, someone holding a sign condemning abortion would have, in most cases, done nothing to help them make a choice for life. I’m not implying it’s wrong to stand outside of clinics, but it’s not the only way believers can support life.
As the church applies a robust ethic of each person’s dignity, it requires us to care for individuals holistically. The church’s involvement in adoption and foster care are good examples. Contrary to the criticism that Christians only care about the issue of life up until the moment of birth, a recent study concluded believers are nearly three times more likely to adopt than the general public. Believers are more likely to be generous with their time and finances for those in poverty. And it’s almost exclusively people of faith who run the pregnancy care centers in our country. Still, more must be done.
Even with the Supreme Court’s decision, abortion bans will only go into effect in around half of our nation’s states. The other states will likely keep their access. Since the majority of abortions take place in the states that will maintain access, some estimates indicate only a 13 percent decrease in legal abortions as a result of Roe being overturned. Abortion tourism, which already takes place, will only grow as women travel to abortion sanctuary states to have abortions. Additionally, the abortion pill, which already accounts for more than 54 percent of all abortions in America, can be mailed to a woman after a telehealth call with her doctor. The FDA loosened its restrictions on the drug in December, making it increasingly difficult to regulate. Abortion is not gone, but the church does have a renewed opportunity to engage.
There are myriad ways we can practically apply our theology to the pro-life issue. As individuals and churches consider how to engage at this monumental moment, these suggestions are meant to be a starting point, not all-encompassing.
As the church engages abortion in a way that demonstrates our belief that all people are created in God’s image, our culture will be radically changed—even more than it has been by this Supreme Court ruling. This is an opportunity for the church to love people to Christ and help them in their journey. Let us not waste it.
Lauren Green McAfee works in Ministry Investments at Hobby Lobby, and is pursuing a PhD in ethics and public policy. Her research focus is in bioethics and women’s reproductive health. While earning her graduate degrees in pastoral counseling and theology, Lauren worked at Museum of the Bible from its founding days until its opening in Washington, D.C. She is the coauthor of Only One Life and Not What You Think. Lauren and her husband, Michael, share a daughter through adoption and live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @laurenamcafee.
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