On Dealing With Abortion

Two opening caveats: One, we are all fallen, so none of us have all the truth on anything. Two, the pro-life movement contains passionate people who agree on the evil of abortion but at times can strongly disagree on the means to end it. It is that division I wish to address here. And I do so especially in light of the forthcoming US election.

I have already written about this a number of times in the past month or so, and I hope this will be my last piece on it – at least before the election. I have pointed out my very real disagreement with the purists – those who demand total abolition or nothing. They oppose all forms of incrementalism when it comes to abortion, and want either a perfect and complete end, or nothing.

To allow for anything else in their eyes is to “compromise” and to dirty their hands with “evil”. Thus they utterly refuse to vote for the only person who can make a real dent on abortion: Mitt Romney. Because he is not 100 per cent on side (for example, he thinks exceptions for the so-called hard cases should be allowed), they want absolutely nothing to do with him.

Now I don’t agree with Romney on this, as most prolifers do not. I have written on this elsewhere, eg.: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/08/19/abortion-and-hard-cases/

And I, like probably every prolifer on the planet, want to see the complete end of abortion as soon as is realistically possible. Where I and others differ from the purists is on the notion of reality and what can be done in a fallen world. We believe there are limits as to how much can be done, and how fast.

Sure, I and others want to see abortion ended, but we are happy to see real change as we work toward the complete eradication of abortion. We believe that if there can be, say, 50 per cent fewer abortions this year, then that is a good thing indeed – certainly for all the babies who are saved.

We will keep working to see the others saved as well, but we believe that it is foolish in the extreme to claim that unless 100 per cent are saved right now, then no progress has been made whatsoever, and we are somehow just “compromising” and complicit in “evil”.

I respectfully demur with that line of thinking – big time. I have given my reasons plenty of times already. But let me address this a bit more. While some prolife leaders will adamantly refuse to budge on this, and will not even countenance voting for Romney, there are plenty of other leaders who are endorsing him – as imperfect as he may be. They believe it is their prolife and Christian duty to vote for Romney.

Let me just mention two of them here. The first is the famous abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen. She recently addressed this issue on Facebook saying, “If you are not voting because Romney was not your first choice, or you’re not voting because of his stand on exceptions for abortion: have you forgotten that he has pledged to protect 99% of the unborn? I wish he could see the wisdom in protecting all, and maybe he soon will. But to sit home, insisting on our own way, throwing away a vote that has been dearly paid for, or writing in something akin to ‘Mary Poppins’ might make your point, but you will also help to ensure the slaughter of millions of children, and other innocents.”

The second is prolife activist Randy Alcorn who has penned several important volumes on this, including his masterful Pro Life Answers To Pro Choice Questions (Multnomah Press, 1992, 2000). He has recently written a five-part series on the election.

His last two were on the abortion issue. In the first he said this in part: “People point out that Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on abortion, which he supported in 2002 when running for Massachusetts governor. That’s absolutely true. Some say he put his finger in the political wind and changed his mind. But sometimes people mean it when they change their minds. Converts to a position can earnestly embrace it. And sometimes when they defend a position they come to hold it as a true conviction. Doesn’t it make sense to judge someone by where he landed, not by where he started?

“Many say it makes no difference whether or not the president is prolife, since presidents don’t initiate legislation and vote on it. But presidents do nominate Supreme Court justices. Unfortunately, prolife presidents have made a number of poor choices, leading people to say it makes no difference.

“Mitt Romney says he’s prolife now. Paul Ryan is unmistakably prolife, and will unquestionably do what he can to influence judicial appointments. In contrast, both President Obama and Joe Biden are staunchly in favor of legalized abortion. Romney and Ryan would likely nominate prolife Supreme Court justices. President Obama will not appoint any Supreme Court judge who’s not fully approved by Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion provider.

“Mitt Romney says he believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned. President Obama emphatically states it should not be. Planned Parenthood is so convinced that there will be a huge difference on the abortion issue, that their president, Cecile Richards, says she’s campaigning full-time for Barack Obama!”

