Sinners Together by Russell D. Moore

Sinners Together

On the Sad Ecumenism of Abortion

We are accustomed to seeing Evangelicals and Roman Catholics praying together outside abortion clinics and working together for pro-life legislation. But we don’t think about a less pleasant ecumenism: Catholics and Evangelicals waiting together in the lobby of an abortion facility.

A front-page article in the New York Times last September featured an inside look at the daily workings of an abortion clinic in Little Rock. The piece communicated the calloused yet tortured consciences of the women involved. They don’t wish to be seen, or to make contact with others in the waiting room. Even more striking, though, are their religious commitments.

One Baptist college student, having her third abortion, is quoted in the article saying: “My religion is against it. In a way I feel I’m doing wrong, but you can be forgiven. I blame myself. I feel I shouldn’t have sex at all.”

“I’ve done this once and swore I wouldn’t do it again,” said a woman named Regina. “Every woman has second thoughts, especially because I’m Catholic.” Regina noted that she went to confession. “The priest didn’t hound me,” she reported. “He said, ‘People make mistakes.’”

The facility’s operating room supervisor, Ebony, whom the article chillingly describes as rinsing “the blood off aborted tissues,” could understand Regina’s story. Ebony, too, has had an abortion. “As a Baptist, she still considered abortion a sin, but so are a lot of things we all do, she said.” The article closes with the Baptist’s words to the Catholic undergoing the abortion: “No problem sweetie. We’ve all been there.”

Other Ecumenisms

As we talk through the “ecumenism of the trenches” between Catholics and Evangelicals, we should remember the sad truth that there is also an “ecumenism of the waiting room.” The women ushered into the death clinics are not usually secularist feminists, proudly wearing their NOW Tshirts. More often, they are girls from St. Joseph’s parish or First Baptist’s youth group.

They would be counted as “prolife” on the telephone survey. They know all the right answers to the sanctity of life questions, and they can be counted on, when they reach voting age, to cast ballots for pro-life candidates. But when pregnant, they wait together for the abortionist’s solution.

Whatever very real soteriological debates exist between Catholics and Evangelicals, they share, at least in the waiting room, the same doctrine of grace: “Let us sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1).

The challenge for our churches is not to be more condemnatory. The message of God’s grace is, after all, the heart of the gospel. The atonement of Jesus forgives every sin, including that of the shedding of innocent blood. We must comfort repentant post-abortion women with the truth that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Rom. 8:1).


Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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