Why the Unplanned Movie Is Necessary but Not Enough

Pureflix’s, Unplanned, the highly-anticipated pro-life, anti-abortion movie starring Ashley Bratcher was released this past weekend. The film grossed an astounding $6 million at the box office, coming in fifth for the weekend.  Considering the refusal by several major networks to even advertise for the movie, such high grossing figures are impressive. This Christian film is striking a chord within the church community, as it brings to the forefront a difficult topic – abortion. I’m so thankful for the Christian film industry that is continuing to grow and blossom, taking on the most difficult topics in a world where a fluctuating moral compass reign supreme.

Unplanned is the personal and inspiring story of Abby Johnson, who becomes the youngest woman to have ever been named director of a Planned Parenthood organization.  Her desire was to do good for women, and the organization’s exterior certainly seemed to do that. The next months and years, however, unveiled gut-wrenching abortion practices that led Johnson to make a 180-degree turn. Johnson ultimately left the organization and became one of the nation’s largest advocates for the pro-life movement.  Today, she is a nationally sought-after author,  speaker, and advocate. The movie is raw and real, with a great deal of transparency in both emotion and physical practice. In fact, some may be put off by the level of detail the movie possesses. 

The movie couldn’t have been released at a more volatile or necessary time. Perhaps no time in history, since Roe v. Wade, has the subject of abortion been such a hot-button topic.  According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 45 million babies have been aborted since 1970. More than a half-million babies a year continue to be aborted.  As most Christians would acknowledge, this has been an issue plaguing the United States for many decades, and particularly the church. While some churches have been in the fight for years, many churches have elevated their awareness and involvement on the issue in recent months, becoming more active than ever before. Since highly-publicized new legislation passed in New York earlier this year, people have come out with a new fervor to join the fight. Church leaders are appearing on major television news programs at higher rates than ever before seemingly. Flyers are being hung.  Prayer vigils are being held. Ministries are forming at abortion clinics. Pro-lifers are marching on Washington, as well as facilitating marches at the community, state, and regional levels.  The outpouring of love for the unborn is necessary for those who vehemently believe that every life is precious.

While the Unplanned movie is a critical part of the dialogue on abortion, as it highlights the realities of the abortive process and the painstakingly slow healing for those who have endured the aftermath, it simply isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong. If I were in the same room with Abby Johnson this minute, I’d give her a big hug and plenty of accolades for her bravery.  However, the dialogue can’t end with the movie or even the pro-life movement.  According to a Guttmacher Institute Study unveiled in 2004 that investigated reasons women have had abortions over the course of 20 years, many women (73%) cited that they could not financially afford another child. 48% of those interviewed indicated that they did not want to be a single mom.

The church (the collective body of Christ) has done a great job of displaying for the world its position on abortion. There are amazing advocacy and pro-life movements, ministries, and speakers. Churches rarely, if ever, shy away from the voicing of Biblical truth on this issue.  Although there are some incredible pregnancy crisis clinics out there and awesome initiatives to save unborn children, this is only one part of the anti-abortion movement. Churches must be active in the fight to minister to the women AFTER they have saved babies from abortion. They must know what resources are available to women who think they cannot raise a child, and abortion is the only option. Churches must be fully armed with an arsenal of tools to effectively win the war. While there are some, albeit not enough, churches who are beginning to minister to single mothers, many continue to shy away from this ministry. How can a church reconcile hosting a prayer vigil at an abortion clinic, then refuse to open a single mothers’ ministry? 

It is estimated that 2 out of 3 single mothers are not attending a local church, currently. Many cite fear of judgment, feeling that they don’t belong, or a pastor’s focus on married couples, as some of the reasons why.  Once we save a child via a pregnancy crisis center or caring conversation with a friend, what is the next step? Where do you send her? How does she get the care and tools necessary to thrive long-term? How do you support her? What about when the child is now five and the mother is overwhelmed and exhausted?