He concludes, “I am no great fan of the Republican Party, but it does have a platform unequivocally committed to the protection of unborn children. In contrast, the Democratic platform is emphatically in favor of legalized abortion. The Democratic National Convention featured speaker after speaker celebrating the unqualified right to abortion.  It sounded exactly like a Planned Parenthood convention. (If any organization openly celebrated the killing of three-year-olds, what would we think? If we are less offended by celebrating legalized killing of the unborn, it demonstrates a simple fact—we don’t really view the unborn as human beings. But a true Christian must ask, how does God their Creator view them?)

“If you are grateful your parents didn’t choose to take your life, I would encourage you to vote for a candidate who will defend the right to life of an unborn child. And don’t vote for a candidate who celebrates the right to kill what he once was and you once were. (And who your parents, friends, spouse, children and grandchildren all once were—unborn children.)”

In his second piece on abortion he also weighs in on the “lesser of two evils” arguments and similar themes: “Probably a dozen commenters wrote, ‘Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.’ I understand the logic. I’ve used it. But there is another way to look at it: To vote for the lesser of evils is to vote for less evil.

“Think about it. Don’t we want less evil? Doesn’t less evil mean more good? I’m voting for the greater good my children and grandchildren and this country will experience than if the only other viable choice were elected. (Please don’t write saying others were far better candidates and Christians should have supported them. The only point I’m making is, regardless of the reasons, none of them will win the election.)

“Yes, I don’t like either candidate. But, for instance, let’s say I believe only one single claim Governor Romney has made. A few blog posters have claimed everything Romney has ever said is a lie, which is quite a trick if you think about it, but I’m 99.9% sure this one is true: If elected, he will reinstate the Mexico City Policy, so that American taxes no longer pay for abortions overseas. If he failed to follow through on appointing prolife justices, and everything else, that one single thing is compelling, isn’t it? What makes me think he would keep that promise? Because every Republican since Ronald Reagan has implemented it, and every Democrat has rescinded it. Even if you believe Romney cares about nothing but trying to make himself look good (as one person commented), he would look very bad to break his promise to reinstate the Mexico City Policy. Does it matter to you that your taxes are paying for abortions around the world? It matters to me.

“So this is one clear demonstration of how a vote for ‘the lesser of evils’ is a vote for less evil. By voting for the third party, and not voting for the only person who can and will reinstate the Mexico City Policy, isn’t the voter in effect making more likely the greater of evils?

“If there are two men and I’m choosing between them, unless their degree of good and evil is exactly the same, and their commitment to religious liberty, human rights, morality, sanctity of marriage and financial responsibility is identical, then righteousness is at stake in my vote.

“‘But by definition, the lesser of evils is still evil.’ Yes, and also by definition, the lesser of evils is less evil. We all know that the ideal is no evil. If we lived in Eden or on the New Earth, as all who know Christ one day will, there would be no evil. But that’s not where we live. And no party, candidate or vote will get rid of all evil. The best we can do is vote for less evil and more justice than the other electable candidate offers.

“But that’s just thinking pragmatically.’ Or is it simply thinking logically, and trying to make a positive difference with the only power now left to me? Is voting my individualized expression of ideals? Or is it bringing my ideals to bear on the messy choice between two very flawed alternatives?”

He goes on to look at the unhelpful strategy of voting third party or for an independent, and offers further Biblical consideration. I encourage you to read both of his excellent articles. They deserve a wide hearing given all the mental and moral fogginess that seems to be surrounding these issues.

In sum, I cannot go along with the purists who demand all or nothing when it comes to abortion. It is a nice theory, but an idiotic reality. Imagine the plight of the Jews during WWII. Suppose only 99 per cent could be rescued by the Allies, at least initially. These purists would immediately pull out, claiming it was “compromise” and “evil”. So they would let all of them suffer and die – all in the name of their misplaced purism.

