Like many of our staff and volunteers, I was drawn to the ministry of First Image because of my pro-life convictions. I have a strong conviction about the full humanity, dignity, and equality of the unborn as people made in the Image of God. I am also pro-woman – you might even call me a feminist – because I believe in the full humanity, dignity, and equality of women as people made in the Image of God.
Contrary to popular belief, you can be both pro-life and pro-woman.
Working at First Image, and especially in our Pregnancy Resource Centers, I have seen a beautiful marriage of these two convictions and have personally grown in my commitment to the life of unborn children and the women who carry them.
I think many of us in the pro-life movement believe that if we can just convince women that it is indeed a person inside of them, they will choose to give birth to their child. Sometimes, this is certainly the case. But, there is another life that deserves just as much protection: the life of the mother. Even if she believes that her baby is a human life, she still has her own life to live and is rightly concerned about the difficulty of bringing a new life into her world.
I have learned that it takes much more than the knowledge that she carries a person within her to empower a woman to choose life. She must also know that her life is not over and that she has the support she needs to make the unquestionably brave decision to carry.
I have also come to understand that abortion does so much more than end an unborn life. Women suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually—usually silently—after an abortion. Many times they had been sold the lie that abortion is a quick, easy, painless solution to a non-issue. They are told that they cannot do it; they cannot bring a child into the world and if they have an abortion the problem will just go away; it’s not actually a loss, and there is nothing to grieve. Or if there is, they are grieving the idea of a child, not an actual child.
Too many women come to find that this is not true and that once the procedure is over, their problems only multiply. This is an injustice; not just against the innocent life that was taken, but against the precious life that has to deal with the consequences of that decision.
Being pro-life and pro-woman means equally valuing both lives, having compassion towards women, and being their advocates. At First Image, we minister to the whole person, not just her unborn child. When I sit with a woman who is trying to make a decision about her pregnancy, I am not just thinking about whether or not her baby will live. I am thinking about her life, what she needs, and how I can help her take the next step toward meeting those needs; here and now.
We must have compassion for women. It is usually the woman who bears the weight of responsibility for her pregnancy decision. Men are often absent or uninvolved. It is typically the woman who will bear the brunt of the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of an abortion decision, a decision to place for adoption, or parenting for the rest of her life. We must start by listening with compassion to the woman. We have to understand all that a pregnancy means for her or our words are at best useless, and at worst, deeply harmful.
In a society that wants to celebrate women but also tells her abortion is the best thing it has to offer her, we must do everything in our power to be true advocates. That means supporting a woman in her strengths, worth, potential, and to make sure she has everything she needs to succeed. It means that we will advocate for the inherent value of the life she carries by also advocating for her life.
Women are not empowered when they make a life-altering decision based on a lack of information, a lie, coercion, or a pervasive feeling of inevitable failure or misery. Informing women of all of their options – the genuine risks of abortion and the support available to them if they carry – is empowering. We get to share with them the good news: that the life inside of them is made in the Image of God and is a precious gift. Not only that, we get to share with them even more good news: that their life is a precious gift and that they are made in the Image of God.
As I continue to walk with women through these complex, heart-wrenching decisions, it is my hope that we can stop pitting a woman against her child, or a child against her mother.
We can be both unapologetically pro-life and radically pro-woman.
We can reclaim the concept of feminism from those that see abortion as freedom. We can, I hope, offer a different sort of freedom: the kind that is found when burdens are lifted by many hands and hope breaks through in the name of Jesus.
Written by, Bethany Perkins