By the time you read this, the Texas Legislature probably will be close to passing a bill banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and including provisions that will cause most women’s health clinics that provide abortions to close their doors.
An aside: Due to deadlines, the Independence Day holiday and the legislative process, this editorial went to “ether” prior to adoption of the bill. But this issue still matters because (a) lawmakers are all but certain to pass the abortion bill and (b) these proposals should become policy and/or practice, even if the “old” abortion laws still apply.
With new abortion laws in place, Texans can expect a significant increase in the number of babies born every year. That’s the whole point—to turn more pregnancies into live births.
We can expect the mothers of a multitude of these “extra” babies to be teens, unwed and/or poor. Those are the demographics of a significant proportion of women who choose abortions.
Since the moral impetus for reducing, if not eliminating, abortions is advocacy for life, then Texans should demonstrate our support for these babies. When you examine many of our current practices and policies, you understand why outsiders claim Texans are more concerned about fetuses than babies, children and teenagers.
Texas is among the nation’s leaders in child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy. We’re also among the nation’s lowest-spending states on child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy. Some people attribute these maladies to dependence on government, the product of a so-called welfare state. If that were true, then their incidence would be higher in states that spend the most on child welfare, anti-poverty programs and education, not the least-spending small-government states, like Texas.
A strange disparity
Ironically, conservative states composed of higher percentages of Bible-believing Christians—from Texas across the South—suffer the blights of child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy much more promiscuously than their more secular counterparts. Those are the states many Texans and Southerners call “pagan” and “dark.”
This disparity is an affront to the name of Jesus. Small wonder unbelieving outsiders doubt the compassion of Christ and the credibility of Christians. We often treat people Jesus called “the least” worse than unbelievers do.
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If Texans’ conservative moral values prompt our state to implement one of the nation’s most stringent abortion codes, then we should accept the responsibility for all those babies we will bring into the world. We need to do right by them.
Churches lagging behind
That means both enacting better laws and public programs that protect women and children, make certain no child goes hungry and ensure our young people receive quality education. And don’t dare claim that’s the job of the church, and the state should butt out. The church has demonstrated its unwillingness to rise to the occasion, and the enormity of the task is about to multiply. Maybe less than 10 congregations in the entire state come anywhere near caring for all the poor people in their community. Others lag far behind. Most don’t try. Moreover, a central task of Christian citizenship is public advocacy for the weakest and most vulnerable and championing the common good.
If we’re going to take care of babies spared from abortions, here’s where we start:
• Adoption. Streamline laws and practices to make Texas adoptions simple and inexpensive. A mother who carries her baby to term should know without a doubt that child can be placed in a loving “forever” family who will treasure and nurture it as their own.
Churches can support this by creating a culture of adoption—adoption as ministry—that provides a ready and willing supply of families who receive children.
• Parenting. At-risk families of these children need the help of a variety of steps. They include …
More classes and other learning opportunities to provide basic-parenting skills. Churches particularly can provide these.
Changes in tax laws to benefit intact two-parent families.
Stronger incentives, as well as financial requirements, for fathers to remain in homes with mothers and their children.
Changes in the penal codes so nonviolent offenders of numerous crimes make appropriate restitution but are not locked up and removed from their homes. Research shows the No. 1 factor related to promiscuity of girls and violence of boys is absence of a father from their home.
• Nutrition. Secure and strengthen public- and private-sector programs that ensure no child in Texas goes hungry. These changes need to accommodate programs for infants and preschoolers, as well as school-age children, not only during school sessions, but also holidays and summer.
• Education. Multiple changes will be required, including …
Expanded Head Start programs, to give young children in at-risk families greater opportunity to learn early and prepare for school.
Parental training, so moms and dads understand the educational system, the requirements of schools and how they can help their children learn. For some, expanded adult literacy and remedial adult education is needed. Churches can play a huge role.
Tutoring for children at all levels. Churches must provide the people-power to make this possible.
Modification of middle school and high school curriculum to expand vocational training and broaden vocational options. Our state economy increasingly will depend upon well-trained workers who did not attend college.
These are just a few ideas. If we all turn our hearts and minds toward unconditional compassion and care for the all the baby Texans, we will develop more and better responses.
We must start now, before they are born.