Rob Schwarzwalder, Senior Lecturer at Regent University and former Senior Vice-President at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., discusses how adoption intersects with a pro-life ethic.
INTRODUCTION: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Today, we’ll be talking about one of the most tangible ways pro-life Americans can live out their beliefs, and that is through supporting and participating in adoption.
Our guest is Rob Schwarzwalder, who serves as a Senior Lecturer at Regent University.
On a personal note, which is of interest to today’s conversation, Rob and his wife are the parents of three adopted teenaged children. And so, we’re excited to have Rob Schwarzwalder on Family Policy Matters with us today. Rob, it’s great to have you back on the show again.
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: It’s great to be with you, John. Thank you so much, and for the wonderful work that you do.
JOHN RUSTIN: Rob, as we begin, there really has been a good bit of debate in recent years about how much emphasis the pro-life movement should place on adoption. Talk a little bit, if you would, as we begin our conversation, about the relationship between the pro-life goals of standing for Life,of ending abortion, and supporting adoption?
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: John, that is a great question because you’ve hit at the intersection of concern. People on the left frequently bring out the argument that the pro-life movement doesn’t do enough for women and for their children once those children have been born. That is simply not true. For decades, the pro-life movement has stood with women, not just through pregnancy but through early childhood and beyond, not only through adoption but by providing resources of all kinds ranging from taking women into their homes, to medical care, to providing children’s supplies. Any Pregnancy Care Center that a woman goes to will find—not just a means of adopting a child, or occasional visits—they’ll find people who will care for them and with them throughout their lives as they need help. In direct answer, we have to bear in mind that the abortion industry is predatory. It preys on women in crisis. Oftentimes, these are women who feel they have no alternative. Adoption presents women with a real viable alternative to aborting their children. So adoption presents women with the opportunity of, not only bringing to term, but bringing into life—and a good quality of life—the little ones that God has given them. Second, in my view, we in the Christian community have to do a better job of publicizing adoption resources that are accessible to vulnerable women. A lot of women, especially in urban areas where many abortion centers are located, have no idea how to look for an adoption agency. We need to make that accessible to them. We need to make sure they realize there are alternatives. With respect to the goal of ending abortion on demand though, one of the things that we can do is—I think there are any number of things, but with respect to adoption—we need to demonstrate to women that we are there for them from the moment they walk into a Pregnancy Care Center, from the moment they walk into an adoption agency, that from the moment they walk into the vestibule of a church. We will walk with them through the whole journey from that moment on and we will provide them with necessary resources: with a place to stay, with whatever it is they need so that they can successfully bring that baby into the world and know that he or she is going to be in a loving home.
JOHN RUSTIN: Rob, as a couple who struggled with infertility, would you encourage other couples facing a similar situation to consider adoption instead of pursuing other options like fertility treatment or in vitro fertilizationz? If so, why?
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: That’s a really good question. It’s a tough issue. A couple’s desire to have a baby together is the most natural thing in the world and giving up on that dream is very painful. My wife and I struggle with it. She miscarried at least twice and we understand how tough it is to realize that, biologically, you’re not going to have a baby. And that’s where many people begin considering in vitro fertilization. Bear in mind a couple of things: First, IVF (in vitro fertilization) almost always involves the destruction of several embryos in order to get one that will actually implant and then come to fruition. In other words, if a woman is having five embryos implanted, the chances are good that four of them will die. So essentially, we are planning to allow the death of these little embryos in order that one might survive. That should be ethically very troubling to Christian people. The final thing on this is, whether you’re talking about fertility treatment or IVF, it can be very expensive. It can easily exceed the cost of adoption. So, those are some things. The other thing is this— and I say this not to make anyone feel guilty. It’s something that we need honestly to consider— there are millions of children in the world who need parents, who need a mom and a dad, they need a loving home. Adopting one of them and making that child your own will fill a void by not being able to be a parent biologically. My experience, and the experience of adoptive friends, has been universally, that when you hug that child or hold that child, he or she is yours. When you realize I have adopted this child, just as Jesus Christ has placed me into an adoptive relationship with the Father, I am His; He is mine. Those children are yours and you are theirs.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s great insight. Also, drawing on your experience, Rob, as an adoptive parent, what are the biggest reasons that birth mothers are often hesitant to place their children for adoption? And, kind of on the other side of the picture, why are some couples hesitant to consider adopting children?
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: It’s incredibly hard for any mother to give up her newborn or to give up a child at all. You’ve carried that baby for nine months and then, to surrender […] him or her to someone else can be very painful. My wife and I had the experience of adopting a little girl, a baby, and about three days later her birth mother contacted the agency we had worked with and said, “I want the baby back.” And so that was very tough. It’s a difficult thing. But too, for older children, if you are a mom who has cared for your children and you love them and then you realize I can’t care for them anymore or something dreadful happens, it can be painful for you. I would also say this, abortion, for a lot of women, looks like a good alternative. They are not taught accurately what takes place at abortion. They are told their children, their unborn child, will feel no pain. After it leaves the fourth month, that’s a lie. They are shown, by Planned Parenthood, often distorted and unclear ultrasound images that make the child look like a blob. They’re not shown high-resolution ultrasound images that clearly depict a developing baby. So for many women, a lot of misinformation plays into it and we need to come alongside and lovingly give them good information.
