Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is the Pro-Life Cause Winning?

Trevin Wax argues that the pro-life side is winning the fight for the hearts and minds of Americans. There certainly is some evidence. People seem to view abortion as morally questionable. Part of it is due to better technology. Ultra sound pictures make it harder and harder to look the other way. Pro-abortion people constantly find themselves arguing for ignorance. Don't inform women about what an abortion is. They openly admit a picture of a fetus is pro-life propaganda. It is. But how do you keep people from looking closely at the thing in the center of the debate?

Polls show most Americans now describe themselves as pro-life. That is great. But it is not enough. People have to see a pro-life society as possible. In order to have a pro-life society you need to recover some sense of chastity. It is ironic that the pro-choice side's best argument is that we don't have a choice. We can't avoid abortion because we can't avoid casual sex. No matter how much we want to be pro-life if we can't achieve some level of sexual self-control as a society it isn't really practical.

That is the argument we are still losing. To say we are losing it would be to suggest the argument is even being made. I am not sure that it is. Is a chaste society possible? Sure it is. You will never get rid of sexual sin but you can get to a point where it is rare enough that society can care for the children that come from it. How do we do it? Think about how we got from there to here. Prior to the sexual revolution abortion was not required. So it is possible to create a moral environment where most people remain pure until they can accept the responsibility of raising a child.

So what happened with the sexual revolution? Basically two things. First, mass media became much more powerful and much less moral. Secondly, artificial contraception was made easier. These two things were the main causes of the sexual revolution. They are both rooted in technological advances. So what can we do? Can we uninvent the pill or the television? No. But we can change our thinking about them. We can understand the moral implications of these things and react as a society. Scripture tells us that where sin abounds so grace abound all the more. We do not have to concede that sin has simply won and sexual purity is now something we can only expect from a small minority of the population.

So how does it start? It starts with the church. We need to be willing to teach clearly that contraception and pornography are wrong. How many church leaders are even going there. It is like teaching on these topics has been out-sourced to a select group of chastity speakers. We need to make clear the whole church is on board. It is not an optional part of Christianity. It is essential to a coherent Christian world view. I know we like to be ecumenical and all but we need to be clear. Being wrong on contraception is not a small error. It makes all of Christian morality illogical and unworkable. It distorts the way we think about human life which is about as bad a moral error as you can make.

Once you start making the case seriously and not running away from you own teaching then amazing things can happen. The same sorts of things Trevin Wax was point out on the abortion question. The appeal to reason and the appeal to conscience do have an impact over time. That is how the church won the battle for sexual morality over pagan Rome. Just teach it and live it. Over time society will see the two lifestyles and the Holy Spirit will give them eyes to see the Christian way is better. But we have to put it out there. If we are living something that is an incoherent mix of the secular and the Christian it will have little chance of wining the day. That is where the pro-life cause is now. Making some points but not presenting a sustainable, livable alternative to the culture of death.


  1. Great post. It's also worth noting that even the supreme court in it's abortion rulings has made it clear abortion is simply "plan b" when contraception fails. Thus, since contraception is bound to fail, there needs to be "back up plan," hence abortion is legal.

    What is hurting the pro-life cause is that a large percentage is Protestant, yet Protestants allow contraception, the very root of abortion.

  2. I don't know if they have said it is plan B. What they have said is the same logic of morals and rights applies. If contraception is permissible abortion should be as well because the reasoning is parallel. It seems clear enough.

    When Protestants accept contraception they lose any appeal to natural law. Morality becomes arbitrary. It becomes something you can't explain rationally to a non-Christian. That goes for explaining why abortion is immoral but also for explaining why premarital sex is immoral. All they can do is appeal to scripture. Even that can be challenged.

  3. Here is what the Supreme Court said:

    "Abortion is customarily chosen as an unplanned response to the consequence of unplanned activity or to the failure of conventional birth control ... ... for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail."


  4. It is interesting that they see that changing the abortion law would effect "economic and social developments", "intimate relationships", and "choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society". Many pro-life advocates don't full address that. People assume those effects would be largely negative. I would argue that they would be largely positive for individuals and for society. But I don't hear that argument being made a lot.

    The other thing about Casey that makes this line of reasoning wrong is that Casey would not outlaw abortion. Striking down Row v Wade would simply make abortion a matter for the legislature and not for the courts. If society still wanted abortion it could pass laws that reflect that. So why should the courts make that call? The fact that it has huge societal implications seems to argue that democratically elected decision makers should be resolving the issue.

  5. Hi Randy,

    I'm not sure I follow what you're saying.

  6. I actually went to that link and read a bit more of what you quoted from the Casey decision there. So that is where the quotes come from. The point is they say making abortion illegal would be a huge change in society. Even going so far as to say many people's definition of who they are would have to be rethought. I think they are right about that. It is a big deal. But then they assume 2 things without argument:
    1. This big change would be bad
    2. This big change means we should uphold Roe v Wade instead of leaving such important matters to democracy

    Those are the parts I disagree with. The things they did not say but seem to have assumed to get from what they did say to what they decided.

  7. Hi Randy,

    You make good points, but I was confused about this statement: "we should uphold Roe v Wade instead of leaving such important matters to democracy"

    What do you mean leave such matters to democracy? If you mean we should put it in the hands of the people to decide whether abortion is ok or not, i.e. allowing it to stand if they want it, then I think that's not a good idea nor compatible with the Faith. Abortion would still be a grave evil and sin even if popularly endorsed.

  8. But what was the supreme count deciding? Whether laws regulating abortion are constitutional? That is it. If they went the other way and vacated Row v Wade then states would still pass laws on abortion. In fact, the state laws would be in force precisely because the courts had left the matter up to them. So saying the matter is one that involves huge change is good. But that change is there whether the status quo remains or not. The question is not whether the change should happen but rather who should decide.

    If the state governments decided it, of course there would still be the fact that abortion is gravely evil. Every politician would have to defend his or her vote based on that reality. But we decide on grave evils all the time. Murder, theft, rape, etc. All those matters are decided by elected officials. There are some grave evils that are not illegal, adultery and skipping mass are examples of that. The point is that leaving it up to politicians is way better for the pro-life side than what we have now.

  9. So what you are saying is that it's better for the states to decide rather than Federally imposed. But you're not saying it's ok if the states say it's ok.

  10. One step at a time. Right now opening it up for states to do as they like would be awesome. That is what the SCOTUS refused to do. But ultimately I would like to see the right to life for the unborn enshrined in every constitution in the world.