While I whole-heartedly agree that adoption ministry is necessary and gives hurting and confused women a viable option that assists in saving children, I submit to you that single mothers’ ministry is just as necessary. I have many personal friends in the adoption ministry space, many of who are adoptive mothers themselves.  And they all would agree that single mother ministry is a vital part of the pro-life movement. The more tools we can place in our arsenal, the better.

It is important that single mothers know that the church will walk with them through the care of their child over the long haul. They must understand, should they choose life, that the church will not pretend they don’t exist in a year. Make no mistake. Single mothers’ ministries are not condoning unwed pregnancy.  Single mother’s ministries do not advocate for divorce and encourage women to become single mothers.  That is no more true than a drug addiction ministry, promoting and supporting drug use.  Single mother’s ministries simply meet an existing need to minister to women where they are. It reaches into the depths of a hurting family that is overwhelmed with financial strain, parenting stress, and emotional weight and says, “We see you. We love you. You are welcome here.” It shows, in a practical way, the love of Jesus and the peace he offers that the world cannot. 

While I often say that I would love for all babies to be born to two-parent homes and for marriages never to fail and spouses never to die and dads to never be incarcerated or killed in the line of duty, the reality is approximately 22 million children are being raised by single mothers in the United States today.  We must be on the front lines of the pro-life movement. And we must simultaneously be on the front lines of meeting people where they are, including single mothers raising children alone.

Post-abortive care to hurting women is so necessary, and churches should be leading in this arena. We must be light carriers and hope givers when a woman’s world is crumbling and falling apart. Adoption services and ministries are likewise critical in communities and a necessary part of ministry to the body of Christ.  As we look for ways to save babies, adoption into loving and caring homes should absolutely be part of the dialogue.  But, why do churches still continue to shy away from single moms’ ministry, as if somehow single mothers should be forever thrown to the wolves to figure this thing called life out alone? This is the very reason I founded The Life of a Single Mom, more than a decade ago.  For those who haven’t yet considered single mothers’ ministry because it simply hasn’t come to mind, this is for you. I pray you will consider the hurting women sitting just outside the walls of your church, who is desperate for the hope you can offer her through Christ.

The Life of a Single Mom Ministries is blessed and honored by the hundreds of churches throughout the United States who have stepped up to the line of duty and launched single mothers’ programs to meet the needs of her family. A church with a single moms’ ministry has a 58% higher chance of reaching and retaining single mothers from the community. Did you know that 65% of single moms’ who connect to a single moms’ ministry attend for more than 6 months? Thank you to those churches who get it.  Thank you to those churches who have said yes, year after year, to host single moms’ Christmas parties and holiday outreaches and mentoring programs for their children. Thank you to the churches who have seen single moms’ ministry as a critical part of their pro-life stance. Does your church currently have a single mothers’ program? Does it offer parenting encouragement, financial education classes, networking opportunities, and spiritual growth? Effective single moms’ ministry goes beyond a one-time event or 6-week class. Single moms’ ministry is about assisting single mothers in raising their children up in the way they should go. If you go to a church that does not have a viable single mom’s program or the one you currently have could use some help, please let us help you. We’d be honored to do so.

 Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker, whose personal journey through homelessness, abuse, and multiple teen pregnancies is leaving audiences around the globe riveted. At 19, Maggio was pregnant for the fourth time, living in government housing on food stamps and welfare. She shares with great openness, her pain, mistakes, and journey to find hope in Christ. She ultimately became an 11-time Circle of Excellence winner in Corporate America. While a vocal advocate for abstinence, and sustaining today’s marriages,  Maggio recognizes that single parenthood exists and is passionate about seeing these parents thrive. She left her corporate successes behind to launch a global initiative to see single moms living a life of total freedom from financial failures, parenting woes, and emotional issues.  Her passion is contagious, and her story has been used to inspire thousands around the globe. Today, Jennifer works to ensure that no single mom walks alone as the founder of the national profit, The Life of a Single Mom. For more information and resources, visit the website HERE

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