A lot has been happening in Australia the last few days concerning baby killing. Good news in one state was countered by bad news in another. But that is often how things go in the culture wars: there are ups and downs, but we keep on fighting nonetheless.
On some of these issues we must keep on keeping on. Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once rightly said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” That is certainly true in something like the battle over marriage. During the past decade there have been around ten attempts to destroy marriage by the activists.
Bills put forward on a Federal, State or Territory level have been coming in fast and furious, but every single one of them so far has been defeated. But we dare not for a moment think that our job is done with this string of victories. The activists will not stop but will keep on pushing for homosexual marriage.
They believe that if they just keep at it, they will eventually wear us all down, and weaken our will to resist. Sadly that can often be the case. I for one will never buckle here, and I will fight this even if I am the last man standing. So I encourage all of you to remain vigilant and remain strong.
The same perseverance and commitment was of course needed by great social reformers of the past. Just think of how many years William Wilberforce had to fight the slave trade. Recall how year after year he introduced legislation on this, only to be defeated again and again. Yet he never gave up, and the rest is history.
We need the same mindset, the same resolve, when it comes to the abortion wars. We have had some wins along the way, as well as some losses. But we must keep at it nonetheless. So consider what has occurred in the past few days. First the good news.
In NSW Zoe’s Law has just been passed in the lower house. The vote was 63 to 26. As one news report puts it, “The bill was named in honour of the unborn child of Brodie Donegan, who was hit by a drug-affected driver on Christmas Day in 2009. Zoe was stillborn. The proposed changes would allow someone to be charged with harming a fetus that is either 20 weeks or 400 grams by allowing it to be treated as a living person.”
This law, if it goes through, is of course a small step in the right direction. Much more needs to be done to save the lives of the unborn, but this is a welcome step. And of course the pro-death crowd is already making a stink about this, claiming it infringes on a woman’s right to choose.
Well, it seems to me that any law which deters a woman from killing her own baby is a very good law indeed. But while this bit of good news happened to my north, to my south some bad news took place. Tasmania just passed a terrible bill decriminalising abortion.
The heavily amended private member’s bill was voted in yesterday, but it is still really bad news. As one news report states, “Tasmania will become the third Australian state to decriminalise abortion after the Legislative Council passed an amended reform package this morning following two marathon late-night debates this week.
“The Reproductive Health Bill removes abortion from the Criminal Code and pushes the existing requirement for two doctors to approve the termination of a pregnancy on medical or psychological grounds up to 16 weeks. The legislation passed nine votes to five.”
The changes are welcome, but the law is still draconian and out of place in a free society: “The upper house scrapped a proposed $32,500 fine for counsellors who don’t refer, specified that a doctor would fulfil their referral obligation by handing out a pamphlet listing appropriate services and clarified that a doctor could continue the consultation despite their objection, so long as they were open about it….
“It also reduced penalties for protesting within a 150 metre access zone around a clinic from a maximum $60,000 fine to a $9750 fine, but the maximum jail term of 12 months remained. However most MLCs said access zones were necessary. ‘No woman accessing a legal health service should be subject to any vilification from anybody,’ Western Tiers MLC Greg Hall said.”
Both secular and religious groups are upset with this legislation. An IPA press release put out before the final vote said in part: “Proposed changes contained in the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 threaten freedom of speech and freedom of conscience,” said Simon Breheny, director of the Legal Rights Project at free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. “The bill proposes a fine of $65,000 or a 12 month jail term for the newly created crime of protesting in an area within a radius of 150 metres from an abortion clinic. This is an inappropriate limitation on freedom of speech. General laws against intimidation already exist in the law and they are appropriate restraints on unacceptable behaviour.”
Christian groups also expressed concern: “Christian groups outraged at the restriction on the right to protest yesterday told The Australian they would consider a legal challenge. Constitutional law expert Michael Stokes believed the protest ban was an infringement of the Constitution’s implied right to political communication.
