An Abortion Retrospective

A regular reader asked me why Times and Seasons let yesterday’s anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, honored in much of the blogosphere as “Blog for Choice Day,” go by without any comment. I replied that probably the main reason was that everything has already been said which can be said here on that topic. Really, he replied? When? Oh, you recent arrivals, I thought to myself…

See here for Kaimi Wenger’s early discussion of whether or not one can be a pro-choice Mormon.

See here for Matt Evans’s argument that the “therapeutic” abortion claim is more often than not a way to avoid having “difficult” children, such as those with Down’s Syndrome.

See here for Kristine Haglund Harris’s suggestion that many discussions of abortion fail to recognize the practical realities of the matter.

See here for Adam Greenwood’s thoughts on why those who believe most abortions are tantamount to murder don’t necessarily have to believe that people who nonetheless choose abortion are murderers.

And now that you’re all fired up, see here for Jim Faulconer’s warning that talking too much about controversial issues like abortion makes it too easy for partisans on all sides to forget basic lessons in civility.

Go forth and read.

39 comments for “An Abortion Retrospective

  1. January 23, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    It reminds me of this wonderful sentence in LOTR (from Bilbo Baggins): “”I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

  2. January 23, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    See here for Adam Greenwood’s thoughts on why those who believe most abortions are tantamount to murder don’t necessarily have to believe that people who choose abortion are not necessarily murderers.

    That is one heck of a sentence. Was it intentionally written that way? Even if it wasn’t, I kind of like it as it stands.

  3. January 23, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Ack. Thanks for spotting that, Daniel. I’m correcting it–scratch the final “not.”

  4. January 23, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Aw RAF …

    It was a beautiful thing – and somehow I believed it made sense. Oh well. :)

  5. Aaron Brown
    January 23, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    I’ve always thought T&S needed a topical archives. Or perhaps a post with links to all prior posts that contain topical collections of links. Or something.

    Aaron B

  6. January 23, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Well, I sympathize Russel.

    But if you’re a newcomer, it seems rather unfair.

    “Oops! Sorry! You simply came too late and the jelly doughnuts are ALL GONE! What a shame. And no, we won’t be having jelly doughnuts anymore because, quite frankly, we’re sick to death of them. But you can take comfort in knowing how much WE enjoyed them…”

    Nice that you and I got to exorcise the demons of petty partizanship and all, but…

  7. Mark B.
    January 23, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    I learned that I had missed the conversation on whether abortion could in any case be a superior moral choice to bearing the child to term (comments on Kristine’s post). And since that comment thread is closed, I have no choice but to respond here.

    The suggestion that aborting the fetus can never be a superior moral choice (say in the case of pregnancies arising from rape) to carrying the child to term flies in the face of the church policy that abortion may in those cases be justified. If a woman is raped, becomes pregnant, consults with her bishop, others, prays, receives confirmation that the appropriate step to be taken is to abort the fetus, then that confirmation must necessarily mean that abortion is in that case the superior moral choice. Otherwise you must conclude that the Spirit has confirmed to someone to turn from the better choice to a worse one. That makes no sense.

  8. random me
    January 24, 2007 at 2:50 am

    seth, are you familiar with eddie izzard? your comment was very close to his “tea and cake or death” bit. loved it.

  9. January 24, 2007 at 6:31 am

    No, I’ve never heard of him.

    Mark, that’s because our Church, as far as I can tell, never embraced the rigid and legalized arguments that characterize the pro-life camp elsewhere in America. Or arguments do not seem to really care about esoteric questions of “when does life begin?” or “is this murder?”

    There is an emphasis on personal accountability and reverence for the procreative process. But little interest in slapping blanket labels of murder onto various actions.

  10. Jeremiah J.
    January 24, 2007 at 7:16 am

    I’m not sure I get the point of the frequent statement: “We’ve blogged on that. See the archives.” It seems that either blog posts are a bit less substantial and lasting than newspaper columns, in which case revisiting the archives for years would have limited value, or it is a fairly serious form of expression that achieves depth by inches, in which case a handful of posts wouldn’t be quite there yet. That seems to be true even of an engaging and intelligent blog like this one.

    On the other hand, keeping the readers interested is also a concern, and I’d bet a lot of us read blogs like some people watch TV. “But they already did a same-sex marriage episode during the 2d season! This blog has jumped the shark….”

  11. January 24, 2007 at 9:50 am

    “I’m not sure I get the point of the frequent statement: ‘We’ve blogged on that. See the archives.'”

    Fair enough, Jeremiah. I suppose, in all honesty, that the real reason no one here blogged about Roe v. Wade on January 22nd wasn’t so much the fact that we all felt in our considered opinion that we’d already said everything that needs to be said before, but more simply the fact that none of us was interested in or capable of thinking up something worth taking the time to say. And so I did the lazy thing, and put up links. My apologies. Perhaps I’ll be able to come up with something substantive later today.

  12. January 24, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    RAF: I am hurt. You didn’t include my “Justice for Fornicators” post, which is in large part about abortion.

  13. January 24, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Sorry Nate. But there were over a dozen good posts I could have included from 2004 and 2005, and I was running to class. Thanks to including a link.

  14. January 24, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Mark B.,

    The church’s policy that abortion may in some cases be morally *permitted* does not mean that abortion may in some cases be morally *necessary*. It could be that abortion is sometimes the morally superior choice (for example, perhaps to save the life of the mother, or if the baby and mother would both die without an abortion), but those possibilities can’t be deduced from the church’s policy.

  15. DKL
    January 24, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    The problem that I have with the fanatics in both the anti-abortion-rights and the pro-abortion-rights camps is that they see everything in terms of abortion rights. This single-mindedness reminds me of the turtle in this cartoon.

  16. Matt Evans
    January 24, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    DKL, what do you have in mind? I know lots of pro-lifers but have never heard any of them oppose abortion “in terms of abortion rights” except to refute the claim that such rights exists. Their opposition to abortion per se has nothing to do with abortion rights.

  17. Adam Greenwood
    January 24, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Mark B.,

    See Matt’s response. The Church is open to the idea that abortion may be morally permissible in some circumstances, but I am unaware of any teaching that it is morally superior. I am not aware that people often pray about keeping their children and are commanded to kill them. Fetal Labans?

  18. Adam Greenwood
    January 24, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    I’m not really sad that Times and Seasons did not participate in “Blog for Choice Day.”

  19. Kristine Haglund Harris
    January 24, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    “I am not aware that…”

    …is never a good antecedent for “therefore it must not ever happen.” I think it’s safe to say that doing God’s will is always the morally superior choice. Church policy allows for the possibility that God may, in fact, inspire someone to have an abortion–in those (presumably very rare) cases, having an abortion would be the morally superior choice.

  20. Craig V.
    January 24, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    There is for me a tiredness with respect to this topic and I sense the same for this blog in general. I wonder if we’re tired of the issue itself, tired of arguing about it or tired of discussing without seeing significant change in our culture. Perhaps it’s the extremists on both sides that make us weary as DKL suggests. I used to be very active in the pro-life movement but found my enthusiasm dimmed when some (by no means all) pro-life leaders were unable to condemn, without qualification, the bombing of clinics.

    I know what originally attracted me to the cause. I’m a congenital amputee missing both arms below the elbows and my left leg at the knee. On the day of my birth, Mom could tell something was wrong, but wasn’t sure what. My disability was totally unexpected. One of the nurses gasped as I exited the womb and there was evidence of concern in the doctor’s eyes. I, of course, was oblivious to all of this adult drama. I was taken to another room and Mom was left to wonder what all the commotion was about. Dad was given the task of telling Mom what had happened. He said to her, “This one needs our love more.” There is something good, beautiful and true in this response. As I think of Dad uttering these words in the midst of what must have been great shock, confusion and pain, I am moved to this day. I got involved in the pro-life movement because I wanted to call the world around me to know this love. For this, I still have great passion. My doubts and weariness come from trying to achieve this via political means.

  21. Matt Evans
    January 24, 2007 at 11:44 pm


    Thank you for your story. You surely have many more to tell. God bless your parents and all parents like them — I’m sure it’s true for people in your circumstance, as it is for those with Down syndrome, that, in George Will’s words, “because of advancing science and declining morals, there are fewer people” like you than there should be.


    It’s so good to see your name! Neither I nor Adam have denied the possibility that God would “inspire” someone to have an abortion. We’ve simply pointed out that the church’s policy says only that abortion in some cases may be morally permissible, that the policy does not say that abortion is sometimes morally required, and that the latter cannot be deduced from the former. And of course the Abraham/Joshua/Laban stories lead us to recognize the possibility of divine exceptions for anything.

  22. January 24, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Beautiful, Craig V. My best friend was very pro-life. Her final act of mortality was to throw herself over her Down’s Syndrome baby, who was in a carseat. (My friend never used seatbelts.) The baby survived the car crash; my friend died.
    I think of another friend who had a baby with deformities. As soon as the ultrasound revealed that the child would be born without some limbs, the doctor asked if she wanted to proceed with the pregnancy. She was stunned by the question, because she already had such a maternal connection to the fetus, and happily gave birth several months later.
    My question to you relates to your comment: “My doubts and weariness come from trying to achieve this via political means.”
    By what means do you think the love of all life can be achieved? (Yes, I am absolutely asking for a sermon. I think it’s about time we heard one from you.)

  23. Mark B.
    January 25, 2007 at 12:21 am

    It’s interesting that “morally superior” somehow has morphed into “morally required” in Matt’s and Adam’s minds.

    I’ll stick with my previous statement: I don’t believe that God would inspire someone to choose the morally inferior option.

    It’s not necessary for the Church to teach that in some instances abortion is the morally superior option. The Spirit teaches that principle when it confirms that abortion is the appropriate choice.

  24. Matt Evans
    January 25, 2007 at 2:15 am

    Mark B.,

    I didn’t intend to make a distinction between morally superior and morally required. The point is that the church’s position says that abortion may be morally *permissible* — that God will sometimes confirm that having an abortion in particular circumstances is permitted, i.e., _not wrong_. It is logically fallacious, however, to assume that if something is _not wrong_ it must therefore be (or sometimes be) the morally superior choice.

  25. Mark B.
    January 25, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Matt Evans,

    If we admit that God will at times permit us to do things that He would prefer we didn’t (such as, say, give 116 pages of manuscript to Martin Harris), then I’ll concede your point.

    Only once have I confronted this issue directly: the mission president asked me to meet with a couple who desired to be baptized, but who had run into a dead-end in the interview with the district leader because the wife had had an abortion.

    It turned out that she had been hemorrhaging severely, and would have died (along with the fetus) if the fetus were not aborted. There was no question in that case what the morally superior choice was.

    I suppose that one could posit a situation where the abortion/no abortion decision is morally neutral. If the woman in that case were to decide to have an abortion and God confirmed that decision, I see that as the cosmic “thumb on the scale” that moves it from neutral. If not, then why not an answer “do as seemeth you good.”

  26. Adam Greenwood
    January 25, 2007 at 10:52 am

    I’m not denying that the Church’s current policy does not logically exclude the possibility that God would command someone to abort their child. I’m denying that the Church’s current policy logically entails that God does so. My instinct is that abortion would hardly ever be commanded though since all sorts of unexpected things can get commanded (see, e.g., Laban) I’m not ruling out.

    If God did ever command abortion, perhaps the hemorrhage situation that Mark B. cites would be it. Though he’s wrong to think that abortion in that circumstance would always and unquestionably be the morally superior choice. Its sometimes better that two people should die rather than one person kill. To give a somewhat analagous situation: if someone at gunpoint ordered me to strangle my child, or else he’d kill both of us, I’d tell the SOB to fire away.

    In any case, God permitting an abortion but not requiring it does not entail that the decision is morally neutral. Abortion could still be morally inferior, as in the Martin Harris example.

  27. Matt Evans
    January 25, 2007 at 10:55 am


    I too believe that there are circumstances when abortion would seem to me the morally superior choice. My purpose has been to show that the church’s policy doesn’t get us there. And I do respect mothers who refuse to cause her baby’s death even though his death is inevitable and his life threatens hers.

  28. Adam Greenwood
    January 25, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Matt E. on media bias in abortion:

    A series of posts on aborting disabled babies, girl babies, and babies with homosexual genes:

    A post on when the Church believes life begins:

    Matt E. on Fathers for Choice:

    Kaimi W. on whether pro-lifers are hypocrites or just stubborn, when it comes to partial birth abortion:

    Fred Gedicks on abortion and the unequal burden on unwed mothers:

    Kaimi W. on abortion and the two-headed baby:

    A post on abortion restrictions for people who think the fetus is an overgrown fingernail:

    Dr. Joseph Stanford on Birth Control’s effect on the embryo:

    Dr. Joseph Stanford on when life begins:

    Matt E. on the Church’s position on using embryos as experimental subjects:

    A debate on whether a woman who risks death to keep her unborn child alive is heroic or else taking a copout and abandoning her responsibilities:

  29. Craig V.
    January 25, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Matt Evans,

    Thanks for your kind words. Interestingly, I don’t think my parents ever saw their love for me as unusual or heroic.


