In the 1950s, if you were counseling an abortion-minded woman, you would probably appeal to her sense of morality. Abortion is illegal. Abortion kills your baby. Simply put, abortion is wrong.
Much has changed in five decades. Now, abortion is not only legal, but also staunchly protected by the nation's highest courts. Whether or not abortion is wrong simply depends on your religious preference or political leanings.
A new wave of abortion-minded clients is appearing at pregnancy care centers across the country. These girls have been taught to reject any form of universal morality. These girls grew up believing that having an abortion is as easy as taking a pill. Therefore, pregnancy care centers will have to dramatically change their methods in order to reach these post-modern young women.
In recent years, there's been a lot of talk about the post-modern movement, but this emerging worldview is not well understood by most Christians, nor is it considered by most pregnancy care centers. In order to serve the post-modern, abortion-minded client effectively, pregnancy care centers need to know as much about her cultural mindset as possible and have effective strategies in place to reach her.
A post-modern, abortion-minded client will not be won over by moral arguments. Most counselors who meet with abortion-minded clients try to use classic pro-life arguments to show that abortion is wrong. And sometimes the Holy Spirit will bring about such conviction in a young woman's life that she will agree with what is shared and decide against abortion. However, as our society moves farther and farther away from biblical morality, and as licentiousness and permissiveness increase, ethical reasoning will persuade fewer abortion-minded clients.
The post-modern worldview rejects the idea of a universal morality. For your post-modern client, what's wrong for one person isn't necessarily wrong for someone else. That is why it is becoming even harder to persuade her that abortion is unethical.
The greatest 'sin' in the post-modern mindset is forcing your beliefs on someone else. If your post-modern client senses that you are trying to force your beliefs on her, she will likely tune you out. However, if she believes that you are genuinely interested in helping her through a difficult situation, she will be more apt to hear what you have to say.
Post-moderns are extremely relationship-oriented. Don't jeopardize your relationship with your post-modern client by spending too much time debating abortion on a moral or political level. The stakes are too high to risk alienating her. If you don't establish a trusting and respectful relationship with your post-modern client, you will have little hope of reaching her at all.
The post-modern movement tends to mistrust science and medicine. Your post-modern client will not be impressed if you tell her the exact gestational age that her baby's heart started beating. In her worldview, scientific facts are just as subjective as biblical truths. To your post-modern client, neither the Bible nor medical statistics prove anything.
Self-actualization—or the realizing one's full potential—is the ultimate goal of many post-moderns. Many abortion-minded women fear that having a baby would get in the way of their achieving their goals. Help your client see that she can still fulfill most or all of her aspirations without aborting her baby (although some of her dreams may have to be temporarily postponed). Put your client's mind at ease that even if she carries her child, she can find resources that will help her further her education, find and keep a good job, pursue outside interests, etc.
Post-moderns have been raised in an extremely feminist society. It's no secret that full-time motherhood is no longer a lofty calling in secular society. Let your client know that you don't expect her to become the next June Cleaver. At this point, it would be helpful to show your client the kind of practical support she can receive in her community if she does decide to parent her child. (See "What is She Leaving With?" ATC April 2008, for ideas on providing practical assistance to young mothers.)
Post-moderns tend to be introspective and self-absorbed. If your client realizes that abortion is not in her best interest, she will be more likely to carry her child to term. In a loving and non-confrontational way, share some of the risks involved with abortion—the potential physical and emotional trauma of the procedure itself, and the negative physical, emotional, and relational consequences that follow. At the same time, do so respectfully and avoid using scare tactics. Keep it on a general level ("Some women find that...") instead of a personal one ("If you have an abortion, you will probably ..."). Your client should feel like you want to help her make an informed decision, not that you are just out to "save her baby."
Stories are central in post-modern thought. Share stories that will help your client see parenting or adoption in a more positive light. If someone at your center has a post-abortion story, ask if you may pass it on when meeting with abortion-minded clients. Telling stories will be a much more effective way to communicate with most post-moderns than simply quoting medical facts or espousing moral arguments.
Post-moderns generally crave genuineness and honesty. Admit that your client is in a sticky situation. Don't tell her everything will turn out rosy, when you both know that none of the options before her will be easy. Be honest about your own past too. If your post-modern client sees that you respect her enough to be vulnerable, she is much more likely to reciprocate that openness. Again, your post-modern client will be influenced much more by a trusting relationship with her counselor than by logical arguments, medical statistics, or ethical platitudes.
If current trends continue, public schools will become even greater bastions of post-modern, anti-biblical thought. Abortion, as well as many other sinful choices, will become even more acceptable. Children will be raised with even less biblical and moral upbringing. Pregnancy care centers need to prepare their staff for this shift in American culture, and come up with new ways to reach the post-modern (and very needy) client.
NOTE: Coming next issue: The Secret to Counseling the Abortion-Minded Client.
Anna Somers volunteered as a peer counselor at the Care Net Pregnancy Center in Okanogan, Washington, for two years. The Somers now live in Anchorage, Alaska, where Scott is a youth pastor and Anna is the stay-at-home mom of Nehemiah and Silas.