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Counseling Abortion-Minded Couples

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast I have with me, my friend Camille Cates. She’s been a certified counselor with ACBC since 2015. She’s a public speaker and author whose testimony reaches out to those who are desperately seeking hope and healing from their own personal tragedies. Camille has a passion to help others realize that our deepest needs can only be met through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word. She’s ministered to women of all ages for over 20 years as a post-abortion trauma and crisis counselor. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with social issues focus. Camille and her husband, Troy, have three adult children and reside in the Cincinnati, Ohio, metro area.

And today, you’re going to find out about that passion as we talk to Camille about this issue of counseling abortion-minded couples. I just want to, first of all, welcome Camille. I’m so grateful for your ministry here, even talking at this past year’s Annual Conference and giving your testimony. A transparent testimony about the faithfulness of our Lord. Thank you for that, and thank you for being here today. 

Camille Cates: Thank you for having me, Dale.

Dale Johnson: All right, so we’re just going to jump right in the first question for you here as we discuss how to counsel and care for abortion-minded couples. What do you think are some of the most important things to consider? Because let me preface it by saying this, sometimes, even when we know deep difficulty has happened, we have a tendency to fear, we’re hindered by that fear or ignorance of I’ve never experienced anything like this. I’m not sure how to engage this. So, how do we engage and care for those who are abortion-minded to talk about such a sensitive difficult issue? 

Camille Cates: I would say that it’s most important to consider the hearts of everyone involved. And by that, I mean the heart of the counselor, the heart of the church who is supporting the counseling, and of course, the heart of the counselee. 

Dale Johnson: I want to dive in a little bit more cause I think you’re pinpointing this issue of the heart, and so, share more about how we consider the heart of the counselor?

Camille Cates:¬†Sure, when counseling an abortion-minded woman or couple, the counselor must consider whether or not they have the time and the energy it takes to counsel and coordinate the care of this woman or couple. There’s a lot involved in counseling those who are abortion-minded. Does the counselor have a heart that is committed to them for the long haul? We all probably realize there is not a set amount of time that It takes to work with the counselee, but I think many counselors would say the standard amount of time it takes walking with someone through counseling is around three to six months, depending on the situation. But for crisis counseling, it takes more time. So, for instance, crisis counseling in pregnancy realistically would last nine months or a year or more. That’s a long time, and it requires a serious time commitment. I mean, we counselors have families, and we have other responsibilities. So, it’s really important to set some things aside, and it’s important to remember that the lives that we are counseling are really literally on the line here. There’s life on the line. So, this is a unique form of crisis counseling.¬†

Dale Johnson: Now, I want you to go a little bit deeper here. As we think about counseling abortion-minded couples, this is obviously prior to an abortion; they’re considering what’s going on. You mentioned being willing to engage for the long haul. So, I want you to tell us a little bit more about why these types of situations are quite intense emotionally; people are going through a lot when they’re considering these things and why they require a longer timeframe for counseling. 

Camille Cates: Well, counselors need to understand that most abortion-minded couples are operating in that mindset because they know that they can’t do this alone. They realized that, and they may feel like they don’t have a means of support. So, if you’re only going to commit to spending three to six months in counseling with them, that’s a kind of the counselor’s normative time frame. They may feel abandoned or fall back into crisis mode, or even be tempted to bitterness. They might think, “this counselor really only wanted to get them past the point of having an abortion,” or they may be tempted to seek an abortion even later in their pregnancy because they no longer have strong support as the pregnancy becomes more difficult or thoughts of caring for the baby or making an adoption plan become very overwhelming to them. In other scenarios, such as a health crisis with the baby and maybe even the mother, they will need counseling care throughout the entire pregnancy and beyond. With each doctor’s appointment, as she hears more bad news, and negative news, she will be likely updated on the poor prognosis of her baby, which can send her into a tailspin of wrong thinking or deep grief.

So, counselors must remember that our counseling and care extends beyond someone choosing not to abort their baby. The single woman or a couple may be facing long-term and expensive medical care for a child with a disability that will be for the rest of the parents’ lives. Perhaps their doctor is saying the baby will not likely live to term or will die shortly after he or she is born. So, these are heavy, heavy burdens of the soul to carry around day after day for months. And she’s carrying and sensing this baby that’s moving within her womb, and she’s knowing that the possibility of death is impending. If there was trauma around the pregnancy, such as rape or incest, or an abusive partner, she’s carrying a heavy mental and emotional burden, which could affect her physically then as well.

So, these women are carrying a lot, and many times they need daily or every other day counsel. That’s a lot on our load as counselors, and they need care. So not just a weekly counseling appointment with assigned homework. Sometimes they’re not even really mentally capable of doing regular homework assignments for counseling because they’re so stressed mentally and emotionally. So as the counselor, you may need to spend your time on the phone or meeting with them in person to read Scripture with them to help them have that focused attention that they need on the Word. It’s almost like spoon-feeding someone who’s very ill. So, spiritually speaking, they may be barely hanging on. And as you can see, these types of counseling situations need a serious commitment from the counselor. 

Dale Johnson: Now, when we talk about that serious commitment, that may mean we reduce counseling load because this is just taking a little bit more effort, a little bit more time, a little bit more intensity, and the counselor, you know, doesn’t need to bear this load alone, that’s the importance of the church and the heart of the church. I’ve heard you talk about that in the past. Tell us a little bit about what you mean when you talk about the heart of the church and helping support cases like this. 

