Abortion and Adoption: Some Personal Reflections

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.

(Image: Jochen van Wylick/Unsplash.com)

“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 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 10-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 no 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 an 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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About Carl E. Olson 1183 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.

28 Comments

  1. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Olson, for providing us all with such a vivid, persevering, relentlessly hopeful example of faith.

    Your story, as painful as it clearly must have been, is also profoundly beautiful.

  2. The pro-abort assertion that pro-lifers are only pro-birth is, of course, disingenuous. That is to say more bluntly, it is a lie and a sleazy, cheap, shallow one.

    But then the pro-abortion crowd is fundamentally invested in a lie, a complex of lies, that they try to justify with meretricious, deceptive language: the child in the womb is not a baby, but merely tissue; it is not a person, and so on.

    It is as if they have no concept whatsoever of the reality of the potential. The fertilized egg will become, given time, a Megan, a Charlie. Barring what we call an act of God–or human intervention–it is as inevitable as the day following the night.

    But clearly they do not want the day to follow the night. The night, for them, must follow the day. They are in love with death.

    • The no concept of the reality of potential has been extended to up to birth. Can’t get more conceptionless than that. The realities of evil and how &what Jesus taught us have come home to roost. The stark contrasts are their for all to see. I just read an article on the Canadian March for Life that happened one week after the Supreme Court leak. My husband & I are the parent of 2 adopted babies now men. One was easy; one was not. But we made it through and we are still an intact family. We now support a pregnancy life center and believe me those centers are opened to those women and children forever according to their needs. It’s more that birthing support. it’s parenting skills, job and education help. I often think that abortion people are more invested in the easy way but real service takes hard work. Life is work. Love to all.

    • “…They are in love with death.”

      They are indeed in love with death, but the irony is that they cannot admit it — even to themselves.

  3. The comments by the likes of former president Carter, Sister Chittister and others that prolife/conservative people don’t have compassion once a child is born is total bunk. I would encourage everyone to read “Who Really Cares” by Arthur Brooks. In everything from donating blood to volunteering to help Scouts, so called “evil conservatives” donate time and treasure in much great amounts than “compassionate progressives.” Progressives talk a lot, but don’t walk the walk and are great at spending other people’s money. Brooks, a self-identified progressive, was embarrassed by what he found. The book was published in 2007. If anyone has a more recent source, please post.

    • That’s exactly right. The progressives want all of us to be taxed to support whatever programs they advocate. I have known a person for over fifty years who identifies as a Democrat and a liberal. This person is all out for big government spending on certain social programs but contributes absolutely nothing to not-for-profit causes of any kind.
      The observation is anecdotal, of course, but I am sure it is not unique.

    • May 18, 2022. Nearly 200 Republicans in congress voted against easing the baby formula shortage. Who’s pro life!

      • Well, that didn’t take long, did it? I’m not interested in defending the Stupid Party, but the Evil Party needs to look in the mirror (it won’t; it never does); from the WSJ:

        House Democrats passed a bill Wednesday that would give the FDA $28 million more to inspect foreign plants. OK, but the FDA’s problem isn’t too little money. It’s too much regulation.

        A more helpful House bill would let the Secretary of Agriculture waive rules for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program amid formula shortages. These rules limit new mothers to buying formula from the sole-source contractor in the states, which manage WIC.

        Exclusive state contracts effectively give formula providers a monopoly. WIC makes up about half of the U.S. formula market, and Abbott and Mead Johnson have program contracts covering 87% of infants. Many supermarkets only stock shelves with the exclusive state-contractor, and doctors at hospitals are more likely to recommend them. Where are Lina Khan’s Federal Trade Commission trust busters when you really need them?

        While the House legislation will help at the margin, broader reform is needed. But Democrats say they don’t have time for bigger fixes—it’s so much easier to round up the usual suspects. They’ve already begun investigating Abbott and other producers. “I think there might be a need for indictment,” Nancy Pelosi said this week. She means business executives, not Members of Congress, alas.

        • Thank you for once again shutting down the Evil Party’s diabolical, duplicitous lies, Mr. Olson.

          The Democrats don’t hesitate to use even their own deliberate starving of children to augment their power.

          It really is satanic.

        • You lost me on the first sentence “Evil party Diabolical” “Satanic” “lier”. Nice catholic response. So much for a civilized discussion.

          • You are not interested in a Christian, civilised response. You responded to a Christian, humanitarian article with a purely party political attitude. The ranting of Democrats about Roe show exactly where their heart is and it is in the mass murder of the unborn. What lucky women we are to have such champions.

  4. The American taxpayers have been caring about and paying for the suddenly fatherless children born after 1965 by {D} LBJ’s Great Society.Once “Uncle Sam”took over the handing out of first checks and todays EBT Cards.The die was cast.

  5. Thank you too for the witnessing …
    Giving up a baby for adoption as well as being willing to adopt – both seem like rather heroic acts -needing to put good bit of trust in The Lord .. in natural families , seems God would have already given that trust and willingness to sacrifice esp. after the birth of the baby ; same as reason enough why most persons who are prolife may not get too focused on events after birth since they know God has put an innate readiness in most parents to try to be there for the baby ; not so for the parents who make wrong decisions in haste predominantly from fear and ignorance , a decision that can have vast effects in many realms that affect all , including even areas such as natural calamities , wars , health and relationship issues as well as a catalyst for more similar acts in the general public due to the weakening of the will, more promiscuity and so on .

