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abortion

May 30, 2012

UnplannedWhen Abby Johnson quit her job in 2009, it became national news. Johnson was director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas and did not merely quit her job, but also changed sides in the abortion battle. Formerly an employee of the organization that performs more abortions than any other, she had come to believe that abortion was morally offensive. What was it that caused her to change sides? She witnessed an abortion. On the screen of an ultrasound machine, she witnessed human life being dismembered and destroyed, and in an instant she saw what she had denied for so long—what was being aborted was a baby, not just a potential baby or a blob of tissue. She had been an eyewitness to murder and not only that, but she had been complicit in countless other murders.

Unplanned tells Johnson’s story, from being recruited by Planned Parenthood while she was a college student, to rising through the ranks and eventually becoming the director of a clinic. She also tells of her own history of abortion and how she found forgiveness for the sins of her youth.

This book has several strengths to commend it—several reasons you may want to read it.

First, it comes from an insider’s perspective, clearly describing the arguments, verbiage and subtleties used by Planned Parenthood and similiar organizations as they promote their pro-choice agenda. They weigh every word and their every action represents a careful strategy. Johnson proves what pro-life advocates have been saying all along, that although Planned Parenthood does provide some valid and valuable services for women, it is at heart an abortion provider.

December 23, 2009

In The Marketing of Evil, author David Kupelian disusses how so many of the social ills we see in our society have not merely happened, but have been actively marketed and promoted by men and women with specific, unbiblical agendas. One pearl of wisdom which Kupelian repeats throughout his book is that the person who frames the terms of a debate almost always wins that debate. In other words, the person who is allowed to set the language in a debate over a particular social issue, will almost always be able to prevail in winning that debate. While we could choose any number of examples to support this, perhaps the most obvious is in the debate over abortion.

The right to abortion was not fought over the right of a mother to kill her child. No lawyer marched into court and demanded that a mother have the right to allow a doctor to probe her womb for a helpless baby and dismember the fetus. And later, as debate raged over partial birth abortion, no one demanded that a woman be able to give birth to a premature baby and have the doctor crush that child’s skull. The child has been left out of the equation altogether. Instead, the debate always has been and seemingly always will be over a woman’s right to choose. It was never presented an issue of life or death, but an issue of choice. And who, in a free and democratic culture, could deny a person the right of free choice? The debate was over and won before it began. It was over when the abortionists framed the terms of the debate. Kupelian says, “In one of the most successful marketing campaigns in modern political history, the “abortion rights” movement—with all of its emotionally compelling catchphrases and powerful political slogans—has succeeded in turning what once was a crime into a fiercely defended constitutional right.”

This battle was won with catchphrases such as:

  • Women must have control over their own bodies.”
  • Safe and legal abortion is every woman’s right.”
  • Who decides? You decide!”
  • Abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her doctor.”
  • Freedom of choice—a basic American right.”

Interestingly, feminists are now turning against choice. Choice, it seems, has come to haunt feminists. Why? Quite simply, far too many women, in the opinion of these feminists, are choosing to forsake their careers in favor of full-time motherhood. Choice has spilled over the from the abortion debate and has impacted all of feminism. Some women, it seems, are not using their right to choose in a way that pleases the more radical feminists.

In the final days of 2005, Linda Hirshman wrote a harsh critique of such women in a much-discussed article entitled “Homeward Bound.” “‘Choice feminism’ claims that staying home with the kids is just one more feminist option. Funny that most men rarely make the same ‘choice.’ Exactly what kind of choice is that?” She documents the failure of “choice feminism” and proposes that the word “choice” be removed as the hallmark of the feminist agenda. She proposes that, rather than offering women choice, society must offer women solutions they can enact on their own. She further proposes three rules that women must follow: Prepare yourself to qualify for good work, treat work seriously, and don’t put yourself in a position of unequal resources when you marry. Appended to the three rules is just one more: a woman should never have more than one child. “A second kid pressures the mother’s organizational skills, doubles the demands for appointments, wildly raises the cost of education and housing, and drives the family to the suburbs. But cities, with their Chinese carryouts and all, are better for working mothers.” In short, a second child requires a greater committment and increases the likelihood that a mother will enact her right to choose and elect to stay home with the children.

