I say “loved” because he passed away a few years ago. My family still gathers on Father’s Day to cook a big meal for each other, just like my dad did for us. He made us feel loved, known and led like nobody else could have.

But like every dad, he was imperfect.

I remember seeking his advice 32 years ago when my now-wife Tricia and I were trying to decide whether or not to abort our first child. He was the person we went to when we first found out we were pregnant during our wedding engagement.

He said we should go to Planned Parenthood. At the time, he counseled us out of love and with what he thought was wisdom. He thought he was helping us get our marriage started the right way — after all, my parents had divorced when I was 10. He didn’t want that for me or for Tricia.

And in the end, we did get an abortion. We regret that decision every day. We will regret it for the rest of our lives. It hurt us both deeply, ended the life of our first child, and permanently changed the course of our lives.

We were, of course, responsible for the act. But I wish now I had had the courage to stand up for that baby’s life. I wish I had stood by my wife and told her: This is our child. We will raise and cherish this baby together. You will be safe. None of the difficulties that seem so overwhelming to us right now will ever outweigh the gift of a child.

And part of that wish, of course, is a small, quiet, nagging wish that my father had encouraged me to do so.

But wishing doesn’t change anything. Instead, I’ve tried my best to use my own fatherhood to encourage everyone I can just how precious and valuable a child is — no matter how unexpected or formidable parenting might seem.

We owe every young man the knowledge that fatherhood is the best thing he could ever receive. We owe him our encouragement, our guidance, our love. New fathers often need to be told that they are enough, and that their child is worth fighting for. So, let’s tell them.

If we stand by our young fathers and encourage them when they need it the most, dramatically fewer women would feel the need to choose abortion. I know Tricia wouldn’t have chosen to abort our child if I had stood up for her and our baby all those years ago. The vast majority of women choose to abort for economic and social reasons that could be made better or even resolved by a stable, loving partnership.

But the thing about a child is that they’re only given to you once. And it can be frightening when it happens. It can be overwhelming.

But there’s nothing better, nothing more important, than the fight to protect and love the family you’re given. Sometimes family just looks different than we’d imagined in our heads. Sometimes our families start earlier than we thought they would. Sometimes we’re given a family we didn’t expect to have at all.

But those relationships are one of the things in this world most worth fighting for. Your children, your parents and your siblings will bring you healing and purpose like nothing else you will ever receive or attain.

Ending abortion isn’t just a battle to defend, empower and uplift vulnerable women and their children. It’s a fight for our fathers, too.

Love the young fathers in your life. Encourage them. Listen to them. Help them to be strong and meet the challenges of fatherhood well, with joy and confidence in the priceless gift they’ve been given in new life.

Jeff Bradford is the President of Human Coalition, one of the largest pro-life and pro-woman organizations in the U.S., and author of the forthcoming book Beauty from Ashes.

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