Herbie Newell and his staff at Lifeline Children’s Services journey with many women through unplanned pregnancies.
Over the years, Newell has come to see that “abortion isn’t about liberating women.”
“It is the sexual ‘liberation’ of men,” he recently wrote for The Washington Stand.
For too long, the role of men has been ignored or minimized in the conversation about abortion, Newell says. Men can play a critical role in furthering a culture of life in America. In fact, their role is irreplaceable.
Newell joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the negative effects abortion has on men, and to explain how men can become empowered to support women facing crisis pregnancies.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: For decades, we have heard that abortion is a women’s issue. Herbie Newell is the president of Lifeline Children’s Services, and he’s here with us today to challenge that notion. Herbie, welcome back to the show.
Herbie Newell: Virginia, thanks for having me again. It’s always a privilege.
Allen: Well, Lifeline Children’s Services, you-all are doing such critical work of journeying with families through adoption, through foster care, and through crisis pregnancy situations. You-all really step in to offer that emotional, spiritual, and practical support to moms who are facing crisis pregnancies.
But you say that it’s not enough to just talk about the issue of abortion and the issue of life and how it affects women, but we also need to talk about the implications on men. You wrote in a recent piece for The Washington Stand that when we call abortion a women’s issue, we do a great disservice to men. Explain what you mean by this. How does abortion harm men?
Newell: Yeah. I think one of the things we do—and if you look at the pro-abortion side and abortion advocates, they make this a one singular person issue. It’s women’s health care. It’s a woman’s right to choose. They neglect the child. I think a lot of pro-life people want to bring the child in and say, “Well, it’s a mother and a child.” But I think what both miss is that it, in fact, takes three in order to result in this pregnancy. It takes the man, the woman, and the child.
Just traveling over the last 19 years, I’ve seen so many men who have equally been hurt by abortion, who have equally been hurt by the missed opportunity to raise a child, to be active in that child’s life.
Statistics show that of the women that are getting abortions, 50% of them are in a long-term committed relationship. It might not be a marriage relationship, but a committed relationship. I’ve met some of these men who know exactly when that due date was and 20 years later will say, “I could have a 20-year-old child.”
There’s psychological, but I also think in our culture, we’re robbing men of the opportunity to stand up, to take responsibility for their family. We have a crisis in our country that we’re not asking men to stand up for their family, to stand up for the rights and the dignity of their women. We’re actually allowing them to skirt that responsibility, and the responsibility they have both to the woman and the child, through abortion.
Allen: You go so far in this piece to say abortion isn’t about liberating women. It is the sexual liberation of men. Wow. Explain what exactly you mean here.
Newell: Well, I think for so long, and this is what I continually hear even from men, is that they see abortion as birth control. They’re able to fulfill their desire, and in short, they don’t show any dignity or respect. They see, instead of women as co-equals, co-heirs, image-bearers of God, they see them as a destination, as someone to conquer. Abortion is becoming birth control, and it allows men to shirk any responsibility.
Actually, it’s the exact opposite of what the culture would have you to see, is that, “Oh, well, we have to protect the dignity of women by protecting their abortion rights,” where in all truth, what would protect the dignity of a woman is to see her not as a sexual object, but to see her as a co-equal, an heir, someone who is made in the image of God, with extreme dignity and worth, and to protect their honor.
I don’t want to get off on a tangent, but one of my favorite documentaries, we do a lot of work in Liberia, was a documentary called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” Basically, all the women went into a field and they said, “We will not have any conjugal visits with a man until they solve the civil war in Liberia,” and the civil war was solved in less than a week.
There’s a piece of it going, what if women raised up and said, “You know what, I’m not going to experience intimacy with this man until he treats me with worth, until he makes a commitment”?
Abortion is liberating men from taking responsibility and from doing the things that they want to do. Don’t get it wrong, most men, especially these deadbeat men who don’t see women as who they are and who they were created to be, abortion is one of their best friends.
