Category archives: Family

Mary Holland On the Dangers of Removing Parental Protections from Children’s Medical Decisions

by Family Research Council

July 21, 2021

Below is the transcript of an interview with Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense, during the July 16, 2021 edition of Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.

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TONY PERKINS: Welcome back to Washington Watch. I’m Tony Perkins, your host, along with Meg Kilgannon, our co-host today. On Monday, Parental Rights Foundation and Children’s Health Defense filed a lawsuit against Washington, D.C., arguing that a 2020 law permitting minors to obtain vaccinations without parental consent is unconstitutional. The D.C. Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020 allows minors eleven years and up to consent to vaccines, including the COVID shot without parental knowledge or consent, if the health care provider believes the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard. Wow. Well, joining us to talk about this is Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense. She is also the co-author and co-editor of the books Vaccine Epidemic and the HPV Vaccine on Trial: Seeking Justice for a Generation Betrayed. Mary, welcome to Washington Watch.

MARY HOLLAND: Thank you so much for having me.

MEG KILGANNON: Mary, can you tell us about what prompted you to file the lawsuit?

HOLLAND: So this is a very dangerous law that the Washington, D.C. City Council passed and Congress did not override it. We were sort of watching this process. This is potentially precedent setting. The pharmaceutical industry had tried this in many states, but they have bicameral legislatures and they did not succeed because both parents opposed it. But in D.C., with only a unicameral legislature, they were able to get this through. This is dangerous for children because parents won’t know what vaccines their children get. It goes beyond just the parents don’t know. This is active concealment required by this law that the parents who filed a religious exemption will not know that their children got vaccines. Whether it’s the human papilloma virus vaccine or whether it’s the COVID shot or whether it’s a meningitis shot, the kids allegedly can consent to any federally recommended vaccine on their own and the parents won’t even find out about it from their health insurer. It will be concealed from the parents who will have access to information and the health care practitioner. But the health care practitioner and the school are disabled from giving that information to the parent. This is unconstitutional. It also violates the federal statute that put in place the vaccine program that we have today. So we strongly oppose it. We believe that we will prevail on this. We have four parents on behalf of their children who are enrolled in the D.C. public school system. And we think that, we feel that, this is an incredibly important law to challenge because it is so potentially precedent setting. Let me just add that four cities have already sort of declared this mature minor act. And so Seattle and New York City and in Philadelphia, they have been inviting children without their parents’ knowledge to come and get COVID shots. This is tremendously concerning.

PERKINS: This would appear to me, as you’ve described it, Mary, intentionally designed to deceive parents. And with this being concealed, I mean, I have to think about, you know, there could be complications. You know, when you get this, let’s just take the COVID, there’s others that this would open the door to. So it’s not limited to the COVID shot. But let’s say they get the COVID shot. And we already know that there have been some health complications for some who have gotten these shots and a parent doesn’t know and all of a sudden their child could be deathly ill and they don’t know why.

HOLLAND: Tony, there have been others, over nine thousand reported deaths. There have been over four hundred thousand reported injuries. The covid shots in particular are very serious medical intervention. But every vaccine, like every drug carries potential benefits and potential risks. That’s why parents have to play a role in these decisions. These are minors. It is inconceivable to me that an 11-year-old can adequately research and understand the potential benefits risks of a COVID shot. This is nonsense. This is the pharmaceutical industry coming in and exploiting children, at the children’s expense and trying to cut parents out of the picture. That’s just unacceptable. It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and it violates federal law.

KILGANNON: We’re really grateful that you filed this lawsuit. I think it’s incredible to me that a governing body, in which in this case is the school board, right and the city council, that would they would think that eleven year olds could know their medical history sufficiently to actually form intelligent consent to any medical procedure. Never mind a vaccine.

HOLLAND: That’s it, Meg. This is dangerous. Children can potentially die from this law. That’s what parents have to understand. Your child could die from getting fuor COVID shots through a school. And the kid doesn’t know what the shot was. They said, “Oh, yeah, give me the shot so our class can get the pizza party.” And then the mom or the dad take the kid to get to the COVID shot. We don’t know what that would do. It might be within a short period of time. I just can’t bring across enough how dangerous it is and how exploitative this is.

PERKINS: Well, and I would add that to add insult to injury here is that they’re going to bill the parents’ health insurer without them even knowing what the service provided was. I mean, this is incredible.

HOLLAND: That’s the point, Tony. It’s incredible. We could not believe this as this passed through the city council. And then it sat on the mayor’s desk and we tried to get people to call in to the mayor, and there were there were hundreds of thousands of emails and phone calls, but that didn’t move anything. And then it went to Congress and there’s a waiting period in Congress and that didn’t do anything. So, surely, we have had no choice. And another organization has also filed a lawsuit. This one is where we absolutely have to take a stand. It is. And of course, this is specifically going against parents with religious exemptions or conscientious objections to the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. So it’s parents who already filed their religious exemptions to great extent that they’re trying to go around. So this is, of course, also violating constitutional rights to free exercise. It’s just a terrible law. In a word, it’s a just terrible law and that we’re proud to be standing together with the plaintiff and parental rights advocates.

