Pro-Woman or Pro-Child?

My wife and I became involved in prolife work out of concern for women who’d been devastated by abortion. In 1981 we opened our home to a pregnant teenage girl. I served on the board of one of the first pregnancy centers on the West Coast, offering help to pregnant women who were needy, confused, and desperate. Our objective was to help women in every way possible. And the best way to help these women was to provide them alternatives to abortion. 

As time went on, I became involved in prolife education, political action, and peaceful nonviolent intervention outside abortion clinics. Some prolife ministries focus more on saving unborn children, some more on helping pregnant women. I found both kinds to be vitally necessary and completely compatible.

The Movement You May Not Know

Countless myths have been attached to the prolife movement. One example is the often-repeated statement, “Prolifers don’t really care about pregnant women, or about children once they’re born.” A television reporter, with cameras rolling, approached me at a prolife event and asked for my response to that accusation. I said, “Well, my wife and I opened our home to a pregnant girl and paid her expenses while she lived with us. We supported her when she decided to place her child for adoption. And, since you asked, we give a substantial amount of our income to help poor women and children.”

Then I introduced her to a pastor friend standing next to me who, with his wife, had adopted nineteen children, a number of them with Down Syndrome and other special needs. The reporter signaled the cameraman to stop filming. I asked if she wanted to interview my friend. She shook her head and moved on.

The fact is this: thousands of prolife organizations around the country and throughout the world provide free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, support groups, childcare classes, financial management education, babysitting, diapers, children’s clothes, and housing. Add to these tens of thousands of churches donating time, money, food, house repairs, and every other kind of help to needy pregnant women, single mothers, and low income families. Countless prolifers adopt children, open their homes, and volunteer to help children after they’re born. Together these efforts comprise the single largest grassroots volunteer movement in history.

While those who offer abortions charge women for them, those who offer abortion alternatives give their assistance freely, lovingly, and almost entirely behind the scenes. Contrary to some caricatures, these people are not just probirth—they are prolife. They care about a child and her mother, and are there to help them both not only before birth, but after.

Our National Schizophrenia

Despite an even split among those calling themselves prochoice and prolife, two-thirds of Americans say they believe abortion is “morally wrong.” Some prolife advocates have interpreted this to mean it’s no longer necessary to argue that the unborn is human or that abortion is wrong. Instead, our emphasis should be on helping women to see that abortion isn’t in their best interests.

I emphatically agree we should help women with unwanted pregnancies see that abortion will hurt, not help them. Many women believe that abortion is wrong, but that it’s the least of evils—bad as it is, they think it’s still better than having a baby, raising a child, or surrendering a child for adoption.

We must show them that, while the other alternatives are challenging, abortion is the only one that kills an innocent person. Precisely because it does so, it has by far the most negative consequences in a woman’s life.

However, many of the same people who believe unborns are human and that abortion is immoral nonetheless choose to have abortions and defend abortion as legitimate. This proves they do not believe unborns are human beings in the same sense they believe three-year-olds are human beings. They don’t believe abortion is immoral in the same way that killing a three-year-old is immoral.

Polls also indicate that many of the same people who believe abortion is immoral nonetheless believe it should remain legal. It’s fair to assume that these people believe rape, kidnapping, child abuse, and murder are immoral—but they would not argue that rape and murder should be legal. This demonstrates a fundamental difference between what they mean by rape and murder being “immoral” and abortion being “immoral.”

No one who considers a preborn child a full-fledged person can rationally defend abortion’s legality, unless they also defend legalizing the killing of other human beings. After all, every argument for abortion that appeals to a mother’s inconvenience, stress, and financial hardship can be made just as persuasively about her twelve-year-old, her husband, or her parents. In many cases older children are more expensive and place greater demands on their mother than an unborn child. But people immediately recognize those arguments are invalid when it comes to killing older children.

Women often say that when they got abortions they had no idea who was inside them. Some knew subconsciously they were carrying a child, but they latched onto the prochoice rhetoric. They now profoundly regret this. They think of what they did as temporary insanity, enabled by their well-intentioned but misguided friends or family. They wish someone would have tried to talk them out of a choice that now haunts them.

We should love and care for pregnant women who feel pressured toward abortion. We should also love women who’ve had abortions, and do all we can to help them recover from abortion’s trauma.

The ancient book of Proverbs says that the right choice is always wise and brings good consequences, while the wrong choice is always foolish and brings bad consequences.

The False Dichotomy

It’s never in anyone’s best interests to kill a child. When a child is hurt by his mother, it brings harm not only to the child but to her. It’s impossible to separate a woman’s welfare from her child’s. Precisely because the unborn is a child, the consequences of killing him are severe. It’s the identity of the first victim, the child, that brings harm to the second victim, the mother. That’s why we need to begin our treatment of abortion with the identity of the unborn.

See also:

When Does Each Human Life Begin?: The Answer of Science

When Does Each Human Life Begin?: The Answer of Scripture

Is Abortion Really a Women’s Rights Issue?

Browse more prolife articles and resources, as well as see Randy's books Pro-Choice or Pro-Life: Examining 15 Pro-Choice ClaimsWhy ProLife? and ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments.

Photo by Vitor Pinto on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries