Some links and information about the upcoming Sanctity of Human Life week at Wheaton

Preparations and details relating to the observation of Sanctity of Human Life week have kept me busy of late, so today I just want to share with you some articles and blog posts that are well worth reading.

Since abortion was legalized in the US in 1973, there have been more than 50,000,000 abortions performed here.  Last year on his blog, Justin Taylor provided some visual aids to help you comprehend that number.

Choosing Thomas – here is an article about a couple who chose not to abort their son who had Trisomy 13, an error in DNA sequencing that meant that he would only live for days, or perhaps weeks, after birth.  The video made about them is very powerful.  Watch it.

The one child policy is having disastrous results for China.  Sex selection abortion have meant that in some rural areas, there are as many as 130 men per 100 women.  Since the one child policy was adopted in 1979, there have been 400 million abortions in China.  Perhaps that number is hard for you to wrap your head around?  That’s a larger number of people than the population of the entire United States of America.  Almost 100,000,000 more.

Why Are We Striving To Make Abortion Unthinkable? John Ensor writes a thoughtful guest post for Tim Challies.  “Abortion is our postmodern version of child sacrifice for the Me Generation. As such, it is an incomprehensible and unthinkable evil.”  Read the rest of it.

Coming up this week:

1)  Look for a table in the lower Beamer Center Wednesday through Friday with information and brochures, etc.
2)  Come discuss the attached article,  “When Good Men Do Nothing: Reflections From a Modern-Day Bürgermeister” in the Parmelee Room (across from the fishbowl), on Wednesday evening from 7-8.
3)  Pray in the fireside room on Thursday.  There will be prayer “prompts” provided.
4)  Friday is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  I invite you to fast and pray.  Consider wearing all black and displaying the number 50,000,000 somewhere.  Throughout the week there will be white sticky address labels with 50,000,000 printed on them available at the table in the Beamer Center.

Pro-life is pro-women

A week ago I got an email from a Wheaton student working on a research paper on the state of feminism at Wheaton.  She asked for my perspective on feminism in relation to the pro-life movement.  Here is my response, though there is more that could be said:

I’m far from being a feminist, but my belief that men and women are equal in dignity in value (and complementary in roles, but that’s an aside) is a strong defense for my pro-life position.  Feminists who taut abortion as a basic right and a service to women are horribly self-deceived.  In truth, it is the pro-life movement that is pro-women.  It is pro-lifers who are standing behind women in crisis situations providing “free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, support groups, childcare classes, financial management education, babysitting, diapers, children’s clothes, and housing.”*

Abortion has terrible consequences for a woman’s life.  Besides the emotional, psychological, relational effects, it can have serious physical consequences.  Women who have had abortions are at least 50 percent as likely to develop breast cancer.  Abortion also increases rates of placenta previa and pelvic inflammatory disease.  For women who are able to conceive after having had an abortion, the chances of a preterm birth, malformations in later children, early death for infants, and even maternal suicide are higher because of their previous abortion.

Abortionists are not warning women of these risks.  In fact, pro-choice groups try to prevent efforts to make it mandatory that women be made aware of the risks of the abortion as they would be for any other surgery.  And they claim that they are pro-women.

But not only is abortion terribly damaging to women, it encourages selfishness and irresponsibility in males.  According to polls, the highest pro-abortion category in the US is white males between the ages of 20 and 45.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why that is.  Overall, more women support the unborn’s right to life than men.

Historically, until the 1970s, it was the women’s movement that spoke out against abortion.  Susan B Anthony said, “I deplore the horrible crime of child murder.”  On the other side, Margaret Sanger championed abortion as an enabler of eugenics.  It is a little known fact that her organization went underground and came back renamed as the Planned Parenthood Federation.

It is a tragic irony that abortionists who promote their work as defending women’s rights, are denying the basic right to life of thousands of unborn female babies.  In the USA, about half of abortions result in the death of a baby girl, but outside the US it is a staggeringly higher percentage.  In China, because of mandated abortion and sex-selection, two thirds of children born there are males.

Abortion is insulting to women because underlying it is the assumption that women are unable to fully participate in and contribute to society by their nature and biology.  It belittles the unique, important privilege and responsibility women have in bearing children.

