Radio host and counselor Stephen Arterburn candidly shares how he pressured his college girlfriend into getting an abortion, and how the guilt and shame haunted him until he learned to fully accept God's abounding grace.
Stephen Arterburn: So many times, the woman takes full responsibility for the abortion. And yet every one has at least one man involved. It could be a boyfriend, a husband, a father, a pastor, a physician, or a counselor.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, we’re gonna share a man’s perspective about abortion today with Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: That’s right, John. Our guest today is Stephen Arterburn. He has quite a story to share, and I wanna get to it quickly. Steve is the founder and chairman of NewLife Ministries, and is a teaching pastor at Northview Church, with multiple locations across Indiana.
John: Here now is Stephen Arterburn, recorded at Northview Church just about a year ago, on Focus on the Family.
Stephen: I was asked to speak at Baylor University at Chapel a few years ago. And I went there. And uh, lot of things I would have loved to have told them about, things I had done. But I felt compelled to tell them about what had happened when I was a student there at Baylor - told them I had come here to get a Christian education. What I got was I got a girl pregnant, and I paid for her to have an abortion. Didn’t really fully understand what I was doing till about three days later. It really hit me. This shame just came over me. I had destroyed the life of my own child. And I just - I just couldn’t believe it. There was nothing I could do to reverse that, to undo it. It was done. And I felt like I had sinned too much, gone too far. God could never use me, forgive me. I was done.
And the silent shame - you know, there was no funeral, no - no way to grieve, no one I could talk to. And the silent shame just started ripping through me, and I ended up with 80 ulcers just eating me to death. In fact, the physician - I was hospitalized - he said, “You’re gonna die if something in your life doesn’t change.” Nothing but the physiological effects of post-abortion syndrome, they call it - the guilt, the shame and the silence. It was horrible.
And so I told those students, hoping that maybe someone would hear this. And you know, maybe they were like me. I was a Christian, but Jesus wasn’t really the lord of my life. I thought the Bible had some great stories and some great truth, but I didn’t realize it was absolute truth. I would see that the wages of sin was death. And I was promiscuous and sinning, and I - there was no death, not until then. And then I understood it in a very real way.
So I shared that with them, and then I returned home. And a few days after I was there, I received a phone call from the young lady that I had been involved with. And she said, “I heard you told our story at Baylor Chapel.” I said, “Yes, you know, I - I hope I did it in a way that no one would know that you were the person.” She says, “Oh, no, that’s not a problem.” She said, “I heard that you said that you paid for the abortion.” I said, “Yes, I wanted them to believe that I was responsible.” She said, “The next time you tell it, maybe you should be a little more honest.” Said, “What do you mean?” Said, “Well, you didn’t just pay for the abortion. You pressured me to have that abortion. You made sure I knew that you wouldn’t be there for me or for our baby that I wanted to bring into this world. And you pressured, and you pressured. And so I just did it ‘cause I didn’t think I had a choice.”
Well, that was pretty tough to see just what a coward I had been. When that wonderful young lady and my baby needed me to be a man, I had been anything but that. I’ve learned that in - in conception, the man’s role doesn’t end there when you conceive a - a baby. The man’s role is to provide and protect for the life he’s created. When you don’t do that, and then you move to destroy that life, even an atheist experiences some kind of intrinsic guilt for destroying your own flesh and blood. (sniffs) That was a tough reality to face. Didn’t marry her. Years later, I married. And - and very quickly, we discovered we were an infertile couple. We could not have children. Seven years and thousands of dollars and every Mother’s Day worse than the Mother’s Day before, nothing.
And then some Christian comes up to me and says, “Have you ever thought maybe that the reason you can’t have children is ‘cause you paid for an abortion when you were in college?” As if I didn’t have enough shame and regret. Sometimes, you know, Christians should just not talk - just not talk. And so, um, I dealt with that. And that person, of course, would have me believe that every bad thing in my life would be a result of the abortion, and I was just getting what I deserved, and that was just gonna be part of my life and - and I should be willing to experience anything as a result of that shameful thing that I did.
Well, I’ll finish that story later. But I want to get to these numbers - 58 million medically performed abortions, 58 million, since they became legal in 1973. And you know, abortion is the direct act with the sole purpose to end a life in the womb of a mother either surgically or chemically or with, uh, an implanted device. That’s what abortion is - 58 million. The latest figures, the most updated figures, on Adolf Hitler is that he - he was responsible for about 20 million deaths. He’s dead, and he’s stopped. And we’re still adding to that number of 58 million. About 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion now. And sadly, before I finish speaking today, within this hour, 120 lives will be destroyed. Every hour, 120 abortions, just in America. Sixty to seventy percent of the abortions that are performed are performed on women who have already had a baby.
