March 2006


Pro-life leader, Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute, was tackling the charge that evangelicals are too involved with politics. He argued that you can’t say Christians are too political unless you can demonstrate the following:

1. that Evangelicals as a whole are spending more money on political campaigns than they are on world missions and evangelism

2. that Evangelicals as a whole are spending more time lobbying their Congressmen than sharing Christ with friends at work

3. that Evangelicals as a whole are talking with their friends more about George W. Bush than they are Jesus Christ

4. that a majority of Evangelicals are politically savvy enough to know how a bill gets introduced in Congress and how to either defeat it or affirm it with coordinated lobbying efforts

5. that a majority of Evangelicals could tell you the current political state of affairs on key issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning (for example, what does Roe v. Wade and it’s companion case Doe v. Bolton really say? What are the two competing cloning bills before Congress for the last three years and how do they differ?)

6. that a majority of Evangelicals could convey the moral logic of the pro-life position to friends and neighbors

7. that a majority of Evangelicals could name their Congressman, two federal Senators, State Senator, and State Representative.

8. that a majority of Evangelicals actually vote in most elections

9. that even 1 percent of Evangelical churches with 500 members or more are equipping their people to persuasively defend a pro-life worldview in the secular marketplace of ideas

Based on this test I would say only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of conservative Christians are too politically involved. Indeed, most need to become more politically involved, living out their faith in the public square where they can make a real moral difference.

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Father Thomas Williams had much to say regarding the recent statement issued by 55 Catholic Democrats from the House of Representatives, trying to reconcile their pro-choice views with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Some excerpts:

To justify their position, the authors of the statement appeal to the so-called “primacy of conscience.” Yet conscience is not a pass to excuse wrongdoing. Would it make any difference if a serial killer claimed he was following his conscience when he murdered his victims? Even if the politicians are following their conscience, Catholic morality makes an important distinction between good conscience and bad conscience, and a conscience that sees nothing wrong with killing the innocent falls decidedly in the second category….

 

And as regards its “undesirability,” this poorly chosen term will likely provoke only indignation. Hangnails are undesirable; under-seasoned salads are undesirable; lines at the cash register are undesirable. Abortion is repugnant and evil.
http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/williams200603140813.asp

Paul Hill was convicted for killing an abortion doctor and his security guard. Hill’s rationale for his actions was as follows: “Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child.” First Things (journal of religion, culture, and public life) asked several pro-life apologists to respond to Hill’s rationale (back in 1994).

Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, wrote with both wit and hint of sarcasm:

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice.

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9412/articles/killing.html#George

If you substitute the word “abortionists” with “fetus” you will have the typical abortion-choice argument offered by those who claim to be pro-life “personally,” but don’t want to impose their personal beliefs on others who may disagree. George capitalized on their rhetoric and used it against them in his satirical reply. Most people reading his comments would be horrified if they thought he was being serious, and that is what George wants. Why? Because if the unborn are just as human as the born, then the outrage they feel at such reasoning should be applied equally to the issue of abortion.

If we would not give people the choice to kill of abortion doctors on the grounds that (1) it is a matter of conscience and religion, and (2) we cannot impose our personal opposition to the practice on others, then we should not allow the choice to kill the unborn using those same justifications.

HT to Scott Klusendorf for bringing this back-issue of First Things to my attention.

 

Opinion Dynamics Corp conducted a poll for Fox News to get a feel for the nation’s reaction to South Dakota’s abortion ban (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,187083,00.html). ODC found that only 35% of Americans would support the same legislation in their own state, whereas 59% would oppose it. Why? Three out of four people (74%) oppose it because it does not make an exception for abortion in cases of rape and incest (political breakdown: 82%=independents, 79%=democrats, 67%=republicans), and 62% oppose it because it does not make an exception for the mother’s health (not to be confused with an exception to save the mother’s life, which the law does have).

I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the issue of abortion as it pertains to rape and incest. It has been my experience—and these polls show—that many who generally consider themselves pro-life and oppose abortion on demand, allow for abortion in cases of rape and incest.

While I understand the emotional appeal of this position, it is not a rational position for pro-lifers to take because it is inconsistent with the pro-life logic. If it is wrong to take the life of the unborn because they are human beings, and the unborn “thing” produced by the rape or incest is a human being, then it is wrong to purposely take its life. A human being is what it is regardless of the circumstances surrounding its conception.

When someone says they are opposed to abortion except in cases of rape and incest, ask them why they believe abortion is morally wrong in all other cases. They will probably say something to the effect that they are opposed to abortion in those cases because it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. At that point ask them, “Does abortion do something different to those children conceived through rape or incest?” The circumstances under which the child was conceived is morally irrelevant to the question of their worth as members of the human race.

There is no question that rape is a violent assault against an innocent women, and entirely unjust, but abortion is a violent assault against an innocent child. Why decry the one injustice, but allow the other? Would we allow a woman to kill her three month old because he was conceived by rape? If it is not morally acceptable to kill the child once it is outside of the womb because of the circumstances surrounding his/her conception, why is it permissible for her to kill her child so long as it is still in the womb for the same reason? Certainly the 8” travel down the birth canal does nothing to change what the unborn is.

Most pro-lifers who allow for abortion in cases of rape and incest do so for emotional reasons. They say, “It’s not fair to require a woman to carry a baby that was conceived through incest or rape to term because of the emotional pain it will cause the mother.” There is no question that it can be an extremely difficult emotional issue, but it is not a difficult moral issue. The most important question is not, Will this cause me emotional pain?, but, “What is the unborn?” Clearly it is a human being, and human beings are the kinds of things that are worthy of our respect and protection.