PERKINS: Well, Mary, we appreciate you joining us. And we’re going to watch this very closely. And we’ll be getting updates from you, hopefully, so we can keep our listeners informed. This is a direct attack, Meg, on parental rights.

KILGANNON: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. They want to leave the parents out. They’re going deliberately around them.

The video of the interview can be viewed here.

State Round-Up: Protecting Adoption Agencies and Foster/Adoptive Families

by Chantel Hoyt

July 20, 2021

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia was a win for Catholic Social Services (CSS). It allows them to continue serving the neediest children without compromising their religious beliefs. However, the decision was not the strong affirmation of religious liberty for which many were hoping. As noted in FRC’s blog on the opinion:

The Supreme Court did the bare minimum to protect CSS and other faith adherents. It was only because Philadelphia had other exceptions, but not religious ones, that the Court found the city in violation of the First Amendment.

In his concurrence, Justice Alito warned that “[t]his decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops.” Whether a city with no exceptions for secular agencies can force a religious agency to violate its religious beliefs is yet to be decided by the Court. Therefore, more needs to be done to protect and affirm the religious liberty of faith-based agencies. Fortunately, several states are taking steps to do just that.

Thus far, 10 states have Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Acts (CWPIAs), legislation that protects adoption and foster care providers from government discrimination based on protected beliefs about the nature of marriage and family. “Government discrimination” can come in many forms. Strong CWPIAs list as many of these forms as possible, with some of the most common being:

  • Denying a license, permit, or other authorization, or the renewal thereof, or revoking/suspending such license, permit, or other authorization.
  • Denying a grant, contract, or participation in a government program.
  • Denying the agency’s application for funding or refusing to renew the agency’s funding.

Ideally, the beliefs protected will also be clearly defined (i.e. the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman), although this has been less common in the CWPIAs introduced thus far. Many of these bills also include a strengthening provision—a civil cause of action for agencies whose rights have been violated by the government. Some bills also specifically protect child welfare agencies from being subject to civil fines or damages for acting in accordance with their beliefs.

Since 2010, 49 CWPIAs have been introduced in 19 states. Ten states have enacted these bills in some form—Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The first was introduced and enacted in Virginia in 2012, and the most recent was enacted in Tennessee in 2020.

In 2021, four CWPIAs have been introduced in four states—Iowa (HF 170), Kentucky (HB 524), South Carolina (HB 3878), and Massachusetts (H. 1536).

Iowa HF 170 is unique in that it clearly defines the protected beliefs child welfare agencies may hold. Among these are the beliefs that “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that “The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ refer to distinct and immutable biological sexes that are determinable by anatomy and genetics by the time of birth.”

Oklahoma resolutions HJR 1059 (2016) and HJR 1023 (2017) read similarly to Iowa’s bill, as they specifically protect child welfare agency’s “beliefs or the lawful expression of those beliefs, including sincerely held religious beliefs regarding marriage, family, or sexuality.” 

Most CWPIAs specifically protect the right of adoption and foster agencies (many of which have a religious mission) to decline certain placements if doing so would violate a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction. However, spelling out which beliefs warrant protection adds an extra layer of clarity for these agencies.

One important thing to note: Half of the bills introduced after 2010 have only protected agencies’ “written” beliefs contained in a policy or organizing document. Some bills even include a requirement that these beliefs be written and available to be viewed. This can exclude some agencies from protection if their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about marriage are not spelled out in a written policy or on the agency’s website. Therefore, CWPIAs are stronger when they don’t make this stipulation and instead protect all sincerely held religious beliefs to have protection. For example, South Carolina HB 3878 (2021) prohibits government discrimination against an agency for providing or declining to provide “any adoption or foster care service… based on or in a manner consistent with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Contrary to what is often said by the media, CWPIAs do not stop same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, nor do they limit the pool of potential foster and adoptive parents. The majority of child welfare agencies in the United States are willing to place children with same-sex couples. Most faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, will help these couples find other agencies willing to assist them.

Forcing welfare agencies to either violate their beliefs, close their doors, or serve in a more limited capacity is detrimental to the children these agencies serve. Allowing faith-based agencies to operate alongside non-faith-based ones ensures that more children in need will receive care, not fewer. Recognizing this fact, 10 states have already enacted CWPIAs into law. Given the number of lawsuits seeking to force foster and adoption agencies to act in ways contrary to their beliefs, other states would be wise to get ahead of the problem and follow suit.