Every number has a name. And the sides have been drawn on this, the pro-choice, pro-life, pro-abortion, anti-abortion. But it all comes down to one single issue. This is the only issue that matters, no what the label is. Here’s the question: Is that cluster of living cells within the womb - is that - is that fetus a human being or not? That’s the question. And our choices as believers need to be based on what God says - not philosophy, not culture, but a biblical worldview based on God’s truth the way God intended that truth to be interpreted.
If this is not just ‘something’ that’s living, if it’s not just a cluster of living cells but a real, live human being designed by God and created by God and given life and a soul by God, then no one has the right to harm or destroy that life. If that is true, then every life has a name, and it has a hope, and it has a future designed by God. It’s known by God and has a purpose long before conception or birth.
Here’s what the Biblical worldview is beginning with what God told Jeremiah: “The Lord gave me this message. I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as My prophet to the nations.” Who has the right to interfere with what God did in the life of Jeremiah long before Jeremiah was ever even born? It was all planned out. And Jeremiah is no different than any other human being that is a life. He’s got a plan and a purpose, and if that fetus in the womb is a real, live human being, then that applies to everyone.
Look at Psalm 139. Here’s what David said, 13th verse. “You made all the - the delicate inner parts of my body, knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous. How well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, and I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me. You saw me before I was born. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
It’s not a matter of birth. It’s not a matter of conception. It’s a matter of life is created, a life is created, in the mind of God long before any of that. It’s not just that there’s something alive there. It’s a life with a hope and a future.
And if I am gonna do what I need to do or I’m supposed to do in this tough question about abortion, I’ve got to address the toughest situation when it comes to this tough question. And so we have to say, “Well, isn’t abortion the right decision when the life of the mother is at risk? Wouldn’t that be okay when her life is at risk?” And here’s kind of the - the reality about when the life of the mother is the issue. And this is what the medical community - this is how they - they put it. This is their - their terminology. If there is a procedure or a medication that a mother needs to save her life, well, of course, that’s what should happen. And their term is, if the unintended effect, if that takes the life of the child within her, well, that’s not abortion. That’s not the willful and the intentional destruction of a life. That’s an unintended effect. So in the, uh, political realm, they will use the life of the mother as justification for abortion. But when that happens, you’re going to deliver the care to the mother. But that really isn’t the issue of - of abortion here. Pro-life advocacy does not promote that a mother’s life be sacrificed or a treatment withheld so that the baby can live and the mother die. That’s just a sad distortion.
Then people say, “Well, what about when there’s a diagnosis of some severe, uh, disability or - or deformity or something like that? Wouldn’t abortion be justified then?” Well, that’s just one of the worst situations ever for a parent. There’s no judgment here for that decision. There’s no shame. We don’t know what we would do in that situation. But look, pre-born children diagnosed with a disability - don’t they deserve to be treated with the same respect as people who had been born, who have disabilities outside the womb, who are given special laws and provisions to protect them? Shouldn’t we be protecting? But disability, deformity - is that ever a good excuse to end the life of a human being, a life that is created and formed by God with a plan and a purpose and a future?
John: You’re listening to Stephen Arterburn on Focus on the Family and you can get a full CD of this broadcast for a gift of any amount when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459, or request it at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Let’s go ahead and return now to Stephen Arterburn.
End of Program Note
Stephen: People say, “Well, what about rape? Isn’t that really the exception?” Well, rape, in any circumstance, is horrible. I have no idea what that must be like. I can’t even fathom. It’s understandable why anybody would just come to the conclusion that it’s best to abort the baby. There’s no judgment or shame here for that. The culture says no woman should be forced to carry a monster’s child. And that is a very powerful statement.
That woman should never be punished for what someone else did. She should never have anything inflicted upon her. The criminal must be punished through the criminal justice system. And other women must be protected from that criminal through prosecution. And we need to compassionately meet the needs of that woman in that situation - medical care, financial assistance, whatever, emotional, spiritual support to overcome the trauma of someone taking so much from her. What a horrible thing of a man raping a woman.
But here’s a very tough reality: the circumstances of that conception were criminal. But the newly created life is as valuable as any other person ever created by God. We don’t put to death innocent children of a criminal, not in our society. And it’s best that we not do that in this situation. Aborting the baby does not ease the impact of that sexual assault. In fact, years later, it may compound it as she looks back and sees herself as the aggressor on another life as she comes to grips with what actually happened and her response to it.
