Monday, December 5, 2011

Logic Escapes Rogue Pro-Lifers


It's something about which I write a lot.  Because it's incredibly important in life.

Yet apparently, logic can also be an inconvenient fact of life.  As the abortion war heats up again, some conservative activists seem to be using less logic than raw emotion.

Probably because emotion makes them feel like they're doing something, even when they're not.

First we had the Personhood Movement that voters in Colorado and Mississippi have thankfully defeated three times.  Personhood advocates hoped that declaring a fertilized egg as a legal person would force an end to abortions in those two states.  And that the inevitable legal wrangling between the poorly-worded Personhood legislation and federal laws stemming from Roe v. Wade would magically align on the side of life.

It wouldn't.

Now we have a Heartbeat Bill in Ohio that rogue pro-lifers insist will accomplish what the Personhood Movement could not.

But still, they're fighting the right battle in the wrong place.

Righteous Impatience or Impertinence?

I call them "rogue" pro-lifers because several of their leaders have splintered from the venerable National Right to Life campaign that has been working with the United States Council of Catholic Bishops for over four decades to eliminate legalized abortion.  These rogue pro-lifers have become frustrated with the slow pace of legislative action on the national front, so they've got it into their heads that attacking the abortion scourge will go faster if they trigger a legislative crisis on the state level.  And to do that, they've got to find a state that can pass some sort of bold pro-life law that flies in the face of an over-ruling federal amnesty for abortion.

The hope - and it's a long-shot kind of hope - is that the quandary created by conflicting state and federal laws on abortion will lob the issue up to the Supreme Court for a victorious defeat of Roe v. Wade.  But there's hope, and then there's logic.  Hope is one thing; getting a group of judges to rule in your favor is quite another.

Of course, this isn't the first time right-wing evangelicals have worked themselves into a lather over the pace of change in the United States.  Witness the Tea Party movement, which has scored some significant victories at the ballot box with the help of hefty numbers of evangelicals, but has pretty much only managed to foment one of the most intransigent, unproductive, and bitterly-divided governments in American history.

Granted, the Heartbeat Bill has better logic behind it than the Personhood Movement.  Banning abortions upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat is a more conventional legal approach, it doesn't tinker with the legal definition of a "person," and it's far more definitive in terms of what it does and doesn't do.  In other words, prohibiting an abortion on a fetus with a heartbeat is pretty frank and uncomplicated, whereas the Personhood legislation left many associated laws in limbo.

In fact, if it weren't for the pesky little fact that state law doesn't trump federal law, I wouldn't have any problem with the Heartbeat Bill.

But state law does come second to federal law, and that's the critical flaw in Ohio's Heartbeat Bill.  Abortion is not a states rights issue, just as murder of people outside of the womb is not a states rights issue.

And because we haven't yet seen a miracle in the abortion war even as people of faith have been unified against it, I have a hard time understanding why God would bless rogue pro-lifers with a miracle after they force division in an otherwise rightly-focused campaign.

Abandoning Grace for Gusto

Frankly, I'm not aware of everything the National Right to Life committee and the Council of Catholic Bishops have been working on to weaken - and indeed, eliminate - Roe v. Wade.  Have they made bad decisions during these decades of methodical advocacy for the unborn?  Most likely.  Has the process been mercilessly slow?  Yes.  Do evangelicals have a right to be frustrated at the pace of progress?  Of course.

But welcome to reality, people.  How many times does it need to be said that we cannot legislate morality?  Wouldn't a better tactic be to approach the overthrow of Roe v. Wade through cogent, legally practical, and purposefully cohesive tactics?  Tactics that will create a solution that can withstand whatever further legal challenges pro-choicers will attack it with?  It seems as though Ohio's rogue pro-lifers think a miraculous Supreme Court victory is not only a fait accompli, but a final hearing on the matter.  In order for abortion to be abolished permanently, we need a solid legal argument; not something slapped together with legal cracks pro-choicers can turn around and wrench apart.

After all, it's not even like the pro-life movement is on its last leg.  The Gallup organization has numbers suggesting that Americans may be getting increasingly intolerant of abortion on demand.  Although pro-lifers now comprise about 51% of the population, and that's still too few to mount a Constitutional change, it's already a step in the right direction.  We may actually be winning this fight in the court of public opinion!  Might creating factions within the pro-life camp now simply risk the unity that's gotten us over the 50% hump?

Remember, no state law banning abortion will be effective as long as Roe v. Wade is the law of the country.  But just as rogue pro-lifers say hope is all they've got with these legal shots in the dark, progress on the federal level is not beyond hope, either.

Before threatening to undermine decades of diligent work to overturn Roe v. Wade, rogue pro-lifers must consider whether their petulance and arrogance is even Biblical.  Can they identify anything anybody at National Right to Life has done that has defamed the cause of Christ?  Anything that has irreparably set back the pro-life movement?  Anything that could spell the imminent demise of the many pro-life pregnancy centers across the country currently ministering to desperate women and their impregnators and sharing the Gospel of Christ with them?  After all, just making abortion illegal won't stop unwanted pregnancies, will it?  And the fact that we're having an epidemic of unwanted pregnancies is the real problem here, not just the fact that it's presently legal to kill those unborn unwanteds.

We have enough factions, infighting, hurt feelings, and ineffectiveness within evangelical Christianity already in the United States without balking now, causing schisms within a hardworking group like the National Right to Life, and seizing on illogical attempts to ramrod half-baked legislation through a Constitutional system like square pegs through round holes.

I don't have any loved ones working with the National Right to Life organization.  I'm not sure that if I knew everything they did - and how they did it - I would affirm it all, but I know they've been diligent servants on this issue longer than I've been alive.  If that makes National Right to Life too out of touch with how to get legislation done in Washington, then somebody besides short-term-thinking rogue pro-lifers needs to prove it.

Christ wants unborn lives protected even more than we do.  He also wants us to live in peace with each other.  As long as legitimate efforts at overturning Roe v. Wade on the federal level are proceeding, what right do we have at causing dissension over something that stands an overwhelming chance of not working in the long run?

Some rogue pro-lifers would probably counter that in order to capitalize on that small chance of the Supreme Court tightening access to abortions, we need to pray our socks off for the Lord to make that happen.  Yet I ask you:  do you think believers haven't already been praying their socks off for the sake of the unborn at the hands of Roe v. Wade?  Why do you think the Lord hasn't already answered those prayers?  What makes attempts at undermining years of diligent legal maneuvering a more righteous prayer request than those diligent legal maneuverings you're trying to undermine?

Might we need to remind ourselves Whose battle this is?  God knows the heart within each one of us.  He knows the hearts of those desiring to protect the unborn through prudent application of the law, and He knows the hearts of those desiring to protect the unborn through reckless applications of legal interpretations.  The former appear to have faith that God is in control, while the latter appear to have faith that God can fix their mistakes.

Trouble is, although God always forgives us, He doesn't always fix our mistakes so that we don't have to live with the consequences.  If the consequence of poorly-crafted attempts at subverting Roe v. Wade end up backfiring in the Supreme Court, do we really want to live with those consequences?

For that matter, could the unborn?

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