“As well, the Catholic Church attacked provisions compelling doctors to give patients information about abortions, claiming they violated the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. ‘This bill has decriminalised abortion, but criminalised opposition to abortion,’ said the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous. ‘It puts Catholic hospitals and all Catholic medical practitioners in an invidious position’….
“Anti-abortion activists said protests outside clinics were rare in Tasmania, and that the legislation went way too far. ‘That 150m is enormous and could take in churches, cafes and a lot of the CBD,’ said FamilyVoice Australia spokesman Jim Collins. Mr Collins said the penalty – up to a year’s jail and a $9750 fine – applied whether the protest intimidated and harassed someone or was merely holding a prayer vigil or handing out pamphlets.
“Mr Stokes, an expert in constitutional and administrative law at the University of Tasmania who gave evidence to parliament on the legislation, said he believed the protest ban was likely to be struck out. ‘I think that blanket ban on protest is likely to fail if challenged in the High Court,’ Mr Stokes said. ‘Abortion is a political issue and this is a restriction (on communication).’
“Ms O’Byrne said: ‘This is an Australian first and it is incredibly important because a woman must be able to access a medical procedure without being subject to intimidation, stigmatisation, vilification or any other form of harassment. This is not about impeding on anyone’s right to free expression; it is about protecting women facing an incredibly difficult and complex decision’.”
So the battle continues. And these battles are not new. They have been fought elsewhere, with some wins and some losses. American pastor John Piper years ago gave sermons on these very matters. Let me conclude with some thoughts from him about rescuing, and disobeying bad laws.
In a sermon preached on January 15, 1989 called “Rescuing Unborn Children: Required and Right,” he said in part about Proverbs 24:11: “The duty of verse 11 could be stated like this: ‘If a group of humans is being taken away to death who ought not be taken away to death, the people who fear God ought to try to rescue them.’ Or, to use the words of the second half of the verse, ‘If there is a group of humans who are stumbling [literally: slipping] to the slaughter who ought not to be slipping to the slaughter, the people who fear God ought to try to hold them back from the slaughter.’ What is being commanded here is some kind of intervention from us when we become aware of humans being killed who ought not to be killed.”
He offers this illustration: “Suppose that I lived next door to a very mean-spirited man who was so hostile that he put up ‘Do not trespass’ signs all over the fence around his house mainly to keep me out. One day I hear children screaming from his back yard. I run to the fence and notice a little child choking on something. Instinctively I jump the fence, knowing it says no trespassing, and try to save the child. I’m too late. After a few days this mean-spirited man seeks a warrant for my arrest. I go into court and the judge, for reasons beyond his control, finds me guilty of trespassing and fines $50. Would I be disrespectful of the law, I asked Judge James Campbell, if I refused to pay?
He answered by saying, ‘In that case you should appeal the decision, because of a special legal reality called the law of necessity’.”
He said similar things in a 1991 sermon: “With regard to peaceful rescuing I stand where I did three years ago: It is not a crime to trespass to save human life. If a child is choking on a toy in his back yard surrounded by a fence that says, KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING, it is not a sin or a crime to jump the fence and try to save the child. If a child is trapped in the second story of a burning home, it is not a sin or a crime to put a ladder to the window and enter without permission to save that child.
“If a blind child is trapped in the median of a busy street and about to step into traffic, it is not a sin or a crime to cross the street and guide him to safety even if the sign says, ‘Cross only at crosswalk’. If a child is drowning in a lake where the sign says, ‘No swimming’ it is not a sin or a crime to rush into the water and rescue him. A word from God: The whole book of Esther was written to praise her courage and righteousness when she ‘illegally’ risked her life to save the Jews. ‘I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish’ (Esther 4:16). Therefore I support our people rescuing in Fargo and Wichita.”
I have spoken before about the possibility of civil disobedience in the face of bad abortion laws: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2009/05/06/abortion-and-civil-disobedience/
As we seek to overturn the bad law just passed in Tasmania, all believers who love life (and every believer should) will need to carefully and prayerfully consider becoming lawbreakers to rescue those being led to the slaughter.