Why You Can’t Be Pro-Life Without Being Pro-Foster: The Crazy Math of Abortion


Part of the Dads Take-Over Series: Post by Trent Friberg


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My name is Trent. I have a problem. And I can admit it.

I get annoyed too easily. There. I said it. It is out in the open. I get annoyed by strange noises my kids like to make. I get annoyed when my computer freezes up. I get annoyed by drivers that do various things that I am sure I NEVER do. I get annoyed by endless demands of laundry and dishes. I get annoyed. It happens.

Knowing this about me helps give context to this statement: I get annoyed by Christians. More specifically, I get annoyed by people who identify as Christians and don’t live like Christ. I get annoyed by Christians who are so quick to condemn the “evils of this world” while being slow to celebrate the good and beautiful. I get annoyed by Christians who are grievously inconsistent in their theology and beliefs but seem to not notice or not care. As I said, I get annoyed too easily.

So here it is: It annoys me when people are intensely passionate about their pro-life stance on abortion but don’t mention anything about foster care.

Now, just to be clear (and before you rush down to the comments section) … I am an ordained pastor in a conservative Evangelical Christian denomination. Our church is strongly in the pro-life camp. I tend to agree with this position in most instances, although I respect and appreciate thoughtful discourse on this controversial topic. Thankfully, my position on the pro-life / pro-choice discussion is not what this post is about.

I have heard spirited and passionate discourse about the evils of abortion. I have listened to women and men, pastors, legislators, lobbyists and advocates declare the inherent “right to life” that comes with the combination of sperm and egg in the womb. They conclude that the beating heart of an unborn fetus entitles that organism the right to survive until it can be delivered and experience life outside of the mother’s sustaining womb.

But what comes next? Crazy math. Crazy math is what comes next.

I pulled some estimates from a document that can be found on the National Right to Life website. (Full disclosure: the statistics presented on this sheet are supposed to be unbiased estimates based on numbers given by the Guttmacher Institute, but this organization is strongly against abortion and the statistics reported should be viewed through this lens.)

In the document referenced, they estimate that in the year 2010, for example, there were over 1.1 million abortions performed in the United States. For the sake of this particular discussion, we are going to focus on abortions performed during the year 1999 or later up to the 2015 estimate. We focus on that period of time because children who would have been born in 1998 are reaching the age where they would “age out” of the foster care system. (More info about what aging out means.)

Adding up the abortion estimates between 1999 and 2015, Guttmacher Institute estimates that in the United States, there have been 20,077,000 abortions. Those who agree with a unilateral pro-life view might say something like, “That is over 20 million murders of innocent children in the last eighteen years!” I agree that the number is staggering.

For the sake of discussion again, let’s say that abortions were illegal during that span of time. Often this is the stated agenda of most pro-life groups and advocates. One such website states that the numbers of abortions will not be affected by making abortions illegal. At the same time, this website estimates the number of illegal abortions in America during the 1950s and 60s (prior to Roe v. Wade, i.e. when abortions were illegal in the U.S.) was anywhere from 200,000 to 1,200,000 per year. Such a wide range of estimates makes it difficult to determine a correlation between legality and abortion rates, but it seems fair to estimate the probable rate would be somewhere near the middle of these two. Let’s propose that if abortions were illegal during our time span, half of the women who would have had a legal abortion would choose to not have one.

Suddenly there would be 10,000,000 more children in our country ranging in age from 0 – 17. We also should consider the effect that carrying a child to full term would likely have on a mother or a couple. I believe that there are some who, upon carrying a child to full-term, based on my own experience, might begin to have a change of heart about an unwanted pregnancy. There are also some who might choose to find a family to consider private adoption. Again, we have to make some conjectures in order to continue this conversation, but let’s approximate that another half of these kids would be born to parents who decide that this unwanted pregnancy is a blessing or make arrangements for adoption so the child enters a safe and stable home.

That still would leave 5,000,000 unwanted children. Some would have been surrendered at the hospital. Some would have been raised by bitter parents. Some would have been abused and mistreated. These are the horror stories that currently make the news and wrench my gut. These are the children that the bus drivers and school teachers look at and wonder, “What am I supposed to do for this child?” I ask: What would happen to these 5 million? I believe that many would end up in the foster care system.