Camille Cates: So, the heart of the church is important because our counselees often need intensive care while we’re providing the counsel. So, if you think about a woman who’s chosen life for her baby, even though she’s been given a difficult health prognosis for the baby or even for her, she may need to be on bed rest at some point. How is she going to do her laundry, clean her house, fix meals for her family, and take care of other children that are in the home? What if she had to quit work and she doesn’t have enough income to make rent? If she’s single, how is she going to do that on her own? So as the counselor, we’re operating as the part of the body of Christ that is helping her with her spiritual needs, but with some of the scenarios that I’ve shared with you, you can see that require some pretty heavy lifting. So, counselors need the support of others in the church to help them with the practical care and the physical needs of their counselees, which also has some pretty heavy lifting to it.

So, is the heart of your church one where others are committed to providing intensive care as you counsel? When doing crisis counseling, it helps to know that we aren’t alone as the counselors in caring for our counselees either; just like the abortion-minded woman or couple needs to know they’re not alone, the counselor needs to know they’re not alone either. So my personal belief is that there really needs to be more care teams in our churches to support counselees and their counselors. I love how the New Living Translation words, Ecclesiastes 4:12, which states, “a person standing alone can be attacked and defeated but two can stand back-to-back and conquer, three are even better for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” That’s a great picture of how the church needs to view ministry to those who we are counseling. 

Dale Johnson: I love this emphasis. You’ve talked about the heart of the counselor, you’ve included the church, and let me just say it flatly that if the church really cares about this issue, we’re going to have to engage it tangibly, not just give lip service to it and giving ascent that we care about the unborn. We’re going to have to put some effort, some resources, some time, some people to engage abortion-minded couples that I think is really critical for us, and this is a tangible way where the rubber is going to meet the road, whether we really are pro-life or not, whether we really care about the unborn child and the lady who’s carrying this child, are we going to care well for them to remove some of those hindrances and fears that she might have that’s leading her, causing her to be lured and enticed in this direction of being abortion-minded. And we talked about the heart of the counselor. We talked about the heart of the church, which I think are all important. We’ve even set this up for you as listeners as you engage abortion-minded couples to understand sort of what surrounds everything in their life, the scenario, how to gather data well and consider all the things on the exterior.

And now, we need to pinpoint the heart of the counselee. How do we now focus? How can we, as counselors, provide biblical counsel to abortion-minded counselees?

Camille Cates: Yeah, of course, there’s no formulaic answer here, but there are some strong pro-life passages to counsel from. It may seem kind of obvious, but Psalm 139 really is one of the most poignant passages in Scripture on the issue of life, and not just the life of the baby in utero, but the lives of the mom and dad too. The abortion-minded counselee is often more worried about themselves, their current situation and what having a baby will do to their future. So, I would encourage counselors to sit down with their counselees and really walk through Psalm 139 1-12, focusing on who God is, His attributes that are showcased in that passage, how they apply to the Psalmist, and then bring it home with application to the counseling and their situation.

First, these verses talk about God’s vast knowledge, show your counselee from Scripture that God knows every thought they have, every word they speak before they even speak it, and the path that they are on. He knows it all. He is all-knowing, which means He knows exactly what every day of their pregnancy and beyond that is going to look like. They can trust Him to carry them through and to provide for their needs. Psalm 139:10 speaks to God’s presence. His omnipresence with us through it all. The counselor can expound on this and help the counselee to apply it to their situation specifically. You could even go so far as to say His omnipotence as being all-powerful is displayed in this passage, especially when you consider verses 13 through 18.

Walk the abortion-minded couple through the implications and application of God knitting their baby together in their mother’s womb. Even if there’s a disability, God uses imperfect human DNA; it’s flawed because of the curse of sin, but He is still the master artist, and He uses those threads of DNA, weaving them together to create new little image bearers within their mothers’ wombs. God is this master artisan weaving, knitting, and forming human beings together just the way He wants us to be, all for His glory and our good. Additional Scriptures that are helpful to the counselee when an abnormality is discovered in her pregnancy, I think of Exodus 4:11, God’s very famous dialogue with Moses about man’s physical abilities and disabilities, and John 9, where Jesus refers to a blind man who was born that way, that the works of God might be displayed in him. What a great chapter to walk through with a counselee. This man’s story of giving Jesus glory all happened because he had been born disabled.

Still, I would caution counselors while the word of God does powerfully transform the heart, we must also consider the practical everyday struggles of parents who are caring for children with disabilities. Make sure that our counsel thought right and true doesn’t come across as insensitive or ignorant of their personal needs. We must commit our support to them as the church. What a testimony to the world when we care for the abortion-minded with a love of Christ beyond their choice to keep their baby because that is what the culture is. Accusing Christians of right now, getting a woman to choose life for her baby rather than abortion. But then abandoning her to care for her baby on our own. The church can show the world that is not true and that we are committed to the care of those we counsel because the love of Christ compels us.

Dale Johnson: Camille, listen, this has been so helpful, you’ve helped us think well in the past about post-abortive care, our reaction to abortion when a lady follows through with that, and the devastation she must feel and how we can approach that in counseling. What you’ve done today is help to turn the tables and the focus, even a little bit more, on proactive, preventive care, how we tangibly are the hands and feet of the Lord Jesus, as the body of Christ to engage in those who are at such a difficult moment and feeling so unsettled and us using ourselves in the lives of other, using the church to be tangibly the feet of the hands and feet of Jesus. Camille, listen, this has been so helpful. Thank you so much for helping us to think proactively in this way as well. 

Camille Cates: My pleasure, Dale.


Helpful Resources:

2023 ACBC Exhibiting Schedule [1]

Booklet: Post-Abortive Counseling: Ministering Biblical Hope After Abortion [2] by Camille Cates

Dispelling the Darkness of Abortion with the Light of Christ [3] – Annual Conference message

Counseling Abortion-Minded Women [4] – Annual Conference message