Wendy McElroy, editor of ifeminists.com, discusses some of the impact of this move away from choice in the future of feminism:

On abortion. The words choice and pro-choice will be de-emphasized. Instead, stress will be placed on weighing the rights and health of the woman against those of the unborn with the clear message that the woman takes precedence.

On sexual harassment. The argument will not change because it has proven successful but the approach will be broadened to include male victims, especially boys. For example, the latest survey from the American Association of University Women on school and campus harassment reports on male victims.

On domestic violence. The argument will not change and the approach will not be broadened significantly. In gender feminist theory, domestic violence is key to establishing that traditional marriage is a dangerous place for women.

McElroy, in disagreement with Hirshman, tell her readers what she feels is the best “feminist line” for our new century. “Your peaceful choices are yours alone and no one else’s business. Be a housewife, love your children without a time schedule…or dive into a 24/7 job that you get on merit. Live your own dream. Be your own woman.”

It is clear that a shift is occuring within feminism. Whether a rift grows along the “choice” fault line or along another, change is afoot. If there is a lesson that Christians ought to have learned from the first few decades of feminism, it is exactly what Kupelian sought to make clear in The Marketing of Evil: the person who frames the debate will win the debate. We, as Christians, need to keep abreast of these changes and, if and when possible, seek to have a voice in the framing of this debate and so many others. Once the terms have been set in stone, the debate may well have already been lost.

August 05, 2009

Several months ago I received an email from a person who had happened by this blog. As you will see in the excerpt of that email, she had been searching for information about original sin and its application to babies who die in infancy (or who die because of abortion). Google led her here. This is what she wrote:

I volunteer at a pregnancy resource center here in Southern California. I teach a post abortion Bible study for women. Until yesterday, I believed that all aborted babies, including two of my own, were in heaven with their Father. Then I had a conversation with a family member who thinks otherwise, and after that conversation I went looking for additional information. I found your two columns on the doctrine of original sin. I’ve been on the verge of tears ever since last night. The idea staggers me. I’m not writing to argue the point. I understand it’s what you believe and, for all I know, you may be right. Meanwhile, all the years of peace that I enjoyed seem to have evaporated. You may be doctrinally accurate, but I am utterly miserable. I feel like I’m back at the edge of the religious hell hole I crawled out of some years ago. Not a good place to be. I will have to do some serious thinking and praying.

The articles she references state my position on children who die in infancy—that the Bible simply does not tell us beyond any shadow of doubt whether all children who die in infancy are saved. I understand the position of those who declare “instant heaven” for any child who dies in infancy and I do hope that this is the case. However, I do not find that the Bible tells us one way or another. Important to the discussion is my understanding of the doctrine of original sin. From this doctrine we know that no person is born innocent. Rather, in some mysterious way all of us fell in Adam and because of his sin are born as sinners. There is no one who is entirely innocent before God, even in the womb. It was this doctrine that so surprised and so upset this woman as she came to understand its implications. After all, a biblical understanding of original sin must have implications to everyone who ever lived or died.

While her story and her state is sad, I find it remarkable that a professed Christian who has had two abortions and ministers to others who have had abortions has never been faced with the doctrine of original sin. She has never come face-to-face with her own badness and with the overwhelming, inherent badness of others. She staggers under the weight of learning that all human beings are conceived as guilty sinners before God and the necessary implications of this. Yet this is hardly a new teaching and is not something that only a select few Christians believe. It is theology that is not far from the very core of the Christian faith. A person who does not understand original sin cannot truly understand anything else. How can we understand the cross, the atonement, without first properly understanding sin?

