Our Commitment to Refugees
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
September 2015

Within the pro-life movement we often hear that a classroom of children is killed each week by abortion. The claim holds true for North Dakota. The state has lower abortion numbers than most states, but is also has smaller class sizes. An average of fifteen unborn children of North Dakota residents are aborted each week. A classroom size a week is about 800 a year.

The statistical information on women subjected to abortions is remarkably consistent. The overwhelming majority of them are unmarried, about 87%. Eighty percent of them have less than a four-year degree. Twenty percent of them are non-white, which is twice the percentage of the state’s population. Although we do not have economic data, we can safely conclude, based on other studies and the fact that most of them are unmarried and lacking a college degree, that they are poor.

We can also conclude that the children, if they were not aborted, would be more likely to grow up in poverty. Growing up in a single-parent household is one of the strongest indicators that child will live in poverty. It also strongly correlated to other social problems, such as involvement in crime, substance abuse, problems in school, and more. The absence of a college degree by the parent, like racial factors, compounds the problems.

No matter what their marital, educational, or racial status, one hundred percent of the women have something in their life that led them to the unplanned pregnancy and the abortionist. It could be drugs, mental health issues, a lack of maturity, domestic abuse, or any number of other issues. Whatever the issue, it probably would have an impact on the child if he or she was born.

This does not mean that the child would be doomed to a life of poverty and delinquency. For the record, I was raised by a single parent. Statistically, however, the child and mother is much more likely to face these challenges.

To the purveyors of the culture of death, these are exactly the reasons these women should get abortions. “Better a dead child than a poor child or an inconvenienced parent” is their motto. The love and mercy of the culture of life, however, embraces every child and mother. There exists no circumstance, no matter how bad, that justifies abortion. That is the pro-life way.

Which brings us back to the claim about a classroom a week being lost by abortion. Implicit in that lament is that society should welcome every one of those children no matter what their situation and no matter what challenges they pose to the rest of us. Also implicit is that our acceptance of these children and our responsibilities to care and educate them is not dependent on the size of the classroom. If the abortion numbers doubled, our commitment to life - and them - would not change.

This commitment is something we should remember as our nation and our state prepares to welcome more refugees. Each year Lutheran Social Services helps the federal government place about 400 refugees in the state. There are some indications that the number will increase to around 500. Even the higher number is less than a classroom a week.

Refugees are not individuals merely seeking to take advantage of American life. They have unwillingly left their homeland to escape persecution and war. Before admission to the US, each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening, and security clearance process. Our response to refugees goes beyond the biblical call to treat the “alien among us” no differently than the citizen. They come needing food, clothing, shelter, employment, English language training, and orientation to a new community and culture. They are among the “least of us” that demand our welcoming embrace.

Nevertheless, there are some who oppose the placement of refugees in the state. They cite the “burdens” refugees place on communities. Refugee resettlement does place some burdens on our resources and sometimes those burdens can be disproportionate geographically. Finding ways to minimize and accept those burdens, however, is the right thing to do. It is no different from when a family embraces an unexpected pregnancy by a teenage daughter. Yes, it is a difficult, but she and the child are deserving of our love, not abandonment that could drive the young woman to the abortionist.

The human family, meaning society, must embrace the burdens of accepting refugees and not abandon them to what is in many cases certain death in their home country. If we are sincere about our willingness as a society to accept all the children destroyed by abortion, we must also be willing to embrace refugees escaping persecution and death.