Conceived in rape, Virginia man to headline adoption fundraiser in Modesto

04/26/2014 8:38 PM

04/27/2014 3:53 PM

Ryan Bomberger is passionate about his work against abortion and for adoption, but he doesn’t come at the subjects from a philosophical point of view. Instead, he said, it’s very personal.

Conceived when his 21-year-old birth mother was raped, he was adopted when he was 6 weeks old into a family that ended up with three biological children and 10 adopted children from different racial backgrounds. He’s never met his birth mother and doesn’t even know her first name, but said he’s very thankful she did the “courageous thing” to go through nine months of pregnancy after the traumatic sexual assault to give him life and allow him to be adopted into a loving home.

“Her courage showed that beauty can rise from the ashes of something so unspeakable,” he said. He calls his birth mother and his adoptive parents his heroes.

The Virginia resident will bring his message to a fundraising event for Bethany Christian Services on May 8 at the Gallo Center for the Arts. Bomberger, 42, has partnered with Bethany to do some promotional ads with the tag line, “Turn the unplanned into a loving plan,” referring to crisis pregnancies that can lead to a birth mom choosing adoptive parents. It’s a choice that somehow, he said, has become almost taboo in our society, with people putting down women who “give up” their children to adoption.

“I want to dispel some of the myths that surround adoption and open people’s hearts and minds to adopt, or support adoption,” Bomberger said. “I’d like to encourage people to step in and be part of a culture that supports this beautiful and loving act.”

His life as an adopted son, he said, made him realize the value of it.

“I was adopted into a family full of love, a lot of faith, to amazing parents,” he said. “People often ask me why I’m pro-life. Seeing the compassion of my parents, it’s just natural for me.”

He and his wife, Bethany, have a heart for adoption and for young women facing unplanned pregnancy. Before they married, Bethany was a single mom of a 1-year-old, having left an abusive relationship, Bomberger said. He adopted her daughter, and the couple have added two biological children and an adopted son since then.

They also founded The Radiance Foundation, which “exists to inspire people to embrace their intrinsic value and live a life of meaning,” according to its website, www.theradiancefoundation.org. Radiance is their oldest daughter’s middle name, coming from the Bible verse in Psalm 34:5 – “Those who look to him are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame.”

The nonprofit organization advocates for adoption, has a ministry called “Sally’s Lambs” for birth mothers, puts up billboards and creates multimedia platforms to fight abortion, and encourages education on topics such as fatherlessness, poverty, educational choices and pop culture.

Working with Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and other national black leaders, the foundation began a program called toomanyabortions.com that sponsored billboards in Atlanta in 2010 that read, “Black Children Are An Endangered Species.” Bomberger said that in New York City, for example, for every 1,000 black babies who are born, there are 1,489 abortions. Billboards in Oakland read, “Black & Beautiful.” In Sacramento, they read, “Fatherhood Begins in the Womb.”

The billboards provoked a storm of criticism, he said, and led to coverage by The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC and The Associated Press, among others.

“I’ve never seen such horrific news coverage in my life,” he said. “The Oakland media said that we were blatantly racist.”

It’s a claim that Bomberger, who is half-black, denies. “We wanted to wake up black leaders to deal with this epidemic of abortion,” he said. “We really try to give people the other side of the story. What abortion says to women is: ‘You’re not strong enough. You can’t overcome this.’ We want to express to people that every human life has purpose.”

Bomberger, who has won an Emmy Award for his work on a documentary featuring “extraordinary” missionaries around the world, said he’s written a song, “Meant to Be,” that he’d like to sing to his own birth mother some day. Part of the lyrics say:

Though you went through so much such pain,

Your tears, they were not in vain;

Although you could not see

What God had planned for me,

I know I was meant to be.

He said he’s not obsessed with finding his birth mother and doesn’t much like the emphasis with which the media often portrays such reunions. Nor does he like some terminology used, such as “real” mother or “real” siblings.

“Even some of my relatives referred to my parents’ three (biological) children as ‘real siblings.’ I understand there is some compulsion among adopted children to find a blood relative,” he said. “I have enough siblings; I have no desire to find more of them.” In the same way, he added, he doesn’t feel a need to find his birth mother to develop a close relationship with her.

But, he added, “I know she went through a traumatic experience. She couldn’t possibly know what kind of life I would live. She couldn’t know about how I would grow up, about my wife, my children. Her one decision (to carry me to term) made all of this possible. That’s why I would hopefully like to meet her one day. The joy would be incredible, to be able to thank her.”

Bomberger said he’d like to tell young women who are facing unplanned pregnancies “that they are not alone and that there are many resources available. What many young women don’t see is that adoption is a loving parenting choice, as well: ‘I can’t provide the best environment for the child right now, but I’m going to make a parenting plan.’

“My four kids are here, at least two of them biologically, because of the incredible decision by my biological mom. Adoption is a win-win-win situation. It’s not an easy thing, but it is a beautiful thing. We’re good friends with a number of birth moms who have made those loving plans for their children and were able to move on. People don’t hear those stories enough.”

When asked what message he plans to leave with his Modesto audience, he said, “This is probably too simplistic, but hope. When people hear my story about the horrible situation of being born as a result of rape and being adopted, they’ll realize a child can always rise above tragedy. That’s really what I want to get across.

“Of course, it’s a Bethany Christian Services event, and I’m very passionate about adoption and what it unleashes: Love and hope and purpose.”

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