More womenand girls consider abortion than we may realize. They are our relatives and
friends, our babysitters, teammates, people who work with us or for us, married
or unmarried. Even if someone identifies as being pro-life, the shock of an
unexpected pregnancy, the devastation of a difficult prenatal diagnosis, shame,
pressures, or fears may influence her to consider abortion.
shared with you she was pregnant and hadn't ruled out having an abortion, would
you know how to respond? The answer can be summed up in an old adage: We have
two ears and one mouth, and should use them in that proportion.
first instinct may be to convince her that abortion ends a baby's life, hearing
facts is not the first thing she needs. Research shows that many women in a
pregnancy crisis think, "This is the end of my life as I know it." To face the
challenges before her, your friend needs to know you care about her for her own
sake and she is not alone.
listening to your friend will help build trust and facilitate openness.
Eventually, when she knows you truly care about her and she trusts you, you can
share the truth in love. You can share facts about abortion, her own intrinsic
worth, and the practical help and support available so she can choose life for
herself and her baby.
loving approach reflects St. Paul's description of love in his first letter to
the Corinthians: "If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have
love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. … Love is patient, love is
kind" (1 Cor. 13:1,4).
When a woman
is facing a difficult pregnancy, the reaction of the first person she tells
tends to set the tone for her decision-making. How do we respond to our friend
in a loving way that is life-affirming for both her and her baby?
four steps of the L.O.V.E. Approach™*: Listen and Learn, Open Options, Vision
and Value, and Extend and Empower.
L. Listen and Learn
prioritize listening over speaking. You don't have to worry about whether you
may say something "wrong," and you don't need to have all the answers. Start by
listening to her story.
about her feelings, thoughts, values, beliefs, and wants. Do not interrupt,
except to ask her to expound, when appropriate. For example: How did you feel
when you first found out? Did you feel abandoned when he said that? What are
your feelings now? What did you think about that? What do you think your
parents will say or do? What value does that have for you? How does this relate
to your religious beliefs? How important is that for you? In your heart of
hearts, what do you really want to do?
open-ended questions and statements like, "Tell me more…"
and confirm what you think you are hearing: "Did I hear you say…"
attention to her body language. She may show from gestures of discomfort or a
lack of eye contact that what she is saying does not actually reflect her
innermost feelings, values, or wants.
clues to her needs so you can later bring up helpful ways to address those
needs. Listen for her strengths and resources so you can later reflect them
back to her, building up her confidence and courage.
O. Open Options
story is fully shared, it is your turn to provide factual information, always
in a loving and caring way. You might share about the reality of abortion and
the wounds that typically result. You might share experiences about having a
baby, adoption, marriage, and how such things might apply in her situation.
It's most helpful to keep the focus on her.
At the same
time, avoid using the framework of adoption versus abortion. Research indicates
that a woman with an unexpected, unwanted pregnancy often views all the possible
outcomes of her pregnancy negatively: keeping her child, abortion, and adoption
(which she tends to see as the worst of three "evils"). Research also "suggests
that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption will be the hands-down
It's better to first focus on encouraging her that she can carry this baby to
V. Vision and Value
vision in her for a healthier life (a vision she may never have had, or that
may have dimmed). Help her value herself differently. She is a special
creation, worthy of love. She is made in the image of God; as a woman, her
maternity is a gift. Jesus loves her and even died for her.
her. Help her set and work towards goals that extend beyond her due date to
help her see life beyond her pregnancy. Reassure her there is always hope and
she is not alone. She can make positive, life-giving choices. She can do it.
E. Extend and Empower
practical help and support. Her local pregnancy help center can
offer consultation, lists of community resources, and ultrasound services.
Consider keeping such lists of resources in your car, purse, or wallet. Help
her plan next steps. What would help her? A call from you? How can you contact
her and for her and her baby. The L.O.V.E. Approach™ is a way to bring Christ's
love at a crucial life-saving and life-defining moment. We are created to walk
with and support one another; we don't need to fear reaching out in love. Help
your friend experience the strength of God's message that resounds throughout
time: "Do not fear: I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10).
 Swope, Paul F., "Abortion: A Failure to Communicate," First Things, April 1998. https://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/04/004-abortion-a-failure-to-communicate.
 Heartbeat International provides a directory of pregnancy
services, which is accessible at www.heartbeatinternational.org/worldwide-directory or at www.pregnancycenters.org.
You can learn about setting up parish-based support for women who are pregnant
and need assistance by visiting the websites for The Gabriel Project (www.gabrielproject.us) and Elizabeth Ministry (www.elizabethministry.com), which have chapters across the country. For more
information about how you can help, or for information about help that may be
available, such as pregnancy care centers, maternity homes, and other
assistance, contact your local diocesan Respect Life office. A list of diocesan
Respect Life Ministry offices can be found at www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/diocesan-pro-life-offices.cfm.
L.O.V.E. Approach™ is trademarked by Heartbeat International, Inc. and may not
be adapted or modified. The L.O.V.E. Approach™ is used in "What to Do When a
Friend Is Considering Abortion" with permission from Heartbeat International,
texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition ©
2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.
and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington,
D.C. All rights reserved.