5 Recommendations to the Pro-Life Movement

Christian apologetics, Christianity, and atheismIt’s easy to assume that pro-life proponents are decent people who honestly want to see good done in the world. The problem is that their arguments are out of touch with reality, so let me make some suggestions that I think will make the movement more effective.

I’ll admit that it’s odd for a pro-choice advocate to offer suggestions to the pro-life movement, but I want them to be more in line with reality, and I can critique from a very different perspective than an insider can.

1. Don’t Deny the Spectrum; Embrace It. When trying to shock someone with the downsides of abortion, would a pro-life advocate discuss the horrors of the “morning after” pill rather than talk about a late-term abortion procedure? Of course not. There is a spectrum of personhood from a single cell to a newborn baby, and pro-life advocates know it. Their “it’s a baby” claim for the fetus at every stage of development ignores the glaring fact of the spectrum.

Today, the pro-life movement minimizes information and discourages all abortions. The result is that the abortions that happen are often delayed, resulting in the death of an older fetus. If the pro-life movement acknowledged the spectrum and worked with it, they would instead encourage early detection of pregnancy and a prompt discussion of next steps so that any abortion is done as early as possible. An early abortion is better than a later one from every angle. Of course, pro-lifers could put forward their argument against abortion, but making abortion a taboo subject delays addressing the problem and makes any abortion later than it needs to be. Instead of a zero-tolerance approach to abortion, they would focus instead on minimizing the harm.

Recognizing the spectrum would also free stem cell research from nonsensical constraints. (You’re delaying research into treatments that could improve public health because of a worry over the rights of cells?! Get serious.)

2. Embrace Allies. While I’m pro-choice, I don’t like abortion. The pro-life advocate doesn’t like abortion. In fact, the scared teenage girl going to the clinic doesn’t even like abortion. No one ever said, “Gee, I’m feeling kinda gloomy today. I think an abortion would perk me up.” Some people see abortion as the greater of two evils and others see it as the lesser of two evils, but everyone sees it as a bad thing.

Why focus on the disagreement when both sides of the debate are actually in agreement? And here’s the really important agreement: no one likes the primary cause of abortion, unwanted pregnancy. Instead of the current conflict, all sides should be marching arm in arm toward a better way to minimize unwanted pregnancy.

3. Focus on Education. Whatever we’re doing to discourage unwanted pregnancies in the U.S. isn’t working. Half of all pregnancies are unintended, and evangelical young adults are about as likely to have had sex as any other group.

Among countries in the West, the U.S. compares poorly. In the U.S., the annual birth rate was 56 per 1000 women aged 15–19. Compare this to 8 in the Netherlands. The U.S. abortion rate for that group of women was 30 per 1000, while it was 4 in the Netherlands. Clearly, there’s tremendous room for improvement.

The goal of the pro-life movement has been to stop abortion. Instead of swimming against the current with this approach, they should work with the current by stopping the need for abortion.

Teen sex is a bit like teen drinking. When a kid gets to be 15 or 16, the parent warns the kid against underage drinking. But the wise parent gives a part 2: “If you do drink, or the driver of your car has been drinking, call me. I’ll pick you up anytime, anywhere, with no questions asked. Your safety is the most important thing.” The lesson: drinking is bad, but getting hurt while drunk is really bad (and avoidable).

Likewise, if a parent wants to tell the kid that sex is bad before marriage, that’s fine. Just give the part 2: “If you do have sex, you need to know how to have sex safely and use a condom.”

The results show that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work:

A 2007 Congressionally mandated report found that, on average, students who participated in abstinence-only education had sex at the same age as students who had comprehensive sex education. They also had similar rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and used birth control at similar rates as students who had comprehensive sex education.

As children grow into adulthood, they get adult bodies. Wishing it weren’t so doesn’t help. Why wouldn’t we want to give them the owner’s manual that goes along with those new bodies? It’s like kids having access to the car keys without being given driver’s education.

Don’t our children deserve the best training for minimizing unwanted pregnancy? Abstinence-only training has been given a shot and doesn’t work. If you oppose the frank teaching of how to not get pregnant in Health class, avoiding abortion must not be the critical issue you say it is.

4. A “Pro-Life” Movement Should Treat Threats to Life in Priority Order. There are roughly one million necessary abortions per year in the U.S. But around the world there are ten million deaths per year of young children that are not necessary. You want to protect life? Then do so by focusing on this much larger number of children in the developing world who die of mostly preventable causes. Jesus said nothing about abortion, but he did talk about helping the poor and sick.

5. Tell Politicians to Leave You Alone. Politicians buzz like flies around the pro-life cause, eager to solve the problem. At least they say they want to solve the problem, but they have little motivation to do so. A solved problem doesn’t get votes, and as long as it’s unsolved, the problem remains a vote getter. Politicians benefit from the controversy, not a resolution, and they would stand in the way of the pro-life movement working in harmony with pro-choice advocates.

The Christian can become a marionette to the politician who can say “If you’re truly a moral person, you must vote for me.” Christians should just say no.

Photo credit: macropoulos

Related posts:

Related links:

  • Maia Szalavitz, “What We Can Learn From the Dutch About Teen Sex,” Time, 11/14/11.
  • John Blake, “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore,” CNN Belief Blog, 9/27/11.
  • Tyler Charles, “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It,” Relevant magazine, 9/11.
  • Nancy Gibbs, “Why Have Abortion Rates Fallen?Time, 1/21/08.
  • “Rick Perry Struggles To Answer Question About Sex Ed: ‘Abstinence Works,’” Huffington Post, 8/23/11.
  • Gregory Paul, “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions,” Evolutionary Psychology (2009) 7(3): 398–441.

21 thoughts on “5 Recommendations to the Pro-Life Movement

  1. Some thoughts on some of your points …

    Point 2: I don’t think anyone on either side of the debate likes abortion. The question comes down to, “How importnat is it to stop abortion?” In particular, whether it is more or less important than sexual freedoms, teenage pregancies, etc

    Point 3: I actually think that pro-life advocates are doing a pretty good job of this. This is why there has been a big push on showing abortion seekers scans. Results show that this is a persuasive factor in many in not going through with an abortion. Pro-life advocates are educating people that the foetuses are alive.

    Point 4: First of all it is a fallacy that a particular problem should not be dealt with because a larger problem still exists. Secondly, we largely must work to deal with the issues in our area of influence, which for most of us means local, so you can hardly tell people not to worry about the abortion in their own country when there are millions more dying in other countries.

    Point 5: The entire pro-life/pro-choice debate has become a shibboleth in at least American politics. And I agree that so much of politics is corrupt and mess in many countries. But what is needed is politicians with the integrity of William Wilberforce who will enter politics to serve the people, not as a ticket to the gravy train.

    • Point 3: I don’t mind ultrasounds being available on request. What I mind is them being mandatory. Creating a gauntlet that a woman must endure can’t be part of the process. And I would want a course in sex education that is comprehensive enough that she would already have seen this.

      Point 4: I agree that we can focus on a second-tier problem while a first-tier problem still exists. Maybe my issue is with the name. If you’re “pro-life,” then focus on preserving life, biggest issues first. If you’re just “anti-abortion,” that’s fine, but say so.

      Point 5: Agreed about the shibboleth. Making politicians more noble is a worthwhile goal. Let me know if you find ways to improve that!

      • Re education …

        There are a number of issues. Firstly, increased sex education on its own doesn’t seem to result in a reduction in unwanted pregnancies. So I don’t think that that is the solution to the problem.

        Secondly, you seem to want education in some senses but not in others. There is no better way to convey the truth that there is a living being growing inside of a woman than to show her the ultrasound. It is ultimately persuasive for so many because at that particular time they realise that being is growing inside of them. At no time outside of their pregnancy will such a scan be able to communicate that truth to them as effectively.

        • There are a number of issues. Firstly, increased sex education on its own doesn’t seem to result in a reduction in unwanted pregnancies.

          Then what explains the dramatically lower rate of both teen pregnancies and abortions in the Netherlands? Maybe you’re right–maybe it’s not sex education. Whatever it is, we’re not doing it here in the US.

          Secondly, you seem to want education in some senses but not in others.

          As I said, I want education but don’t want a gauntlet. If the woman wants to see it, great. Shouldn’t be obligatory.

    • “To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.” Source

  2. ” Some people see abortion as the greater of two evils and others see it as the lesser of two evils, but everyone sees it as a bad thing…”

    What? Everyone see’s it as a bad thing? Yes, I agree with that because it is absolutely wrong. But you just fell in the tar pit. The only way ” EVERYONE” can see it as a “bad” thing is if it was objectively and absolutely bad, not subjectively and relatively bad.
    You just confessed that EVERYONE see’s it as a bad thing. That is not a relativist opinion that is an absolute objective statement.

    • Bob C wrote: What? Everyone see’s it as a bad thing? Yes, I agree with that because it is absolutely wrong. But you just fell in the tar pit. The only way ” EVERYONE” can see it as a “bad” thing is if it was objectively and absolutely bad, not subjectively and relatively bad.

