Friendly Fire in the Abortion Showdown

First, let’s recap:

The Texas legislature decides to consider a bill that would (a) restrict the killing of babies once the mom is in her fifth month of pregnancy and (b) apply the same health and safety standards to abortion clinics that are enforced against every other ambulatory surgical clinic in the state.

Naturally, the death lobby immediately labels these proposals “draconian” and starts regurgitating their “war on women” rhetoric. Then, they begin flying in abortion enthusiasts from around the country to join the fight. Of course, everyone involved knew that they didn’t have the votes to prevent passage and that their only hope was to keep the measure from being voted on. So right on cue, a morally bankrupt state senator slithers out of Ft. Worth and volunteers to stage a filibuster.

Meanwhile, the gallery had been packed with pro-choice thugs who, by now, were practically foaming at the mouth. When the filibuster failed, these people went into “mob-rule” mode in a sleazy effort to postpone the vote until the clock ran out on the special session. Contrary to their claim that this was a spontaneous uprising by concerned citizens, it was apparent that their plan was both highly-orchestrated and well-funded. In the end, they were successful in making sure that the legislation didn’t pass until after time had expired.

With that, the abortion lobby’s blood-lust was satiated and they scurried back under the baseboards. But as it turns out, they had only won a battle – they had not won the war. Governor Rick Perry immediately called another special session and it is generally acknowledged that the death merchants will not be able to stage their little dog-and-pony show for a second time. Right now, even the abortion lobby is predicting passage.

However, there is a problem that could still rear its ugly head: pro-life infighting.

Already, there are activists within the movement saying that this bill should be rejected because it contains exceptions that allow for abortions under certain conditions. Some are going so far as to say that they might actually work against it.

Win, lose or draw, what’s happening here in Texas should serve as a wake-up call for the pro-life movement nationwide. Make no mistake, this sort of thing has sabotaged anti-abortion legislation on many occasions in many states. The reality is, while the pro-life forces in every state legislature may not have the same opportunities as those in Texas, whatever opportunities they do have can be wiped out by pettiness, egos and turf-battles.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: there will be no defense for the pro-life movement if we allow that to happen.

Before going any further, let’s recognize that the term “pro-life” is grounded in the biological reality that (a) human life begins at the moment a woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm, and that (b) every human being is entitled to have his or her life protected by law from that moment forward.

But we also know that this position is often compromised or watered-down for political expediency or in a misguided effort to appear “reasonable.” Most commonly, you’ll hear people say that they are pro-life but that there should be exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life or health, when the pregnancy resulted from either rape or incest, or when the unborn child is handicapped. Some people – especially politicians – will even claim to be pro-life while openly stating that abortion should be legal without any restrictions during the first trimester.

To see how illogical these positions are, simply paraphrase them. For example, the statement, “I am pro-life, but I think there should be an exception when the pregnancy was the result of rape” should become, “I am pro-life, but it should be legal to butcher babies who were conceived in rape.” Other paraphrased positions would be, “I am pro-life, but it should be legal to butcher babies with Down’s syndrome” and “I am pro-life, but it is okay to butcher babies in their first trimester of life.”

Every exception can be paraphrased to more accurately reflect what is actually being said. In doing so, it becomes clear that there is no such position as “pro-life with exceptions.” By definition, it is impossible to accurately label someone pro-life who approves killing certain groups of children. It is as illogical as someone in 1860 saying, “I am against slavery but I think that, in some circumstances, it should be legal for one person to own another.”

Remember, the legitimate pro-life position is that a 10-week-old unborn child is morally equivalent to, and has the same right to life as, a five-year-old born child. When someone says they are pro-life but that abortion should be allowed in some circumstances, the question is whether they would support killing a five-year-old in those same circumstances. If he or she does not take that position, the only logical conclusion is that they don’t see born and unborn children as morally equal. In other words, they are not pro-life.

The bottom line is, when someone takes the “pro-life with exceptions” position, what they are saying is that they support the “choice” to kill some babies (those conceived in rape, those who are handicapped, etc.) but oppose the “choice” to kill other babies. Given that, the only honest way to define their position is “pro-choice with exceptions.”

That brings us to the issue of legislation. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to point out that I am not, and have never been, an advocate of the incremental approach to pro-life legislation. I continue to believe that if, from day one, we had forced the American people to choose between absolute unrestricted abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy or no abortion under any circumstances at any time, we would have won by now. I am also concerned that the wording in some incremental legislation could be interpreted by a future court as establishing a right to abortion in state law.

Having said that, I am alarmed at the growing level of animosity between the so-called “purists” like me and those who believe in the incremental approach to legislation. I am also concerned that most of the acrimony seems to be coming from people on my side of the debate.

