Want a Pro-Life America? Look to Family and Church, Advocate Says

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If Roe v. Wade in fact is overturned, ending abortion on demand, what happens next? Is the pro-life movement ready to meet the needs of mothers and families facing unplanned pregnancies? 

Roland Warren, president and CEO of the pro-life organization Care Net, says that although pregnancy centers play a role in helping women who have unplanned pregnancies, both the church and the family have a responsibility to defend life and serve these women.

The first step in creating a culture of life in America requires rebuilding marriage and family “consistent with God’s design,” Warren argues.

Warren joins this episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how families and places of worship can begin creating a culture of life in their communities. 

Also on today’s show, we cover these stories:

  • Chief Justice John Roberts confirms the authenticity of a leaked draft opinion indicating the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and its legalization of abortion on demand.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announces that the Senate will vote on codifying “abortion rights.” 
  • Liberal activists call for packing the Supreme Court to add justices in the wake of the leaked draft.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure to welcome to the show today the president and CEO of the pro-life organization Care Net, Roland Warren. Roland, thank you so much for being here.

Roland Warren: Well, glad to be with you.

Allen: Now, you have been heading Care Net since 2012. If you would just explain a little bit about what Care Net is and what your mission is.

Warren: Gotcha. Yeah. Care Net actually is a ministry that started in 1975. Our founders were a theologian named Harold O.J. Brown, C. Everett Koop, and Francis Schaeffer, and Billy Graham was involved. We really started specifically to try to get evangelicals and Protestants involved in the life issue at the time.

Roe v. Wade had recently been decided and really our Catholic brothers and sisters who had been really leading the way on the issue and a lot of Protestant and evangelical organizations were either pro-choice or indifferent or certainly silent, and so Care Net was started from that perspective.

It changed over time to move away from more political advocacy, what I call compassionate advocacy, to really focus on compassionate care.

Today we have a network of nearly 1,200 affiliated pregnancy centers in the U.S. and the goal of these pregnancy centers is to offer compassion, hope, and help to women and men who are at risk for abortion. We’re on the front lines for the life issue and very delighted to be in this important work.

Allen: Yeah, it’s so critical. It’s encouraging to hear you say that number. So many pregnancy centers across the country are involved and really in this network that Care Net provides, a support network. It’s encouraging that as we are looking at the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, to think that all across the country there are these resources available for women, for families.

I think when we think about the pro-life movement, like you say, the work of Care Net has changed over the years. What shifts have you seen in the pro-life movement over the past decade?

Warren: Well, from the time that I’ve been here, I think from a Care Net perspective, our view has been really that there’s a need to change the perspective from being what we call pro-life, if you will, to being what we call pro-abundant life, which is expanding how you think about that perspective.

That’s based on the biblical narrative of John 10:10, where Christ said, “I came that you might have life and then have that life abundantly.” When you unpack that verse and look at it in the Greek, he’s talking about two types of life. Physical life, which is the word bios, where we get the word biology, b-i-o-s. But then there’s also zoe, which is a unique type of spiritual life that only comes from a relationship with God.

Essentially what he’s saying there is that “I came to link your bios to my zoe.” In other words, that you may have life in the fullest. In other words, that your heartbeat may be heaven bound.

Our observation in terms of our ministry model has been, well, much of the work from the pro-life perspective is really focused on physical life, if you will, that there’s a heartbeat. And that’s good, don’t get me wrong. But we need to expand beyond just a physical life but also a spiritual life.

If life begins at conception, then certainly Christ would have abundant life, not just for those outside the womb, but for those inside the womb—and so from conception to death, so to speak, that fullness of life that we talk about.

Over the last 10 years we’ve really been focused on really trying to help the movement expand, particularly Christian folks who are in this view, to view the issue through that lens—that it’s not just about saving a baby, as God-honoring as that is, it’s about raising a child.

It leads to the second aspect of how we think about this issue. If you think about the pro-abundant life perspective as a roof, there are two pillars that hold that roof up. The first really is God’s design for family.

We used the story so to speak, the narrative of Mary facing an unplanned pregnancy from a human perspective. She had hopes and dreams for her life that did not include a child at that time and in that way. The angel comes to her and tells her that “You’re going to conceive” and she doesn’t focus on the uncertainty of what she doesn’t know. She focuses on the certainty of what she does know—there’s a life growing inside of her and it’s not a life worth sacrificing—and says, “Let it be unto me as you have said.”