* Alcorn, 20
Why Pro-Life: Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers” Randy Alcorn
Eternal Perspective Ministries, USA, 2004

Begging the question

(Much of this post is drawn from The Case for Life chapter one, again.)

At the risk of being redundant, here is another post regarding the unborn as human beings.  Behind many arguments for abortion is a logical fallacy called “begging the question.”  “Begging the question” is assuming what you are attempting to prove – it does not mean “to raise the question.”

Note that fallacy in these arguments against the pro-life position:

“If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one.  It isn’t your place to judge someone else’s decision.  Don’t force your views on her.”

“Abortion is a personal decision, so the government shouldn’t get involved.”

“No one should have to bring an unwanted child into the world.  Who’s taking care of the abused and abandoned kids already out there?”

“Legalized abortion is better than back-alley abortions.”

Each one of these objections assumes that the unborn are not human.  Try trotting out the toddler.  No one would be tolerant if you said you had decided to kill two-year olds.  No one would hold the second position if the topic in question were child abuse.   And with regard to the third objection, isn’t murder the worst kind of child abuse?  Arguing for legalized abortion on the grounds that back-alley abortions are dangerous is like saying “Since some people will die attempting to kill others, the state should make it legal for them, so it is safer for them.”

I hope you see again how important it is to simplify the debate by focusing it on the question “what is the unborn?”

The misuse of the phrase “begs the question” is one of my pet peeves, so I’ve included this little card for your amusement / edification / instruction.    😉

An argument and an analogy

Logical arguments are nice too.  Here is Thomas J. Beckwith’s basic pro-life syllogism:

1.  The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill another member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong.

(Note that “prima facie” means “on first examination,” “apparently self-evident.”  This argument is not saying that we can never take human life – supporting the death penalty or just war is not inconsistent with this position.)

In spite of all your arguments, some people may perhaps insist that you still can’t prove that the unborn has full personhood.  It seems to me that Dinesh D’Souza has a good strategy in that kind of situation.  Consider this: Say you were out in the woods hunting deer, and you heard some rustling from behind some bushes nearby.  You couldn’t quite get a clear view, but you thought it could be a deer.  On the other hand, it could be another hunter.  If you weren’t sure would you say, “Well, I’ll just take the shot anyway.”  Of course not!  You err on the side of caution when there may be human life at stake.  The same goes for the unborn.

Trot out the Toddler

If you are discussing your pro-life position with an abortion advocate, you will likely be challenged with all the hard case scenarios.  When you are faced with the scenarios having to do with rape, incest, disability, child abuse, etc, Scott Klusendorf suggests simplifying the issue by asking the question “Would this particular justification for abortion also work as a justification for killing a toddler?”  (He calls this strategy Trot Out the Toddler.)  The point of this strategy is to demand that the question “what is the unborn” be answered before trying to address the question “can we kill the unborn.”  After you trot out the toddler, you can use the acronym SLED that you learned about last week to help defend your conviction that the unborn are persons deserving all the rights that come from personhood.

(This will all sound very familiar if you’ve read Scott Klusendorf’s book The Case for Life or perhaps seen him somewhere on youtube, such as here or here.)

SLEDing

I’ve argued that we ought to defend human life because God created us in His image and cherishes us.  Some people will argue that the unborn are not persons and as such don’t have the rights that come from personhood.  Steven Schwartz has developed a helpful acronym (SLED) to explain that, in truth, there is no morally significant difference between an embryo and an adult.

Size – It’s obvious that embryos are smaller than those of us who have already been born, but size is irrelevant.  I’m a very petite individual, but I’m no less human than a football player because of it.

Level of Development – Embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and me, but this also is irrelevant.  My eight year old nephew is more developed than my two month old niece, but this does not give him more of a right to life than she has.  Self awareness is not in itself defining of personhood either.  If that were the case, I would become less human when I fall asleep after I write this.

Environment – Where I am has no bearing on who I am.  Traveling eight inches down the birth canal does not suddenly turn the unborn from non-human to human.

Degree of Dependency – Viability is not what gives humans value.  My friend John is a diabetic and depends on insulin.  This doesn’t decrease his value, or jeopardize his personhood.

Distinctions relating to personhood drawn between the unborn and the born are arbitrary and irrelevant.  Don’t be afraid to say so.

