In decades and centuries past, equality and dignity between men and women and the differing roles God created us in have been disturbingly imbalanced. God created Adam and Eve as co-heirs and co-laborers meant to live in harmony and love with one another working the Garden, being fruitful and multiplying, and subduing the earth (Genesis 1:27-31). Yet, when we chose to stray from God’s direction and plan, among the first consequences and perpetuated acts of sin is disunity between man and woman followed by murder, violence, bigamy, and atrocities including slavery, genocide, war, and abortion.
What was intended as a partnership where men and women share a cooperative and synergistic existence with one another, quickly devolved into subversion of God’s plan. Women, as the weaker gender, were treated as little more than property to carry on a man’s lineage and satisfy his sexual desires. As men went off to fight wars, women found themselves at home not only caring for any children they had but also working to support their families. Throughout history, women have been capable and required to achieve much of what men accomplished, yet the distinct privilege of childbearing was created in women.
What was intended to be a beautiful expression of God’s creation and plan became a burden and frustration rather than a privilege and celebration in the distinct role of a woman. Women, especially those in poverty, felt imprisoned by this gift as infant mortality rates were high without sanitation or access to health care and families struggled to provide for their children. As women experienced more liberty through the suffrage movement and began decrying the inequalities and indignity of their status in society, the self-determination of women collectively arose recognizing the distinct nature of birth control as one that could improve outcomes for women. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood wrote, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body.”
Contemporaries of Sanger also believed birth control was a necessary step to empower women, but abortion was historically denounced as further oppression of women rather than its association with a woman being free today. In desperation to care for existing children and be free of the oppression from men who prioritized their sexual desires, women felt led to obtaining abortions illegally. The dangers, medical malpractice, and lack of a woman’s liberty to control what was happening with her body brought about compassion, which morphed into condoning abortion for those who chose it, especially in instances of rape, incest, and imminent threat to the mother’s health. While infant mortality rates improved with advances in medicine, women’s freedoms were still restricted.
Between 1945 and 1970, the United States experienced an increase in unexpected pregnancies where infants were placed for adoption also known as the Baby Scoop Era. Effectively unwed mothers faced the ridicule of carrying to term and parenting a child out of wedlock or were told to make a heroic sacrifice by placing the child for adoption. Often a young woman would be pregnant, sent to a maternity home where she would give birth and place her child for adoption, and then return home as if she had just been on vacation for nine to twelve months. Similar experiences took place internationally and were driven by the shame of premarital sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, and infertile couples desiring to grow their families. Since this era, the number of women choosing to abort has remained roughly the same at approximately one million abortions each year; however, the number of women choosing to parent rather than place for adoption has shifted dramatically with many choosing to parent despite an unexpected pregnancy.
While exploring changes for women’s rights in a search to restore and improve equality and dignity, abortion was believed to be a necessary liberty in the second half of the 20th century and still is today by many. Although science had long confirmed human life began at fertilization, the public opinion, including prominent Christian denominations who are pro-life today, supported access to abortion. Since 1973, opponents of abortion have resorted to chaining themselves to keep clinics from operating, assassinating abortion doctors, and bombing clinics in an effort to stop abortions. Proponents of abortion have boasted about which of their abortions was their favorite, created and supported partial-birth abortions, and disregarded the laws altogether committing infanticide as was the case with Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
In the 1980s, churches began supporting and launching pregnancy resource centers across the United States to provide counseling and women’s health care alternatives from abortion providers. Many started with little more than counseling and pregnancy tests in hopes of educating women about their choices and directing mothers towards parenting or adoption. Pregnancy Resource Centers now exist across the country and are more numerous than abortion clinics. Both are working to provide more health care options for women beyond sonograms, pregnancy tests, STD testing, or abortions, but few are able to due to financial constraints. Still, Pregnancy Resource Centers are underfunded and under-supported despite the progress to add sonograms and medical professionals to their staff.
Church efforts have mostly been outsourced to non-profits or non-existent choosing to allow legislators, advocates, and the medical community to determine what is best for women, men, and their unborn children. So, what now?
The Life Initiative is Watermark’s ministry empowering women, men, and families in issues related to unexpected pregnancy and abortion. We envision a world where every woman is empowered with respect for her body and the gift of motherhood, every human life is dignified with value from conception, every man is ennobled to honor, provide for, and protect his child(ren) and their mother, and every person with a past abortion steps into the light of forgiveness and freedom found in Christ.
We equip parents, students, and young adults to think rightly about human flourishing from who we are as bearers of the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27) to how the gift of sex best fits in the gift of marriage (Genesis 2:24-25). We come alongside expecting mothers and fathers empowering them to parent with the support and follow through of a nurturing community. We speak truth, hope, and healing to women and men with past abortions. And, we advocate for communities and policies that promote the flourishing of every life, because every life is worth more.
Visit watermark.org/thelifeinitiative to learn more.