From a Christian perspective, that’s actually what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to encourage women facing unplanned pregnancies to tap into their inner Mary, not to focus on the uncertainty of what they don’t know, which is what the pro-choice movement wants them to do, but to focus on the certainty of what they do know. There’s a life growing inside of you, but not a life worth sacrificing, but a life worth sacrificing for.

For lots of folks, that’s kind of where the story ends. But if you continue to read that narrative—which is in the first chapter, the first book of the New Testament, Matthew—you find, what did God do to make sure that Mary’s unplanned pregnancy wasn’t a crisis pregnancy?

Well, he sent an angel to Joseph and Joseph had a plan. He was going to divorce her quietly, put her away quietly, and essentially it was kind of a cultural version of an abortion, because that’s what you could do back then. You couldn’t put the baby away, so you put the woman and the baby away.

There was a specific call to Joseph to do two things: to be a husband to her and a father to the child growing inside of her.

This first pillar really is God’s design for family and so what we want, what we think we’re really called to, certainly from a biblical perspective, is for us to build strong families in the context of this unplanned pregnancy. To really be not just about the sanctity of life, but also about the sanctity of marriage and family as God designed because that’s what you see in the biblical narrative.

The first thing that Joseph was told to do was, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” Not your baby mama, your boo, your shorty, but your wife. What you see there is an affirmation of the sanctity of marriage and family even before he even knows who Jesus is.

From our perspective over the last 10 years, what we’ve been saying, “Listen. Hey. We can’t just focus on the sanctity of life issue, which is kind of a pro-life narrative. We have to focus on the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage and family, which is a pro-abundant life perspective, so that we break the cycle of intergenerational abortion.”

Of course, when the woman has a guy who says, “Listen, I’ll be your husband to you and a father to the child growing inside of you or at least a father to the child in a committed way,” well, guess what? She’s more likely to give the child life, which is bios, right?

So that’s the first part of what we talk about in terms of what we’ve seen and what we’re trying to do in terms of this model that God’s put in front of us.

Allen: Yeah. I think that’s so critical because it really gets at the heart of creating a culture of life. Of course, we want our laws to reflect a value for life and protect life, but it’s not enough to just have that. We have to create a culture of life. And I think that’s such, really, an accurate perspective, to say, “We have to get the family involved in that at its core that’s up to creating that culture of family and from that comes that culture of life.” I think that’s really beautiful. For you personally, were you always pro-life?

Warren: Well, I actually never really thought about it a whole lot, certainly when I was in my teen and college years. I always was Christian so the thought of abortion. Certainly I went to Catholic school growing up and all that kind of stuff so it was an issue that was talked about from time to time.

But frankly, I got challenged when I was 19. I got my girlfriend—actually, 20. Got my girlfriend who was 19 pregnant. And we were both undergrads at Princeton. And when she went for the pregnancy test at student health services, she was encouraged to abort because the nurse said, “How are you going to graduate from Princeton with a baby?” She was a sophomore. I was a junior. And she said, “Well, no, I want to have my baby. I want to get married.”

And the nurse said, “Well, what do you want to be when you graduate?” She says, “Well, I want to become a doctor.” And she said, “How are you going to graduate from Princeton and become a doctor with a baby?”

It doesn’t seem like it was the right decision. We decided to move forward with the plan. We got married, been married, it’ll be 40 years May 1. Our son was born and smarter than both of us. He went to Harvard, so he’s a smart kid—this kid that we were encouraged in that moment to throw into a trash can, so to speak. It really brought home to me what I talk about today.

My wife in a sense was sort of a proverbial Mary, if you will. That pregnancy, obviously, didn’t come in the same way, in the same context, but she had hopes for her life, dreams for her life that did not include a child at that time and in this that way.

But what did she do? She didn’t focus on the uncertainty of what she didn’t know. She focused on the certainty of what she did know. And certainly God had a call to me to do what? Be a husband to her and a father to the child growing inside of her.

I’ve lived the narrative that I’m talking about and I’ve seen in one generation that cycle be broken. I’m a product of a single-mother home. My mother got pregnant the first time when she was 16, 17 years old. Had me when she was 19 as well had four kids under the age of 8 by the time she was 23. That’s the environment I came from.

