In the wake of the recent Gosnell trial, other stories have come to light that demonstrate that Gosnell is not merely an isolated incident. The shock and horror of the initial unveiling of Gosnell’s atrocities is slowly hardening into resolve among pro-life advocates. It is a time of great mourning and reflection for those who are pro-life, even while we have hope of seeing the tidal wave of blood staunched one day in the future.
However, it is also a time for those who are pro-life to stop and examine their commitments to the pro-life cause. Reassessment is necessary because the church isn’t presently prepared to deal with the potential outworking of operating under an explicitly pro-life system. We especially need to consider what it means to love well in the midst of the pro-life fight. One of my fellow bloggers wrote in February about remembering to love in the midst of the pro-life Fight. I agree with him, and want to further that discussion with three commitments that Christians need to examine if they hope to be robustly pro-life.
1. Pro-lifers need to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to participate in adoption. While adoptions are on the rise, and this is largely due to influence from Christian communities, the reality is that the present rate of adoption in the US will only handle approximately a tenth of the babies that would otherwise be aborted (120,000 adoptions a year vs. 1,370,000 abortions each year in the US). When you break those adoption numbers down further, close to half are adopting someone they know, such as grandparents or step-parents adopting children for the sake of guardianship. Another sixth of those adoptions are international children. Finally, a little over 50,000 children are adopted out of the foster-care system each year, or a little less than four percent of yearly abortions. The stark reality is that even if those babies lived, their quality of life will be abysmal if people do not adopt them. What does love look like in this instance? Love looks like not only mourning the 53 million lives that have been lost, but also being willing to open our pocket books and homes to those who might be saved from such a fate. If Christians are not willing to open their homes to these children, then who will?
2. This first point reminds us that while we can increase the number of families who adopt babies, we also need to significantly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies to begin with. Thus, we must reconsider our methods of sex-education. While it is common knowledge that abstinence a great way to guarantee no pregnancy, the reality is that nearly everyone also believes they are entitled to uninhibited sexual expression. Unfortunately the values of the world after the sexual revolution and Roe V. Wade means that a large portion of people, even Christians, are having extramarital sex. Even within the bounds of marriage, people consider aborting children because their fertility methods worked too well, or because they are over-burdened financially. The result has been an explosion of unwanted pregnancies.
Studies have suggested that comprehensive sex-education would significantly reduce the number of un-wanted pregnancies each year, and yet Christians oppose it on many levels. Some of the reasons are sound, some birth control methods are potentially abortifacient and thus are a compromise of a pro-life position. Other reasons are less valid, such as the belief that allowing their children to have a comprehensive sex-education will give them license to sin. Both potential problems have thorough arguments for why there are mitigating factors to these concerns. But at bottom, there is a huge gap in how Christians deal with sex education, both in religious and secular educational settings. It is worth considering, with the number of lives at stake, that supporting comprehensive sex education in all schools could reduce the number of abortions by 60%. And if Christian parents are worried that their children knowing about safe sex will increase the likelihood that their child will be promiscuous, then this underscores that we are not teaching our youth comprehensive views of the integration of sex, their souls, and God. Instead, we are merely scaring them into following the rules, and that is never good motivation for virtue.
3. Now, lest we fall prey to the temptation to only love the apparent victims well, we need to learn to love the women who are considering or who have had abortions, and not only because they are frequently victims themselves. While Christians claim that they love the sinner while rejecting the sin, the Christian community’s language towards those who fall into sexual sin, who get pregnant, and who consider abortion is anything but loving. While I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of organizations like abolishhumanabortion.com, their language is so inflammatory that there is no room for the human struggle that goes with that. There isn’t room for the hard cases, for girls and women who get pregnant through rape or incest, or the families that would be left bereft of a mother if she didn’t choose to end her pregnancy. While we need to be uncompromising in our stances about abortion, Jesus didn’t just simply condemn sin, he healed the hurting and loved well, even as he commanded them to turn from their sin. It’s time that Christians work toward getting down with people in the trenches, doing life with them, and loving them where they are at, instead of condemning them from the sidelines.
In sum, the pro-life movement has traditionally advocated for the unborn. While this is necessary and good, the conversation also tends to further an “us vs. them” mentality, where it’s pro-life and babies on one side and pro-choice and women on the other. There needs to be a shift in perspective, wherein we acknowledge that the moral climate we live in is no longer that of older generations. We also need to find ways to love the vulnerable in the pro-life movement, and that includes the women – because society has lied to them and told them that what they do with their bodies doesn’t matter, and that abortion is no different than removing a benign tumor. We need to be firm about the rights of the unborn, but we need to love the broken hearts and bodies that abortion has left behind.