January 27, 2021

iMonk 101: Beyond the Bizarre and the Arbitrary: How I Became Pro-Life

Reprinted from November, 2004.

Also read this recent Uwe Siemon-Netto Collective Shame.

“Doctors should not be aborting fetuses at a stage at which another doctor “operating under a different set of instructions” could give that same baby a reasonable chance of leading a full and healthy life.”
Charlotte Edwardes, undercover reporter for the London Telegraph, who revealed how the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the U.K.’s largest abortion provider, was circumventing late-term abortion laws in that country by sending women to a Spanish clinic that falsely certifies that every woman who comes to the clinic is in grave danger.

Ahh…the world has finally caught up with me 🙂 Here’s the story.

I was somewhere in the later stages of my liberalism, maybe about 1985, when I went to Boston the first time. While I never toured a hospital while I was there, I was around the medical centers several times. Plenty impressive. And somewhere in the neighborhood, I saw a “Women’s Clinic.” A clinic where abortions were performed. This pairing of technologies and decisions made an impression on me.

The Southern Baptist moderates I identified with at that time didn’t talk about abortion. They talked about women’s rights, children growing up in poverty, overpopulation, no government interference in family “planning,” and all that sort of thing. I had started to be uncomfortable with the lack of serious engagement with the topic back in seminary when my ethics professor took us on an exegetical excursion into texts that- in his opinion- taught that the fetus wasn’t considered a “person” until it arrived and breathed on its own. I knew that infant mortality affected the way ancient cultures looked at children, but the plain texts I knew applied were unanimous that the child was a person in God’s sight as long as God had ever known anything of their existence.

One of my youth group kids asked our pastor to preach on abortion….and he refused. I never forgot that. I was hardly a pro-lifer, but it struck me that the pro-choice people I knew really couldn’t talk about “the procedure.” Why?

So it was in that frame of mind that I first thought of the high irony before me in the medical district in Boston. On one block, a clinic where a woman could abort and dispose of a fetus for less than $500. At the other end of the block, a world class hospital where that same fetus- deemed “premature”- would have millions of dollars of technology and personnel going furiously to work to preserve its life. What was the difference? A few days of time or some set of physical characteristics? Some clear ethical boundary between human and not human? No….the difference was nothing more than the attitude of human beings, and that attitude was arbitrary and pragmatic, not ethical or Biblical.

This sort of ethical contradiction drove me to the position my friend eric rigney has long advocated. If you really, truly don’t know, then err on the side of caution. In other words, if there really is a two-sided discussion of humanity and viability, then err on the side of preserving humanity and promoting life, not on the side of the right to terminate.

Ever since that visit to Boston, I have effectively used this illustration with students when discussing abortion. They get it. It is common sense, and doesn’t need a lot of sophistication to understand. I amplify it with the observation that many states that allow this kind of bizarre choice also punish people for cruelty to cats, puppies and baby eagles. Clearly, we have a culture in confusion, and one doesn’t need to be a Ph.d in ethics to see that we have technologically outrun our wisdom about moral matters. In such an instance, the safe and prudent place to be is a conservative, pro-life position.


  1. But still couldn’t spell 🙂

  2. Monk – I read that article and wept…truth hurts and needs to be proclaimed. I am posting it on my blog as well…it is amazing to me how quickly people are jumping on a postmodern worldview that does not start with the God of life…and I’ve never regarded myself as a “radical” pro-lifer. I am passionate about the topic because of the worldview that I adhere to…I believe that God created life…that it isn’t a mistake, a fluke, a chance collision of proteins and chemicals, or the result of some alien “spark”. So, despite the complexities, my ethical choices have to be critiqued in light of that truth. Anyway, thanks for posting it.


  3. I just tried to add a comment but it disappeared, so if this is redundant, I apologize…
    I just read the article and had to run to my office bathroom for a quick cry. Lately my eyes have been diverted from abortion to the hullabaloo of our economy–thank you for recalling my attention. I might be sick in my trash can. I want to hug my little boy.
    God help us all. How did our country get to this place? I’m left wondering: what should we do?