Christian Adoption Agencies Face Uphill Battle Even After Fulton

by Gabby Wiggins

July 7, 2021

Public adoption/foster care agencies and private adoption agencies have been co-existing for decades. They each have specific focuses, advantages, and disadvantages, allowing both birth parents and prospective adoptive parents to choose which program they think will be the best fit for them. Christian adoption agencies in particular have proven to be very successful. For example, Nightlight Christian Adoptions served close to 14,000 adoptive families during the 2020 year. Because of their religious nature, Christian agencies have certain criteria for the families they approve, including marital status. The recent 9-0 Supreme Court ruling in the Fulton v. Philadelphia case affirmed that religious agencies like Catholic Social Services (CSS) must be treated equally to other secular organizations. However, even with this narrowly-worded win, the broader reality is that Christian adoption agencies have long been under attack in the U.S. and are continuing to fight this battle.

One of the agencies most targeted due to the redefinition of marriage has been Catholic Charities, which only places children in homes with a father and mother. In 2006, Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to shut down because of a state law that would force them to comply with laws barring “sexual orientation discrimination,” meaning that they would have been forced to violate deeply-held religious beliefs and place children in households with same-sex couples for both foster care and adoption. After their closure, adoptions in Massachusetts dropped by 28 percent in the following years. Soon after, Catholic Charities of San Francisco, the Archdiocese of Washington, and Illinois were forced to close as well. By forcing Catholic Charities to choose between violating their biblical beliefs and shutting down, the number of children waiting to be adopted increased by thousands.

The most absurd part of it all is that the prospective adoptive parents identifying as LGBTQ whom state non-discrimination laws protect are in fact not affected by religious agencies at all. During the oral arguments over Fulton v. Philadelphia, Justice Alito asked, “How many same-sex couples in Philadelphia have been denied the opportunity to be foster parents as a result of Catholic Social Services’ policy?” The response given by Lori Windham, who represented CSS, was simple: “Zero. In fact, Justice Alito, none have even approached Catholic Social Services asking for this approval and endorsement.” There is a plethora of other agencies without religious convictions that same-sex couples can go to for adoption services. Therefore, waging a battle against Christian organizations is clearly driven by an anti-religious agenda that results in more harm than help.

Unfortunately, it seems like the Fulton v. Philadelphia decision is unlikely to provide lasting protection to religious adoption agencies across the nation. The decision was mostly based off a provision of Philadelphia city law that stated that exceptions to Philadelphia’s non-discrimination policy could be overruled at the city commissioner’s discretion, which in this case is what the Supreme Court affirmed. However, the Court did not provide the ruling that CSS pushed for, which would allow a stricter scrutiny standard and an overturning of Employment Division v. Smith. The combination of this lack of protection and the caving of other religious adoption agencies does not bode well for the future of Christian adoption. As of March 2021, Bethany Christian Services, the largest Christian adoption agency in the U.S., announced that they would place children in non-traditional households for both foster care and adoption.

One of the fundamental tenets of America is the right to publicly live by religious values. To slowly strip that away does nothing but take away freedom and harm society’s most vulnerable children. As Christians, we must continue to pray for the religious liberty of adoption agencies like Catholic Charities and pray that they hold fast to their convictions.

Gabby Wiggins is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.

Spiritual Considerations During Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 27, 2021

This is the final part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Read part 1 on how to support a friend who has gone through a miscarriage and part 2 on the practical considerations during miscarriage.

The information contained in this post may be difficult to read.

If you are or have gone through a miscarriage, or if you are supporting a loved one going through a miscarriage, there are several spiritual considerations that may help you to grieve the death of your child and celebrate the life of your child.

Consider bringing these thoughts to prayer, especially reflecting on how Christ unites His experience of the cross to your pain. Invite Him to be with you in the midst of suffering, in order that He may fill it with His presence and transform it. Christ is carrying His cross and suffering with you. As Pope John Paul II said, “Christ, through His own salvific suffering, is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of His spirit of truth, His consoling spirit.” 

