Over 40 percent of women who have had an abortion say they were frequent churchgoers at the time they ended their pregnancies and about a half of them say they kept their abortions hidden from church members, new LifeWay Research shows.
In a survey released Monday that was sponsored by the pregnancy center support organization Care Net, researchers from the Christian research group LifeWay found that about 70 percent of women who had an abortion self-identified as Christians, while 43 percent say they attended a Christian church at least once per month or more at the time they aborted their child.
The survey, which interviewed 1,038 respondents who've all had abortions, found that 20 percent of the respondents attended church at least once a week at the time of their first pregnancy termination. Six percent said they attended church more than once per week, while about 54 percent said they rarely or never attended a church.
As a majority Christian churches do not support aborting a child, only 7 percent of women said they discussed their abortion decision with anyone at church, while 52 percent said no one at their church knew about their abortion. Additionally, 76 percent of them say that the church had no influence on their decision to go through with the abortion.
"I'm not surprised but I don't think that necessarily reflects anything bad about churches," Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life organization that organizes an annual pro-life rally in Washington D.C., told The Christian Post Wednesday.
"That would be fantastic if she went to a church member but the reality is that they know often that they are not doing what's right, so they are not going to go [to someone] who is an expert in morality to find that out," Mancini added. "They want somebody to tell them that it's OK and they are not going to hear that from a church, at least not most churches."
The survey also found that 64 percent of respondents feel that members of the church are more likely to gossip about their pregnancy or abortion consideration rather than actually help them understand their pregnancy options.
While weighing their abortion decisions, 36 percent said they expected or experienced judgemental reaction from a church, while 26 percent said they expected or experienced condemnation from the congregation.
Only 16 percent said they expected or experienced a "caring" reaction from the church, while 14 percent said they expected or experienced a helpful reaction.
Overall, only 38 percent of post-abortive respondents said they considered the church a safe place to discuss their pregnancy options. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would not recommend a friend or family member to consult anyone from a church about their pregnancy options.
Churchgoers who regularly attend were more likely than individuals who rarely or never attend church to say that they experienced or anticipated positive responses from the church.
Thirty-one percent of people who attend church regularly said they experienced a "caring" reaction from the church, while 28 percent said they experienced or anticipated a helpful reaction from the church.
"While much work needs to be done to equip the church to help women and men with their pregnancy decisions, there are positive signs that many churches will be receptive to efforts to implement programming that addresses this need," Care Net CEO Roland C. Warren said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.
With about four out of 10 post-abortive women saying they attended church regularly, LifeWay Vice President Scott McConnell said in a statement that there is a "huge opportunity" for churches to have an impact on abortion decisions.
But in order to get more pregnant women to embrace the church community for pregnancy advice, churches need to find a way to eliminate the notion that women facing unplanned pregnancies will be judged, condemned and become the center of gossip.
"One of the best ways that churches can do that is have someone who has found healing after regretting an abortion either lead a ministry or get some pulpit time to talk about their story and especially to talk about how we can be really sensitive to it," Mancini said.
Mancini also suggested that congregants who have experienced and regretted an abortion can go to other churches to teach their members how to be compassionate toward the situation, yet uphold the biblical truth at the same time.
"They really can give great tools about how to be sensitive, yet honest as possible," Mancini said. "Doesn't ever help anyone to say that [abortion] doesn't take the life of a human being, that's just not honest. They need to help them grieve that life with mercy, love, hope and warmth. That is really what we are called to do."
Although the research finds that many women feel their church will do nothing but gossip about their situation, Mary Claire Kendall, the author of Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, told CP that faith communities will help women deal with the sense of pain and loss after a woman has gone through an abortion.
"Choosing life, when you're pregnant and unmarried, or not married to the father, has never been an easy decision. All the stars I write about who had abortions — Mary Astor, Lana Turner, Patricia Neal — were deeply wounded by their decision, and the consequences they faced were magnified by secrecy," Kendall wrote in an email to CP. " For all of these women, the church ultimately became a place of healing. For God's forgiveness, they came to see, was more powerful and important than toxic, destructive gossip."