I ran across this cartoon recently that I both agreed with and made me mad. The first panel had a guy asking a group of people, “Who is against abortion?” and the people are enthusiastically raising their hands. In the next panel he asks, “Who wants to adopt?” and the same people are looking shamefaced at the ground. I HAVE SOME FEELINGS ABOUT THIS.
First of all, I have clearly said that if you are against abortion, it only makes sense that you be pro child. That can take many forms and we all have different gifts we can utilize in caring for kids and families in crisis. I remember having a passionate dialogue with someone else who works at the foster care agency I partner with about the mission of “Safe Families.” (If you don’t know about Safe Families, I highly encourage you to check it out.) He was a big proponent of it, but I knew it wasn’t a good fit for my family and was stubbornly arguing about why I need stronger boundaries than what Safe Families provides, which is why foster care was the right fit for me. We have different gifts, different support structures, different resources and we ALL need to be utilizing them to support kids and families if we’re going to claim to be “pro life.”
But here’s the thing– WE SHOULD NOT ALL ADOPT. This comic makes it sound like the problem in our country is there are not enough people willing to adopt the infants that could be aborted. That is just factually inaccurate. If you’d like to adopt an infant, you can wait literal YEARS to be picked by a birthmother for that privilege. Obviously those dynamics would shift if abortion was illegal and all of those infants instead were adoptable, but that is not likely to happen. Even if abortion was illegal, MANY of those women wouldn’t choose adoption but would instead choose to parent.
I’m also highly opposed to the idea that if you believe life in the womb has value, then you have to be an adoptive parent. Please, just NO. Adoptive parenting can be challenging and you need to be equipped for the task. No one should get into it just because they’re trying to make their lives some sort of public protest against abortion. No kid wants the job of being their parent’s pro life bumper sticker. No one should become a foster or adoptive parent because they feel guilted into it. As much as that comic irritated me, I was glad to see adoptive parents on BOTH sides of the abortion debate were equally frustrated by it. We need to be having conversations in this country about how we help families in crisis, but shaming people into adoption is just not productive and has real life consequences to the children involved.
I know I shouldn’t have read the comments that followed that comic, but I did. It was vitriolic thing after vitriolic thing about the horrible people who want women to give birth, but then don’t care anything about those children. These are just not the people I know.
I’m exhausted by the “pro birth” insult being lobbed at the pro life community. So many of us ARE foster parents. We ARE adoptive parents. We don’t just staff the crisis pregnancy centers, but we are financially supporting agencies that provide help to struggling families. We teach parenting classes to teen moms, we pass out food to those in need, we are the caseworkers arranging services for hurting families and we’re the public school teachers investing in kids from crisis situations and providing them some normalcy. I know someone who has publicly protested against abortion and while it might be easy for you to accuse him of being “pro birth” I know the reality is that he leaves those protests to go home and care for his foster son.
If I were drawing that comic (although admittedly, it wouldn’t be very comical), I would have the guy ask, “Who is against abortion” and the people would all enthusiastically raise their hands. And then when he asks, “Who wants to adopt?” you would see two people raise their hands and then the rest of the community would talk about the role they’re going to play in supporting those adoptive families and also how they’re going to take care of foster kids and the plan for preventing the need for state involvement with struggling families in the first place. We all have a role to play, but adoption is not the cure-all for this problem.
I am a vocal supporter of the idea that the church could do more. I am an advocate for that in my church, in my city, in my writing. My hope is that someday the church will be so passionate about foster care and families in crisis that the government will find itself out of a job. We are a long way from that reality, but I keep doing everything I can to work towards the dream.
And as I’m working towards that dream, here’s what I’m working against– this idea that the lives of my adopted children were at one point not of equal value to the lives of children born to other mothers and not worth protecting. That comic would seem to imply that if no one wants to adopt these kids, then it’s just fine to abort them. I have heard pro choice advocates use stories of women very much like the mothers of my children to describe why abortion needs to be available. This makes me angry. The intrinsic value of their lives should not be dependent on someone else’s support of a particular government program or law. Ultimately, I reject the whole premise of that comic– it shouldn’t matter how many people raise their hands. The value of a life should not be something we determine by popular vote, although at this point in our country’s history it very much seems to be.
I wish we could all be pro life, pro child, pro family, pro woman. This means more than just opposing abortion or becoming an adoptive family. It requires all of our communities coming together to support parents and to express in tangible ways our love for their children. It’s a tall order and much more demanding than even just adopting. So what are you going to do to be pro life today?