Abortion will not be abolished merely by shutting down abortion mills. There must be more.
Furthermore, being centered on abortion mills alone is not abolitionism. There must be more.
Like I said in my examination of a “church repentless” abolitionism, I do not make these distinctions nor do I call out faux-abolitionism for the sake of “tribal” loyalty, a misplaced fancy for extreme purity, or the desire to promote a certain brand. I want to maintain and defend the meaning of abolitionism because I believe ideas matter. I believe words matter. I believe that abolitionism matters. I believe abolitionism, properly understood, is found within the Scriptures. I believe abolitionism is true. I want to define and defend abolitionism because I love our preborn neighbors, and I love justice, mercy, and truth. If this defence causes division, I pray it is good division based on that love. Even more, I pray that I am able to persuade those who may have bought into a truncated or twisted form of abolitionism. Because it matters.
First, abolitionism is bigger than the emotional appeal that only comes in some cases.
When I see pictures of babies butchered in the womb, my heart breaks for them. It touches me. It is graphic, bloody, and obviously violent. It twists my stomach in knots. I want to look away.
All who profess Christ must acknowledge that a special, unique, and valuable human being is created at fertilization. We affirm that those tiny human beings are created in the Image of God. However, the murder of an innocent Image Bearer of God is not always very graphic. I confess that often those lost lives do not tug on my heartstrings nearly as much. The untold millions of frozen human beings created, dehumanized, experimented upon, and oftentimes murdered because of the IVF industry, do not tug on my heartstrings as they should. The countless murdered pre-implantation because of abortifacient birth control methods aren’t mourned as they should be. The preborn murdered in early pregnancy through various chemical methods aren’t loved as they ought to be. Because they are tiny, and because they do not look anything like me, I do not love them as I ought. Because a part of me is “ageist.” I’m prejudiced. I sympathize with those who look more like me and I often forget those who are too little to look anything like me. God forgive me and change me.
Attempting to shut down abortion mills does nothing in defense of our smallest neighbors. No matter how many horrific acts happen within the walls of a Planned Parenthood Surgical Center, shutting down such a place does not even begin to address the dehumanization and murders that are more likely than not happening in your churches and communities through abortifacient birth control methods and destructive in-vitro-fertilization treatment. God forgive us. Because we are an ageist people, like racists, we often only see equal value in those that look more like us. We need forgiveness. We need the Gospel to transform our hearts and minds in order for us to think rightly about ageism.
There is certainly nothing wrong with shutting down abortion centers, but let me be very clear. Shutting down surgical abortion centers will not, and will never, abolish abortion. The public face of the fight against abortion is woefully limited and often detrimental to abolition. Very often within the prolife community there is an over-emphasizing and focusing on abortion centers and surgical abortion. Of course true abolition will shut down abortion centers, but that is not the same thing as thinking that shutting down mills will abolish abortion altogether. No one should think that I am opposed to shutting down mills. Of course I want them shut down. The problem isn’t with attempting to shut down mills. The problem is with believing that (or more often simply acting as if) the war is solely the battle to shut down mills.
The battle to abolish abortion is primarily spiritual. We are not seeking only the legal abolition of abortion, we are seeking to make it unthinkable by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should know that whenever there is a great market demand for a service or product, the service or product is supplied. Laws do not change that, though they do serve a very important function in declaring God’s Law and establishing justice for those who are victimized. We must strike at the root of the problem, and that is the hearts and minds of the people. This is a Gospel issue because it is a sin issue. Ageism is sin and many abortions flow from it. This is why the language and tactics we use matter greatly. We cannot fight ageism with ageism.
Many within the prolife community do not hold to a technically ageist position in regards to the beginning of valuable life. When asked when life begins, they’d rightly answer that a new life begins at fertilization. However, so much of the rhetoric and tactics are emotionally driven that you get radical inconsistencies. The visually graphic types of abortion are limited and they celebrate this as if abortion was abolished. There are celebrations while abortions by the pill are still sold by the thousands.
