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I sat in silence and bowed my head for the closing prayer as I had done nearly every Sunday for the past 21 years. This Sunday, however, I wanted to be at home, in tears, as I had found out the night before that I was pregnant. Thoughts were racing through my head of tragic visions of my future. I was 21, not married. I was once the "church girl." However, not one of those thoughts that were flooding my mind involved reaching out to my church. I'd seen the way that my church had treated my sister when she became pregnant at 16 years old. Why would I reach out to a group of people that showed more judgement than love?

Fast forward a couple years, my Sundays were no longer filled with worship songs or fellowship. My Sundays were now a hangover day, to recover from other choices I made. I justified my lifestyle, thinking that I did not have a child to take care of, so why not? My baby had become a statistic and so had I. I had an abortion the week after I sat in church, and my life took a very destructive turn.

Four out of 10 post-abortive women say they were regular church attendees at the time of their abortion, which should horrify the faith community. In a survey done by CareNet of 1,038 women who have had abortions, the fact that 70 percent claim a Christian religious preference, and 43 percent report attending church monthly or more at the time of an abortion — that is where the morality issue lies. In fact, 65% of those women felt that the personal shame and the judgmental nature of their church contributed to their decision to choose an abortion. Only 14% believed that their church community would be helpful if asked for support.

Church, we've dropped the ball. If the statistics are true, that one in five women will have an abortion by the time she is 30 years old, then it is likely the woman sitting in the pew next to you has been touched in some way by the devastation of abortion, believing that she can never know true grace and forgiveness.

Abortion was made a "political issue" because a few men decided their values would supersede everyone else's. And the devastation has been incalculable. True change needs to start within the walls of our churches, and then overflow to our communities.

Church, some of our girls are running through the doors of Planned Parenthood because they see the doors of the church as closed and condemning when it comes to unplanned pregnancies. Not only are they running through those doors, but the abortion advocates who welcome them and profit from them influence their values, their morals, and teach them to devalue the sacredness of human life. If more than 60 million lives have been lost since Roe v. Wade, that means 60 million men, women, and generations have been affected by the devastation of abortion and are sitting in our churches. It's time for a culture change.

For years I wore a badge of shame, a scarlet letter that was invisible to most. I did not wake up every day and put on my breastplate of righteousness or the helmet of salvation. I was clothed in grief and regret and walked with it in silence. I condemned myself as unworthy and unclean. Standing firm in the lie that God could never love me, and I was no longer holy enough to enter into His kingdom. Today, there are millions of women in our churches who are sitting there with the scarlet letter that I once wore. They are sitting in silence and believing they can never be made whole.

The statistics of what abortion does to the mental health of the mother are staggering. A 34% increase risk of anxiety, a 37% increase risk of depression. The risk of substance abuse increases by 110%. The psychological effects are so great that the risk of suicide increases by 155%. A study has shown that the suicide mortality rate was 3.1 times higher among women who aborted compared to those who delivered. Millions are sitting in our churches that are fighting these very statistics in silence every single day because they feel unworthy to speak up.

Sisters, you do not have to sit in silence anymore. You do not have to grieve and regret alone anymore. Pour out your heart to those that ARE ready and equipped to listen. Reach out to the churches who have post-abortive ministries and begin to know what forgiveness can do. Men, you are not alone. Your grief IS justified, your hurt IS okay, and there are groups for you too.

It is time to equip your church to stand for LIFE. It is time to teach congregations how to love the woman facing an unplanned pregnancy by creating a place of refuge. We need post-abortive ministry inside the church, and services for young mothers and families on the margins. We need loving and compassionate leaders that are ready and willing to face this topic head on and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Stop staying silent so that you stay comfortable. Open your eyes to the greatest injustice this nation has seen.. We must begin the hard conversations, because the consequences of our silence is life and death.

"Abortion only comes to seem necessary when there's been a breakdown somewhere in the family. This breakdown, especially in the church, usually takes place in secret."2 In moments like being pressured to have an abortion, there is a relationship failure-and that is a tragedy. As women, we are relational, and those who have been pressured into abortion can't beat themselves up for being influenced by the people we love. It's hard for women, in that moment of being pressured on a profound issue, to separate from those she loves. I believe it has become the duty of the church to stand in the space where that failure took place, before it's too late.

Ally Bowlin is a pro-life speaker and writer. She is the National Programs Coordinator for Students for Life of America.
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