Monday, August 11, 2008

Moral Bankruptcy of the Modified Pro-Choice Position

The Bible and the Ballot Box 3: The Bible and Abortion

If we want to be faithful followers of Jesus, we have to let our faith inform every aspect of our lives – not just what we do on Sunday. Nowhere is this more important than how we, as citizens of a republic, let our faith shape how we vote and otherwise influence our government.

If you had to name the one issue that dominates the culture war, it would be abortion. In this discussion, the scientific question is pretty much settled; the ethical question remains – what do we do with what we know?

I’m not going to argue here that abortion is wrong. I doubt there is anyone reading this site that doesn’t believe that abortion kills a unique human being or that doesn’t think abortion is wrong.

But many Christians, perhaps having grown weary of the fight, perhaps disinclined to “force their views” on others, have tried to opt for a middle position – the so-called “modified pro-choice” (MPC) position. This position says, “I’m personally against abortion, but I don’t think it should be illegal.”

I am going to argue here that this position is sin, that no believer should hold it, and that no believer should support it politically.

Why?
The first question we should ask anyone who says, “I’m personally against abortion,” is “Why?”

The answer is invariably, “I believe abortion takes an innocent human life.”

So the person who holds the “modified pro-choice” position says, “I think abortion takes an innocent human life, and I think mothers should be legally allowed to do that to their unborn children.”

The MPC person may balk at this description, but that is quite simply what they believe. They think it’s wrong, but, because they don’t want to “force their beliefs” on anyone else, they think it should be legal.

No Other Issue
People disagree about whether abortion takes an innocent human life (some argue about “life,” some about “human,” some, bizarrely enough, about “innocent”), so some Christians don’t want to force others to live by their moral beliefs.

But no one takes this approach on any other moral issue.

No one says, “Child abuse is wrong, but I don’t want to force my belief on others.” Have you ever heard anyone seriously say this about murder, auto theft, counterfeiting, anything? No. Of course some people say auto theft isn’t wrong – they’re the ones driving off in your car! The fact that car thieves don’t think stealing is wrong does not make it any less so.

Pity
Some will say abortion is different because they believe the people choosing this are usually poor, young women who feel they have no other option, but right and wrong apply equally to rich and poor (c.f., Lev 19:15).

“Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house” (Prov 6:30-31).

Wrong is wrong, no matter how poor the offender. Killing is killing, no matter how desperate the situation. We do have the concept of justifiable homicide in our country, but what, short of saving your own life, justifies killing another human being – especially a child?

The Bible on Overlooking Evil
If we all agree that abortion takes an innocent human life, and if we agree that it is wrong to take an innocent human life, the MPC position is sitting idly by and watching evil happen.

Hopefully none of us could stand still and watch someone kill a child. So how do we permit abortion which is the very same thing? We are choosing to ignore evil, and the scriptures have some pointed things to say about that.

In Deuteronomy 19, God told Israel to create cities of refuge to safeguard lives “so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land… and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed” (v10). They were also told to “purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you” (v13).

Proverbs advises us: “Rescue those being led away to death…. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? … Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (24:11-12) and “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (31:8).

One of the things that mystifies me about the “modified pro-life” people is that they are generally the most vocal about standing up for the poor and the helpless and anyone else they think has been wronged, yet they will silently permit the most helpless of all to be killed without due process, without hope of appeal, without mercy.

Jesus Said…?
I can't deny that Jesus and the apostles are silent on the matter of abortion other than to express a general concern for children and their welfare (e.g., Matt 18 &19).

But we're addressing people who already think abortion is wrong. So let me ask the MPC folks this: Jesus said that lust was like adultery and hate was like murder. What would He say about watching someone kill with your hands in your pockets? We do know He said "Woe" to those who lead others into sin – abortion perhaps?

The Early Church
Even though there is little in the Bible that speaks directly to abortion, the early church fathers took a very hard and clear stand against abortion and the flip side of the issue, exposure (a practice that is, thankfully, illegal in the US):

"Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born" Epistle of Barnabas chapter 19.

"Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten" Didache 2.2.

These sentiments are echoed in the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles and the "Apocalypse of Peter" and by Athenagoras and Tertullian among others.

But the early Christians did not just preach against infanticide, nor did they simply refuse to practice it themselves. They rescued exposed infants. To do any less, to turn a blind eye to these killings, would have made them part of the killing.

