Since the earliest days of human history, it has been the case that the arrival of a new child is one of the defining realities of life. For women, the matter has always been far more impactful, but men are also of course heavily affected by the question of children. Unique to the species of man is the ability to ask this question about our own offspring: Do I want them, or not? This has been the question that every person and every culture face at the deepest of levels.
The Scriptures are filled with stories that speak about the great gift and desirability of new children. To read the Bible is to encounter a viewpoint that welcomes new life, seeing it as a sign of God’s blessing and of his promise of a new tomorrow. Moreover, infertility is clearly presented in the Scriptures as the painful reality that it is, often being cast as a struggle of faith with the undercurrent of divine punishment in this fallen world. For Biblical people, new children mean everything, and they guarantee tomorrow.
Perhaps this language is so consistently strong in the Scriptures not only because it is the truth about our biology and God’s plan but also because in our same fallen world there is a strong temptation to view new children as inconvenient and unwelcome. The Biblical writings are offered as a necessary counterweight to the personal and cultural anxiety generated over the disruption of a child. For much of human history, children were desirable only for their ability to do labor, with the qualifier that until they could be an economic help, they first presented the practical problem of a new mouth to feed. If one already had too many mouths to feed for one’s personal circumstances, then it was a great source of worry to have another one around. Moreover, until the arrival of recent medical capabilities, a new child frequently meant a serious danger of death to the mother, which was its own legitimate source of fear. These days, it is rarely a question of life and death, but pregnancies can and do still bring difficult challenges to a mother’s health. In so many ways, it is a great act of surrender to welcome a child.
Fallen humanity desires scenarios wherein men and women can enjoy the pleasures of intimacy while also ensuring no children will come of it to alter one’s life. In the individualistic short-sightedness of our sinful nature, we forget that children are worth the sacrifice for the good of what must continue on in humanity, and we put a halt to their arrival because doing so allows us to go on living without having our lives altered.
Our fallen capacity to not desire our own offspring is what led to the practice of abortion ages ago, and what led to legalized abortion here and around the world. God gives us the gift of Divine Revelation to correct our fallen tendencies. The Scriptures are clear that life in the womb is a gift, and also that the sacrifices that come from welcoming it are their own source of new life. Any culture or society that legitimizes abortion with the force of law, as Roe vs. Wade did once upon a time, is one that is gravely opposed to God’s plan for the flourishing of humanity. Laws can indeed be unethical and wrong. Legal protections for abortion fall neatly under that heading.
For all of these reasons, Dobbs v. Jackson is a tremendous gift and victory. It is no accident in the designs of God that it was issued on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a day that praises God’s unswerving concern for the smallest in our midst, and his mercy for all of us who have realized we have made wrong choices.
However, the mere flipping of the constitutional switch in this reversal does little to change the underlying currents in the human heart about the question of how desirable children are, or are not. The Christian cause for life requires combatting all lifestyle choices that view children as a threat to happiness. It requires unswerving community support for pregnant mothers. It requires rethinking our consumer mindsets, and our prevailing systems of employment. These are systemic changes that involve every member of society, not just women. They require the conversion of all hearts to the fullest truth of the Gospel.
Even with this great legal victory, we still have much work to do in a cultural and economic climate that views children as choices rather than as gifts to be welcomed. In the grace and power of God, in His Most Sacred Heart, may we all work as Christians for the day when children are not a burden in our eyes but a blessing for tomorrow, and when motherhood is supported as one of the most precious roles in our world.