Last weekend, we saw the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. to persuade our government to reverse Roe v. Wade and protect unborn lives. Within the pro-life movement, there’s a lot of talk about the need to eliminate abortion entirely to protect the sanctity of life.

Many pro-life advocates cite adoption as the alternative to abortion in any circumstance. Baby boxes have become a pillar in this movement as organizations like Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Inc. has developed safe, incubator-type deposit boxes where desperate moms or dads can leave their newborn anonymously and walk away.

The baby boxes are being placed in front of firehouses and are designed with an alarm to notify the firefighters when a child has been left, with a response time is two minutes and 15 seconds.

Human dignity is the foundational commitment to the value of humans. It makes sense that we consider it in our moral, legal and spiritual debates about the preservation of life.

However, in a faith culture that pushes adoption as the answer to abortion, we too often drop the ball in our responsibility to make sure the very lives around us, in our churches, in our community, in our cities, can flourish.

Supporting Adoptive Families and Birth Moms Appropriately

As a birth mom, which is a woman who placed her child for adoption, and an adoption professional, I have seen a wide variety of responses to adoption from “You did the right thing,” to “How could you do such a thing?”

I have sat with women in their grief both before and after placing their child for adoption, and I have facilitated a support group for birthmothers, seeing their pain and love continue throughout the years. I’ve witnessed people lining up in picket lines outside of abortion clinics or with little regard for the crisis the person walking through those doors is going through when faced with unplanned pregnancy, and offensive social media posts saying, generally, “If you don’t want your baby, we do,” as if it’s a neighborhood swap-and-sell.

When it comes to the preservation of life, adoption is a solution but not an easy one. In reducing it as such, we fail to see the reality that adoption entails.

Carrying Dignity into the Adoption Discussion

Fear is the most powerful weapon against the preservation of life.

I believe the answer to abortion lies in dispelling fear and empowering expectant moms. For me, that empowerment equated to choosing adoption in my own unplanned pregnancy.

Human dignity for birthmothers includes debunking the myth that adoption is easy.

Birthmothers live with the choices to their consequences from answering the question of how many children they have, to talking with their children about their choices. Recognizing the complexity of the situation, placing value on individuals as mothers faced with an impossible choice, and acknowledging the reality of joy and pain associated with the choice of life are also ways to dignify birthmothers.

To honor human dignity in adoption, we must also remember the dignity of the adoptee as they grow up.

Ideas that suggest adoptees are lucky or should be grateful, thankful, or indebted to their adoptive parents, fosters an environment of disconnection for children who are already living apart from their first parents. It robs them of their valid feelings. Treating adoptees with blatant disregard for the suffering involved takes the dignity of their humanity from the process of figuring out their intrinsic worth for themselves.

We must be wary of how we discuss adoptive families unless we want our children growing up with identifiers like abandoned or unloved. Perhaps we should consider children left at an orphanage or in a very public place where they would definitely, and quickly, be found were not abandoned but loved by flawed first parents who didn’t have the resources they needed to raise them.

Adoption Can Still Mean a Loss

Let’s continue the discussion of human dignity inside of adoption by instilling confidence in expectant moms considering their options that they are and will remain valued in this relationship.

Let’s give adoptive parents grace for the process of finding their way through the rough waters of adoption. Let’s give adoptees the rights to their own story without giving it away before they know it themselves. Let’s create a culture in our communities that loves birthparents, adoptive parents, and adoptees well.

Love is the cornerstone of adoption.

It’s not enough to ask a woman to choose life, let’s help her support that life into flourishing.

One detail that is not talked about enough on the subject of adoption is the loss it naturally brings. Birthparents lose their children and children lose their birth parents, even if they have open relationships. Adoptive parents step into the middle of those losses and experience them first hand. It is hard.

There is joy when children find their “forever homes” and there are people who live out the Gospel as they are called to adopt. However, if we regard adoption as a simple exchange, we devalue lives. If we ignore the deep loss, we devalue lives.

If we spiritually manipulate people into choosing adoption, we devalue lives. These are precious souls, and they matter, which is why the foundational commitment to the value of humans belongs in the conversation. We start there, and we respond and carry on accordingly.