A common critique of the pro-life movement has been that it only cares about preborn lives up until birth, not after, nor does it care about their mothers and families. Although this criticism is largely unfounded, as evidenced by the number of pregnancy resource centers operating around the country, adoptions by people of faith, and disproportionate support for foster care, detractors of the pro-life movement have often focused in on a seeming lack of support for public policy solutions that actively aid families, resource low-income individuals, and provide help to mothers in crisis. However, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, a growing coalition of legislators and pro-life supporters have taken an increased interest in these very types of policies.
Financial insecurity is cited by 73% of women who choose to have an abortion as the primary driver of their choice. For Christians, that statistic should represent a sobering challenge. While we will continue to work relentlessly through policy and law to make abortion illegal across the country, that simply is not enough. We must also redouble our efforts to make abortion unthinkable to a woman in crisis because of the abundance of support and resources available to her.
In light of that, this surge of policy proposals working to address this very issue is worth celebrating as we seek to establish a culture of life that wraps around women and families and provides the resources and support needed for them to flourish.
A biblical foundation for supporting families
God has spoken clearly throughout Scripture to the value and dignity of every human being as created in the image of God and to the goodness of his design for every aspect of human life in accordance with his will (Gen. 1:26-30; Matt. 19:4; Luke 12:22–31; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Pet. 1:13-16). Early on in Scripture, we see the foundation of the institution of marriage—one man and one woman for life—as something that God creates for our good (Gen. 2). The married couple is then instructed to bear fruit and multiply as part of God’s plan for their flourishing (Gen 1:28; Ps. 127:3).
The biblical framework for the nuclear family is a desirable end and moral imperative, and the good work of protecting and celebrating the family in all its biblical forms is central to the ethic, life, and mission of the church. The work of local churches, parents, teachers, counselors, and foster care and adoptive families who walk alongside couples through difficult times, disciple their children in the way of Christ, and help bring healing to broken families and hope to forgotten children is invaluable and an essential part of our calling individually and collectively. Southern Baptists are committed to advancing a distinctly Christian vision for the family in the public square and safeguarding the integrity of this crucial biblical institution for the good of our neighbor.
For decades, Southern Baptists have evidenced that commitment through resolutions declaring their dedication to the family and their desire to see policies that promote its formation and flourishing. In 1978, Southern Baptists affirmed that “the nation and church are only as strong as the family” and resolved to consider “carefully the impact on families of proposed federal legislation” and “give attention to the importance of economic security to all families.” In 1982, amidst concern for the state of families across the United States, the convention resolved to “through local church congregations, be especially sensitive and responsive to the needs of each ‘church family’ member and attempt to provide, and if necessary, be a substitute for needed family relationships often missing among members.” In 1987 while discussing the crisis of children on the streets, the SBC acknowledged that it “has long had special concern for the needs of American children and their families.” Countless other resolutions have been passed outlining the commitment to families and children in crisis and even “encouraging and empowering Southern Baptists to adopt unwanted children, by providing spiritual, emotional, and financial support for women in crisis pregnancies, and by calling on our government officials to take action to protect the lives of women and children.”
In addition to these declarations of support and calls for action from churches, other resolutions have laid out a role for government to play in meeting these needs. In 1991, the SBC agreed that families are “one of only three institutions which God established,” that “strong families are a vital part of a moral society,” and that “Government policies which have neglected and punished the institution of the family are a significant factor in the moral decay of American society.” In light of this, the resolution went on to reason that “Public policy should provide incentives which promote stable marriages and parental child-rearing, recognizing that these policies will contribute to a better society” and called for the adoption of “policies which encourage the establishment and development of strong families.” And most recently in 2022, in anticipation of the Dobbs ruling, the SBC once again voiced support for abortion-vulnerable women and committed to “partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” in hopes of eliminating “any perceived need for the horror of abortion.”
Recent proposals to consider
Though our nation has an extensive web of programs that explicitly exist to alleviate poverty, it is important to note that many of these recent proposals are not primarily focused on that goal but rather are specifically pro-family plans that also hope to have a poverty-reducing impact. A consistent theme of reasoning in these proposals is that much of our current government assistance and tax structure can often actually disincentivize marriage and having children. Governments often use the economic tools at their disposal to incentivize what they want to encourage and penalize what they want to discourage.
These proposals, in differing capacities, work to reverse that trend and economically incentivize marriage, ensure families—with an emphasis on abortion-vulnerable women—have the resources to keep their children, and promote full participation of both parents in the raising of children. In pursuit of this goal, advocates have for many years called for actions such as expanding paid family leave or expanding the child tax credit. While the ERLC has not formally taken a position on these specific policy options or the more recent proposals, we affirm efforts to think creatively about helping those in need, supporting families, and resourcing abortion-vulnerable women and families to raise their children.
Some of these recent legislative efforts have been more narrowly focused. In response to the Department of Health and Human Services launching of reproductiverights.gov, which outlines where women may receive abortion services, nine Senate Republicans recently introduced the “Standing with Moms Act” that would create an alternative Life.gov, a federal clearinghouse of pro-life resources, services, and information for pregnant and parenting mothers. Another bill, the “Unborn Child Support Act,” would permit courts, at the request of the mother, to require child support payments from the father while the child is still in the womb, retroactively from the time of conception. Similarly focused on supporting parents directly around the time of the birth of their child, the “New Parents Act” would allow parents to use some of their social security benefits for up to three months of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child, with the choice of either increasing their retirement age or temporarily receiving a reduction in social security benefits upon retirement.
Other proposals are seeking to take a more comprehensive approach to pro-family policy. Sen. Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act 2.0 would reform the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to provide a fully paid-for, monthly, cash benefit for working families, beginning while the child is still in the womb. Another comprehensive policy framework is Senator Marco Rubio’s Providing for Life Act. This package would seek to expand the Child Tax Credit, create fiscally responsible options for paid parental leave, bolster child support enforcement, increase WIC funding, make the Adoption Tax Credit fully refundable, fund mentoring services for low-income mothers, post online resources for new mothers, direct federal funding to pro-life pregnancy resources centers, and enforce rights for pregnant college students.
Though there is much to still be debated on which of these policies are best and which can find bipartisan support to become law, it is encouraging that many members of Congress are beginning to recognize a need for programs that support families and are beginning to think creatively on how best to do that. The ERLC will actively engage in these debates and advocate for policies that promote life, marriage, family, and the flourishing of all of our neighbors.
ERLC intern Daniel Hostetter contributed to this article.