What’s even more sad is the fact that her hope has ultimately been placed in her babies being in heaven. For her to be thrown back into this “hell hole” means that she’d been finding peace in spite of her sin, not because of the finished work of Christ on her behalf. Her peace, such that it was, was built on the shaky foundation of God taking care of her babies. What we see is that she is still ultimately carrying the guilt of her sin. As my friend Julian said when I discussed this with him, “She needs a bigger cross, not just an assurance that her babies are in heaven.” And that is exactly what she needs! She needs a cross that can both forgive her and give her the assurance that God’s ways are best; she needs assurance of forgiveness that comes through Christ’s completed work there at Calvary.

It is interesting to think as well about how her pastors and counselors must have helped her think through this issue. The easy way is to give pat answers and quick lines about David’s baby being in heaven and about God being a God of grace. There may be arguments to make along those lines, but they can only provide so much comfort. The much harder—but cross-centered—way is to point her to the cross for the forgiveness of her sins (regardless of whether or not her babies are in heaven). As Julian said, “She needs to own that guilt and that possibility, then cast it on the cross of Jesus. Then, take her back and show her the cross again, and the grace and goodness and kindness and mercy of God and teach her to hope in that, not in some obscure verses that may imply some hope for the salvation of babies.” It is here, at the cross, that she can properly own her guilt and then cast it on the cross; it is here at the cross that she can receive forgiveness—true forgiveness; it is here at the cross that she can crawl out of that religious hell hole and know that she stands righteous before God, believing that his ways are always best.

April 27, 2009

“As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’ (John 9:1-3).” And, of course, Jesus spits on the ground, creates mud, has the man wash away the mud and performs a miracle so that this man, blind from birth, finally sees. I love this little story—just a very brief episode in the life of Jesus and one that could so easily pass us by. The disciples asked a simple but misguided question; Jesus mercifully answered with wisdom that has comforted so many of his people.

Two years ago the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommended that all expectant mothers undergo screening for fetal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome. This was a break from common practice in which only women who are thirty-five and older receive such screening.

Dr. Andre Lalonde, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and the executive vice president of the SOGC, said the society decided to issue the recommendation so that a greater number of women would have the option to terminate their pregnancies should fetal abnormalities be detected.

“Yes, it’s going to lead to more termination, but it’s going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, ‘How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn’t have to?’” Dr. Lalonde said. “We have to be fair to give women a choice.”

“How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome…?” Amazing words, those, and shockingly selfish. They are ones that perhaps any parent may wonder at his or her worst moments, but ones that we would hope not to hear as justification for a matter so serious, so devastating, as abortion. But even this is an old-school argument when it comes to abortion. In recent years the issue of abortion has evolved from “Is this what you want?” (a matter of personal inconvenience) to “Is this what you want for your family?” (a matter of wider inconvenience) to “How can you do this to us?” (a matter of societal inconvenience). Those who learn that their child may be born with Down’s syndrome or another condition will feel pressure to abort this child for the good of society. They will be told, even if only tacitly, that to bring a disabled child into the world is unfair to everyone in society. It is, after all, my tax dollars that will need to support this child through special education and special vocation, and my children whose tax dollars will pay for his retirement.

Not many parents today would wrestle with the issue of who sinned that a child was born blind (or with weak eyes—a condition deemed sufficient by some to abort a child in the United Kingdom) or with Down’s Syndrome. Neither would they wrestle with whether this child should even be born. Blindness would be sufficient cause for many parents, and perhaps even most parents, to abort the child and try again, hoping for a better result the next time. And yet this particular blind man, the one Jesus met, was to serve a purpose that had been sovereignly ordained since before the dawn of time.

F.F. Bruce makes an important point about this story: “This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.” John MacArthur summarizes “God sovereignly chose to use this man’s affliction for His own glory.”