      And what about killing every man, woman, child, and infant in a city? Doesn’t everyone see this as a bad thing? But you just fell into a tar pit Bob C, as your standard of absolute morality commanded such a thing to be done many times.

      And what about slavery? Doesn’t everyone see this as a bad thing? But again, you just fell into a tar pit Bob C, as your standard of absolute morality created laws that allowed such a thing.

      If you were consistent with your absolute morality, then you would have to judge many of God’s actions as immoral.

  3. Bob C wrote: What? Everyone see’s it as a bad thing? Yes, I agree with that because it is absolutely wrong. But you just fell in the tar pit. The only way ” EVERYONE” can see it as a “bad” thing is if it was objectively and absolutely bad, not subjectively and relatively bad.

    Retro asked:

    ‘And what about killing every man, woman, child, and infant in a city? Doesn’t everyone see this as a bad thing? But you just fell into a tar pit Bob C, as your standard of absolute morality commanded such a thing to be done many times…”

    First of all I see you ignored and did not address my question. If everyone can see it is bad that makes it absolute. And refutes your relativism.

    Also your straw man arguments of the absolute morality of God are irrelevant. God’s nature is pure good and perfect. God can not ( is incapable of) do anything bad. God is the standard of morality and God is the creator. God is the judge of His creation. God is sovereign over His creation. So I did not fall into the tar pit. The tar pit shows the relativist can not live in his worldview as he sooner or later makes a moral statement that breaks a moral rule. And get tar on himself. And there are no moral rules in your relitive worldview. Only in the Christian worldview who holds to God’s absolute morals laws written on all man’s hearts.

    Retro said:

    And what about slavery? Doesn’t everyone see this as a bad thing? But again, you just fell into a tar pit Bob C, as your standard of absolute morality created laws that allowed such a thing.

    The OT slavery was not a bad thing. In fact most slave and their families loved their master. And their master gave their slaves great responsibilities like bring up the master’s children..In fact most slaves after their 6 years when they were offered freedom , they stayed because of their love for the master. So everyone does not see OT slavery as a bad thing. It was similar to our work system of today. Look at Joseph who was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt as second in charge..A “SLAVE” second only to the pharaoh of Egypt.

    Retro said:

    ‘…If you were consistent with your absolute morality, then you would have to judge many of God’s actions as immoral….”

    Nope There is a chasm between man the creature and God the creator. If God was truly just He would destroy ever human being on earth and put us all in hell. But God is loving and longsuffering as we all deserve justice God is pleased to save a number no man can number. If I were you I would bow the knee and repent of your arrogance and sinful nature and plead with God you have mercy on your should..And stop mocking God. If God pleases HE can end your life before you read this. Every breath you breath is a gift from Jesus Christ. You are in no position to judge God’s morality talk about arrogance and foolishness.

    • Bob C wrote: In fact most slaves after their 6 years when they were offered freedom , they stayed because of their love for the master.

      And what do you base this on? I want an example.

      Either you haven’t actually read the Bible, or you’re hoping that I haven’t. Foreign slaves were NEVER offered freedom.

      Leviticus 25:44-46 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life…

      Do you consider slavery for life to be moral?

      • Bob C: Also, I’m hoping to get an answer to my question:

        Would you consider purposely injecting a baby with a fatal disease in order to punish the father to be torture?

        Would you consider purposely injecting a baby with a fatal disease in order to punish the father to be moral?

    • If everyone can see it is bad that makes it absolute. And refutes your relativism.

      You have a rather childlike view of the word. If everyone agrees, that makes it universal. Maybe we all have a common moral instinct and that explains the universality. To make the additional leap to conclude that it’s absolute, you need, y’know, evidence.

      God’s nature is pure good and perfect. God can not ( is incapable of) do anything bad.

      Another dictionary problem, I’m afraid. Please show me in the dictionary definition of “bad” where it says, “… except if God does it.” You don’t get to just say that whatever God does is good by definition.

      The OT slavery was not a bad thing. In fact most slave and their families loved their master.

      Oh? So you’d be OK with OT slavery reinstated here in America? Would that be a moral thing to do?

      most slaves after their 6 years when they were offered freedom

      Read your own book. If you were from another tribe, slavery was for life.

      So everyone does not see OT slavery as a bad thing.

      Sometime, someone is going to say that Christianity makes you do hideous things. You’ll laugh at that person because this conversation will not have made any impact on you. But this is the kind of thing they’re talking about.

