A Fundamental Flaw with “Abolish Human Abortion”

Written by Clinton Wilcox on Tuesday, 16 July 2013.

Editor's Note: Many pro-lifers, especially conservative Protestants, have noticed the emergence on social media of a new organization referring to itself as "Abolish Human Abortion." Many of us were initially enthusiastic about the quality and conciseness of the message they put out. However, AHA has shown itself to be intentionally insulting, misguided, and wilfully divisive. As such, we are publishing an article by an American pro-life advocate explaining just a few of the many problems with their "ideology."

I wish I didn't have to write this article, but the reality is I believe that AHA does more harm to the pro-life movement than good. I do want to start off by saying that I appreciate their passion to see abortion done away with and unborn children saved. I believe that much of their views come out of a frustration with abortion having become legalized and remaining so for 40-plus years in the first place, which was due in large part to Christians not taking a stand against this horrible practice, a frustration which I share. However, they are far too divisive (and many of their views are simply skewed and not well-reasoned). What the pro-life movement needs now, more than ever, is unity among its supporters and proponents, even ones who disagree with us on spiritual issues. You can find another such article here. I have decided to add my voice to the fray. I would just like to ask that you hear my heart on this, and not just my words. I am not saying that pro-life Christians should leave the Gospel out of all their conversations; I am merely arguing that it is not necessary to make the pro-life case.

Specifically, I'll be addressing their article "The Difference between Pro-Lifers and Abolitionists," which you can find here.

Their first section has the heading "'Abolitionist' is not a synonym for 'pro-lifer.'" That's a pretty obvious statement. There is nothing in the term "abolitionist" that specifically indicates the abortion issue. William Wilberforce was a slavery abolitionist. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a racial discrimination abolitionist. So my response here is "of course not." The problem is that they are making here a distinction without a difference. There is no difference between "abortion abolitionist" and "pro-life advocate," as will be made clear in the rest of this article.

AHA makes the claim that pro-life is the expression of a moral opinion, abolitionist is the expression of a moral action. This statement is very problematic, especially coming from a group that considers themselves Christian. Christians believe in objective morality. Thoughtful Christians don't deny that Atheists can live moral lives and recognize moral truths. Pro-life is not a moral opinion, but an expression of the moral reality that one ought to not intentionally kill an innocent human being without strong moral justification. Of course, one can be pro-life and not seek to do anything about it, but then their stance becomes meaningless. You can make the case that one becomes an abolitionist when one seeks to put your pro-life views into action (but that's also the definition of "pro-life advocate"). Even if this is your stance, then nothing about this stance indicates that the non-religious or members of another religion can't also be abolitionists.

Their next heading states: "Pro-lifers prefer gradual, over immediate, abolition." This is simply a straw man argument of what many pro-life people believe (a straw man argument is when you attack a similar argument to the one presented that is weaker and easier to defeat). Pro-life advocates actually do prefer immediate abolition. We would love it if our government would stop sanctioning the killing of unborn children, and if Planned Parenthood would stop doing it. What pro-life people realize, and which is supported by history, is that it simply doesn't work out that way. Gradually is the way to enact a change like this. It took William Wilberforce twenty years to abolish the slave trade in England. He made it his life's mission to see this done. He worked incrementally; voting for legislation that kept slavery legal yet made conditions safer for slaves. He knew that the way his culture was, he couldn't pass all or nothing laws. He worked to change the culture's perception of slavery while working to pass incrementally better legislation until he was finally able to abolish it altogether. It sucks, but that's the way it's going to have to get done. Pro-life advocates don't prefer this, but we're also willing to work strategically to save as many lives as we possibly can in the meantime. So by AHA's own definition, William Wilberforce was not an abolitionist.

They make the claim that abolitionism has historically been wed to the doctrine of immediatism, but they offer no supporting evidence for this claim. I'd be interested to know at what point in history a societal evil was recognized, decided that it needed to be done away with, and then made illegal immediately without having to resort to incremental steps.