  • God loves your child. In fact, God has had a purpose for him or her since before your child was conceived. Regardless of how many weeks old your child was when he or she died, you can rest in the knowledge that God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you and appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Your child’s life made a difference. Acknowledge your child as a unique person. Recognize that the grief you feel is proof that your child’s life made an impact.
  • Isaiah said, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (49:1). God already knows your child’s name. You and your spouse should consider spending time in prayer asking the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to name your child. You can share this name with others or keep it to yourself. Naming your child acknowledges his or her existence and connects you to him/her.
  • Your unborn baby’s death is not punishment. Their death is not because of anything you or your child did (John 9:2). God loves you. Isaiah 55:8 gently reminds us that we can’t always look into God’s purposes for the pain and suffering we experience: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” You will likely not understand why your unborn baby died until you meet Christ on the last day. It is okay to wonder what God is doing. Ultimately, trust that God loves you and your baby—even when you have no idea what His plan is.
  • Though Scripture tells us, “the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31), you and your husband will experience your miscarriage differently. A woman will undergo physical and emotional pain, while a man’s experience of pain will be purely emotional. You and your husband may grieve in different ways at different times. This is ok—in fact, it’s helpful. When one of you is falling apart, the other can be a source of comfort.
  • Isaiah 64:8 teaches, “We are the clay and you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand.” God does not make mistakes. Your child was and is a beautiful gift from Him to you. Consider keeping the ultrasound of your baby, your positive pregnancy test, and any other mementos of your child’s time on earth in a special place, and yearly—perhaps on your unborn child’s due date—consider remembering your child in a special way, even if just in a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift he or she was during his or her short time on earth.
  • An unborn baby was the first person to recognize Jesus as the Son of God without anyone telling him who He was: “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (read the whole story in Luke 1:39-45). While your baby was never formally introduced to Jesus, we know from Scripture that an unborn child can recognize the presence of the Lord even in the womb. Trust in God’s mercy and love and know that you will see your child in heaven one day. (On the question of about whether unborn babies go to heaven, read this short book or this article for biblical backing.)
  • Scripture also tells us, “In your book were written the days that were formed for me, every one of them…” (Psalm 139:16). Your child is part of God’s plan. Do not be afraid to share the experience of losing your child with others—especially with your other children and family members. This is a personal decision, and your decision on this may develop and change over time. Allowing your other children to grieve the loss of their brother or sister at an appropriate age is important. Knowing there is a sibling in heaven can have a huge impact on a child’s life. Sharing about the loss of your child with others not only acknowledges your child’s existence, but it also allows your child to continue to have an impact on this world. The following books have been helpful for other parents talking to their child about the loss of a sibling through miscarriage.
  • Trusting that God is all good and all loving is especially hard when grieving the loss of a child. Ask your pastor to preside over a memorial service to remember and celebrate the life of your unborn child. If your pastor is not able or willing to do this just for you, suggest a service for all parents mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage. Running to Jesus—even if only to cry out “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24”—is the first step to healing your heart. 
  • As a gift from God, your child will always be a part of you. For moms, your child will not only always hold a place in your heart, but it has been scientifically proven that an unborn baby’s DNA stays within his or her mother, and in fact, may help the mother’s body heal from certain diseases. This connection will unite you and your baby until you meet him or her in heaven.
  • Remember that you are a mom and that your husband is a dad, and that you have a child in heaven. This is a great gift. Do not forget that your child always belonged to God, and now your child is with God for eternity. May you be able to say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
  • If you are a Christian, take hope in the reality that you will see your child again. This is the hope of the resurrection. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul wrote, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.” The hope for those in Christ is that we will see our loved ones again—born and unborn.
  • At some point, the wound of miscarriage can become a source of strength. “For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).   When you feel ready, do not be afraid to share your story. Your unborn child’s life has and will continue to change the world. This article may be helpful in discerning when, how, and if you want to share your story.

Practical Considerations During Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 26, 2021

This is the second part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Read part 1 on how to support a friend who has gone through a miscarriage. Part 3 will discuss spiritual considerations during miscarriage. 

The information contained in this post may be difficult to read. 

If you are reading this because you are in the midst of losing a baby, I am so sorry. Know that you are not alone. 

The following considerations are meant primarily for those experiencing a miscarriage prior to 20 weeks. Though this post does contain some medical information, these considerations were not written by a doctor and do not constitute medical advice. 

