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Why Talk about Abortion?
Years ago a representative of what was then called the National Abortion Rights Action League spoke in a nearby public high school class on the merits of abortion. A student asked the teacher if I could come to present the pro-life position. When I arrived a week later, the pro-choice instructor informed me that his students had voted twenty-three to one for the pro-choice position.
I presented the case for the humanity and rights of unborn children. I showed intrauterine photographs demonstrating the development of the unborn at the earliest stages when abortions are performed. (This is far easier today when ultrasounds so graphically demonstrate what for decades—when there was no window to the womb—pro-choice advocates denied.)
After class, the teacher said to me, "If we were to vote again, the outcome would be different. Minds were changed." Then he added something remarkable, with some sadness in his eyes: "You know, until today I'd never heard the pro-life position."
Our schools pride themselves on being open-minded and providing a fair and fact-oriented education. Yet here was a fifty-five-year-old social science teacher with a master's degree who'd never heard the pro-life position. He had adopted the pro-choice position without scrutiny, and his students had done the same—until they saw and heard the truth.
The Surprising Trend
Not long ago, young people seemed so immersed in moral relativism and tolerance-driven postmodern culture, it appeared they would eventually become uniformly pro-choice. But something happened. Now, surprisingly, more young people than their parents oppose abortion.
A 2003 Gallup survey of teenagers found that 72 percent believed abortion was morally wrong. Only 19 percent believed abortion should be legal in all circumstances, compared to 26 percent of adults. About 32 percent of teens, compared to 17 percent of adults, thought abortion should never be permitted.
This was confirmed by a subsequent national poll, and evidenced by larger numbers of teenagers participating in the national March for Life. By 2010, Gallup updated their survey with the headline "The New Normal on Abortion: Americans More 'Pro-Life,'" and in 2011 their polling revealed that by a 24 percent margin (61 to 37) Americans want most or all of abortions to be illegal.
Youth webzines such as The Advocate and youth-activist organizations have reported a sharp rise in teen/young adult opposition to abortion. They have also been very instrumental in informing the general public about the dangers associated with abortion. Contemporary websites reach out to young women, encouraging them to choose life. Many young people are refusing to accept their culture's defense of abortion.
In Why Pro-Life? I'll present factual and compassionate reasons that explain and validate this movement away from the so-called pro-choice stance to a pro-life perspective.
The Defining Issue of Our Age
Abortion is America's most frequently performed surgery on women. The Guttmacher Institute, a polling agency for the abortion industry, reports that four out of every ten pregnancies are ended by abortion. There are about 1.21 million reported abortions in the United States every year, down about 8 percent since 2000.
Virtually every family, at some level, has been touched by abortion.
The stakes in this issue are extraordinarily high. If the pro-choice position is correct, the freedom to choose abortion is a basic civil right. If the pro-life position is correct, human casualties from the 3,315 surgical abortions occurring in America (not even counting chemical abortions, some of them from contraceptives) every day total more than all lives lost in the September 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center.
A recent Gallup poll indicated 27 percent of Americans say they are very strongly pro-choice, while 22 percent say they are very strongly pro-life. Taken together, that means 49 percent of Americans hold a strong view on abortion, either for or against. The other 51 percent are not as firm in their opinions. However, even these "uncertain" mostly believe that "abortion is morally wrong" and 39 percent of them favor restrictions in all but a select few circumstances. Hence, the majority of Americans still value life and can still be influenced in their thinking about abortion.
A Christian Perspective
Some Christian readers may think, "This book isn't for us—we don't have abortions, un-churched people do." In fact, 43 percent of women obtaining abortions identify themselves as Protestant, and 27 percent identify themselves as Catholic. So two-thirds of America's abortions are obtained by those with a Christian affiliation. One of every five US abortions—about a quarter-million a year—are performed on women who identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.
Many church-attending women, younger and older, have had abortions. Many church-attending men got those women pregnant and either pressured, encouraged, or at least agreed with the mother to abort their children.
The abortion issue isn't about the church needing to speak to the world. It's about the church needing to speak to itself first, and then to the world.