My wife and I have been involved with a young woman. She referred to herself as a “rape baby.” She was conceived in rape and hearing all of the messages about rape being the one reason that a person should be able to abort, she saw herself as less than any other human being. And so she was a “rape baby,” not a child of God.
Most of the stories have what’s called “post-abortion syndrome.” The symptoms are - are more severe in some than others. Depression, an inability to bond with the children that they have for fear of loss or more pain, anxiety, fear, a numbness, avoiding deep relationships, shame, survival guilt, self-punishing, and self-degrading behaviors like getting into relationships that are abusive because you think you don’t deserve anything better.
The unspoken shame showing up in so many areas - an anniversary syndrome, flashbacks of the abortion. So many times, the woman takes full responsibility for the abortion. And yet every one has at least one man involved. It could be a boyfriend, a husband, a father, a pastor, a physician, or a counselor. And so often I hear a woman say, “I chose to have an abortion when I was 14.” But in reality, when you hear the story, she didn’t choose that; she had an abortion done to her, put upon her by a man, a cowardly man just like me.
And there’s hope and healing. But we must do what we can to prevent what Satan wants done - the babies. Look at this, John 10:10: “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich, satisfying life.” Satan loves to kill babies because of all of the hope and the potential of that life. Satan wants it ended before it ever begins. But Jesus - Jesus comes along and says, “I - I’m not that. I’m here for you to give you a rich and a satisfying life.”
Deuteronomy 30:19 - it says, “Today, I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now, I call on Heaven and Earth to witness the choice you make - oh, that you would choose life so that you and your descendants might live.” You choose life for yourself. You choose it for your descendants. And when we bring a baby into the world, it’s not just a baby. But it’s the baby and their family and all the descendants. And when we extinguish that life, we extinguish the lives of all those descendants that are to come after. And those of us who have chosen to end a life, we can live in that shame and that condemnation. We can focus on what was and what might have been. And we can live in that shame. Or we can live as God wants us to live - free of guilt, shame and condemnation.
Look at what it says in Hebrews 8 - 8:12 - “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” If you believe the word of God is true, then you must believe that He wants you to live as if Jesus really did wipe out the consequence and pay the price for your sin.
Then finally, in Hebrews 10, and He says, “I will never remember their sins and lawless deeds. And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” You do not need to sacrifice your life. You do not need to do what I did. I thought it was my calling to make God know that nobody felt worse about their sin than me. That’s what Satan wanted. That’s not what God wanted.
God has grace for every story - grace for yours, and God had grace for mine. And that grace began to unfold in the summer of 1990, July the 3rd. I was in Atlanta, Georgia. I was asked to speak to a group of African-American charismatic Christians. When it was over, one of these African-American charismatic old woman comes up to me and says, “Hey, while you were speaking, God told me to tell you you’re gonna have a baby.” I said, “Oh, well, thank you. You know, my wife and I - we’re an infertile couple. We’ve been - “ she said, “I don’t care if you’re an infertile couple. God told me to tell you you’re going to have a baby” - a very pushy charismatic Christian.
“Very bad attitude.” “Okay, all right. Back off. Alright.” That was in the morning. I spoke in the morning, and that day, I had lunch with my publisher, Victor Oliver. He said, “What are you going to do about children?” I said, “Well, you know, we’ve been doing this for seven years now, and I think we’re gonna look into what adoption is all about.” We didn’t know anything about it. He said, “Steve, my best friend’s daughter lives here - 16, she’s pregnant. The boy is 16. They can’t raise this child. They’re looking for a Christian couple to be the parents of their baby. Well,” he says, “Would you like to meet them?”
On July the 4th, we met this couple. Courageous - they did the courageous thing, didn’t have an abortion like I had chosen to have. And they decided we would be the parents of their baby. Flew home, prepared to be parents - that was July the 4th. Christmas Eve, 1990, we went to sleep, but we didn’t sleep long. We received a phone call. Our baby had been born. And so - not hard to get a flight on Christmas Day. We had a friend who had had one of these, knew how they worked, so we took her with us, and we flew to Atlanta on Christmas Day. And for some reason, I don’t know why, that nurse brought this darling, gorgeous baby and put her right in my arms. Not just a baby, but God giving back to me the very thing that I had destroyed. That’s the kind of God of grace and mercy that we have.
A lot of people don’t believe that. They think that God wants us to suffer and that there’s no blessing for those who sin. Madeline Arterburn, born on Christmas Eve, 1990. And I would put her up against any of your children.