They could do nothing about abortion, but they did what they could do. We can do something about abortion, even if it’s only a little, in our democratic system – we can refuse to support those who want to keep it legal.

Getting Our Hands Dirty
Of course, voting is not the only thing we can do. We can adopt children whose mothers can’t raise them. Or we can help those women raise their children through material and non-material support.

Even if we never succeed in ridding the world of abortion, we should work to reduce the number of abortions as we can.

We do have to be careful; that road is strewn with pitfalls, and we cannot uncritically embrace every idea suggested. Do some contraceptives cause abortions? Would more welfare help women believe they can keep and raise their babies, or would it simply create a downward spiral resulting in more abortions? Is sex education, rather than “abstinence education,” better than letting kids figure it out on their own? Is there a happy medium? We need to face these questions. We must engage these issues.

Conclusion
As believers we cannot just sit back and watch innocent little human beings die by the thousands. We have to get involved. We also can’t be content to simply wag holy fingers at those who seek abortions; we have to try to help.

We must be actively involved in ending the killing of unborn children. These little humans, made in the image of God, are precious to our Savior and should be precious to us as well.

To that end, we must stand against those who would protect this practice. Anything less is to be complicit in their sin.

P.S. Exodus 21:22, because of questions of translation, is often used to argue that the Bible does not regard the unborn as having full human rights. Greg Koukl has written a thoughtful article showing that this passage must be referring to premature birth, not miscarriage as some popular translations and many pro-choicers suggest.

------
Related:
Voting for Candidates You Disagree With
Helping the Poor Biblically
The Bible and Capital Punishment
Christianity & the Environment: 7 Principles
Immigration Reform and Christianity

24 comments:

crossn81 said...

I think your points are well taken. I may be a MPC position, but I think it stems more out of the fact that we've had so many politicians who pay lip-service to the pro-life position but do nothing.

Personally I am tired of people using abortion as a litmus test, but not doing anything about it. Yes I would like to see abortions stopped, but why don't we work on the causes of abortion? I wrote about abortion a long time ago and our need to prevent it.

ChrisB said...

1) I understand what you say about lip-service. It's frustrating to listen to politicians go on and on about things that are important to you and then watch them do nothing.

But I don't think all the pro-life folks in Congress (and other levels of government) have done nothing. Yes, abortion's still legal. Changing that will require a lot (and I don't think the coat-hanger response is valid, plus it's beside the point) -- most of all changing the makeup and/or behavior of SCOTUS.

But in recent years we've outlawed partial-birth abortions (which besides being disgusting were bound to lead us toward true infanticide) and passed the born alive protection act. We've seen the states pass waiting periods, minor laws, and minimum information requirements. We've also seen a growth in using ultrasound to help women see -- and recognize the humanity of -- their babies.

All these things are steps in the right direction. Can we do more? Sure. Is legislation slow? You betcha.

2) None of this, however, addresses the argument in the post. You think pro-lifers don't do enough so you'll vote for people who guarantee they'll keep abortion legal? What kind of twisted logic is that? The answer is to find true pro-life people to send to Washington, not to support pro-choicers.

Even pro-life Dems can't be trusted -- they're still going to support Pelosi and Reid, and they will never let true pro-life legislation through.

The next pro-choice assault coming down the pipe is the "Freedom of Choice Act" which would essentially undo every pro-life victory since Roe. The Dems are sure they have to votes to pass it; Obama has promised to sign it.

Which side are you going to stand with?

Vinny said...

But no one takes this approach on any other moral issue.

I don’t think that this is strictly true. In fact, I think it may be least true in the very area you mentioned, child rearing. The law allows gives parents a great deal of leeway to physically punish their children and to teach their children racial and ethnic prejudices. I don’t think it does so because it views these activities as inherently moral. Rather, I think as a society we recognize that the government is likely to do more harm than good if it tries to fine tune the way parents raise their children.

I think we are forced to acknowledge that the tools available to the government to shape people’s behavior are not suited to many of the moral decisions that people must make in their lives. As I recall, you were outraged at the state of Texas’ interference in the family decisions of that Mormon sect. I don’t think you were condoning the morality of everything the sect was doing, but you did not think that it was a place where the government should be sticking its nose. I disagreed with you in that case, but I share your concern with government overreaching.

