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Part 1A: Effectively Helping One Facing an Unplanned Pregnancy

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Let’s use a hypothetical case study to make name references easier. Heather is 19 and a sophomore in college. She has grown up in a Christian home and has always been a “good” girl – making good grades, active and even a leader in the church youth group, full of educational and career plans, the apple of her parents’ eyes.

She sailed through her freshman year of college, meeting lots of new friends but sticking to the “straight and narrow.” Now, though, as a sophomore she has begun to explore some new experiences and friendships–and the pregnancy test she bought at Wal-Mart and just took shows positive.

[No, not all girls facing unplanned pregnancies fit the above description, but a majority does fall into the 19-24 age group. And the rest of the description summarizes the situation that you as a Women’s Ministry worker are most likely to encounter. Other young women will most likely go somewhere else for help. We hope it’s their local pregnancy resource center (crisis pregnancy center) and not their local Planned Parenthood (for whom parenthood is the last thing they’re planning.)]

Imagine how Heather feels right now. She’s scared to the point of panic; she’s in shock (“This isn’t supposed to happen to me!”); and most of all, she’s humiliated at the thought of what her parents will think/say/do. She knows how proud they are of her; and up until now, she’s never given them any reason not to be. How will she ever tell them?

See why abortion can be such an appealing option?

If she just “takes care of it,” her parents would never have to know! Everything could just go back to being like it was before she saw that pregnancy test, back to “normal.” She won’t have to break her parent’s hearts or embarrass both them and herself. She knows abortion is wrong, but . . . .

And now Heather is sitting in your office, asking for help. What do you say? Where do you start? You know that a life literally hangs in the balance.

    1. LISTEN. Obviously you must begin by compassionately listening while she pours out her whole story, probably with tears. Try not to interrupt unless her narrative just completely loses you. You may need to softly, gently prompt her at times, but frequently reassure her with nods, smiles–all of your body language–that you hurt for her and that you care.

    2. GATHER INFORMATION. Once she seems to have “told it all,” you can begin to gently ask about details not mentioned that you feel are important:

  • Who knows so far–baby’s father? Her parents? Friends?
  • What advice, if any, have they given her?
  • What plan is she leaning toward, if any?
  • How much does she know about abortion? Does she know anyone who’s had one?
  • How would she describe her relationship with the baby’s father? What about with her parents?
  • Any other key facts that her situation might summon up (was she raped, for example, and if so was it reported.)

    3. REASSURE HER that God still loves her, even though she has made bad choices, ascertaining as best you can whether she has a personal relationship with the Lord.

  • If she doesn’t and seems open, share the gospel with her.
  • If she doesn’t but seems too upset to process new information right now, just stress God’s love for her and for the baby she’s carrying.
  • If she knows the Lord but is not walking with Him currently, emphasize His loving forgiveness and abiding presence.

    4. CREATE A PLAN OF ACTION. What steps should she take next–whom to share the news with (and not), importance of getting medical care, referral to a local pregnancy resource center (crisis pregnancy center) where she’ll find folks experienced in walking through similar situations with others. They are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Abortion Alternatives.” Offer to go with her, if she wishes, to tell her parents or to the pregnancy resource center.

    5. MAKE AT LEAST ONE FOLLOW-UP APPOINTMENT with her to make sure she’s following through on what you’ve discussed. This also communicates that you care about her and her situation.

    6. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER come across as judgmental or lacking in compassion. Remember that all of us have sinned, as Scripture makes most clear, and that Jesus died for all those sins, whether that be Heather’s sin of immorality or your sin of anger or bitterness or gossip. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior. It’s vital that she senses that acceptance from you, because in her eyes at this point, you represent “The Church.” And by extension, you represent God. Yes, if she has a belligerent attitude and not one of sorrowful repentance, she will have to be brought to that point. But in this initial conversation, you are establishing a relationship of trust with her, and any future opportunities for ministry to her will be predicated on that.

    7. PRAY WITH HER before she leaves. Thank God that He created her as well as the life she’s carrying–and made each of them unique and special. Pray that His comfort, peace, and joy will be her constant companions as she walks through the next difficult weeks and months and that all the decisions she makes will be in accordance with His will.

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