I have been so blessed, including the blessing of being a man with a past who can stand on this stage and share his past of death and destruction with acceptance. What a blessing that is - and to say to you that every bit of grace and mercy that God has given to me He has given to every person here.
And if you are living in condemnation, there is something that you can do. James 5:16 says that if we confess our sins one to another and pray for each other that we may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
Let me pray. God, I thank You for Your grace and Your mercy and Your healing power. And I pray that today, some folks will leave here free of some weight that they brought in. Thank You for all You do for us, have planned for us. Help us to live in to the future that You have prepared. In Your name we pray. Amen.
John: A heartfelt message today from Stephen Arterburn on Focus on the Family.
Jim: John, I want to thank Stephen. He’s one, a friend of mine, but two, for being so transparent with his church family there at Northview Church in Indiana. Also, though, for allowing us to share this message with our Focus on the Family listeners.
Let me say that if this program has brought up some pain from your own past, please give us a call. Our staff would count it a privilege to listen to your story, to pray with you, and set up a call back from a counselor if that’s what’s needed. We can also help you find a Christian counselor right there in your area for follow-up care.
John: And our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459.
Jim: And let me emphasize this, please call us. That’s why we’re here. We have a really great staff, and they are ready to help you.
And let me say thank you to all of you who donate regularly to Focus on the Family. You’re the reason we have such a great team that is available to minister to others. You put that fuel in the engines. So thank you for your support.
You know, I’m really pleased that we’re able to offer a man’s perspective on abortion today. Since our See Life Clearly campaign began in mid-February, we’ve been hearing from men who have also experienced the pain of abortion, and they too, need that healing.
John: That’s true and we want you, as a guy, to know that we have heard you, and we’re trying to address that with programs like this.
Jim: That’s right, and I hope today’s broadcast began that healing process for you. If you know of someone who needs to hear Stephen’s story, please get in touch with us. We can send you a CD for a donation of any amount, but let me suggest that you consider saving a baby by donating $60 toward our Option Ultrasound program. We have proven that when a woman sees the life growing inside of her, she is much more likely to choose life for that baby. And more than 425,000 babies have been saved through our Option Ultrasound program over the last 15 years. And again, that’s thanks to you, our Focus supporters.
One last thing: if you’re a man who has been impacted by abortion, I want to challenge you to attend our Alive from New York event in Times Square this weekend - Saturday, May 4th. And if you can’t attend, please pray for great weather and for all the details to come together. We’ll be performing live, 4D ultrasounds on the big screen. So pray that those images of precious babies will have an incredible impact on the culture. Pray for those that have been on the fence on this issue - that they will see the truth, maybe for the first time. We need to make a stand for life, and I’m asking you, please join us.
John: I do hope you can be a part of it all. And we really need you to register for the event, so please stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY if you have any questions. 800-232-6459.
Well, be sure to join us next time as Dr. David Clarke shares encouragement for your marriage.
David Clarke: I don’t want a nice marriage, a friendly marriage, “We get along” marriage. That’s not what the Bible talk about through these couples. It is outrageously good - that’s what God wants.
End of Teaser
Featured Broadcast Resource
Just $60 can help save a life through the Option Ultrasound™ program. Your monthly support will help us equip more pregnancy medical clinics across the country with ultrasound machines. And when you give today, we'll send you a CD of today's broadcast.Give Now (Available to U.S. residents only)
Join us on May 4th for a live event in Times Square featuring live music, special guest speakers, and live 4D ultrasounds broadcast on a massive jumbotron. Register now! Event capacity is limited to 10,000 attendees.Read more
Be a voice for the pre-born and the sanctity of all human life. Add your signature to the Declaration for Life now.Read more
A post-abortion Bible study for men. Includes practical information to help hurting men work through the stages of post-abortion syndrome and find comfort in the reassurance of God's love and acceptance.Buy Now
Powerful insight from God's Word, stories of others who have chosen healing, helpful checklists and charts to apply key truths to your life, a 40-Day Challenge, and more!Buy Now
Recent Focus on the Family Broadcast EpisodesGo To Most Recent Episode
Stephen ArterburnView Bio
Stephen Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and host of the No. 1 nationally syndicated Christian counseling talk show New Life Live! heard and watched by more than three million people each weekday. He is a teaching pastor at Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana, an internationally known public speaker and has served as a guest commentator in national media venues such as Inside Edition, Good Morning America, CNN Live and many others. Stephen is a best-selling author whose books include Healing is a Choice, Toxic Faith and 7 Ways to Choose Healing. He has been nominated for numerous writing awards and has won three Gold Medallions for writing excellence. Learn more about Stephen at his website, stevearterburn.com.