I love Matthew Henry’s treatment of this passage. He draws out two applications for the fact that this man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. The first is that “the attributes of God might be made manifest in him.” Among the attributes of God seen in the life of this man are God’s justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities and His ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction. God’s goodness was specially and miraculously manifested in curing him. The second application is “that the counsels of God concerning the Redeemer might be manifested in him. He was born blind that our Lord Jesus might have the honour of curing him, and might therein prove himself sent of God to be the true light to the world. Thus the fall of man was permitted, and the blindness that followed it, that the works of God might be manifest in opening the eyes of the blind. It was now a great while since this man was born blind, and yet it never appeared till now why he was so.” This man had been born blind so that the power of God might be displayed in him.

Henry draws a final application: “the intentions of Providence commonly do not appear till a great while after the event, perhaps many years after. The sentences in the book of providence are sometimes long, and you must read a great way before you can apprehend the sense of them.” Those who abort their children do not read to the end of those long sentences. Rather, thinking selfishly and looking only a few words ahead, they make the terrible decision to end a life, destroying the gift of God. Henry also writes “Those who regard [God] not in the ordinary course of things are sometimes alarmed by things extraordinary. How contentedly then may a good man be a loser in his comforts, while he is sure that thereby God will be one way or other a gainer in his glory!” (You may, as I did, have to read that last sentence a few times to gain the sense of it.) Those who choose abortion are unwilling to lose their comforts that God may gain His glory. This glory may not be miraculous as it was in the case of the man born blind, but God is glorified in every life that enters this world. Every one of us testifies to the Creator’s wisdom, power, love and goodness. Countless millions have been destroyed and tossed away and we have never been able to rejoice in the gift of life God gave them. We have not been able to marvel in the attributes of God displayed so clearly in their lives.

When we abort those who are infirm, physically or mentally, when we choose not to read those long sentences in the book of providence, we destroy boys and girls, men and women, in whom we ought to see the works of God displayed. We miss out on marvelous opportunities to see the works of God displayed in their lives. We miss opportunities to see God’s glory increase, even if this involves a requisite decrease in our own comfort. This ought to be a small price to pay.

January 22, 2009

This is a guest post from John Ensor.

*****

Today I join hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in the annual March for Life to publicly lament the death of 50 million preborn children and to pray for the day when abortion becomes unthinkable.

In doing so, I acknowledge the resistance, even offense, taken by many by asserting that abortion is the moral issue of our day. I am familiar with the claim that asserts equal concern for poverty, global warming, aids prevention, war, and more. All of these appear to me worth researching and debating, as iron sharpens iron, as to the various causes and possible solutions.

But abortion is not on par. I remember how and when I came to this conclusion. It was the week of February 12, 1990, as marked on the Newsweek magazine I was reading. Kim Flodin, in an article on why she did not counter-march for abortion rights, wrote, “I was pregnant, I carried two unborn children and I chose, for completely selfish reasons, to deny them life so that I could better my own” (My Turn).

There it was: a momentary lapse into honest concrete language about abortion from an advocate. No ancient Baal worshiper could have described the reasons for their child sacrifice better. I was stunned that it had to be stated so plainly for me to grasp the preeminent evil of it. It is not one issue among equal concerns. Abortion is our postmodern version of child sacrifice for the Me Generation. As such, it is an incomprehensible and unthinkable evil.

Unthinkable is the best word to describe it because that is the way God describes it. “The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah saying, … “They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination” (Jeremiah 32:35; cf. 7:31, 19:5).

Among the many ways we offend God, the greatest offense are the shedding of innocent blood and idolatry. These two come together in child sacrifice. At the outset, God taught Israel to be shocked and repulsed by its practice among other cultures. “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31). The word even here rings remarkably close in meaning to unthinkable or something that “did not enter into my mind.”

