A Response to Nicholas Kristof’s “Complicated” Pro-Abortion Position

Nicholas Kristof wrote this opinion piece for the New York times about abortion and “Christian” abortion doctor, Dr. Parker. I thought I would offer my thoughts regarding Mr. Kristof’s abortion logic by simply quoting sections of his article and providing some commentary.  John Stonestreet with the Colson Center addressed the issue of Dr. Parker being a Christian abortion provider here. It is excellent and I suggest you read it as well.

Here we go:

No issue in America is more toxic than abortion, and that’s partly because it is today so closely associated with religion. While many feminists see abortion as a matter of choice, some Christians see it as murder.

 Abortion is not toxic because of religion. This implies that if it wasn’t for those pesky Christians, we would all be doing just fine! Abortion is “toxic” because it a debate over the very nature of who we are as persons. And it is not just Christians who see it as murder; atheists, Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths also see it as murder. The pro-life argument is not just a religious argument. The Christian worldview makes the pro-life argument stronger and provides grounding for it. But many Christian apologist make clear and convincing pro-life arguments without ever having to quote the Bible.

 “I believe that as an abortion provider, I am doing God’s work,” Parker writes in his new memoir, “Life’s Work.” “I am protecting women’s rights, their human right to decide their futures for themselves, and to live their lives as they see fit.”

 Slave owners thought they were doing God’s work too, so that is not always a good start to declare such a thing. They sometimes argued they were doing what was in the best interest of the slaves and were bringing them into civilization. They also believed slaves were less than human, which happens to be the view abortionist hold against the unborn.

 Also, my “right” to live my life as I see fit cannot include terminating the life of another. By Dr. Parker’s logic, if my neighbor is really annoying and I feel they are interfering with my future negatively, can I just kill them? No. Can I just kill anyone that gets in my way to live my life as I “see fit?” No.

 And does the obvious need to be said? He is protecting a woman’s “right to decide their future for themselves.” But he is extinguishing another life of their future. Of course the unborn has no choice in the matter.

The Bible does not explicitly discuss abortion, and there’s no evidence that Christians traditionally believed that life begins at conception. St. Thomas Aquinas, the father of much of Catholic theology, believed that abortion was murder only after God imbued fetuses with a soul, at 40 days or more after conception.

The argument “The Bible does not explicitly mention abortion” is poor reasoning as well.  Biblical ethics isn’t always just a clear set of do’s and don’ts. Because the Bible does not say “Abortion is murder” does not mean it is ok. All that Mr. Kristof is arguing here is his lack of understanding of Christian ethics. I’m not going to unpack the theology here, but will direct you to this helpful article at The Gospel Coalition website. Keep in mind that Christians should  view the entire Bible through a Christological lens.  In that, we see moral law written on the hearts of believers, often guided by principles which we see through all of scripture (love your neighbor for example). The Bible does clearly state two things; murder is wrong and God knew us before we were born. So, if abortion is murder, well the Bible has something to say. And, if God creates us, knows us before we are born, and made in the image of God, with even Jesus spending time in the womb…well, I think the argument for personhood in the womb can be established. Therefore, Biblically, the argument can be made against abortion. There is also the theme of defending the oppressed and most innocent through the New Testament. Would the most innocent and least of us not include the unborn? Finally, the Christian life is a life of sacrifice, so the pro-abortion theme of “what I want comes first” is not Christian at all. Maybe Christians haven’t always thought too much, or too well, about abortion (as Kristof seems to claim) until more recent times, but that doesn’t mean the Christian position is one of uncertainly or cannot be known.

Mr. Kristof is a  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, yet his statement of there being “no evidence” that Christians traditionally believed life begins at conception is just lazy. Early church fathers, such as Tertullian, writing in the second centruty, clearly cited abortion (back then usually accomplished by drining some sort of posion) as murder. And just a bit later so did Hippolytus of Rome, Clement of Alexandria, Jerome in the 4th century, and on and on. Their views were not identical and it is complex to dissect it all, but it is not as simple as “there’s no evidence.” His best evidence  is to mention Aquainas believed aborition was wrong only after 40 days. Aquinas wasn’t the only “Church Father” or influential voice regarding Christian thought. Again, Mr. Kristof displays an odd line of thinking. Why would we only look to the early church to determine when life begins? That seems to be a scientific question. We look to theology and philosophy to determine personhood. The pro-life position basically argues that life and personhood are inseparable, whereas the pro-abortion argument is that they are separate and personhood is arbritarily granted later.