The Stupak Amendment

This past Saturday was an historic day for the country when the House passed the new health care bill. This post is from Wheaton graduate Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s politics blog for CT regarding the amendment to the bill that many pro-lifers have been praying would be added, as it was.
Christianity Today
November 7, 2009 10:23PM
Sarah Pulliam Bailey

The House just voted 220-215 to approve health care legislation that would create a public health insurance option and require employers to offer health insurance.

Before the final vote, the House also voted 240-194 to bar federal funding of abortion in the proposed government-run health care plan.

Sixty-four Democrats voted in favor of the amendment led by Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), while Republican Rep. John Shadegg voted present in an effort to derail the bill. Here’s the full description of the Stupak amendment.

The amendment prohibits federal funds for abortion services in the public option. It also prohibits individuals who receive affordability credits from purchasing a plan that provides elective abortions. However, it allows individuals, both who receive affordability credits and who do not, to separately purchase with their own funds plans that cover elective abortions. It also clarifies that private plans may still offer elective abortions.

Here’s analysis from the Associated Press:

Under the Stupak amendment, people who do not receive federal insurance subsidies could buy private insurance plans in the exchange that include abortion coverage. People who receive federal subsidies could buy separate policies covering only abortions if they use only their own money to do it.

Companies selling insurance policies covering abortions would be required to offer identical policies without the abortion coverage.

…A health overhaul bill pending in the Senate also bars federal funding for abortion, but the language is less stringent. Discrepancies between the House and Senate measures would have to be reconciled before any final bill is passed.

CT reported earlier on how abortion and health care had split Democrats, and The New York Times reported that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to deal with another fight before the final vote.

With just hours to go before the start on Saturday morning of historic floor debate over the health care bill, leading Democratic members of the Pro-Choice Caucus emerged from Ms. Pelosi’s office unable to contain their fury. Ms. Pelosi, unwilling to delay a vote on the larger bill, had decided that Democrats who oppose abortion simply had too many votes on their side; for the moment, at least, the liberals who favor abortion rights had lost.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released a statement praising the Stupak amendment but said that the health care legislation is “seriously flawed.”

“The Speaker’s bill still allows rationing of health care for seniors, raises health costs for families, mandates that families purchase under threat of fines and penalties, encourages counseling for assisted suicide in some states, does not offer broad conscience protections for health care workers and seeks to insert the federal government into all aspects of citizen’s lives.”

Dinesh D’Souza’s words at the CareNet banquet

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of attending CareNet’s annual fund-raising banquet at which Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza spoke.  Dinesh D’Souza is a talented speaker – engaging, compelling, lucid, intelligent, at times very funny.  (The talks that he gave last year at Wheaton College on the new atheism are available here.)  I’ll do my best summarize what he said at the banquet here, which will mean a longer email than usual.

Regarding the abortion issue, Dinesh D’Souza pointed out, that, as we well know, the side that is clearly in the right has been having a tough time of it.  The strategy of the movement has been to provide people with the information regarding abortion, believing that once they know the reality, the debate is over.  And it’s true, that eyes have been opened and lives changed on an individual level.  However, there has been resistance on the cultural level.

The question the pro-life must ask is, “What if it is actually the case that most people do know what’s going on in an abortion?  Why do they tenaciously hold onto this so called ‘right?'”  D’Souza suggests that there may be a dim recognition that abortion is debris of the sexual revolution.  As the expression goes, “If you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.”

The sexual revolution began in tiny sectors of society, but over time that Bohemian lifestyle of a few has become mainstream.  How that happened is a clue to understanding the “moral engine” that keeps abortion going.  The debate isn’t just our morals versus their convenience.  They have a rival “moral ethic.”  (Though, in fact, their conscience is on our side.)

Before World War II, there was a consensus across US society that there is an external moral order that makes a claim on us.  Our job is to live up to its edicts.  Any debate centered around what was actually in the moral code.  D’Souza says that society hasn’t abandoned morality.  Instead, what we are seeing is the emergence of a new morality.  The source of that morality comes from within the individual.  In effect, you look to yourself to see how you should act.

In America, we exalt a “moral freedom” – freedom for self-realization ultimately, the right to self-determination and autonomy.  This has legitimized a way of life that has considered external morality a burden.  This cultural war is a part of the great abortion debate.  Both sides are appealing to two completely different moral codes.

