I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. There is, it seems, a certain logic to the pro-abortion, pro-adoption mindset. It starts with 2 premises: first, that birth (or perhaps viability) is the start of personhood — the mystical/medical/magical transition from mere fetus to true human child; second, that it is a social evil (or tragedy, if you don’t go in for “evil”) for children to grow up without “permanency.”
Taken in conjunction, these two beliefs call for two policies to ensure permanency for children:
- Encourage (or at least allow) the termination of pregnancies that are likely to result in the birth of children who are unwanted and thus vulnerable to unusually unstable family situations.
- Facilitate the adoption of children whose situation lacks the stability and permanency that all children have a right to. (This includes permanent adoptions for children whose mothers decide against abortion but plan to place for adoption at birth.)
Given this background, we can ask, Are pro-adoption Christians substantially different from their pro-abortion counterparts? Do we support and pursue adoption for the same reason as pro-adoption pro-abortion proponents — but without the abortion bit?
I think we are substantially different — or should be. It’s not that we simply think that a fully human organism is present from conception, making abortion wrong. We hold an additional, more fundamental premise: all humans — from conception — are bearers of God’s image. This image of God is not something that emanates from human personality or human reason or any other feature of humanity. It is simply a fact of being created by God as a human and not, say, as a chinchilla or duck-billed-platypus.
(In general, humans do have certain God-like characteristics, including reason, the capacity to rule, the capacity to love, etc. But God’s image in man is not exhausted by these qualities; otherwise human embryos, people with severe brain damage, and perhaps even people who’ve fallen asleep couldn’t be said to have God’s image.)
The image of God in man is a sacred trust, and it is the guarantor of human dignity. It is — in part — what makes abortion wrong. And it is a motive for adoption. In fact, God’s image in vulnerable, abused, or abandoned children is (in my opinion) a far stronger motive for intervention than is a secular “right to permanency.” And a recognition of God’s image in an orphan is more likely to foster true love and respect for that child. Adoption that acknowledges God’s image in a child will be undertaken with a certain amount of awe and deliberateness — rather than simply as a humanitarian gesture to give the child permanency.
So coming back to the original question, Are abortion and adoption incompatible?, I would answer with a qualified no. Given the right set of (purely secular) assumptions, they can work together for certain limited humanitarian ends.
Nevertheless, Christian theology gives far better motives for adoption than can any secular ethic. And that same Christian theology makes abortion a crime against God’s image and an affront to the Creator who generously puts His image in man.