  4. Amen.

    I get accused of being pro-choice all the time because I’m against jailing women who have had abortions, or because I argue life begins when brainwaves start, usually six weeks in. (The scriptures suggest life begins before conception, not at the moment of. But the folks I usually talk to are more impressed by science, so I go the scientific route.)

    Generally I’m not pro-life enough for some people. But generally I make the same argument you do: Err on the side of life.

    I usually don’t get in trouble with that statement… until I start applying it to the death penalty.

    Calla: What we do is go help out at our local pregnancy resource center. Eliminate the worries that would drive young women to abortion, and they won’t have one.

  5. Well said. I think it’s worth pointing out that we have actually come to the place where not only is there a viable candidate with a radical pro-abortion stance; there really isn’t a viable candidate with strong pro-life credentials. It’s really too bad. I kind of wonder, along with the article you linked, what any of the other issues we may discuss matter if we’re not willing to value something as fundamental as life.

  6. I am a semi regular commenter here, but to protect the anonymity of a relative I am using an alias.
    Early in my Christian life, a few years after my conversion, I was what you would consider to be pro life. Not because of any personal experience, but because that was what my church taught. I secretly worried that maybe Christians were trampling the rights of women to “control their bodies.”
    That all changed twenty years ago when I received a phonecall at work. It was my sister and she was sobbing uncontrollably into the phone. When I finally got her to calm down enough so I could understand her, she told me she was pregnant(out of wedlock) and that my mother and aunts were leaning on her heavily to have an abortion. (This was not surprising given their views.) I gently asked what she was going to do. She broke down sobbing again. When she finally collected herself she told me that she had been pregnant before and my mom and aunts had convinced her to have an abortion. She went through with it. Then she said “I know I killed my baby. Every year when the due date comes around, I think about how old he would be, and what he might look like, and be like,and it haunts me year after year. I can’t do what they want again.” I told her to have the baby and if she couldn’t handle being a single mom, my wife and I would raise her child.

    She had a boy. She also turned out to be a great mom. She got a college degree from a prestigious university (on a full ride scholarship)
    got a great job and raised my nephew to be a fine young man.

    I work in a place that has a high proportion of people politically disposed to favor abortion. Given my past experience, I avoid the strident rhetoric in case someone in or hearing the conversation has been in a similar situation as my sister. What amazes me is the visceral(and hateful) reaction of many of the young girls I work with who are in favor of abortion, against the pro-life position. Even just discussing it amongst themselves, without input from anyone who could be considered pro-life, there is some real hatred going on, at least in these particular circles. May God have mercy upon us.

  7. K.W. Leslie: Amen to that. I’ve volunteered at a local pregnancy resource center before, and I think I’ll get involved again. It was one of the best things I ever put my time to in the past.

  8. Does being pro-life extend beyond abortion, which is abhorrent, to opposing the death penalty?

  9. When does life begin? Michael you might want to edit this one… I won’t be upset.

    I believe I am pro-life. This issue has usually affected my voting record and I am not a fan or Roe V. Wade.

    However the problem can be so much bigger and difficult depending on when life begins. Right now the quiet epidemic is the use of “Plan B” to terminate very early pregnancies. It is being prescribed all the time – and given out as a backup plan for people after STD’s and going on vacation or off to college. On top of that and even more common is the “acceptable” practice of using IUD’s and The Pill which both can and often do prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum. In other words, if life begins at conception, we are artificially ending it all the time in the modern world. Right now far more lives are ended in the first few weeks than with a full blown, life-scarring surgical abortion. And none of the people involved seem to know or care.

    This is a moral mess.

  10. On the abortion on demand side there is no reason, facts, moral, ethic,or science that will sway. In politics any pro-choice candidate act as though they were madly in love with it,although always personally against it, and never met an abortion they didn’t like.

    It isn’t malice but a means of birth control. Some recipients are clueless to right or wrong- some wrestle. Some are disturbed-others relieved.

    It’s no coincidence that on demand abortion came after the sexual revolution.

    A commenter asked what must we do? Be a voice in your family, when the real issue arises, and it will.

