Intent, Murder, and the Reduction of Abortion

Christianity Today has an op-ed entitled“Reducing Abortion for Real” discussing the merits of gradualism and absolutism when it comes to abortion. Gradualists argue that any reduction in abortions is better than abortion on demand. Gradualists concentrate their resources on legislation that will make abortion less palatable, less convenient, and rarer. Absolutists on the other hand, argue that reduction in abortion is not acceptable, eradication is. They argue Christians should concentrate on making abortion illegal. As you can imagine this debate can get almost as hotter than town hall meeting.

It seems there are two separate questions when it comes to abortion and perhaps two separate tasks for Christians. One is to definitively assert that abortion is wrong in answer to the question “Is abortion immoral?”. The second is to influence society to stop killing unborn children in answer to the question “Since it’s wrong, how should we prevent it?” The first question is not as simple as it sounds. Sure it is a wrong but what kind of wrong? Is it murder? Last time I checked murder involved the intent to kill an innocent human being. Fetuses are human beings. Nothing but time, air, and nutrition separate them from my two year old.

However, I do have a hard time equating doctors who perform abortions with murderers. Having talked with some of them, (as they sit in my class), there is no intent to kill an innocent human being. There may definitely be willful ignorance that makes them culpable but murderous intent? I don’t think so. The ones I’ve spoken to say something to the effect of “There is no evidence that a fetus has the same level of development of an adult human being.” And then we debate why development should determine moral status.

Apologist Peter Kreeft has a book entitled The Unaborted Socrates that presents a fiction dialogue between Socrates and a doctor who performs abortions. Not all of Kreeft arguments against abortion are as good as others, but one seems to be pretty good. If doctors don’t know when a fetus gains moral status (and there doesn’t seem to be a scientific “moral-status-o-meter”) then isn’t it reckless to gamble on the killing of an innocent human being? I may have been watching too much law and order lately but reckless indifference isn’t the same as murder. If a hunter aims at something he is convinced is a deer and hits a person then he isn’t guilty of murder. But his guilty of something like negligent homicide if he didn’t check closely enough and examine all the evidence.

It may be true that some people at planned parenthood relish the thought of killing fetus’ but I doubt doctors do. They may be proud they stand up to “religious nuts” but everyone I’ve asked the following question” If there was proof that fetus’ had the same moral status as people who are already born, would you refuse to do abortions?” have answered yes. They may be negligent but they are not murders.

I know, I know Nazis marched Jews to the gas chambers thinking they weren’t fully human either. But there are a few things the Nazis did that prove they did know Jews were humans. They shaved their heads to make them look less human for one thing. They created films that compared them with rats in the most spurious of analogies. Which is one of the reasons why one of the most important ways to reduce abortions is free, convenient ultrasounds. There is nothing more convincing of the humanness of a fetus than to see one sucking its thumb.

As for the second task: How do we influence society to stop considering the law that allows abortions as a license to have them. Here’s the major debate between absolutists and gradualists. Is it better to spend our social capital on making abortion harder or in overturning Roe v. Wade. And make no mistake there is a finite amount of Christian time, talent, and treasure to put to this task. The Gradualists have several options to reduce abortions according to the article one can work for the abolition of abortion while at the same time working for its reduction by the following measures:

“Public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws, informed consent laws (in which women seeking abortions get information about fetal development and single moms receive support), and waiting periods. ”

It is amazing to me that some people would support a 30 day waiting period to buy a handgun but not for a teenager to get an abortion. It’s also amazing that those same people would require FBI checks to purchase a handgun but wouldn’t support parental notification let alone permission to have an abortion.

Is it an unsavory compromise to prefer states to decide abortion rather than eight people (and one wise Latina woman) just how easy it is to get an abortion and how long you have to wait? One could hate the evil of abortion and still work for its gradual decline. One could consider abortion an egregious act of wrong doing and still that less abortion is better than abortion on demand and far less than murder.

Finally, it is important for us to remember that legislation is no substitute for engagement. When the Romans had a practice of leaving deformed infants to die of exposure, the Christians (having no legislative power) responded to their culture by taking in these abandoned Children. Perhaps that kind of engagement makes the most difference. One of my favorite lines from a song is from Steve Camp’s “Run to the Battle”

Some people want to live in the sound of chapel bells/

I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell/

Setting up a mission a yard from the gates of hell. Let us all thank God for the crisis pregnancy clinics that serve as a mission, an outreach to save lives and change hearts a few yards from the gates of Hell. Reducing abortions one ultrasound, one free pregnancy test at a time.


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