Allen: Well, you would think that the feminist movement as a whole would be shouting this message from the rooftops, would be calling men to a higher standard. Why do you think that what we see from the modern feminist movement, and really, honestly, from society as a whole, that this isn’t being talked about, that in many ways abortion has, in the minds of so many Americans, it’s just a women’s issue? Why aren’t we talking about the men being involved here?
Newell: I think a lot of it in a lot of our culture right now is the co-opting of terms, and we also are very scared. We don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. We are so scared that if we make a statement that’s tough or that’s hard or that could be controversial, that we will be labeled or even, nowadays, canceled.
I think a lot of things is we’ve seen these movements co-opt terms that are not meant to be co-opted. Abortion is not women’s health care. Women’s health care is screenings. It’s a plethora of other things. Abortion is not health care. It is the taking of life.
In most cases, there’s no medical reason for an abortion to be performed. Obviously, we’re not talking about miscarriage and other types of health care like that. Most abortion is a choice; it’s not health care. It would be called an elective procedure, if anything. We’ve co-opted these terms, and the culture has co-opted these terms.
As a man of faith and someone who reads God’s word and studies God’s word, I look back at the prophet Isaiah, who said, “Woe to those who will call good evil and evil good.” I think that’s really what we’ve seen in the modern abortion movement. When we’re not grounded in any type of absolute truth, when we’re not grounded in what’s really right and wrong, then we will fall for anything.
Allen: I think we can’t have this conversation without bringing up marriage. I think for some people that is a little bit of a new factor maybe to have in this conversation, because it’s often not talked about.
In the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, a lot of people don’t bring up the marriage conversation, but you went there in a recent piece for The Western Journal. You talk about the role that marriage plays in the conversation of unplanned pregnancies.
This can actually be pretty controversial in society today. I think people can say that’s kind of antiquated. It’s old-fashioned to say that just because a couple makes a baby together, they then have to get married. What’s your response to this?
Newell: Well, I don’t think it’s antiquated. I think it’s foundational to society and to culture that goes back thousands of years.
I think a lot of people think that it’s some Judeo-Christian founding is the reason that marriage was ever even legalized in the United States of America; but if you really look back to the legalization of marriage in our country, it was for the protection of children. It had nothing to do with religious beliefs. It had nothing to do with a religious founding or fervor.
It truly had to do with, “How do we protect children? How do we make sure that we know what happens to a child when their biological parents pass away?” Legal marriage really was never for a man and a woman; it was for the child, and vis-a-vis.
Today in the United States, if you are a Christian and you get married in a church, you’ll have a pastor that’ll do a wedding. Your true legalized marriage happens at the courthouse when they sign the marriage certificate.
We need to remember that society was built on the stability of family. As a matter of fact, our own country was built on giving those inalienable rights, not only to individuals, but to families, that families had the right to choose what was best for their children, that families had the right to train up their children, even in their home, in the way that they should go, and that we realize, as a nation, the backbone of who we were. If you look at it, the backbone of every civilization has always been on the family.
When the family starts to splinter, when the family starts to be corrupted, we start to see all matter of disarray happen in our society.
I really believe that’s where we are today. Because we have separated the conjugal act and procreation from marriage, we now have the highest rates of fatherlessness. We have some of the highest rates of drug abuse and suicide. We don’t see children that are being raised in stability, and that’s what our children need.
Even look around, and this is the last thing I’ll say, but there’s so much therapeutic need right now in our country. As a matter of fact, if you need a counselor today, you’ll go on a two- to three-month, at the least, waiting list because so many people are needing counseling and needing therapy.
I believe a lot of that is because of the instability of the homes that they were in, and maybe not even being raised in a home where marriage brought that stability. Marriage brings stability to children, and children need stability in order to become well-adjusted adults that help change the society.
Allen: So what do we do? How do we go about actually calling men forward to be men and to take ownership? How do we bring marriage back into the conversation of bearing children?
Newell: Yeah. I think, first and foremost, it means that for those of us on the pro-life side, we have to stop hiding behind only one option, which is single parenting, but we have to make sure that every woman going through a crisis pregnancy realizes, on the life side, she has a plethora of options.