I am not particularly comfortable with the extreme pro-choice position, but it is not a deal-breaker for me when choosing a candidate for a number of reasons (in no particular order): Making abortion illegal invites government intrusion into areas of people’s lives where I don’t think it belongs and where I don’t think it can be effective; don’t think that a first term fetus is a “unique” human life; I think the motivation behind many abortions is self-defense rather than homicide.

ChrisB said...

Vinny: I think it may be least true in the very area you mentioned, child rearing.

I didn't mention child rearing. I mentioned child abuse. Important distinction. In the former case, there are countless theories and opinions and lots of gray areas.

In the latter case, the vast majority of people think it is wrong, and the fact that a few disagree does not keep us from making it illegal and prosecuting violators.

Abortion is not a case of raising your child according to your beliefs that we may think is a little weird. It's killing your child. If you do this to your two day old baby, we throw you in jail. If you kill him a week earlier, we act like you had a mole removed.

-----------
This piece wasn't meant to convince the honest pro-choice voter to change his position; it was meant to convince the allegedly pro-life person who votes pro-choice to stop doing that. But since you bring it up...

don’t think that a first term fetus is a “unique” human life

Is it human? If not, what is it. If mom's a human and dad's a human, what else can it be? Another way to think about it -- at what point does the offspring of a cat become a cat? Immediately, of course. (This is why the pro-abortion side likes to make the "personhood" argument.)

"Unique?" From the moment of fertilization this creature has a genetic code distinct from either of its parents. It is not the mother's body -- it can even have a different blood type.

Living? We're killing something; it must be alive.

the motivation behind many abortions is self-defense rather than homicide

"Self-defense" has to be qualified. Is it defense of life? Then we understand and support the mother through that unfortunate situation.

But the "self-defense" is usually defense of the mother's lifestyle or educational dreams. I don't see that as justification for killing another human being.

Vinny said...

The line between child abuse and acceptable parenting techniques is not always easy to draw. There are things that I might consider physically, emotionally, or psychologically abusive that other parents might consider necessary to toughen up their child and hence good parenting. For example, I would consider beating a child with a big stick to be abuse while others might see it as obedience to God’s command in Proverbs. With respect to these practices, the fact that society has not reached a consensus about them is, in fact, a valid reason for declining to make them subject to government prohibition.

My point is that everyone, including Christians, has to reach their own conclusion about what evils can be effectively deterred by government prohibition. Moreover, everyone, including Christians, has to decide whether they want to give the government the degree of intrusive power that it would need in order to enforce a prohibition of a particular evil.

I don’t deny that you may be able to make a persuasive argument that abortion is the type of evil that warrants government prohibition and the intrusions necessary to enforce that prohibition. There is no other issue in the liberal pantheon with which I am less comfortable. Nevertheless, I believe that a person of faith can rationally weigh the significance of a candidate’s position on this issue against his or her position on all the other issues. I think it is a bit presumptuous for you to declare that a Christian cannot in good conscience weigh the issues differently than you have.

ChrisB said...

Vinny, I really can't believe you're equating spanking and killing your unborn child. (Frankly, I had a bit darker flavor of child abuse in mind when I wrote that; my fault for being unclear.)

Again, I'm talking to those who do not see abortion itself as a gray area. If you're convinced it's wrong to spank children, then you're entitled to ask your legislators to pass laws against it.

I argue that those who think abortion is wrong, because it's a much more serious offense, are obligated to do just that.

I believe that a person of faith can rationally weigh the significance of a candidate’s position on this issue against his or her position on all the other issues.

I believe there is no other issue.

"Sure, he supports child molestation, but his tax policies are great!" Please.

A candidate's stance on welfare, taxes, education, national security, and the courts is irrelevant if he supports murder. I'll be writing more specifically about this next time.

As I said above, the scriptures teach that God holds us accountable for the wrongs we allow others to commit. You don't have to believe that, but my evangelical brothers and sisters who claim to believe that on every other issue need to face the fact that this truth applies here most of all.

Vinny said...

As I said above, the scriptures teach that God holds us accountable for the wrongs we allow others to commit. You don't have to believe that, but my evangelical brothers and sisters who claim to believe that on every other issue need to face the fact that this truth applies here most of all.