Some years ago, a woman named Suzanne came to me while I was setting up a pregnancy-help clinic in Boston. She said, “If I have the abortion, I will have more money to spend on my other two children.” I asked, “What do you think your children would say if they knew you were doing this so that they could have cable TV and other stuff?” She said, “Well, I’ll ask them.” Then and there I knew the baby would live. Abortion is unthinkable to children—incomprehensible, horrific, something that would never enter their minds to do. Sure enough, the children were aghast at the thought. “We want the baby,” they reassured her. Some months later, after the baby arrived, I heard her share her story. She said she was embarrassed to think back on her earlier state of mind. She had joined the circle of those who think abortion unthinkable.

Sanctity of Human Life Week is like Good Friday—a sobering time to stare unflinchingly past the ho-hum of abortion as a common practice; to grieve, lament, and morn; then to take up our cross and humbly obey God’s call to “prosper” the cause of the fatherless and “defend the rights of the needy” (Jeremiah 5:28). In this context, that means becoming cross-bearers for child-bearers.

*****

John Ensor is the Vice President of Heartbeat International and author of Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives, One Woman At a Time .

October 22, 2008

Yesterday I received an interesting email from a reader of this site. He had a question about abortion and, specifically, about abortion in the case of incest and rape. Here is an excerpt of his question:

We’re not living in a theocratic nation like the Old Testament Israel. Whether we like it or not, we’re living in a democratic nation where people of varying beliefs, not God, make the laws. To what extent, then, can we impose Christian values by law? especially in case of abortion by incest and rape? I understand we can make a good argument against abortion in general without having to resort to biblical teaching. However, what about in cases of abortion by incest or rape? Are we supposed to work to ban those as well?

As a Christian, i believe abortion is wrong. And because it is based on the absolute truth of the Bible, there are no exceptions. I also reject the view that when it comes to morality one’s private views and public views must be distinguished. But i don’t know where to draw the line when it comes to abortion by incest or rape. To what extent do we ‘compromise’ (is that the right word?) or stop short when creating or voting for laws?

This is a good question and, strangely, one I had been discussing with my wife just hours before this email showed up. It is my conviction that some evangelicals and pro-lifers have given away the moral high ground by making a false and irrational distinction between children who are conceived by choice (or at least by the choice to engage in sexual intercourse) and children who are conceived by rape or incest (though, of course, most incest is also rape). If the argument against abortion was “You made a bad decision, now deal with it!” then this argument would make sense. Those who did not choose to have a child would be exonerated and could justly terminate their pregnancies. But this is not our argument. The argument from Scripture is simple: a fetus is a human being. A fetus has the same “humanness” as an adult and thus has the same right to life. A fetus is fully human. A fetus is as fully human if she is conceived by choice as if she is conceived by brutal force. Of course I affirm that rape is a horrific crime—undoubtedly one of the worst crimes a person could commit and one whose full spiritual, physical, mental and emotional impact I am sure I cannot adequately understand. But the brutality of the crime does not change the fact that is indisputable from Scripture—even a child conceived by rape is fully human.

I feel that another aspect of this reader’s question deserves a response. He asked “to what extent, then, can we impose Christian values by law?” Here I think we need to pause to distinguish between values and morals. It used to be that we spoke of morals—truths that were applicable to all people. Societal morals were built upon a Christian foundation so that society widely accepted that homosexuality was wrong, that abortion was forbidden, that truth was a virtue, and so on. These morals stood above society, giving structure and imposing themselves on all people. But in recent decades, coasting in alongside a naturalistic worldview, morals have been diminished and have been replaced by values. Where morals are absolute, values are inherently subjective. Each of us may have our own sets of values. Society dictates that you are required to respect my values while I am required to respect yours.

So to what extent can we impose Christian values? Well, in a sense we do not seek to impose Christian values at all. Instead, we seek to impose Christian morals. We affirm that the Scripture gives us absolute standards of right and wrong and we seek to live within these boundaries. Again, these morals stand over and above us and call us all to obedience. They are vertical rather than horizontal. So we do not face our society with an attitude implying that we both hold to values and I hope that you will accept mine. Instead, we face society with the conviction that God’s morals are good and absolute. We can impose these morals on others without fear. Were a national leader to find himself in a position of being able to eradicate abortion, he could do so from a moral standpoint and do it without regret or hesitation. In such a case he has no need to concern himself with another person’s subjective values.