D’Souza pointed to a second factor to explain why the pro-life cause is struggling.  This is that our society has rapidly become more secular.  It is in a Christian society that something like abortion becomes controversial.  D’Souza says, “The fate of the abortion debate is intrinsically tied to America’s fate as a Christian nation.”  The idea that life is sacred came into our culture because of Christianity.  (Recall from last week’s post that even the great philosophers saw nothing wrong with infanticide.)

This is sobering business.  D’Souza, who is from India, brought up an Indian expression, “After crossing the mountains. . . more mountains.”  But he had encouragement for those pro-life supporters at the CareNet banquet too.  CareNet, he said, is in the trenches, tackling the issue in a comprehensive way.  For many, many years there was no debate about slavery.  It was only when small groups of Christians joined together and pressed forward that massive change could happen.  We may not know it, but the tide may be shifting underneath us.  Perhaps some day abortion too will be unthinkable.  Be realistic, but but press forward til that day.

God’s People Defending Life

Since God’s people are clearly called to treasure and defend life, and since abortion is not a sin confined to the modern era, it is right to ask what role the Church has taken in the past in defending those who are most innocent and vulnerable.  Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have waged a battle against pagan practices that treated life as cheap.  Abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were all common and not even seen as wrong.  In fact, historian George Grant writes, “None of the great minds of the ancient world – from Plato and Aristotle to Livy and Cicero, from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plutarch and Euripides – disparaged child-killing in any way.  In fact, most of them actually recommended it.”  However, the early Church spoke out against these injustices.  The Didache, one of the earliest non-canonical Christian documents, includes a call to cherish and defend life.  Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Bishop Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine were vocal in their defense of life, calling the Church to action.  Augustine also spoke on the moral responsibility that men carried in abortion.

In the eighth chapter of John Ensor’s book, he writes about Basil of Caesarea, a pastor in the fourth century whose actions for the sake of the unborn have been model for the Church, followed with more or less fervor, through the centuries.  Here they are in John Ensor’s words:

1.) He gave a series of sermons, using Scripture to affirm the sanctity of human life and the humanity of preborn children.
2.) He called upon the Christian community to stop aborting their own babies, and he called them to actively defend innocent life by helping mothers in pregnancy distress find the help they needed to give life.  In other words, he inspired the church to do the work and ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes.
3.) He launched a legislative battle using his power and influence to criminalize abortion.
4.) He launched an education program to teach the entire city about the value of human life and to stigmatize and denounce abortion among the general population.

And we must continue in that manner until the day when abortion is unthinkable.

The Foundation for Cherishing and Defending Life

A couple weeks ago I asserted that the foremost reason we cherish and defend life is that God does.  This week I’d like to explore that topic a bit more, with the aid again of John Ensor’s book, Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives, One Woman at a Time.  (The line of argument in the following paragraph comes directly from this book in the chapter entitled “The Foundation for Cherishing and Defending Life.)

Ensor writes, “God is Life, and in giving us Himself, He gives us life itself.”  He spoke into being a creation teeming with life, but the among all those living, created things in which he delights, he especially cherishes human life.  It is on humanity that he stamped his image, as I wrote about last week.  Among all human life, God especially cherishes innocent human life.  Because God is just, he calls on us to defend the innocent.  Ensor brings up these references, “Do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Ex. 23:7), “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty”  (Deut. 25:1), “It is not good to punish an innocent man” (Prov. 17:26), “Woe to those who. . .deny justice to the innocent” (Isaiah 55:22-23).  Many times the prophets’ indictments against Israel were precisely because they had not cared for the innocent.  Among all forms of innocent human life God especially cherishes children.  Think to when Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).  This is one of the sternest warnings from our Lord – surely it shows his deep love for children.  Finally, Ensor says, “Among all the innocent children, God sees the preborn child as his unique work of fashioning personhood.”  In this final section of the chapter, he touches on several different passages where scripture makes it clear that “our lives as persons begin in the womb.”  One example that I had not considered before is found in Job 3:3 when he says, “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, and the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.'”  Job considered that his personhood began at conception – when a boy was conceived, not just the potential for a boy.  To consider the pre-born anything but an innocent life cherished by God is utterly unbiblical and ungodly.