In the same way they will stand by and allow abortion to go ahead unchecked, because perfection is not on offer in this election. They will refuse to vote for someone who can reduce abortion, someone whose position on abortion – while not perfect – is light-years ahead of Obama’s. And they will sit around feeling really smug and proud about themselves as they promote their “purity”. Sorry, but I just can’t buy it.


[1821 words]

12 Replies to “On Dealing With Abortion”

  1. To me the bottom line is how many babies would be saved by compromise. Are the purists prepared to sacrifice those babies?

    John Bennett

  2. In these times, “backflip” seems to have more meaning than “rock-solid promise” to too many Western politicians. By all means, back those who offer the lesser of two evils, but be prepared to obey God rather than men in the face of state-sanctioned disobedience to the will of Heaven.

    “In God we trust” is the only ultimately eternally valid gold standard for political action in our rabidly secularised western culture. There’s only One Man who will guarantee a just society at His appearing.

    Until that appearing, political action in quest of the will of God being done on earth as it is in Heaven must include grass-roots level action as well as maintaining a Christian and prophetic response to the existing political processes of the West’s ailing democracies. Failure at either level to be salt and light will soon see Western Christians living under the tender care of totalitarian, dystopian governments that are bound to emerge out of failed democratic states.

    John Wigg

  3. Does C. S. Lewis have wisdom for us here?

    “He gave the example of a man in a boat, who sees two others drowning. The man wants to help both but must start with one, and while he is saving that one, the other may go down for the last time. If he can save the first, he will deeply regret but need not apologize for the second’s death. He did what was within his power, which was the only power that could be brought to bear on this particular situation. There were at that moment doubtless other drowning men to whom he could have given no assistance even if he had known of them, but they were not his responsibility. He could be expected to do only as much as his own knowledge and resources permitted.

    As Hayek wrote at almost exactly the same moment that Lewis was delivering his lecture, the concrete human being can be aware of and deal with but “an infinitesimal fraction of the needs of all men.” Lewis said that the only effective benevolence is that of challenging “each immediate evil as well as we can. . . . [T]he dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race.”

    In the analogy of the drowning men, the clergy and the politicians they want to influence can be compared with onlookers shouting advice from the shore. They cry, “Save both men! Save both!” And surely, from their safe location, it does seem that both could be saved; what they are asking for does seem to be, in Hayek’s words, “both desirable and possible.” It would in fact be not only possible but easy if there were two boats. Alas there is only one, and the person in it has to make his own best estimate of how to achieve the desired result. Will he save the one who is nearer or the one who seems to be having the harder time of it? The rower sees what needs to be done better than do any of the distant onlookers, but his knowledge is imperfect, and his decision may well lead to what seems to be an unnecessary death.”


    Damien Spillane

  4. There is no way that we would be in the position which we currently are if pro abortion advocates had revealed their true intentions at the start. Would anyone in the 70’s or 80’s have agreed with abortion on demand, partial birth abortions, etc , if they had been honest about their intentions back then? Instead, they have acted shrewdly and dishonestly in creeping their agenda forward inch by inch over the years. We need to focus on winning back ground in the abortion battle where we still can. Personally, I think focusing on the pain suffered by the babies being aborted, practices like partial birth abortion and late term abortions might be places to start as it is virtually impossible to find any reasonable person who finds these things acceptable, once they hear about them.

    People will reject abortion if they actually are forced to watch one (remember what happened when the cruelty to live cattle was shown). Because the debate about abortion has been lost in the main, it is virtually impossible for this to happen using the usual arguments( as it seems to always immediately revert to women’s rights arguments). If we turn the conversation around to discuss whether or not babies feel pain for late term abortions and for partial birth abortions, it would encourage some people, who would otherwise not, to look at these particular issues. If people actually saw what happens, I am sure we would have a similar outcry as we saw for the cattle.

    So rather than constantly defending our position on abortion, we could start asking “Whether or not you agree with abortion, do you think babies should suffer with no pain relief, as they currently do when they are being aborted?” This will naturally provoke some people, who may have never done so, to actually find out how abortions are done.

    Just an idea to start winning back ground where we still can.
    (Your article above about the purists, reminds me of the passage where the dishonest manager is commended for being more shrewd than the people of the light).

