FORT WORTH—For nearly five decades, evangelicals have been pushing back against legalized abortion. And although Texas has recently celebrated the passage of a law effectively outlawing abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, pro-life activists and pastors say churches still face significant hurdles—and opportunities—when it comes to caring for preborn babies and their mothers.
Amanda Stevens, who works part-time at Church at the Cross in Grapevine as the director of the church’s Life Task Force, said one of the most important things that has made their ministry a success has been the support of the church’s pastoral staff.
“It started with our pastor really caring about this issue and knowing he needed to delegate the task to other people to run with it,” she said.
For that reason, she stressed the importance of having an organized ministry to oversee a church’s pro-life efforts.
“There’s no way a church can really get traction on this unless there is a formal structure of some kind in place,” she added.
Stevens said that one of the most fruitful things a church can do is to focus on the relational aspect rather than simply meeting material needs.
“Giving stuff to people is not going to fundamentally change anything, but relationships will. Of course stuff is important, and people need diapers and wipes and car seats. But you have to be in touch with people’s needs in order to help them.”
According to Stevens, issues of life are regularly highlighted in corporate teaching, though “not necessarily abortion all the time, but caring for the marginalized,” she said. “Part of following Jesus is taking care of the vulnerable.”
Andrew Hébert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, similarly stressed the importance of addressing issues of life from the pulpit.
“It sounds fairly basic, but it’s really important and shouldn’t be passed over quickly,” he said. “What you say from the pulpit matters, and any time you can talk about the sanctity of life from a text of Scripture and show how this is a biblical idea just in the regular, routine preaching of God’s Word, is important.”
Hébert noted that he recently preached through a passage that referenced Psalm 8, the text of which states that God has crowned mankind with glory and honor.
“I took a pastoral moment to talk about the fact that if it’s true that men and women are crowned with glory and honor from their creator, then it means that every single person you talk to has dignity and worth. And that’s true whether we’re talking about preborn lives, or homeless people, or Democrats—whoever we tend to marginalize.”
In addition to Paramount’s annual focus on Sanctity of Life Sunday each January, Hébert said the church partners with, promotes, and financially supports their local pregnancy center.
“They care about their clients’ entire life, so they’re not just trying to talk someone out of an abortion,” he added. “They also work preemptively on doing mentoring courses for preteen boys and girls, they do counseling for women, they help after the baby has arrived with training on parenting and supplies for their new baby. And they make it a priority to share the gospel clearly with everyone who comes through those doors.”
“Our pro-life commitment is not just about preborn babies but an all-of-life commitment,” he said.
Carolyn Cline, CEO for Involved For Life in Dallas, said that one unique challenge they face since the passage of Texas’ heartbeat bill has been the way it has changed their strategy of how to get women to rethink their decision to get an abortion.
“The conversation has had to change, because it used to be that we could encourage women to take a breath and tell them they have plenty of time to think it through,” Cline said. “Instead of using a sonogram machine to show life, now it’s being used to get an abortion. Tactics we’ve traditionally used are not proving effective in the conversation.”
One of the unique things about Involved for Life, according to Cline, is that they operate as a full reproductive health clinic, offering everything that a woman can get at Planned Pregnancy other than an abortion. They also offer women post-abortion exams, which Cline said has generated some controversy among those who say the practice justifies abortion.
“We never say it’s OK, but we do tell them we will be there for them no matter what they choose. Many women never do a follow-up exam, and some can’t stand to ever walk through the doors of the abortion clinic again,” Cline added. “To me, I believe it’s the most Christlike we ever are, taking a woman when she’s feeling the worst about herself, hating herself for what she’s done and believes she’s worth nothing, and we take her in and love her like Jesus does and help her understand how much he loves her.”
Cline and Stevens both emphasized that churches must be aware of the statistics regarding abortion and the inevitability that many of the women in their pews have had an abortion in the past.
“We have a lot of people who are suffering in silence,” Stevens said. “Abortion is not and cannot be the unforgivable sin, and we need to create safe spaces where people can talk about that.”
Cline said that the numbers in the church are nearly identical to those outside of it, which mean that at least one in four women in the church has had an abortion.
“There is something broken in our churches that we’re not talking about this more,” Cline said. “We just can’t stick our heads in the sand. If you have unmarried women in your church, abortion is happening.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which bears on laws like the Texas Heartbeat Act. An explainer is available at erlc.com.