Sean McDowell | February 6, 2023

How to Talk about Abortion in the Church

Vaccines. Race. Gun control. These are some of the hardest issues to discuss in church. While the evangelical church is far more united in its position on abortion, it is still a politically and emotionally charged issue that must be addressed with wisdom and care.

So, how should we discuss abortion in church? Two principles may help.

First, speak with grace. It is easy to speak about abortion as if it is an issues out there, but in reality, it is an issue within the church itself. According to one study, 70% of women who have had an abortion identify as Christian. Among the women who have had an abortion and identify as Christian, over 50% say they attend church at least monthly (27% weekly).

What does this mean? Simply put, there are many women in our churches who have had an abortion. This is a sobering and vital reality that must frame how we speak about abortion. According to the same study, roughly half (52%) have not told anyone at their church about the abortion. Likely, many women feel that they will be judged for their decision and that others may gossip about them.

My friend Victoria Robinson had an abortion, but because of fear and shame, she hid it for years. She even worked at a church and pregnancy resource center until finally experiencing forgiveness. Her story is not uncommon.

This is why, whenever I speak on abortion, I go out of my way to emphasize that God has grace for anyone who has experience with abortion. It is not the unforgivable sin. Because of our firm commitment to life in the church, we can unwittingly communicate that abortion is beyond the pale of God’s forgiveness.

Here is a principle I try to keep in mind when speaking about abortion from the stage: Even though I don’t know the story of people in the audience, I always assume that there is at least one with regret about abortion. I aim to speak with grace to that person (for the record, many men have regrets about abortion too). We must remember the same principle in conversation as well.

The bottom line? Let’s be sure both our words and deeds communicate that God has grace for those who have experience with abortion (2 Cor. 12:9-10; Heb. 4:15-16; John 4:1-45). The church must be a grace-filled place where people can experience healing from abortion.

Second, speak the truth about abortion. Although we must lead with grace, we must also speak the truth about abortion. After all, it is the truth that sets people free from sin (John 8:31-38).

And abortion is sin. It is certainly not the unforgivable sin, but it is sin, nonetheless. Abortion ends the life of a precious, preborn human being. The science is clear: a living, human being comes into existence at conception. If the preborn is human, and humans have a right to life, then the preborn human inside the womb has the right to life. We must protect it and we must speak up for it.

There are many questions and objections to the pro-life position, and I have dealt with many here. But here is the bottom line for Christians in the church: Given that human life is at stake, and that all human beings are made in the image of God and thus have immeasurable value, we must speak the truth about abortion. Along with speaking the truth about the evils of abortion, we must also speak the truth that pregnancy resource centers are available to help women with unwanted pregnancies.

Grace. Truth. Both are vital.

If you are looking for a resource that tackles the toughest ethical issues today, with both grace and truth, check out my latest book A Rebel's Manifesto: Choosing Truth, Real Justice & Love Amid the Noise of Today's World.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: