Evangelical Pro-Lifers Clash Over Criminalizing Abortion

"Ahead of a potential ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, Founders Ministries’ Tom Ascol and other 'abolitionists' voice opposition to longstanding 'incremental' approach, calling for penalties for women." - C.Today

Related at RNS: As Roe’s potential fall nears, abortion abolitionists turn on ‘pro-life elites’
Related: Richard Land at BPNews: What’s the best way to be pro-life?: A Southern Baptist debate

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

First, it's self-contradictory for people who are populist libertarians on a bunch of things to want to criminalize a bunch of other things. Are they all about freedom from government oppression or not? I'd like to see them make up their minds. But the right has a swirling mass of sentiment where its principles use to be, so it's constantly contradictory (rather like the left). Second, even if criminal penalties for women was a good idea, there's no urgency to do this now or advocate for it now. Third, there's no need for criminal penalties for women. If abortion is eliminated or regulated for clinics and doctors--per the laws of the state (or in some cases county or city) involved, there's no reason to think that wouldn't be effective.

Bear in mind, too, that the left gets a lot of its energy and support from the compassion piece of their brand. They think they own compassion, and leaders on the right keep making it easy for them to seem to own it. Given that the narrative is that conservatives don't care about women, this is probably the worst possible time for conservatives to be advocating for penalizing women for abortions.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jay's picture

That the solutions favored by Tom Ascol, the Conservative Baptist Network, and the unholy Patterson-MacArthur-Wilson-G3 affiliated groups will always, and without exception, favor any position that increases their ability to control people and shift America from a representative Constitutional democracy into a functional theocracy with themselves at the head of it.  

I'm being fully serious here.  This man wants to be the SBC President?  Does he understand Baptist history or soul liberty?  Or American government for that matter?  

God help the SBC if he wins.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Moderator

Is it just me or does this seems a bit ironic? You have long argued that conservatives have no principles and then when they demonstrate a commitment to principle, you claim it it unnecessary, the wrong timing, and will upset the left. And your answer is purely pragmatic: a ban would be effective and a this looks compassionless to liberals. In other words, it seems like you are justifying  a lack of principle in this matter. If taking  a human life is murder, should we not treat it as murder? Which other murderers would you be willing to let off?

In 2020 you are adamant that conservatives must not be merely pragmatic in the election booth and that it was necessary to do something totally useless that would clearly make our situation worse (and it has) which would hopefully make us more acceptable to the left because of the principle of conservatism. We had to stand on principle. 

So what happened?

Larry's picture

Moderator

favor any position that increases their ability to control people and shift America from a representative Constitutional democracy into a functional theocracy with themselves at the head of it. 

Which part of Baptist history, soul liberty, or American government includes the right to murder or contract for murder without legal jeopardy? Which part of their position is about controlling people or bringing in a theocracy?

How is your position here not a compromise of your conservatism that led to your "never Trump" stance?

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

First, it's self-contradictory for people who are populist libertarians on a bunch of things to want to criminalize a bunch of other things. Are they all about freedom from government oppression or not? ...

 Are you saying populist libertarians are against government being able to prosecute murder?

Jay's picture

Which part of Baptist history, soul liberty, or American government includes the right to murder or contract for murder without legal jeopardy? Which part of their position is about controlling people or bringing in a theocracy?

How is your position here not a compromise of your conservatism that led to your "never Trump" stance?

This isn't hard.  I take America for the country that it is - a country that (for now) legalized abortion.  I don't like it, and I think it's murder and sin.  But I also understand that in a nation of some 350MM+ people, the unsaved people that control our government are going to make decisions that I would consider sinful and wrong.

How is any of this controversial?  Do we impose Biblical morality by fiat on unbelievers or not?  I'm fairly sure that Baptists have always opposed this idea, and in part because we've had it done to us.  If you're all in on selling out the church for political power, then that's on you but I'm not OK with it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Moderator

Do we impose Biblical morality by fiat on unbelievers or not? 

First, you made charges above that I would be interested an answer to the questions I asked. I don't see any evidence for your charges but perhaps I missed something.

Second, no one is talking about fiat. This is a democratic process. (It is ironic that those screaming loudest about democracy are the ones most supportive of keeping this issue from democracy.)

Third, there are already laws against murder. We simply need to decide if abortion fits that category or not? You have said it does. So why not apply the laws that are already on the books? What is different about this murder (as you called it) than other ones? Do you think all laws against murder should be rescinded on the basis that they are imposing biblical morality by fiat?

(I am not necessarily in favor of charging mothers who abort their babies with murder. I would gladly accept exceptions for rape and incest even though I think it is wrong to execute children for the sins of their father. I would accept an exception for the life of the mother. But at this point, let's deal with the categories in play here. If this is murder, as Jay admits, then why not treat it that way?)

 

KD Merrill's picture

Do we impose Biblical morality by fiat on unbelievers or not?

Gotta agree with Larry here.  Are laws against theft and murder part of the great theocratic conspiracy now?  

I'm at a complete loss to explain this lack of logic, thought and discernment.  The only plausible explanation is a reflexive urge to oppose anything remotely identified with "Christian nationalism."

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Jay wrote:

Do we impose Biblical morality by fiat on unbelievers or not?

Jay, I'm sure questions like this have been around at least as long as Christianity has existed.  I've been hearing them most of my life, certainly when I was a teenager in the 70's.

The difference I'm hearing between now and back then is this -- previously the question was asked about sinning against oneself or with others that are consenting.  It wasn't asked (at least in circles I had access to) about sinning against others, as in murder, kidnapping, assault, theft, etc.  Even in America our laws are based on us having the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and our legal tradition assumes that while we each have our own rights, those rights stop where they would take away the rights of others to their own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  Those laws do indeed impose morality by agreement amongst the citizenry as a whole that each wants his own rights, and that they are worth protection from the actions of others.

The issue with abortion of course is whether or not abortion is taking a human life, not just destroying a clump of unwanted cells.  If it is, in fact, taking a human life, why is it not murder?  Then it isn't just someone sinning against their own body and self, but against another.  That's why the pro-abortion side works very hard to define away an unborn child as a "fetus" or some other dehumanizing medical term.  Then, they can justify abortion to themselves as simply a medical procedure, like removing a tumor.  The controversy comes because there is no 100% agreement among the people that abortion is actually taking a human life, or that such a life is worth more than the convenience of the one trying to end it, so one side tries to define this as some imposing their own private morality on others.

I also accept that in the (extremely rare) case where the life of the mother is in danger, or there would be extreme, permanent health consequences, I see abortion as a necessary evil, in the same vein as self-defense.  Taking a human life, yes, but in protection of another.  Laws since Bible times have recognized this.

While our nation is not Christian, laws that protect people are indeed imposing morality (if not a biblical one) on everyone for the good of all.  That has been accepted since laws have been necessary.  There is no freedom without some restriction, as then there could be no society at all -- it would be survival of the fittest, and even among the most fit, it's hardly freedom if one must always look over his shoulder because someone else will be trying to kill you or take what is yours.  Man's sinful nature requires "imposed" morality, and will (even in the Millenium) until Christ makes everything new.

Dave Barnhart

Jay's picture

Third, there are already laws against murder. We simply need to decide if abortion fits that category or not? You have said it does. So why not apply the laws that are already on the books? What is different about this murder (as you called it) than other ones? Do you think all laws against murder should be rescinded on the basis that they are imposing biblical morality by fiat?

(I am not necessarily in favor of charging mothers who abort their babies with murder. I would gladly accept exceptions for rape and incest even though I think it is wrong to execute children for the sins of their father.

Have I said abortion isn't murder?  Pretty sure I specifically identified it as such in this very thread.

I'm talking about the very specific fact that in our country, the law that says that woman can murder their unborn.  That is the political system we have.  I hold out zero hope that we will ever fully illegalize abortion, and even if we do, that illegalizing abortion will do nothing to stop the demand for it. It will simply be forced back into the shadows and those who seek it will likely do so at risk to their own lives out of sheer desperation.

Is it better to illegalize abortion and cut demand by 50% or or leave it legal and cut demand by 95% through education and ministries like adoption?  What is the actual goal here?  Do you want to run America along the lines of the SI Doctrinal Statement or do you accept that is not at all possible given our current legal framework?

You admit to being inconsistent.  I'm inconsistent too - I accept that.  But I don't think that the idealized solution of imposing the 2nd LBC as our legal framework is the answer.  As I have said elsewhere, I think large sections of the American church whored itself out to Trump in exchange for political power and it was never worth the trade. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

First, you made charges above that I would be interested an answer to the questions I asked. I don't see any evidence for your charges but perhaps I missed something.

John MacArthur explicitly disavowed religious liberty this last summer.

Tom Ascol is tied in tight with both the Conservative Baptist Network (he should be, he's their nominee for President) AND has deep ties to Michael O'Fallon's Sovereign Nations group.  As do Rod Martin, Tom Buck, Voddie Baucham, and several other names in that orbit.  All of those guys are friends with Doug Wilson, who talks openly about taking over the town of Moscow and who is an actual hardline theonomist.  Josh Buice, Scott Aniol, and Voddie are the three staff members at G3 Ministries, which itself has deep ties to Moscow as well.

Google it.  You'll find the links.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Moderator

Have I said abortion isn't murder?  Pretty sure I specifically identified it as such in this very thread.

If you notice, I referenced that in the second line. 

Is it better to illegalize abortion and cut demand by 50% or or leave it legal and cut demand by 95% through education and ministries like adoption?

I say illegalize it and cut it by 95% along with education and adoption and resource centers. Your numbers are simply made up, though. They aren't real.

What is the actual goal here?

Honor life in God's image.

  Do you want to run America along the lines of the SI Doctrinal Statement or do you accept that is not at all possible given our current legal framework?

No one here has suggested that.

I think large sections of the American church whored itself out to Trump in exchange for political power and it was never worth the trade. 

I think very few Christians did this. Remember, the majority of evangelicals voted against Trump until he was the only alternative to Clinton. People keep forgetting that most evangelicals wanted someone else. And they didn't do it for political power but for principled reasons. And that is why we are talking about overturning Roe v. Wade today.

to the latter, I haven't seen any of those guys except Wilson talk about taking over. But that doesn't answer the question. You talked Baptist history, soul liberty, or American government allowing murder for hire. It was an odd statement that I thought needed some support for it.

dgszweda's picture

Larry wrote:

Honor life in God's image.

While I am against abortion, and I would support making it illegal, I am not hung up on this.  We as Christian's are called to Honor life in God's image, because we are heirs.  The concept that we can enforce this as a secular law onto an unbelieving, and even a hostile population to God, doesn't honor life in God's image for that individual.  That individual honor's life in God's image when their hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit and they are drawn closer to Christ.  It is when they are transformed, and they choose life over abortion when they Honor life in God's image.  The Puritans practiced abortion as did most Christians for thousands of years.  The last 150 years we have viewed pregnancy as a more medical activity and have thus defined life as a more medical step, than the Puritans did by defining it as the "quickening".  Did the Puritan's commit murder?  I am not sure.  But as we have gained more knowledge, we are responsible for holding to that personally.  Developing a theocracy does not accomplish the kingdom of God.  Transforming hearts through the gospel does.  Changing a law, especially one in which the population is hostile toward, doesn't transform the heart.  If it was, the Great Commission would have focused on that.  We are still caught up with having to pass a law that criminalizes abortion, because we are still stuck with the idea that America is a "special nation" with God and thus, we need to avoid the wrath of God.  I am not aware of anywhere in Scripture where Christians are punished as a result of living in a sinful world that chooses to be antagonist toward God.  In fact, Scripture assumes that as a Christian we will be living in a world that is antagonist toward God, and despite that God will bless His Church, if they stay holy to Him.

The Church stays Holy by being more Christlike and drawing closer to Christ.  It does not move one ounce closer to Holiness by trying to impose laws that aligns to the Bible.  The church has abandoned evangelism for legalism.  It is easier to be vocal about abortion, than it is to be about Christ.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This one seemed likely be controversial, but I didn't expect to go where it went. It's interesting.

Anyway, maybe this helps a little...

Prohibiting murder has never been viewed as a uniquely Christian idea. With a Christian worldview, we understand better why murder is morally wrong, but conscience, reason, and natural law are each individually strong enough reason to put it on the 'not allowed' list--and we have all three. Which is why nearly every society that has ever existed has viewed it as immoral.

Whether to specifically prosecute women who get abortions for murder is not about "legislating morality." Everybody believes in legislating morality, though they may say otherwise. They just disagree about what's moral, what isn't, and which morals should be upheld using laws and coercion vs. which should be left to other influences.

In the case of abortion, it might help to put it in the right category first: homicide. There are all kinds of homicides. Murder, in various degrees, is only one of them. We have terms like justifiable homicide (e.g. self defense), negligent homicide, manslaughter, etc., because it's been evident for a long, long time that taking a life can involve a really complicated situation with a lot of mitigating factors. How the person committing the act understood it at the time is always a factor.

So the choices are not "approve of this act or prosecute it as murder." There are many more options.

Mitigating factors.... When a baby is aborted in the usual ways, there is more than one person involved in taking the life. The one who directly stops the beating heart is not the woman. The woman is not always entirely willing. Sometimes she is not willing at all but feels she has no alternative. The woman is often mistaken about what's actually happening when "the procedure" is carried out (i.e., the belief it is not a human being).

We already don't prosecute for 'murder one' if the person who killed didn't even think they were killing someone, even when it's fact that they were. We have other classifications for that. We don't argue that handling these differently from 'murder' is an approval of the act or that it requires us to legalize a bunch of other things.

So... consistency arguments:    It's important here to remember that we already don't legislate everything that is morally wrong. The reasoning that "if we don't prosecute this we should not prosecute anything, if we're consistent" is not reality. It's wrong to say mean things to people, but we don't prosecute that (yet--thankfully!). It's wrong to do any ordinary thing purely out of selfishness or spite. It's wrong to refuse to forgive. It's wrong to commit adultery. It's wrong to refuse to work to support your family.

We don't criminalize all these things for a lot of reasons. The simplest is this: a society where everything wrong is illegal is one everyone sees as oppressive. "Immoral" and "illegal" are properly distinct (though overlapping) categories.

So, no, we don't have to make everything wrong illegal or make everything that is illegal "criminal," as in felony, or even misdemeanor (in most states, speeding, for example, is not even a misdemeanor). 

There are lots of ways for a society to express disapproval of an act. Illegalization is only one of them, and even under that umbrella, criminalization is only one form of illegalizing.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Joel Shaffer's picture

In his radio interview, Tom Ascol also cited politics as a problem. Pro-life elites oppose abolition, he said, because it would hurt their fundraising.

“I have to tell you, at least with some of these organizations, I’m becoming fully convinced that’s precisely what’s going on,” he said.

I find it quite interesting that Ascol borrows language from right-wing media talking-heads to demean his fellow conservative opponents (Calling them "Pro-Life Elites) and then judges them of having a disingenuous motive (it would hurt their fundraising).  But it doesn't surprise me because its his Modus Operandi, whether he is attacking fellow conservative SBCers for being "Woke" or embracing CRT, or attacking fellow conservative Complementarians for not being Complementarian enough. 

Here's an article from Scott Klusendorf on incrementalism vs. abolitionist, which does a good job defending an incrementalist view and pointing out the flaws with the abolitionist view. Klusendorf is working through a Framework of Christian Ethics where these issues have been debated and honed by Christian Ethics Scholars for several decades.   https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/defense-prolife-incrementalis...   Hope this helps the discussion.

By the way, whenever I read Ascol attempting to apply the Bible to social issues, I've often wondered if he's ever taken an ethics class.  

 

Jay's picture

Developing a theocracy does not accomplish the kingdom of God.  Transforming hearts through the gospel does.  Changing a law, especially one in which the population is hostile toward, doesn't transform the heart.  If it was, the Great Commission would have focused on that.  We are still caught up with having to pass a law that criminalizes abortion, because we are still stuck with the idea that America is a "special nation" with God and thus, we need to avoid the wrath of God.  I am not aware of anywhere in Scripture where Christians are punished as a result of living in a sinful world that chooses to be antagonist toward God. 

And if you look at the OT and NT, you realize that there was only one special nation to God, and it is Israel.  A significant portion of the Bible is written for Christians who are living under evil, pagan governments (Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Rome) and who had little to no say into how they were ruled. 

THAT'S the model we live in.  We have some say, and we are free to work for a better government (and we should), but the Kingdom is not established here on Earth yet, it won't be established through our own works, and it won't have the power to end abortion no matter how many Biblical arguments and laws are passed.  Unbelievers are gonna unbelieve, and they're going to do evil activity if/when sufficiently motivated.  So will Christian men and women as well, since it's fairly well documented that a significant portion of Evangelical women will seek abortions rather than live with the stigma of having had sex out of marriage, and that they will be encouraged or supported by Christian men to do so because those men don't want to be parents of a child with a woman they aren't married to if they do even stick around, which is yet another roll of the dice. The government can restrain evil but it will never be able to abolish it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells