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Jerry Falwell's 'Viable Alternative' to Abortion : Minister Advocates Godparent Plan That Experts Call Unworkable, Expensive

March 21, 1986|DAVID JOHNSTON | Times Staff Writer

LYNCHBURG, Va. — The Rev. Jerry Falwell says the anti-abortion movement cannot win without a "viable alternative," so he wants to replace the 1.5 million abortions in the United States each year with 1.5 million adoptions.

He says the cost of his plan would be just "$400 per baby saved" or about $600 million this year.

But experts in child welfare say Falwell's plan is unworkable and that the costs for obstetrical care alone would exceed $3 billion per year while related costs would total tens of billions of dollars annually.

Falwell arrives in Los Angeles Monday to begin a talk show tour that will cover 30 cities in six weeks to promote his new book, "If I Should Die Before I Wake" (Thomas Nelson Publishing: $12.95), which advocates his plan.

In the book, Falwell writes, "Yes, we can win the fight against abortion without taking to the streets in real warfare, without bombing abortion clinics or abortionists' offices, without acts of violence and hatred."

Falwell said proceeds from the book will help pay for technical advice to churches establishing Liberty Godparent Homes for unwed mothers. He said 261 autonomous homes, run by local churches, are now in existence and that he has letters from 8,900 churches that want to start their own.

The book, published March 1, is in its second printing, with 75,000 hardback copies shipped so far. A third printing, of 25,000 copies, is planned, said Walt Quinn, a publicist for Thomas Nelson Publishing, a Nashville-based book and Bible firm.

Alternate chapters of "If I Should Die Before I Wake" tell the story of a twice-pregnant teen-ager who had an abortion the first time, then got pregnant again and went to the original Liberty Godparent Home here, giving her son up for adoption.

The young woman, who uses the name Jennifer Simpson, said she will accompany Falwell on most of his tour to promote the book.

TV, Rock, Films Blamed

In an interview, Simpson, now an honor student at Falwell's Liberty College majoring in public speaking, said she believes that network television, rock music and movies have contributed to the increase in teen pregnancies.

"Seeing the girls at the house, the shows they watch on TV, the whole idea of premarital sex is nothing, an everyday occurrence, so why should they think real life would be any different than TV?" she said.

Falwell, whose "Old Time Gospel Hour" TV broadcast is the cornerstone of a $100-million-per-year ministry, made it clear that in promoting his adoption alternative he plans to place much of the blame for teen-age pregnancies on the entertainment industry in general and especially on television producer Norman Lear.

Falwell, the father of three grown children and founder of the Moral Majority, began attacking Lear in 1980, when Lear and Christian and Jewish leaders formed People for the American Way in response to the rise of the electronic ministries of Falwell and others in the New Right.

The independent Baptist minister called Lear a "coward" for refusing to debate him on television and accused Lear of having an "anti-Christian complex" and of promoting "anti-Christian bigotry."

Reached by telephone at his home in Los Angeles, Lear responded: "I think that the Rev. Falwell has had a number of foreign policy disasters--his defense of Marcos and his attack on Bishop Tutu--and he is leaving foreign policy and coming back to domestic issues, and I am hardly a domestic issue and I choose not to give him the credence of a reply.

"I am very content to let Jerry Falwell be his own worst enemy," Lear said.

To get enough popular support to end legalized abortions, Falwell said, requires a "viable alternative" that includes a massive adoption program, sex education in the schools and stopping "gratuitous sex and violence" in television programming. He said 10,000 Liberty Godparent Home programs are needed to take care of the 1.5 million girls and women who get abortions each year. Many of these programs, Falwell said, will limit themselves to counseling and "shepherding" single mothers in the private homes of fundamentalist Christians.

Falwell said he is confidant 10,000 Liberty Godparent Homes will be open by the end of the decade. And once the homes are open, he said, there will be no reason for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized most abortions, because it will no longer be needed.

'Immoral Relations' Deplored

He added that once teen-agers realize they cannot resort to an abortion to terminate pregnancy, very few of them will engage in "immoral sexual relations outside of marriage."

Abortions, Falwell said, should be limited to cases in which the mother's life is in jeopardy. But he said he believes the "political reality" is that abortions would also have to be allowed in cases of rape and incest.

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