And then seeing God’s design for marriage and God’s design for family breaking that cycle—two sons, both married. Grandkids. All of that abundance that you see in the biblical narrative.

I’ll say this other point, which a lot of people don’t think about: 86% of the women that have abortions are unmarried—86%. When you think about that, you say, “Well, how are we going to solve the abortion issue without rebuilding the marriage and family consistent with God’s design?”

So, he was wise in that first chapter, the first book of the New Testament, he gave us actually the model for that. So even if you’re not a Christian, the social science data says that marriage is so key because a woman who’s facing a pregnancy decision is making that decision from conception to birth based on the support she has after birth.

If she has a guy like my wife did, who said, “Listen. I’ll be a husband to you and a father to the child growing inside of you,” she’s more likely to have her hopes and dreams fulfilled, so to speak, and she’s more likely to do what? Choose life. But if she doesn’t have that, then she’s much less likely.

One of the things that I’ve really talked about quite a bit is that the pro-life movement, we don’t talk about the sanctity of marriage and family. We only talk about the safety of life, for the most part. We really should be linking those two things together, certainly from a biblical narrative, but frankly, from a social science narrative as well, if we’re really serious about this issue.

Allen: And having really lived the story, like you say, you’ve lived what now you’re in the middle of. You’re leading Care Net and in touch with so many pregnancy centers all across America. In your observation, what are the critical needs of women, of families who walk into those pregnancy centers in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy?

Warren: Well, you’ve really got to ask yourself why: Why is she facing this unplanned pregnancy? And again, it goes back to, might sound a little bit like a broken record, but why is she facing this unplanned pregnancy? Well, if you think about it, a lot of it points to the guy.

We actually did a national survey of women who had abortions and we asked them, “Who did you talk to about your abortion decision?” And we give them a long list of folks—her best friend, her mother, her father, all these different folks, Planned Parenthood, all of that, including the guy who got her pregnant. And she says, “I talked to him more than anybody else.” And then we asked, “Who was the most influential in your decision to abort?” And guess who she picked? Him.

We just finished a similar survey some months back where we asked men who had participated in abortion the same question: “Who did she talk to?” And the guys far and away said, “Me.” And then we asked, “Who was the most influential in her decision to abort?” “Well, me, the guy who got her pregnant.”

So here the women who face abortion, who had abortions, and the men who participated are both saying that he’s the most influential in the decision to abort. Yet we built an entire movement for the most part that doesn’t even include him in any way, shape, or form.

So a key need and a key aspect of our ministry model is not just meeting her at her point of need when she comes into the door of a pregnancy center, but also engaging that guy, bringing him into the notion. Look, God sent an angel to Joseph, not a Smurf or a gnome or something else. It was an equal call in a sense because that was important in terms of God’s design for family.

So a big part of our ministry model that shifted over the last 10 years is really the father and men’s ministry piece that we’ve done. In fact, we just launched the first ever Pro-Life Men’s Conference in Dallas, March 4 and 5, which you can come to our website, care-net.org, to learn more about that, to see a recap of that.

First time men have ever been brought together from a pro-life perspective. Why? Because we know that the data shows that the women say and even the men say that he’s the most influential and that’s a key, key part of the movement. So that’s a core need.

The second need, which is really essential, is to connect those people from the pregnancy center to churches for ongoing support and discipleship. And that’s actually the second pillar of the pro-abundant life perspective. God’s design for family is the first. The second is God’s call to discipleship.

And the key there is for you to start thinking about the life issue, not just in a political realm and not just through that narrative and not even just from a material support perspective, but view it from a Christian, certainly, as an opportunity to make a disciple for Jesus Christ. Because any good work that Christians do should lead to discipleship.

So we see that. Water for the thirsty, yep. Food for the hungry, yep. Clothes for the naked, yep. Homes for the homeless, yes. We all see that as an on-ramp to discipleship. In other words, an on-ramp to not just meet a bios need, physical need, but also a zoe need, which is a spiritual transformation that needs to happen.

But for some reason, the life issue tends not to be viewed that way even by Christians. They don’t see someone who’s facing an unplanned pregnancy and they don’t think the first thought is, “Gosh, this person needs to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. The child growing inside of her needs to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The guy who got her pregnant needs to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

If you don’t think about it that way, then instead of being transformational in terms of your pro-abundant life perspective, you’re transactional.

