By Frederick T. Marsh. Approaching the temple gate called Beautiful, Peter and John came upon a man, lame from birth. He knew what he needed: a handout. Peter and John knew better. If they gave the man alms, they would, in the words of one author, “be confirming his lameness.” A temporary need would be met, but the message to the man would be clear: “You are lame. You are not capable of doing anything that will contribute to your support.” Peter and John had a far superior alternative: the healing power of Jesus.
About fifteen years ago, leading voices in society were telling us they could give us alms when it came to addressing crisis pregnancy needs. These voices argued that abortion would solve a lot of societal problems. Many were swayed to that way of thinking-perhaps the problem population of society could be reduced by abortion and the rest of us would be better off.
Today, the trends in society give ample evidence to the faultiness of this thinking. Abortion has not solved problems. It has not even proved itself to be the handout that would confirm lameness. Excepting the Webster Supreme Court decision, all societal trends related to fornication, adultery and crisis pregnancy are measurably more negative. Even the voices who once spoke for societal convenience now largely argue the personal convenience of abortion.
Consider a few statistics. Abortion now claims the lives of more than 1.5 million unborn children every year. Of those who survive to birth, very close to 30 percent are born to mothers who are not married. Well over a majority of these grow up in homes that depend on public assistance for survival.
Twenty years ago 90 percent of children born out of wedlock went into adoptive homes. Today that figure has spiraled downward to less than 5 percent. The combined impact on adoption of abortion and single parenting is evident in figures summarized by the National Committee for Adoption: “Unrelated domestic adoptions have fluctuated tremendously over the past three decades from 33,800 in 1951 to a peak of 89,200 in 1970, declining to 50,720 in 1982 and now 51,157.”
The implications are staggering-whole succeeding generations of persons raised in financial poverty, most often accompanied by poverty of mind and spirit. Think of entire generations in which there are no positive male role models, in which as many as one-third of our nation’s children do not even know who their fathers are. Think of whole generations who knew no time when the practice of abortion was not the common practice of their society. Today’s teenagers, even twenty-year olds, have never known a time when they understood human reproduction without also knowing abortion as common practice.
Spend a little time in a crisis pregnancy center or with an adoption agency pregnancy counselor. You will see another dimension of the problem emerging very quickly: numbers are simple compared to the massive confusion of the personal lives of those represented by the numbers. Almost gone are situations in which a young woman from a stable Christian family finds herself pregnant because she and her steady boyfriend were “in love” and got too intimately involved. Instead birthmothers say very little about the Lord, about love, guilt or morality.
The challenge is great because it is all-pervasive. It’s literally right next door, with today’s trends setting an ever more destructive pattern for years to come. Where is the Lord in the midst of all this, and what does He say to His people? How is the healing power of the Gospel applied, addressing real needs without confirming the lameness?
Thankfully, alternative ministries to abortion are a growing movement in the Presbyterian and reformed communities. But some common misconceptions must be addressed. One is that stopping an abortion is enough, and we need not be greatly concerned with what happens after that. A leading secular women’s journal recently observed that evangelicals were saving babies from abortion only to place them on the welfare rolls. There is validity to that criticism. Another misconception is that parenting is automatically the preferred alternative since the woman is responsible for her actions. Therefore, the most biblical alternative is that she parent her child.
Attitudes toward adoption have fallen on hard times. In today’s pragmatic atmosphere, most women will be dissuaded from having an abortion much more by the availability of support in choosing another alternative than by even the most persuasive of moral arguments. The testimony of young women who make adoption plans repeatedly includes the observation in retrospect that they would have chosen abortion had this alternative not been available to them.
Among many Christians who are convinced that the practice of abortion is in all cases wrong, confusion reigns in the variety of viewpoints. What is appropriate for the person once she has decided that she will carry her child to term? Some are satisfied to confirm her lameness, putting her on the welfare rolls and considering the job done because the life has been spared. Others realize the inadequacy of this, but look realistically at limited resources for ministry and make a determination that the priority should be on sparing the life even if the quality that follows may be lacking.
What can we do collectively as the Lord’s people? A great beginning has been made through crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies and maternity homes. These need to grow. We need a constant study of the issues from a biblical perspective. We need a study of the trends, and communication of the needs to the Lord’s people. The Lord’s people must work toward greater availability of long-term alternatives to abortion. Birthparents ought not to have to consider going on welfare roles, but helped bear parental responsibly, or make an adoption plan. They must be adequately supported and directed as they move in one of these directions.
The cost of doing good is high. Whether it be to provide space and some administrative coordination to a ministry staffed largely by volunteers, or whether it be to support a professional staff with appropriate credentials for service. The cost is great. Crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, maternity homes-all fulfill their essential roles in service to persons in need. All must be supported.The preceding list mentions only short-term remedial services to the already pregnant. Add to that effective educational serves that encourage abstinence, effective legal campaigns to bring changes in the law with regard to protection of life and genuine long-term rehabilitative services that would offer a young man or woman a genuine new start in life through training or education following a pregnancy. We have quite a challenge!
A popular poster asks the question, “How do you feed two billion hungry people?” The answer: “One at a time.” We are called to be humble stewards of the finite resources God places in our hands. The efforts of one or two individuals may not seem great, but particular lives are changed. And testimony is given to the world that the Spirit of God brings rebirth. Individuals by organized effort can minister to individuals, changing lives, one by one, through the power of the Gospel.
Bethany Responds to Webster
Although the implications are still unclear, the U.S. Supreme Court’s actions on the Missouri case this past summer have been welcomed by the pro-life community. From our initial reading of the decision., Roe v. Wade is poised for a major overhaul in the next few years. By upholding many elements of the Webster case, the Supreme Court has set the stage for states to begin proposing legislation that will provide similar and differing restrictions.
Bethany will begin examining state legislative actions in various states across the country and decide where we need more offices so that we can be readily available to either begin or expand the vital services that we offer to individuals and families.
While medical, philosophical and religious debates continue discussing when an embryo becomes fully human, and others battle over the “rights” of the mother versus those of the fetus, we at Bethany continue to minister to pregnant women who seek counsel and help.
We uphold the sanctity of life, but we are also deeply concerned about the quality of life. Each day we are confronted with the tragic results of children who are abused and neglected, many of them born to young parents incapable of providing basic care.
Bethany’s quality counseling and support are the factors that have made us the social service arm of the pro-family movement. With the current trend, thousands of women and men may begin seeking pregnancy counseling and exploring adoption as an option. This is our service and we must demonstrate our availability and accessibility. Remember, it’s one thing to talk the talk… another to walk the walk. Keep the sanctity of life in your prayers so that all children, born and unborn, can experience the quality of life.