With abortion being so available today, the notion of the unwanted child has become standard fare among defenders of abortion. Bethany Bomberger, herself at one time pregnant in less than ideal circumstances, is married to her husband Ryan, who was conceived as a result of sexual assault. She explodes the myth that children are unwanted-join Scott and Sean for this insightful interview that comes out of her chapter in the new book, Choose Life.
Bethany Bomberger is co-founder and Executive Director of the Radiance Foundation, a pro-life, pro-family organization. She is the author of Pro-Life Kids, one of the first books of its kind aimed at taking the pro-life message to kids.
Scott Rae: Welcome to Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith & Culture, a podcast from Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University. I'm your host, Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Christian Ethics.
Sean McDowell: I'm your co-host Sean McDowell, Professor of Apologetics.
Scott Rae: We're here with our special guest today, Bethany Bomberger, who is the Founder and Executive Director of an organization called The Radiance Foundation. They do a whole host of things, but maybe the best way to describe this, Bethany, you can correct me if I'm wrong on this would be a pro-life, pro-family organization that has a wide, wide variety of things going on, both in the United States and around the world. She's also the author of a fascinating book that we will feature another time called Pro-Life Kids! It's a children's book that introduces kids to all the issues around the pro-life debate. But what we're here to talk to her about is a chapter that she has written in an upcoming book, entitled Choose Life, which is a series of essays that are designed to take the pro-life movement to the next generation. And that we're particularly interested in the title of your chapter called The Myth of the Unwanted Child. So Bethany welcome, so delighted to have you with us and appreciate you being with us.
Bethany Bomberger: Thank you.
Scott Rae: Why is the idea of the unwanted child a myth?
Bethany Bomberger: Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be part of our discussion today, and it is absolutely a myth. We know that every human being has inherent value, we are made in the image of God and our value is not based on this status of our wanted. And it's a myth because honestly, we are all wanted by someone, we might not be wanted by biological parents, but someone, those of us that understand value wants those that the world is willing really to discard.
Sean McDowell: Why does the pro-choice movement tend to dismiss adoption as an alternative to abortion?
Bethany Bomberger: Sure. Well, bottom line is money. Of course, they can make very quick transactions, have very little need for any follow up when they push abortion for women. And quite frankly, pro-choice is a lie. It's really just, I would say a catchy euphemism when it comes down to it, they really do not believe in choice. In fact, that's actually why the abortion industry fights every common sense bill to fully inform women of really physical effects, emotional effects of abortion. We call those women's right to no bills. But adoption is demonized by the left and Planned Parenthood issued something they call the fact sheet on adoption. In fact, they said the psychological responses to abortion are far less serious than those experienced by women bringing their unwanted pregnancy, there's that word again, to term and relinquishing the child for adoption. But like I said earlier, bottom line adoption is not funding their machine, but abortion is.
Scott Rae: Bethany, let's pick up on that just a little bit. It's undeniably true that giving up a child for adoption is excruciatingly difficult for women, but what makes that so hard?
Bethany Bomberger: I would love to just pause for one quick moment. And I think part of what makes adoption a difficult to option for women to consider is the language that we use. So we've been used to saying things like giving up a child, but when we say giving up a child for adoption and immediately has a negative connotation. So we're really moving to saying things like we're making a plan for adoption. At Radiance Foundation we say, turn the unplanned into a loving plan or placing children for adoption because our heart is to really change the mental, the emotional positioning of people's hearts with our words. And the reality is it is difficult for women because adoption happens because of brokenness. There's something that's broken in a system that God's created a family that allows there to be a pregnancy that would be considered unplanned or a crisis.
Bethany Bomberger: So it will naturally be hard, it is a deeply emotional thing to be pregnant. As a mother, who's personally birthed three children, I under understand that soul connection. I also, in some ways can understand and have empathy for our youngest adopted son's birth mom, who walked through very difficult season in her life and chose to place for adoption. But it's key to understand what comes along with placing for adoption, and that's why our nation's pregnancy centers, our churches, our workplaces, they need to recognize that journey of a birth mom, a birth dad, and help strengthen them.
Scott Rae: That's a great point. One of the reasons I ask the question is it seems to me that we ought not accept the assumption that adoption is really hard for women and therefore abortion is a better alternative.
