In the middle of November, the Reagan administration sponsored a special briefing on alternatives to abortion. The day long conference brought together experienced workers in the crisis-pregnancy field and consisted of brief talks, panel discussions, workshops, planning and exchanges of organizational techniques.
The first guest speaker was Dr. C. Everett Koop, the Surgeon General of the United States.
Dr. Koop began his address by noting his involvement with crisis pregnancy assistance to unwed mothers back in the late 1950’s when “an abortionist was the slimiest thing that anybody could refer to in the medical profession.
“Christian counseling works,” he noted, and it is effective beyond just the practical needs of hospitalization, medical care, financial advice and assistance, insurance, and advocacy for various private and public agencies that might help, but also as an “agent of reconciliation for a family that feels shattered from the experience.”
Yes, he said, “babies found their way into childless Christian homes, and women were able to resume their jobs or education after having received the best care possible, but most of all, families that had essentially evicted a daughter were reconciled when they saw the contrast of Christian love and concern from strangers toward their daughter.”
Took her in
As an example, Dr. Koop told the story of his son’s family, who “took into their home a pregnant young woman because her father had kicked her out because she had refused to have an abortion. She became a member of my son’s household. She attended the services of his church. Nobody ever knew what her last name was…but let me tell you what was accomplished after the seven months of her being a member of my son’s household.
“First of all, Christ’s love was shown. The health of that mother and her baby was preserved. She had a safe and efficient delivery. The child was adopted by a loving and Christian home. And the girl was then free to start her life again. She finished her education. She has since married, a young man that she met in that church and who knew all about it.
“But I think it was the family, my family, who had brought her into their home, perhaps learned the most. My grandchildren — there were two at the time — learned what kind of love can produce, and they learned the difference between it and the kind of love the girl thought she had, which was only sex. But not least of all, the community saw what happened, and they understood what happened, as shown by the surprising number of people from my son’s church who got hold of him and said, ‘If your father ever has another pregnant girl, be sure you can come to us first’.”
The Surgeon General also stressed the importance of adoption, and argued that “it is not stressed as much as it should be.” For the sake of the pregnant woman, he encouraged crisis pregnancy counselors to “present the advantages of adoption over other options,” and remember that “some girls need not just options, but really someone to take over things for them, in a confident manner, and prayerfully guide that girl down the road to what I think is the best solution, and that is adoption.” One reason for this, he noted, is that “it is very common for women who raise a child singly to have another child,” because “in this sexually permissive society such women are too often vulnerable, and seen by society as either promiscuous or an easy mark.”
Besides this, he added, “I can say there is probably no such thing in this country any longer as an unadoptable newborn baby. The racial barriers have dropped largely in the past 10 years, and the most impressive thing to me, having spent my life as I have with handicapped children, is to realize how rapidly you can put a child up for adoption who is handicapped and have it chosen right away.”
To illustrate the point, and to end his talk, Dr. Koop read a letter from a family who had written to him because they had heard of his work with the handicapped. “If in your travels,” it read, “you come across a baby that no one else wants, think of us. Armless, legless, faceless, it does not matter.”
Provide a blessing
And so, Dr. Koop closed, “I would leave you with this though, that you cannot only save the babies and provide a loving solution for a pregnant woman, but you can provide a blessing for a childless couple whose emotional state and anxiety can often be worse than even that of the unmarried pregnant woman.”
Taking part in the discussions were representatives from groups such as Catholics United for Life, Alternatives to Abortion International, the Pearson Foundation, Bethany Christian Services, the Christian Action Council, the National Committee for Adoption, and the Couple to Couple League.
One Evangelical pastor described how his reading of Scripture made him more and more aware of the horror of abortion and the need to fight “the spirit and principalities motivating it, which is the same one that motivated Pharaoh, Herod, and the holocaust against the Jews.” Nonetheless, upon finally getting directly involved, he discovered that “my Catholic brethren had been carrying the load virtually alone for ten years,” which at first embarrassed him. In the end, however, by asking himself whether “it was more important to save babies, or to save face,” he plunged in, and now works cooperatively with many denominations in running a crisis pregnancy center and home for unwed mothers in Louisiana.
“I’ll tell you,” he said, “if my house was burning down with my baby inside, I certainly would not stop every person with a water bucket and ask their denominational status.” And that is why, he added, that “never has there been an issue that has built such unity as the anti abortion issue.”
To prove that crisis pregnancy counseling does not entail compromising one’s faith, Robert Pearson, who, with his 130 centers (30 in 1983) and a goal of 1,000 by 1989, is the Catholic pioneer in this area, began his talk by nothing that “I’m Catholic, and have nine children, or at least that was the last count when I left home.”
“We adhere to Humanae Vitae,” he said, “and we do not counsel at all for contraception,” because “we have found unequivocally that contraception, whether it is in or our of marriage, if you look at god’s plan for life, is anti-life, and is causing the problems.
“Don’t ever tell any young person,” he continued, “that they are better off if they use a contraceptive as a lesser sin that abortion — because it does not work. We have more contraception today than ever before in history, and also more divorce, more abortions, more illegitimacy than ever before, and these things are not separate.
He noted that the average age of the girls who come to his clinics is 18, and many of them are just confused, experimenting with sex, under peer pressure and the decadent social ethos that “love is sex rather than sacrifice,” and that as a consequence, “the minute you give a girl a contraceptive, you have convinced her to accept a new way of life, one that almost invariably leads to lesser or greater expressions of promiscuity — and sooner or later she will get pregnant. I know. I’ve had experience with these difficulties throughout the country for more than 15 years now. Contraception doesn’t work and it’s anti-life.”
Reporting on the conference, journalist Richard Cowden-Guido commented that the briefing was considered significant “because of its signal that the Reagan administration dose not intend to drag its heels during its second term over the ongoing slaughter of the innocent unborn in America — unlike the President’s record in the first term, in the opinion of many.”
Mr. Cowden-Guido believes that the President is serving notice to American pro-lifers that “even if he does get the opportunity to replace the present butcher court with men and women who do not scorn the sanctity of innocent life, it would mean tot the end, but the beginning of our contributions to the social fabric of American life.” He went on:
“…the repudiation of Roe v. Wade would go right to the heart of the social arrangement in matters beyond simply abortion. But because throughout the 1970’s the state was encouraging promiscuity and dissolution at such a heavily funded and heated pace, the social decadence would not dry up overnight. Girls and women would still get pregnant in adverse situations. And thus it is now more incumbent upon pro-lifers than ever before to carry on the fight not only on the legal and political front. But to organize in local areas, providing legal, medical, and not least, spiritual assistance, so that the children might live, and so that their mothers do not feel driven to murder, or abandoned, when they listen to the deepest promptings of their own hearts.”
(This report is a severely shortened version of an article that originally appeared in The Wanderer, November 29, 1984)