Though I'm a Christian, I don't make many arguments from the Bible in the main body of this book. (I've done that elsewhere, and also deal with Scripture in this book's appendices.) The case I present is grounded in medical science and reliable psychological studies. These sources should be as credible to any truth-respecting agnostic or atheist as they are to Christians.
I'm a strong believer in women's rights. I have the deepest respect for my wife and my daughters, whom we raised to respect themselves and to be grateful God made them female. I don't want to understate the trauma women have gone through in making abortion-related decisions. No one understands suffering like Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and truth. Chapter 19 on finding God's forgiveness is one I need as much as anyone.
This book presents facts and logic, infused with grace and compassion, that can help us root our beliefs in reality.
My Request of Readers
If you are pro-choice and reading a book titled Why Pro-Life? then good for you. I hope this means you have an open mind. If the pro-life side proves to be as senseless and irrational as you may have been led to believe, fine, you can give it the firsthand rejection it deserves. But if it proves to be sensible, then I encourage you to rethink your position.
If you're one of the 50 percent who are on the fence, with mixed feelings, I ask you to make this book part of your quest for truth. You can hear the pro-choice position anywhere—just turn on a TV or read the newspaper. But unless you read or listen to other viewpoints more widely than most people, this book may be your only opportunity to examine the pro-life position.
If you are pro-life, I also ask you to think through your position. It isn't good enough to say, "I know I'm right, but I'm not sure why." We should base our beliefs on the evidence. If we're wrong on any point, by all means let's revise our position. If we're right, we need to learn how to intelligently and graciously inform others.
One thing is certain: If abortion really does kill children and harm women, then there's too much at stake to remain silent and do nothing.CHAPTER 2
Pro-Woman or Pro-Child?
My wife and I became involved in pro-life work out of concern for women who'd been devastated by abortion. In 1981 we opened our home to a pregnant teenage girl. I served on the board of one of the first pregnancy centers on the West Coast, with the objective of offering help and abortion-alternatives to pregnant women who were needy, confused, and desperate.
As time went on, I became involved in pro-life education, political action, and peaceful nonviolent intervention outside abortion clinics. Some pro-life ministries focus more on saving unborn children, others more on helping pregnant women. I found both kinds of efforts to be vitally necessary and completely compatible.
The Movement You May Not Know
Countless myths have been attached to the pro-life movement. One example is the oft-repeated statement, "Pro-lifers don't really care about pregnant women, or about children once they're born." A television reporter, with cameras rolling, approached me at a pro-life event and asked for my response to that accusation. I said, "Well, my wife and I opened our home to a pregnant girl and paid her expenses while she lived with us. We supported her when she decided to give up the child for adoption. And, since you asked, we give a substantial amount of our income to help poor women and children."
Then I introduced her to a pastor friend standing next to me who, with his wife, had adopted nineteen children, a number of them with Down syndrome and other special needs. The reporter signaled the cameraman to stop filming. I asked if she wanted to interview my friend. She shook her head and moved on, looking for someone who matched her stereotype of the pro-lifer who doesn't care about children once they're born.
The truth is, thousands of pro-life organizations around the country and throughout the world provide free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, counseling, support groups, childcare classes, financial management education, babysitting, diapers, children's clothes, and housing. To these, add tens of thousands of churches donating time, money, food, house repairs, and every other kind of help to needy pregnant women, single mothers, and low-income families. Countless pro-lifers adopt children, open their homes, and volunteer to help children after they're born. Together, I am convinced these efforts actually comprise the single largest grassroots volunteer movement in history.
While those who offer abortions charge women for them, those who offer abortion alternatives give their assistance freely, lovingly, and almost entirely behind the scenes. Contrary to some caricatures, these people are not just pro-birth—they are truly pro-life. They care about a child and her mother, and help them both before birth and after.
Our National Schizophrenia
Despite the split among those calling themselves pro-choice and pro-life, well over two-thirds of Americans say they believe abortion is "morally wrong." Some pro-life advocates believe this means it's no longer necessary to argue that the unborn is human or that abortion is wrong. Instead, our emphasis should be on helping women see that abortion isn't in their best interests. I emphatically agree we should help women.