Bethany Bomberger: Correct.
Scott Rae: The question, what makes it so hard? I think you pointed out is the bonding and relationship that a mom has with her pre-born child. I think what that tells us about the moral status of the unborn child is that you don't bond and have relationship with things.
Bethany Bomberger: Yes.
Scott Rae: You bond, have relationships to people and to persons. And I think that the fact that adoption is so hard actually helps us, I think turn that argument on its head and gives us, I think some really powerful information about the moral status of the pre-born child.
Bethany Bomberger: Right.
Scott Rae: Where did this myth of the unwanted child come from originally? In your article, you traced this back almost a 100 years. Tell us a little bit about the contribution of the people who first formulated this a 100 years or so ago.
Bethany Bomberger: We could actually go back to the beginning of time. We could go back in history and you'll find, there's just been many instances where children are devalued, they're dehumanized to the point of being sacrificed. We read about sacrifices to Moloch, to being left out to die. What you think of Spartans, in modern day China even, think about workhouses and slavery. There is a pattern in history of dehumanizing children. And when you think about this myth of the unwanted child, it was Planned Parenthood's original slogan was every child, a wanted child, right, which ultimately means that an unwanted child in their universe should be a dead child. But it goes back to dehumanizing children, in November 1923, while Margaret Sanger, who is known as really the mother of modern day Planned Parenthood, she would put out something called Birth Control Review, and you could see the image in the book, but at the front cover of that particular review showed a woman shackled by ball and chain and on the ball it's written unwanted children.
Bethany Bomberger: So what Margaret Sanger's heart was, she's like, "Let's take this heinous mentality that is obviously not a divine level of thought. And let's make this into a marketing gimmick and let's try to convince women of the lie that children are a burden and that their wanted was determined by how a parent feels about them." Which is frightening because in any situation where we dehumanize another human, we're trying to play God, and we ultimately deny our need for a savior. And all I can say is it never turns out well for individuals or for societies.
Sean McDowell: Bethany, you talk about your husband, Ryan being unwanted in the sense that he was conceived as a result of sexual assault. And that hit me pretty strong because my adopted sister is true for her as well. We discovered she tracked down her birth mom when she was 19, 20 years old student at Biola and discovered that her mom at 14 years old had been raped and chose courageously to give up my sister for adoption. And it's just so shaped the way I think about this issue on so many levels. Would you talk about this? What was it like for his mom to give him up for adoption and how that shapes the way you think about this issue?
Bethany Bomberger: Absolutely. So she placed him for adoption in 1971, and she had a closed adoption records were sealed a number of years back. We petitioned the court to see if they would be willing to open up the records. So within that experience, we were able to talk to the social worker, weren't able to figure out a lot, but we definitely know the social worker explained to us that in the notes, it was written that she was very angry. And it was her request to not see the baby when the baby was born. But after giving birth, she had changed her mind and asked to hold Ryan, and then Ryan was placed in a foster family for about six weeks before being adopted. I love that you used the word courage because when we talk about women who are walking through extremely difficult situations, there is, I always wonder who spoke into her life that gave her that extra bit of courage to walk through nine months of a traumatic pregnancy and give Ryan the gift of life and allow him to have what he says is the gift of adoption.
Bethany Bomberger: I will say this as we've traveled and spoken across the globe, we have met many people, Jenny Christie, Rebekah Berg, folks who have conceived in rape and chosen to parent. And it is fascinating to hear that at least 32% of women, now there's not a ton of studies done. These women who have conceived in rape have chosen to parent, about another 6% choose to adopt. It really goes to the courage of a woman and the courage to understand that one traumatic experience is not resolved by another traumatic experience. And for me, that's a very deep emotion, is very deep place to go to. As we've talked with women who have not chosen to parent and chosen to abort, we have heard story after story, after story of the regret, of the emotional trauma that they've experienced as a result of choosing to abort under these circumstances.
Bethany Bomberger: And if I could just throw in here too, when you talk about abortion and the industry, they use the issues of sexual assault and incest to really explain why abortion is necessary. But abortion in these situations are less than 1% of reasons why women choose to abort. So they're essentially using 1% to justify a 100% of abortion. And I think we can do better for women.
Scott Rae: Now, Bethany, you describe in the article that you were also pregnant in less than ideal circumstances, that you ended up being a single parent for a while before you met Ryan and marry him. So tell us a little bit about that.
Bethany Bomberger: Sure. I was in an abusive relationship and here I am in my late 20's with a Master's degree, teaching and to just do better for myself. I had really dealt with some disappointments in life and felt myself emotion numb and found myself in a situation, and as soon as I realized that I was pregnant, I was working in a public school system. And the majority of my colleagues said, "You need to abort, of course." And here we were in Philadelphia, where you can get an abortion very easily. In fact, Planned Parenthood would come into this school and take kids off campus and allow them to have abortions. But back to me, my personal story was I had a very defining moment with the Lord when I was pregnant. I went in for my ultrasound, I was only six weeks old.
Bethany Bomberger: The ultrasound really just showed the heart of my child as small as a beating piece of rice, that's what it looked like. But during those moments, as I was in this room, I felt the tangible presence of God. And I really felt it was as if his heart just enveloped my heart and this baby's heart, and that night I went back home and I just said, "Lord, I lay down my numbness. I need you. I want to come back to you." I opened up an old journal and there was Psalms 34:5 in a margin and it says, "Those that sought the Lord, he delivered them from all their fears. And those that look to him will be radiant and their faces will never be covered with shame." And I shared this because I had a time with the Lord that redefined me and really pivoted my entire course for my life.
Bethany Bomberger: And I felt the Holy Spirit just saying, "Listen, take the shame and the guilt and exchange it for my radiant glory." And all these years later, really, we started The Radiance Foundation because we do tackle many very difficult social issues. But we know that there's a God that can transform and take whatever that issue is, whatever that pain is, whatever that trauma is, and exchange it for radiant glory, and that be our story. So there is a part of the very deep part of my soul that connects with women, who are in a situation that is considered crisis or unplanned pregnancy. I look back now 16 years later and see how God took my heart for him and used it to redeem that situation, redeem my daughter's life, allow her to be adopted by a dad that adores her and has allowed her to grow up in a family, knowing God and not being paralyzed by shame.
Sean McDowell: Bethany, there's a decent chance that somebody's listening to this at some point who is pregnant.
Bethany Bomberger: Yes.
Sean McDowell: And is tempted to buy the idea of an unwanted child. And obviously there's a lot of emotions and hurt and confusion behind this choice to abort or keep the child or give it up for adoption. What would you say to that girl who's in that spot?
Bethany Bomberger: I would first say that God sees you and he loves you, and he cares about every single decision that has gotten you to the place where you are right now. And he's the same God, I like to say it this way. He puts his super in front of our natural. And we find that what we can't do in and of ourself becomes something that is so much bigger than us. His supernatural will allow us, if we let him to take our darkest hours and walk us through, into a place that we will find ourself in the light. My words would be don't ever give up, run after God. However, that looks for you, just be honest and transparent, he's waiting to meet you right where you are. He never gets tired of taking our tough situations and using them for good.
Bethany Bomberger: Your life has so much good ahead of you. And as high as this mountain looks, when you take one step in front of the other, you will soon find that you have made it up a mountain and over to the other side. So I would say don't give up, press in harder. Find people that will support positive decisions in your life. There are people who love you and are willing to walk through every bit of your pregnancy, find a pregnancy care center in your area, they do this for free. That's their heart to walk through hard times with women in exactly the position that the women that we're talking to are in. Don't give up.
Scott Rae: Bethany, one of the question related to that, the notion that every child should be wanted. I think that just sounds almost self evident, but you say that adds trauma to the distress that a woman's already experiencing, if she's pregnant with a child that wasn't planning on having. How so? It's hard to envision what could be wrong with the idea that every child should be wanted?
Bethany Bomberger: Right. Margaret Sanger, in Woman and the New Race, she writes, this is her quote, "Each and every unwanted child is likely to be in some way, a social liability. It is only the wanted child who is likely to be a social asset." This in and of itself, foundationally is a lie. So anything we build on this lie is going to end up not bringing us healing, but bringing us more hurt. So when we see this statement and we say, "Okay, let's look at what's going on right now. And let's call it what it really is." What's going on is a fear based reaction. And so there is an entire abortion industry that wants to take that fear and fashion it into these, like I said, these euphemisms, these marketing gimmicks that say, it's actually an unwanted child.
Bethany Bomberger: No, we have fear. There's so much fear wrapped up in what's gone on and why a woman is in a situation where she's facing what's considered a crisis pregnancy. So when I say we add trauma to trauma, it's because we're beginning to move forward and make decisions based on lies that will end up really pushing women to think that abortion is their savior and their uplift out of a situation. But indeed what's happening is they're adding brokenness to a heart that's already broken and a situation that is broken. So my heart is to speak into that and say, let's take out the fear and the lie, and let's talk about the life of the mom, let's talk about the life of the unborn child. And let's talk about solutions and ways to eradicate the fear, replace it with some confidence and allow there to be solutions that don't involve killing off a human being in the process.
Scott Rae: Bethany, that's really helpful because supplying the rest of that sentence, every child should be wanted, and the ones that aren't wanted are considered liabilities, supplying the second half of that is really enlightening to that. And I think that's just as true today, it's viewed that way just as much as it was a 100 years ago. One other area I want to explore just briefly. I spent a lot of time thinking about infertility and the causes and cures for that. My wife and I had our own four roughly battle with infertility. And one of the things, and I've talked to dozens of couples who have walked down that road. And one of the things I've been struck with is how common it is, in fact, it's almost the norm for couples to view adoption as a last resort, when all else has failed.
Scott Rae: And they will go sometimes to, I think, some really interesting lengths, they'll take out second, sometimes third mortgages on their home to finance the latest round of IVF or other infertility treatments. And it's often not until all other options are completely exhausted that they come around to considering adoption. Now that's not true for everybody, but I've been struck by how common that is to view adoption as a last resort only. What would you say to couples facing infertility who view adoption in that way?
Bethany Bomberger: Absolutely. And this is why at The Radiance Foundation, the heart of every single issue that we tackle is to help people become more educated and learn things maybe they didn't know before that will allow them to make decisions that are sound and biblical and ultimately for the betterment of themselves and their families. When you talk about adoption as a last resort, it's typically because we don't know any better. Hey, I grew up in a family, when I think back, I had one friend in high school who was adopted and he was a little bit socially awkward. And so that was really my only experience as I got older and the world began to get larger for me, and I was in college and meeting more people, I was realizing how normal it is to have adoption in different families.
Bethany Bomberger: And now of course, that I'm married to my husband, who's one of 10 that were adopted and now that we're adoptive parents, I realize how it's not a leap at all to normalize adoption and understand, and actually dispel the fear that a child from adoption is going to be, I'm going to feel less of a connection and less of a love. And that's simply-
Scott Rae: Let me stop you. Sean and I both looked at each other, eyes wide open, when you said your husband is one of 10 adopted children. Did we hear that correctly?
Bethany Bomberger: Yep. Well, his parents had three biological. They call him the home grown and then his mama who, when she was younger, her parents had split, her father was an alcoholic, and for a season of her young life, she had been in a children's home. While she was in that children's home, her parents separately visited her, but there was another girl that was never visited. So as a five year old, Andrea prayed a prayer, "God help me to be a mom to those who have none." And that translated into, after having three biological children, she went to the social workers in the town and said, "Whoever's languishing in foster care, who can we adopt?" And each year God would send a different one. Ryan jokes, because he was the first one adopted. He said, "Obviously it went well with me."
Bethany Bomberger: But he was adopted as a baby, but he has siblings that were adopted at all different ages, have different stories, different backgrounds, culturally different. It's like a little UN over there, you have his one sister who's part Vietnamese and then two albino brothers, and at the end of the day, Andrea and Henry's heart was just to love those who were considered forgotten by society. And they didn't set out to adopt 10, they just said, "What can we do today to really love somebody?" And you know what? They found that same thing that I was sharing, that it is amazing how a mama's heart will envelope a child, regardless whether they're biological or adopted. And if I could also just add this, especially as Christians where our entire salvation is predicated on being adopted sons and daughters of the most high God.