Furthermore, aborting the baby will do nothing to “unrape” the mother. It will do nothing to make her forget the horror of being raped, and will do nothing to take away her emotional pain. If anything, it will compound her pain, because she will have to deal with both the pain of rape and the pain of aborting her child.

To help someone to see the lunacy of their logic ask them if it’s morally acceptable to kill the rapist/pedophile who committed the crime against the woman. If it is not morally proper to take the life of the human being guilty of committing the moral evil against the girl, why would it be morally proper to take the life of the innocent human being in the womb?” Since when do we force another human being to give up their life so someone else can feel better? Hardship and emotional pain never justifies homicide.


 

For additional reading see my article entitled Pro-Life with a Footnote.

Al Mohler has a great post today by the above title. He examines the issue of “wrongful life” claims that are growing in popularity. While the entire article is worth reading, the last two paragraphs are worth repeating here:


When any life is deemed to be unworthy of living, every single human life is cheapened, discounted, and threatened. We are living in an age increasingly without moral rules–an age in which choices about life and death are now commonly made with specific reference to what kind of child we would welcome, and what quality of life we will accept and protect. The Christian affirmation must be that every single life is worthy of living–every life is worthy of our protection, our care, and our welcome. No one should ever discount the difficulties of dealing with children who are born with severe genetic abnormalities or serious diseases. Most of us, within our extended families or circle of friends, are intimately familiar with just how excruciating many of these situations can be. Nevertheless, these are the very same issues we will all face in terms of issues at the end of life, and at many points between birth and death.

The eugenic temptation is, in this modern age of advanced medical technologies, always too close at hand. If we do not learn to resist it, human dignity will soon rest in the dustbin.

 


I’m sure some of you have already heard that the state of South Dakota passed legislation banning all abortions except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake (Mississippi and Tennessee are considering similar abortion-banning laws). They know such a law is unconstitutional. They passed it as a direct challenge to Roe. They know it will be challenged by pro-abortion groups, and overturned by the lower courts. Their desire is to have it reviewed by the Supreme Court, and their hope is that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe.

While I am pro-life to the core, heartily support the content of this legislation, and want to see Roe challenged, I am strongly opposed to South Dakota’s actions…on a tactical level. As Scott Klusendorf has said, it is the right bill but the wrong time. The strategy seems doomed to fail, and its failure could set the pro-life movement back for years to come, resulting in the unintended effect of more dead babies.

The problem with SD’s strategy is that they forgot how to count. While conservatives have been excited over the recent appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, the fact remains that there are still only four judicial conservatives on the Court. We need five votes to overturn Roe. It’s almost certain that Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Kennedy will uphold Roe. Only Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, and Alito are likely to vote for its demise. Some even doubt that Roberts and Alito would vote against Roe because new justices are less likely to overturn such a precedent.

SD may be betting on the death or retirement of one of the Roe supporters (maybe Stevens) prior to the case reaching the Supreme Court (which I think would take 1-2 years—correct me if I’m wrong Andy or Seni). That could happen but it’s not likely, and is a risky gamble. As Steve Chapman wrote, “But that’s not counting chickens before they’re hatched — it’s counting them before the eggs are even laid.” Besides, if a vacancy did open up on the Court it would make the next nomination battle extremely intense, with the Democrats filibustering any nominee that even hints s/he does not support Roe. If the seat remains vacant when the case is heard, it would be a 4-4 vote and Roe would remain the law of the land. Of course the Supreme Court doesn’t even have to hear the case, in which case it is dead on arrival.

SD may also be betting that Kennedy will decide to vote against Roe. I think this is a false hope. Counting on Kennedy to vote to overturn Roe is quite a gamble, and if the gamble doesn’t go in our favor we’ll be in worse legal position than we are now because Roe will have been directly reaffirmed twice, setting a “super” precedent. A legal defeat now could set us back years in the legal landscape.

I don’t think Kennedy would vote to overturn Roe for two obvious reasons. First, he is fairly liberal in his constitutional philosophy, and Roe rests on that sort of an approach to constitutional interpretation. Secondly, and most importantly, he has already voted to uphold Roe in the past, even if the decision was at the last minute (It’s been said that he was going to vote against Roe in Casey, but was persuaded by O’Connor to change his opinion at the last moment. I don’t know if that is true or not.). So even if he wants to overturn Roe now he is fighting against two precedents: Roe, and his own vote in Casey. Not only does he have the negative pressure of casting a vote to overturn a well-established precedent that millions of women have come to rely on, but he also has the pressure of admitting that his past ruling was mistaken. I think those two hurdles combined are too much for him to overcome, even if he thinks Roe should be overturned (and that is only speculation).

Hopefully SD will have enough sense not to appeal the case once the law is ruled unconstitutional. If we want to see Roe overturned it is best to do so in a piecemeal fashion as we have been (parental notification laws, waiting periods, partial-birth abortion bans, etc.) until we have enough judicially conservative justices on the bench who will overturn Roe for the bad law it is. Then we can challenge Roe. We must be mindful of both the legal and political landscape in which we are working. I don’t think SD considered either. Their legislation makes a wonderful statement, but I don’t think it will be effective for furthering the pro-life cause…at this time.

What do you think?

For further reading on the strategical problems of South Dakota’s approach I would recommend the following:

Costly Gestures

South Dakota’s Impatience on Abortion

A Pro-Life Mistake

Lawyer and bioethicist, Wesley J. Smith, wrote a short piece in The Kansas City Star regarding the true defininition of cloning. If you will remember, it is in Missouri where they are proposing a state constitutional ban on cloning that would actually create a constitution right to clone. According to Smith The KS Star has been parroting the same lies as are found in the proposed amendment, but they were gracious enough to allow him to post an opinion piece presenting the other side. It’s a good read.

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