    Counting # of unborn who would have been alive if not for abortion , those who are for population control might see those #s with trepidation ; OTOH, if such a choice is outlawed , there would likely be far less persons who make such a choice and far less births too likely .
    The reference to the issue of color as mentioned in the article , had come across one Jewish family with three children who adopted a child from Ethiopia – fascinating to watch how the older ones treated the young adoptee with such love like she was a g.child of Solomon and Sheeba .. there in might be too one means of dealing with the racial concerns -seeing all of us, regardless of color as being from one of the 1,000 wives of Solomon or better still, of The Mother . 🙂
    The children and both sides of the families might enjoy the books related to the Divine Will , with the themes such as of bringing the tears of The Lord and Precius Blood to many ( thus to the absentee family ) being loved by The Mother from her very beginning – thus making up for the physical separations to an extent .

    https://www.ltdw.org/other-publications.html

    Blessings !

  6. Adoptive parent here, of 2 children who don’t look like me and my husband, who drive me crazy and who I love dearly. Just, thank you, Carl, for this. Thanks.

  7. Mr Olson, thank you for sharing your personal story. I too have two children who are adopted. After 7 agonizing years of attempting medical solutions which failed, my husband and I turned to adoption. Our oldest son is American born, the younger one born in poor circumstances in a foreign country. Getting my children were the most momentous moments in my life, and I am deeply appreciative of the women who gave them life. My husband died unexpectedly when the kids were young, and my children and I felt his absence deeply. We hit a few bumps in the road, partly because of that.They are young men now and starting to make their way into their own lives. The stories you experienced above are familiar to me from other adoptive parents I have spoken to. In the US, the concept of “family re-unification” takes precedence over all other considerations, even the actual welfare of the child. A horrible biological home is considered superior to one which is adoptive. It’s disgusting and wrong. Ditto, an accusation of abuse now is as good as a criminal conviction; truth and facts take a back seat. People who say no one will care for “excess” babies if Roe is overturned are liars. A lack of children to adopt is the reason why so many american couples travel overseas to adopt a child. It is my opinion that biology is the least important factor of being a parent.

  8. Carl,
    Appreciate you sharing you and your wife’s heroic story.
    May all who make the effort; giving as well as receiving, be blest in this life as well the next.

  9. Thank you, Carl Olson, for your inspiring example of love and persistence. May you, your wife and your family be greatly blessed.

  10. I am so sorry about your son who ran away. I will pray for him and for your family tomorrow at Adoration.

    “The couple were white and the birth mother and baby were Brown”
    “ The white birth mother … and her boyfriend (who was Black)”
    “ 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!)”

    Neither “white” nor “black” nor “brown” should be capitalized (they’re just adjectives describing skin coloration and capitalizing gives that artificial importance – do we refer to Brunette and Blonde and Redheaded?), but if two are always capitalized then so should the third be.

  11. To a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, many in the secular world will say, “It’s your body. Do with it what you please.” To that same woman, Jesus simply says, “This is my body which I give up for you.” Thank you, Carl, for your courage, sacrifice, and Christian witness. And please do not hesitate to share more of your personal experiences.

  12. Dear Carl,

    May God bless you and your wife for being so generous. May God also bless your beautiful children. Thank you for this story and belated congratulations on your 25 years as a Catholic!

  13. Catholics would be smart to return to their roots and instead advocate celibacy for all people, period. This was the position for the early centuries of the church. Scholarship has agreed that the early centuries of the church were strongly anti-child and anti-marriage, at best tolerating marriage, but never encouraging it. If people got married, so be it, but there was no marriage in church, nobody thought big families were a good thing, and the single & celibate life were the only things encouraged.

    There are some good political moves the Catholic Church could make, which are in line with their authority and scholarship. For one thing, I would abolish the church law of needing to be married in church in front of a priest with 2 witnesses. This was simply a church law which can be abolished, since it doesn’t change the matter & form of the sacrament. For the first 1000 years of the church, marriages were accepted as sacramental without needing a priest. The church should simply ignore marriages, instead focusing on celibacy for all. Then the church should just ignore what the state says about marriage, since the church’s position would be celibacy & holiness for all, but that The Eucharist is not banned from anyone, so whether you’re single, married, or gay, The Eucharist is available to you, period. The Eucharist is a medicine & everyone who is baptized can receive, unless specifically barred by the bishop for public scandalous crimes, such as genocide or oppression of people.

    The pro-family thing is just a creation of the 1950s and the time prior to Vatican II. A Vatican III will need to undo the pro-family and Cult of Domesticity stuff that was popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    • While the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the 2 spouses, the priest reflects Christ among them. It would be wrong to exclude the priest from his essential position.

      Celibacy is the word used for vowed state of life. The life of chastity is for everyone even the married. These teachings reflect true understanding of these and should stay.

      Our Lady of Fatima said “many marriages are bad” and in the context it appears she was indicating addressing marital sins not moving to universal celibacy. It is not getting attention.

  14. God bless you & your family Mr. Olson. What a wonderful article & an amazing witness you & your wife are.
    Don’t be so sure that you’ll be “White” until your dying day. Many Americans have much more diverse DNA than they realize and at the end of the day we are all some sort of mixture. Especially when you go back several generations. It can be pretty surprising. Ask me how I know this.
    🙂

  15. Good article, I know some adults including my Dad, who are adopted. Couples who adopt are wonderful, but all children should be raised by at least their own mother. There are some cases where this is impossible and would be exceptions to this. Society should help mothers to raise their children and in difficult situations fostering should be available whilst a mother is helped to eventually take her baby back if possible. I think it is so sad when poor parents feel the need to have their baby adopted. It breaks my heart to hear this.

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