In unmarried pregnancies today, 49% end in abortion, 49% single-parent, and only 2% make adoption plans. Marvin and Susan Olasky, in their book More Than Kindness, say that abortion has become a tradition in the United States, a change that has come about only in recent decades.
Adoption makes little sense in this new view of problem pregnancy. Those who view childbearing as burdensome can hardly advise an adolescent to carry a child for nine months when abortion is so much simpler and safer, or so the so-called experts believe. In the new view, adoption is more traumatic than abortion.
Ambivalence toward adoption
Given this cultural sentiment, it is worth asking how adoption is viewed even among those who profess to be pro-life. In 1990, a survey by the L. A. Times elicited some startling findings. Poll respondents were asked the question, "Is adoption more traumatic than abortion?" The majority--including those who identified themselves as pro-life--answered yes.
There are other signs that pro-life people are ambivalent about adoption. One ministry to single moms and their children gives this rationale for its existence: "To a young woman faced with a problem pregnancy, there are often only two choice: have an abortion or join the welfare cycle." Inexplicably, adoption is not mentioned as a choice for these young women. A national umbrella organization of pro-life pregnancy centers reported their 1993 annual client statistics: abortion, 12%; parenting, 86%; adoption, 2%. Their success in steering women away from abortion decisions is not matched by their ability to help the children grow up in stable two-parent families.
In our modern culture where children suffer both from having their lives ended by abortion and from growing up without fathers, the church needs to re-examine adoption as a possible godly third way. Terry Schlossberg and Elizabeth Achtemeier address the church's role in adoption in their book Not My Own. They describe it in terms of "public voice and private counsel."
The church as public voice: Get the facts out
A public voice for adoption should encompass both education on the facts of adoption and programs that focus on adoption. Youth group discussions on life and sexuality issues can integrate information on adoption. Adult education classes can host an adoption agency or invite parents to share about special needs adoption. One Presbyterian church started a program of nurses mentoring pregnant teens on childcare and parenting issues, but also integrated information on adoption into their classes.
The pulpit is another place to extol the blessings of adoption, for the birth mother as well as the child and new parents. We believers are ourselves all adopted into the family of God. Adoption is a sermon topic that is life-affirming both spiritually and physically. It is a way of reorienting the thinking of Christians about resolutions to problem pregnancies. But it is much more than that. It is a central aspect of God's relationship to each of us. God has put his stamp of approval on adoption as a blessed way to form families.
The church in private counsel
In addition to spiritual instruction, we can make practical applications. When we apply the biblical principles of good counsel, unmarried expectant mothers are more likely to make adoption plans. "Good counsel" can be as simple as a pastor or lay counselor encouraging a young woman and her family to explore adoption as an alternative. Statistics show that in 40% of pregnancy counseling settings, adoption is not even mentioned as an option. Does it make a difference? One maternity home which required classes on both parenting and adoption saw the number of adoptions jump to 40%, a significant improvement over the 2% blip on the national screen.
Even our denomination's current policy of defending unlimited abortion rights "encourage[s] local churches to heighten awareness of existing programs and further develop programs to show support for . . . women who choose adoption as an alternative" (1992 GA). Let's rise to the challenge of the General Assembly, and become more creative and active in our support of those women who, with better information and godly counsel, would welcome the opportunity to choose a future and a hope for their babies and themselves through adoption.
This article appeared in the Summer 1996 issue of Presbyterians Pro-Life NEWS