  • If you are pregnant and have started exhibiting the signs of miscarriage including bleeding and cramping, call your doctor immediately.[1]
  • If the doctor orders an ultrasound, ask the ultrasound technician to print out a picture of your baby for you.
  • If the ultrasound determines your baby has died and the doctor recommends going home, be prepared for pain and bleeding. 
  • Depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy, your pain and bleeding levels may vary. Be certain to check in with your doctor to make certain you are not in too much pain or bleeding too much.
  • Heating pads and hot water bottles can help ease the pain during a miscarriage. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. 
  • Depending on how severe the cramping is and how far along you are it may be helpful to also use some labor techniques, as what you are experiencing is a “mini labor.” Low lighting, swaying or leaning on a birthing ball, emotional and physical support of your spouse/massage, deep breaths, offering your suffering for someone in need, having a spouse or partner read from Scripture or pray with you are all helpful ways to endure this time.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. 
  • As you prepare for or experience bleeding, use pads—not tampons—to prevent infection.
  • If you are miscarrying at home, consider placing a bowl in the toilet to ensure your baby’s remains will be treated with dignity. If you are not able to do this, know that God sees your heart and knows how much you love your child. 
    • These pictures are graphic, but they are extremely helpful if you would like to identify the baby. To view them, click here.  
  • You may see your child’s body. Be certain to treat the body with respect by placing the remains in a container. Heaven’s Gain Ministries offers beautiful baby caskets for babies miscarried in the first, second, and third trimester. A container or box that you have at home will work as well. Be aware that your child’s remains will likely begin to disintegrate very quickly.    
  • If you have a miscarriage at a hospital prior to 20 weeks, your child’s remains will likely be taken for testing. State laws differ on releasing the child’s remains to parents. Do not be afraid to ask if you may take the remains for burial. Do not be afraid to ask for a death certificate for your child. If you are at a Catholic/Christian hospital, the hospital itself may have a place where miscarried babies can be buried. If not, your local cemetery or church may have a place. Click here for more information on parents’ rights/dealing with the hospital. 
  • If you miscarried at home prior to 20 weeks and you bring your child’s remains with you to the doctor for a follow-up appointment, the doctor may ask if you would like to have testing done on your child. You have the right to refuse or consent. Know that if testing is done on your child, you may not receive your child’s remains back. 
  • If you do not miscarry naturally, you may need a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure or a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure. If this is the case, be CERTAIN to have one more ultrasound before the procedure is done to ensure that your baby’s heartbeat has stopped completely. 
  • Following the miscarriage, rest. You have been through a traumatic experience. Your body needs time to heal and recover. You have been on an emotional rollercoaster. The loss of your child is devastating, and the hormones that are shifting in your body do not make it easier. 
  • Allow yourself to grieve and experience all the emotions that come with it. Seek emotional support. Take time alone if you need it. Everyone’s journey is different, but don’t be ashamed to ask for help. 
  • Do not be surprised if seemingly unrelated events or objects trigger a strong emotional response or if grief comes at unexpected times. 
  • Advocate for yourself and ask for time off work if needed. Talk with your boss (or if that doesn’t work, then HR directly). A few programs you can inquire about are: Personal Leave, Bereavement, FMLA/Short Term Disability. When speaking with your employer do not say, “Can I…” but rather “I had a miscarriage. I need (time frame) off. What are my options?”
  • Know that a pregnancy test may still read positive for a period of time after a miscarriage. 
  • Know that you may re-experience all the emotions and feelings surrounding your miscarriage when you first get your period back. You may even find that you feel like you are going through a miscarriage all over again. Communicate with your spouse about your fertility to prepare him for this as well. Again, don’t be afraid to ask for support from those who care so much about you. 
  • Check in with your doctor regularly to ensure you are recovering properly. 
  • You will likely have questions about fertility after the loss of a child through miscarriage or about when it is safe to try to become pregnant again. FACTS has a very helpful resource.  

For more information on the physical experience of miscarriage, click here.



[1] Research has been done on the link between low progesterone and miscarriage. Progesterone supplementation may help sustain a pregnancy/avoid miscarriage. There will be a blog forthcoming on this for those who are interested.

How to Support a Loved One Experiencing Miscarriage

by Mary Szoch

May 25, 2021

This is the first part of a three-part series on miscarriage. Future parts will discuss practical and spiritual considerations for miscarriage.

Our society does not think or talk much about miscarriage. For many, miscarriage is a silent form of suffering. Sadly, many couples endure the loss of a child through miscarriage. It is estimated that as many as one in four women experience a miscarriage in their lives.

My prayer for you is that you never need the information contained in this series, but I know there are many women out there who are silently suffering. I myself am a woman who has suffered through a miscarriage.

If one of your loved ones is experiencing a miscarriage, it is important to recognize that your loved one needs extra love and support and that there are several ways you can be a loving friend.

  • Pray. The most important thing you can do for your friend(s) who is going through a miscarriage is to pray for them. Pray for the couple’s physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Pray for grace to be a good friend during this challenging time. Pray for the Lord to protect them from outside stress that will make the loss of their child harder.
  • Be very sensitive about what you say. Treat your friend the same way you would treat anyone else who lost a loved one. Do not try to solve your friend’s problem. Do not think that you know what your friend is going through or why they are going through it. Also, do not offer medical advice if you are not a doctor.
  • Tell your loved one you are sorry for the loss of her child and remind her that you are there to listen if she would like to talk. Your friend may or may not feel like being around people. She may or may not feel like talking about her miscarriage. In the same way you would listen and be present through any other suffering, offer to listen as she directs the conversation about the loss of her child. If she does not want to talk about it, offer to just be with her. If she does not want to be around people, she will appreciate that you offered.
  • Whatever you do, do not say nothing. Don’t avoid your friend out of fear that you will remind her of her loss. Acknowledge her pain. She will never forget your presence or lack of presence.
  • Check in. Make sure to check in on your friend a few days after your first meeting and follow up on anything you have offered to do.
  • Acknowledge your friend’s loss. Take your cues from the mom. If she talks about the baby by name, use the baby’s name. If she refers to the baby as a boy or girl, do the same. Follow her lead.
  • Make a meal. A woman going through a miscarriage is experiencing physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma. It is an incredibly challenging and exhausting time. Bringing over a meal is a helpful way to acknowledge the great loss she is experiencing. Offer to drop off the meal. She may or may not want you to join her.
  • Send a card or flowers. Your friend will appreciate the fact that you are treating the death of her unborn child with love, seriousness, and kindness. Miscarriages are often not talked about, but that does not mean they are not incredibly painful. Your friend will never forget that you sent a card or flowers commemorating her child.
  • Do not trivialize the loss of her unborn child no matter how early in pregnancy the loss occurred.
  • Do not refer to the loss of her child as “pregnancy loss.” A woman who has miscarried is not experiencing the loss of morning sickness, or bloating, or a period of time. She is experiencing the loss of a child. Acknowledge the child.
  • Do not begin any statement with the words “at least.” There is no “at least” that the mother wants to hear or that will help her.
  • Write the due date/month in your calendar and circle back. Significant dates associated with a deceased loved one (such as a birthday or anniversary) can be hard for loved ones. In the case of a miscarriage, the due date of a baby who was miscarried can be a painful time for a mother. Checking in to see how the mom is doing during this time can be very helpful.
  • Don’t forget the husband! Often, caring for a couple who has lost a child through miscarriage focuses primarily on the mom. Remember that your friend’s husband is grieving, too. Take time to check in on him.
  • Do not expect your friend to be fine. Remember that your friend lost a child and will need time to heal. Also remember that the pain of losing that child—just like the pain of losing any other loved one—may come up at various times in the future. Be ready to listen! 
  • Be extremely sensitive if you are pregnant or have just had a baby. Do not take it personally if it is too hard for your friend to be around you at this point. Remember that she is grieving.
  • Remember your friend on Mother’s Day. She is a mom, and she will appreciate you acknowledging that. Do so delicately.
  • Remember your friend’s husband on Father’s Day. He is a father, and he will appreciate you acknowledging that. Do so delicately.

