‘Pregnancy and abortion’ – review of a new resource

Jul 12, 2020 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

If every abortion constitutes the deliberate killing of a tiny human life, then this is a terrible evil and a stain on our society comparable to the slave trade and the holocaust. If we defend abortion on the grounds of ‘women’s reproductive rights’, or perhaps by arguing that the foetus/embryo is not really a person, then we open the door to serious philosophical problems. Why should an adult’s decision about what is convenient (the main reason for most abortions) take precedence over a child’s right to life? If we can declare a human being in the womb to be a non-person, why not go on to make similar radical decisions, for example about what constitutes male and female?

And then, is it not highly irresponsible, and certainly undemocratic, for the Westminster government to use the excuse of Coronavirus to impose liberal abortion legislation on Northern Ireland, and to permit the use of drugs at home, potentially dangerous to women as well as lethal for unborn children, without adequate supervision? In the words of blogger Archbishop Cranmer, why isn’t there more public protest; “why is the concern left to Christian Concern”?

On the other hand, while we need the brave voices being raised against the powerful pro-abortion lobbies controlling the establishment, we also need effective pastoral care for women at local level. It may be, as has been said before in this column, that many church leaders say nothing about abortion because they have imbibed the progressive worldview, or they are afraid of controversy, or they think the issue isn’t relevant for their congregation, or because they think it’s a social justice rather than a ‘gospel’ issue. But it may also be because of the effect a public debate can have on an individual struggling with an agonising decision or with guilt about the past, who may hear the statement “abortion is a great evil” as “you are evil”.

Churches, counselling organisations and pro-life healthcare workers need resources to help pregnant women on the road to making and owning an informed choice for life; having a baby rather than an abortion, with as much heat taken out of the decision as possible. Abortion has been a choice for women for more than 50 years, but increasingly abortion is presented as a simple, morally neutral and consequence-free procedure. Women can experience pressure to have a termination from partners, family, social media and even medical professionals. Legal restrictions on anti-abortion advertising, and offering prayer and counselling outside abortion clinics have made it even more difficult for women outside faith communities to have access to information that is factual but gently makes the case for considering options other than abortion.

A new book admirably fulfils this role. “Pregnancy and Abortion: A practical guide for making decisions” (Grace and Down, 2020) is an excellent handbook put together by a GP specialising in mother and child health, a physician for internal medicine, and an experienced pregnancy counsellor. It does not begin with Christian faith, or a moral position on abortion, but with an ordinary woman experiencing an unexpected, and perhaps unwanted pregnancy.

The reader is taken through clear and simple steps, not assuming any medical knowledge: from confirming that there is a pregnancy, through a “journey of decision”. Using a combination of short case studies, visual models, questions, tables and fact-based explanations, the reader is helped to think clearly about emotions and where they might come from, and then the three main options, parenting, adoption and abortion. Detailed information is then provided what to expect during the entire period of pregnancy, and on the development of the embryo/foetus. It’s here that difficult questions begin to be raised, such as: does the little life feel pain?

Short chapters on things to consider in being a parent, or giving up a baby for adoption are followed by a series of chapters on abortion itself: how it is carried out, what the law says, and potential immediate and later after-effects, physical and psychological. These feature latest research on links between abortion and early death in women, including detail on breast cancer. The reader is led by the carefully arranged presentation of facts, combined with stories and testimonies, to the inevitable and obvious conclusion that abortion is not the easy or best option that is often presented to pregnant women.

Brief chapters on the discovery of disabilities in the unborn child, special needs of pregnant teenage girls, and the role of men in the decision making process complete the main part of the book. Appendices on ‘spiritual beliefs’ and a comprehensive list of organisations providing specialist help provide pointers to the Christian gospel in ways that would not be seen as ‘proselytising’ were this book to be recommended by doctors or secular counsellors.

A couple of areas where I feel the book could be improved is more on the joy and wonder of having a baby and being a mother, and something on the benefits of marriage as the best environment to bring up children. Also, it was pointed out to me when discussing the book with others that a woman in a pregnancy crisis is not always in the best frame of mind to read it (in the same way that a book about bereavement and dealing emotionally and practically with an unexpected death needs to be read before the event, or by those coming alongside to assist). But overall, ’Pregnancy and Abortion’ is a book which impresses the reader with its careful tone. practical, helpful approach full of information geared for the non-specialist, and gentle but clear steer to consider giving birth and caring for a child rather than abortion. It will be really useful as a resource, particularly for young people and those who counsel them – the book begins with a quote showing the levels of ignorance and false information around the issue which is fully addressed by the preparation of the manual:

“Everyone should have this guide. We young people don’t know this stuff”.


See also: Abortion: what on earth is going on? by Will Jones, Faith and Politics:


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