January 22, 2012

Sanctity of Life Sunday in the wild: Jan. 22, 2012

Today is the 39th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of the United States Supreme Court, which legalized abortion on demand citing a supposed right to "privacy." Thus it is also commemorated in many churches as Santity of Life Sunday, as normally the third Sunday of the month would be the one closest. National Sanctity of Human Life Day was originally proclaimed by Ronald Reagan, and the tradition has since been continued by both Presidents Bush, but not either Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama—which really tells you all you need to know about the powers-that-be of the Democratic Party when it comes to the issue of unborn human life. In Canada, our lack of abortion restrictions is due to the R. v. Morgentaler decision of January 28, 1988, not Roe, so Sanctity of Life Sunday may get a nod in Canadian churches, if that. Nonetheless, American policy and tradition tend to have an effect on Canada as well.

Typically at around this time of year, the blogosphere starts to buzz a bit with life issues, and so I've decided to highlight a few of the posts that attracted my own attention over the last few days.


Sex-selection abortion plagues countries such as China or India, where the preference for boys over girls, coupled with ideological or economic considerations (such as China's reprehensible one-child policy) make the destruction of the unborn fairer sex virtually inevitable. In China, there are currently around a million men who will never be married: there simply aren't enough women.

Andrea Mrozek of ProWomanProLife (probably my favourite pro-life blog right now) cites a recent National Post column by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, in which he writes of sex-selection abortion:

The world has more or less gotten used to it, and it is almost never raised as a matter of international concern. Particularly notable for their lack of interest is the abortion-rights community in the West, which seems willing to sacrifice literally millions of little girls in service of the abortion licence.

In other words (as Andrea's title says), we know about it, and we don't care. She adds:

I’ve been asked multiple times over the past days what the solutions are to eradicating sex selection abortion. The fact is that in a permissive abortion regime, there are none. And the people who could end the permissive abortion regime don’t want to, ergo, they really don’t care about missing women.

[Read Sex Selection: We've Known About It, and We Don't Care]

Andrea also took on another column, this time by André Picard of the Globe and Mail, arguing that sex-selection abortion is a "complex issue with many nuances." Some choose them because they value boys over girls, some because they want to "balance" their family. See? It's complicated!

Andrea's response:

[I]n the words of one friend who emailed me his frustration, sex-selection abortions are not nuanced and complicated. They are pretty damn simple. I want a boy. I carry a girl, therefore I terminate girl’s life simply because I want a boy. Wow. Uber f*&ing [sic] complicated. Soooo nuanced! How do we keep up?"

[Read Oh So Nuanced]

Snarky? You bet. But as I've heard Scott Klusendorf say, while the decision to have an abortion or not might be psychologically complicated, it is not really morally complicated. If the unborn are not human beings, the decision to have an abortion needs no justification. (In other words it need be neither psychologically nor morally complex.) However, if the unborn are human beings, then the decision to have an abortion can have no justification. It matters not whether you value boys over girls, or simply want to have one of each: either way you are killing a blameless human being. It's simply wrong, either way, and "nuance" be damned.

Speaking of Scott Klusendorf, he and his colleague Jay Watts of the Life Training Institute wrote a very good defense of incrementalism at the Gospel Coalition blog:

First, how does it follow that because we can't save all children we shouldn't try to save some? Pro-lifers are not the ones compromising when we support incremental laws aimed at limiting the evil of abortion. Rather, the abortionist is compromising because he's forced to give up the current status quo—namely, that any child can be killed at any point in pregnancy for any reason. Whenever we chip away at that status quo so that some lives are saved, we are not compromising, we are improving the moral landscape. Make no mistake, we do not intend to stop chipping away at the legal protections for abortion until all children are protected in law. But until that day comes, we will work to save as many as we can given current legal restraints. . . .

[P]ersonhood advocates should be careful about making claims about pro-lifers compromising the cause. Was William Wilberforce guilty of "compromise" because he supported defunding the slave trade before it could be effectively banned? Was Abraham Lincoln a great compromiser rather than a great emancipator because he worked incrementally to end the American version of that monstrous evil? We have never stated—nor have we heard Greg Koukl, Francis Beckwith, or any other pro-life thinker who favors the incremental approach—suggest compromise on the complete humanity of the unborn or the inhumanity of abortion, even in so-called hard cases. What we suggest is that we accept legislation that represents a compromise from the other side for the purposes of saving lives right now. The law is compromising, not us. The law is 100% on the side of the pro-abort position right now. Movement in the pro-life direction represents compromise by our foes, not by us.

