Damning a Life Versus Protecting One - By Anonymous

 “But what if a parent knows that they don’t’ want a child, or can’t support one?” “Well, I don’t think you have a right to damn a life like that.” I gasped at the phrasing. I was startled, and a little hurt, that my pro-life friend would see my staunchly pro-choice stance as “damning a life.” But then I paused – was that what I was doing? Was I being negative, assuming the worst rather than hoping for the best?

  I thought about it, and thought about it some more, and slowly started to build my argument. I wasn’t damning a life. I was in support of people making a choice not to damn a life. For the issue of abortion in particular, there’s a lot of evidence-based work that I think supports the right to choose. I know this isn’t the most exciting way to write about these issues; I don’t have a fiery diatribe for you. But, for some concrete nuggets of proof, concrete tools to utilize to speak about or think about abortion, I have you covered.

In the child development literature, there’s a theoretical framework for familial resilience and success called the Protective Factors Framework. This is a family framework, not just a child development framework - relevant because abortion is a choice made on the basis of a whole family’s likelihood and opportunity for success. More than one life is at stake here. The five protective factors are as follows:

  •       Parental Resilience (a parent’s capacity to deal with stressful and challenging situations in an effective and positive way)
  •     Social Connections (emotional support from friends, family, and the community)
  •      Concrete Support in Times of Need (the lowest items on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – food, water, shelter, health)
  •    Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development (knowing what to expect and look for and enjoy when raising a child)
  •    Social and Emotional Competence of Children (the child’s ability to self-regulate, positively process, and positively and productively interact)

These factors don’t guarantee the success of a child or a family, but having one or more does highly correlate with better outcomes for a whole family. So, let’s think it through. Let’s say a child was born in to a family to a parent who couldn’t support it financially – there wouldn’t be the protection of Concrete Support in Times of Need. Say it was a teen mom, who might not have Knowledge of Parenting or be developed enough herself to have Parental Resilience. Or say it’s a successful doctor couple that doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and doesn’t want one – the parents might not have the adequate Social Connections to be supported as parents.

Every family deserves these protective factors, and may have challenges achieving them in their own ways. But if a parent knows and has the insight and the foresight to see that their child and family will be unprotected, in advance of a child being born, shouldn’t they be able to choose not to bring an unprotected, vulnerable baby in to the world?  

I wish that I had a list of these factors to show my friend; I wish I could tell him that I myself right now don’t have enough Parental Resilience to raise a child. I don’t have Concrete Support for a child. I don’t have a full knowledge of Child Development. If I were to get pregnant now, and didn’t have the choice to terminate the pregnancy, my child would be born unprotected, damned or not.

 And, honestly, even if I had been armed with this information, he still might have said that I was damning a life. But, at least I would know that my argument was based on research, based on evidence, based on people who have spent their careers looking at children and families and what makes them successful. Could he say the same?



Strengthening Families – A Protective Factor’s Framework. Center for the Study of Social Policy. http://www.cssp.org/reform/strengthening-families/basic-one-pagers/Strengthening-Families-Protective-Factors.pdf

Greer Clem