JOHN RUSTIN: Rob, the legal landscape for adoption agencies, and particularly faith-based agencies, has really changed dramatically in recent years in America. How have these debates affected some of our country’s longest serving and most relied upon adoption agencies?
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: Yes, that’s maybe the most troubling thing taking place in the adoption scene in the United States. In the city of Boston, the city of Washington D.C., in San Francisco, the state of Illinois, I believe, now even in the whole state of Massachusetts, Catholic adoption agencies, which are registered with the state, have stopped working with the state. They’ve been de-registered because they refuse to provide children to single, or single gay and lesbian men and women, or to gay couples. The deeply held Christian conviction that cuts across Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism, the historic Christian teaching, as you know John, is marriage is the permanent lifelong union of one man and one woman as a covenant before God. It is not something that can be redefined by the state or by a court. Christian conviction prevents us from putting children into a home where they’re going to see, modeled before them, a style of life that God’s Word says is not honoring to Him. That would be true of any situation really where there is a sexual pattern of behavior that is not according to Scripture. So as a result, people in these states and cities, who are people of the Left and who want to compel conformity to their vision of what public life should be, are demanding that Catholic agencies and Evangelical adoption agencies conform. And we’re not doing it. We refuse to go forward. My wife and I are committed Evangelical believers. We adopted through Bethany Christian Services. But if they are ever compelled to allow children to be adopted into gay homes, I think they would quit. They would simply allow themselves to be decertified. So, this is a very troubling trend. Thankfully, some states are fighting back. Texas, Alabama, Michigan, North Dakota, all have passed laws saying that if you’re a faith-based adoption agency, you do not need to bend the knee to the demand that you have to allow the children that you’re facilitating to be adopted into same sex homes. So, that’s a welcome piece of news. This needs to happen at the national level though.
JOHN RUSTIN: Rob, an interesting recent analysis of American adoptions found that charitable giving to adoption agencies and adoption-supporting groups, particularly Christian groups, has increased quite a bit in recent years. But the number of international adoptions has actually dropped, primarily because more countries are seemingly growing more hesitant to allow foreigners to adopt children. What are your takeaways from both of these trends?
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: The first with respect to the charitable giving: That’s something that we can rejoice in and thank the Lord that He is moving on the hearts of loving Christian people to give toward adoption. That being said, Russia, China, other countries have made it very difficult to adopt children. One of the reasons, in Russia’s case essentially, is because Vladimir Putin is offended by the idea that Russian children are being taken by Westerners and adopted there. Russian orphanages are nothing that you would want a child to be raised in. These are not the kind of places a child should be raised and nurtured in, and yet Putin—in the name of national pride—is essentially confining thousands of Russian children, who otherwise would be adopted, to these facilities. And that’s a tragedy. The most immediate thing we can do, in my view, is (a), look for other countries where we still can adopt, and (b), encourage our State Department to make international adoption a priority.
JOHN RUSTIN: Rob, as we close our conversation, I want to give you the opportunity to let our listeners know where they can go to get helpful information if they find themselves in the situation of considering adoption, either as a mother with an unplanned pregnancy, or a couple who is seeking to bring a child into their family through adoption.
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: You bet. I would recommend a few places. One is called The Christian Alliance for Orphans. The Christian Alliance for Orphans website is CAFO.org. CAFO brings together 190 respected adoption agencies, domestic and international. It’s a great one-stop shop. Second, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, ECFA, has a wonderful ministry service site, simply called, “Servant Match.” They can go to ECFA.org/servantmatch. There are nearly 40 adoption ministries listed. If you’re thinking of adopting domestically that would be a great place to start. I always give a plug for Bethany Christian Services, which is the agency through which my wife and I adopted our three children. I’ve mentioned and you have mentioned local Pregnancy Care Centers that do so much for women. If there are any women listening who are in a difficult pregnancy situation, I recommend, highly, looking at the Pregnancy Care Center near you. And in addition to that, I wanted to say one other thing. Given the size of your audience, John, it’s almost unavoidably true, that some of your listeners are women who have had abortions. If any of your listeners are women who have had abortions, God loves you! He doesn’t condemn you. He wants you to find hope and healing in His Son Jesus Christ. We are all sinners. We have all done things that have violated God’s will and plan, but in Christ there is healing and there is hope.
JOHN RUSTIN: That is so true Rob, and I appreciate your ending on such a positive encouraging note there. So with that, Rob Schwarzwalder, I want to thank you so much for your time and for your insights on this very personal topic and for all the work that you do to shine the light and encourage folks to take advantage of the wonderful gift that is adoption. Thanks so much for being with us.
ROBERT SCHWARZWALDER: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
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