“But what about all the children already in foster care?”
“If you’re so pro-life, how many kids have you adopted?”
“If abortion is outlawed what are you going to do about the thousands more children who go into foster care?”
All of these are common pro-abortion rebuttals to pro-lifers. They claim that pro-lifers don’t really care about children because they aren’t concerned with those that are poor and/or come from broken families and are in foster care. They claim that pro-lifers are merely “pro-birth," not truly pro-life. However, is this a fair claim? Let’s break down this argument. However, before we start I want to open with a preface.
As of September 30, 2017 there were 442,995 children in the foster care system in the United States. This staggering number is not just a statistic, it represents over 400,000 broken homes and hurting children. In this discussion we cannot forget that, just as one abortion is one too many, one hurting child or one broken family is one too many. With that preface in mind, let’s begin.
I want to start by refuting the false dichotomy that pro-abortion individuals often make when it comes to this argument.
To say, “You can’t be pro-life unless you’re willing to go out and adopt all the unwanted babies that will be born,” is absolutely ridiculous. We do not apply this standard to anything else. It would be like saying, “You can’t be against animal cruelty unless you go out and adopt all the puppies,” or “You can’t say you’re an environmentalist unless you sell your car, use only solar and wind power, and live 100% waste free.” We don’t use this standard on anything else. You do not have to single-handedly save the world to be able to make a moral judgement about something. My inability to adopt all the puppies at my local shelter does not mean it is acceptable to abuse them. Even more so my inability to adopt every unwanted child does not make it acceptable to murder them.
Secondly, I would like to point out that pro-abortion individuals’ use of foster care in their debating is an oversimplification. Stating that pro-lifers should go out and adopt all the children in foster care exposes a misunderstanding of how the foster system works. The foster care system’s primary purpose is reunification; not adoption. Children are placed in the foster care system not, primarily, because they have no parents, but because they have had to be removed from the home for various reasons. These children are not up for adoption. The state’s goal in 56% of foster children is reunification. The parents are given chance after chance to get their lives in order and get their children back. It is not until the parents have proven over and over that they cannot or will not make the needed changes (which can take years) that their parental rights are terminated. Only then, and unless a relative is found to take them, are these children available to be adopted. Of the 442,995 children in foster care, only 123,437, or 28%, of them can be adopted.
There is also the assumption that because children may be born into a situation that leads to foster care they should be aborted. While masked as compassion for the child, this is punishing the child for the future mistakes of the parent. We don’t prevent one wrong thing by enacting another wrong thing. In doing so we lift the parents’ right to make bad choices over the child’s right to life. No child deserves to be abused or abandoned. But we fix that problem by addressing the parent and their environment, not by killing the child.
Thirdly, I will address the claim that pro-lifers are not really concerned about the child after they are born. Christians, the majority of whom are overwhelmingly pro-life (Pew Research indicates that 63% of all Evangelicals are pro-life), are actually more than twice as likely to adopt as the majority of Americans. 5% of Christians have adopted, compared to 2% of all Americans, and 3% of Christians have fostered, compared to 2% of all Americans. 51% of children who are adopted out of foster care are adopted by a foster family. Research from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption shows that there are more families interested in adopting than there are children available for adoption through the United States foster care system. Research shows that there needs to be better ways of connecting these families to the children in need.
Lastly, I want to address the callousness with which pro-abortion individuals address these “unwanted” children. These children are not unwanted. They have family, biological or by heart, who love them and are fighting for them. When those who are pro-abortion point towards children in foster care as an example of the need for abortion, they are looking at those children and saying, “You’re better off dead.” Is human value dependent on wealth, or status, or connections? The pro-life answer is a resounding “NO!” These children are beautiful, unique, smart, talented individuals with boundless potential inside them. Their circumstances or pasts don’t negate their humanity. Could you look one of these children in the eye and tell them it would be better if their parents had killed them? These children have been through enough trauma without that. The message that pro-abortion advocates send with this argument is not one of empowerment.
Overall, this argument is not valid because it presents a false dichotomy, misrepresents the reality of the foster care system, ignores the fact that pro-lifers are more involved in foster care and adoption than the majority of Americans, and is callous and disenfranchising. These children deserve more than what the society around them has given them. They deserve to be loved and cherished. They deserve more than what they’ve been given. They deserve life. We must ALL do more to help these children. As Christians, we are called to care for the orphan and the widow. One orphan is one too many. But we must speak up for the preborn child as well as the born.
This was originally published here on April 4, 2019 and reprinted here with permission by the author.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.