  11. stryker, I totally empathize with your sister’s dilemma. I know a woman who was led to Christ by a young man who then bedded her and made her pregnant. Upon learning of the child’s conception, he encouraged her to get an abortion, drove her to the clinic, and paid for it out of his own pocket. They subsequently broke up, and her life was devastated. I met her a few years later, and we’ve been friends for almost 20 years.

    She still grieves the loss of her child. She’s now married, has three great kids, and is a wonderful Christian woman. Fortunately, the actions of this immature Christian guy did not result in the loss of her faith. But my friend will say that she knows that she’ll never truly heal from this wound.

    Some might say that her life would have been derailed had she carried the baby to term. But my friend would tell you that she’d rather have had her life derailed than carry the guilt and loss of this small life with her all her days.

    The pro-choice position want to treat an abortion as just another surgical procedure. Let’s hustle them in and get “it” done. But it’s not. It’s not. It’s not that simple.

  12. K.W. Leslie – the question of what penalties to assess if abortion is made illegal is a difficult prudential decision, and one that will need a broad political consensus. The question of penalty does not define whether or not you are pro-life. We penalize accidental homicide very differently from intentional homicide. Circumstance plays a huge role in sentencing.

    The death penalty is a strongly related issue, though there are distinctions between abortion and the DP that are worth making. But you’re right – when in doubt, err on the side of life, even when it comes to the DP. The death penalty AS PRACTICED in the United States is certainly racked by injustice, prejudice, and inequity. The Biblical standard for execution requires two eyewitnesses who agree in every particular (look at Jesus’ trial before the Council for an example of how important that was, even in a kangaroo court). No one should be executed based on circumstantial evidence. We should err on the side of life, even if we believe that the DP is a Biblically-justifiable penalty for 1st degree murder.

  13. Consider the two clinics on the street in Boston, one striving for life and the other dealing out abortion (death). In light of that, what exactly are we giving the woman the right to choose? The right to choose what to do with her body? No. It’s the right for her to decide when life has enough value to not dispose of it. It’s the right to choose when to assign human rights. Each and every one of them, each and every time.

    When a premature baby is born alive, the acts of providing the health care are acting under an assumption of human rights, most fundamentally the right to live. Yet the very same baby down at the Women’s Clinic would be denied that very right. All because the mother chose to deny it.

    The fact that our laws have been unable to come to grips with something as basic as this simple conundrum is a matter that staggers the soul. Bob Pinto’s remarks above are right on the money…

  14. Abortion is a moral issue. It does not have a political solution.


    The abortion rate is the same in countries where it is illegal compared to where it is legal. So, please tell me, what benefit do we gain from making it illegal?

    It is not a question of passing or repealing laws, it is a question of the hearts and minds of the people making the decision to abort their child. I wish people, particularly single-issue evangelical Christians, would wake up and stop blindly voting Republican simply because the candidates claim they are pro-life, particularly when so many Republican policies either do nothing, or in fact, worsen, the root causes of abortions. I would much rather that we work to make abortion undesirable than to make it illegal.

  15. I would much rather that we work to make abortion undesirable than to make it illegal.

    I would much rather not have to choose between those options and try to do both.

    Imagine that false dichotomy given in response to the call to desegregate or abolish slavery. I’m glad we didn’t wait till hearts were changed before we illegalized owning human beings.

  16. Jared, you didn’t answer the actual question I asked. What do we gain by making abortion illegal? It most assuredly will not prevent abortions in this country, and will only serve to drive them underground. Are you prepared for a return to coat hanger abortions, mutilated children in back alleys, particularly for poor mothers who cannot afford a trip to Canada? Oh, it will be the poor that suffer, and that brings all kinds of racial and social inequalities into the issue as well. Affluent women will simply travel out of country to have their abortions. Are you prepared for higher taxes to pay for social services for the explosion of children born to unwed and underage mothers? Or will evangelicals, particularly the white ones, simply wash their hands of our inner cities like they’ve done for so many years?

