Logic is a funny thing. When you’re convinced of something in your heart, you can disregard it without a second thought. Unfortunately, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)
I experienced the fruits of that deceitfulness in spades over the last week, as my wife and I (along with our four children) traveled down to Wichita to participate in the “Abolitionists Rising” conference. I use the word “participate” very intentionally there, as this was not your typical conference. Rather than packing the schedule out with celebrity speakers, each day was centered around getting the more than 250 people who attended out on the streets to plead for the lives of our unborn neighbors. The group spent time flyering the entire city, marching across the city to an abortion mill, engaging with students on the campus of Wichita State University, and engaging the broader public on the streets of downtown Wichita.
To be clear, I haven’t always been an abolitionist. For years, I fought the good pro–life fight, arguing for legislation that promised less killing, and making abortion less accessible. Certainly the people who were leading the movement were making good, logical conclusions about common sense incremental laws, right?
That all changed when, in May of last year, seventy-six pro-life organization leaders threw common sense out the window and signed a letter that stated unequivocally that “women are victims of abortion” and that they “will continue to oppose legislative and policy initiatives that criminalize women who seek abortions.” The problem isn’t simply that the letter was drafted and signed, but rather that it was drafted and signed specifically to shut down a bill that would have accomplished the goal of establishing equal rights for our unborn neighbors in LA HB 813.
At the time, I drafted a hasty response to an article by Denny Burk that defended this position (which was itself an article in response to Tom Ascol’s musings on the subject). I admit that this article was somewhat juvenile–though I was quite proud of it at the time–because I had not yet really dived into the logical and theological issues surrounding abolitionism. All I knew was that the position taken by the pro-life establishment was biblically indefensible, and logically unjustifiable, and I had to say something. Since then, I’ve come to understand much more about the abolitionist position, and am willing to claim the mantle for myself.
So we attended the conference, unsure what to expect, and found a group of men and women who are passionate yet kind, frustrated yet measured, unapologetically opposed to “pro-life” measures, and logically incisive.
One of the things that you learn very quickly when evangelizing with a group like Abolitionists Rising is that pro-aborts have no logical ground to stand on. If the students on the campus of Wichita State University were in a Debate 101, rather than in simple conversation on the campus quad, they’d fail spectacularly.
One documented example of this came when a student attempted to argue with Russell Hunter (director of Abolitionists Rising) that a zygote was not a human. A quick web search revealed that the zygote is labeled as the first stage in human development. The beginning of life. But instead of accepting that this particular ground had been lost, the student stood firm as the argument dissolved under his feet.
Another student (who I really enjoyed conversing with, and was a very kind young man) attempted to pose an ethical concern to me, asking me what would happen if my wife were to get pregnant, but aborted the baby against my wishes. How would I handle such an occasion? But the argument isn’t about what any one person would or would not do given certain accidentals. It’s about whether or not the baby growing inside a mother’s body has the same rights and protections as anyone else. Would I turn my wife in? I don’t know. But I should be able to, because the taking of innocent human life is murder, and should be criminalized.
Wesley Russell, of Abolish Abortion Kentucky, was preaching the Gospel on the streets of downtown Wichita, when a young woman asked him about the case of a young girl who is raped and becomes pregnant. Wesley, pointedly, said that they should keep the baby, because “we don’t punish the child for the sins of the father,” and that we should “go after the rapist instead.” The retort from the young woman (via megaphone, after angrily walking away) asked “what about the kid she has to carry?” When Wesley responded that “that’s a human,” she loudly proclaimed “yea, oh well, f*** them kids!” to the cheers of nearby satanists and antifa, who had traveled from Kansas City and elsewhere to oppose our efforts.
But this is all to be expected. We know that we have no common ground with the unbeliever, which is why we pray, first and foremost, for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of our interlocutors, and why the Gospel goes forth in nearly every conversation. It doesn’t surprise us when they can live in inconsistency, because we know that they spend their entire lives suppressing the truth about God, their sin, and their ultimate duty to bend the knee to Christ.
On the other hand, we don’t expect this kind of logical inconsistency to hold up among our Christian brothers and sisters. And yet, it does. Just like the shifting sands that pro-choice advocates stand on, the arguments of the pro-life industry waste away under a small dose of objectivity. Improper (or at the very least, improperly qualified) designations of victimhood, culpability, and moral responsibility are combined with a poor understanding of the abolitionist position to produce arguments that are incongruous and inaccurate, often to the point of sinful misrepresentation.
Bart Barber, one of the leading advocates of the pro-life position, is no stranger to these conversations, especially on his Twitter account. In his interactions on the site with leading abolitionist voices, he has consistently posed problematic arguments that do not stand up under any sort of scrutiny. In an article written for the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission), Barber makes several arguments that do not properly utilize a biblical framework regarding human fallenness and moral responsibility. I will not take the time to critique the article here, as that has already been done admirably by Bradley Pierce and Wesley Russell.
The arguments from the pro-life camp boil down to two things: emotionalism and pragmatism.
Abolitionists unapologetically argue for the prosecution of women who seek abortions under the proposed legislation. The pro-life industry’s argument against that concept is entirely emotional. The very identification of the woman as a “second victim” (oftentimes the “first” victim, if you really pay attention to their rhetoric) is an emotional argument with no bearing in reality. A woman who hires a hitman to kill her husband so that she can pursue a different life is morally and ethically no different than a woman who hires an abortionist to kill her baby for the same reason. In fact, the very thought that the woman who made this decision is simply a victim actually infantilizes women, and further trains the culture to believe that women do not bear moral responsibility for their actions. Taking this stance actively pushes the culture further away from the truth, and removes the opportunity to preach a Gospel of repentance to women who have sought abortions.
Pragmatism is equally problematic within the pro-life argument. Why do Christian leaders who adopt the pro-life position continue to argue for it even when the flaws in its logic have been elucidated? Because they believe that even if the solution isn’t the best solution (or more importantly, the most God-honoring solution), it still must be the one that is most likely to gain ground given the current situation. This is the definition of pragmatism, and abolitionists refuse to allow it as acceptable reasoning. Do we, as Christians, really want to stand before God and say that we stood up for unjust laws because the world was able to stomach them? What does light have to do with darkness?
At the end of the day, it comes back to what I said at the start. It’s easy to disregard logic when your deceitful heart is convinced of something. Ultimately, this is why both pro-aborts and pro-lifers are able to sidestep biblical arguments made by abolitionists across the country. Praise God, He has raised up legislators in many states who are able to cut through the nonsensical arguments made by those groups and are championing abolitionist bills. May God grant them favor and may abortion be abolished in our nation.