    It sounds like you have great taste in friends. As to your question, I’ve spent some time recently getting to know some of the distinctives of the Orthodox Church. Like most Protestants, I knew nothing about this church and wanted to at least get started in ridding myself of this ignorance. One thing I’ve found is that they have a far richer understanding of the Incarnation then we Presbyterians. If I were asked, “What gives human life such great value?” as a Presbyterian I would probably answer “Because God created man (male and female) in His own image.” While the Orthodox Church, if I understand its teaching, would affirm this as well, they’re more likely to give the answer “Because God became man.” So what, you are probably wondering, does this have to do with your question? It seems to me that a love of all life is first and foremost not so much something we achieve as it is something God has achieved in sending His Son, in the Incarnation. Our part is to live in the light of this great event. When my Dad said, “This one needs our love more” he was, perhaps without being aware of it, filled with the truth of the Incarnation. I’m still digesting these thoughts, so I can’t give you the sermon you requested (you’re very brave to ask a Presbyterian minister for a sermon. We love to hear ourselves talk.) but I’m sure there are many sermons there.

  30. Mark B.
    January 25, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Adam Greenwood puts words in my mouth:

    Though he’s wrong to think that abortion in that circumstance would always and unquestionably be the morally superior choice.

    My statement was “There was no question in that case what the morally superior choice was.” (Emphasis added) I hadn’t extrapolated from any specific case to a general rule in any type or class of cases. The determining factor, as I understand it and as I have tried to explain (not well, I’m afraid) is not the class of case but the inspiration of God.

  31. Adam Greenwood
    January 25, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Gosh, Mark B. I’m sorry.

  32. Margaret Young
    January 25, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Craig V–I’m going to have to think about your comment. I like what you say, but I want to ponder it.
    My own pro-life feelings are based in my experience of having a miscarriage when I was nearly 3 months pregnant and then THINKING I was going to lose the next child I conceived when the doctor was unable to find the heartbeat at 2 months of gestation. He scheduled an ultrasound and I turned my head away so I wouldn’t see what I was certain would be on the screen–the lifeless lump. The doctor said, “Mrs. Young, look. Turn your head to the screen. This baby is alive! That’s the heartbeat!” I saw my son’s heartbeat and wept. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, and I was suddenly full of energy as I ran from the car to my house shouting, “The baby’s alive!”
    The vocabulary the doctors used in referring to the fetus which had died (“The baby has died”) and the fetus which was alive (“The baby’s alive”) say something about our natural instincts when we see evidence of life.

  33. Mark B.
    January 25, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    I don’t need or want your phony apologies.

  34. Seth R.
    January 25, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    I object to Adam putting words into my mouth (or anyone’s for that matter) unless he first washes his hands properly.

    And even then, I think he’s getting waaay too personal for polite company.

  35. January 25, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    Apparently the comment I submitted got lost somewhere in moderation. It was not controversial, but it appears that we do have some fighting words on this particular blog, which likely red-flagged other comments. Too bad. This is one subject where disrespect is not only uncalled for but ironic.

  36. Adam Greenwood
    January 25, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Sorry, Mark B., I didn’t know.

    Seth R.,
    If it makes you feel better, I wear gloves.

  37. DKL
    January 26, 2007 at 1:24 am

    \”I’ve always thought it might be a clever insult to say of someone “He’s a walking argument for abortion.” Of course, I’d have to use it to describe somebody that everybody loathes, like a child molester or a politician.

  38. Craig V.
    January 26, 2007 at 2:49 pm


    The vocabulary is revealing. Thanks for your post. It brought back memories for me as my wife and I went through a miscarriage. I remember the sadness of seeing in the ultrasound that our baby had died. I also remember the joys and fears of our next pregnancy, especially the joy of welcoming our daughter into the world.

    As far as pondering my comment is concerned, I would love to see what you discover as you ponder. The connection between the Incarnation and love for life is new for me and I’ve no doubt that you will discover in it things that I have missed.

  39. Beej
    January 29, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    \”I’ve always thought it might be a clever insult to say of someone “He’s a walking argument for abortion.” Of course, I’d have to use it to describe somebody that everybody loathes, like a child molester or a politician.

    Comment by DKL — 1/26/2007 @ 1:24 am\”

    Hey man, why don\’t you just stop annoying people.

Comments are closed.