Momentum: Pro-life panel discusses continued advances for the unborn

Communications Staff — February 18, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Momentum is on the side of the pro-life movement in America, but much work needs to be done, a group of pro-lifers agreed during a discussion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the future of the pro-life movement.

They pointed to polls showing that youth are more pro-life than their parents; to advances in technology that allow a woman to see a movie-like image of her pre-born baby; and to the fact that many pro-choicers are shying away from the term “abortion” altogether.

The seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement sponsored the Feb. 5 event.

“There is a weakening of abortion commitment as a single issue [among pro-choicers]. That comes across survey after survey,” said Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “Every generation from 1973 to the present has been less committed to abortion as a single issue than the generation that has preceded it.”

Joining Mohler on the panel were Richard Land, executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; David McIntosh, former U.S. representative of Indiana’s 2nd District (1994-2000); Terry Schlossberg, executive director of Presbyterians Pro-Life; and Russell D. Moore, head of the Henry Institute and assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary.

Poll numbers showing an ever-decreasing support for legal abortion are “sending a quake of fear into the hearts and a quiver into the spine of the pro-abortion movement in America,” Land said. Most polls, he said, break down as follows: 30 to 40 percent of Americans want to see most abortions banned, while 20 to 25 percent want all abortions legal.

“The battleground is for the people in the middle,” Land said. “… We are slowly but surely winning the struggle for heart and minds in America.”

A report released by the University of California at Berkeley last year found that 44 percent of people ages 15 to 22 support government restrictions on abortion compared to only 27 percent of adults.

“[Young people] understand that they could have been killed if their mother had decided to kill them,” Land said, adding that a “seismic shift” in abortion opinion has occurred in the last 15 years.

Advances in technology have helped the pro-life cause, panelists said, with 4-D ultrasound machines leading the way. Used by many pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in their conversations with women seeking abortions, the 4-D machine allows a pregnant woman to see her pre-born baby up close and in real time. Every tiny detail — including the sucking of the thumb — is visible.

“Medical research has not strengthened the pro-abortion cause,” Mohler said. “… Medical research has become a great impetus for the pro-life movement.

“We understand far more of what takes places in the womb than we ever did before.”

Mohler noted, “When you have the pro-abortionists arguing that it is an imposition on a woman to show her what is taking place in her womb, you know that that is an argument in moral retreat.”

The fact that few physicians are willing to perform abortions is another “great moral victory,” the seminary president said.

The panel drew a parallel between the pro-life movement of the 20th and 21st centuries and the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. Much like those who fought to abolish slavery, pro-lifers are fighting to change public opinion and public policy one step at a time, panelists said.

“Good men and women struggled against a government policy that was wrong and immoral and [that] treated a certain class of people as less than human,” McIntosh said of the abolitionist movement. “They knew it was wrong and they fought against it.”

Similar to the slavery debate, the abortion battle “won’t be won overnight,” McIntosh said. But he pointed to small victories — including the current debate over partial-birth abortion — as positive steps.

“That framed it in the other direction … [and] gave the pro-life position the moral high ground,” McIntosh said. “In order to be against that, you had to be for clearly killing a fetus that would be viable if left on its own. … You couldn’t look at the issue or think about the issue and not reach the conclusion that that’s what it was.”

Mohler agreed.

“We have learned as a pro-life movement how to isolate certain issues to help America understand with clarity the reality of abortion. Every incremental step along these lines is to be celebrated,” he said.

The debate must be framed properly because abortion rights proponents are trying to skew the issue, McIntosh said. From a pro-choice perspective, he said, a pro-lifer’s arguments become “a substitute for a question of whether society [will] allow women to be free to pursue careers in the marketplace.”

“When I would take a pro-life position, [advocates of legal abortion] would be listening to that as, ‘Here’s a male who’s successful in his career [and] he doesn’t want me to have an opportunity to have a career in whatever I may choose to do.’

“We have to be careful and not allow the other side to frame it in those terms.”

The pro-life argument must stay on issue and stress the life of the unborn child, Land said.

“When we’re seeking to legislate against killing unborn babies, we’re not trying to impose our morality on pregnant women,” he said. “We’re trying to keep them from imposing their immorality on their unborn babies.”

While pro-lifers express hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will someday overturn Roe v. Wade, Land has hope that the high court will go one step further and simply reverse it. That, he pointed out, is what happened in 1954 when the Supreme Court issued its Brown vs. Board of Education ruling reversing the 1892 Plessy vs. Ferguson decision. In the Brown case, the high court ruled that separate but equal accommodations for minorities were unconstitutional.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the abortion debate will go back to the states. If reversed, abortion will be made illegal nationwide.

“If we get the right justices … my prayer is that they will reverse Roe, and not [simply] repeal it.”

But pro-lifers must speak the truth in love, panelists said. McIntosh said that love must be expressed toward every individual involved — including the women who have abortions.

“Pray for our opponents,” he said. “ … We have to pray for everyone involved.”

Schlossberg, who heads a pro-life organization seeking to change the policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said all Christians should be involved.

“Where this issue is concerned, your calling applies to the issue,” she said. “You don’t have to depart from your calling to address this issue.”

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