LifeWay news office
NASHVILLE — Many women with unplanned pregnancies go silently from the church pew to the abortion clinic, convinced the church would gossip rather than help, a new study by LifeWay Research shows.
More than four in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended a pregnancy, researchers found in a survey sponsored by Care Net, a nonprofit organization supporting more than 1,100 pregnancy centers across North America.
“That’s a huge opportunity for the church to have an impact on those decisions,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.
But only 7 percent of women discussed their abortion decision with anyone at church. Three-fourths (76 percent) say the church had no influence on their decision to terminate a pregnancy.
The results point to a church culture that often lacks grace, McConnell said. Among women who have had an abortion:
• Two-thirds (65 percent) say church members judge single women who are pregnant.
• A majority (54 percent) thinks churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options.
• Fewer than half (41 percent) believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.
• Only three in 10 think churches give accurate advice about pregnancy options.
“Women are perceiving judgment from the church, and that’s probably partly because there are clear teachings in the Bible including about how and why we make judgments” McConnell said. “However, if they don’t start experiencing something different than what they’ve seen in the past, these numbers aren’t going to change.”
The church has connections with many women who choose abortion, Care Net and LifeWay Research found. In the survey of 1,038 women who have had abortions, 70 percent claim a Christian religious preference, and 43 percent report attending church monthly or more at the time of an abortion.
But distrust of the church’s response is widespread, the survey shows. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believe church members are more likely to gossip about a woman considering abortion than to help her understand options.
When weighing an abortion decision, women say they expected or experienced judgment (33 percent) or condemnation (26 percent) from a church far more than caring (16 percent) or helpfulness (14 percent).
Judgmental attitudes among even a few people in a church can discourage women from seeking help, McConnell said. “They’ll perceive everybody feels that way.”
Only 38 percent of women who have had an abortion consider church a safe place to discuss pregnancy options including parenting, abortion, and adoption. And while 25 percent say they would recommend a friend or family member discuss an unplanned pregnancy with someone at church, more than twice as many (54 percent) say they would not recommend it.
Women keep silent in church both before and after ending a pregnancy, LifeWay Research found.
More than half of churchgoers who have had an abortion (52 percent) say no one at church knows it. Nearly half of women who have had an abortion (49 percent) say pastors’ teachings on forgiveness don’t seem to apply to terminated pregnancies.
“That tells you the environment of the church,” McConnell said. “You can’t say you’ve had an abortion and you can’t say you’re considering one. It’s completely taboo to discuss.”