Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Harvest Truly Is Great

Last night I watched the movie "Amazing Grace", the chronicle of MP William Wilberforce's efforts to ban the slave trade in the United Kingdom. This was my second viewing of it. I get indescribably uncomfortable watching this film. The analogy to the work the Christian Church has before it of ending abortion is unmistakable.

The movie left me restless, upset, unable to sleep. It reminded me of Christ's words, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2, KJV)" When I was an unexposed-to-Catholicism Evangelical, I lived as though life were about spreading the Gospel (i.e., instructions on how to become saved). Now, as an exposed-to-Catholicism Christian, I realize that life is about the Gospel (i.e., that God is Love). Living out the Gospel (vice a focus on merely spreading it) will entail painful work until my life is complete. Before I sought rest and comfort in this life (since I had already checked off the "Saved" box). Now I seek to make my calling and election sure by satisfying my convictions to do Kingdom Work.

What have I done for women seeking to make use of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic up the street from my law school? Perhaps I'd better get to the work of sharing the Gospel of love up there. What have our pro-life Senators done to imitate the efforts of Wilberforce? They wring their hands and blame the Supreme Court. That's a quitter's excuse. If you have a "Pro-Life" Senator that has not introduced legislation to end abortion-on-demand, please kindly inform him that he's a quitter. And send him a copy of "Amazing Grace" while you're at it.

Can we not put our minds together and come up with a bill that will help stem the tide of infanticide? We cannot wait for 5 Justice Scalia's to be appointed to the High Court before expecting our Pro-Life Senators and Congressmen to take action. The Court may be (presently) as good as it's going to get for the Pro-Life movement in some time. There must be something our elected officials can do. I would much rather see them lose the good fight, then not take up its standards to begin with.

I propose the following, and would love to hear other suggestions (unfortunately, being under Maryland Senators, I would have no more success than a voter in any other traditionally Catholic, Pro-Choice state): a Bill allowing the States to define when life begins, and requiring the courts to apply the 14th Amendment's protections of life, liberty and property to all persons who are on the "begun" side.

Seems too good to be true, and I feel all over that it would never work; but not working at it doesn't work either. Roe v. Wade was built on this foundation: If the fetus is a "person" within the meaning of the 14th Amendment, Ms. Roe's case collapses...but the Court "need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins"...doctors, philosophers and theologians can't reach consensus, so the judiciary won't be able to...therefore, the states may only claim an interest in "the potentiality of life". O'Connor's Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision upheld Roe, without touching this foundation and with lots of talk about stare decisis (respecting precedent).

A new law by Congress, passed after an extensive period of findings where they could call medical doctors to explain the advances in neo-natal medicine and radiology since 1973, could have the staying power that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act had with the post-O'Connor Carhart court. That case showed a willingness to defer to Congress's judgment. Should Congress adjudge that there is strong evidence of life beginning before half the fetal trunk passes through the cervix (our present standard), they could hand off this social determination to the States. And if the States are empowered to determine when life begins, Roe is undermined. Casey's stare decisis rambling would also be undermined by new statutory law.

But you may need to pardon my idealism.

I think it could fail because the court could say that it's not for the Federal Congress to grant to States the power to determine when life begins. But this would have the marvelous impact of forcing the court to face dead-on the weakest (and most crucial) aspect of the Roe decision. Every discussion I've had with a Pro-Choicer involves carefully avoiding the question of when life begins. Almost all of them, when pressed have had to conclude (I think as post hoc rationalization) that life doesn't begin until birth. And that is becoming, thanks to medicine, an increasingly tenuous position to take.


Cow Bike Rider (alias, Chris Sagsveen) said...

I know this doesn't get to the crux of your point, but I like the way you said this...

" an exposed-to-Catholicism Christian, I realize that life is about the Gospel (i.e., that God is Love). Living out the Gospel (vice a focus on merely spreading it) will entail painful work until my life is complete."

Good Point

Thos said...

Chris (aka C.B.R.),

Thanks. A good point it may be, but I fail to put it into practice. My problem, I know.

If it's not the crux if my point, it's really close. If we all lived out the Gospel, we'd be so near to nipping things like abortion in the bud. I have a friend who is authentically Christian and authentically pro-choice (only possible because he doesn't believe the fetus is a life yet) -- he thinks the church needs to solve the abortion problem without making the act illegal. I think if Christians lived out the gospel, and showed love and compassion to pregnant single mothers, the 'demand' for abortion would be much lower. I'm still 100% for outlawing the act, but try to keep his view in mind, that there's another duty here besides political action, and a great deal of work to be done in society even if abortions ever were proscribed.

Peace in Christ,

Principium unitatis said...


If I may ask, why does your friend think that a fetus is not a life? How does exiting the uterus and/or cutting the umbilical cord turn it into a life, in his view?

