Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion?

This post is a part of our Orphan Awareness Month series in November 2014 to advocate, educate, and spark discussion about topics relating to adoption and orphan care.  To check out the other posts in the OAM series, click here.

 

I have been reading a book for awhile now called “Orphan Justice”, by Johnny Carr.  It is not particularly long, but I’m finding I am taking much longer to work through it than I normally would.  It is just so … rich.  Every chapter presents a new idea, a new angle from which to view orphan care.  It isn’t the kind of book I can sit down and breeze through, chapter after chapter.  It’s the kind of book you read for thirty minutes and then have to put down for a week just to fully process all that it is saying.

The basic premise of the book is simple – orphan care is complicated, and adoption is not the only topic we should be discussing.  Adoption is a vitally important component to orphan care – the author has several adopted children of his own – but we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg if we end the conversation with adoption, and are doing a great injustice to the 153,000,000 orphans of the world.

But clearly, we cannot depend on adoption to solve the global orphan crisis.  One of my favorite college professor often described this image: Imagine a sink is clogged and is rapidly filling with water as it pours out of the faucet.  What do you do?  If you don’t act quickly, the water will overflow the sink and spill onto the floor.  You have two options.  You can grab the bucket sitting by the sink and scoop water out of the filling sink and run to dump it outside … again … and again … again.  Of course, you will never be done, because the water will always be filling up faster than you can remove it.  Or, you could turn off the faucet and stop the source of the water.

This book asks readers to consider the “faucet” of the orphan crisis.  What are the big-picture issues contributing to the number of orphans exponentially increasing rather than decreasing?  Adoption is a beautiful and redemptive solution, but even the most passionate adoption-supporters among us have to admit that it is not ending the orphan crisis.  It is just scooping some of the water out of the overflowing sink.

We might not ever be able to completely switch off the faucet of the orphan crisis, but there are things we can do to slow the flow.  Unfortunately, as is true with so many other issues in life, we sometimes disproportionately focus our energy on scooping water out of the sink rather than looking for ways to slow the source of the problem.

Today, we want to talk about one of those “source” issues in the orphan crisis – one that you don’t have to travel overseas to spot, and which involves not just orphan care, but child injustices.

Are we really Pro-Life …. or just Anti-Abortion?

Note: All quoted portions are taken from “Orphan Justice” by Johnny Carr.

Source: Flickr, Amanda Diesburg

Source: Flickr, Amanda Diesburg

“I always thought that I was pro-life.  But as God began to soften my heart toward orphan care and adoption, I began to realize that I really wasn’t pro-life at all.  I was actually just anti-abortion.  I said all of the right things about life beginning at conception and abortion being murder, but never once did I do anything to act in a pro-life way.  It was just words – a theological belief and a political stance, but not a lifestyle.”

God began to convict Johnny that being “pro-life” was about far more than opposing abortion.  We call ourselves pro-life, but is it “life” that we support … or just the lack of an abortion?  What would be your attitude to the the unwed mother serving you coffee?  Would you praise her for the enormously hard decision she made to parent her child alone rather than abort or abandon, or would you silently condemn her for her “poor” choices?  Would you scoff at your pastor or youth pastor’s daughter for coming back from college, unmarried and pregnant?  Would she feel welcome in your church?  Would she think of your church as a place of safety and forgiveness to help her get back on her feet, or would her gut-reaction be that she better stay away or face further judgement and condemnation?  Would she feel welcome in your home?  Would you be a person who came to her mind as a source of encouragement?

We have a tendency to believe that all women faced with the question of abortion are people … not like us.  But what happens when it hits closer to home?

“What happens when a Christian who pickets outside of an abortion clinic to show support for life discovers that a woman he or she knows and loves is faced with an unplanned pregnancy?  What is the biblical way – the pro-life way – to respond to that woman’s situation?

She’s the scared high schooler.  Her parents are leaders in the church, and they can’t stand the thought of public disgrace.  She’s the student leader in the youth group who just started dating the youth pastor’s son and went too far.  She’s the college student who thought she was in love but came to a rude awakening when the man of her dreams walked out on her.  She’s the Pre-K Sunday School teacher who thought if she had sex with her boyfriend, he’d marry her and they could settle down and have a family.  She’s the young mom with three kids already who’s husband pressures her to get an abortion because he says they won’t have enough money to provide for yet another child.  She’s the divorced woman in a rebound relationship trying to numb the pain of abandonment.  She’s the forty-year-old in a midlife crisis who is worried about the risk of giving birth to a baby with Down Syndrome.

Maybe she’s your friend, your sister, or your daughter.”

And before we all assume that our churches are a perceived place of safety for women facing an unplanned pregnancy, consider this.  Johnny visited many pregnancy resource centers and asked them all the same question: “Of the single, expectant mothers that you meet and talk with who claim to be Christians, how many would you say feel supported and cared for by their church?”

Their response?  Only one or two out of every ten.

“That means that eight or nine out of every ten churchgoing single, expectant women feel alienated, judged, or misunderstood.  The numbers speak for themselves: When these women need the church most, we often turn our backs.”

