J.D. Greear: Beware of Distractions When Advocating for the Sanctity of Unborn Life

J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Jan. 20 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Tomorrow in our nation’s capital, thousands upon thousands of people will participate in the March for Life, the largest pro-life rally in the world. The march is built on the conviction that unborn babies are made in the image of God and, as such, they deserve the rights God has given to all people.

The conversation about abortion really should hinge on one question: Are the unborn human or not?

If so, then the reasoning behind the pro-choice cause falls apart. The arguments become “red herrings” — distractions that aren’t relevant to the issue at hand.

Here are some of the most common:

A. If you’re so pro-life, why do you only care about babies before they’re born?

This comes in a variety of forms, but the basic implication is that those who are pro-life are hypocritical: They say they don’t want women aborting babies, but they also won’t do anything to help those women or babies after birth.

For example, pro-choice advocates might say, “Are you willing to adopt all these unwanted kids you don’t want aborted?” The charge is both a logical fallacy and utterly inconsistent with the facts about pro-life advocates.

From the standpoint of logic, this is an attack on pro-life advocates, not on the pro-life view. If you imply that people aren’t truly loving, the honest person will say, “You’re right. I could do more.” But remember, it’s not an argument. The question of the humanity of the baby isn’t even addressed. It’s a red herring that diverts the discussion to moral judgmentalism.

But this attack also misrepresents the facts. Pro-life Christians do care, and not just in a don’t-get-abortions kind of way. Pro-life pregnancy centers, for instance, far outnumber abortion clinics. They provide parenting classes, clothing and adoption services. Pro-lifers adopt more often than pro-choicers. And they give far more to charity than their pro-choice counterparts.(1)

We want to promote a culture of life, and that means caring about life from the womb to the tomb. So if we aren’t caring for the poor and needy and marginalized among us, we need to repent. But that should never lead us to stop caring and fighting for the protection of the vulnerable and voiceless unborn.

B. Only women can speak on this issue.

This is often hurled at male pro-life advocates because the discussion touches on issues affecting women’s bodies, not men’s. But again, this is a logical fallacy: Whether it is right or wrong to intentionally kill someone depends on the person being killed, not the gender of the person making the argument. Remember: The central question is, “Is the unborn one of us?”

One appropriate response is to ask, “Which women?” What about the women who are aborted? Or the millions of pro-life women? “Women” don’t have one view on this. And, in fact, statistics show that women are more pro-life than men. Justice means speaking up for any who are voiceless, regardless of their gender or yours.

C. Shouldn’t we spend more time speaking out against the poverty system that creates the need for abortions?

There’s an element of truth here: Yes, we should work to fight the poverty that can create the despair that makes abortion feel necessary. But again, here’s the logical fallacy: Whether or not abortion is wrong is not contingent on the environment surrounding it. Imagine a slave owner in the South explaining why the economic system Northerners created demanded slavery. Even if that had been true, we’d nevertheless maintain that the practice of slavery was wrong.

If we truly love people, we should do everything in our power to help them. So we speak out against the poverty system and we speak out against abortion. It’s not an either/or.

D. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.

This argument stretches the limits of the word “like.” We’re not talking about a preference (“Don’t like Pepsi? Don’t drink it!”). We’re talking about people’s lives. I don’t oppose abortion because it violates some preference of mine; I’m opposed because I believe it ends human life.

To imagine how absurd this statement is, change the variables in it: What would you think if someone said, “Don’t like slavery? Well, don’t own a slave!” or “Don’t like sexual assault? Don’t do it!”

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Source: Baptist Press