Hard Choices: Does Abortion Hurt or Help Women?

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Abortion. At first it seems like a simple solution to a crisis pregnancy. Avoid embarrassment, low cost, hopefully not as painful as childbirth. Could something so commonplace, so convenient, and legal in South Africa since 1 February 1997, be wrong? 

About two hundred South African women choose abortion every day. Yet, do they really "choose" abortion? As Frederica Mathewes-Green, an American pro-life feminist says, "No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg. Abortion is a tragic attempt to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss."

Why do women resort to abortion? Some claim a lack of knowledge of the baby's development. The myth that God's fearful and wonderful creation (Psalm 139) is mere "blob of tissue" has been very successful. Yet, from conception all the unique genetic information of the incredibly complex new person is set. Only 3 ½ weeks after conception the baby has a heart beat, and at 6 weeks brain waves can be detected. At 8 weeks the child is a well-proportioned, small-scale baby, with every organ present, although only 3 cm long!

Many women are concerned that their lives will change and that they are unready to cope with the responsibilities and challenges (financial, emotional and social) of parenthood. Although adoption is an option, many women fear that they will be unable to cope with the grief of giving up their baby.

At the deepest level though, women know that they have become mothers, that the life growing inside them is their own baby, and that the challenges arising from the pregnancy can be overcome. Pressure from others (who often love the woman, and want to relieve her situation as quickly as possible) and a sense of abandonment by those who should care, leave many women with a sense that they have no choice but to deny their maternity and have an abortion.

Abortion is not a risk-free procedure. A manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) abortion can leave the woman's cervix damaged, resulting in miscarriages during future pregnancies. Parts of the baby or placenta that are left behind can cause infections that can leave the woman infertile. Abortion is also associated with an increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, breast cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease (resulting in subsequent miscarriages, infertility and chronic pain). American studies indicate that 10 % of abortions result in immediate physical complications - and longer-term studies indicate that 25 to 40 % of abortions will cause physical complications.

The physical complications, however, are overshadowed by psychological effects. Guilt, regret, remorse, suicidal impulses, mourning, nightmares, lower self-esteem, anger, rage, hostility, child abuse, despair, helplessness, promiscuity and loss of interest in sex are all documented consequences of abortions. Teenagers (who are less emotionally mature) and those who are ambivalent about the abortion are most likely to suffer psychological consequences. Because of the immediate sense of relief (the "problem" has gone away) and repression of feelings after an abortion, post-abortion effects often only show up years later when sparked by an incident like the birth of another child. Seeing babies, children, pregnant women and even baby goods advertisements can also trigger a surge of emotion.

There are no easy solutions in a crisis pregnancy. Abortion leaves the baby dead and the mother deeply wounded. Families that feel financially stressed may see a new baby as a burden rather than as a blessing from the Lord. Marrying the child's father may be an option, but marrying as a result of a crisis pregnancy is clearly not as desirable as sexual restraint and waiting on the Lord. Single motherhood, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to lead to hardship and poverty. Although Christians rejoice to be adopted into God's family, it's hard for a mother to make the break and place her baby with strangers.

For those who have had abortions, there is hope. Our loving God forgave even David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba - and then had her husband murdered to cover up what he had done! Psalm 51 describes how God will cleanse and wash away sin that is acknowledged before Him - and that He will even restore the sinner to teach others to follow Him.

For those facing crisis pregnancies, there is hope. God puts the lonely in families and He cares for orphans and widows. Although sex outside of marriage is sin, pregnancy is not, and the Lord has a plan for you and for the child He has given you. If you need support in your crisis pregnancy, contact SA Cares for Life for details of your nearest crisis pregnancy center.

Although a dreadful amount of innocent blood has been shed in South Africa through abortion, there is hope. As Christians, we can practice pure and faultless religion, looking after widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27). Also, if we return to the Lord with all our hearts, He will turn away His anger (Joel 2). We can speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8) through publicly mourning the legalisation of abortion on demand in our town or city on 1 February. We can urge our pastors to preach on the Sanctity of Life on the Sunday nearest 1 February (2 February 2003), and perhaps even take a collection to support the work of Crisis Pregnancy Centers or Pro-Life activism. Finally, we can work to elect representatives who will enact laws to protect innocent life - to stem the flow of innocent blood in our land and thus turn away God's anger towards us.

Jeanine McGill is the National Co-ordinator for Africa Christian Action and is a member of Holy Trinity Church in Gardens (CESA). Besides analyzing current South African developments from a Christian perspective, she is kept busy organizing training courses, demonstrations and outreaches and editing the SaltShaker newsletter.

HELP!

Crisis Pregnancy and Post-Abortion Counseling
Africa Cares for Life - a network of Crisis Pregnancy Centers - call (031) 903 7359 for the center closest to you

Adoption
Abba Adoptions - babies looking for loving homes - call (012) 342 3937

Pro-Life Activism
Africa Christian Action - call (021) 689 4481 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Christians for Truth - call (032) 481 5512 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


South African Women Speak:

"I went for a pregnancy test in the center. The result came positive and I was devastated … I was strengthened by what the staff did and said to me … They counseled me and prayed over my baby. From that day I had so much love for my baby inside my tummy …"

"The first thing I felt was the feeling of disappointment. I disappointed my parents and also God. And I knew the next step will be my parents will reject me and kick me out of the house. My thoughts were wrong. My family stood by me and comforted me. I think that the strength of God helped me, my boyfriend and my family through this whole dramatic period."

"He was furious and told me to get rid of it as he was reconciled to his wife and wanted no part of me, but he would arrange for me to go to a Swedish doctor who would perform an abortion for R200. Feeling betrayed, I confided in M … she had tried to abort her fourth daughter on her own but had failed and she was glad as all of her girls were precious. Her advice was "keep your baby, it will be worth it." … I finally fell asleep and said "Jesus, please help me to make the right decision." … I came home from work that night to the family's promise that they would all stand by me."

This article was writen by Jeanine McGill and Feature in the Jan/Feb 2003 edition of Today Magazine

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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