by Alison Barrett
‘Abortion is a respectable option. After all, there is nothing there, just a clump of cells.’ This comment represents the thinking of a large sector of the population in Spain. More strident, radical groups claim that abortion is a woman’s right and she, and only she, can say what happens to her body. At the other end of the spectrum are pro-life groups, which are largely Roman Catholic. Evangelicals are fairly conspicuous in their absence on this issue.
Apart from a brief relaxation of the law on the question of abortion in the 1930s, abortion was illegal in Spain until 1985 – almost 20 years after the abortion law was introduced in Britain in 1967. During the Franco regime, the Roman Catholic Church wielded considerable power and, therefore, the matter was not contemplated. However, once the transition to democracy had taken place, Spain began to ‘catch up’ with the rest of her European neighbours. The law enabled a woman to have a legal abortion on the grounds of three suppositions: serious risk to the physical and mental health of the mother; rape, during the first 12 weeks; and foetal abnormalities, during the first 22 weeks. It opened the door to relatively easy access to the procedure.
In 2010 a new law was introduced, whereby a woman can request an abortion within the first 14 weeks without any medical report, providing she received the relevant information three days beforehand. Between 14 and 22 weeks an abortion can be carried out if there is a serious risk to the life or health of the mother, or if there is a risk of serious foetal abnormalities. In the case of a foetal condition which is deemed incompatible with life or incurable, an abortion can be carried out right up until the end of the pregnancy. In 2019 the official number of abortions carried out in Spain was 99,149, considerably lower than in the UK but nonetheless an appalling number. What is the evangelical church doing to stem this tide? Taking of human life is an offence against our holy God. Yet, evangelicals have been strangely quiet on the matter and tend to sit on the fence or remain in ignorance of what is going on in our society.
In 2013, a group of five evangelicals formed an association called Sifra, named after one of the Hebrew midwives mentioned in Exodus 1, who preserved the lives of baby boys.1 Sifra is also an acrostic, which explains the raison d’être of the association: Service to society and the church; Information; Formation, training in counselling skills and in setting up a pregnancy crisis centre; Restoration for women who have suffered an abortion; Asesoría, counselling and support for women in a situation of crisis because of an unwanted pregnancy. It is an unequivocally evangelical Christian association with its roots in a British organisation, Image.2 Our first task was to translate the training manual into Spanish, take the training ourselves and then begin training others. Since then we have run two training courses, with an aim to create a network of volunteers around the country equipped to set up local ministries.
We created a collection of leaflets: one for churches and individual Christians, about the ministry; another for the general public informing of the services we offer; and two in a visiting card format. We have two web pages, aimed at Christians and general enquirers respectively, and a national phone line. Sifra plan to be present at relevant Christian conferences and events. We are always happy to be invited to churches to give a presentation to increase awareness and involvement in the ministry. For two years we maintained a weekly presence outside an abortion clinic in Madrid to offer help and support to women who wanted to avail themselves of it. We had many opportunities to talk to people and even pray on occasions. This activity was curtailed by a negative article identifying Sifra with the more aggressive Catholic movements. The pandemic restrictions then made it impossible to continue.
Sifra has two centres, one in Mallorca is administrative and the other provides mothers who decide to continue a pregnancy with the articles they need for their babies. It is not enough to help a mother make a decision, it is also necessary to support her in whatever decision she takes.
It is not enough to help a mother make a decision, it is also necessary to support her in whatever decision she takes.
In our training course we make use of certain publications, as well as supplying a bibliography for wider reading. One of the basic texts is Randy Alcorn’s book, Why Pro-Life?3 The Lord made it possible to invest in a translation and, in September 2021, we presented this book with a recent translation of Abortion by Lizzie Ling with Vaughan Roberts. The event included a discussion with two doctors and a nurse, all three involved in the Spanish Evangelical Alliance in the areas of ethics and communications.
We are glad to say that we do not stand alone on this issue. About the same time that Sifra came into existence, another evangelical organisation, Aesvida, was also established, which is particularly active in lobbying parliament and the authorities.
Uniquely Created & Precious
We believe firmly that the whole question of abortion is an offence to God and does serious damage to our society, physically, morally and spiritually. People ask: What is the harm, especially at the earliest stages of pregnancy? Is it not better to avoid suffering for the woman and the family? All of us know that taking the life of another person is forbidden (Ex. 20:13), that human life is sacred and each person is uniquely created by God in His image (Gen. 9:6). But we need to remember that human life does not begin at birth, nor even at some point during the period of gestation. Each one of us exists today, because we had a beginning at the moment of our conception. Every stage in our development from that point has made us what we are now, Psalm 139: 14-16 and Jeremiah 1:5 make this abundantly clear. We are not only foreknown by God, but intricately woven together by Him physically. Knowing this, as Christians, we should regard the child in the womb with the utmost awe and reverence and seek to protect him or her.
We know that when a mother does abort her child, whether she knows it or not, she is harming herself: physically, because there can be serious physical consequences; emotionally, because she is going against her maternal instincts, although she may deny this on an intellectual level, and because deep inside she knows that it is taking a human life that she was given to nurture; and spiritually, because she is transgressing God’s laws, whether she is aware of it or not. This is why so many women suffer from shame, guilt and depression as a result of an abortion. They may live with this burden for many years if they are unable to find help. We believe that Christians should take a stand on this issue while showing compassion and love to women and families. They may not know where to turn for help, whether they are struggling with making a decision about their pregnancy or following an abortion, when guilt, remorse and shame come into play. There is freedom, grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, who came into this world to bring life, healing, hope and salvation. Our desire is to communicate this message to the people and communities around us, in the hope that, not only will babies be saved but mothers and families will be preserved, and that the gospel may be received. There are many hurting people. May God enable us to be instruments of His healing power.
‘Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?’ (Pr. 24:11-12).
- for opportunities to reach those who need help
- for more Christians to become aware of this issue and take a stand
- for more believers to take up the challenge to prepare themselves through the training course
- for more committed members of the association.