You have probably heard the story before: American pro-life Christians only care about human life before birth, and afterwards, they turn their backs on the child and mother in cold, Ayn Rand inspired insistence on self-sufficiency. The only thing that matters to these heartless hypocrites is making people take responsibility for their own poor decisions.
This cliché is spouted endlessly by pro-abortion activists frustrated by their primary opposition – Evangelical and Catholic Christians – but one doesn't expect to find such flat stereotypes peddled in the pages of popular Christian publications. This week though, Relevant Magazine online published such an article, titled "Pro-life is More Than Anti-Abortion," which makes serious accusations with no supporting evidence, that "the Church" has done no more than yell about abortion while abandoning women and children in need. The story is so common it is almost unworthy of response, but it does provide a good frame to highlight the reality of Christian responses to abortion in light of the wave of new regulations and abortion clinic closures.
The authors, Haley Henderson and Stephen Boyd assert that because Texas's new regulations mean only five abortion providers will remain in the state, the resulting increase in "unsolicited [lives]" demands that "The Church needs to abandon the harsh rhetoric and manipulation that sways instead of secures. It needs to be prepared to offer help and options for women." They claim "most Christians and church-goers would say-to the same people who choose to have their baby instead of turning to abortion-that they should take responsibility for their poor choices and not expect the government to provide for them … Ironically enough, the Church's opposition to abortion has all too often resulted in the abandonment of several Biblical ideas; namely love, grace, compassion and humility."
The authors write the law will save lives from "unsolicited death. [Which] is a very positive development. But it may also force children into an unsolicited life." They continue: "There will be an increased risk for babies to be born to young mothers, teenagers and abusive homes. These are needs the Church must be ready to meet."
Further, they write: "It's easy to hold up a sign with a picture of a dead baby on it. It's a lot harder to actually sympathize with a woman who got pregnant and has to keep her baby because there's no abortion clinic nearby."
Despite the cliché, Christians overwhelmingly do live out their pro-life convictions beyond merely spouting anti-abortion "rhetoric." The largest adoption agency in the United States is Bethany Christian Services, which also offers foster care services and support for women with unplanned pregnancies. Religious Americans are also more likely to take in foster children. Recently an evangelical adoption movement has swelled throughout America, with conferences and summits drawing thousands of believers each year.
Additionally, pregnancy care centers (or crisis pregnancy centers) outnumber abortion clinics in the United States, and are usually run by Christian organizations. They do not abandon women the moment they give birth, but rather offer steady support and education for them. There are an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 of these centers throughout the US, with hundreds in Texas. Surely there is room for more outreach to women considering abortion, but it is factually wrong to claim all "the Church" does about abortion is shout and wave signs with bloody photos.
These examples barely scratch the surface, and say nothing of the countless untold stories from families and churches that have actively cared (not merely sympathized) for vulnerable women and children. Just this year, hundreds of people lived their pro-life convictions, offering at a moment's notice to adopt a baby with Down syndrome to save the child from the parents' plans to abort.
This is not to say things are perfect. There is always more work that can be done, and there are valid points of criticism concerning the strategy, focus, and message of the pro-life movement. Not all Christians or churches are consistently pro-life.
A consistently pro-life Christian cares deeply for babies and their mothers and fathers throughout their entire lifespan. In contrast, there is nothing "pro-life" about caring for an unborn child's potentially poor "quality of life" and implying the alternative of death by abortion may be preferable to poverty.
The point of being "pro-life" is not to merely stop abortions in the abstract. Fighting for the unborn child's right to life flows from a Christian's conviction that God is the author of all life, and it is not for us humans to determine whose life is worth living. Life is inherently good and sacred, and the most vulnerable and weak are precious to God.
Relevant Magazine's rant illustrates all the stereotypes and assumptions about pro-life Christians commonly parroted in secular publications. I expect this from a culture that accepts abortion as a given and emphasizes personal choice and autonomy as sacred values, thus can't understand that there is any substance to pro-life beliefs beyond moralistic power grabs. But Christians writing on the subject should put thought and research before making such harsh accusations at the Church.
This column was originally published on the Institute of Religion and Democracy blog site.