    Annette Williams

  5. We’re not purists, we’re just obeying God’s Word. Thou shalt not kill. Pretty easy to understand, isn’t it?
    Glen Humphreys

  6. Thanks Glen

    But regrettably it is the purists who just don’t seem to understand. Presumably you have not even bothered to read my article. Sadly it is clueless comments like this which demonstrate how blinded by their own self-righteousness the purists are, just like the Pharisees of old. They demonstrate so well that their mental abilities are as cloudy as they are moral abilities. Given that the purists are obviously not easily reasoned with, let me make the case yet one more time.

    The case is extremely straightforward. By refusing to vote for the only person on the planet who can dislodge the most pro-abortion President ever, the misguided purists are siding with Obama and his evil. And they somehow take real pride in this fact. Go figure.

    Obama will further allow the murder (not killing – go back and see what the Sixth Commandment in fact states) of millions more babies if he gets in again, while Romney may well stop most of this murder. He will defund Planned Parenthood, appoint pro-life justices, and work to make Roe v Wade history – everything Obama will not do. Indeed, Obama rightly said that R v W is ‘hanging in the balance’ in this election. Yet the purists are unable to make these basic moral distinctions here.

    Like the Pharisees, they want to abstain from “evil” but they in fact will allow greater evil. They are hypocrites as well as moral midgets. And sadly it is every part of this that they do not understand.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  7. So the purist argument is “I cannot act to save all babies from abortion and though I will, by my failure to act, automatically facilitate the abortion of the 99% who could otherwise be saved, I prefer to be a strict legalist and save myself”. Sounds like insanity to me and so God may be merciful to them for that reason (insanity) since they so clearly believe they are right. On the other hand He wasn’t pleased with the pharisees, so will they exclude themselves from mercy because of their own lack of mercy for the babies who could be saved? — “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”. I’m for mercy, sanity and Romney. I wish I had a vote!

    Anna Cook

  8. [O/T, but addressing one item of argument/tactic]

    re: “People will reject abortion if they actually are forced to watch one ” : I agree that some, perhaps many, will do so [and may even act on their rejection].

    But very many, especially judges and politicians will not. And we remain blind to the enormous power of evil which has bent our society’s mind to its will.

    And a confected concern for animals will become a substitute, a transference, for the proper care of our weakest. Chesterton warned that a society that starts treating animals as people ends up treating people as animals.

    Gerard Flood

  9. The people of Israel were the people of Israel, the chosen people, no matter how bad they got. It was no compromise for the prophets to stay involved, to tell imperfect men that God had chosen them to lead as kings.

    No one is proposing that faithful Christians should take the less perfect road, or that they should use the ends to justify the means. But study of God’s words will show that the more perfect way will often enough be served by undertaking incremental improvements.

    Moses allowed divorce because they were so hard hearted, and Jesus told the possessed to be quiet because the time for more fully revealing Who He was had not yet come.

    Thomas More once addressed the same issue: “If you cannot pluck up wrong-headed opinions by the root, if you cannot cure according to your heart’s desire vices of long standing, yet you must not on that account desert the commonwealth. You must not abandon the ship in the storm [just] because you cannot control the wind. You must handle everything as tactfully as you can, and what you cannot make right you must try to make as little wrong as possible” (Gerard B. Wegemer, St Thomas More On Statesmanship, 1996, pp. 102-103.

    There are prerequisites though. And avoidance of scandal comes into it.

    John Paul II was known by communists to be too effective, and when he met various leaders he left them in no doubt where he stood. He said, “Regarding the situation in which it is not possible to overturn or completely repeal a law allowing abortion which is already in force or coming up for a vote, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well-known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality” (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 73).

    Michael Casanova

  10. I agree with you Bill,100%. Lets do whatever it takes to wind back the Evil One step at a time! Outside the abortruary we look for anything we can find to save one life,one soul. Small gains lead to perfection by chipping away towards God’s truth and ultimately His Kingdom.

    Jane Byrne

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