What is even more disturbing is the research reflecting what is the biggest influence in leading women to abort a child.  It isn’t that her partner pressures her, that she feels she isn’t mature enough, or that a baby would interfere with her education or career plans.  It isn’t even a fear of financial pressures.

The number one reason that women choose abortion is due to a feeling of unreadiness and a lack of support.

Take a minute to let that sink in.  As Christians, we cannot opt out of our part in this problem.  All around you are women facing these decisions, and something about our attitude or our comments or our jokes or our past responses … something about all that sends a clear message to those women: you would be better off choosing an abortion, because whether you choose to parent that child or make a plan for adoption, you’ll be doing it alone while bearing the weight of our collective judgment.

Johnny’s wife was one of those women who faced this choice as a teenager.  She bravely writes,

“My mind drifts back to those very confusing days as a seventeen-year-old – wanting to do the right thing, but feeling like I didn’t have any options.  I also think about the many children who were born but are languishing in an orphanage or the foster care system.  I have traveled the world and seen some of the poorest children on the planet.  My heart breaks for each of those children who desperately need families, while the church applauds a political stance.  They have no clue.

I am thankful for the grace that God has given and made evident in my life.  But, it’s hard not to play the “what-if” game and consider how things would have been different if my parents and the church had been supportive of adoption.  I know I cannot go back and change the past, and I know God’s righteousness covers my sin.  But I can’t say enough about how important the role of the church is in helping women choose life.”

Her husband goes on,

“Then what?  If we say we are pro-life, we must begin by truly loving and caring for every woman who is pregnant, no matter what her marital status might be.  We must also commit to loving and caring for her child, regardless of any physical or psychological challenges that child may face.  This requires humility and a change of perspective.”

Often times we excuse not supporting an unwed mother out of a desire to “set an example” for the rest of the congregation about the consequences of sin.  We don’t want to glorify sex outside of marriage, so at best, the woman feels a lack of support and may turn to other options.  At worst, she is ostracized, called names, and asked to leave the youth group or the church community as a whole.  And then we go out and picket abortion clinics, feeling vindicated in our Pharisaical approach to righteousness.

“And here’s the strange irony.  If the mother-to-be does make a courageous choice to protect the life within her – a choice Christians say is the right choice – she is then often left to fend for herself.  We hush up this girl’s shameful secret, abandoning her at the time when she desperately needs love, support, and wisdom the most.

… we proudly turn our backs so we can’t be accused of condoning sin.  But our silence condemns us; doing nothing is a sin when a life is on the line.  We are passive bystander to the murder of innocent children.  In many cases, we encourage it – either by our words or our lack or support.  The problem is not just the abortionists; it’s us.  Too often, the Planned Parenthood counselor is the only person in a girl’s life who seems to care.  This is a tragedy.”

So, this brings us back to our original question … are we pro-life, or just anti-abortion?  More importantly, how would a woman facing this decision answer about you?

Maybe we are focusing the majority of our energy on the wrong side of this issue.  Maybe instead of only focusing on what we are against (abortion), we should focus on what we are for (life).

How might abortions and child injustices in your corner of the world decrease if …

  • … your church had an adoption ministry, communicating to those facing unplanned pregnancies that it is a place that is not just pro-life, but pro-adoption?
  • … your church community was filled with willing adoptive and foster parents?
  • … local pregnancy support centers were never short on materials or volunteers?
  • … your church was known as the safe church for individuals facing unplanned pregnancies, where they flocked for love and support and safety, knowing they wouldn’t be judged?
  • … your personal, day-to-day interactions with those facing an unplanned pregnancy were filled with love, support, and encouragement rather than with apathy, judgement, or condemnation?
  • … your church had a ministry for special needs children, those most at-risk for abortion?
  • … your church was filled with parents who adopted special needs children, those most commonly abandoned around the world?

Another suggestion …

“If we are going to speak against abortion – and we should – we must also be the first to speak up for adoption.  I challenge you to the AA principle – Abortion and Adoption (not Alcoholics Anonymous).  Every time you talk to someone about abortion, make sure you are also talking about adoption.  For every anti-abortion initiative or pro-life awareness event you organize, I challenge you to also hold a meeting for potentially interested foster parents.

… If we are committed to fighting against abortion, we should be just as passionately fighting for adoption and orphan care to place vulnerable children in families both in the U.S. and around the world.”

As the first week of Orphan Awareness Month comes to a close, I want to leave you with this challenge: take steps today to not just be anti-abortion, but pro-life.  Because once those children are born, their lives are just beginning, and the battle for their lives is far from over.

 

Resources for locals to get involved:

Bridgehaven Pregnancy Support Center – Support center for parents, those facing unplanned pregnancies, and those seeking healing from a past abortions

Safe Families for Children – Become a “Safe Family” that provides short-term housing and support for kids in need of temporary care

Iowa Kids Net: Waiting Children – Local children waiting to be adopted

Iowa Kids Net: Foster Care – How to become a foster parent

Orphan Care/Adoption Ministries – Resources for starting an orphan care/adoption ministry in your church

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  • Jessie

    Jess, this is so thoughtfully and beautifully written. I am sending the link to many people I know. And it makes me even prouder to volunteer with Bridgehaven, where just preventing abortion is not where the loving of moms ends.

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