The likely end of Roe v. Wade is no finish line; it’s a starting gate. If the Supreme Court hands down an opinion similar to Justice
leaked draft, voters at the state level, not federal courts, will decide important questions of policy. One question lies beneath the others: Will we rise to the challenge and help children who would have been aborted but now won’t be?
The number of lives saved would be only a fraction of all U.S. abortions seen in recent years, which top 600,000 annually. Abortion clinics would expand their work in many states. Pill-driven abortions would likely continue to rise. Unintended pregnancies may decrease. But at a minimum we should anticipate tens of thousands of children would be born who wouldn’t have been under Roe—possibly many more.
Many of these children would be welcomed into loving, stable homes—some by their biological parents, others through adoption. But not all. Almost certainly, more children than before would be born into households strained by material poverty. For some, this will include family breakdown, addiction, homelessness and mental illness.
These children would need help, and America is up to the task. But it would require significant growth in the support offered for vulnerable children and families.
Both the public and private sectors have roles to play. Government programs can provide basic needs such as nutrition and medical care. This aid must come paired with policies that reward parents for making choices proven to elevate outcomes for children, including working, learning, getting married and saving money.
But government can’t provide everything. If I’ve learned one thing in my years working with vulnerable children and families, it’s this: Material goods alone rarely solve the deepest challenges humanity faces. What’s needed is well-calibrated support rooted in meaningful relationships. A blend of help and friendship, assistance and accountability, tangible aid and personal connection makes all the difference. Government can’t create these relationships by mandate or printing press. They grow one generous heart at a time.
But the infrastructure for this relationship-rich support for children and families is already largely present across America. I see it in my work every day. Among its components:
• Thousands of pregnancy resource centers that walk with mothers through pregnancy and beyond, providing counsel, material goods, parenting classes, mentoring and more.
• National programs, often based in local places of worship, that meet the biggest needs of parents, from Celebrate Recovery (support for overcoming substance abuse) to MOPS (community support for moms of young children) and Homebuilders (intensive in-home support).
• Hundreds of local agencies and organizations that recruit and support families in foster care and adoption, while helping families in the child-welfare system reunify with their children.
• Programs like Jonah’s Journey, Together for Good, Harbor Families, Safe Families for Children, Orphan Care Alliance Family Support and many others that support families through crises—even providing volunteer foster care at no cost—as parents get back on their feet.
• Nationwide initiatives like More Than Enough that work to establish local networks of churches to support adoptive, foster, kinship and reunited biological families in every U.S. county.
Individually, each of these efforts is a small part of the solution. But together they form an expansive infrastructure capable of delivering what vulnerable children and families most need.
More will be needed if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Donors and foundations can help strengthen existing programs and launch new ones. Businesses can make critical contributions, including family-friendly work policies. Meanwhile, more mentors, welcoming homes, and volunteers of all kinds will be needed to offer everything from simple companionship for new parents to fostering or adoption to mentorship and support for struggling families.
Building this child- and family-support infrastructure is no small endeavor. But it is a worthy one, equal to any of the great undertakings of the American people. If we join together, the hundreds of thousands of children who would be born as a result of the end of Roe will not only live, they’ll thrive.
Mr. Medefind is president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. He directed the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President
George W. Bush.
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