Mr. Kristof continues to explain that abortion wasn’t illegal at America’s founding and how some Christian churches and organizations supported it. So, us pro-lifers today are really doing something out of the ordinary.

 Ok, thanks for the “history lesson.” Slavery was legal in early America too. And some churches supported it. So, is he saying if something wasn’t illegal early in history, that it has a lifetime pass of remaining not only legal but morally true? He may want to reconsider this line of reasoning.

Mr. Kristof seems to be utterly unaware of the pro-life argument too. In my experience, the pro-abortion crowd cares almost nothing about understanding the pro-life position. As I’ve explained the pro-life arguments to pro-abortion people, they often look confused because their whole world has just been turned upside down that the pro-life argument is not “Because the Bible told me.”

 Yet today it’s taken as self-evident among conservative Christians that life begins at fertilization — without realizing that this would have astonished many Christians throughout the ages.

 So, according to Mr. Kristof, a Christian only can believe what he or she believes other Christians have thought? If true, which Christians do we believe? Do I have to follow what the Presbyterians through history have believed? Or the Baptist? Help! I’m a Christian and I cannot think for myself! It is clear Mr. Kristof doesn’t think very highly of Christians and has at best a cultural caricature of their beliefs. Sure, we’ve brought a lot of it onto ourselves. And the “conservative” Christian comment; I get the impression Mr. Kristof is trying to weaken the pro-life argument by suggesting you don’t want to be pro-life, because if you are, you know, you are one of those Christians.

Well, to probably Mr. Kristof’s surprise, the fact, yes I mean fact, that life begins at conception is not learned because a Baptist told me. But because science says so. More specifically, embryology says so. And the fact that life begins at conception is in no way only a conservative Christian “belief.” It seems Mr. Kristof and Dr. Parker should pick up an embryology textbook.

 Parker accepts that a fetus is alive — but says that life doesn’t begin at conception, because an egg is alive as well, and so is a sperm. “Life is a process,” he writes. “It is not a switch that turns on in an instant, like an electric light.”

 Again, I recommend an embryology textbook to these two gentlemen. Eggs and sperm are not “life”, and apart from one another are not a human being either, and therefore not a person. A tree is alive and not a person. A dog is alive and not a person.

Life is a process; so what is he saying? Because life is a process abortion is justified? Do not miss the careful pro-choice language here. What is another name for a live fetus? How about a person! That “live fetus” at no point becomes something else. It begins as a person, is born a person, lives as a person, and dies as a person. As science tells us, at conception, a human being is created. Not a dog, or a rock, or a lobster. And from that point on, that embryo can be nothing else but a human being. It is a human in early stage of development; just as an elderly person is a human in a later stage of development. Nothing is changing; everything needed to be a unique fully developed person exists at conception and remains through that person’s entire life.

 Any statement meant to challenge personhood after conception which begins with “Yeah, but…” is putting a condition on what it means to be a person. If you choose to do that, you must argue why that condition applies and further, why that condition doesn’t apply to say, a three year old or a 70 year old. What if you say “Yeah, but life doesn’t really began until there is brain function.” Ok. So what do say to the parents whose child is alive, but operating with minimal or no brain function after an accident? Sorry, your child is no longer a person? Of course not. What if your friend disagrees with you and says “Yeah, but life doesn’t really begin until the baby is born and can live independent of it’s mother.” Ok. So, what do we say to the thousands upon thousands of children and adults who are almost 100% completely dependent on another human to function in life? Any condition you establish as when life begins or personhood begins outside of conception will carry over onto some segment of the population who has already been born. This is why there are more voices arguing that a mother should have the right to kill her child if they are mentally or physically handicapped as an infant or toddler. Or, that we should just kill the elderly, because they don’t contribute much value and are dependent upon others. That is not a joke. It is horrifying and there are other even more extreme views.  But, it is the right and logical path which comes from a pro-abortion worldview. It is just being consistent. How consistent are you?

 Life begins at conception and ends at death. At any point along that timeline, it is morally wrong to take an innocent life. Is Dr. Parker arguing that there is something of a sliding scale along that timeline where the taking of an innocent life is permissible? Of course he is, that is the abortion argument. The problem is, and always will be, where is the sliding scale and who is controlling it?