Again, I’m using broad and sweeping guesstimates, and by no means am I attempting to make precise predictions. But if anywhere near 5,000,000 more children were added to the already overwhelmed systems of child protective services and foster care, that would be approximately 275,000 more children EVERY YEAR. I wrote in an earlier post that the annual number of children taken into foster care hovered between 250,000 and 265,000 from 2010 – 2014. That would double. Twice as many children. Twice as many social workers needed (or twice as heavy caseloads). Twice as many supervised visits. Twice as many foster homes. Twice.

We are not ready for that.

So I ask: How can we be so passionate and proactive about the inherent rights of the unborn child and be so lethargic about the needs and care of those already born? People do things like this to care for unborn children, and yet children sleep in DSHS offices because there aren’t enough foster homes for them.

Here is my plea: Let our cry to care for children extend beyond the day of their birth. I’m not trying to talk anyone out of being pro-life. I don’t even know where this legal and political debate is headed. What I do know is that there is a great need right NOW, and I would love to see more people involved, at some level, in caring for already-born kids.

If we truly are pro-life, our passion to protect and advocate for children should extend well beyond their time in the womb and into our hearts … and our homes.


Trent a four-year rookie to this thing called foster care. He and his wife, Lynne, were married in 1998 and have four biological children and four foster children as well. He has served on staff as a pastor since 2000 at a church that runs about 200 – 220 every week in Washington State. He loves following Mariner baseball, watching movies (romantic comedies with his wife, Marvel and Star Wars with his boys), and spending one-on-one time with any of the kids

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About Alisha Palmer

Alisha and her husband Shane have been therapeutic and medically fragile foster parents since 2012, caring for many children from medically fragile infants to therapeutic teenagers, and numerous in between. In 2015 they adopted their two amazing daughters from the foster care system. She is a foster care and adoption advocate who strives to encourage others to step out of their comfort zone and into this world, providing love and stability to children during their darkest times. Follow her on Instagram @fosterloveforeverhome.
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9 Responses to Why You Can’t Be Pro-Life Without Being Pro-Foster: The Crazy Math of Abortion

  1. Nur says:

    Here’s the thing that both my husband and I don’t understand: we’ve been foster parents for some years. We even became pre-adoptive parents to our foster children but the goal changed later and they were reunified with their mother. We then decided to adopt from the foster care system and give a permanent home to a child or sibling group, but guess what? DCF said we have to dropped out of being foster parents! Where’s the logic in that? We’ve been approved and now waiting…it’s been more than a year already…to be matched…in the meantime, our house…3 bedrooms…remain empty…the system doesn’t make sense either..sadly.

    • Trent says:

      The individual situations can seem so frustrating and confusing. Thank you for being willing. Thank you for being ready. Continue working for and taking steps toward adoption. For the sake of the kids we have to keep working toward.
      Blessings and strength to you both.

    • Shanna says:

      In my state, they double certify you to both foster and adopt so that if or when parental rights are terminated you can (if you choose) begin the adoption process. That way you don’t have to take more time to go through more training since the kids have been suffering long enough already.

  2. A concerned community member says:

    Why not be pro-life by supporting social services for women living in poverty that provide them the tools to raise their children themselves? I feel like the pro-life Christians are pro-getting-other-people’s-kids-for-themselves, especially if they’re little and cute, while generally denigrating “welfare queens” and “drug addicts” and not wanting to put their rich, white, suburban taxes into failing “ghetto schools.”

    Pro life should be pro family. And for poor families that means readily available healthcare (including birth control, if you don’t like abortion, help desperate women not get pregnant! Oh wait, then where would you get the free babies?), mental healthcare, diapers on government assistance, affortable childcare, jobs that pay enough to support a family. Don’t seek to get other people’s kids. Don’t wait until families are broken so you can swoop in and “save” them.

    • Trent says:

      Concerned Community Member,
      Thank you so much for your response. It certainly points to the FACT that this problem is far more complicated than save the babies, give them away! I believe that if you continue reading the posts and words of the regular contributors of Dropping Anchors, you will find and hear a different heart and a different passion fuels their desire to care for children.
      I completely agree that along with supporting foster care that we have to battle against many of the systemic injustices our society has created. I know not everyone can foster. i wrote above, “What I do know is that there is a great need right NOW, and I would love to see more people involved, at some level, in caring for already-born kids.” Many of the ways you describe are excellent way for people who choose not to foster can care for already-born kids. I say YES to every area you mention (even contraception).
      I do want to tell you that for every child we have brought into our home, our first and foremost desire was reconciliation with their family in a safe and healthy home. Our training taught us that would be the department’s first goal. Our hearts have always told us that reconciliation with mom and/or dad would be best for the children we have taken into care. We have sought to treat birth parents with dignity, care, and respect. If I ever lose that, it will be time for me to no longer foster.
      I so appreciate your remarks. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Blessings.
      Trent

