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What’s the Difference Between Pro-Life and Abolitionists?

I want to talk this week on the podcast about the end of abortion in the United States, and I want to talk about it by discussing the differences and similarities between the pro-life and the abolition movements. I am recording this podcast about a week before it’ll drop. You’re listening to this on Monday, June 27. I’m recording this podcast several days before that, and as I sit here recording, it is still uncertain what the final decision of the Supreme Court is going to be about abortion and overturning Roe V. Wade. Everyone seems encouraged and optimistic about that, and I am certainly prayerful about it. If when you hear this, we now know that Roe V. Wade has been overturned, then I want to be leading the celebration on that, but right now today, I don’t know that we don’t know where it is. I want to talk about first the pro-life movement because the progress that we have made in this country to get to a point where abortion is unthinkable and unheard of, and illegal. That progress has been made by the pro-life movement. I am an honored member and participant in the pro-life movement, underneath my commitment to preach the Good News of Jesus and the inerrant and authoritative word of God. This is one of the chief commitments of my life to do whatever I can to be a part of ending abortion, and I am proud to partner with the pro-life movement in doing that.

The Pro-Life Movement

The pro-life movement is a very sophisticated movement. When you think about it, it’s a multi-pronged effort to end abortion. It’s not just one thing. It’s several things. There is first the intellectual leadership that the pro-life movement has engaged in. These are books and podcasts and articles and arguments and think tanks trying to protect life from conception. These are sophisticated intellectual leaders who are advancing these arguments, and we’re thankful for that. Another prong is crisis pregnancy centers. These are places where women who are abortion-minded and dads who are abortion-minded can go and get help and find a way forward, they can see pictures of their baby, and those crisis pregnancy centers across the country have saved countless millions of lives. There is adoption. Christians have been at the forefront of the adoption movement. Pro-lifers have been at the forefront of the adoption movement in saying, hey, let’s put our families where our mouth is. We don’t want to just oppose abortion; we want to embrace adoption. Fourth, there has been protest and persuasion. Christians have protested at abortion centers; there’s a certain kind of protest that is really, really good. There’s also a kind of protest that’s wicked, and I don’t want to endorse that. But many of us have stood in front of abortion clinics and pled with women to desist from what they were thinking of doing. On the other end of that, there’s been persuasion. Many of us have sat in living rooms and offices and homes and pled with women and pled with men to choose life. The fifth prong is supporting legislation that would reduce abortion. These are like the fetal heartbeat laws and the fetal pain laws, and viability laws that seek to push the line back as far as possible to save as many lives as we can. And then a six prong has been another legal one where we have sought to influence placement on not just the Supreme Court of the United States, but Supreme Courts and courts across the country. Where we have sought to amend state constitutions and the Constitution of the United States to make sure that abortion is completely outlawed in this country, and it’s completely stated to be so. Those are six different prongs, six different manifestations of a very sophisticated pro-life movement that has had a lot of wins over the decades. It hasn’t solved the complete problem of abortion in this country, but there’s been a lot of wins, and we were in a better place today in 2022. And certainly, we were in 1973 because of a sophisticated effort on the part of pro-lifers.

The Abolitionists

But lately, there has been a group of people that have set themselves up against the pro-life movement. These are faithful, committed Christians as well, but they’ve set themselves up against the pro-life movement, and they call themselves abolitionists. The abolitionists say that we are the ones who are for ending abortion immediately. And we don’t want any compromise on this. We want it to stop right now. And the insertion in the awareness of a new movement called abolition that sets itself against pro-life has created some confusion among Christians. I want to talk for the next few minutes about some similarities and differences between pro-lifers and abolitionists and talk about the way forward for faithful Christians.

First, let’s talk about the similarities. Pro-lifers and abolitionists both agree that our ultimate authority is God. Our ultimate authority is the Bible. No human being, no human authority, no human ruler, leader, or no human court has the ability to contravene the authority of God and the Bible. When God says it when the Bible says that that’s the way it is, and we may not compromise with a lesser authority. Pro-lifers and abolitionists have that in common. A second similarity is ultimately, we all believe that the good news of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed to ultimately change this problem. What we need, ultimately, is not fewer abortions. What we need is no abortion and, ultimately, to get to know abortion that doesn’t require laws and amendments. It doesn’t require protest. It doesn’t require persuasion; it requires a new heart. We all agree that the Gospel must be proclaimed so that men and women would turn from their sins and love God and love his Christ and therefore love life. A third similarity is that life begins at conception. This is a biblical truth and a scientific truth. When an egg is fertilized, a new entity begins, and that entity is life that is stamped with the image of God, and that life is to be protected from that moment until natural death. A fourth similarity is that abortion is murder. Whenever you take a life, whether that life is at the beginning, with a fetus with a fertilized egg, or whether that life has been taken at the end of life with an elderly person, it is murder to take a life. It is the Lord who brings about life, and it is the Lord who brings about death. We have to trust him with that and never seek to take it into our hands. And when we do, we’re guilty of murder and the sin of murder. Fifth, similarity is the laws of the land, and our country should reflect that. And actually, we agree the laws of the land do reflect that. We have a constitution that, first of all, never mentions abortion, it never allows abortion, and we have a constitution that gives equal protection to every human being. And that equal protection extends to weak and silent human beings in the womb from the moment of conception. So, we actually have a constitution in this country that really, really does reflect the biblical order. And that is the law of the land; whether anybody agrees with it or not, whether the Supreme Court says it or not, that is the law of the land. Because that law of the land agrees with our ultimate authority of God in the Bible. We’re thankful for that. And we agree on that together, pro-lifers and abolitionists. The sixth and final similarity that I’ll talk about is that we really all do hate abortion. And we really do want it to end. As a pro-life man myself who knows a lot of other pro-lifers and knows a lot of other abolitionists, I can tell you we all agree, we all hate abortion. We all want it to end. Everybody wants to do everything we can to stop this and to stop it now. Those are the similarities, but there are some differences.

