Over 40 years ago, I had sex outside of marriage. I panicked for months due to lack of menses. I was in no position financially or emotionally to care for a baby. If pregnant, I would drop out of school, leave town out of shame, and give the baby up for adoption. It was a terrifying, lonely time.
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman’s right to privacy and to abortion (Justia US Supreme Court [Justia], 2022). The 2022 court ruled, “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; the authority to regulate abortion belongs to state representatives” and “Attempts to justify abortion through appeals to a broader right to autonomy and to define one’s ‘concept of existence’ … could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution, and the like” (Justia, 2022, para. 2). Our nation is in tumult.
Nurses are needed now, more than ever, to support women and men in crisis over an unplanned pregnancy. Nurses always have been needed; the current abortion tumult screams loudly for our help. Not that all unplanned pregnancies come from unmarried sexual relations, but Christ’s responses to women involved in unmarried sexual relations provide direction for Christian nurses.
One could expect Jesus to condemn women engaged in sexual immorality—whether intentionally, from a need for income, or by force. The Bible clearly states adultery (sex between people who are not married to another) is an abhorrence to God (i.e., Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 5:18, Matthew 5:27). Why? Because adultery violates the marriage covenant that reflects the sacred relationship between God and his people (see for example, the biblical book of Hosea). Sex between two persons who are not married is identified in Scripture as sexual immorality (i.e., Leviticus 18, 20; Matthew 15:19, Acts 21:25; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:12-18). Why? Because this can lead to painful consequences.
However, Jesus did not condemn women involved in sexual immorality.
- Jesus defended the woman known as “the town harlot” (Luke 7:37, MSG) who lovingly washed and anointed his feet with expensive perfume during a dinner at a Pharisee’s home. He forgave her sins, told her faith had saved her, and that this loving act would be told throughout the world (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8).
- Some think Mary Magdalene was a former prostitute. Jesus made Mary one of his traveling companions in bringing the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Luke 8:1-3), and a first witness to his death and resurrection (John 20).
- The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) had had five husbands and was living with a man outside of marriage when she met Jesus. She was the first person to whom Jesus declared he was the Messiah (John 4:25-16).
- Jesus showed profound mercy to another woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8). He rescued her from stoning then asked, “Has no one condemned you?... Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10-11, NIV).
What does Jesus’ example show us as Christian nurses? We need to love like Jesus loved; to not condemn. Nurses must offer active presence, careful empathetic listening, and true caring to those in crisis pregnancies. We need to be fully present even when others’ beliefs differ from our own. We need to provide accurate information about pregnancy, human gestation, pre- and postnatal care, childcare support, and abortion—or refer to those who can offer correct information. We need offer resources for crisis pregnancy; to advocate for health care for women and children, especially the poor and vulnerable. I was never pregnant (had secondary amenorrhea) but still wish someone had been there for me.
I’m grateful Jesus says to me, “You are forgiven. Your faith in me saves you.” I don’t want any woman or man to believe the best or only choice is abortion. I want to be like Jesus. Rather than focusing on what people should do with an unwanted pregnancy, what if I, like Jesus, focused on offering exemplary love, compassion, and friendship?
Justia US Supreme Court. (2022). Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 597 U.S. ___ (2022). https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/597/19-1392/
Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner is the National Director of Nurses Christian Fellowship/USA and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Christian Nursing.