  3. Yes!!! I was having this same discussion with my mom. We are christian and pro-life. But I asked her, in all this time she has been involved in her faith, if she has known a family from church who takes in foster kids. Not one. She couldn’t think of a single family. I asked her if that bothered her, but she said that she had honestly never thought about it. Isn’t that crazy?! How can we be pro-life if we are only willing to fight for kids in the womb? I think I read something wild like, if a family from every 3rd church adopted a child, then every kid would have a home.

    My husband and I believe that God has put it on our hearts to foster or adopt, and I am so excited for the day when we can buy a home that can house more kids!

    Thanks for your article.

  4. Natalie says:

    Where are all these prolifers with signs shouting for foster care reform? How can you claim prolife when 20,000 kids age out each year? How can you claim prolife when kids go on tv begging for families? How can you claim prolife but won’t consider adopting or helping a foster child? How can you claim prolife when you won’t even consider adopting or fostering a teen or older child? Teens and older kids don’t get adopted like babies and young kids do. Prolifers aren’t prolife they’re anti choice and probirth. I spent half my life in foster care. Nobody wanted me. Nobody cared about me. I begged for a home but people only want babies. Don’t say you’re prolife until you become a foster parent and help kids that nobody else wants. There’s more prolifers than children in foster care but prolifers turn their back on foster kids. If every prolifer would adopt a kid from foster care, there wouldn’t be any kids waiting for adoption. Kids wouldn’t sleep on the floor trying to find a home.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I am a director at Heartland Pregnancy Care and Family Life Services. I agree that we must find a way to help these children. We are a pro life center and we (along with most other centers, and we hold classes to help parents get their kids back) work very hard to help these parents learn how to care for their children before they are born with support after they are born. We do this through Earn While you Learn classes. We don’t want to see these children in foster care either. However, these clients refuse to even consider adoption. They believe that killing their children would be more loving than giving them up. They always have some horrible story about a friend, or friend of a friend that was adopted and mistreated. I think this is a huge piece to your math you need to add in. How can we change the image of adoption? If the image of adoption changes in the eyes of the parents then there will be less children in the foster care system. I get so many profiles of adoptive parents that are waiting to be chosen. They beg me to hand out their file to girls. I can’t do that due to laws.
    I truly believe adoption is the key to this. Their are many people that should never be allowed to foster children. I am Turning in a foster family because the mother is mentally and emotionally abusing the foster children. She told me she hates boys because her parents favored boys. She only does it for the money is another thing she said. So yeah I do understand where you are coming from.

  6. Brian Williams says:

    Hi Alisha,
    I think your math is important–thanks for sharing the ideas. I also think it reveals a deeper Christian problem.

    Christians often treat Foster Care as a minimum necessary, government-funded penance for Pro-life views and have lost track of the need for a real solution for each individual, precious child. If there are children aging out of the Foster Care system, then we do not have enough adoptive parents interested in adopting the sort of children, from the sort of origins, that actually exist. Now imagine doubling that number. Who adopts these children?

    If Christians adopted we would discover that the kind of care one wants to invest in one’s own child (these days) is too great to permanently take on 3 or 4 or 5 children. In other words good Foster Care is not even to the level of weak parenting and caregivers are even more outnumbered-and-in-babysitting mode than it looks.

    Those who participate in Foster Care do, at least, provide survival. They can provide more so long as their commitment to each new child entering their home is as “no matter what comes” as they would treat their own child (you will stay in my house until there is a permanent solution). But every time a home takes in more children than the adults in that home would commit to rearing–thus demonstrating less commitment to each child than they would make to “real” offspring–the odds are that one of the children has to go because it is too troubled to devote time to given the overall demands of the group. This alone, over and over, demonstrates the “efficiency” quotient of foster paid-baby-sitters who aren’t parents, after all.

    Adoption is a solution, not a government stop-gap. A child is helped. Society benefits. The fact that people don’t want to adopt as many as they foster also shows its superior commitment.

    Brian

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