The Differences

The differences are actually a lot fewer than the similarities, but they wind up being really important as, especially as far as abolitionists are concerned. Abolitionists do not just oppose abortion, but abolitionists also oppose the pro-life movement. The reason abolitionists oppose the pro-life movement has to do with just one of the things that pro-life does. I talked about the multiple prongs of the pro-life approach to ending abortion, intellectual leadership and crisis pregnancy centers and adoption and protest and persuasion and supporting legislation reducing abortion and influencing Supreme Court’s, and getting constitutional amendments. The problem that abolitionists have with pro-lifers is specifically the support that pro-lifers give to legislation reducing abortion. Abolitionists really do not like fetal heartbeat laws and pain laws, and viability laws. When pro-lifers support those laws, abolitionists view them as part of the problem, and they seek to oppose them. That is a really big deal for abolitionists, this compromise, as they see it. I want to say that I don’t see it as a compromise. As one who has supported those fetal heartbeat laws and those pain laws, and those viability amendments, I do not see that as compromise whenever I have supported those things. Whenever I have stood vocally to put my support behind those things, I have said, I am for this, I am not for excusing abortion, in any context, I want more than this. But this is a step in the right direction that I am happy to take. And I’m happy to take it because of what the Bible says. In Proverbs 24:11, we have a command, and the command is “rescue those who are being taken away to death, hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” That’s a command in the Bible that we have to obey; I am not allowed to be presented with the opportunity to save some lives and say, no, I won’t do it. So, when fetal heartbeat laws come up, and when pain laws come up, and when viability laws come up, I am not allowed to see the opportunity to save lives and say, no, I’ve got this principle, that it’s all or nothing, that it’s only abolition, and that’s it. And if you won’t give me that, then I won’t take this. What that would do would be to look at actual babies, actual lives, who would be spared, and say, no, I’m not saving you, I won’t. If I can’t have everything, I won’t save you. That, I believe, is a sin. That is wrong. And I’m not going to be a part of that.

Let me give you an analogy. Let’s say that we were alive in World War Two; we were alive in Nazi Germany, where there was this rule that the Jews had to be erased. They had to be exterminated. And there’s a knock at your door. And someone is standing there with three Jewish women. And they needed safety, and they needed shelter before they got carried away to a concentration camp. And they said, would you help? You would not say, no, I won’t help you because I think this is wrong. And if I protect you, then I am giving credence to the murder of all the people that I can’t protect. And so, I’m only going to be involved in ending this for everybody. Or I’m not going to be involved in ending it for anybody. You would not do that. You would not look at the lives of three precious people and say, no, you would, in that moment, take what you could get. And you would say I think the whole thing is wrong. But right now, I have the opportunity to save these three and not everybody. And so, I’m going to save these three in obedience to our supreme authority, the Bible. That’s the way it is with these fetal heartbeat laws. That’s the way it is with these pain laws and all the rest. We are not allowed to see the opportunity to save some and say no because we can’t have it at all. When we take what we can get, we should be clear; we should be open and honest that this is not enough. And we want more. And we’re not going to stop fighting until we have it all, but we can’t say no to actual babies that we could save.

The Way Forward

What’s the way forward? Well, listen, if the Supreme Court does indeed strike down Roe V. Wade, our battle is just beginning. Now we finally have the opportunity, state by state, district by district, to really eradicate to really abolish abortion in this country. That’s when the fight really begins. Because that’s true, here’s what I’m going to say, I refuse to fight about this. I’m doing this podcast so that people kind of know where the lines are. But I refuse to fight about this. I know abolitionists. They’re abolitionists in my church. I have had these conversations with them. And I’m saying, look, I’m not going to fight with you about this. We don’t need more enemies on this fight. Our enemy is the folks who want abortion. It’s not those of us who want to stop it. Look, we’re going to have disagreements about tactics and strategies. But we don’t need to question one another’s hearts. We don’t need to question one another’s motivation. We need to worship the Lord together and just say, hey, look, we’re both pursuing the same goal. You might have your way, and I might have my way, but I am not fighting about this. And I want to encourage you not to fight about this as well. Here’s the second thing. My commitment is I will do anything righteous to stop any abortion and to stop all abortions. If you give me a righteous path to stop any abortion and all abortion, I’ll follow it. I’m on your team. So we can work together. We can have the same goal. We’ll do anything righteous to stop any abortion and all abortions. We can fight together on this, and my goodness, no matter what the Supreme Court does, we have a big fight ahead of us to end abortion in this country, and we need each other.