Pro-life must mean more than being anti-abortion.
Forty-one years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down the tragic Roe v. Wade decision. Since that day, more than 55,000,000 innocent human beings have been killed legally.
My position on the issue of abortion is pretty simple. It shouldn’t happen. Not early, not late. Not in cases of rape or incest. I do believe that if the lives of both mother and baby are seriously threatened, and if the life of the mother can be saved by some procedure that could end the life of the child, then tragically those measures may be taken. As I’ve said before, the issue of abortion and the moral boundaries involved are not easy — there are many hardships, heartbreaks, and complexities. But something can be simple without being easy.
I haven’t always had this position. I grew up pro-life generally, without much thought to the details. In college, for a time, I decided that the government really shouldn’t have a say in this matter. Channeling my inner Libertarian, I thought I was being consistent to my Baptist roots, which value and defend religious liberty. God used a secular philosophy course and an agnostic professor to reveal how inconsistent that was with other moral stands I wasn’t willing to compromise (slavery, euthanasia, etc.). So then I decided I was pro-life, except that abortions should be allowed in cases of rape and incest. I held this position for several years, even into my time as a pastor.
Looking back, I would say it was probably about seven years ago that I came to the position I hold today, where I truly think I’ll stand my ground. But I’ve learned something really important as I’ve been face to face with young women struggling through the decision of terminating a pregnancy: being pro-life comes with great responsibilities.
It’s easy to say no to abortions generally and as a matter of policy. But what do you say to the young, single woman in her second year of college who is pregnant with the child of a guy who she knows would be a terrible husband and father (apart from the transforming grace of God, of course). Or how about the high school senior, active in her youth group, who’s dad is a leader in another community church? What about the young man who comes crying to you because his girlfriend wants the abortion and he doesn’t want to lose his child?
In every one of these situations (and others), of course I counseled and prayed and exhorted that the child be allowed to live. In some cases, life was chosen. In others, it was not. But facing these people made me realize something. If I’m going to urge them not to terminate that innocent life, then I am obligated to help them care for that life.
Here are a few responsibilities of everyone who supports pro-life policies and advocates the end of abortion. Being pro-life requires also being:
- Pro-Adoption: I fear that far, far, far, far, far too many Christians who are perfectly able to adopt children don’t do it because it would be an inconvenience. Tragic. No Christian who has read the Bible and understands the heart of God should have an attitude that asks, “Why should I adopt?” Just the opposite; every Christian should honestly deal with the question, “Why shouldn’t Iadopt?”But adopting a child is not the only way to care for orphans in their distress. Churches must raise awareness of this issue and support those who are called to adopt. You can become a foster parent. Also, the government’s adoption policies are ridiculously bound up in bureaucracy. Pro-life advocates have a responsibility to work toward a simplification of the adoption process that makes it easier and less expensive.
- Pro-Family: Right now the tax code and welfare policies give an incentive to single parent households. This is harmful to children. Households in which both parents are present provide a safer, more stable environment for children. Parenting classes should be offered, teaching skills such as healthy eating, budgeting, and discipline techniques.
- Pro-Health: Babies should receive good health care. They need their exams, their vaccination, etc. Yes, this already happens, but it needs to be improved. We should work to make sure these infants receive healthy foods. Don’t say you’re pro-life and then complain that there is a safety net for the poor in our society. Yes, of course we want to work against abuses of the system. But that means improving the system, not disparaging and trying to do away with it entirely.
- Pro-Education: Who is going to help these little one’s learn to read if mom is doing all she can to work a job all day to provide for her child and dad isn’t in the picture? Churches can step up here to provide early childhood tutoring opportunities. The state should legalize school vouchers so that if a young, single mother sees that a private Christian school can meet her child’s needs better than a public school, she might have a chance at actually affording that option.
I’m sure there are more responsibilities. I’m slowly coming to realize these things, and I pray that my fellow pro-life advocates will come to embrace these responsibilities, as well. I think that pro-choice advocates have a valid point when they ask us, “Okay, so the teenage mom has the baby. Now what?”
We have to think through the consequences of our ethics. For those of us who are pro-life, that means we protect and defend life before and after birth.