Adoption and Abortion

If the practice of abortion ended the world would have to deal with 42 million unwanted children every year. How can anti-abortion advocates respond to that when there are already 148 million orphans in the world? How can we ask for more unwanted children when we’re not taking care of the already orphaned children in the world?

I ask this question not to defend abortion. I don’t like abortion. The numbers are staggering—42 million abortions worldwide every year? That’s nearly as high as the annual worldwide death rate (approximately 56 million people die ever year).

I ask this question because I don’t think anti-abortion advocates focus enough on solutions. Adoption is one solution, and while churches and Christians are very supportive of adoption (I should know), they’re not supportive enough (to the tune of 148 million children without families).

For many Christians, adoption is a “good thing.” It’s a good deed you did and we’ll applaud you for it, but it’s not a normal practice. It’s what you do when you can’t have kids. It’s what you do when you’ve already had a few kids “of your own.” But it’s rarely a first choice. It’s rarely promoted as something all families should consider (I was ecstatic to see Rick Warren talking about promoting adoption in his church).

I know adoption isn’t for everyone. There are inherent challenges and if you’re not prepared you have no business adopting. But it just seems inconsistent to me that Christians are so against abortion but don’t seem truly prepared to end abortion.

When a pregnant mother considers abortion, would you step forward to adopt her baby? And why would she believe that you’d adopt her baby when she sees the 148 million orphans we haven’t adopted?

Abortion is a difficult issue and I hate talking about it because it’s so divisive. But this question has been nagging at me for a while. Why isn’t adoption standard practice in the church? It’s definitely supported and encouraged when it happens, and I’d wager that it’s more widespread in the church, but it’s still far from the norm. If adoption were the norm it would change the abortion debate. For that matter if adoption were the norm it would change the world.

16 thoughts on “Adoption and Abortion”

  1. Kevin,

    I believe that adoption isn’t standard practice in the church because adoption still has a lot of negative feelings/issues with it that you addressed above:
    – It’s what you do when you can’t have kids.
    – It’s what you do when you’ve already had a few kids “of your own.”
    – It’s rarely a first choice.
    – It’s rarely promoted as something all families should consider.

    And there are other “issues” that plague people like:
    – I don’t want this child to hate me and try to find their birth parents later in life.
    – I don’t want a baby that is addicted to drugs.
    – The kids in foster care are troubled and I don’t want them in my house.

    So, personally I don’t think adoption will be standard practice in the church until the word adoption isn’t whispered anymore. Whispered like “oh, that poor family couldn’t have kids of their own so they adopted.”

    I applaud you for this post and wonder how and what families like ours can/should do in order to make adoption standard practice in the church.

  2. Some difficult questions, and ones worth considering, but I’d like to add in another variable.

    I believe that the number of abortions occurring per year is as high as it is because the option of abortion is available. People aren’t required to be responsible and think about the consequences of actions before they do something.

    If abortion were not such a ready option, I would bet that there would be far fewer unwanted pregnancies. As it is, though, between abortion and various other social programs (that are frequently needed and worthwhile…don’t get me wrong) our society tends to reward, fund, or at least excuse irresponsibility by removing standard consequences and paying for easy ways out.

  3. Kevin,
    Yeah, I’ve thought this plenty of times before. How much of an impact on the world could Christians make if every Christian family with kids was a family with at least one adopted child? It would be huge. But I agree with Alon’s response as to why it’s a hard sell to families. I think we know the issues to fight, now the question is one of methodology – how?

    in Christ,

  4. Good responses and questions, everyone. Thanks for being open and willing to consider this.

    Alon, I think the issues you raise are a lot of the misconceptions with adoption. Open-adoption (where birth parents and adoptive parents talk and are connected) is the norm now and is much more positive for the child. And addicted to drugs? Not even sure how to respond to that. As for messed up kids in foster care, that’s certainly not always the case, but those challenges do exist (and they’re not for everybody–not sure I could do it). But ‘I don’t want those kids in my house’ isn’t exactly how Jesus would respond. ;-)

    I think just talking about adoption is a big way to bring it out of whispers and make it normal. And part of it is changing perceptions.