However, it is unlikely that such a day will come. It is unlikely that a person will ever be in a position where he can take us directly from where we are today (the celebration of abortion) to where we would like to go (the abolition of abortion). And here we can draw inspiration from moral victories of days past. I think it is most helpful to turn to a man like William Wilberforce and his battle to end slavery. Slavery was essentially a value held in days past. Society may have frowned on slavery as somewhat less than savory, but it ultimately left it to the discretion of the individual. If one person’s sense of value allowed slavery, then it was acceptable to him. But Wilberforce and the abolitionists took the moral high ground and decreed rightly that slavery was abhorrent and immoral.

One of the lessons from Wilberforce’s fight and eventual victory is that incremental victories are still victories. To borrow a cliche, Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither was it destroyed in a day. The cultural and political climate that welcomed abortion was the culmination of many societal forces. There were gradual steps away from biblical truth, gradual relaxing of traditional gender roles and small but steady changes in the understanding of human rights. It was the confluence of many forces that legalized abortion. Similarly, it is likely that it will take many years and many small, incremental changes to effect the status quo. While we must always keep the end in mind and desire nothing less than the full and complete abolition of abortion, we do not compromise if and when we accept and rejoice in incremental changes. Thus if laws were changed to forbid abortion except in cases of rape and incest, I believe Christians could support such legislation. They might do so with heavy hearts, knowing that unjust abortions would continue, but they could do so with clear consciences rejoicing in the righting of many wrongs.

Of course even here we make one exception (and allow me this brief aside, if you will). If the life of a pregnant mother is in grave danger so that both she and the fetus will surely die should the pregnancy continue, we affirm that an abortion is permissible. This is no light decision, but one that is acceptable in the light of this sinful world we inhabit. I have known people who struggled and struggled to get pregnant and who rejoiced in finding that God had finally blessed them with a pregnancy. But they soon learned that this was an ectopic pregnancy and they were forced to abort the child lest both mom and baby die. This is a heart-rending decision but one I believe we can support from Scripture. It is a sad consequence of human sin.

Abortion is so awful, so despicable, so abhorrent that I have to think it will, indeed, be abolished some day. It is my hope and even my conviction that we will someday regard it as we now regard slavery. We will shake our heads and wonder how we could ever have lived in such a society. Children will learn in school of society’s ambivalence to so great an evil and express proper shock and disgust. And I hope and pray that Christians will lead this fight and ascribe all glory to God when the battle is finally won.

July 21, 2007

Around here we know John Ensor as the author of a couple of books I’ve reviewed: The Great Work of the Gospel and Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart. But there’s more to him than his books. Last year he took the position of Executive Director of the Urban Initiative Program of Heartbeat International. He is now leading an initiative in Miami, Florida called Heartbeat of Miami, working in an area that has no fewer than 37 abortion clinics. Previously he served for fourteen years as President of A Woman’s Concern Pregnancy Health Centers.

Heartbeat of Miami recently opened their first Pregnancy Help Medical Clinic in Hialeah. Tragically, just days after opening the clinic, thieves broke in and stole the new $35,000 ultrasound machine that had been loaned to them by a partnering clinic. Ultrasound machines are, for obvious reasons, on the front lines of the battle against abortion because once women see a living child inside of them they are much less likely to destroy that life. Their latest newsletter shows a staff member standing joyfully beside the new equipment on July 9, and then shows an ominous photograph of a broken window on July 13.

The newsletter says, “Police are treating it as a targeted attack. Someone/group wants to stop us. They may also have had a plan to fence the machine, but most likely they came here because they heard what we were doing and targeted us. Nothing was taken except the machine.”

You can read about the crime in this newsletter or look at an article in the local news that has a summary of the story. Do pray for John and his staff members and for the important work they are doing in the Miami area and beyond.