Should adoption be the pro-life response to abortion? Mike Pence suggested that last night. Some adoption advocates cheered. I didn’t, because I don’t agree.
Surprised? I get that. After all, I’m a mom of six, four by adoption. And I’ve written and spoken about being pro-life consistently.
I’m passionate about adoption.
I’m passionate about life (even when my view is unpopular among some pro-lifers).
So where’s the disconnect for me?
It’s simple. Adoption is not the opposite of abortion. Birth is. After a child is born, a variety of outcomes are possible, and adoption is only one. One, for example, is parenting.
If a woman is considering abortion, our response as a country shouldn’t be simply to take her child. Yes, it is helpful for some of us to be willing to adopt so that expectant mothers can have that option if they desire placement of their child in another family. But our first response should be to care for the mother. A genuinely biblical pro-life stance values all life because of the Life Giver. Doesn’t that extend to the mother and not just the fetus? Doesn’t loving our neighbor as we love ourselves mean we don’t decide a woman’s only value is to be an incubator for an unborn child? Our moral, political, and religious imperatives to value life can’t leapfrog over the pregnant one in defense of the one with whom she’s pregnant.
It's simple: do we value life? Or do we just value babies?
Let’s start by admitting that the reasons women choose abortion are many. We’re being reductive if we act as if every abortion would have ended in adoption if the child had been born. Some women choose abortion for children they would have otherwise raised, but poverty or health concerns making pregnancy painful or lack of other supports lead them to terminate. If job training were provided or medical access guaranteed or economic supports available to meet those needs, some of those moms would not only give birth but also raise their own children instead of relinquishing them to another family. Or in the case of abortions chosen because of a prenatal diagnosis of a non-fatal disability, disability awareness and support can help present life as a more viable option (and thankfully research indicates Down syndrome abortion rates are dropping because of such cultural changes, which have been holistically championed by only one of the candidates, Hillary).
Furthermore, there's yet another significant flaw in Pence's words from last night:
"There are so many families around the country who can't have children. We could improve adoption so that families that can't have children can adopt more readily those children from crisis pregnancies."
Again, we're assuming a lot when we suppose that the crisis in a crisis pregnancy is the need for a different set of parent. But the second fallacy here is that we don't have enough children available for adoption as it is. That's not true, though. For families who want to adopt children, they'll find no lack of opportunity. According to AdoptUSKids.org more than 100,000 children in foster care are legally free for adoption. This process has minimal cost (with tax credits to recover any expenses not covered by the state).
So if we want to talk about the value of life, how about the value of the lives of those children? How about we have a real conversation about how many waiting kids have disabilities, a group which Trump has disrespected again and again throughout his campaign? And Pence wants to rally for a candidate who has supported adoption efforts via legislation, that's great... it just would have to be Hillary.
Abortion involves real women and real unborn children and real difficult decisions.
Adoption involves real women and real children (many of whom are born and have been waiting for families for some time or should be reunited with their first families) and real difficult decisions.
None of these are tidy issues fit for sound bites. Hillary doesn’t want to kill babies. Trump might have changed his stance from when he was vocally pro-choice. But? Neither has a great track record on supporting unborn lives. Only one has a track record of affirming born lives. That’s why I wrote previously about how my pro-life convictions mean that I’m with her.
So, can adoption be a valid response to abortion? Yes and no.
Yes, because being pro-life means more than just being pro-fetus, and adoption shows a concern for children after birth. No, because adoption isn’t simply a political or moral statement but rather a lifelong commitment to parenting.
My pro-life beliefs did influence our decision to adopt, but my children’s first parents weren’t a means to an end but rather image bearers of God who we love dearly. And my children aren’t protest symbols or principled statements. They’re my children.
Adoption should be our response to a child in need of a family. Meanwhile, support in a variety of forms should be our response to a pregnant woman in need. Let’s not confuse the two.