Imperial Rome had standard procedures for dealing with newborns unwanted by their parents. Many Roman cities had special "exposure walls" where infants could be left, exposed to the elements. Christians found the practice abhorrent. The Didache, apostolic moral teachings compiled at the end of the first century A.D., compared "the way of life and the way of death" and noted that "the difference between these two ways is great. Therefore, do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant."
Late in the second century Callistus, a Christian ex-slave who ran a church shelter and cemetery on Rome's Appian Way, helped to organize "Life Watches" that rescued exposed children and placed them in Christian homes. Callistus eventually became Rome's bishop, and the tradition of Christian rescue of infants was firmly established. Churches throughout the centuries were drop-off points of last resort, and in England and America until the 20th century "foundling homes" were common.
Adoption became highly organized and even bureaucratized during the past century. The number of children placed for adoption dropped sharply, however, when abortion was legalized. Single women who understood the difficulty in raising a child alone were told they could choose between abortion, which would (supposedly) instantly relieve them of their burden, and drawn-out adoption procedures. The great majority chose abortion.
Now, do Christians have a new opportunity to show reverence for life? When children are saved from dangerous abandonment, should they enter the state-run world of foster homes and long waits for adoption? Or should churches and faith-based groups develop alternatives?