Read part 2 discussing practical considerations during miscarriage.

God Is the Solution to a Declining Birth Rate

by Mary Szoch

May 10, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data showing the American birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest point in history, continuing the general trend that began in 1971 of American birthrates falling below the replacement level. The Brookings Institute has predicted that in 2021, Americans should expect 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births, a 12-14 percent decline from 2020.   

The social and economic impact of the rapidly falling birthrate cannot be overstated. Fewer children means rising loneliness, fewer consumers, isolation in old age, a dwindling economy, and overall, less happiness. Americans recognize this and actually want more children. Forty-one percent of Americans say three or more children is ideal, while just 1 percent say zero, but in reality, the fertility rate for American women is just 1.7.

Around the world, countries like China, Japan, Germany, Spain, and Italy are facing an even more drastic trend with experts predicting as many as 23 countries will find their population has halved by 2100.

Many blame the COVID-19 pandemic for the dramatic decline in births, arguing the 14 percent decline predicted in America for 2021 is the result of the pandemic. This decline is much steeper than countries have seen before, but it would be naïve to think that this decline is more than an exaggerated data point in a general trend.

Currently, government leaders around the world are working to reverse this trend. China expanded their one-child policy to a two-child policy in hopes of increasing the population, but it has failed to do so. Various countries have implemented maternity leave and childcare policies but failed to find a panacea. Without an accurate diagnosis of the problem, efforts to correct it will continue to flounder.

Without a doubt—the conditions created under the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a dramatic decline in births. Throughout American history, during times of economic decline, the fertility rate has also dropped. Fewer births in 2020 are attributed to the instability caused by COVID-19. But an examination of what happened during the lockdowns across the country points to another, major cause.

During the pandemic, in the name of keeping people safe, weddings were postponed, couples decided not to have children, students did not go to school, loved ones died alone, ICU patients were denied the presence of a priest, multiple churches were ordered to close or limit attendance—even at Christmas. Of course, in many cases, precautions were prudent and, in some cases, necessary. Still, the message “Be afraid of yourself and be afraid of others. Do not make any commitments or take any risks—even for the sake of love (especially not love of God)” was incredibly damaging. 

Sadly, this message was just a magnified version of what society has been preaching for years: “Be afraid. Don’t commit. Don’t take any risks—even for the sake of love.”

Today, the world is one where technology allows us to cancel plans even minutes before they were scheduled; where it is possible to find out everything about a person before going on a first date; where instead of committing to marriage, the norm is to “try things out” by moving in together; where commitment to moral principles has been replaced by a “commitment” to whatever makes people feel good; and where instead of practicing a religion, people identify as “spiritual” but not religious or as “nothing.”

The inability to commit points to an inability to love, which requires commitment, vulnerability, and risk taking. Ultimately, the inability to love indicates a rejection of God who is love. As the birthrate has declined in the United States, so has Christianity. In fact, among Millennials, four in 10 people identify as religious “nones.” It is not surprising that the rejection of God and the rejection of the self-sacrificial love required to fall in love, get married, and bring a child into the world go hand in hand.

The pandemic and the restrictions implemented as a result proved many things—human beings need social interaction; in general, people follow rules; work is a huge source of self-esteem; fear motivates drastic actions; and most importantly, spending time with God is essential for human flourishing.

Certainly, instability caused by COVID-19 impacted the birthrate, but COVID-19 did not cause the instability—it simply magnified a problem that already existed. The antidote to this instability is a return to God. He is the only being not surprised by anything in the future. In Him is ultimate stability—and with that, the courage to fall in love, get married, and have children.

