What about the foster care system? This has become a common objection to the pro-life position. Point to the foster care system and demand the pro-life advocate offer a solution. If we aren’t solving the crisis in the foster care system then we are consigning more children to hopeless lives never to be placed in a permanent home.
This objection fails on two points. The first is that it misunderstands the foster care system. Foster children aren’t the products of women who couldn’t get abortions being forced to have their babies. According to experts in the field, the fastest growing reason for kids to end up in the system is the opioid abuse crisis in America. Parents get hooked on heroin or prescription drugs and neglect their children or give birth to drug addicted children. This is all happening right now in a nation with among the world’s most permissive abortion laws. Abortion doesn’t appear to be an answer here.
The foster care system also doesn’t prioritize adoption. The majority of cases in the system specify the goal as reunification with the biological family. It is true that the foster care system is struggling to retain foster families, but the reason isn’t indifference. According to data, families opt out because they feel overwhelmed, underprepared, and under supported. Foster children often face understandable issues and complex legal situations. We would all like to believe we can deal with the whole-life investment fostering children requires, but we can also understand when people decide they just don’t feel equipped to do this. It isn’t as easy as just saying, “Foster kids” or “fix the system!” It is an enormously complicated convergence of multiple societal ills not one of which has an easy solution.
I’ve talked to foster parents who have adopted where the child flourished and grew up as one of their own. I know families who offered children loving homes only to be rejected by the child. I know foster parents who struggled for years to adopt only to be frustrated again and again by the court’s deference to the extended birth family’s peculiar whims, while another family faced eight years of court dates to finally adopt their, by that time, teenage daughter. There are as many stories as there are children and families in the system. The only thing I can say for certain is that I’ve never talked to an adult who grew up in the system who said they would rather have been aborted than be alive. I recently shared this quote from a young man named Eric Miller on our Facebook page, “I was born to an unwed mother with substance abuse issues. I was a foster child basically from birth. I thank God in heaven I wasn’t aborted to ‘spare me from suffering.”
The second failure is that it doesn’t recognize the nature of our objection to abortion. No one ever claimed that restricting abortion offers a quick fix for any societal problem but one, the problem of the legalized killing of our offspring before they are born.
Unlike the foster care system, this isn’t an enormously complex issue. A young man stood up during a Q&A at a university and told me he thought the unborn were most likely human just like us, but until we solved other societal issues he couldn’t support restricting abortion. One of those issues was the foster care system.
I asked him, “What does one have to do with the other? If you believe the unborn are human and you place the intentional destruction of the unborn on a broader list of justice issues then this is the by far the easiest fix on that list. Fixing poverty, the foster care system, and the opioid crisis requires coordinated efforts on multiple levels, research into what creates these inequities, and effective strategies to move people from a place of need to a place of health. With abortion, we just need to agree that we won’t participate in killing our offspring. Let’s do that first rather than last. Let’s just not kill our offspring and then we can work together to find solutions to the other more complex issues.”
Abortion carries a ton of emotional and psychological baggage, but as an issue of action, “What are we doing and to whom?” it can’t get easier. We just need to stop killing unborn human beings. Let’s do that one first rather than say we will only stop killing our offspring before they are born after we solve an enormously complex issue that most people clearly don’t understand. Let’s stop using foster children as human shields to excuse our doing something to the unborn we can simply stop doing by making a different choice.