Obviously, she could be a single parent. Certainly, I want to make it very clear we would never encourage a woman to get into a marriage relationship with a man that’s abusive or a man that is not going to support her; but where it’s possible, we do need to encourage marriage. We need to encourage that two people come together and bring stability to that child.
There’s adoption. Adoption is a great option for a woman to place a child into a stable family and a stable home. We also have intermediate options, where women can look at what they need while providing some stable, anywhere from six- to eight-week support for her child in a safe place, a safe family, where she can explore what are the best options for her.
On the pro-life side, we’ve got to start with making sure that these women know that they have so many options.
Then I think, as well, especially for those of us with faith, on the faith side, and those of us who believe in marriage, we’ve got to start teaching our young men to be responsible.
We’ve got to start teaching them a sexual ethic that talks about sex is sacred in marriage, and that talks about that women are co-equals, that women have dignity and worth, and that relationship is not about the physical, but it’s about the mental and the spiritual and the emotional.
We’ve got to start getting our young men out and working. We’ve got to get them doing hard things, and we’ve got to be training them to be the leaders and to be the instigators of a culture where marriage is celebrated.
Allen: That’s so critical, I think, to really actively be calling men into manhood, to be actively saying to ourselves in whatever sphere of society that you’re in, but especially in the church, to be strategizing, “OK, how do we empower men today, especially men who have been raised without a father themselves?” They so need that model of what manhood looks like in order to step into it themselves. That’s so foundational.
Newell: Yeah. I think just to add to that, too, there’s so much we can do, too, as families to step up for kids in foster care, to look at that child who doesn’t have an intact family, who may be growing up in a fatherless home or a motherless home, and wrap around these families with love and support.
Then, also, right now, especially in a post-Roe [v. Wade] world, we need families who are willing to foster, who are willing to adopt, and who are willing to wrap around these moms and show them love, to show them an opportunity. Now is the time for pro-life people to step up and put our rhetoric to action.
Allen: Herbie, before we let you go, I would love to ask you just to share a little bit more about what you all do at Lifeline. For those who are thinking, maybe, “I’ve thought about fostering,” or, “I would be interested in supporting an organization that is on the ground working with moms facing crisis pregnancies,” just share a little bit of y’all’s heart and your mission.
Newell: Yeah, absolutely. For the last 41 years, we have been working with women who are going through crisis pregnancy who want to explore what their life options look like.
We help them look at, like I said, temporary opportunities for them to really get their feet under them. We encourage them to look at that birth father and to see if that’s a man that’s worthy of a relationship, and a long-term relationship.
But we also provide adoption opportunities. We have facilitated many adoptions, and we are looking for families that want to come alongside and not just provide a safe shelter for a child, a family for a child, but also will have a heart for a woman, and that are going to love on that woman and care for her in a very tangible way, but also in a way that is affirming of the life decision that she made.
We also work internationally. There’s 153 million orphans in the world, and so we’re equipping both the global church to adopt domestically, so Colombians adopting Colombians and fostering Colombians, but we’re also providing international adoption services, where there are children who need the love and support of a family, and they can only find that here in the United States.
We also do provide foster care and family reunification, so how do we get families back together through our foster care program here in the United States, as well as how do we provide a safe place for a child?
Then the biggest thing right now that we have seen in growth is our counseling and education programs, and so helping children, especially that have come from trauma backgrounds, who may have lived in foster care for a good bit of their life, or lived in an institution, an orphanage, providing the counsel and the support they need to get through some of the trauma that they’ve experienced. We’ve seen a huge increase in our counseling and education services as well.
Allen: For those who would like to learn more, to get involved, you can visit lifelinechild.org. Herbie, thank you so much for your time today and for joining us. We’ll put links to your articles in today’s show notes, and of course, to the website, lifelinechild.org. Thank you for your time.
Newell: Absolutely, Virginia, anytime.
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