What happens and what we’re seeing is the same client coming again with a new pregnancy and a new guy. I call it the 18-18 rule. We see her in 18 months with a new pregnancy and a new guy. See her daughter in 18 years or someone her son got pregnant. That is transaction. That’s business. That’s not ministry.

Christ said, “Come as you are, but don’t stay as you came. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And so this pro-abundant life perspective is a transformational perspective and the transformational institutions are God’s design for marriage, fatherhood, and motherhood, is a covenant transformational institution, and then God’s call to discipleship.

That’s what you see happening at our centers. We want to transition people from the pregnancy center to the church for ongoing support and discipleship. That’s a key, key part of what we’re about.

Allen: And of course, at this moment in history, this is a really critical conversation that we’re having because in June we are expecting the Supreme Court to announce its ruling on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. That case could overturn Roe v. Wade. I recently just saw a National Review article that was titled “Pregnancy Centers Must Be Ready for a Post-Roe America.”

So Roland, my question to you, do you think that pregnancy centers are ready for a post-Roe America?

Warren: I think that, frankly, if you ask the wrong question, you’ll get the wrong answer. Here’s the point. A pregnancy center model in and of itself cannot solve a post-Roe environment. There’s only one institution that can effectively handle a post-Roe environment in a God-honoring way and it’s actually the church.

The pregnancy center world has a very specific role, an important role, from conception to birth. That’s it. And maybe a little bit further. But if you walk into a pregnancy center with a 10-year-old, unless they wear diapers and drink formula, ain’t much that we can do for you. Remember, she’s making that decision from conception to birth based on the support she has after birth.

There are roughly, what? 2,500, 3,000 pregnancy centers in the United States. How do you solve that that way? That’s why the church is so critically important. There’s only one institution that is ideologically aligned and structurally capable of dealing with a post-Roe environment in a God-honoring way. It’s the church.

We have a social services network that’s structurally capable maybe at some level, but the reality is it’s not ideologically aligned because if you come to a social services entity and you have two kids that you can’t take care of and now you come with a third, they don’t ask you how you live it. They don’t try to transform your life. They just give you more services so it repeats the cycle. See?

So the pregnancy center world, ideologically aligned but not structurally capable, because we only can handle things from a conception to birth perspective.

What needs to happen is that the churches are linked and connected into this model in a very important way. There are over 400,000 churches. What needs to happen here is that this political perspective needs to be linked with a ministry perspective so that when Roe v. Wade is overturned, that folks can move from pregnancy centers to churches for transformation.

Also, candidly, a lot of folks who are facing pregnancy decisions are in churches. Fifty-four percent of the women who have abortions profess to be either Catholic or Protestant. We have a real issue in the church with abortion, where we’re outsourcing the issue to Planned Parenthood, if you will, in some way, shape, or form, even on our end.

For me, that’s the wrong question, “Are pregnancy centers ready?” It’s not just pregnancy centers. Let me just frame this in a different way for you to kind of illustrate that.

Now, I’m a black man. I’m like this all day. I just leaned into it when I was a kid. OK, this is the way I roll. When I first started doing this work, people say, “Oh, you’re a black man, so yeah. So you can connect with this because it’s like slavery. It’s like the slavery issue and the abolitionist movement.”

I thought about it. I said, “Well, oh my gosh, I hope it’s not.” Because what you had with the abolitionist movement was the goal of the abolitionist movement was to abolish slavery. That was the wrong goal. That should be a tactic or strategy.

The right goal should have been for black people to have the blessings of liberty, which is in our Constitution, and life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, which is in our Declaration of Independence. After you abolish slavery, that’s not the end. That’s just the end of the beginning. It’s a tactic.

Then you ask yourself, “Well, how do we make sure that these folks have the blessings of liberty?” Well, how do we ensure that for ourselves? You can sit around and say, “Well, how do we do it in our own community?” Well, we engage in civil society. That means we can’t have Jim Crow laws, right? Nope, nope. Can’t discriminate. Nope. You see what I’m saying? So it was the wrong goal.

I see exactly the same dynamic happening on the life issue. If you talk to most people, you say, “What’s the goal of the pro-life movement?” They say, “Overturning Roe v. Wade.” I say, “No, that’s a tactic or strategy.”