Fine. But government prohibition is not necessarily the best response to every act that you deem to be a wrong and abortion is not the only wrong in the world. Your evangelical brothers and sisters may well be faced with a choice between a candidate who says the right things about abortion but won't actually do anything about it and a candidate who makes no promises on abortion but may actually do something about some other wrongs. If they vote for the former, aren't they accountable for the wrongs that might have been prevented if they had voted for the latter?

ChrisB said...

makes no promises on abortion but may actually do something about some other wrongs

Which other wrongs are worth ignoring killing innocent unborn humans?

gitarcarver said...

Chris,
I came here via the "Christian Carnival," and I have to say that I am disappointed in the way you are addressing Vinny's points.

Vinny, I really can't believe you're equating spanking and killing your unborn child. (Frankly, I had a bit darker flavor of child abuse in mind when I wrote that; my fault for being unclear.)

He's not equating spanking and killing an unborn child. You were the one that chose the analogy of "child molestation." Even though you say that you had something "darker" in mind when you wrote it, it is clear that you wanted to limit the definition of "child molestation" to suit and advance your argument. Vinny's point seems to be there are people that consider "spanking" to be equal to "child molestation." They include the entire spectrum of any "negative" act toward a child as "child abuse." Yet when Vinny brings up the fact that there is a difference between a child and a fetus, you reaction is based on your trying to limit and define the terms of the argument. For example, you write "From the moment of fertilization this creature has a genetic code distinct from either of its parents." That is true. Of course you and I know that does not mean that at the moment of fertilization there is a human being there. That does not even mean that left alone, the fertilized egg will develop into a fully developed child.

And that is the flaw in your argument. You want the entire spectrum of what you consider "a child" to be included in your definition of abortion, but at the same time, you want to limit what "child abuse" and "child molestation" to your confined "dark" definition.

Like it or not, you never truly address Vinny's points on "spanking" but you only dismiss them because they are outside of the definition that you set up.

A candidate's stance on welfare, taxes, education, national security, and the courts is irrelevant if he supports murder.

Capital punishment is, in the eyes of many, murder. Is the support of capital punishment a deal breaker for you as well?

He who defines the terms, controls the argument.

But I suspect that you know that.

Vinny said...

Which other wrongs are worth ignoring killing innocent unborn humans?

How about killing innocent born humans? Why should a person of faith vote for a candidate who will recklessly use military force causing untold suffering to innocent civilians and noble young men serving this country simply because that candidate is willing to pay lip-service to the pro-life movement? If neither candidate is going to actually do anything to curb abortion, isn't the person of faith responsible for the wrong done through the reckless use of military force?

Vinny said...

Gitacarver,

Thanks for getting my back.

I think you will find that Chris is a thoughtful guy who tries to fairly respond to comments. He is one of the few conservative Christian bloggers that I would bother trying to discuss abortion with, although we may well wind up stepping on the third rail together.

ChrisB said...

gitarcarver,

I'll admit that I might have misunderstood Vinny (he'll have to tell us which of us is right), but for both of you I think this has been a case of missing the forest for the trees. Don't get so caught up in an example/analogy that you miss the entire argument.

Which is "if you think abortion is evil, you should try to make it illegal." What thing is, to you, unquestionably wrong that YOU think should be legal?

it is clear that you wanted to limit the definition of "child molestation" to suit and advance your argument.

True enough. I'm trying to make a point. Think of whatever you want to that you are convinced is wrong. Not misguided, not in bad taste, but Wrong. If it is wrong -- black, not gray -- then why wouldn't you try to make it illegal? Yes, some people think it is ok to use a taser on their kids. We put them in jail.

I'n not saying that there aren't gray areas involving child abuse. I'm asking you to think about the black areas.

I really didn't want to debate abortion itself, but since y'all insist:
you and I know [a unique genetic code] does not mean that at the moment of fertilization there is a human being there

Yes, it does. Scientifically and theologically your statement makes no sense. At the moment of fertilization you have a human being in the embryonic stage. It's not a fetus, a toddler, or an adult; it's an embryo. That does not make it not human.

You want the entire spectrum of what you consider "a child" to be included in your definition of abortion

I tried to avoid the terms child and baby because I don't want to debate what is a child or what is a baby. The question is, what is a human? My definition of abortion is willful killing of a human being prior to the "new born" stage of development.

Is the support of capital punishment a deal breaker for you as well?