There is a dangerous inconsistency between rhetoric and ideology within even the most radical prolife groups. Tag-lines, sloganeering, sound bites, and tactics point to an ageist and incremental position, while the groups formally adopt non-ageist positions on life.
An example of this radical inconsistency in rhetoric is the idea that an American state or city would have a special spiritual significance and potentially receive special blessings when all of the abortion mills within the state or city are shut down. The inconsistency is, of course, that abortion is not abolished when only certain kinds of abortion are abolished.
Some of these groups have a clear policy against ageism, while at the same time they dedicate resources to rhetoric and campaigns that are very much inconsistent with the stated ideals.
The rhetoric and the actions (such as supporting incremental legislation) are in direct conflict with the stated views about the humanity of the preborn. It is an inconsistency between rhetoric and position that is very important because it is our actions and words that will make a difference and affect society. Not official policies.
This matters greatly because we are fighting against a culture of ageism and dehumanization. The rhetoric and tactics we use are significant because they inform the culture and other Christians. Consider the consequences should the logical implications of a campaign to “end abortion” by shutting down an abortion mill was widely embraced by Christianity: Destructive IVF would not by this action be considered abortion. Non-surgical chemical abortions would not be considered abortion. Abortifacient birth control would not be seen as potentially and likely abortion-inducing. The words we use matter.
Abolitionism believes that the struggle to abolish abortion is the struggle to build the Kingdom of God. It is a holistic fight that presupposes God’s sovereign role in history and it sees the problem of abortion as a heart problem. Abolitionism understands that the fight is against a depraved humanistic worldview. Abortion will be abolished when the nations repent and submit to Christ. Abortion will be abolished when the churches repent, reform, and call the nations to repentance. It is not a “clinic” problem. Because of this, many abolitionists spend time ministering at various locations. The proper place for proclaiming God’s Word and boldly speaking for the unborn is wherever people are. The abortion mills are the final lines, not the only line of this fight. We should go to the mills, but we should also understand the shifting nature of this fight.
A tactic of Satan is to sanitize sin. Sin is made to look more appealing and less obviously wicked. What was once visually obvious is now hidden away. The brutality of abortion is being whitewashed and sanitized by the use of technology and market shifts.
To say that closing abortion mills is abolishing abortion is like saying that the closing of Blockbuster is abolishing home movie watching. The market is shifting, and it is shifting dramatically.
Because of better early pregnancy detection, over the counter emergency contraceptives, and the widespread usage of hormonal birth control, the landscape of the fight is shifting. Viscerally gruesome surgeries may be decreasing, but the enemy is still thriving. Child sacrifice is shifting from the overtly gruesome surgical abortions, to early term chemical abortions and pre-implantation abortions.
Because of science and technology, this fight is moving from Blockbuster to Netflix.
This is not a good shift. This is harder to fight. Newer and more common non surgical methods are more difficult to track statistically, and to our own shame, we are waving the flags of victory while the child sacrifice industry transitions from the overt and bloody to the drive-thru line at Walgreens or the private Amazon order.
In short, abortion is changing, but it is not going away. And it will not. Not until the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is faithfully proclaimed by the Church. Not until we stop wasting time patting ourselves on the back for breaking a twig off while we ignore the root. While we dedicate massive amounts of resources to closing down one abortion surgical center at a time by passing legislation regulating hallway widths and health codes, every Walmart, Cosco, Walgreens, and CVS has become an abortion mill. What we are seeing is not a defeat of abortion, but a tactical retreat to other ripe and ample markets. Of course the public relations department at Planned Parenthood will play up how much they are being persecuted and how much danger “reproductive justice” is in, but we should question the honesty of mass murderers. The pro-death soundbites used to lobby for more public sympathy and to drum up fundraising should not be seen as an accurate take on reality.
While we can expect pro-death public relations to be full of deception and self-serving alarmism, those who profess Christ should not parade false victories. When an army strategically retreats to redeploy to other battle lines, the most dangerous thing to do is pretend that you’ve won the battle.
Abortion is not murder because it is bloody and gruesome. It is murder because it is the sinful destruction of the Image of God. Abortion will not be abolished when abortion mills are abolished. We must go all the way.