ColumnsRespect Life/Social Justice

‘A motherless child’: reflecting on adoption and abortion

By Mark Schmidt

Special to The Witness

“Sometimes I feel like a motherless child! Sometimes I feel like a motherless child! Sometimes I feel like a motherless child! A long way from home, a long way from home.”

This spiritual song originated in black communities under the oppression of Amer­ican slavery. With the despair of a child being taken from a mother, a family split up because of greed, a sense of loneliness in the world where such things are commonplace, of a people who feel as though they are separated from their own history and have no hope for a future, the pain and sorrow is palpable in the singer. But, within that song, the word “sometimes” leads us to see hope that there are times when the singer doesn’t feel like a motherless child. When there is hope, perhaps, that even in such trial there is someone, or a community of people, who can offer that maternal love, compassion and mercy.

Perhaps this song can offer us a point of understanding such challenging topics as abortion and adoption. Too often, we may see these issues solely through statistics, through formulas or political policy, and in doing so we forget that we are talking about human persons. What if we viewed these issues by seeing the suffering of all involved with such topics and approach them with the mercy of Christ? Not only could this song help us see the pain of the unborn being abandoned to abortion by his/her mother and/or father, thus, a motherless (fatherless) child, but perhaps it can also help us recognize the pain and sorrow that often comes with those who feel as though they have no other choice or regret their choices. Young mothers, mothers who are fearful of having another mouth to feed, a mother who is being pressured or threatened by others to abandon their child to the act of abortion, mothers who feel isolated by society because they are pregnant out of wedlock, and on and on are the millions of individual personal struggles of so many of our brothers and sisters.

And what of the child who is brought into this world and finds themself in foster care, being abandoned to a system that regularly disappoints or even abuses them? They may also struggle with this same pain, “sometimes I feel like a motherless (or fatherless) child!” Or a child who discovers they were adopted and now wonders who their birth parents are and why they gave them up. Or the parents who, believing others can offer a more suitable life for flourishing for their child, offer their child to another family through adoption, worried that their child may consider themselves “motherless/fatherless.”

How can we be involved to offer a merciful and compassionate shoulder to lean on, to cry on, to rely on? How can we join them and find joy, worth and meaning in their lives? We must pray, first and foremost. Prayer, more than anything, puts us in God’s presence and opens us up to receive the abundant grace of God, transforming us and giving us the energy to be present to others.

By our compassion and mercy, our involvement, we can help bring hope to those who are struggling, those who are suffering, those who feel abandoned. We can be involved in programs such as the Gabriel Project, which partners with women who find themselves pregnant and not sure where to turn. We can advocate for universal healthcare and services to those in need who lack the basic necessities of life. We can more readily recognize and promote the importance of Project Rachel, counseling for women and men who have participated in abortions, to help them receive the mercy of God. Or we can do more to help expand adoption options in our nation, making adoption more affordable. Perhaps we discern that we are called to be foster parents or adoptive parents, creating a family with children who are in need of a home. While we must continue to advocate an end to legal abortion, we must also seek ways in which we can be the hands and feet of Christ to those who may be considering abortion, for whatever reason.

To find out more on this topic and participate in a prayerful reflection and educational session on abortion and adoption, go to the “Formation For All” page of the Office of Respect Life and Social Justice at and follow the age-appropriate links to the “Abortion and Adoption” session dated for Dec. 28, 2016, the feast of Holy Innocents, which is applicable throughout the month of January as we remember the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. Schmidt is the director of the Office of Respect Life and Social Justice for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.