In the piece I linked to earlier pieces in this series. Here's a thumbnail:

A deal breaker is an issue on which you think a candidate's position is unquestionably immoral. Opposing welfare is not unquestionably immoral. Capital punishment is not unquestionably immoral (i.e., I make the case that those who disagree are taking a position that is reasonable from the scriptures, even if you think their interpretation is wrong).

Apparently the natural followup is war. See below.

Vinny,

War and this war are different questions, as is starting this war versus continuing in it.

You also seem to be touching on specific candidates now; I have thus far been trying to keep it abstract.

Though I hadn't intended to, I guess I'll write about war next time. After that I'll start to get more specific about policies and politicians. It's no surprise, I'm sure, that I don't support Obama, but it'll be fun to discuss where I think he's right, where he's wrong, and where he's dangerous.

Short version: Why should a person of faith vote for a candidate who will recklessly use military force causing untold suffering to innocent civilians and noble young men serving this country...?

They shouldn't. But no one is proposing that in this election. Obviously, I'm going to put a lot of emphasis on your word "recklessly."

gitarcarver said...

I'n not saying that there aren't gray areas involving child abuse. I'm asking you to think about the black areas.

I would think that we would both agree that what is a "black" or "white" area to some is going to be a gray area to others.

At the moment of fertilization you have a human being in the embryonic stage.

This is incorrect. At the moment of fertilization, you have a zygote. Until the zygote begins to separate, divide, implant into the lining of the uterus and begin to grow there, at that point you have an embryo. Not before.

Of course, this raises the interesting question of if the zygote / embryo / "child" (trying to cover all bases) is flushed or discharged from the mother, wouldn't that mean that the mother is guilty of some sort or "involuntary manslaughter?" If we say that it is God's will, or the wonder of the human body which God created that causes the discharge, isn't God then guilty of murder? Isn't the body aborting the child murder? Or is your contention that the child can only be "murdered" through an intentional act by some other human being?

That does not make it not human.

Scientifically, you might have a point. Yet is there not something more to being "human" than an assembly of cells? I offer as proof of this a passage from Genesis 2:7 "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

So even after God created the assemblage of cells and DNA and everything else, Adam was not a being until God breathed into him. By Biblical proof we therefore know that there is more to being a "human" than just cells or a fertilized egg.

(Note: It is interesting on some level that the first breath taken by a child is one of inhaling - as if their lungs are being filled with the breathe of God.)

Capital punishment is not unquestionably immoral (i.e., I make the case that those who disagree are taking a position that is reasonable from the scriptures, even if you think their interpretation is wrong).

So if there is a case where the taking of a "life" in the womb is not considered wrong or immoral in the scriptures, that would mean your position that abortion is always wrong can be construed by some as you interpreting scripture incorrectly, correct?

In other words, where you believe that the scriptures are clear and unambigious about abortion, many will say they are not. It does come down to a matter of interpretation and guidance by the Holy Spirit.

As to the "war" argument, I too was going to bring that up. I was not going to reference current events, but rather reference WWII events such as the indescriminate bombing of London, or the fire bombing of Dresden. In all honestly, I think that is where your argument starts to lose a little bit of steam. You have had to restrict your definitions previously and now must do the same in order to say that the accidental killing of a child in the womb by a bomb, blast wave, fire, bullet, shrapnal, etc is not morally wrong and a form of abortion.

gitarcarver said...

I'n not saying that there aren't gray areas involving child abuse. I'm asking you to think about the black areas.

I would think that we would both agree that what is a "black" or "white" area to some is going to be a gray area to others.

At the moment of fertilization you have a human being in the embryonic stage.

This is incorrect. At the moment of fertilization, you have a zygote. Until the zygote begins to separate, divide, implant into the lining of the uterus and begin to grow there, at that point you have an embryo. Not before.

Of course, this raises the interesting question of if the zygote / embryo / "child" (trying to cover all bases) is flushed or discharged from the mother, wouldn't that mean that the mother is guilty of some sort or "involuntary manslaughter?" If we say that it is God's will, or the wonder of the human body which God created that causes the discharge, isn't God then guilty of murder? Isn't the body aborting the child murder? Or is your contention that the child can only be "murdered" through an intentional act by some other human being?

That does not make it not human.

