“Life is winning in America!” Vice President Mike Pence exclaimed at the March for Life gathering in Washington, D.C. in January. Indeed, an Iowa bill that could effectively ban abortions by declaring that life begins at conception made major strides forward this past Monday, clearing a Senate subcommittee before this week’s deadline.
Life may be winning. The number of abortions may be diminishing. Abortion mills may even be closing. But then what? If the pro-life ideal materialized overnight and legal abortion in America ended in all 50 states, what would that look like?
“We are encouraging centers to form a relationship with a pro-life pediatrician,” she added, “and for expectant parents to come to the center for a ‘well-baby prep’ teaching session.”
If you think the need is great now, wait until you see what it looks like when life wins.
The first reality to recognize is that although the practice of abortion could be severely diminished, it’s highly unlikely it would disappear.
As Prohibition taught us, if a demand exists, suppliers will find a way to meet it — illegally, if need be. That’s Economics 101. People will find sellers for what they want to buy because there is money to be made, and a desire for the product. Illegal abortions would likely flourish until the desire abates.
Just as critically, eliminating legal abortion providers won’t transform young women and girls — resistant to bringing their pregnancies to full term — into happy, contented mothers. Imagine being 18 and forced by circumstances to give birth to, then to be responsible for, an unwanted child. Sadly, too many of those cases exist already.
To change attitudes and behavior in the long run, it’s not enough to outlaw the act. Hearts must be changed as well.
That is happening in pregnancy centers across the nation where troubled, frightened women are persuaded by loving, prayerful counseling to choose life. The recent slight decline in abortions nationally may be attributable to this one-on-one counseling, helped tremendously in recent years by the opportunity for mothers to view their live, moving babies on sonograms — at no charge.
Meanwhile, on the legal front, states and the current administration are curbing abortion by further regulating and restricting it, and the Supreme Court may even reverse Roe v. Wade one day. But then what?
Pregnancy centers don’t fully meet the post-birth demands of these women. Too often, young mothers who have been persuaded to choose life rather than murder their babies are simply shown the door after their decision is made. They go into the world ill-prepared and ill-equipped to face the monumental new responsibilities their choice has given them.
The abortion lobby legitimately criticizes pro-lifers for persuading women to have babies, then sometimes abandoning them with their new and different challenges — taking care of a new human being.
There could be upwards of one million more babies born in the U.S., many into in single-parent households.
One of the challenges of success for the pro-life movement is how to meet the needs of what could be an ever-growing number of women and girls persuaded to keep their babies. If life continues to win, as Pence put it, the numbers of these new mothers in need will only increase. One consequence of an eradication of abortion could be upward of 1 million more babies born annually in the U.S.— and a good number of them may be born into single-parent households.
Many pregnancy centers understand the challenge and have instituted post-birth support systems.
“[T]hat’s why Care Net’s mission goes beyond ‘pro-life,’ which we certainly are, to pro abundant life — helping families thrive through Christ-centered ministry,” Eve Gleason, Care Net director of center services in Landsdowne, Pennsylvania, told LifeZette.
“The greater need is mentoring or family coaching for both parents to help them prepare for successful relationships or improve the ones they are in, being financially responsible, diligent in work and raising children,” Gleason said. “In some situations, professional therapy is needed and appropriate. Often, peer mentoring and coaching is quite helpful, whether one-on-one as couples, or in a small group environment.”
It’s impossible for the largely volunteer staffs at non-profit pregnancy centers to directly address all these needs. That requires partnering and networking with established and potential providers in the community for everything from diaper wipes and baby lotion to job training and drug or alcohol abuse counseling.
“Many centers are prepared to walk alongside clients for the first 12 to 18 months of the child’s life,” noted Gleason, adding that connecting the mother to a church prepared to walk alongside her for the long term is a high priority. But many churches also are ill-equipped to assume such responsibilities, which is why organizations like Care Net created programs to equip them.
Similarly, “Save the Mother, Save Her Child” centers in Texas are involved in a pilot program focusing on education and jobs.
“So many of these young people need help to begin to make a living or get an education,” Mary Margaret Gibson, ministry director of EvanTell SMSC of Dallas, Texas, told LifeZette. “We have formed a statewide relationship with the Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps … a ministry of Southern Baptist churches.”
They plan to expand the program nationally in 2018 to assist mothers and fathers from pregnancy centers to “get on their feet, get education and job prep training, and get very solid mentorship from a person who walks alongside them as they go through the program,” said Gibson. “We are encouraging centers to form a relationship with a pro-life pediatrician to come to the center for a ‘well-baby prep’ teaching session for moms and dads in the last month of pregnancy.”
New mothers struggling in poverty inspired the Austin (Texas) Pregnancy Resource Center to establish a new mentoring program to “go the extra mile,” as Scripture says.
If efforts like these fall short today, how much more will they when the number of young mothers increases by nearly another million per year after life wins?
The most persuasive argument for parenthood is loving parents joyfully raising their children. As more women choose life and depart the pregnancy centers that helped them reach their decision, will we inadvertently create a lot of bad arguments for parenthood? Will there suddenly be a lot more heavily burdened women whose hindsight gives them second thoughts about what they’ve done?
Allowing life to “really win” requires not just persuading young mothers to do the right thing. It also requires making them truly happy. It means mothers whose experience from the moment of choosing life right on through their children’s lifetime are walking, talking testimonies of the joy and rightness of their decisions.
Those testimonies, along with prayerful intervention, ultimately will reduce the desire for abortion by changing hearts.
There exist today many post-birth services and facilities — but already they are too few to meet the need. If life wins, we’re going to need a lot more post-abortive support for these young mothers.
Mark Landsbaum, based in McKinney, Texas, is the father of an adult son and daughter. He also serves on the board of a pregnancy center where counseling, prayer, and sonograms persuade at least one woman a day to keep her child. Landsbaum has worked as an investigative reporter for The Los Angeles Times and as an opinion columnist for the Orange County Register.