When our first child was born in 2002 our annual household income was less than $30,000 and since we did not have employer-based health insurance, we were under a load of debt from medical bills. But even though we were under great financial stress, we never doubted our decision to carry our son full term. Ever. Even when we got pregnant nine months later and then had two kids to care for and--when compared to our friends--relatively little money, it never occurred to us that our lives would be less fulfilled because of these two boys.
See, we’re pro-life Protestants who agree whole-heartedly with the recent popes’ arguments that a culture of life is central to creating a just society, and that outlawing abortion is a foundational element in any society’s law code if it wants to be truly just. When Rod Dreher told Krista that the 19th century evangelicals wouldn’t say, “'I believe black people are humans but if you don't believe that, well, you know, I'm not going to force my belief on you in the South’,” we were right there with him.
A couple weeks ago I voted for John McCain. And, for many reasons, I believe I voted for the right candidate. But in the months and weeks leading up to the election I found myself debating with fellow evangelicals about the importance of electing a president who would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. I put tons of energy into these debates, because I believe that we need to help move our society to the point where our laws state protect the unborn with the same vigor as they protect the born.
But then on November 4, I took the exit poll on Beliefnet.org. The poll had a question about how to get a real reduction of abortions.I had two choices:• “Best way to reduce abortion is through legal restrictions” or• “Best way to reduce abortion is by preventing unintended pregnancy or providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers.”Without hesitation I clicked the first choice, but before I continued to the next question my heart skipped a beat. I realized that I don’t really believe that. In fact, I knew in my bones that real change--change that makes a difference in people’s lives--rarely, if ever, comes from the top down, but rather it comes from the bottom up. Overturning Roe v. Wade fixes things--foundational things--but it won’t make the real change that is needed. Even without legalized abortion on-demand, there will be women and men out there who, when in the situation we were in when we first got pregnant, will continue to think that abortions are a viable answer to stress in their lives.
My focus on the legal side of the abortion debate had led me to act as though laws matter more than people.
So, I am now taking the election of Barack Obama as the start of a new day for me. It appears as though as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the legal question will remain at the point it currently is for years to come. So be it. I did what I could on that front, but now I need to change my focus from laws to women’s lives.
Poor women who get pregnant are scared. I know this because we were scared before both pregnancies, not knowing where the money would come from or how we would stay afloat. But we remembered the lilies in the field and knew with certainty that children are a blessing that it would be worth the financial cost.
And although I’d like to credit that to my moral/religious anti-abortion convictions, if I’m honest with myself, I know we never considered an abortion because I believed that the Lord would provide for my family. Even though having children would mean I’d have to buy less stuff and make redefine what it meant for me to “follow my dreams,” I always believed that it would be worth it.
I am now just beginning to realize that the problem I see in America is rooted in the reality that most people in financial dire straights--many of whose are much much worse than ours were--do not believe that they will be provided for if they have another mouth to feed. They do not believe that the child they are carrying brings hope, but rather see it as a burden. They are so trapped in a world where a flourishing human being is defined as one who has financial freedom, that they can’t help but do cost analysis on their pregnancy and conclude that more financial constraints means lower quality of life.
That is sad. And worse yet, I have done little to help people become liberated from this bondage, either through charitable donations to alleviate their poverty or by helping people see that investing in the lives of babies and children is the most fulfilling activity human being are blessed with the opportunity to perform.
Our third child is now three weeks old today, and although I hope that someday he lives in an America where aborting children just three months younger than him is legal, my bigger prayer is that he will live in an America where conventional wisdom does not trap men and women into living as though financial considerations are more important than new life. Until that mis-perception changes, nothing will change.
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