Scientifically, you might have a point. Yet is there not something more to being "human" than an assembly of cells? I offer as proof of this a passage from Genesis 2:7 "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

So even after God created the assemblage of cells and DNA and everything else, Adam was not a being until God breathed into him. By Biblical proof we therefore know that there is more to being a "human" than just cells or a fertilized egg.

(Note: It is interesting on some level that the first breath taken by a child is one of inhaling - as if their lungs are being filled with the breathe of God.)

Capital punishment is not unquestionably immoral (i.e., I make the case that those who disagree are taking a position that is reasonable from the scriptures, even if you think their interpretation is wrong).

So if there is a case where the taking of a "life" in the womb is not considered wrong or immoral in the scriptures, that would mean your position that abortion is always wrong can be construed by some as you interpreting scripture incorrectly, correct?

In other words, where you believe that the scriptures are clear and unambigious about abortion, many will say they are not. It does come down to a matter of interpretation and guidance by the Holy Spirit.

As to the "war" argument, I too was going to bring that up. I was not going to reference current events, but rather reference WWII events such as the indescriminate bombing of London, or the fire bombing of Dresden. In all honestly, I think that is where your argument starts to lose a little bit of steam. You have had to restrict your definitions previously and now must do the same in order to say that the accidental killing of a child in the womb by a bomb, blast wave, fire, bullet, shrapnal, etc is not morally wrong and a form of abortion.

Vinny said...

I would like to keep this abstract as well, but obviously my concern is driven by what is going on in the United States today.

Consider the following hypothetical:

A person of faith believes that a candidate who pays lip service to pro-life policies would be more likely to recklessly use military force;

That person believes that that candidate would be more likely to pursue reckless economic policies that will make the richest Americans richer while doing long term harm to most Americans;

That person believes that that candidate would be in the pocket of large multinational corporations leading to the loss of more American jobs, further destruction of the environment, and continued dependence on foreign oil.

That person does not believe that either candidate is likely to make any significant progress in restricting legalized abortion.

Without trying to determine whether that is in fact the case with any particular candidate, why wouldn’t God hold the person of faith accountable for the wrongs that are committed as a result of a vote for the candidate who only pays lip service to pro-life policies?

crossn81 said...

The DNC just released its platform with language about abortion. Jim Wallis discusses it here He ends his post with this:

Acknowledging that abortion is a moral issue, no matter what side you are on, is a way to respect the moral convictions of both sides, and begin to find some common ground. We could truly make reducing the abortion rate in America a nonpartisan issue and a bipartisan cause. It is a common-sense approach that could unite the vast majority of Americans around a goal that leverages support for women, instead of coercion, to dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America.

ChrisB said...

I don't have long -- it's late (for me) and I still have to pack before we head out for a week.

gitarcarver: Not knowing much about my audience, I was trying not to introduce any unnecessary technical terms, but zygote is also a natural stage in human development.

There are natural processes that result in the death o f humans at all stages of development. God is responsible for them all. It doesn't make God a murderer -- it's His job to run the universe including our mortality.

As for war, and for that matter abortion (to save life), there are occasions when killing is inescapable. And there are occasions when humans do bad things. None of this changes my main argument.

Vinny, I don't have time to get into the details. Let me just say this: there are very few things as immoral as killing a child. Economic policies you don't like are not equal to what is unquestionably ending a life.

Of the current choice of candidates, one may do nothing about abortion (or maybe not), but the other has pledged to roll back every consent law, every limitation, every restriction including partial birth abortions.

crossn81, Wallis sounds great in the abstract, but when he gets specific, he's just a garden variety Democrat. The current platform removes the "safe, legal, and rare" verbiage to the delight of pro-abortion people everywhere. Here is one of many who crow that Dems have dropped any suggestion that abortion is any less moral than birth. Go you pro-life Dems.

Gotta go, don't know when I'll have 'net access again. Sorry.

Vinny said...

Vinny, I don't have time to get into the details. Let me just say this: there are very few things as immoral as killing a child. Economic policies you don't like are not equal to what is unquestionably ending a life.

Of the current choice of candidates, one may do nothing about abortion (or maybe not), but the other has pledged to roll back every consent law, every limitation, every restriction including partial birth abortions.


That is not my hypothetical though Chris. My hypothetical is that a person of faith concludes that neither candidate will significantly effect abortion and that the candidate who pays lip service to restricting abortion will likely do other kinds of harm. Will the person of faith be answerable to God for the other wrongs that result from the vote from the candidate who pays lip service to the pro-life position?

gitarcarver said...