Part of living out the gospel is helping others to think clearly and truthfully -- that is one of the spiritual works of mercy, i.e. instructing the ignorant.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Thos said...


You may ask. I was brief in my last comment about this because I only meant to note this friend's view that Christians must engage in other action (besides political action). With this *narrow* view, I agree.

But your point is well taken. I talk in this post about needing to act on my faith, and maybe this is a good starting point. It is hard to engage this friend on when life begins, because he shifts the discussion to other things, like how proscribing abortions won't stop all abortions. I do not think he believes that life begins at delivery or some similarly late point, but he also can't accept that life begins at conception so long as he holds to his a priori belief that a fetus is not a life. It was a major success for me to get him to say the words that he didn't believe the first trimester fetus was human.

I will try to take this up with him again; thank you. I have several angles here that come to mind. If it's not a life at conception, then mystically, we become human without male/fatherly action. That's odd, and clearly not right.

Further, if we're not human in the womb, even just early in the womb, at what point did Christ truly become incarnate? I think Christ's incarnation in Mary's womb is the best testimony a Christian can offer to another Christian that those in the womb need the same protections by their society as those outside the womb.

Then there are the standards verses of God knitting us together in the womb, knowing us before birth, etc.

Any further views are welcome!

Peace in Christ,

joseph said...

Hey Thos,

First, I want to tell you something that I truly love about everday terms we use. "Crux" not only means a pivotal point, but it also mean a cross. The great thing about this is that the pivotal point of all creation and time is the Cross! People, even atheists use this term on a daily basis without realizing that they are using the Cross as a term to describe the pivotal points of their conversations. I love it.

I have a seaman's jacket that has the anchor cross on the buttons. I smile to think that Popeye also had this tattooed on his forearm. The origin of this cross comes from the tradition of the martyrdom of St. Clement (the third Pope who was actually a disciple of Sts. Peter and Paul). He was tied to an anchor and dropped into the sea. That what this anchor design was meant to remind us of, but I digress as usual.

Second, I think we need to shift focus in regards to the Pro-Life movement. We are absolutely supposed to love the mothers who have been deceived by popular culture and abysmal education to believe that their baby is merely tissue and have not yet been convinced otherwise. We truly have no idea what other pressures may cause them to make their dreadful decision. It is not the mother's choice that needs to be regulated, she is not always perfectly aware of what she is doing. On the other hand, the doctors are completely aware that what they are doing is destroying life. This goes against the Hyppocratic Oath (the one that had been taken for centuries until just a few decades ago). Evidence that they are fully aware that they are taking life is the fact that they fight so hard against allowing the mothers who are considering abortion to hear the heartbeat of their babies or see images of them in an ultrasound. That is also why they don't offer them an alternative to abortion and do everything in their power to prevent Pro-lifers from interfering with their decision. What is the typical punishment for a husband who hires a hitman to bump off his wife? And what is the typical punishment for the hitman who actually pulled the trigger? The the mother, unlike the wicked husband in question, is not always fully aware that what she is doing is wrong. As long as the focus is on the mother, Christians look like cruel bastards... as I believe we should.

We should donate money to charities that actually care for mothers who are considering abortion for financial purposes and those that offer education and medical care for those who aren't financially strapped but need support nevertheless to prevent them from making a mistake. At the same time we should encourage legislation that will prosecute to the full extent of the law the doctors who commit serial murders. Unlike the hitman in my earlier example, these doctors have more blood on their hands. Not only that, the blood is completely innocent. In the case of the hitman, the wife may have been a wicked person who stole from her husband, committed adultery with all of his brothers, and sacrificed teenage boys (that doesn't justify the murder, I'm just trying to illustrate that she has had a chance to choose to sin).

Third, reading the Gospels, there is one repeating theme that made me think about when life begins. The parable of the mustard seed, the grain of wheat, etc. A grain of wheat must die to produce the seed. The seed must fall into fertile ground. The soil and the water germinate the seed. Viola, life begins at that moment. As soon as the seed is germinated when all of those things come together, it comes alive and begins to grow. I don't know of any biologist who would disagree with that.

So, if we can say that life technically begins in a plant when the seed is germinated, then how can we avoid making that same determination when a human egg is fertilized by a sperm? Doesn't the egg react instantly by preventing other sperm from entering and then it begins the growth process?

I'm not a biologist, so I'm deliberately avoiding any technical terms! I don't want to sound any more ridiculous than I already do.

Tim A. Troutman said...

I agree with what you're saying Joseph and the punishment needs to be much harsher on doctors who perform murder of this kind.

