Why adoption is a redemptive pro-life option

Saving lives and nurturing relationships

September 17, 2019

The day Brooke Orthman walked into a pregnancy counseling center, she made a list. After seeing a faint positive on a gas station pregnancy test earlier that week, she wanted to find out if it was right. Getting pregnant wasn’t something she’d planned on as a 17-year-old working at a fast food restaurant. When the counselor came into the room and confirmed the news, she rattled off the options like items in a catalog. Brooke had to list, in order of preference, which option sounded best. She wrote abortion last.

“I was scared, and abortion would have been the easy way out,” Orthman said. “But I knew there was a life growing inside of me, and whether that child grew up with me or not, he still deserved a place in this world.”

As an adoptee herself, Orthman was already familiar with adoption. Other women facing unplanned pregnancy typically know little to nothing about the process. They don’t understand how adoption works or realize that there is the potential to maintain an ongoing relationship with their child.

Open adoption is a positive option that merits more airtime within the pro-life movement. We need to share the good news that adoption can help redeem the difficulties of unplanned pregnancy and positively impact all involved in the adoption triad: a child gains a family, an adoptive family gains a child, and a birth mother gains the ability to meet pressing needs while knowing her child is being loved and cared for.

Adoption addresses the parenting question

Unborn babies are human beings created in the image of God, worthy of dignity and protection. Knowing the Bible calls us to speak for the voiceless (Prov. 31:8), we must advocate for the rights of the unborn. In addition to valuing life in utero, we need to acknowledge the privilege and responsibility of child-rearing. Caring for a dependent demands resources that some women don’t have or can’t access. Once they discover the shocking news, they immediately face a dilemma: “Can I raise a child right now?”

How women evaluate this question plays a significant role in whether or not they choose to abort. According to studies by the Guttmacher Institute, the three most common reasons why women said they had an abortion were “concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school, or the ability to care for dependents.”

Adoption provides an option that directly addresses the parenting dilemma. In choosing adoption, a mother can place her child in the care of a family that has the desire and means to parent in a stable, loving environment. This provides for her child and allows her to deal with other life circumstances, whether she’s looking for a job, going to school, recovering from an abusive relationship, or struggling to support several children as a single parent.

Adoption nurtures relationships

Adoption isn’t a 1:1 tradeoff for abortion. It doesn’t replace biological ties or erase the crisis of unplanned pregnancy, and it inflicts wounds of its own. But God uses the pain intrinsic to adoption to birth new life in the form of a new family. This is how he engrafted us into his own spiritual family tree, through the atoning work of his Son. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

Openness in earthly adoption creates potential for adoptive and birth parents to develop close relationships and support one another. This can be especially helpful for birth mothers who might already feel socially isolated and rejected due to the nature of unplanned pregnancy. Studies show that openness in adoption correlates to higher satisfaction with the adoption process for both adoptive parents and birth mothers, and contributes to better post-placement adjustment for birth mothers.

As opposed to the “way out” of abortion—which, in reality, induces trauma and increases shame—open adoption offers a way forward navigating through crisis. It acknowledges the genuine distress that unplanned pregnancy can cause, and provides a resolution that bonds biological and adoptive families together through the love they share for their child.

We need to share the good news that adoption can help redeem the difficulties of unplanned pregnancy and positively impact all involved in the adoption triad.

Adoption is hard, but worth it

To encourage women to choose life, we need to highlight adoption alongside parenting as a beneficial option. Yet even while promoting adoption as a positive alternative to abortion, we shouldn’t ignore or trivialize the significant losses experienced by birth mothers and adoptees. We need to show them compassion and allow room for grief over separation, disappointment, and missing the wholeness of living together as a family.

It’s also important to recognize that many birth mothers like Orthman never consider abortion. They respect and value the human being God is knitting within them, which influences their decision to choose the best possible home environment for their child.

Christina Walden, another birth mother, said she couldn’t imagine aborting her unborn child, despite the biological father’s suggestion to do so. Knowing she and her daughter would struggle as a single-parent family, she made the hardest decision of her life. But it’s a decision she stands by today, as the open relationship she has with the adoptive family has enabled her to watch her 12-year-old daughter grow up and flourish.

“No matter how much hurt I feel over not having my baby girl, I know without a doubt adoption saved our lives,” Christina said.

A redemptive option

Orthman also has an open relationship with her son, who’s now 3 and thriving in the care of the parents who adopted him. She sends them messages every now and then to check on how all three are doing.

“I’m so happy with his life and the parents we chose for him,” Brooke said. “I know that all parties involved in our adoption are happy that he is in our world and was not aborted.”

More women need to learn about the redemptive option of adoption. They need to hear about women like Orthman and Walden and see how a courageous decision can nurture beautiful, lifelong relationships. They need to know that death isn’t the only option, that God can give them the strength to parent or the strength to place their child for adoption, and that Jesus can turn their deep sorrows into deeper joy.

Take time to become informed about adoption. Learn what you can and share that knowledge in your area of influence. Find a way to support adoption through an organization, your church, or individual families. Go, tell the story of how adoption saves lives—both unborn babies and the mothers who carry them.

Jenn Hesse

Jenn Hesse is a writer, editor, and cofounder of a ministry that supports women walking through infertility, infant loss, and adoption. She lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon and writes at jennhesse.com. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24