[Read Moving Pro-Life Legislation Forward: The Need for Prudence and Civility]

Half a loaf is better than no loaf; it's because pro-lifers were unwilling to accept some restrictions instead of all restrictions on abortion, that we have no legal restriction at all in Canada on abortion. Too often, I think, the contrast between "personhood" and incremental legislation is presented as a false dichotomy. It's not either/or: if the latter is allowed to do its work, the former will follow. Ask Wilberforce.

A week ago I noted the loaded nature of the referendum questions proposed for this year's CUSA election cycle at Carleton U., particularly the one proposing to ban student pro-life clubs. Well, the student newspaper the Charlatan spotted it too. Not surprising, since finding a logical fallacy in this set of questions was like finding hay in a haystack.

Some students on campus are upset because they feel these questions unfairly single out individual groups, but the problem with these questions goes much farther than that.

Is Carleton Lifeline's sole mission to disseminate inaccurate information to students? Is Carleton's lone gun club, the Firearms Association of Carleton University, really promoting gun violence by allowing Carleton students to lawfully learn about and use guns? The wording of each referendum question suggests this is the case.

The claims made in each question are not verifiable fact. Each question is loaded with the value judgments of their creators.

[Read Revamp the Referendum]

Russell D. Moore writes about the necessity of the Good News being preached to the consciences of those who have committed a horrible act:

Speak directly to these people. To the woman who has had the abortion. To the man who has paid for an abortion. To the health care worker who has profited off of tearing apart the bodies of the young and the consciences of their parents.

Speak clearly of the horror of judgement to come. Confirm what every accusing conscience already knows: clinic privacy laws cannot keep all this from being exposed at the tribunal of Christ. When the Light shines, there’s not enough darkness in which to hide and cringe.

But don’t stop there.

[Read The Gospel in an Abortion Culture]

At Desiring God, Brent Aucoin draws the obvious parallel between abortion today and slavery in the 19th century:

Christians were the first to proclaim the humanity of the slave, and according to historians such as Bertram Wyatt-Brown and James Brewer Stewart, evangelical Christians formed the backbone of the abolitionist movement. Few if any evangelical Christians today believe it was wrong or inappropriate for Americans to crusade against chattel slavery in antebellum America. So, if it was appropriate and right for Christians to denounce slavery and seeks its demise in the 1800s, then why is the same not true for abortion in the 2000s?

History shows us that slavery, like abortion, was predicated on the assertion that certain persons were not fully persons. The same faulty reasoning, the same erroneous assertion, the same myth that fueled the enslavement of millions 160 years ago has reared its ugly head again to justify the murder of tens of millions of unborn babies. History has here repeated itself.

[Read Racial Slavery and Abortion in America: How History Repeats Itself]

Also at Desiring God, John Piper has made a free ebook available of three of his abortion sermons. While I have not read this yet, I have heard Piper preach before on the subject and he is top-notch, so I would expect the same. I may use this as a preface of sorts for Bloodlines.

Albert Mohler, almost always a clarion of moral reasoning, writes about the normalization of abortion in American culture:

Rarely do we see abortion defended in such unvarnished terms—"a decision so vital it was worth stopping that heart." Merle Hoffman goes on to explain how she can speak of abortion so directly. She has, she tells us, no conception that life is sacred.

"Abortion is as American as apple pie." Hoffman made that statement in a recent interview about her book. She laments that abortion is the cause of shame in some women and that shame attaches itself to abortion in the large culture, even now. In her view, if women would start talking more honestly and directly about their abortions, the shame would be removed and women would discuss their abortions like they speak of "a bikini wax."

[Read "Abortion is as American as Apple Pie—The Culture of Death Finds a Voice]

This is probably hopelessly optimistic on the part of Hoffman, however: it seems to me that whenever poor-choicers try to normalize and legitimize abortion (e.g. by live-tweeting an abortion in progress), they almost always wind up on the defensive—as they should be. The rest of us still have functioning consciences, even if the most radical have sold theirs out.

Finally, Greg Koukl dismantles the "violinist" argument of Judith Jarvis Thompson: originally published in the early 1970s, and still the most coherent argument in favour of abortion rights. It still fails, of course:

Not only was the argument compelling, but Thompson made a stunning concession when she acknowledged the full personhood of the unborn. Having conceded what pro-lifers were trying to prove, she short-circuited their argument from the outset.

My first impulse was to throw in the towel. The argument couldn't be answered, I thought. This is often the case with carefully worded philosophical treatments. At first glance they appear compelling. On closer inspection, though, the flaws begin to show. In this instance, the problems with Thompson's argument are fatal.

[Read Unstringing the Violinist: Dismantline a Common Argument for Abortion]

Normally, I'd close an "In the Wild" post with an invitation to "Enjoy." That really doesn't seem appropriate for such an unpleasant, albeit vital, topic. So, instead, let me invite you to read, and appreciate.