    Jay, I think that’s part of the how. Begin talking about it. Continue supporting it. But also make sure it’s normal–don’t uphold adoptive parents as these uber-heroes. On Facebook someone pointed to the Zoe Foundation, so there are more and more efforts supporting adoption.

    Aaron, honestly, I’d rather give this more thought than respond now. And it might be something better to discuss in person. Debating abortion in general doesn’t tend to go well online. ;-)

  5. Kevin, I’m totally with you on this one.

    My sister has been at a point in her life where adoption is the first option ever since she was 15 or so. They’re planning to adopt once all their schooling is finished and they’ve found a house.

    For Laurie and I, it’s still not our first option but its something I believe we both want/plan to do – now just finding the funding is the next step.

    Either way, I agree. Quit pointing out the problems and look for solutions.

    Mother Theresa didn’t condemn abortion and kick unwed mothers out on the street. She adopted both the mother and child. As Shane Claiborne points out – its no wonder they called her Mother – she was actually everyone’s mother.

  6. Does anyone know what happens when a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy? Is she given options or does the clinic just assume that she’s weighed all her options and abortion is her final choice?

    I feel like there is a huge education piece missing to this whole thing….are people choosing abortion because it’s easier? because they don’t understand the adoption process?

    Are people not adopting for the same reasons? It’s easier to have a child biologically? They don’t understand the process? They aren’t sure about the money required?

    As far as I can see the only place educating people about the whole process is the adoption agencies themselves.

    I think the church needs to step up and help with the education part of it. And just talk about it in general. The more something is talked about and the more people know about it, the more it becomes the norm.

    That’s all kind of rambly. I agree with the general statement that the church needs to be more on board with caring for the orphans but I’m still trying to process what that looks like.

  7. The SADDEST part in all of this for me, is that those of us who have put our salvation in Christ have been adopted into his family and yet that point is lost.

    Without adoption, I would be dead.

    I also believe that the way adoption had been managed in the past has changed but the perception hasn’t caught up to the norm of today. I have no idea how long it will take, but no matter what the church says about adoption, people still see and hear the horror stories on the news.

    It’s gonna take families with good/great adoption stories to share them, not the agencies. The cynical side of people will just hear a marketing commercial from the agencies for their services.

    Don’t get me wrong, my wife works for multiple agencies and they are doing an amazing job sharing what/how adoption can/does provide.

    It is challenging me to share our story of adoption and what it has meant to our family and those around me. The question is where and to whom?

    Thanks for the post Kevin…I appreciate your questions and challenges.

  8. It’s a pretty common misconception that it’s teenagers with unwanted pregnancies (regardless if they decide to have an abortion or create an adoption plan).

    50% of the women receiving abortions are younger than 25 and only 17% are younger than 20.

    Women creating adoption plans are largely in the 20+ range. With statistics shown that teenage mothers are more likely to keep their baby and raise it with the help of a family member.

  9. Birth Control

    Its difficult to discuss abortion without discussing birth control. I don’t want to get political here, but the best example that I have found of this was in Sarah Palin. As a politician, she was against abortion *and* against teaching birth control to kids younger than adulthood (18). The result was that she ended up with a fifteen-year-old daughter (Bristol) who was unwed and pregnant. (btw: Bristol’s relationship with the father of the child has since fallen apart). The point in all this is that, there seems to be a tendency for some parents to believe that if they talk about birth control with their kids, the kids are going to run out and jump in bed with the first person that they find. This is not true.

    The best way for a parent to talk about birth control with a child is to discuss all of the reasons why the parent hopes that the child will not need it. The fact is that when parents talk to kids about birth control, the discussion gets complicated for many reasons. However, the end result of that complicated discussion is that the kids wait longer, possibly even until marriage, before having sex. But for a parent to attempt to pretend that sex doesn’t exist, they blind themselves and their kids to the fact that sex does exist; and that sex results in babies. The fact that sex results in babies is not earth-shaking news for you or me, but for teens, there is a disconnect. This is normal, teens think differently than adults and if things aren’t explained clearly to them, they don’t always “get it.” The best way for parents to deal with any issue facing kids these days is to talk about the issue, not to hide it. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He brought up issues that other people were uncomfortable talking about. But, if parents voluntarily agree *not* discuss such issues with their kids, those are the kids who will run into the issues.


