Finding Forgiveness After an Abortion

There are two victims in an abortion—one dead, one damaged. If you have been dam­aged by an abortion, this  is written for you. And if you are a man who has been involved in an abortion decision—whether it concerned your girlfriend, wife, daughter, sister, friend, counselee, or parishioner—it is also for you.

Naomi Wolf looks to her conscience in responding to the attempts of society to rationalize and justify her abortion:

We don’t have to lie to ourselves about what we are doing at such a moment. Let us at least look with clarity at what that means and not white­wash self-interest with the language of self-sacrifice. The landscape of many such decisions looks more like Marin County than Verdun. Let us certainly not be fools enough to present such spiritually limited moments to the world with a flourish of pride, pretending that we are somehow pioneers and heroines and even martyrs to have snatched the self, with its aims and pleasures, from the pressure of biology.

That decision was not my finest moment. The least I can do, in honor of the being that might have been, is simply to know that.

Sadly, Ms. Wolf ends her article by imagining a world more honest and forgiving than this one: “And in that world, passionate feminists might well hold candlelight vigils at abortion clinics, standing shoulder to shoulder with the doctors who work there, commemorating and saying goodbye to the dead.”

My heart broke for Ms. Wolf as I read her article, and particularly at this ending. Though she makes a commendable attempt to be honest with herself and face the horrible truth of her abortion and her loss of a child, there is a part of her that holds onto abortion as the right decision. Unfortunately, by not fully confessing her sin, nor turning to the only One who can forgive her, she will inevitably remain haunted by her guilt feelings, which are rooted in actual moral guilt.

It is a mistake to try to eliminate feelings of guilt without dealing with the root cause of guilt. No matter how often someone may say to you, “You have nothing to feel guilty about,” your guilt feelings will remain because you know better. Only by a denial of reality can you avoid guilt feelings, but such a denial is unhealthy. It sets you up for an emo­tional collapse whenever something reminds you of the child you once carried. You need a permanent solution to your guilt problem, a solution based on reality, not on denial or pretense.

Because the Bible offers such a solution to your guilt problem, I will quote from it, citing specific biblical books, chapters, and verses. I encourage you to look up these verses in a Bible and think about them on your own.

Because of Christ’s death on our behalf, forgiveness is available to all.

The word gospel means “good news.” The good news is that God loves you and desires to forgive you for your abortion, whether or not you knew what you were doing when you had it. But before the good news can be appreciated, we must know the bad news. The bad news is that there is true moral guilt, and all of us are guilty of many moral offenses against God, of which abortion is only one. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin is falling short of God’s holy standards. Sin separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin deceives us and makes us think that wrong is right and right is wrong (Proverbs 14:12). The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ is the Son of God who loved us so much that he became a member of the human race to deliver us from our sin problem (John 3:16). He came to iden­tify with us in our humanity and our weakness, but did so without being tainted by our sin, self-deception, and moral failings (Hebrews 2:17–18; 4:15–16). Jesus died on the cross as the only one worthy to pay the penalty demanded by the holiness of God for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Being God, and being all-powerful, he rose from the grave, defeating sin and conquering death (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 54–57).

When Christ died on the cross for us, He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “it is finished” was commonly written across certificates of debt when they were canceled. It meant “paid in full.” Christ died so that the certificate of debt consisting of all our sins could once and for all be marked “paid in full.”

The Bible is full of offers of forgiveness for every sin.

Because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf, God freely offers us pardon and forgiveness. Here are just a few of those offers:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:10–14)

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18–19)

He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Forgiveness is a gift that must be received to take effect.

The Bible teaches that Christ died for every person, without exception (1 John 2:2). He offers the gift of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life to everyone: “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).

There is no righteous deed we can do that will earn us salvation (Titus 3:5). We come to Christ empty-handed. Salvation is described as a gift—“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). This gift cannot be worked for, earned, or achieved. It is not dependent on our merit or effort, but solely on Christ’s generosity and sacrifice on our behalf.

