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November 5, 2007

Pro-Lifers Can Win Abortion Debate on Human Rights, Not Religious Terms


Few issues spur as much passion during election season and, well, the rest of the time, as abortion. Bumper stickers and applause lines that have passed the test of time are thrown around indiscriminately. Promoting “a culture of life” is one of the lines politicians utter almost solely to Christian audiences, considered automatons who respond instinctively to monotonous pro-life declarations.


On Sundays and on television, countless clergymen, including mine, preach against abortion, emphasizing the Christian duty to oppose it. As a result, proponents of legalized abortion insist that those Christians keep their beliefs to themselves, and are completely bedazzled by the insistence of pro-lifers on taking away access to abortion based on personal religious beliefs.


As a pro-lifer, one of the biggest tragedies I observe in American society – perhaps a touch below the prevalent culture of abortion itself – is the manner in which abortion has been defined and is debated: Opposition to abortion has become a Christian cause stemming from religious beliefs. How unfortunate.


Of course, much of the blame for this problem lies with pro-life Christians and religious leaders themselves. Whether or not they explicitly say it, here is what the rest of the country hears: “Abortion is wrong because God said so.”


Well, not quite. More accurately, the taking of any human being’s life is wrong because God said so, or in a non-religious person’s case, because another source – perhaps society or personal instinct – said so. And thus, abortion is wrong because it is the taking of a human being’s life. This makes it a human rights issue, not a religious issue.


This is how the Christians should make their case. Saying that God is against abortion is not going to help with those who do not care about what God says. The fact is, there are more Americans who value human life than there are religious Christians. The focus must therefore be on demonstrating, through science and charts and pictures, that unborn babies are human. That effort would be both more fruitful and better received.


When they dissociate the abortion issue from religion, Christians can move on to explain why individual pro-lifers should demand public policy limiting abortion. This can be done, among other means, by calling out politicians on both sides of the aisle who claim to be “personally pro-life” but just do not want to impose their views on others.


Take John Kerry, who seized on one of the most valuable pro-choice talking points during a presidential debate in 2004: “I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith.”


Well what is that article of faith? Why is John Kerry “personally” pro-life? Assuming he is telling the truth, and unless he has an irrational fear of medical surgeries, he can only hold that position because he believes that abortion is the taking of human life. There is simply no other convincing reason to oppose abortion.


So then here comes the real question: If John (Kerry or any other John) believes that abortion is wrong because it is the taking of a human life, then why is he willing to let others have abortions?


By that logic, if he is opposed to the killing of an innocent five-year-old child because it is the taking of a human life, he should still have no right to impose that view on the rest of society. Yet he does, and he doesn’t seem to mind that he is imposing that article of faith on everyone else.


Pro-life Christians should criticize such politicians not for being bad Christians, as they did with Kerry, but for being hypocrites. It is probably better, from these Christians’ perspective, to be consistently pro-choice than be pro-life yet not want to impose your views on others.


At least the majority of the first group, people who believe that abortion is always acceptable, hold that view because they do not believe that unborn babies are human beings – a gross misunderstanding of scientific facts, but at least somewhat understandable. The second group believes that abortion is the taking of a human life, but does not care to do anything to stop it. From a pro-life perspective, this latter position is far worse.


By de-emphasizing the Christian element of the pro-life cause, arguing the science and pointing out the illogicality of the personally-pro-life-but-legally-pro-choice attitude, pro-life Christians can have much success in winning Americans over to their side.


Whether or not this will happen depends on the willingness of Christian leaders to let go of their leadership of the pro-life cause, and allow it to be reshaped from a religious issue into a human rights issue. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that willingness yet.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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