For decades, many, including myself, have prayed and voted for lawmakers to overturn Roe. Tiny humans inside the womb bear the Maker’s image and deserve to live with all the care and love that he intends. So, in that sense, I’m ready for Roe to end, and the law of the land to run parallel of the law of God.
But there’s another way in which we as a country might not be as ready for Roe to be toppled as we think. You may or may not be “ready” personally, but collectively we’re not prepared, especially in communities and states that are the most adamant about their “pro-life” stance and most poised to ban abortion. How so, you say?
Most of the women having abortions aren’t privileged, liberal femi-nazis. They’re women who feel like they don’t have another option as a result of meager resources. The hard truth is that poor women are four times more likely to have unplanned pregnancies, five times more likely to have unintended births and three times more likely to have an abortion than their higher – income counterparts. The financial component isn’t everything, but it does impact the abortion rate in America and the quality of life for children. If we fight for babies before they’re born and do not work toward solving our vast social inequities afterward and for the rest of their lives, we may be pro-birth but we’re not truly “pro-life.”
“What we’re facing as a country is hundreds of thousands of births, probably disproportionately located in the states that have been most limited in what they do for pregnant women, infants and children,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University. Not to say that there are any regions with an adequate safety net for the oncoming onslaught of pregnant women of meager means giving birth.
You’ve undoubtedly heard that our national foster and adoption systems are woefully deficient and unprepared for the mounting number of new babies coming to full term while Roe is still in place, let alone after. I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad thing that Roe gets the boot, but that we have to do what we should’ve been doing for decades to shore up these programs and provide them with better funding so that, to coin a phrase, no child (or mother) gets left behind. We’re going to need to vastly improve our child welfare system, that is, if we who call ourselves “pro-life” care about image bearers from womb to tomb.
According to a report by the March of Dimes in 2020, more than 2 million women of childbearing age live in counties that have no hospital offering obstetric care, no birth center and no obstetric provider. That should shock us one and all! You’ve heard of “food deserts” in poor neighborhoods making it difficult if not impossible for people to access enough healthy food for their families. The reality is that there are also “maternity care deserts” where women feel they have little choice but to abort their babies. And with that soon to become illegal in most states, they’ll either have to scrape together the money to travel to another state or get life-threatening abortions as they did prior to Roe.
Where does the Church fit into this scenario? For decades we’ve marched, protested, and voted for what we call “pro-life” policies and candidates. What we’ve neglected (in general) is to address the lives of the mothers and babies beyond the maternity ward, when there is one to neglect.
I’m not condoning the abortion choice, but providing some context for most of the pregnant women who tend to make that choice. And if we don’t address the social and economic conditions that facilitate that decision, our pro-life moniker is just something we put on a bumper sticker or t-shirt instead of a genuine heartfelt conviction.
Of course, I’m not saying that all individual Christians have entirely dropped the ball. I have several friends who have adopted babies whose mothers either opted to adopt or whose children were removed from them, usually for good reason.
I’m not suggesting that the Supreme Court should delay until we’re ready. But we need to get ready, and fast! And the Jesus-following pro-life community needs to act consistently pro-life and wield its biblically informed conscience to influence the state toward a more just and mercy-filled approach to what’s coming. The hard work of activism that many have performed for many years must be reallocated to collectively support candidates and policies that provide health care and better educational opportunities in marginalized communities. “The best way we can celebrate the children who will be born of Roe’s demise,” says Timothy Dalrymple, President of Christianity Today, is to love the mothers who raise them.”
I know of one church where the members adopted over 100 children in the past 13 years. There’s a ministry called “Promise686” named for Psalm 68:6 that says God “sets the lonely in families.” They’ve supported nearly 500 adoptions through grants and other assistance. There’s another ministry called, “Every Mother’s Advocate (EMA) in Florida poised to care for women in crisis pregnancies. Their founder says, “When a mom is advocated for, families are preserved; fostercare statistics plummet; and the foster care system’s pipelines to poverty, prison, addiction, and homelessness begin to slowly fade.”
We can volunteer to serve at domestic abuse shelters or share our wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or work with “adoption” ministries or organize for better education in underserved communities or work on initiatives for childcare or create “Parent’s Night Out” programs at our churches or mentor young mothers or teach youth about chastity and birth control, and take young pregnant women into our homes to carry their babies full term.
We mustn’t think our work for the unborn is finished just by the reversing Roe. The time, energy, and finances many of have put into changing the law for decades must be turned into what might be even more arduous to selfishly serve our communities in a number of ways, beginning with fostering, adopting, and taking women in crisis pregnancies under our wing. Crisis pregnancy centers, foster care and adoption programs will need to be exponentially multiplied.
Local churches must, while standing in ovation for the Supreme Court, quickly get to work carving out time, manpower, and funds to create indigenous and contextualized programs to address the crisis that’s coming. We’ve traditionally been a day late and a dollar short acting on social problems well after they’re thoroughly entrenched in the culture. This time we have a heads up on what’s just around the corner. Rather than waiting till we’re overwhelmed, we can actually prepare ahead of time by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).
We must “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).