Last week our family attended the first birthday party of a little girl whose parents waited and longed and prayed for six long years, wondering if they would ever be able to have a child of their own. To say it was a joyful occasion is an understatement.
Also last week the Supreme Court of the United States reversed a decision from almost 50 years ago, finding that there is not actually a right to abortion in the US constitution, so individual states are free to legislate as they please on the issue. Some states have kept abortion legal, others have not. Some people rejoiced, others mourned. Some said the judgment was a gain for life, others that it was a loss for personal autonomy.
Are children a limit on personal autonomy? Yes. There’s no getting around it. They take resources. They need help, care, support, food, time, energy, and the list goes on and on. They need everything supplied to them for a long time. And is there a better way to use autonomy than this? Our one-year-old friend was carried everywhere at her birthday party and I saw her fall asleep in the arms of her father who had worked so hard to make her party a special occasion. She never even said thank you—but both of her parents were smiling. The whole scene reminded me of just how precious children are, no matter how small and helpless. Of how precious life is.
My friends at the birthday party prayed for years to be able to give up their personal freedoms for the sake of a child. They longed for the gift of giving up their autonomy. But not every child arrives in circumstances like theirs. Life is hard, and it’s complicated. Some women wait years for children, and some never have them. Others are shocked to discover that a baby is coming in a way or time they hadn’t planned, and never would have chosen. But is a child who comes in a difficult circumstance worth less than a child who was longed for? I say no. Life is precious. Even when it’s hard.
In the middle of the difficulties, isn’t it possible that we could find better ways of supporting women than simply offering to dispose of their children for them? Is our best option for unwanted or unplanned children really to treat them the same way we treat cancer—using our skill and resources to destroy them like a disease? Don’t we owe it to women to give them better options than this?
I think we can do better for everyone involved. In fact I know we can do better, because I’ve seen real, practical, sacrificial support in action that highly values both mother and child for the long term. It takes more work that way, and a lot more time. We need more support structures than we have. But life is precious. Isn’t it worth the time and effort to work out the best path for everyone through the difficult situations of life? What if we built a culture that valued every woman and every child as much as my friends value their one-year-old daughter? What if we did that?