Not knowing much about my audience, I was trying not to introduce any unnecessary technical terms, but zygote is also a natural stage in human development.

Sorry Chris, but you were the one that threw out the term "embryo." It is not an "unnecessary technical term" when the discussion on abortion is, in part, "when does human life begin?" You have dismissed the idea of "personhood" in your post but yet it is clear that God makes a distinction between a group of cells that are "human" and contain "human DNA" and that of a person.

Where that line and distinction is, I do not know, but it is clear to me that the line exists. Your post here seems to claim that no such line exists. While I respect your viewpoint, I am not sure that you can support that position scripturally. I know that I have supported my position with scripture and I await your post using scripture to prove that no such line exists. (After, of course, you return from your week long vacation. I truly hope you enjoy the break.)

As for war, and for that matter abortion (to save life), there are occasions when killing is inescapable. And there are occasions when humans do bad things. None of this changes my main argument.

Huh? Your whole argument is that abortion is wrong. You cannot now say that there is a case when it is "inescapable" and therefore somehow acceptable.

It seems to me that part of your "main point" is that Christians are sinning when they allow the death of an innocent, unborn, child. I submit to you that a bomb dropped from a DO-17 or British Lancaster in WWII wil leave a child just as dead as an abortion.

This raises the question of "should Christians fight in wars, do everything they can to stop a war, and if not, are they sinning by not doing so?"

The fact of the matter is that where your post started with a clear line in the sand and any abortion / death of an unborn child is wrong, you have begun to quibble on different points. That quibbling leads me to believe that while you say that the line is bright between light and dark, your own reasoning does not support that bright line.

Hope you have a good vacation. (if that is where you are heading.)

Vinny said...

Chris,

I don't want to sandbag you by commenting while you are away. I look forward to your return.

Anonymous said...

chrisb - you said there are no instances where one takes a moral position but allows for others to disagree (eg, "I think X is wrong but think others can legitimately engage in X").

Vinny noted that styles of child rearing frequently take that form, and thus provided a counterexample, thus disproving your claim.

His comment doesn't equate spanking w/ abuse, and doesn't need to. You said there is never an occasion where we hold something wrong but permit others to do it, and Vinny disproved that.

ChrisB said...

Ok, I'm back and have finally given in to the need to get back to this conversation.

Vinny, if neither candidate will change the status quo, there is still the issue that your vote for the "pro-choice" candidate is interpreted by our leaders (such as they are) as support for that position, and vice versa. Maybe neither candidate will do a blessed thing, but voting for the guy who openly supports abortion rights will only strengthen that party's resolve on the issue.

That is what scared pro-lifers to death about Giuliani (pretty sure I misspelled that). If we voted for a pro-choice Republican, the pro-choice side would gain immense influence in the GOP, and it might have never even tried to field a pro-life candidate again.

I'll touch on this in a future post, but it may be that there is simply no one to vote for in an election. Not voting out of indifference is not the same as refusing to support either candidate, and when turnout is unusually low, parties notice that. It sends a message, even if they don't always let it sink in.

I've spent the last week pondering your comment about child abuse, and I think I'm going to stand by my statement. I don't think it's the same thing. We DO criminalize child abuse. We disagree over what is abuse on occasion. There are folks who think all spanking is abuse, and they frequently try to pass such laws; our society is not so convinced, so it remains legal. But once we agree that something is abuse, we promptly make it illegal. More importantly if YOU think something is abuse, you want it to be illegal -- at least you should.

Remember that this post is not aimed at the committed pro-choicer; it's aimed at the wishy-washy "I'm really pro-life but..." type. If they really think abortion is wrong, they should act accordingly.

Gita, I've posted on the Gen 2:7 passage, and I'll be posting somewhat on war next.

Our legal system (and the Bible, for that matter) makes a distinction between murder and accidental killings. As horrible as it is, the death of the child due to bombs that were intended for military targets is of the latter classification. Yes we should try to prevent that -- and our military goes to great lengths to do just that these days -- but it is not the same thing as the intentional, premeditated killing of an unborn child.

Finally, as I stated above, and above, and above, this post was aimed at the person who believes abortion is wrong. My aim was to convince that believer that he must vote accordingly.