The goal, certainly from a Christian perspective, of the pro-life movement, should be for kids to not just have life, but have abundant life. And in order for them to have abundant life, they have to have life. So therefore, that’s a tactic to make sure they have abundant life.

And then you ask the question, “Well, how do they have abundant life consistent with God’s life?” Well, God’s design for family. So it means we have to help them build strong families. And God’s call to discipleship, which means we have to help them connect with a ministry model that’s going to transform their lives.

And I’ll just say this last thing on this. People ask me, “Is Roe v. Wade going to be overturned?” And I try to remind them of it and say, “Roe v. Wade is overturned every day. Every time a woman has an opportunity to have an abortion, is faced with a pregnancy decision and chooses not to abort, she just overturned Roe v. Wade in her own heart and mind.”

You see, when you ask that question, that means you’re viewing the issue solely through a political judicial lens when the reality is our power is way beyond that if we don’t limit it.

It’s a power that we have that the other side doesn’t have. We can turn a Starbucks into a pregnancy center, any place, because we can have a life-transforming conversation with someone so that they choose life.

That’s exactly what happened with my wife. You see? So she overturned Roe v. Wade in her own heart and her mind and that’s a power that we have, if it’s overturned or not overturned.

Desperately want it to be overturned—don’t get me wrong, don’t get it twisted, don’t whatever. But here’s the reality, is, even if it’s overturned, what we should be doing is exactly what I’m talking about. We have got to build a comprehensive model that moves beyond pregnancy centers to integrate folks into God’s design for family and God’s call to discipleship.

And that’s how you prepare for Roe v. Wade and that’s a core part of Care Net’s ministry model, particularly through our “Making Life Disciples” ministry model, which is designed specifically to get small groups in churches to come alongside folks who are facing pregnancy decisions so that even if there’s not a guy who says, “I’ll be a husband to you and a father to the child growing inside of you,” there’s a ministry model that can walk alongside this woman and care for her and care for her child. Only the church can do that.

Allen: And for those listening, right now they are saying “amen” to what you’re saying. They want to be a part of creating that bridge between pregnancy centers and the church. They want to be a part of creating a culture of life in their own community. Tell us how we can get involved in the work that Care Net is doing, how we can pull in your resources?

Warren: Great. Well, the first thing, you can come to our website, which is care-net.org. You can learn more about what we’re doing, the pro-abundant life approach to that. We have a great booklet that I wrote called “Why We Must Be Pro Abundant Life.” And there’s another one that’s titled “Why We Can’t End Abortion Without Discipleship.” You can go there and get those resources from our store.

But also, what I really encourage Christians to do is to go to makinglifedisciples.com. You can learn about how to establish a Making Life Disciples ministry in your church. Life decisions need life support. The reason why women have abortions and the reason why men support abortions has a lot to do with this missing support.

She can’t get to her prenatal visits. You’re retired. Can you drive? He’s running from fatherhood because he never had one. You’ve been a father for years. Will you mentor this young man? They’ve been living together for years. Never seen what a good and godly marriage looks like. You’ve been married for a long time. Will you mentor this couple? She doesn’t have a place to live. Have you got an extra room? Do you see what I’m saying? Life decisions need life support.

And here’s the thing, regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court decision, that’s the stuff that we should be doing anyway, because as we do that, Roe v. Wade has a death of a thousand cuts because the compassion. It’s compassion that actually transforms people’s lives. And that’s what Christians are known for, being compassionate. So we have an opportunity to do that.

So you’ve got to be able to take your political hat off, your judicial hat off, legislative hat off, and you’ve got to put your ministry hat on and say, “I’m going to come alongside someone who’s facing a pregnancy decision to help engage that guy in the process, to help him build a strong family with her, to step in and meet those needs, those life decisions that need to be supported.”

Well, they need life support and folks sitting in pews across this country have to mobilize in that way. So that’s why articles like “The Pregnancy Center Movement Needs to—”, whatever. To me, it sells what needs to happen short here, because the reality is, it’s going to take way, way more than that in order for us to live in a post-Roe environment, certainly in a God-honoring way.

Allen: Roland Warren, the president and CEO of Care Net. Roland, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

Warren: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me here.

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