"The Pro-Choice Movement Doesn’t Need Men. The Pro-Life Side Does." Roland Warren, President and CEO of Care Net, said in a recent interview with Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra for The Gospel Coalition (TGC). When Warren took the role of leading Care Net 10 years ago, less than 12 percent of the 1,200 affiliated pregnancy centers had programs for fathers.
The problem? Roland says, “We wanted to solve not just for a live baby, but for a strong family—a father and mother, united in marriage, loving each other and God.” He points to Scripture, “Here’s Mary, facing an unplanned pregnancy from a human perspective...And Joseph’s first call was to be a husband to her—even before the angel told him the identity of the child she was carrying. That’s God’s good design for the family. So shouldn’t we do the same?” Over the past decade, Care Net has learned a lot about involving fathers in unexpected pregnancies. I want to spotlight Warren's interview with TGC, pointing out the father's influence on the decision to abort and how pregnancy centers and the church can make the impact God desires.
The biggest influence on a mother’s choice to abort is the father.
In the national survey we conducted several years ago, we asked post-abortive women whom they talked to about their pregnancy decision. The survey choices were her mother, the baby’s father, her best friend, her doctor, and Planned Parenthood. Mother's facing this pregnancy decision told us on the survey, their biggest influence was the father of the baby.
Then we asked, “Who was the most influential person in your decision to abort?” Again, the father was the biggest influence. The abortion provider was way down on the list. We did the same survey later, but we talked to post-abortive men. We asked who their partner talked to about her decision, and they said, “Me.” We asked, “Who was most influential in her decision-making?” They answered: “I am.”
Don't miss this from Warren: "For years, we’ve been building a pro-life movement that doesn’t proactively and programmatically engage the most influential person in this decision." We know that if the father steps up, like Joseph in Scripture, and says he will be a husband to her and father the child growing inside of her, she’s less likely to abort. How do we know this? Because from our survey— most women—86 percent of those women who choose abortion are unmarried.
The point is this: if the pro-choice movement can remove the father from the process—death often wins. As Warren well said, "The pro-life side needs fathers. The pro-abortion side does not."
How can a pregnancy center involve fathers?
Roland gets practical in the interview when questioned about how pregnancy centers can involve fathers. Pulling from his years of business experience and his decade plus serving as National Fatherhood Initiative's CEO, he explains how Care Net started adding men’s brochures, programs, and ministry advocates in the centers. Now over 60 percent of Care Net centers have at least some resources for fathers.
Resources are helpful, but Warren points out, when women call, we ask them to bring the father of the baby with them to their appointment. Historically, when a woman called, we’d say, “Do you want to bring the father?” We now say, “We would like you to bring the father.” This small change gives the pregnant woman more agency in inviting him. She can say, “They want you to come.”
If the center is able to get the father to an appointment, he can see the ultrasound, and he can start to process things. Warren says, "Lots of guys think fatherhood starts at birth. We’re helping them see it starts at conception." Involving fathers also means helping them learn the skills to care for infants and toddlers. "We want him to start acting like a father so the mother can have confidence he’s going to be there for them," Warren notes. Sidenote, if your center wants to learn how to better engage men in the battle for life, the Pro-Life Men’s Summit in Dallas, TX is coming up soon!
How can the church involve fathers?
Often, church members are good at giving financially and volunteering in pregnancy centers. But we also need church members to walk alongside those facing pregnancy decisions. As Warren says, "Life decisions need life support."
While we can be grateful for social services networks state by state for being helpful, Warren notes the problem: if a woman has two children and gets pregnant with a third, social services won’t ask questions about the decisions she’s making or how she’s living. Social services are not trying to transform her life. They’re transactional.
The Bible says, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Jesus’s call was to come as you are, but not to stay as you came. The transformational model of the Pro Abundant Life movement is critical. The pregnancy center can provide evangelism, but it’s not structurally capable of providing long-term support and discipleship—that's the calling of every local church.
Every local church must see the life issue as a call to make disciples, just like other good works we do—water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, and homes for the homeless. We see these good works as actions that lead to discipleship. When you meet a woman facing a difficult pregnancy decision, your first thought should be, could God be using this unplanned pregnancy so that she, her child, and the father of the child would become disciples of Jesus Christ? That’s what God did with Mary.
Portions of this post are from this insightful article at The Gospel Coalition. Special thanks to Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra for the interview and heart behind sharing this issue of families facing pregnancy decisions.