Justice Clarence Thomas made me stop in my tracks last week. During the oral arguments in the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, he mentioned a previous case involving a woman who had been convicted of criminal child neglect because she ingested cocaine during pregnancy. Justice Thomas asked: “I am trying to look at the issue of bodily autonomy and whether or not she has a right to bodily autonomy in the case of ingesting an illegal substance and causing harm to a pre-viable fetus.” That story is all too familiar to my family.
Infertility is a painful journey no one asks for. After all too many disappointments and frustrations, rather than setting us up for more heartache, I had gotten to the point of declaring when well-intentioned friends encouraged us to foster or adopt: “If God dropped a baby on our doorstep, we would be open to it.”
And so He did.
In January of this year, we returned home from a trip. We walked out of our front door to go to lunch together and my husband noticed our 74-year-old neighbors building a baby stroller. Perplexed by the sight, he walked over to offer to help and, in the car seat was the most precious, beautiful, six-week-old baby boy we have ever laid our eyes on. He was their great nephew and was with them until a family was available for eventual adoption.
We were in immediate love with Noah, and knew he was the answer to our – and hundreds of friends’ – prayers. I was no longer guarding my heart from disappointment, but instead overflowing with gratitude for this boy and God’s Providence. Now we could face the dehumanizing foster-care system that is all-too-often focused on adults at the expense of children because it was to protect our dear Noah from harm.
John and I raced through the classes, applications, and other requirements to become certified foster parents and Noah was placed with us less than three months later; two days before Palm Sunday – a most remarkable way to enter Holy Week and a fitting time to reflect on what was to come.
This past weekend was full of attacks denouncing adoption as an alternative to abortion– most notably in the New York Times – because it causes trauma to a woman. Of course, there is trauma involved in adoption – including to the child, being separated from his biological mother. We see the birth mother’s pain and reverence it and her courage in bringing Noah to term, despite her addiction. We should celebrate birth mothers who come to grips with the fact that they can’t give their children the life they deserve and instead make the sacrifice of letting a child go to a loving, stable home.
We feel for Noah’s birth mother, but we also see how he is flourishing with us. It is better that Noah is alive then dead because of abortion. Just writing those words is so painful, and should be so obvious. And it is better that he is not vulnerable to drug exposure or abuse in an effort to not cause trauma to an adult. Thinking about Holy Week, our salvation is about adoption, and it is about God walking with us to carry crosses – as birth moms, and foster parents, serving innocents.
Naomi Schaefer Riley’s recently published No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists are Wrecking Young Lives is a brilliant insight into this world my husband and I have unexpectedly, but gratefully, found ourselves part of. While I have never met her, what she writes harkens strongly to our experience in the foster care system and details the adult-focused system which often forsakes the children.
Every day that we have spent with Noah has been glorious. He is the sweetest, most loving, happy, healthy, beautiful baby boy and he has had love lavished on him by all our friends and family. God willing, we will be able to formally start the adoption process in March 2022.
But that brings me back to Justice Thomas’ question in the Dobbs case; does a pregnant woman have the right, given bodily autonomy, to ingest illegal substances while carrying a pre-viable or post-viable baby? Did Noah, and countless other children, have the right to protection from harm pre-birth the way that the state has stepped in to protect him post-birth? Who have we become as a society that we put the desires of an adult over the basic safety and needs of a child?
The question that Justice Thomas posits is not just one of bodily autonomy, but a battle within each of our souls. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously writes in The Gulag Archipelago “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart.” When, as a society, did we decide that children are disposable, a nuisance, an interference to our own desires? When did we stop protecting and caring for those most vulnerable and impressionable? When did my heart, and yours, become hardened to the trauma being inflicted on the innocent?
Now is the time to recalibrate our national moral compass and stand up for the Noahs of our country, to respect and care for every child from the moment of conception. We must encourage and support mothers in unexpected pregnancies, and to foster a deeper love in each of our hearts to open our homes to a child whom God is waiting to place on your doorstep.