 And here is the fallacy icing on top of the illogical cake that is Mr. Kristof’s entire article:

 Dr. Parker reminds us that abortion is complicated. And that is why, in my view, we need choice.

What? Because its complicated we need choice? How about because its complicated we should put more careful thought and discussion toward it? Slavery was complicated; we didn’t let slave owners choose to keep slaves. William Wilberforce didn’t say “This issue is complicated, let the slaves remain slaves!” The Syrian refugee crisis is complicated; we don’t want ISIS to choose to kill them all. A lot of moral issues are complicated and it does not follow we just let everyone choose what they want to do. I’m working on a complicated research paper; can I tell my professor that I choose not to do it? This is absurd and intellectual apathy at its worst.

After years of reading and listening to the pro-abortion arguments, they remain the most subjective and illogical arguments. It is one red-herring after another. Most of the time they start off pretty tame, arguing about freedom and choice, but then it comes down to a girl who is raped by her father, which is predictably the concluding remark in Mr. Kristof’s article. Incest and rape happen and it may very well be literally one of the evilest acts a human can commit against another. But, only 1% or less of abortions are done for such reasons and the pro-abortion argument cannot be built upon such extremes. Still, any pro-life advocate must confront that evil. We cannot pretend it doesn’t happen or that there are women out there who will suffer a lifetime of emotional and psychological trauma over such an act. I am thankful there is help for women like that and have heard some of the most amazing stories of courage, grace, and self-sacrifice over such events.

But, and this is said with much soberness, the way the child was conceived does not change the value of that child. An increase in the suffering and trauma of that event does not decrease the value of the child yet to be born. We do not punish the innocent to relieve the suffering of others and we do not punish children for the sins of their fathers. There is literally no other example of us, as a culture, a people, a society, in which we would accept such a thing. But, that is exactly the argument we make when we justify abortion in the case of rape or incest. To relieve the suffering of the mother, the child is killed. The child is punished, by death, because of the father. Again, it is sobering and should not be discussed lightly. It should weigh our hearts down tremendously, but it doesn’t mean, as Mr. Kristof suggests, we should not think about it or talk about it because it can be complicated.

However, the overall issue of abortion isn’t that complicated. It is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent human being. Is the unborn an innocent human being? If so, then abortion takes the life of an innocent human being and is morally wrong.  So, the one question about abortion is simply, what is the unborn?

This is why the pro-abortion crowd, especially those in the media or doing communications for Planned Parenthood, are specifically given talking points which state they must never refer to the unborn as anything other than a fetus. To do so, humanizes that fetus. In other words, makes it sound like that which it really is. If you recall, Hillary Clinton made this mistake during her campaign. She explained that an unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Oops. Even Planned Parenthood was upset with her. She was basically stating that the miraculous traveling through a birth canal is the ceremony in which a person becomes a person with rights; even though what is one side of that birth canal is the EXACT same being on the other side. What changes? Again, think carefully. Any reason you give, one based on either size, level of development, environment or dependency, will apply to other people who are older than a day. When you conclude that some arbitrary condition exists which grants personhood, therefore allowing the taking of the life of the unborn prior to that condition being met, it will apply to someone else who is already born. In other words, an already born person will fail your personhood test. What are you going to tell that person? I guess you can take Mr. Kristof’s advice and just tell them “It’s complicated.”

I think to date, the worse line of thinking I’ve heard for abortion, is that it is a “value judgement.” In other words, while I may value the unborn as a person, others may value them as just a clump of cells. This is just political correctness plus moral relativism creating intellectual laziness. Where else in history would we find such thinking appropriate to issues of life? Is the unborn a person or not? We are not deciding what the best flavor of ice cream is. It is not an opinion. The unborn cannot be both a person and not a person anymore than you can be both a human and a dog. Not only does the pro-abortion argument side step science, but logic too. But it must, because if abortion is morally wrong, many other pillars of progressive thought will fall with it. It is a system built on the philosophy that “self” is supreme.

There is so much more to say about Mr. Kristof’s article, as well as Dr. Parker’s views. They do represent the overall pro-abortion thought process though. I will hand it off to the “professionals” now. To learn what the pro-life argument really consists of, I suggest you head over to Stand to Reason and just type abortion into the search bar. Also check out the Life Training Institute page.

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