    Two-thirds of all women in the world live in countries where abortion is legal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_law). Abortion is not some invention of American culture, like we have a monopoly on infanticide. It is worldwide, across all cultures and religions. Did you even look at the NYT link I posted? Are American evangelicals going to carry the crusade into other countries once they get RvW overturned? Based on Americans general cultural myopia, I’m skeptical.

    I am more and more convinced that massive amount of time and effort that evangelicals have spent on trying to get RvW overturned is completely wasted, and not only wasted, but leads to people like W being put into office for 8 years, undoubtedly the worst president in modern history. If evangelicals, who overwhelmingly voted for both W terms, are so committed to being pro-life, where is the evangelical outrage over thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians killed in an unjust war? I’m listening for it, and all I hear is silence.

  17. iMONK,

    Thanks for sharing your pilgrimage on this issue.

  18. What do we gain by making abortion illegal?

    A reduction in abortions. (Don’t buy your theory that the number would stay the same if it were criminalized.)

    The ability to prosecute doctors who murder infants the same way we prosecute those who murder “real people.”

    Are you prepared for a return to coat hanger abortions, mutilated children in back alleys, particularly for poor mothers who cannot afford a trip to Canada?

    Abortion is heinous now. It is barbaric and violent now.
    Legalization of abortion doesn’t make it painless and clean. It only makes it more convenient.

    Are you prepared for higher taxes to pay for social services for the explosion of children born to unwed and underage mothers?

    Sure. I’m paying taxes for stupid things now. I wouldn’t mind them being redirected for healthcare.

    Are you trying to say I don’t really care about children?

    Or will evangelicals, particularly the white ones, simply wash their hands of our inner cities like they’ve done for so many years?

    Is the government fixing our inner cities? How’s that working?
    You’re saying changing hearts is preferable. How do you suppose the government can do this, a thing it has never succeeded in doing, ever?

    In reality, it is the American Church, including many many many white evangelicals, that are actually ministering in the inner cities: feeding, clothing, comforting, and counseling.

    Abortion is not some invention of American culture, like we have a monopoly on infanticide. It is worldwide, across all cultures and religions. Did you even look at the NYT link I posted? Are American evangelicals going to carry the crusade into other countries once they get RvW overturned?

    I don’t know how this is a response to anything I’m saying?
    The problem is hopeless, so forget about it? Is that what you’re saying? I don’t understand.

    The moral imperative is to do what we can and what we should about the things that matter the most, here and abroad.
    I don’t follow the logical leap you’re making from what I’m actually saying to your left field question about evangelical crusades in other countries. Let’s clean up our own house first, how ’bout? I guess that’s my personal take.

    I am more and more convinced that massive amount of time and effort that evangelicals have spent on trying to get RvW overturned is completely wasted, and not only wasted, but leads to people like W being put into office for 8 years, undoubtedly the worst president in modern history.

    I was wondering when W would get mentioned. I hostd an abortion discussion at another site I write for, and one particular fellow replied to nearly every logical or ethical point with some kind of sloganeering about W and the war and blah blah blah.

    Okay. Bush is a terrible president. I don’t believe that, but I’ll grant it.
    Now what? That means we can’t discuss what to do about the murder of babies any more?

    If evangelicals, who overwhelmingly voted for both W terms, are so committed to being pro-life, where is the evangelical outrage over thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians killed in an unjust war? I’m listening for it, and all I hear is silence.

    This isn’t true. Plenty of people are talking about these issues.

    But the logic cuts both ways. I see your outrage over thousands of deaths in the war. Where is yours about millions of babies in America?

    Brass tacks:
    What do you propose we do?

  19. Jason – “What do we gain by making abortion illegal?”

    The main thing in my view, even if it did not reduce the number of abortions (which premise I do not accept), is that we would no longer be sanctioning the killing of unborn babies. Besides, I think you do not accept the premise either. If you did then “the explosion of children born to unwed and underage mothers” would not be a concern.

    Now a question for you. What do we gain by making sure that mothers from all races and social classes have equal and “safe” opportunities to kill their babies?

  20. Jared Wilson: THANK YOU for answering Jason.
    Jason: “Are you prepared for higher taxes to pay for social services for the explosion of children born to unwed and underage mothers?” Of course I am. Are you kidding me? You sure have a terrible view of pro-lifers. I’d gladly give my hard-earned money to those kinds of services rather than many of the stupid things my taxes pay for now.

  21. First, let me be clear that I believe abortion is abhorrent. Also, more the point of iMonk’s original post, I think asking the question, “when does life begin?” is actually the wrong question to ask, when looking at the issue from a Christian perspective. Simply by asking it, you’ve already framed the issue in modern, scientific terms, and modern science can simply never answer that question adequately.

    As Christians, I believe the better question to ask is, “what does God make human life for?” I do not believe that there is any way to answer that question that makes abortion an acceptable course of action.

    That said, we live in this broken, f-ed up world. Abortion will always exist, because there will always be people who believe that the only or best way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy is to end it. I completely disagree that main reason abortion is made legal is to make it convenient. That may be a side effect, but it depends entirely on the type of law that legalizes abortion, not the legalization itself. The reason abortion is legal in every single developed country in the world is because it makes it safe for the mother.

    I do agree that outlawing abortion in the United States would lessen the number to some degree, but it would never eliminate them, and I have no doubt we would see a huge jump in the number of abortions in neighboring states (if RvW went to states), or a large jump across the borders in Canada or Mexico. I still haven’t seen a coherent response to the fact that outlawing abortion would have a hugely disproportionate effect on those that can’t afford to go some place where it is legal. I guess everyone is ok with that? I’m not. It is disingenuous to minimize the extreme danger of unsafe abortions because abortion itself is so awful. Should a mother’s well being or even life be sacrificed as well because she has made a terrible choice? I am not so committed to an ideology that I try to remake reality into its image. Abortion is going to happen. I would rather it happen in such a way that the only one life is lost, not two.

    Brass tacks: What does the data say? Why do women have abortions? According to http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html, 93% of abortions occur because the pregnancy is unwanted or inconvenient. That is a terribly sad statistic. But it begs the question of what are we doing to reduce unwanted pregnancies? Abstinence based sex ed? How on earth is that going to work? To me, it is another case of Christians wanting so much for the world to be like them that they make themselves believe it can actually happen.

    I can’t in any way claim that I have a comprehensive answer to the question of how to reduce unwanted pregnancies, but that, along with providing alternatives to abortion, is where I believe Christians should spend their time and money, instead of falling for the same old lines that Republicans feed them every four years that this time, we’ll finally repeal RvW! (We really mean it this time!) It’s also a way to move forward in partnership with people of all different persuasions, instead of continuing to fight a divisive culture war that is unwinnable.

  22. Caila, according to the latest polling I’ve seen, abortion is either the SEVENTH or NINTH most important issue to Republican voters right now. Anyone reading iMonk is part of a self-selecting sample. Of course you and other readers who take the time to post are going to be willing to do anything and everything required. But it’s not a priority to the rest of the base right now, because the economy has gone in the tank. I think the data speaks for itself.

  23. CrimsonLine: I know the question of penalizing women who have had abortions doesn’t define whether I’m pro-life. Instead, it defines whether I’m pro-choice. If I’m against making abortion illegal because I’m concerned as to what vengeful lawmakers will do to the women who have had them, to many that puts me right in the pro-choice camp. Lawmakers, as you may have noticed from the mandatory minimum sentences they regularly force judges to make, aren’t known for their mercy. (Hence my concerns about the death penalty, as well.)

    Jason is right: It’s a moral issue, not a political one. That’s why I don’t see political solutions as the answer. We Christians have to stop trying to change Roe v. Wade and instead change society. Do what Jesus would have us do: Care for the unwed mothers, orphans, fatherless, the needy, the desperate. Make things so that pregnant girls infinitely prefer to turn to us instead of abortion providers. It’s harder, but it’s obedient.

  24. Jason,

    I remember a few years back when it came to light that the statistics about “back alley abortions” were made up by those arguing for legalization.
    You can see the documentation here:


    This also shows that abortion numbers would rapidly and drastically drop if abortion was outlawed.

    Furthermore, outlawing abortion would make it so our tax dollars don’t contribute to this abomination, and we would not be responsible for a tacit approval of murder via our elected officials.

  25. Could we look at just one part of this please? If we can not make this practice illegal can we at least stop paying for it? In a country where health care is not free it is amazing how many abortions are tax funded. What about limiting abortion to once in a woman’s life-time, or maybe once a year. Now there are no limits and the discussion is always yes or no. I feel if there were a gray area to stand on we could get our point across better. M.S., I thank God for that trip to Boston you took. This issue affects a persons attitude on all other issues.

  26. We Christians have to stop trying to change Roe v. Wade and instead change society.

    This is that false dichotomy again.

    I’m saying we should do both. There’s no reason not to. There’s nothing preventing us from doing both.

    There’s nobody saying we shouldn’t both work to change the hearts of our culture and pass laws to protect babies . . . except the pro-choice who want to protect abortion rights and the Christians who are embarrassed by their unhip conservative brothers and sisters.

    Nobody really responded to the segregation/slavery points. I think if we substituted slavery for abortion in this conversation, the same folks wouldn’t be saying we should choose between criminalization and societal change, or that criminalizing it is contrary to the way of Jesus.

  27. Jason, your sensible comments are a breath of fresh air.

  28. What I should have added to my last comment is this – a Christian who advocates that abortion be made illegal is advocating that it be criminalized. And if criminalized, it must be punished either as a misdemeanor or felony. If abortion is truly the equivalent of murdering a young child or adult, it is hard to imagine how the penalty cannot be a felony. A felony means at least a year of jail time. So one who advocates for the criminalization of abortion is effectively advocating that those on whom it is performed and who perform it (woman and doctor) be sent to jail. It is the deliberate taking of a life, is it not? Some, of course, go further and say that abortion, as first-degree murder, should be a capital offense.
    I say this gently and respectfully, but I think that Christians who call for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, without going on to evaluate and discuss the consequences of that event are, frankly, acting rather cowardly. They must be, or otherwise they would face the consequences of what they’re asking for.
    Therefore, a much, much more interesting discussion would be, what do we do if Roe v. Wade is overturned? I think we’d split all kinds of ways, and the ensuing discussion would be fascinating.
    Abortion is a horrible tragedy. That’s relatively easy to confess. What’s hard, however, is coming up with workable ways to reduce the number of abortions.
    Again, I applaud Jason’s comments.

  29. Abortion is a horrible tragedy.


  30. I “persuaded” my poor wife to abort our second child 30 years ago. It was an easy decision at the time; I was a pagan with the moral scruples of a second century Roman.

    About ten years later I had a discussion with a couple of very nice, pro-choice women concerning abortion. At the time I had just finished “The Coming Fury”, which analyzed the events leading to the American Civil War, specifically the slavery debate. I was struck by how similar the arguments used against fetuses were to those arguments used to justify race slavery 4 generations ago. Just for fun, I took a pro-life position using the the anti-slavery arguments. I did not persuade anyone else, but I sure persuaded myself.

    Laying awake that night, the full magnitude of what I had done began to seep into my consciousness and the journey toward a merciful God began.

  31. At least Jason’s consistent. I’m amazed at the number of evangelicals who want to see abortion outlawed that also want to see welfare ended. They think it’s totally their buisness to see to it that the baby gets born, but once it’s out of the womb it’s all, “It’s not my responsibility!”

  32. Re Politics vs. morality: Politics is morality. We outlaw what we don’t want, we tax what we don’t want. We subsidize what we want more of. What is that, except morality.

    Re The science: A new human life is created at conception. A pattern of DNA never seen before. Any other definition of “personhood” is a doorway to oppression and injustice. See the Dred Scott decision.

    Re Jailing women who have abortions: That is a red herring. The legislature can make whatever penalties it wants. The most reasonable thing is to punish the doctors (revoking their licenses and/or community service would be best). The women are as much the victim in these acts.

    Re Priorities: I see this as nothing more than God turning His back on our country. When McCain can go from dead even to 9 points behind, because of the economy; it shows the American people have the wrong priorities.

  33. It is certainly an emotionally compelling argument to compare abortion to slavery, and there are several parallels, not least of which is a Supreme Court decision sanctioning it.

    However, there is one particular difference between the issues where I feel the comparison falls apart. Slavery was an entirely public institution. You couldn’t own slaves in any way that wasn’t known to your friends and neighbors. And because of that, when it was made illegal, it was done. (Other than being one of the contributing causes of the bloodiest war in US history, the fallout of which we still deal with to this day.) The abolition of slavery ended it in the United States.

    On the other hand, it is entirely possible for a woman to become pregnant and then have an abortion without anyone else ever knowing except her and the doctor performing it. It is utterly private. Outlawing abortion, unlike slavery, will not end it, and that is the point I made above, and again, for the third time, the burden of it being made illegal will fall on those that cannot afford to travel some place where it is legal.

  34. Outlawing abortion, unlike slavery, will not end it, and that is the point I made above…

    Jason, are you saying slavery does not exist in every country in which it is outlawed? Obviously not. We don’t reject making something illegal just because some will break the law. This is a ridiculous argument. Just as is your other point:

    …and again, for the third time, the burden of it being made illegal will fall on those that cannot afford to travel some place where it is legal.

    What does this have to do with anything? That would be like not outlawing slavery because people could travel to countries where it is legal, and that would put an undue burden on those who can’t afford to travel to those countries.


  35. Jason:

    You’re quite mistaken about slavery today – it’s happening in the U.S., and in private. Only the slave, the slaveholder, and friends that the slaveholder trusts know the truth. Slaveholders are wealthy Arabs, N. Africans, and others who hold Filipinas, Chinese, or other young women from poor backgrounds. There are not millions of these cases, but they are (sadly) far from common.

    In any case, please explain to all of us the moral relevance of the public or private nature of an act of murder. Almost every murder is done privately – the murderer expects to keep it that way. NO law against the killing of an innocent human being can assure that the murders will stop. I have never heard that only public murder can be forbidden by law, have you? Please provide a citation. You are presenting sophistry, although you may not know it.

    *IF* the act of abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, then it MUST be made illegal. To do otherwise is to divide the human race into two groups, one of which (us) has full rights, including the right to life, and the other of which (them) has fewer – and certainly NOT the right to life. This is unconscionable, and I can imagine no way that a Christian who understands and accepts God’s view of human life can legitimately support it.

  36. I wasn’t going to say anything on this thread, but with the direction some of the comments have taken, perhaps my thoughts will add something. First, the personal aspect. This is less an intellectual or theoretical discussion for me. Long before my life reached the point where I could be called anything identifiably ‘Christian’, I had decided to walk the path of teenage parenthood rather than this path. (Yes, I know. The legal and ultimate decision in this case is the woman’s. However, the reality is that the father often wields considerable influence. That’s just a fact.) So on a personal, rather than political, level I’ve never viewed abortion as an option. The reasons are complex and can’t be reduced to a simple blurb.

    However, it’s not something that is easily addressed politically. Frederica Mathewes-Green is right. Most people on both sides thinks there are too many abortions and wants to reduce them. Some just want to reduce them to zero whereas others have another number they find acceptable which is higher. Nevertheless, there is a significant amount of work we can do together to reduce abortions. But we have to stop (as Scot McKnight might say) ‘othering’ those with whom we disagree to one extent or another. Many of the actions we need to take to reduce abortions benefit women, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. We can do them together if we stop shouting epithets at each other and get to work.

    However, many who call themselves ‘pro-life’ seem to have bought into this lie that that means nothing more than voting for a political candidate who claims to be ‘pro-life’. Not all, certainly. I know many who don’t fit that profile at all. My mother, the principal of a Roman Catholic mission school serving an impoverished area, is absolutely one of them. Nevertheless, that’s what I see much of the time.

