Two years ago, I stirred up friends and trolls alike with my commentary, “Why I’m A Christian But I’m Not Pro-Life”. After some earnest feedback, and drawing Scripture into my argument, I later wrote Part 2, where I noted that, although Christians are more likely to adopt children than the general population, the statistics are still depressingly low.
This was a big part of my own spiritual journey towards adoption. In fact, less than 6 months after the publication of my initial essay, my wife and I had 3 little girls placed in our home. And late last year, we completed the legal process to officially adopt them as our own children.
Today I wish I could write that I’m overjoyed with my life, and that time spent with these three delightful children leaves me awash in thankfulness and contentment.
But honestly I can’t.
Raising children is hard.
Raising multiple children (all under the age of 6) is harder.
Raising three children with a history of trauma, drug exposure, food insecurity, and homelessness is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I say this not to throw a pity-party or to be self-congratulatory – but to emphasize the point I have been trying to make for years: there is an enormous, unacknowledged compassion gap among Evangelicals who simply want to outlaw abortion while ignoring the utterly soul-crushing weight facing mothers who have to consider abortion in the first place.
Stop for a moment; let me be clear – I do not wish my children had been aborted. The thought of any harm befalling them makes me seethingly angry. I don’t want my children or any children to lose out on life, and quite emphatically, an abortion is almost always the worst possible outcome for a pregnancy. Period.
But as a matter of comparison, I’m a comfortably upper-middle class, white, suburban male with numerous academic credentials and well-paying steady job. I have a family and a wide-ranging community of support.
But most days, I am utterly at my wits’ end raising three children. And there’s more:
Children are crushingly expensive – clothes, diapers, food, activities, play dates, and vacations are expensive, but they all pale in comparison to the burden of childcare costs. We literally pay more for childcare than we pay for our mortgage.
They never sleep – They are up well before sunrise, and night terrors keep them from falling asleep peacefully at night. My wife and I try to squeeze in time for errands and other responsibilities, but these times are fleeting and inconsistent at best. There is no possible way I could attend school, travel for any length of time, take on an extra job, or undertake any sort of personal improvement plan in my current circumstances.
Schools don’t understand trauma – Earlier this year, our oldest was kicked out of her school. Flat-out asked to leave. The school was unable and unwilling to invest its resources on a 6 year old who craves safe adult interaction and attention. She was seen as a problem by administrators, and their solution was to expel her rather than educate her.
My point is this: If I – as a responsible, well-educated, stable adult – struggle to raise children, I’m positive an unwed, inner-city, minority single mother has it 10,000% worse than I do. I can’t even image how impossible it would be to raise these children with a drug addiction, or trying to navigate the food stamp bureaucracy, or trying to find a job. I would be lost without a car, without a permanent address, and without the social capital to navigate a complex world.
Given my newfound perspective, I honestly cannot condemn anyone who entertains the thought of terminating an unplanned pregnancy because I now know firsthand how disorientingly hard this life is.
Sadly, though, I don’t think many of my evangelical pro-life friends and family agree with me. So, please forgive my indignation – but shame on you. Shame on your selfish, naive worldview that thinks that overturning a narrow band of abortion laws makes the world any more just or godly. Shame on you for ignoring women who are out of options, and pretending that their lives aren’t really as bad as they are, or offering them empty drive-by spirituality instead of childcare, food, and a friendship. Shame on you for insisting women give up their children to an inefficient, slow, and expensive adoption system, and assuming the story happily ends there. Shame on your for telling poor mothers to “get a job” and feigning outrage when they fail to provide a stable, nurturing environment for an infant because they lack access to healthcare, reliable transportation, and properly-funded public schools. Shame on you, churches, for sponsoring marches, boycotts, rallies, letter-writing campaigns, and other bourgeois political activity instead of listening to what young families actually need and responding with love, patience, and compassion.
If by chance you have adopted a child, 1) thank you; 2) please help me understand how to instill in them a dynamic, evangelical faith in spite of a movement that has become so alarmingly myopic? 3) Tell me – how do you make your kids sleep?
If the evangelical pro-life movement is to have any moral standing whatsoever, close the compassion gap – care demonstrably as much about the women facing unplanned pregnancies as you do about unborn children. Care demonstrably for the hundreds of thousands of children stuck in the adoption a foster-care system.
It may be the hardest thing you do – but maybe we can compare notes and help each other along.