Like any gift, the gift of forgiveness can be offered to you, but it is not yours until you choose to receive it. There are cases where convicted criminals have been offered pardon by governors but have actually rejected their pardons. Courts have determined that a pardon is valid only if the prisoner is willing to accept it. Likewise, Christ offers each of us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life, but just because the offer is made does not automatically make it ours. In order to have it, we must choose to accept it.

You may think, “But I don’t deserve forgiveness after all I’ve done.” That’s exactly right. None of us deserves forgiveness. If we deserved it, we wouldn’t need it. That’s the point of grace. Christ got what we deserved on the cross so we could get what we don’t deserve—forgiveness, a clean slate, a fresh start. Once forgiven, we can look for­ward to spending eternity in heaven with Christ and our spiritual family (John 14:1–3; Revelation 20:6, 11–22). And once forgiven, you can look forward to being reunited in heaven with all your loved ones covered by the blood of Christ, including the child you lost through abortion (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

Because of forgiveness, we need not dwell any longer on our past sins.

God does not want you to go through life punishing yourself for your abortion or for any other wrong you have done. Jesus said to a woman who had lived an immoral lifestyle, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:47–50). Jesus was surrounded by women who were rejected by society but who found compassion, forgiveness, and hope in His love.

No matter what you have done, no sin is beyond the reach of God’s grace. God has seen us at our worst and still loves us. The apostle Paul was a murderer; he had participated in the killing of Christians. He called himself the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15–16). Yet God not only forgave him, He elevated Paul to leadership in the church. There are no limits to the forgiving grace of God.

Having trusted God to forgive us, we must resist the temptation to wallow in our guilt, for we are no longer guilty. Accepting God’s grace does not mean pretending we didn’t do something wrong, but realizing that even though we did, we are now fully forgiven. Christ asks us to accept His atonement, not to repeat it.

Many women who have had abortions can identify with King David’s description of the anguish that plagued him long after the sinful deed was done:

When I kept silent [about sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:3–5)

You may feel immediately cleansed when you confess your sins, or you may need some help working through some of the things you’ve experienced. Either way, you are forgiven. You should try to forget what lies behind you and move on to a positive future made possible by Christ (Philippians 3:13–14). Whenever we start feeling unforgiven, it’s time to go back to all those verses from the Bible and remind ourselves of the reality of our forgiveness.

Forgiveness for the past should be followed by right choices in the present.

Many women who have had abortions carry understandable bitterness toward men who used and abused them, toward parents who were insensitive to their situation, and toward those who misled them or pressured them into a choice that resulted in the death of their child. God expects us to take the forgiveness He has given us and extend it to others (Matthew 6:14–15). Among other things, this frees us from the ter­rible burden of resentment and bitterness. The warm light of forgiveness—both Christ’s toward us and ours toward others—brightens the dark corners of our lives and gives us a whole new joy in living.

One of the most important things you need to do is become part of a therapeutic community, a family of Christians called a church. You may feel self-conscious around Christians because of your past. You shouldn’t. A true Christ-centered church is not a showcase for saints, but a hospital for sinners. You will not be judged and condemned for a sin Christ has forgiven. The people you are joining are just as human, just as imperfect, just as needy as you are. Most people in the church aren’t self-righteous, and those who are should be pitied because they don’t understand God’s grace.

There will be others in the church who have also had abortions. A good church will teach the truths of the Bible and will also provide love, acceptance, help, and sup­port for you. If you are looking for such a church in your area, but cannot find one, contact our organization at the address on page 406, and we will gladly help you.

One very healthy thing you can do for others and yourself is to reach out to women in crisis pregnancies. God can use your experience to equip you to help others and to share with them the love and guidance He has given you. My wife and I have a number of good friends who’ve had abortions. Through their prolife efforts they have given to many other women the help they wish someone had given them when they were pregnant. This has not only saved children from dying and mothers from the pain and guilt of abortion, but it also has helped bring healing to them. It can do the same for you.

(This article was originally published as Appendix A of ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments by Randy Alcorn)

Photo by Jurica Koletić on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries