Pregnancy Care Is Just the Beginning, Men!

When Roland Warren took over as Care Net president 10 years ago, just 12 percent of its 1,200 affiliated pregnancy centers had programs for fathers.

That was a problem. “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 said.

He saw that example in Jesus’s own story. “Here’s Mary, facing an unplanned pregnancy from a human perspective,” he said. “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 the male side of unexpected pregnancies. The Gospel Coalition talked to Warren about how much influence the father has in a woman’s decision to abort, why one side of the abortion debate needs men more than the other, and how small tweaks to appointment language have made a big difference.

How much influence does a father have on a mother’s choice to abort?

We did a national survey with LifeWay several years ago. We asked post-abortive women whom they talked to about their pregnancy decision—people such as her mother, the baby’s father, her best friend, her doctor, Planned Parenthood. The number one answer was the father of the baby.

Then we asked, “Who was most influential person in your decision to abort?” Again, he was. The abortion provider was way down on the list.

We did the same survey later, but we talked to post-abortive men. We asked them who their partner talked to about her decision, and they said, “Me.” We asked, “Who was most influential in her decision making?” They knew the answer: “I am.”

For years, we’ve been building a pro-life movement that doesn’t proactively and programmatically engage the most influential person in this decision.

Perhaps we pay less attention to the father because we assume he’ll advise the mother to abort. Is that what normally happens?

In our survey, about a third of men strongly advocated for her to have the abortion. About a third advocated for her not to have the abortion. And the balance said nothing.

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 believe most of these silent men don’t want her to have the abortion. The problem is that for decades guys have been trained by the culture to say, “I’ll support you in whatever you want to do. It’s your decision.”

However, when he says, “It’s your choice,” she hears, “Whether you have this baby or not, it’s all on you.” And when a woman feels abandoned and isolated, she’s more likely to feel she has no choice but to have an abortion.

But we know that if he steps up, like Joseph, and says he will be a husband to her and father the child growing inside of her, she’s less likely to abort. Most women—86 percent—who choose abortion are unmarried.

So separating the father from this process advantages the pro-abortion side.

Yes. The pro-life side needs fathers. The pro-abortion side does not.

What can a pregnancy center do about that?

From a practical standpoint, we’ve started adding men’s brochures, programs, and ministry advocates in the centers. Now over 60 percent of our centers have at least some resources for fathers.

In addition, when clients 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.” That gives her more agency in inviting him. She can say, “They want you to come.”

Once we get the father in, he can see the ultrasound, and he can start to process. Lots of guys think fatherhood starts at birth. We’re trying to help them see it starts at conception.

We’re also helping men 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.

(For those interested in learning more, Care Net will host its second Pro-Life Men’s Summit in Dallas on March 3 and 4.)

What can the church do?

Church members are wonderful at giving financially and volunteering in pregnancy centers. But we also need church members to walk alongside those facing pregnancy decisions. Life decisions need life support.

Lots of guys think fatherhood starts at birth. We’re trying to help them see it starts at conception.

We have a social services network in this country, and it’s a wonderful thing. It can certainly be helpful. But the problem is, 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. They’re not trying to transform her life. They’re transactional.

That’s a problem. The Bible says, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Jesus’s call was to come as you are, but don’t stay as you came. That transforming model is critical. And while the pregnancy center community is ideologically aligned to provide evangelism, it’s not structurally capable of providing long-term support and discipleship. But the church is.

So it’s essential the church sees the life issue as a call to make disciples, just like other good works we do—water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, homes for the homeless. We see these good works as actions that lead to discipleship.

Compassion for the pregnant must be viewed the same way. 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? After all, that’s what God did with Mary.

When you think about it this way, you’re not being just pro-life but rather pro-abundant-life, based on John 10:10. You will have a uniquely gospel-centered response to the abortion issue that includes God’s design for family and God’s call to make disciples. This is how real transformation happens.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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