You can make a biblical argument against abortion, though it is hardly as strong as I would like. The logical, philosophical, and ethical arguments are much stronger -- but hard to capture in this format. At the end of the post I linked to an article at Stand to Reason. They have a lot of resources on abortion -- some free, some not. I would encourage you to visit them and consider their arguments.

Vinny said...

More importantly if YOU think something is abuse, you want it to be illegal -- at least you should.

Why? What if I don’t want to see the degree of government intrusion that would be required to legally prohibit all the conduct that I consider abusive? Can’t I rationally consider the likelihood that the government would do more harm than good?

I do not believe that every moral wrong can be effectively addressed by government prohibition. Think about those day care center cases that got so far out of control. Criminal prohibition is not always a very precise tool.


Maybe neither candidate will do a blessed thing, but voting for the guy who openly supports abortion rights will only strengthen that party's resolve on the issue.

That may be true, but doesn’t the individual voter have to decide whether the potential harm from that is outweighed by the potential harm that another candidate might do?

I understand that you are aiming your comments at the wishy-washy pro-lifers. My target is the same. (I would call myself a very wishy-washy pro-choicer.) I believe that the Bush administration has done a great deal of harm on many different fronts. I think one of the reasons they got away with it is because too many social conservatives made their decisions entirely on one or two issues leaving the Republicans free to do anything it wanted in other areas.



Regarding the moral question, I posted the following story on my blog while you were gone. I would be interested in your reaction.

About fifteen years ago, my wife had a miscarriage. At the time, we had two small children and my wife had recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness which promised to make her third pregnancy much tougher than the first two. Piled on top of that, I was not going to be able to help out as much as I had with the first two kids because some recent career reversals had me working a lot of hours at a crappy job just to make ends meet. My wife and I never considered an abortion and I have no doubt that I would have loved that child as much as the other two, but I have to confess that my primary reaction to that miscarriage was relief. In light of our situation at the time, I felt like we had finally caught a break.

I suppose there are some who might consider me a monster for feeling that way, but I would like to think that most people would view the miscarriage and my feelings about it a private matter between my wife and me. I have known people whose reactions to a miscarriage varied from relief to detached resignation to profound mourning. I don’t feel that anyone had any right to tell any of them what their reaction should be.

According to some medical experts, 15% of recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage and this does not count the women who miscarry without ever realizing they were pregnant. If that many infants suffered crib death, we would consider it tragic and medical science would be striving to find a solution to the problem, but miscarriages draw little attention. In fact, it would be foolish to devote too much effort to eliminating miscarriages because they are often nature’s way of dealing with severe genetic abnormalities.

The point of this is that I think that our natural moral sense (whatever that may be) does not recognize a first trimester fetus as a unique person having the same claim on society’s attention and protection as a baby born alive. I think that this is an innate sense of the thing that has built up over millions of years of evolution. Even many people that would not choose abortion for themselves are never going to feel that this stage of the pregnancy is anything but a private matter.

The anti-abortion crowd asserts that every abortion is the murder of an innocent baby and that the failure to be shocked by this is proof of moral depravity. However, I see no evidence of their dismay at the millions of babies that die through miscarriages or the millions more whose lives are ended when a fertilized egg naturally fails to attach to the uterine wall. Nor do I expect to see such evidence because I think they recognize that these are not yet persons who have a claim on society's attention. That does not mean that the pro-life side might not make some powerful arguments when it comes to late term abortions, but 75% of abortions occur at ten weeks or less. The claim that every one of these is the murder of an innocent baby isn’t going to ring true for most people. I personally find it very difficult to attribute the malevolence of a murderer to someone who chooses the result that I was so relieved to obtain by chance.

ChrisB said...

Vinny,

I am opposed to government intervention wherever possible. But protecting life kind of falls under their jurisdiction.

Why don't we try to do something about early-term miscarriage? My guess is two reasons: 1) it's really hard to study something like that (though I'll bet someone is trying), and 2) I think most people believe that miscarriages at that stage are probably a sign of something wrong with the child -- that is, is natural death of a sick person.

As for your feelings when your wife miscarried, I don't think that's terribly unusual or wrong. I knew a girl who got pregnant after a rape; when she miscarried, there was a mixture of sadness and relief. What about when a person who's been sick for a while dies -- again, a mixture of sadness and relief. It's not wrong; it's human.