However, the women are still guilty. Even if they don't know for sure that they're killing their child - the very least they are guilty of is criminal negligence. There are 4 possibilities as Peter Kreeft is fond of repeating: The fetus is either a life or it's not and we either know it is or we dont. So combining them in the case of the mother you have:

1. It is a life and she knows it
2. It is a life and she doesnt know it
3. It is not a life but she doesnt know its not
4. It is not a life and she knows its not

In case 1 she's guilty of murder like the wicked husband. In case 2 she is guilty of serious criminal negligence and in 3 still guilty but somewhat less since there was no real harm done. Now she just needs to do some community service or something..4 she's scott free

Only 1 or 2 are possible as we all know and in both cases she is guilty though 1 much more guilty than 2 and all doctors fall under case 1 whereas at least some women fall under case 2.

(No wonder my readers keep calling me judgmental). Anyway, the woman caught in adultery was objectively deserving of death but Jesus pardoned her so may He pardon all those guilty of abortion and may He pardon me of my sins which are just as evil.

Glory to Jesus Christ.
Glory forever.

Amy said...

More than 60% of women who have abortions say that if the males in their life, either their own father or the father of their baby, were in any way supportive then they would not have had an abortion.

Just outlawing abortion isn't enough.

Joseph said...


Should murder be legal? I agree with you that stress, pressure, and ignorance play a huge role in a woman's choice to have an abortion. I also agree that it doesn't help matters when the father of the child abandons both mother and child or takes an active role in pressuring the mother to have an abortion. I have nothing but pity for women who are placed in such horrible positions. That doesn't make the choice a good one.

However, the doctors, who's job it is to preserve lives, are under no pressure to kill the life inside of the womb, they have nothing to lose (accept their immortal souls potentially), and they are never ignorant as to whether what they are doing is murder of a child. What they are doing is knowingly committing a murder with every abortion.

There are multitudes of charities out there to help women in the difficult position you raise. There are multitudes of alternatives, places where they can go to get the help they need. Outlawing abortions doesn't mean throwing would-be mothers in prison, it means ensuring that there aren't rougue doctors out their who make a living off of murder.

Those women need help and guidance for sure.

Joseph said...

It isn't outlawing "abortion" that we are talking about, it is rightfully outlawing murder of innocent people. That is justice, both secular and religious.

Thos said...

Joseph, Amy, Tim T.,

Thank you for this good discussion on how we should aim to handle criminalizing abortions.

I would see it as the greatest tragedy if people of strong Morals prevailed in having abortion outlawed but failed to care for unexpected mothers thereafter. I think giving to organizations that offer abortion alternatives, care and love for unexpected mothers are an essential ministry of the Christian Church in our society. I believe most of their funding comes from those who are opposed to abortions. It concerns me that this funding would dry up if abortion were proscribed. But maybe states would offer social services to mother's in these situations if abortion were not an exercise "choice"?

But, I also believe that by having the abortion "backstop" when contraception "fails", our society increases the demand for the procedure. Indeed, a common discussion point in criminal law is that some crimes, even when never enforced, express society's disapproval of an act they find reprehensible. So swift punishment of all involved in abortions wouldn't be required for a law against abortion to have some general benefits to society and would-be abortees.

Now, if Roe and its progeny were ever overturned, it's not a given that all abortions would become criminal acts. Many states would choose to leave the act lawful. Some states could choose to make it a civil, sanctionable, violation. They could penalize doctors for performing them without having to take action against the mothers. Or, they could fine doctors and mothers some nominal amount. Many states will criminalize it (probably not traditionally Catholic states like Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maryland though). For now, we should encourage our politicians that under our Federal system of government, contentious issues like abortion should be addressed by the states. States should be able to "experiment" with laws to address perceived problems. In this way, those of us opposed to abortion do not need to recommend the perfect sanction/punishment scheme before we can expect to see Roe overturned.

For those states that do criminalize abortion as a form of homicide, still many options remain. Even in the Bible, induced abortions (albeit accidentally induced) carried a lesser punishment than killing an adult (even accidentally)(Exodus 21:22-23). States can punish the doctors (or boyfriends, whomever) that perform the abortion and leave the unexpected mother with little or no penalty. Or they can see her as complicit, and punish her equally (as in, the get-away driver gets the same punishment as the guy holding the gun in the bank).

Those of us who are pro-life need to have this discussion -- we need to be of one mind! I believe the best approach (and hope for unity) is something like this: 1) MUST continue to support women unexpectedly pregnancy, 2) MUST at least meaningfully sanction doctors who perform, and 3) SHOULD view this is an excellent example of an area of law best left to the states.

Even Justice Scalia, probably the biggest friend of the Pro-Life movement on the court, believes that the FEDERAL judiciary's role is to leave this area of law to the States.

But then we can always push for a Constitutional amendment, which would impose this value on the states. In that case, I personally would not like to see sympathy for mother's in hard places override my belief of what is happening in her womb (the willful destruction of a human life). I wouldn't put her in the electric chair, but I wouldn't just send her a note in the mail asking her to not do it again, either.

Peace in Christ,