Their next heading states, "You can be a secular pro-lifer. You can't be a secular abolitionist." Really? Says who? Why should we accept your definition of abolitionist? Are you saying there were no secular people who helped abolish slavery or racial discrimination? They are making an ad hoc argument, using their own made-up definition of abolitionist. There is nothing inherent in the word "abolitionist" that one must believe in a higher law or deity. And again, their statements are distressing because one does not need to be a Christian to recognize an objective moral law (just look at the numerous secular ethicists who, almost across the board, reject moral relativism). In fact, the dictionary definition of "abolitionist" is: "a person who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the U.S.," "a person who advocates the abolition of any law or practice deemed harmful to society."

Their final heading states, "Pro-lifers prefer common ground. Abolitionists prefer to proclaim the gospel." Another straw man argument. I wonder what AHA would say of someone like me, a conservative Protestant Christian who seeks to abolish abortion in the United States, but also believes these things (like finding common ground and that incrementalism is the wisest maneuver) that apparently true abolitionists don't look for (and by the way, some of the greatest opponents of abortion has always been the Catholic church, whom AHA would probably write off as not being true abolitionists since they're "not true Christians"). Anyway, it's a straw man because a Christian like me seeks to find common ground as a springboard to a good discussion, whereas I am also not afraid of sharing the Gospel with people I talk to. Many of my conversations naturally lead in to where morality comes from and whether or not God exists. But in my conversations on abortion, this is not my main focus. Christianity has a long, proud history of using natural, non-theological arguments to make their case. That's because if the Christian worldview is true, it is true for all of reality. Abortion would be immoral whether or not you could support that argument Biblically (but more on this in a future article).

I would like AHA to come to one of our Justice for All seminars. We use methods that Greg Koukl talks about in his book Tactics in order to help make our case, to help people see that our views are rational and can be supported through reason and evidence. I am a mentor and speaker for JFA, and we teach good conversation techniques, like listening to understand the person's viewpoint (rather than simply assuming it), asking questions for clarification and to see why they believe what they believe, and, yes, to find common ground as a way of keeping the conversation going (because believe it or not, we can find common ground with pro-choice people.

This attitude that Atheists can't be true abolitionists is even more bizarre, considering that on a post in their blog called Atheist Ethics Are Impossible, they state the following to pro-life Atheists: "I admire your desire to abolish the practice of human abortion. I believe your fight against this abominable practice is praiseworthy. I think you are right in believing this practice is a great atrocity and violation of civil rights..." So...what? An Atheist can want and actively work to abolish abortion but can't be an abolitionist? You believe their fight is praiseworthy and you repay them by saying "you're not one of us"

I'm not saying that we can't disagree with Atheists, or that we should act like we agree with them on everything. I have these discussions with my colleagues in SPL (as long as they're willing -- I don't force it on them). We can work with people we disagree with on other issues against a common enemy, namely legalized abortion.

AHA has this grand idea that they're "engaging the culture" by refusing to use secular arguments alone, refusing to make arguments apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I commend their passion to see souls saved, this actually presents a complete ignorance of their culture. People are not going to be convinced by Biblical arguments (in fact, arguing that God exists because the Bible says so is a logical fallacy, circular reasoning -- you need to have secular arguments as to how you know God exists in the first place). You can have a spiritual discussion, all the while leaving the arguments against abortion behind. If you make the argument that abortion is wrong because God has made us in his image and he says that murder is wrong, that's true, of course. But it's not going to be convincing to atheists. And by the sheer number of religious pro-choice people, converting them to Christianity doesn't guarantee a convert to the pro-life position. If you're going to use religious arguments, you're going to have to prove that your religion is the true one. While that's certainly do-able, it's an unnecessary step in changing peoples' minds on abortion. I appreciate you if that's how you feel it is best done, I do it myself. But claiming that Atheistic pro-life advocates (or other pro-life advocates) can't make pro-life converts apart from the gospel is just plain incorrect. I've convinced people to become pro-life by simply presenting them with the scientific evidence of human development.

So again, my purpose here is not to belittle a group of pro-life advocates, and I hope that they prayerfully consider my words. I welcome further discussion, and if someone from AHA would like to respond I would be more than happy to continue the dialogue. One need not constantly bring up the gospel in order to convince someone to be pro-life, especially if that person is hostile to the gospel but open to hearing arguments for the pro-life position. You have to tailor your arguments to your audience.

Originally posted on http://prolifephilosophy.blogspot.ca/2013/05/a-fundamental-flaw-behind-abolish-human.html

Comments (18)

  • Johanna A.

    Johanna A.

