The Crossroads: Reducing Abortions
The Crossroads is a monthly installment where Christians of differing perspectives have an opportunity to voice their respective opinions on an issue. In the spirit of promoting edifying dialogue within the Body of Christ we encourage you to add your voice to the discussion. May our conversation be uplifting for the Church and point us all to a more clear understanding of our Savior.
Question: What is the best way to reduce the number of abortions?
What is the best way to reduce the number of abortions? There’s no easy answer to this question. Abortion existed long before it was legal and will continue to exist wherever there is hurt, brokenness, and desperation. And therein lies the issue at the heart of ending abortion – meeting the needs of mothers-to-be who are scared and uncertain.
I share an office with Prison Fellowship Ministries, which includes Care Net, a network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers. Recently, I was told that 90% of pregnant women who visit a crisis pregnancy center carry their child to term. Conversely, more than 90% of pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood choose abortion. The reassuring words, health care, resources about adoption, and provision of basic material needs provided at a crisis pregnancy center allow women to make a clear-minded, optimistic choice about their pregnancy, rather than reacting out of fear and desperation. When given a real choice, women tend to choose life.
Marketing and expanding the availability of crisis pregnancy centers is one very important component of the framework that will end abortion in America. Overturning Roe is another, as is strengthening the general culture of marriage, promoting a more wholesome understanding of sex, and reaffirming a proper understanding of masculinity among fathers.
- Eric Teetsel is the executive director for the Manhattan Declaration.
I don’t think there’s a silver bullet to reducing abortions within the church. The reality is that we have problems on multiple levels: our approach toward forming our parishioners’ sexual desires is broken, our support and welcome for single mothers needs work, our willingness to challenge people’s assumptions about sex seems weak. It’s impossible to create communities wherein the Gospel reigns and people treasure the “red letter words” of Jesus that he values the hair on each head (born and unborn) if we are not open to real communities ourselves. So there’s work to be done, across the board.
Still, cultural transformation need not wait until we have every solution. So let me propose one sideways suggestion, one idea that comes at the question not from head-on but through the back door. I would like to see evangelical churches end “children’s church” and nurseries and keep all the crying infants in the services. If we segregate infants because they “distract us” from our worship and learning, then we undermine our own imaginative resources to welcome distractions in other parts of our lives. The posture of welcome to infants and children begins at the center of the universe, in the person of Jesus. We ought not want a more professional and more distraction-free worship experience than he does, and if we look at the Gospels he seems quite interested in allowing the little children to mess up his plans. If our worship on Sunday is a microcosm for the rest of our lives, then it seems deeply inconsistent to separate ourselves from children while singing only to claim that we want them every other moment.
Will that reduce abortions? Empirically, probably not. At least not right away. But like all problematic ethical behaviors, the willingness in our people to abort their children is a sign of our deeper dysfunctions.
What should a tradition that began in the ancient Middle East have in common with 1970s American political categories? Sure the answer is something like, “Not much.” And yet American Christians are constantly fitting themselves into an awkward liberal/conservative binary rather than attempting to faithfully live out their tradition—and never is this more obvious that when we are talking about reducing abortion. But both liberals and conservatives have important insights for reducing abortion, and Christians should be better than most at critically mining the best of them.
Surely “liberal” Christians are correct to fight for more just social structures for women. Not only is this good (full stop), and not only is it a politically viable area of common ground between many pro-life and pro-choice groups, but it does actual save the lives of babies given that many women simply do not have the structural support system to raise children. But, in an irony that cannot be overstated given that they are the first to use government power to protect the dignity of vulnerable populations against violence, most “liberal” Christians refuse to push for the equal protection of the laws for our prenatal children.
Perhaps just as ironically, a group of people who are the first to promote privacy and choice over government-imposed values, most “conservative” Christians push for the value of the fetus to be imposed against those who disagree with them. Quite rightly, they point out that many places with amazing social welfare systems have an abortion rate which approaches that of the United States, and that Ireland and Poland have shown that a modern democracy can give our prenatal children equal protection of the laws without hurting the flourishing of women.
Especially for those who are not beholden to a liberal or conservative approach, it would be odd indeed to reject insights from either liberals or conservatives when it comes to attempts to save the lives of the 1.3 million prenatal children killed each year in the United States. A truly consistent ethic of life refuses to choose between false alternatives in pursuit of this goal.
- Charles C. Camosy, PhD, teaches Christian Ethics at Fordham University in New York City. In addition to contributing “Reducing Abortion” to David Gushee’s newly edited book A New Evangelical Manifesto, his Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization was published this past June in paperback and Kindle versions.
I don’t think the Birth Control versus Abstinence Battle is where we will reduce the number of abortions. I do think both methods of preventing pregnancy (not including the so-called Morning-after Pill) should be thoroughly taught to teens, because I understand that not all families hold the same moral standards that I do about promoting abstinence as the wisest choice. However, even the “best,” “most religious” kids sometimes make mistakes.
And in that event, I think the reduction of abortions lies in a group of unsung heroes: birth parents who give their child up for adoption. I think the active promotion, acceptance, and support of adoption as a realistic, loving alternative to abortion is the answer.
These days adoption isn’t the super-top-secret process that it was for my parent’s generation. And Catholic Charities adoption agencies, one of the most well-recognized adoption groups, gladly promotes adoptions as open as the birth mother would like for them to be. So women don’t have to feel like they’ve abandoned their child. Okay, so what about the added health care costs and other financial obligations that come with bringing a child to term? Catholic Charities offers assistance in these areas as well as housing assistance.
Too many young pregnant girls and their parents view adoption as “not owning up to your mistakes” or “shirking your responsibilities.” While those thoughts might have some truth in them, we (meaning parents, teachers, community leaders, and anyone who touches the lives of these young women) need to cultivate an atmosphere of pride, respect, and duty around those making such a difficult, life-altering decision. It may go against cultural norms, but those birth parents that choose adoption should be treated as brave and honest and mature. They have made the truly difficult choice: endure pregnancy and labor and then give up a sweet innocent child to a couple who has been longing for one. In all likelihood, they are choosing a better life for both themselves and their child. And that is worthy of praise. Perhaps if more young women felt this way about adoption, they would choose that road rather than abortion.
- Jennifer Jewell blogs regularly at BurningSugarCane.com.
*Organizational affiliations are for identification purposes only. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the organization or of FaithfulPolitics.org.
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