Yet many women still believe that as bad as abortion may be, it is the lesser of evils, a better alternative than having a baby, raising a child, or surrendering a child for adoption.
We must show the men and women indoctrinated to believe abortion is the best choice, that while the alternatives are challenging, only abortion kills an innocent person. Precisely because it does so, it has by far the most negative consequences in a woman's life.
Many of the same people who believe unborns are human and that abortion is immoral nonetheless choose to have abortions and defend abortion as legitimate. This proves they don't believe abortion is immoral in the same way that killing a three-month-old or a three-day-old is immoral.
Polls also indicate that many of the same people who believe abortion is immoral believe it should remain legal. This is odd. After all, surely they believe rape, kidnapping, child abuse, and murder are immoral—but they wouldn't argue that rape and murder should be legal. This demonstrates a fundamental difference between what they mean by rape and murder being "immoral" and abortion being "immoral."
No one who considers a preborn child a full-fledged person can rationally defend abortion's legality unless they also defend legalizing the killing of other human beings. After all, every argument for abortion that appeals to a mother's inconvenience, stress, and financial hardship can be made just as persuasively about her two-year-old, her teenager, her husband, or her parents. In many cases older children are more expensive and place greater demands on their mother than an unborn child. People immediately recognize those arguments as invalid when it comes to killing older children. So why not the unborn?
Women often say that when they got abortions they had no idea who was inside them. Some knew subconsciously they were carrying a child, but they latched on to dehumanizing pro-choice rhetoric that doesn't call an unborn baby a baby, but a "product of conception," an embryo, fetus, and sometimes even that old unscientific propaganda "blob of tissue."
Having discovered their mistake after their abortions, these women now profoundly regret being misled by abortion clinics who reassured them of what was untrue. They think of what they did as temporary insanity, usually enabled by their well-intentioned but misguided friends or family. They wish someone would have tried to talk them out of the choice that now haunts them. One woman, sobbing with guilt and regret, said to me, "I prayed that if I shouldn't get an abortion just one person would be standing outside the clinic when I came, to try to talk me out of it. But no one was there."
We should love and care for pregnant women who feel pressured toward abortion. We should also love women who've had abortions, and do all we can to help them recover from abortion's trauma.
The False Dichotomy
It's never in anyone's best interests to kill a child. It's not just the child who suffers, it's her mother.
Precisely because the unborn is a child, the consequences of killing him are severe. It's the identity of the first victim, the child, that brings harm to the second victim, the mother. That's why we need to begin our treatment of abortion by focusing on the true identity of the unborn.CHAPTER 3
Are the Unborn Really Human Beings?
Pro-choice advocates once commonly stated, "It's uncertain when human life begins; that's a religious question that cannot be answered by science." Most have abandoned this position because it's contradicted by decades of scientific evidence. However, this out-of-date belief is so deeply engrained in our national psyche that it's still widely believed.
Throughout history the words fertilization and conception have often been used interchangeably. Both referred to that time when egg and sperm joined into a single unified cell. Fertilization was the process by which the sperm penetrated the ovum. Conception was the outcome in which twenty-three chromosomes from a sperm cell joined with twenty-three chromosomes from an ovum to form a single unique life with its own distinctive DNA.
Political battles have long been fought over these two words, precisely because winning propaganda wars depends on semantic manipulation. Back in 1963 and 1965 pro-choice advocates within the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sought to normalize, or strip away the great historic resistance to, the notion of medically killing unborn children.
The promotion of "therapeutic abortion" (note the semantics of labeling killing as therapeutic) involved redefining the word conception. Rather than refer to the most immediate outcome of the fertilization process (usually within the first twenty-four hours of sperm-to-egg penetration), they determined to begin using "conception" to refer to a point at which the unborn child is approximately seven to eight days old.
What was once a process called "nidation" or "implantation" was, without public discourse, henceforth systematically referred to as "conception."
By using a word associated with the very beginning of life but referring to a point several days later in time, ACOG confused and desensitized not only the public, but even its medical colleagues.
Excerpted from Why Pro-Life? by Randy Alcorn. Copyright © 2012 Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC.
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Posted September 27, 2014