    17 July 2013 at 21:52 |
    AMEN! Very well written! Could I say the AHA approach sounds pharisaical?
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 22:47 |
      Thank you, Johanna! I don't want to call them Pharisees. I don't think they're insincere in their desire to keep Christ the focus of their pro-life outreach, I just think that they're misguided and needlessly (and possibly dangerously) dividing the pro-life camp by their elitist attitude.
  • Joe McCoy

    Joe McCoy

    17 July 2013 at 22:50 |
    Good article, just wanted to point out one thing. It is always immoral to kill an innocent person.
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 22:51 |
      Hey, Joe:

      Thank you for reading, but I don't think that it's *always* immoral to kill an innocent person. I think that kind of attitude is short-sighted. Killing an innocent person must always be avoided, if possible, but I think there may be times when it is necessary to kill an innocent person. For example, I believe that an abortion is justified in certain rare cases where the unborn child is threatening the mother's life and the child is too young to survive outside the womb (e.g. in an ectopic pregnancy where the child implants in the fallopian tube). But also, consider the following scenario:

      There's a man at a bar whose drink is spiked with a hallucinogenic drug without his knowledge. He drinks and starts hallucinating, waving a gun around. Several minutes later he's outside, threatening several innocent people with his gun. The police arrive and he doesn't back down (still in his hallucinogenic state), so the police take him out to save the innocent people he's threatening due to only having a kill shot. Was the police officer justified in killing the man to save the innocent people? And please don't try to confuse matters by claiming that he should have found a non-lethal shot to take, because that's not the point. If he only has a lethal shot, is he justified in taking it?
  • greenriverlyle

    greenriverlyle

    17 July 2013 at 23:35 |
    Very true Mr. Clinton Wilcox. I have tried presenting my perspective on incremental progress as being just that (progress) and even used William Wilberforce as an example and was insulted, told I was really not pro-life, and I felt anything but the love of Christ Jesus coming from this self proclaimed Christian group, I have not supported them with their very nicely created posts as they always promote the AHA logo. I removed their emblem from my truck and still have many drop cards purchased from them that will never be used. I continue my pro-life fight daily without their criticism. I don't rejoice in their demise however your article has put me at ease in anti-AHA stance and in knowing the red flags from the spirit are indeed legit, Blessings to you sir
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 22:56 |
      Thank you, Lyle. Don't be afraid to call out a divisive organization (in a spirit of love, of course). I definitely think that AHA (and another organization that shall currently remain nameless) do more harm to the movement than good. I publicly dissociated myself from them after they came forward with their extremist stance against Atheist pro-life advocates and Catholics in general (I know many Catholics and while we disagree on many doctrines, I don't consider the Catholic church to be evil). We are in good company with guys like William Wilberforce. "All-or-nothing" organizations like AHA like to claim William Wilberforce as their own, but the reality is that Wilberforce worked incrementally. So according to AHA's own definition, their poster-child was not a slavery abolitionist.

      I do hope that one day they'll realize the harm they cause. I would love to be able to support them again because I do think they have the potential to do some good for the movement. But not with their current attitude.
  • T. Russell Hunter

    T. Russell Hunter

    18 July 2013 at 00:00 |
    Thank you for writing this article. We have responded to most of this before but much of it may stem from a misunderstanding of the main point, we actually are not pro lifers.

    But we should work to make this more clear and your article will help us do this. Look for a full response within the next few days.

    Abide in Christ,

    Russell
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 22:58 |
      Hi, Russell:

      Yes, I noticed your response and I did respond to it. I look forward to reading your response in the future. But it does puzzle me (and it puzzled me in the comment where this originally appeared) why you claim that the article actually argues your point, as I was very clear in the article that the distinction drawn between a "pro-lifer" and an "abolitionist" is just a distinction without a difference.
  • Jeremy

    Jeremy

    18 July 2013 at 01:39 |
    Serious question. Is this satire?
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 22:58 |
      Hi, Jeremy:

      No, this is not satire. Out of curiosity, why do you think this is satire?
  • Liam

    Liam

    18 July 2013 at 06:05 |
    There's a real irony in an article that knocks down the work of an ally in the prolife cause starting off by saying "we need unity." I'm really sick of reading all these articles bashing other people's methods. The internecine fighting needs to stop. It's a waste of time, and it's counter-productive. It substitutes positive energy and collaboration for negativity and bickering. And for what purpose? If each would just carry one with what they believe is right, the resources will naturally flow to the organization utilizing the most effective tactics, and opinions will follow. Please, enough with attacks already.
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 23:01 |
      Hi, Liam:

      This post is not meant as an attack against AHA (please re-read my first paragraph). But the problem is that AHA is divisive, not seeking unity with the rest of the movement. They believe themselves to be the only true "abolitionists." What we need is unity, not pro-life organizations trying to solve the abortion issue on their own. Being divided like this is only going to delay our victory, and in the meantime unborn children are going to die because of it. The issue is much too important to just take a "live and let live" attitude toward divisive pro-life organizations.
  • alyxzandra

    alyxzandra

    20 July 2013 at 12:49 |
    Liam, you obviously missed the point about AHA. They are not the victims here. They are not just going about their business. One of their focal points is to destroy the pro live movement. And do not consider themselves an ally of any pro lifer. In fact, pro lifers are their enemies. And they have gone around trying to discredit pro life organisations and leaders. This article is spot on. And T. Russell Hunter is one of the leaders. None of them will listen. Besides trying to destroy the pro life movement, their other main focus is to make money from selling t-shirts, posters and so on through their private limited company.
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 23:05 |
      Thanks, Alyxzandra. Yes, it seems some people (usually the ones in or supportive of AHA) have misinterpreted the article, despite my explaining why I'm writing it in the opening paragraph. It's never easy to hear someone being honest about you, but I wrote because these are things that they need to hear and be aware of. I appreciate your support.
  • Monna

    Monna

    20 July 2013 at 15:07 |
    Well said! In all my conversations with people who may not share my worldview, I seek the common ground between us.

    I, too, follow Christ but actually do not make scripture the basis for my arguments for life, instead focusing on the science that was unavailable at the time Roe vs Wade was passed. However, I am sure my passion for the value of each person flows from my faith in a Creator.

    I appreciate your thoughts on this!
    • Clinton Wilcox

      Clinton Wilcox

      25 July 2013 at 23:09 |
      Thanks, Monna. Ironically, the science *was* there when Roe v. Wade was passed. Unfortunately the Supreme Court was filled with mostly activist judges who wanted abortion to be legal, so relied on very shoddy reasoning (which even pro-choice philosophers have denounced) in order to pass it. Here's a quote from Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood, way back in 1933, regarding the fact that human life begins at fertilization:

      "This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge."
      --Alan Guttmacher, Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation, New York: Viking Press, 1933, p. 3.
  • rhology

    rhology

    22 July 2013 at 14:14 |
    I appreciate your desire to help sharpen and encourage us at AHA. I totally believe you had every intention of doing good to fellow brethren and showing love to your readers and to us, your brothers and sisters in Christ, in writing this article. Thank you for taking the time. We pray you will be greatly blessed with the grace of the Lord Jesus leading to great obedience to His Word.

    If I may, I would like to ask that anyone interested examine our articles that are related to some of the things you have offered on this article.

    Specifically, they would be these:
    http://blog.abolishhumanabortion.com/2013/07/an-abolitionist-parable.html
    http://blog.abolishhumanabortion.com/2013/07/a-response-to-frank-turk-part-i-defense.html
    http://blog.abolishhumanabortion.com/2013/03/immediatism-compromise-and-question-of.html

    I had a few other thoughts as well, but the last thing I want to do is start slinging things back and forth, leaving out the love of Jesus that I know we all want to display.

    Grace and peace,
    Rhology
  • Mac

    Mac

    04 November 2014 at 04:58 |
    The diff is that in the common vernacular "abortion" carries the meaning of deliberately killing the preborn child. Though a caesarean section "aborts" a pregnancy it carries a meaning of trying to preserve the life of the child when it is removed from its mother.
    The police officer's purpose is not to kill the subject, lunatic or criminal, but to cause him to cease and desist threatening, and to prevent the loss of life, though the only practical method available will likely kill the subject. If the subject survives being neutralized the policeman will call the EMTs and try to save his life.
    Not so for the abortionist. If somehow the child manages to survive the abortion procedure, the abortionist may finish it off or abandon it to die. If its life is preserved it will be by someone else; the abortionist has five more "procedures" awaiting.

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