    “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As far as abortion goes, in my mind there are different kinds of abortions. The “morning after” pill is an abortive pill designed to kill life. But it happens so early in the pregnancy (within 24 hours) that most of us are comfortable with it. I know that I am. Its still an abortion though. A few days after the discovery of a pregnancy is another example of when most people choose to get an abortion. Late-term abortions are the difficult issue. However, if you look at the statistics, there are *very few* late term abortions. Most responsible people do it early or not at all.


    I’ll agree with everybody else on adoption, its the best solution and us church folks should do more to support the idea!

  10. Thanks for sharing this, I couldn’t agree more. I was already tired of hearing the church rant against abortion, but seeing the complete lack of families stepping up to adopt… it’s not even worth listening to what they have to say.

    I do agree it’s important for families to share their stories and be open about adoption to move it from being something that is taboo to something that is encouraged.
    This isn’t really the space for it but I’ll share briefly:
    We adopted, locally, through the county, our son was in foster care before he joined our family, it didn’t cost anything monetarily, he was almost three when we adopted him, we have a biological daughter who just turned two as well, and we are a wonderful and happy family.
    Adoption may not be for everyone (I’m not sure why not), but I’d venture to say it can be for most families. I’m happy to answer people’s questions or concerns if you have any (I’m sure Kevin is too).

  11. I found this a very interesting read. I work as a counselor at a pregnancy center and the thing that shocks me the most is when one of our clients will say, “Oh no, I can’t imagine giving my baby away (this is the concept many have, but adoption is a very loving choice for the baby), I would much rather have an abortion.” Our world is a fallen world and we are at the point where we are calling bad things good. Many women facing a crisis pregnancy think it is much better to kill a baby through abortion than to make a parenting decision for the future of the child. We need to remember that a baby’s heart is already beating by the time a woman misses her first period and that an early abortion is just as bad as a late-term abortion. (I also would not call a person a “responsible” person because they had an early abortion rather than a later one)

    While it is true that there are a lot of orphans in the world there are also people with willing hearts looking to adopt, but the adoption process may be too expensive for them to afford. This is why I am excited to see churches and ministries like that one of Steven Curtis Chapman come alongside of families to help them afford the cost of an adoption whether in the states or international adoptions.

    My husband and I will continue to support the ministry of pregnancy centers who come alongside of mothers to help them as they make parenting choices. To support them with love, education, and resources. I will also continue to pray that abortion would end. I will also pray for orphans around the world and that the church will practice pure religion as we minister to orphans and widows. May we all do our part in sharing God’s love with all people.

  12. I’m thrilled to see such a civilized discussion of abortion/adoption/birth control. So often these deteriorate into mean-spirited, closed-minded exchanges. This is very personal stuff, cutting close to the bone. Well done.

    I believe that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare, and that adoption should be inexpensive, widely accessible, and rampant. Let compassion reign.

  13. My husband and I are one of those rare families- Christians who have felt God’s call to adopt before trying to start a family biologically. Our court date is next week for our 3 1/2 year old son and 5 month old daughter from Ethiopia.

    I completely agree with Rebeca. To me, saying abortion should be legal so we don’t have to deal with more orphans doesn’t make any sense if you believe those are children, and not just a bunch of tissue in the womb. What’s the difference in ending a child’s life 3 months before it leaves it’s mother’s body or 3 months after?

    If you don’t believe a fetus is a baby, then okay, I can see how you could maybe justify abortion. But the Bible definitely gives us indication that the fetus IS a baby (see Luke 1:41 and Psalms 139:14-16).

    If American Christians are apathetic, or uninformed, or financially burdened, or just in need of a shock to their current paradigm, we need to focus on those things (along with making adoption a more affordable option) instead of making the burden easier and the load lighter by allowing mothers to kill their unwanted children.

    I don’t know about Milo’s situation, but I do know my daughter in Ethiopia would have been a prime candidate for an abortion. I am so happy her mother had the courage to give birth to this precious girl and let her go…

    Love in Christ,

  14. Kevin, I completely agree with everything you’ve said here and I am about to write a report on excatly that. As a student in need of help on this assignment, how do you think we could make adoption more affordable, and therefor (hopefully) a more popular option than abortion?
    In Christ,

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