Magazine article The Christian Century

Supporting Parents

Magazine article The Christian Century

Supporting Parents

Article excerpt

WHEN MY SON David was born in 1967, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room. So I posted myself outside the delivery-room door and prayed. My wife, Dot, had had German measles (rubella) in the early months of her pregnancy. She was a pediatrics nurse, so she and I were aware of the damage that German measles could cause to the developing fetus. When the pediatrician came out, he told me that David had heart problems and solid cataracts in both eyes. Later we learned he had brain damage.

That was six years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion and, in turn, triggered the modern pro-life movement. For our part, Dot and I all along had a sense of the value of the child that she was carrying. And we had hope that we could cope.

We got amazing help from so many people! The doctor and nurses who did the surgery when David's heart failed at the age of one month. A church member who located a coworker at the American Printing House for the Blind to teach us how to raise a blind son. The outstanding teachers at Perkins School for the Blind (where Helen Keller's teacher was trained) who gave David (and us) special schooling for three years while I was at Harvard. The teachers of United Cerebral Palsy School of the Bluegrass who provided two more years of special schooling while Dot and I were teaching at Berea College. David's teachers in elementary school who gave up their break times each day to give him special instruction. The many teachers at Kentucky School for the Blind. The members of Crescent Hill Baptist who gave a handicapped boy a lot of hugs.

David now has a B.A. and M.A. in German and a certificate from the University of Mainz. He translates theological articles and books from German to English for graduate students and professors (he is visually handicapped, but he can read, and he's gifted in language).

Dot went to work as a nurse in a high school for pregnant teenagers. The school offered child care, medical care, training in nutrition and child care, and the help of social workers--all so that the girls' pregnancies would not stand in the way of staying in school and developing careers.

My pro-life commitments are deep. But so is my awareness that parents need help in raising children.

Indeed, abortion rates are influenced by economic and social conditions. Two-thirds of women who abort say they cannot afford a child.

During the 1990s, as unemployment steadily decreased and average real income rose, the annual number of abortions in the U.S. actually decreased by 300,O00--from 1,610,000 to 1,310,000 per year. But in 2002, the first full year of the Bush presidency, abortions increased in the 16 states for which I could find data by a total of 5,855. If the data from the rest of the nation fit that pattern, abortions increased nationwide in 2002 by about 24,000 a year, reversing the dramatic decreases of the 1990s.

Surely that increase reflects economic and social conditions. During the past three years, unemployment rates increased half again, average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation.

Over 80 percent of women who abort are unmarried. Increased unemployment means fewer marriages, since men who are jobless usually do not marry; in the 16 states whose data I surveyed, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before.

Women who become pregnant worry about having health care for themselves and their children. There are 5.2 million more people today who have no health insurance than there were in 2000--and women of childbearing age are overrepresented in that group.

Poor and low-income women account for the majority of abortions. Their economic status is a major contributor to the abortion rate. Black and Latina women tend to be poorer and are more often unemployed, and their abortion rates are two to three times higher than those for white women. …

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