Bethany Bomberger: It should actually be second nature to open our hearts to adoption and understand that there is a supernatural thing that takes place in our heart. There's this physical manifestation of what happens in the spirit, when we choose to not necessarily make that the last resort but allow that to be way closer to the front.
Sean McDowell: That's a beautiful way to think about it, in such a great transformational model to challenge the church to take to heart. Let me ask you a question. I think about this idea of an unwanted child, I can't imagine anybody saying, "I've got a six month old and it's unwanted, so I'm going to perform the exact same procedure as abortion on this child, but it's just outside of the womb." Everybody, regardless of their worldview would think that's barbaric. Which leads me to think if we justify that for the unborn, the issue isn't really, whether it's wanted or not, the issue is that we don't think the unborn is really human. So that's the heart of the issue. I'm curious in your work and your thought on this, do you agree that really the case is to show that all children are wanted? Which we intuitively believe that, but we dismiss the unborn because somehow we're convinced that they're not human or they're some human that doesn't have a right to life.
Bethany Bomberger: You're exactly right. That is a major argument. However, as science has just exponentially blown up over the years, we cannot deny the humanity of the unborn because we cannot now look into the womb. It's very interesting because yes, there is a good number of the population who will stand by the fact that, when is this age of viability? Is it really a clump of cells or not? And even in that argument, it's a clump of cells. Okay. Call it what you will, but it's not going to turn into a desk or a frog, it is just a human at a different age of development. Interesting that you should say this though, because Ryan did an interview... It was pretty much a debate on Fox Soul recently. And he was debating folks that are pro-abortion and the host started with that very question.
Bethany Bomberger: What's the age of viability? When is this child even really a human? Thinking that would be the jump off. Both of the women that are pro-abortion that are out there, that's championing abortion. Both said the same thing they said, "That's not an argument we're going to have with you anymore because the fact of the matter is we will give you the fact that the unborn is a child. You could even call us a murderer and tell us we're killing, but I'm going to tell you it's my right to do what I want with what's in my body." I was watching as it was being recorded, and I thought, "Better step out of the way, there might be a lightning bolt coming into the studio."
Bethany Bomberger: But we're actually coming to a place where hearts are so hardened to truth that there's really been a veil that has been placed over the eyes of so many that are willing to vote in partial birth abortion, willing to really say, "I am a human that is more worthy of my humanity than others. And therefore I am entitled to do whatever it is that I want." This is playing out in so many of different areas of our culture. But when you think about how it's playing out for unborn children without a voice, it's frightening.
Scott Rae: Yeah. I think this is one of the things that's gone relatively unnoticed, I think in a lot of the pro-life community is that the pro-choice movement is increasingly conceding that the unborn child is a person, because the notion that the unborn child is just a clump of cells or a piece of tissue. I think you're right, is increasingly implausible to maintain in the light of things like 4D ultrasound and the technology that we have available, not to mention things like artificial wombs, which may be coming, things like that. So I think you're absolutely right. That's becoming a much tougher argument to maintain, but in conceding that I think in the past, we thought that once the humanity and the person who the unborn is conceded, then the debate is really over.
Scott Rae: Reality nothing of the sort is true, because the pro-choice movement today is attempting to justify the right of women to end the lives of their full person, unborn children. And I think that's the task now that's ahead of us is to deal with that argument. And I think the future of the pro-life movement depends on our ability to do that well. So Bethany, this has been just so insightful. We so appreciate the article you've written and I want to highlight for our listeners, the upcoming book called Choose Life, which is a series of wonderful essays presenting the logic and the emotion of the pro-life story for the next generation of people who will carry on that torch. And you are certainly a significant part of that, I appreciate your story and the way you have articulated this, the idea that there is such a thing as an unwanted child is actually a myth today that we need to continue to work on dispelling. So thank you so much Bethany for being with us. This has just been delightful.
Bethany Bomberger: Thank you so much for having me. It really was fantastic. Bless you guys.
Scott Rae: Thank you. This has been an episode of the podcast, Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith & Culture. Think Biblically podcast is brought to you by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, offering programs in Southern California, and online, including our Masters in Christian Apologetics, now offered fully online. Visit biola.edu/talbot in order to learn more. If you've enjoyed today's conversation with our guest Bethany Bomberger, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.