Quick Response #18: We Need Abortion Because of the Foster Care System

Emily Albrecht responds to the pro-choice concern that abortion is necessary because of problems with the foster care system. The foster care system is certainly in need of improvement, but does that justify abortion?

Watch all the videos in ERI’s Quick Response series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsN8Ay8poS-It-dWSmblq1ZufOH-MVj1L

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Statistics on the Foster Care System:

Script Text

One common objection we hear to the idea of ending abortion is a concern for all the babies who would go into the foster care system. This objection is well-meaning, but it’s also seriously mistaken on multiple levels.

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The foster care system in America is, admittedly, in need of improvement. As of September 30, 2019,  there were about 424,000 kids in placement within the foster care system. A third of those kids were placed with some kind of relative, and the remaining two-thirds are in the care of non-relative adults or, more rarely, placed in a public institution of some sort. All of these kids are, by definition, coming from challenging situations; they have been removed from their family of origin by the state with cause. They’re predominantly placed with caring adults who are trying to do right by them, many of whom are excited to adopt the children they’ve cared for if reunification with the biological parents is no longer an appropriate goal.

You’ll sometimes hear the stories of foster parents who mistreat children or who are just in it for the supplemental check, but that represents a tiny minority of foster parents. Mostly, the system is strained by a lack of people who have both the desire and ability to take on foster parenting, combined with the conflicting goals and legal issues with trying to keep kids safe, honor parental rights, and keep families together.

But none of this actually has anything to do with abortion directly. If a woman chooses to put her baby up for adoption, that baby doesn’t go into the foster care system, but the newborn adoption system. There are many more families seeking to adopt a newborn than newborns in need of adoption, so the babies are almost always very quickly placed with a loving family, and there are even options for the birth and adoptive families about how open or closed they want the relationship with each other to be.


But let’s make the pro-choice argument stronger than many pro-choice people in your conversations actually will. Granted that newborns aren’t going into the foster system, what if many of the babies who otherwise would have been aborted end up being born into unstable families and are more likely to end up in the foster care system later?

This is a reasonable objection, since it’s based on a more accurate understanding of the foster care system. The person making this argument is usually doing so from a position of trying to care for children.

But here’s the problem: this argument makes the judgment that, based on potential hardships that a child might endure, THAT CHILD IS BETTER OFF DEAD. That is such a problematic thing to believe! It treats poverty and instability like a disease from which the child suffers, and the solution offered isn’t to treat the disease but to kill the child instead! It’s not that different from people offering abortion for poor prenatal diagnosis, because they believe it’s better to kill the child so that they are spared suffering. That is a sweeping value judgment that is incredibly false AND infringes on the child’s right to life.

There are a lot of people who went through the foster system and became happy or accomplished adults. There are also a lot of people who went through the foster system and continued to have hard lives and perpetuate negative family patterns. But their value doesn’t rest in how happy they are or what they achieved. Their value rests in WHO they are: human persons deserving of respect and protection, even in the womb.

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