      Justifying slavery? Do you hear what you’re saying? Only religion can make you do something so crazy!

      If God was truly just He would destroy ever human being on earth and put us all in hell.

      Tell him I said thanks.

      If God pleases HE can end your life before you read this.

      Does God exist? If so, I do him honor by using the brain that he gave me to critique the myriad worldviews and pick the best one.

  4. Bob C: Also, I’m hoping to get an answer to my question:

    “Would you consider purposely injecting a baby with a fatal disease in order to punish the father to be torture?”

    If you or I did that it would be first degree murder. But if you are refering to something God did you need to post the verse. Sounds like you are committing a genetic fallicy? Which makes your question false and irrelevant to absolute morals. And to God’s role and mans role.

    • Am I missing something? Retro is using the same standard to judge God and man. Since this is in keeping with the dictionary definition of “justice,” for example, this seems reasonable.

      The genetic fallacy is when “a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context.”

      A pet peeve of mine is when someone tries to dismiss an argument on a technicality so that he doesn’t have to deal with it squarely. I think the ball is (squarely) back in your court.

    • Bob C wrote: If you or I did that it would be first degree murder. But if you are refering to something God did you need to post the verse.

      Why should I bother posting a verse? It seems clear to me that no matter what God does, you consider it to be moral, and you’re just fine with it.

      Let’s look at the verses anyway: Our story is in 2 Samuel Chapter 12.

      Verses 13-15: “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die.”

      After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.

      We are plainly told why David’s baby died, and that God Himself did it.

      Now then, after all of this, what should David do next? It seems that David should know better than to have anymore children with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

      Verse 24-25: Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.

      David has first baby with Bathseba, and God kills it. David has second baby with Bathseba, and God loves it.

      Does this actually make any sense whatsoever?

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    Leviticus 25
    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    Leviticus 25
    The Sabbatic Year and Year of Jubilee
    1 The LORD then spoke to Moses [a]at Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD. 3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 Your harvest’s [b]aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 6 All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7 Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.
    8 ‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 9 You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. 10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim [c]a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, [d]and each of you shall return to his own property, [e]and each of you shall return to his family. 11 You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.

    13 ‘On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property. 14 If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another. 15 Corresponding to the number of years after the jubilee, you shall buy from your [f]friend; he is to sell to you according to the number of years of crops. 16 In proportion to the [g]extent of the years you shall increase its price, and in proportion to the fewness of the years you shall diminish its price, for it is a number of crops he is selling to you. 17 So you shall not wrong one another, but you shall [h]fear your God; for I am the LORD your God.

    18 ‘You shall thus observe My statutes and keep My judgments, so as to carry them out, that you may live securely on the land. 19 Then the land will yield its produce, so that you can eat your fill and live securely on it. 20 But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year [i]if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.

    The Law of Redemption
    23 ‘The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24 Thus for every [j]piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land.
    25 ‘If a [k]fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his [l]relative has sold. 26 Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so [m]recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28 But if [n]he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall [o]revert, that he may return to his property.

    29 ‘Likewise, if a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, then his redemption right remains valid until a full year from its sale; his right of redemption lasts a full year. 30 But if it is not bought back for him within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city passes permanently to its purchaser throughout his generations; it does not [p]revert in the jubilee. 31 The houses of the villages, however, which have no surrounding wall shall be considered [q]as open fields; they have redemption rights and [r]revert in the jubilee. 32 As for cities of the Levites, the Levites have a permanent right of redemption for the houses of the cities which are their possession. 33 What, therefore, [s]belongs to the Levites may be redeemed and a house sale [t]in the city of this possession [u]reverts in the jubilee, for the houses of the cities of the Levites are their possession among the sons of Israel. 34 But pasture fields of their cities shall not be sold, for that is their perpetual possession.

    Of Poor Countrymen
    35 ‘Now in case a [v]countryman of yours becomes poor and his [w]means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Do not take [x]usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your [y]countryman may live with you. 37 You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
    39 ‘If a [z]countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. 40 He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. 41 He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. 42 For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. 43 You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God. 44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. 45 Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. 46 You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your [ab]countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.

    • What was that for? I presume you’re ignoring Retro’s comment and just trying to turn back the clock to imagine that “Yeah, but Israelite slaves would be released after 7 years”?

    • Thank you for posting the entire chapter Bob C.

      Now if you read the entire chapter you just posted, it plainly states that there is a distinction between enslaving your fellow “countryman”, and enslaving “pagan nations” and “aliens”.

      How is this any different than the Atlantic slave trade? I want a serious and thoughtful answer.

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