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Abortion and Adoption: Some Personal Reflections


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“I would rather get an abortion than have a Brown child who ends up being adopted by white evangelicals.”

So wrote Jo Luehmann, a “Colombian born and raised pastor” whose writing focuses on “decolonizing church, theology, spirituality and faith, as well as the importance of dismantling white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism both individually and collectively,” in a tweet yesterday. I’ve read quite a few strange, controversial, and even angering remarks on Twitter over the past few weeks, but this one stood out. And the rest of the tweet is even more disturbing: “It is not a kindness to children of the global majority to give them to people who’ll traumatize them with self and ancestral hatred. An abortion is an act of love.”

I’m no longer an Evangelical, but I will be white until my dying day. And, besides, does any rational reader think Luehmann’s racist remarks would soften if she addressed “white Catholics”?

Before seeing that tweet, I’d been considering writing about the revived claim that most or all pro-lifers don’t really care about the unborn after they are born. Such folks, we’re informed, are simply “pro-birth” only, and cannot be bothered to care for the newborn child and her mother. I’ve long called this the “Jimmy Carter ‘argument’”, in recognition of the former President’s insistence in his 2001 book Our Endangered Species, that, “Many fervent pro-life activists do not extend their concern to the baby who is born …” He then goes on to advocate more sex education and more access to contraception, advise that has aged about as well as his presidency’s legacy.

A 2004 quote by Sister Joan Chittister has (ironically, I suppose) been given a second life, popping up in various social media feeds. “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life,” she told Bill Moyer in an interview. “In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed.” In 2019, asked about those remarks, she doubled down:

“Do I still stand with that statement? You bet I do, probably stronger than ever, to be frank…” … While she describes herself as pro-life, Chittister questions why some who oppose abortion only seem to care about unborn babies as the sole “defenseless life” worth protecting. After babies are born, “they’re ignored,” she said.

Similar examples abound. I’ll give just one more, from a few days ago on Twitter:

I am pro choice. I am also pro birth control & pro adoption. Having a child is a life altering decision. It should never be forced. Many people say you can give your child up for abortion [sic], but when you ask them, if they have adopted any children, the answer is no.

Of course, much of this discussion is cast in tired political terms: the GOP is not really pro-life, Republicans are hypocrites, and conservatives don’t put their money where their mouth is. I’ll just note that an objectively true and morally upright stance is not invalidated or swept away because Pro-Lifer Smith doesn’t do X, does Y, or fails to pay lip service to Z. The objective moral evil of abortion is indeed clear. Now, is the pro-life movement perfect, free of flaws and failings? Of course not. But if moral perfection were the standard necessary to take a stand on anything, the Progressive-Pro Abort-Hollywood-Secular Elite-MainScreamMedia cyborg would simply have to shut up and sit in the corner. As it is, they are marching, chanting, and screaming all over the place, and these next few months promise to make the summer of 2020 look like a stroll in the proverbial park.

That said, rather than make further arguments, I am going to tell, in pithy fashion, the adoption stories of five pro-life families. I do this in hopes of shining a bit of light on people who are often ignored, misrepresented, or even denigrated and scorned.

The first family is a young Catholic couple unable to get pregnant after their first few years of marriage. Having exhausted all morally acceptable options, they began discussing adoption. Then, out of the blue, they received a phone call: a newborn baby girl needed a home. Were they interested in helping? Taking it as a sign from God, they said yes, and a the next day met with the young birth mother. After a long and emotional talk, the birth mother asked them if they would be adoptive parents. Again, they said yes—and then met, for the first time, the 1o-day-old baby girl. The couple were white and the birth mother and baby were Brown; but none of them cared in the least. They agreed to an open adoption, which has gone wonderfully. The adopted girl is now 21 years old.

The second couple (also white) pursued an adoption through an Evangelical adoption agency. They were chosen to be adoptive parents by a birth mother in her thirties. The white birth mother already had two children, was struggling with drug addiction, and her boyfriend (who was Black) was suffering from serious health problems. They met several times; the couple was assured by the agency and the birth mother that all would go well. After the baby was born, the couple and their young daughter visited the hospital, where they met and held the newborn baby. Two days later, waiting to sign the final papers, they were informed by the agency worker that the birth mother had changed her mind and was refusing to go through with the adoption. A couple hours later, crushed and confused, they went home, trying to explain to their young daughter what had happened.