    And I think some of the reason for that is that many seem to have absorbed the myth that if Roe v. Wade is ‘overturned’ abortion will be illegal and the pro-life task will be accomplished. And that’s all it is — a myth. First, since part of the underpinning of Roe v. Wade is a finding of a more general right to privacy in the Constitution, the decision would only be completely overturned if a court decided there was no constitutionally protected right to privacy. Think about that one for a bit because it has ramifications that go far beyond abortion and personally I’m not sure I care for them at all.

    However, it’s pretty unlikely — the Thomas’s and Scalia’s on the court aside — that any court will ever go that far. More likely, the most that would occur would be some nuanced decision or set of decisions altering the manner in which Roe v. Wade is interpreted. I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m just saying that the binary sort of world that I often seem to hear in these discussions simply doesn’t exist.

    However, for the sake of argument, let’s say a court did decide to completely overturn Roe v. Wade. I get the impression that a lot of people seem to think that means abortion would then be illegal. Not all, certainly. But a lot of what I hear and see envisions this as the end goal, the accomplishment that settles the matter. But what would it really mean?

    All it ultimately means is that the power to legislate abortion would be returned to the individual states.

    Now think about the country in which we live today. Abortion, to one extent or another, was already legal in a fair number of states before Roe v. Wade. Since Roe v. Wade, a number of other states have removed laws against abortion from their books. I don’t know the exact number, but probably only a handful still have laws outlawing abortion on the books at all. However, think critically here about the world in which we actually live. How many states would actually be able to keep and enforce such laws? The world has changed in the 35 years since Roe v. Wade. A lot.

    Now, perhaps it is time to return at least portions of this issue to legislative debate. It would be interesting to see how many ‘pro-life’ candidates really are when their political future is at stake. So I’m not saying that this would be a bad thing. I’m just saying that overturning Row v. Wade, in whole or in part, would not serve to outlaw or end abortion. That would be the beginning of the political debate. Not the end.

    And I don’t see a country where abortion would actually be outlawed save in a few pockets here and there. I just don’t. And those few pockets would mostly impact the poorest (and probably most desperate) women in those areas who won’t be able to afford to travel to neighboring areas where abortion is legal. Anyone with even a little money and a car will just drive to where legal abortions can be obtained.

    So personally, I think it’s better and more productive to focus on real solutions which help remove or alleviate the forces which drive women to seek abortions. Women who have abortions almost always have one because someone in their life who they love and trust either told them to have one or did not try to convince them otherwise. Usually they feel like they have no other choice. What are we doing to give them choices? Love? Real options?

    We need to think more like second and third century Christians living in a culture where abortion and exposure were the accepted norms (and typically the decision of the male — why do you think so many women flocked to Christianity?). At least we don’t have to deal with infant exposure. We face half the problem they did. If we could only show half the response they showed, abortions would drop, I think, tremendously.

    I don’t think it matters that much how or for whom you vote on this issue because I don’t think it will be solved politically. We live in a representative democracy (or constitutional republic — whatever floats your boat) and the public will simply isn’t there to try to universally ban abortion and enforce it. If you want to fight for changed laws, feel free. But if that’s all we do, we’re doing worse than nothing. We’re just trying to make ourselves feel better.

  37. Scott, why do you assume that those who want RvW overturned are only fighting for changed laws and going nothing else?

    The prolife movement also includes many crisis pregnancy centers and advocates for adoption.

    iMonk, thanks for this post. I don’t agree with most of what you write (how’s that for a backhanded compliment!), but your dead on here. Your main point was driven home to me when my wife was pregnant with our first child. When we would go for prenatal checkups, the nurses and doctors would constantly refer to “baby”…”Baby’s heartbeat is fine” or “Baby is doing well.” I realized that since we want it, it is a “baby.” If we didn’t want it, it would be a “fetus” or “tissue mass.”

  38. Proof that Obama lied in the debate when McCain cornered him on the “Born Alive” bill in Illinois.


    Proof that abortions under Obama WILL NOT decrease.


    Lord Jesus help us. Obama has promised to sweep away what little progress has been made at protecting the lives of the unborn. It is a matter of public record.

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