Elected Leaders Are Moving to Protect Children and Religious Freedom

by Chantel Hoyt

March 22, 2021

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans introduced legislation that would allow faith-based child welfare agencies to operate in line with their convictions and protect their religious freedom. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Senators John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) while Representative Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced a companion bill in the House. Speaking about the bill, Scott said, “At a time where religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act [CWPIA] is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions.”

Several states have also recognized the need for such legislation. In recent weeks, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Kentucky have all introduced legislation that aims to provide the same protections to faith-based child welfare agencies. Specifically, this includes the freedom to place children in homes consistent with their beliefs on biblical family life and sexuality.

While it is the first time this type of legislation has been introduced in these three states, their introduction, as well as the introduction of the federal CWPIA, signals broader concern around the country about the Biden administration’s focus on LGBT issues and how it will impact religious liberty. With President Biden’s support for the Equality Act—a bill that would negatively impact these faith-based agencies (and many other groups)—the future of faith-based child welfare agencies is uncertain. But those committed to preserving religious freedom aren’t likely to go down without a fight.

Legislatures in eight different states have felt the need to pass legislation to protect foster and adoption care agencies, beginning in 2012 (Virginia) and most recently in 2020 (Tennessee). Such legislation allows these agencies to operate in a way consistent with their religious beliefs, without suffering from license revocation, contract termination, or other adverse action from the state. This growing threat has already been seen in Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts as well as cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia. In many of these instances, faith-based foster and adoption care agencies have been forced to forego their religious beliefs, serve in a severely limited capacity, and even close their doors because they were not willing to compromise on their principles regarding marriage and sexuality.

Although such discriminatory actions harm the children these agencies serve, opponents of faith-based organizations tend to only focus on LGBT couples who are ‘turned away,’ supposedly limiting the pool of parents willing to help children in need. However, this logic makes two false assumptions.

The first is that faith-based child welfare agencies are LGBT couples’ only option to become parents. This is simply not the case. The majority of agencies in the country are more than willing to work with same-sex couples. Only about 25 percent of agencies are faith-based and have narrow criteria potential parents must meet. For example, in Philadelphia in 2018, only two out of the nearly 30 child welfare agencies were faith-based. The city terminated these agencies’ contracts anyway. The lawsuit filed against the city by foster parents who worked with Catholic Social Services has shown that the agency had not denied service or turned away anyone because of their LGBT status. Further, it showed that should they be unable to partner with a couple that approaches them, they would help that couple connect with one of the other 29 agencies in the city. This is not enough for the activists. Clearly, they were sued because of their religious belief. The picture of a same-sex couple being turned away from a faith-based agency and having nowhere else to turn is simply inaccurate.  

The second false assumption is that more children will receive homes and much needed care if faith-based agencies are forced to make the choice between their beliefs and continuing to help those in need. The reality, though, is that fewer children will receive the care they need because some of the highest performing and longest serving agencies will be shut down or sidelined simply because they’re faith-based. Illinois’ foster and adoption system, for example, seems to still be suffering after the closure of Catholic Charities in 2011. Sadly, Illinois has seen a 14 percent decrease in the number of non-relative foster care beds or homes from 2012 to 2017, and the state lost 1,547 foster homes during that same time period—homes that could have been available to serve foster children in need. It should go without saying that this will harm children in the foster care and adoption systems.

Protecting the ability of faith-based child welfare agencies to continue operating in accordance with their religious beliefs is good for everyone. It helps more children receive care by increasing the number of agencies able to serve them. Allowing religious organizations of any kind to operate alongside non-religious ones is crucial to preserve freedom of religion in our society and to ensure that we are able to serve as many children in need as possible.

We are thankful for the many states and those in Congress who are taking steps to protect this crucial area of religious freedom.

The Crisis of Fatherlessness and the Opportunity of Mentorship

by Grant Elledge

March 12, 2021

One in four.

It’s hard for many of us to grasp the extent of the silent social crisis of fatherlessness, but in the United States almost exactly one quarter of all children are growing up without a dad. This fraction doesn’t include children growing up with a stepdad, living in a co-parenting arrangement where dad is present at least a few days a week, living with adoptive fathers, or in any other non-traditional family structure—over 20 million U.S. kids are living without a man they can point to and say, “That’s my dad.”

The natural question that flows from this is, “Does it matter?” Both the research and anecdotal evidence shout a resounding “yes.” To take just a few examples, we know that fatherless individuals are:

And beyond this, the issue is itself cyclical and generational. Over 70 percent of unplanned pregnancies involve at least one parent who is themselves fatherless, and the vast majority of fatherless children are born out of unplanned pregnancies.

And so another natural question arises, “How do we break this cycle?” And this is where hope enters an otherwise-dismal picture: mentorship has been proven to have a categorical impact on fatherless individuals.

