In the wake of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, a popular message from the embittered left is this: “If you support this, you are obligated to foster or adopt a child.”
Is there truth to this message? Do pro-life Americans have a greater responsibility than pro-choice Americans to support women with unplanned pregnancies or the children who result from these pregnancies?
No. But pro-life views are often derived from the Christian faith, which also teaches a commandment to love one’s neighbor and treat marginalized people as Christ himself. In this case, Christianity is a confounding variable that motivates both political support for the pro-life cause and personal support for women and children.
Pro-Life Views Do Not Compel Any Special Responsibility
One can believe that life — starting at conception — deserves legal protection, and this belief doesn’t compel any additional responsibility.
Similarly, one can support animal rights without being a pet owner. One can oppose wrongful imprisonment and torture or support immigration without offering room and board to those affected. One can oppose domestic violence without taking a battered woman into one’s guest room. Of course, offering resources, shelter, and kindness is admirable and good, but one’s position on the legality or illegality of particular practices doesn’t compel these actions or place a greater burden on anyone who advocates for a specific viewpoint.
The position that pro-life people have a special responsibility to foster children implies that pro-life people — justices, politicians, and voters — are responsible for any increase in foster care rolls after Roe. But this logic fails: Not one child is added to foster care because of the absence of abortion. Children are added to foster care due to the presence of some other problem, whether it is a parent’s illness, incarceration, abuse, neglect, or drugs. We can address these problems without legal abortion.
Christians Are More Likely to Identify as Pro-Life
According to Pew Research, white evangelical protestants are the most pro-life religious group: 74 percent say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Other groups of Christians range in their support, but all Christian subgroups have higher levels of support for abortion restrictions than non-religious people: Only 15 percent of people with no religious affiliation say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.
The Christian faith teaches that each person is made in God’s image and that every human life has immeasurable value. The Bible also says that life begins in the womb, and that God has a plan for each person even before birth: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” The story of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus includes a visit to her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s baby, John the Baptist, “leapt for joy” inside Elizabeth’s womb.
Even so, some people come to their pro-life political views without embracing Christianity. The conviction that children who are not yet born deserve legal protection doesn’t require following the Christian faith — no more that it requires becoming a foster or adoptive parent.
Christianity Compels a Special Responsibility
Some earnest pro-life Christians have responded defensively to the message of “you better provide foster care!” by pointing out that many people who share their views are already actively supporting pregnant women, babies, and children.
It’s true, and in recent years many Christian churches have made foster care a focus. In the last decade, an explosion of Christian “bridge organizations” has dramatically increased foster care in the Christian community, using churches to recruit, train, and support Christian foster parents. Project 1:27 is one of these organizations. It started in Arizona and now operates in eight states. Other organizations include 4KIDS, Promise686, the 111 Project, Orphan Care Alliance, Focus on the Family’s Adoption and Foster Care Initiative, and the CALL — a group in Arkansas that is responsible for signing up more than one half of the state’s foster families.
Christians and churches support marginalized children with their wallets as well. From 2010 to 2015, giving to Christian orphan care rose more than 87 percent, and giving to adoption rose more than 73 percent.
But the motivating factor behind all of this giving and volunteering isn’t a pro-life political view. It’s Christianity itself. In fact, all Christians, regardless of their views on abortion, are called to care for “the least of these,” which can mean marginalized people of all kinds, including the homeless, refugees, prisoners, orphans, widows, and others.
That’s right: Even Christians who consider themselves to be pro-choice receive the same teaching and face the same mandate to support expectant moms and their children (as well as other people in need). And frankly, it’s not a kind or generous thing for anyone to offer to sponsor someone’s abortion travel). Using your personal resources to sponsor someone’s out-of-state travel for abortion means you are not even “personally pro-life” — the term many liberals use for the “I would never do it, but…” position.
And here’s another difficult truth: Christians cannot outsource their responsibility for the poor to the government. Some progressives seem to believe that supporting women in need only requires marking a ballot a particular way (a way that would increase government programs that purport to address social problems). Conservatives are more likely to personally feel the weight of their social responsibility and in response, to volunteer or donate to charities.
Christianity is a Confounding Variable
However, the well-known data suggesting that conservatives volunteer, donate, and even give blood more often than liberals deserves a caveat. It’s actually religion that is the motivating factor here. Religious liberals give as much as their conservative counterparts, and secular conservatives aren’t very generous. It’s just that more religious people identify as conservative.
The same issue is at work in the specific realm of support for pregnant women, babies, and foster children. Christianity is the confounding variable that drives politically pro-life views as well as personal support for related charities and foster care.
In summary, Christians are called to support expectant women and children in our personal capacities, regardless of our views on abortion or the government’s role in welfare policy. May we pray for God’s help to do this in ever more effective ways.