By Olivia Gans and Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D.
In the 1960s, we were told that there were too many people, not enough resources, unwanted and abused children, abused women, poverty, and a host of other social ills. When taken separately, these issues all appear to be independent problems, but we were told that they all had a common remedy.
Abortion was touted as the solution to all our social ills. In other words, we were told then that these social problems were best resolved by ending someone's life. Twenty-five years after the legalization of abortion on demand - - and the deaths of over 36 million babies - - our opponents still continue to argue that abortion is the solution.
Take the issue of poverty, for example. Our opponents argue that there are so many poor people. How can we force a poor woman to carry her baby to term? It is implied that encouraging poor women to abort their children will somehow end poverty. Yet, the same woman who struggles with poverty today is just as poor the day after her child's life is ended.
Another example is the case of spousal or family abuse where some would believe abortion to be the only option to this horrible situation. What about the woman who is being beaten by her husband?
When such a question is posed, it is vital to remind the questioner that the same woman threatened with abuse the day before the abortion goes home to the same abuse the day after it. Nothing has been done by the abortionist or the abortion itself to help her establish a situation of greater safety.
Running through questions like these is a common thread: the misguided idea that the baby the mother is carrying is the source of her problem. In reality, for most women the presence of this new child has only brought into sharp relief the issues and complexities of their lives which make being pregnant seem difficult. When questions are put forward that focus on the baby as the problem, the responses have to point out the larger picture. For instance, we won't end poverty by killing poor children.
The "Wanted Child"
We have all heard the mantra, "every child a wanted child." The core problem, of course, is the idea that we have value not because we simply are but because we are "wanted."
Beyond this there is the assumption that the particular children themselves were unwanted. That is not at all necessarily true.
Remember that the majority of women queried after abortion say that they had their abortion because they felt they had no other option. Many women are afraid that they can't handle the situation alone and abortion is a quick way out. The same women are the ones to rejoice at the discovery of the over 3,000 mother-helping centers around the country (See story, page 19).
As you counter this old but still (to many) persuasive argument, always introduce information about the real solutions offered by mother-helping centers. The answer -- our answer -- to so-called "unwantedness" is to provide assistance that respects the dignity of both mother and child.
Questions about what will we do with all the "unwanted" children are also great opportunities to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the pro-life movement in responding to meet the real needs of women facing crisis pregnancies. Included among those efforts are medical assistance, educational opportunities, housing, and often job training - - all designed to give the young mother a sense of hope for herself and her child. It never hurts to break a few stereotypes about what pro-lifers are all about.
When responding to the issue of wantedness, ask, "wanted by whom?" The National Council For Adoption (NCFA) states that there are "between one and two million infertile and fertile couples and individuals who would like to adopt children." Our opponents may then ask, "What about the kids with disabilities?" According to the NCFA, "(b)abies, regardless of medical problems, who are free for adoption" [that is, there are no legal impediments in the way] generally do not wait long for families.
There are waiting lists of couples who would like to adopt infants with Downs Syndrome or spina bifida. The National Down Syndrome Adoption Exchange reports it has over 100 approved families waiting to adopt children with Down Syndrome. There are also a large number of couples whose hearts are ready to adopt terminally ill babies, including babies with AIDS.
Adoption is a thoroughly responsible, helpful-to-all alternative to abortion that is, unfortunately, not well understood. When you are countering this category of arguments for abortion, you'll find that it comes as a surprise to many that so many couples wait for so long to find any child available for adoption. All too often, there is far too little accurate information made available to young women facing difficult pregnancies. As a result the life-affirming option of adoption does not get a fair hearing in the debate.
Tragically, these social justifications for abortion also imply that we can end child abuse by resorting to the ultimate abuse of children. Again, always when answering any question about abortion, it is critical to return the focus to the baby who will die at the same time we avow our eagerness to help her mother.
It is frightening to contemplate how easily people can separate the violence of abortion from the stories of family violence heard on the news. Perhaps that is why it seems kinder to them to kill a voiceless, unseen baby in the womb.
Here again the assumption is made that the babies/children who are abused were "unwanted" children who should have been aborted. The numbers don't add up, however. Over 1.4 million babies are aborted annually, yet child abuse numbers are at an all-time high.
In fact, rather than decreasing child abuse, abortion has had just the opposite effect. According to figures from the National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), child abuse has dramatically increased since abortion was legalized. In 1973, the year the Supreme Court legalized abortion, the agency reported 167,000 cases of child abuse. In 1983, it reported 929,000 cases. By 1991, the number of cases had soared to 2.5 million cases -- with the numbers still going up today. And, of course, such figures do not even include the 36 million children killed by abortion - - the ultimate form of child abuse.
The only thing that abortion does is make it easier for some to disregard the needs of others.
Finally, there is, in all of these questions, an attitude of weary, resigned hopelessness. It is as if all the other answers have been tried and failed, so we must content ourselves with abortion.
People actually say they don't like abortion, but what else can they do? Tragically, the longer abortion is used as a method of "solving" social as well as personal problems, the more often some people will begin to see it as not only reasonable, but also morally responsible.
A formidable challenge for pro-lifers is to help society reject the notion that the best response society has to its problems is the death of our children. This is a challenge we eagerly embrace.
Pro-lifers are realists: we acknowledge that there is hard work involved in really addressing problems that make abortion seem so useful. The answers to all of these inquiries - - and often they are sincere questions - - demand honesty. Where there is prejudice or fear based on poverty or misplaced compassion, there must be clarity. Where there is hopelessness and resignation, there must be demonstrated reasons for hope and faith in the future.
In all these rationalizations for abortion, however, there is also an invitation. What is called for from us is creativity. We are limited only by the blinders we put on ourselves.
Each crisis pregnancy is an opportunity to reach beyond the immediate circumstances and to build life-respecting responses, where each new life is seen as an opportunity. It is up to us to show this in a loving and supportive way both to women facing untimely pregnancies and those who see the poverty, injustice, and brutality of abortion as a "cure" to poverty, injustice, and brutality.
*Originally printed in April 14, 1998 edition of NRL News
Printed with permission from National Right to Life (www.nrlc.org ).