Thanks to a doctoral thesis from 2003, we can demonstrate just that based on a somewhat unusual metric: homicide rates. The only external context you need is what the author refers to as “old heads”—these are older individuals invested in their community and the lives of the young adults they’re connected to.

The thesis points out that the rate of male homicide is much higher than the rate of female homicide. Also, the influence of old heads (mentors) is relatively small on people growing up with dads, but significant on people growing up without dads. As a result, we can see that:

  • The relative risk of fatherless males committing a homicide without the presence of old heads is six compared to only four for females.
  • The relative risk of fatherless males committing a homicide with high presence of old heads is one—no more likely than their fathered counterparts—compared to two for females.

Combining these insights is dramatic: the influence of mentorship on fatherless males is significant, even significantly greater than the influence of mentorship on fatherless females. And combining this observation with the much higher homicide rate committed by males leads us to something incredible: effective mentor presence just for fatherless males (one in eight people, half of the one in four fatherless kids) may significantly reduce the homicide rate, perhaps cutting it in half—not to mention helping to reverse the myriad other trends we sampled earlier.

And so we arrive at the burning need: committed, loving men to support young dads. I’ve been blown away by the immediate connection in my personal mentorship relationship. The first time we spent meaningful time together in person (admittedly, after a long period of time pursuing him), he remarked, “I’ve never had someone who knows me so little care about me so much.” What a profoundly kind and encouraging statement! This young man is wrestling through the prospect of going to college while supporting a young family after graduating near the top of his class. It’s been a thrilling opportunity to support this young man who lives just three blocks from me.

How encouraging, how surprising, how exciting to have the prospect of this breadth of impact within all of our reach!

Grant Elledge is the CEO of fathering.me, a growing nonprofit committed to mentoring young fathers of unplanned babies and meeting the needs of those new dads with accessible online resources. He lives in Harrisburg, Pa. with his wife, Elaine, and their precocious 2.5-year-old, Peter.

The Imperative of Raising Good Citizens

by Molly Carman

October 5, 2020

Most people are citizens of someplace, either by birth or by choice, and with citizenship comes certain responsibilities. But what does it mean to be a good citizen? And how should Christians balance their primary allegiance to the kingdom of heaven with their earthly obligations to their communities and countries? This six-part blog series, produced under the direction of David Closson, FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview, aims to explore how Christians can best steward these responsibilities from a biblical worldview. Learn more at FRC.org/worldview.

This is part 4. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Good citizens are vital to the health and growth of a community. If we want our communities to continue flourishing in the long term, we must raise the next generation to be good citizens. Christians have the added opportunity of discipling the next generation to be good citizens of not only their earthly communities but also of heaven. This can be done through bearing biological children, adopting or fostering children, or teaching and mentoring children.

Today, fewer and fewer couples are having children. This is due to various reasons, ranging from personal choice to circumstances beyond a person’s control, such as infertility. But fear is a major factor in why many otherwise healthy couples opt against having children. Indeed, bringing children into a fallen world and taking responsibility for them can be a scary thought for potential parents. But one of the most practical ways that Christians can seek the welfare of their earthly communities—and potentially expand the kingdom of heaven—is by bearing, raising, and teaching children to have biblical beliefs and godly values.

Scripture is clear that “children are a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3), and every married couple should be open to any and every child that the Lord wants to bless them with, be it through natural means or adoption. This is not a posture readily embraced by our culture, but in this we must be counter-cultural. In an article from the Colson Center, John Stonestreet and Shane Morris said, “Ours is a culture that hinders children, instead of welcoming them. That we look at God’s blessings as mere lifestyle choices, even as punchlines for wisecracks and mockery, marks that we are a dying culture. And maybe a dying Church.”

Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven and called to be imitators of Christ. Therefore, we should welcome children as Christ did (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16) and seek to teach them the fear of the Lord. Christians have a unique opportunity and responsibility to raise good citizens of earth and heaven who will be good ambassadors for Christ, blessing the nations through their actions and inspiring gospel hope with their words.

Discerning how to teach children to be good citizens of both heaven and earth can be challenging. The Bible is our best guide. Throughout Scripture, parents are commanded and encouraged to disciple their children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not part from it.”

An important part of discipling children in Christian faith and good citizenship is modeling said behavior with humility, integrity, and courage. Children are always watching, and we can demonstrate godly traits—like resolve in the face of evil, hard work and diligence without complaint, and contentment with all of God’s blessings—through our daily actions.

This fall, American Christians will have an opportunity to vote for leadership and policies that directly impact future generations. We have an obligation to vote for leaders at the local, state, and national levels who will defend and lead our children well. We must be wise in our decisions while modeling political engagement that is motivated by love of neighbor.

Whether married or single, parent or childless, every Christian has a role to play in raising the next generation to be good citizens of earth and heaven. It is important that we do not despise children for their youth (1 Timothy 4:12) but rather intentionally guide and counsel them. Christ said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Let us be good citizens for the glory of God and teach the next generation to do the same.

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