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.