So, 30 years later, is there really anything new to say about the abortion issue? I think so. Consider these two points:
We forget how awful abortion really is. It's not just the promoters of abortion who have rationalized their approval of the practice. Even we pro-lifers can be numbed to the grim realities. Thirty years of state sanction for abortion have taken their toll on almost everyone. Something that once was hideous has now become more like halitosis or being 12 pounds overweight. It's something we know we have to deal with sooner or later, but the growing numbness means-for almost all of us-that it's going to be later.
Evidence of some "softening" among pro-lifers is the shift of our energies over the last 20 years from hard-edged political and direct action tactics to support for crisis pregnancy centers. I myself voted just last night to approve a local church budget with a benevolence figure that includes $8 in "soft" pro-life giving for every $1 that it includes for "hard" pro-life activity. I understand -and have used-the argument that says the pro-life cause has to show itself just as compassionate as it shows itself principled.
But ironically, even while some of us have backed off a bit from our direct confronting of abortionists, many who are involved in the practice itself and its promotion have come to understand just how grisly their work really is. That's partly why they labor so hard to change the subject. It's why Bill Clinton always said (if quite disingenuously) that he wanted abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare." It's why the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) has just changed its name to NARAL Pro Choice America. Clearly, even that group just doesn't like the baggage of that word abortion.
Not that NARAL and its partners in crime have given up. Indeed, The New York Times reported last week that NARAL is planning an extensive, multimillion-dollar campaign to make abortion a critical issue in next year's presidential campaign. David Garrow, legal historian at Emory University, says NARAL wants to take advantage of Americans' apparent love affair with the word choice: "It's a free way," he says, "of getting 'pro-choice' into a news story, even if editors don't allow the words to be used in the reporter's voice."
But they're spending all that money and energy against the backdrop of recognition that they are still fighting an uphill battle. In spite of having the news and entertainment media, the state educational establishment, and the biggest church denominations (not to mention the Supreme Court) on their side, they realize that most folks, deep down, know there's something terribly wrong with taking the life of a little baby.
As Ken Connor of Family Research Council says, "They want to talk about pro-choice, but it's not choosing between chocolate and vanilla. We're talking about the right to choose to kill an unborn child."
It may seem repetitive, but that's the reality. Maybe we've just gotten tired of saying it. We shouldn't. For it is still the ugly truth about abortion. And we need to take advantage of the fact that most people know it. We need to strip away the denial that has enveloped us all.
So what has so much silenced so many of us pro-lifers? I think it may be in part that:
We also forget that God's grace is big enough to cover even this terrible sin. My guess is that-and while it is only a guess, I'm not totally na•ve-the reality of abortion is much more prevalent in evangelical Christian circles, and perhaps even among pro-lifers, than we have generally acknowledged. Such a fact naturally tends to mute our once noisy protests.
Life is so much easier when we can paint everything in shades of black and white. If we can always be the good guys, and always portray Kate Michelman and Gloria Feldt as unique promoters of evil, what simplicity (and monotony) that brings to our lives.
But if we have sin of our own to confess, the story line gets a bit more complex. Now it's not just that we're calling on society to end an evil practice. Now we no longer merely extend to the Kate Michelmans and the Eleanor Smeals of the world some theoretic promise of forgiveness from God. Now we brokenly ask them to join us in begging God to pardon not just their behavior, but our own as well.
I think that puts abortion in a new perspective. It is, of course, a bloody practice. It is, from so many angles, an almost unthinkable act. America's toleration of abortion must grieve God.
But the bottom line is that unless and until we have dealt with our own sin, and in the process publicly demonstrated how vast God's forgiveness can be, we are in no position to expect reform in the rest of society. Judgment-and mercy -always begin with the house of God.