The third family received a call one day from a priest: a toddler boy needed a home and he had heard they were open to adopting. After a few phone calls and discussions, they drove several hours to meet the young boy. That was the start of a lengthy and rather complicated interstate private adoption. There was a history of drugs and mental illness in the biological family, but the couple was convinced they were called to be the boy’s parents, however difficult it might be. In the years that followed, they dealt with an escalating array of challenging and increasingly troublesome behaviors. When the boy was fifteen, after months of volatile behavior, he ran away and accused the family of being abusive. The Department of Human Services (DHS) interrogated the couple and filed reports that the couple insists are filled with misrepresentations and outright falsehoods. DHS tried to get the court (unsuccessfully) to order the couple to undergo psychological evaluations despite any evidence of wrongdoing on their part; meanwhile, their son was living on the streets and was arrested at different times for drugs, assault, stealing, and possession of a concealed weapon. He is now in juvenile prison, and the parents have only had sporadic contact with him in the two years since he left.

The fourth family—a husband and wife and their two young children—was contacted by a teenage couple, who asked if they would take in their baby girl and eventually adopt her. The situation was certainly unusual, but the birth father suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, the birth mother was immature and overwhelmed, and the six-month-old baby girl was clearly undernourished and in need of attention. The family quickly figured out that the baby could not hold down formula, so they made their own baby food using raw milk and a variety of other natural ingredients. The baby soon gained weight and began to thrive. The adoption process went ahead and the birth parents reiterated their desire for the adoption to take place. Then, three months later, they suddenly reversed course and demanded the baby come back to them. The birth father’s parents, clearly surprised and alarmed, told the family they were convinced he was an unfit father and that they would help them if they tried to get guardianship. After meeting with an adoption lawyer, the couple decided to fight in court for guardianship, concerned the baby girl would not do well, or might even be in danger, if she returned to the birth parents immediately. Soon after the case went to court, the birth father’s family suddenly reversed course and began attacking the adoptive family, claiming they had not taken proper care of the baby girl. The judge, while strongly critical of the birth parents, eventually ruled that the baby girl had to go back to the birth parents. The couple has no idea what happened to the baby girl, but know the birth parents are no longer together.

The fifth and final family (White!) also had two children and, like some of the above families, was not looking to adopt. But a family member called and told them of a two-year-old boy (Brown!) in another state whose birth mother, a drug addict, had turned him over to the care of the state’s Department of Human Services. (The birth mother, a few weeks later, was arrested and sent to jail for seven years on drug charges.) The couple looked into the situation; several months later, they were contacted by the other state’s DHS. Since no immediate or extended family had been able or willing to care for the young boy, would they be interested in pursuing adoption? They immediately agreed, and then went through a 12-week DHS course so they could become foster parents, then adoptive parents. After completing the classes, they drove 1200 miles and met the boy for the first time; three days later, they drove back home and he met his new brother and sister. He is now fourteen and is thriving.

I know these families intimately. In fact, they are the same family: my family. My wife Heather and I experienced all of the above over the past 21 years.

Longtime CWR readers know that I don’t write often about my personal life. And I do so here with some reluctance. But I do so for three reasons.

First, I am tired, even sick, of the shallow and often ugly lies so often told about pro-lifers in general and adoptive parents in particular. In a perfect world—that is, in an unFallen world—there would be no need for adoption. But we are fallen; we are sinners. This world groans and longs for the eschaton. And so we are called to be adopted children of God (cf Rom 8:23; Gal 4:5), precisely because we are in desperate need of supernatural mercy, redemption, and love. I do not take it for granted that the two families I was most close to while growing up as Fundamentalist Protestant were Catholic families who had adopted children; that witness had a deep and lasting impact on me. And the doctrinal riches of the Catholic faith, shown forth in our calling to be the children of God, have only deepened my awareness of this profound and radical truth.

Secondly, we hear many stories of young, single pregnant women who, we are told, should abort their child because of the great difficulties, hardships, and limitations they will otherwise face. I have a real sense, without a doubt, of how hard it must be. Which is why I have so much respect for our daughter’s birth mother, who could have so easily chosen abortion. God bless her. But the lives of adoptive parents and families are rarely (if ever) easy. Parenting, in fact, is not easy. In our experience, it has often been excruciatingly painful. Without our faith in Christ, I don’t know how we could have made it through so many devastating situations. But we are also mindful that everyone faces similar difficulties.

And that is my final point: our story is not unique. Perhaps more dramatic in some ways, but not unique in terms of the joys, the darkness, the bewilderment, the love, the agony, and the wonder of it all. No, an abortion is not an act of love. It may be done out of fear, pressure, convenience, or utility. But, ontologically, it is act of rage at the very reality of life. It is an assault on the Giver of Life and the Lover of Mankind. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples,” said Christ, “if you have love for one another.” For my part, I often fail to love fully—but I will never call evil good or say that murder is love.

We love, because he first loved us. If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (1 Jn 4:19-21)

The Olson family, December 2021

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