This controversy centers around the question of whether a pro-life individual or organization that supports legislation to prohibit some killings but allow others is a sell-out? For example, should the pro-life movement back a law that would prohibit abortions except in the cases of rape, incest and when the pregnancy threatens the mother’s life? This is the kind of argument that has plagued our movement for years. It is also the main source of the infighting and turf-wars that have destroyed so many worthwhile pro-life initiatives.

It seems that the resolution of this conflict resides in a better understanding of the distinction between the words “support” and “advocacy.”

Any group or individual that advocates legislation that would permit the legal killing of even one unborn baby, over a bill that allows for no exceptions, has no right to call themselves pro-life. However, in the legislative process, the choice is seldom between a pure bill and a bill with exceptions. Instead, in almost every case, the option is either a bill with exceptions or no bill at all.

In that situation, the support of an exceptions bill is not the same as advocating it, as long as it is made absolutely clear that the moment a bill is in place that saves some babies, we will not lose one minute in returning to the battlefield to save the others.

A good analogy is seen in the legislative efforts to end America’s epidemic of drunk driving. When those who fight this battle lobby for legislation to reduce the legal blood/alcohol level from .1 to .08, they are not advocating that people be allowed to drive with a blood/alcohol level of .08. Their principle and their goal is the same as it has always been. That is, people should not be allowed to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system. However, they support the .08 standard because they have concluded that it is the most they can get at the time. As soon as it is signed into law, they will be back at work trying to lower it even further. That is the distinction between support and advocacy.

Several years ago, there was a movie about a wealthy Catholic businessman who helped save Jews from being sent to the Nazi death camps. His name was Oskar Schindler and the movie was called Schindler’s List. The title came from the fact that Mr. Schindler kept a list of people he thought it would be possible for him to help. In the end, he was able to rescue more than 1,100 people. But until his death in 1974, he was haunted by the fact that he had to choose between those he could save and those he could not.

The lesson in this for us is that, when Schindler left someone’s name off his list, he was not saying that it was okay to kill them. He was simply saying that he couldn’t save them. In a sense, Mr. Schindler was like the police commander who is dealing with a hostage situation in which a terrorist group has taken thirty people captive. If he is shown a plan to get ten of the hostages out right now, that is what he is going to do. And as soon as that’s done, he will go about saving the remaining twenty. His commitment will always be that every hostage is as valuable as every other hostage, but he is not going to let blind allegiance to that philosophy prevent him from doing what is possible when it is possible.

Although they may not have thought about it in these terms, the pro-life movement already understands and accepts the concept that the good should not become the enemy of the perfect. For example, the people who work at pro-life crisis pregnancy centers or do sidewalk counseling in front of abortion clinics, know that they will never be able to save every baby. It is simply a fact of life that, given the nature of the environments in which they operate, their success rate will be relatively small. But their inability to save all the babies does not prevent them from trying to save the babies they can. And no one in the pro-life movement criticizes them or questions their integrity over the ones they had no choice but to leave behind.

For pro-life political operatives who are attacked for proposing incremental legislation, this seems like a double standard. Most will tell you that they want to protect all the babies but, until that is possible, they will protect the ones they can. The question is: if “unpure” legislation is the only thing possible at a given moment, how is supporting it – without advocating it – different than what goes on in a crisis pregnancy center or on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic?

The answer is: it probably isn’t different. Although I am, philosophically, in the “purist” camp, I cannot agree that supporting legislation to protect some babies until you can do better makes one a sell-out to the pro-life principle.

The reason this conflict has festered for so long is the same reason pro-lifers get involved in the first place: we care. We also understand what the consequences of losing would be.

Another contributing factor is our realization that this is not some ivory-tower debate in which adversaries graciously joust while wearing plaid smoking jackets with elbow patches. As demonstrated by the Texas state senator and her goons in the gallery, this is a street fight against amoral degenerates who are perfectly willing to lie and cheat and wallow in the filthiest cesspool in order to keep their death camps churning out corpses.

So while the tension that exists within the pro-life ranks between those who say, “all or nothing” and those who say, “all or something” is understandable, perhaps even natural, we must not let it become a powder keg that explodes into a pro-life civil war. The most important thing for us to keep in mind is that we are winning. Public opinion is now favoring our position in numbers never seen before; young people are now the fastest growing segment of the pro-life movement; and the abortion clinics continue to close on an almost daily basis. In fact, since 1992, approximately two-thirds of the abortion clinics in America have shut down permanently.

The fact that we are winning is so undeniable that even many abortion defenders have begun openly saying so. But if we give into these internecine conflicts with each other, we will destroy everything we have gained over the last 40 years. That is something the unborn cannot afford and we cannot justify.

If we truly want to stop this holocaust, regardless of any legitimate misgivings we might have about our allies’ approach to legislation, we must resolve to never challenge their motives or commitment. Moreover, to actually work against them would be unconscionable. As long as their ultimate mission is to provide legal protection for every child from the moment of fertilization, and as long as they are joining us in the sacrifices necessary to make that happen, they are our brothers and sisters in the battle. And that is how they deserve to be treated.