The apollos among us
Christians have united in an effort to “abolish” abortion, make a difference
When I was in D.C. Sept. 17, the familiar refrain of “My Country ’Tis of Thee” gradually wafted over from down along East Capitol Street.
I abandoned my post where I awaited a cab and followed the tune.
Something about the song I knew so well struck me this time as different.
A crowd gathered at the steps of the Supreme Court and brandished heartbreaking signs depicting aborted babies, emblazoned with slogans such as “Fight the Beast!”
The actual lyrics of their song became clearer as I neared: “My country ’tis of thee. Den of iniquity, of thee I sing. Land of the silent cries, guiltless babes sacrificed. To gods of lust and pride. From the light you flee.”
Ah. One of those pro-life groups.
As a journalist, I realized there is always more to the picture than simply an image. I wanted to head into the thick of the movement to understand it, to uncover the truth.
As a Christian, conviction jabbed at my heart.
Could I be lambasting possible brothers and sisters in Christ, demoralizing a cause that I too stand behind more passionately than any other cause? Perhaps.
So I crossed the street and engaged them.
The group (indeed a professing Christian one) calls itself “Abolish Human Abortion” (AHA).”
Its members have often stewed heated contention among other Christians and pro-lifers, as a quick Google search will reveal.
According to its webpage, AHA does not tag itself as an official organization per se.
It prefers to be identified as an ideology, a movement made up of Christians who organize themselves into subgroups called “abolitionist societies.”
Yes, AHA members do actually call themselves “abolitionists.”
The reference to the 19th century abolitionists of slavery is thoroughly intentional.
The “abolitionists” I encountered in D.C. had come from Norman, Oklahoma.
Led by T. Russell Hunter, they had been touring with their signs and group literature since early that morning.
The spots they rallied at included various churches, the National Mall and the Holocaust Museum.
They ended the day at the Supreme Court building, where a few police officers warily stood by.
Hunter said his group saw itself on a sort of missions trip.
AHA’s ultimate mission is the abolition of abortion.
But in its ground work, it does not go so much after atheists who support abortion.
Rather, it makes a point to go after the Christian pro-life movement itself which, according to AHA, is just not doing enough for the cause of life.
“We’re not pro-lifers who are ‘doing it more,’ who have louder signs, are more aggressive, or are more organized,” Hunter said. “We are anti-pro-lifers.”
Wait. Come again?
“Pro-lifers think the only way to ‘eat the elephant’ of abortion is gradually, one bite at a time,” Hunter continued.
“We think you have to kill the elephant before you can eat it.”
Hunter went on to clarify that he and AHA as a whole had come to see pro-lifers as “part of the problem” through an incremental approach to ending abortion.
Hunter even went so far as to say pro-lifers are, in fact, regulating abortion rather than combating it.
“Pro-lifers come up with ways of being pro-life by passing regulatory laws that make it harder to get abortions but still just sort of fly under the radar,” Hunter said.
He called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act “a total joke.”
“It’s a ban on dismemberment abortion which is saying, not that abortion is wrong, but that this one way of abortion is wrong,” Hunter said.
“So instead of using forceps … just use a chemical and birth a dead baby. Really, all abortions are dismemberment abortions. Every last one of them.”
Hunter made no small mention about the dilemma of the SB 1118 bill in his home state earlier this year.
According to the Oklahoma State Legislature’s web page, the bill sought to classify abortion as first-degree murder under Oklahoma statutes.
The SB 1118 bill was struck down in March by the Oklahoma State Senate.
Tony Lauinger, state affiliate of the National Right to Life and chairman of Oklahomans for Life, expressed his strong opposition toward the bill in that it would effectively repeal the more incremental Heartbeat Informed Consent Act and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
“Do we want to make a statement, or do we want to make a difference?” asked Lauinger in a WORLD magazine article.
“We must focus on legislation that has at least some chance of saving unborn lives.”
It was this move by Lauinger and the Oklahoma Senate that prompted AHA to state on its blog that the opposition to the bill (and effectively to the group’s whole mission) was primarily comprised of “pro-life, Republican, professing Christians” rather than pro-choice Democrats.
Hunter expanded by stating AHA’s general perception that pro-lifers seem to “keep God out” of the issue of abortion and neglect to address it “as a sin issue” altogether.
“The instruction within the church now is to ‘find common ground’ and leave the gospel out, if we’re going to save babies,” Hunter said. “Christians in America haven’t failed to be pro-life, but they have failed to be Christians in not loving their neighbors who are being destroyed in their midst.
Now, you may say that not everyone’s called to fight abortion like this.
Well, that might be true, were it not for the fact that Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The AHA movement has generated its share of controversy within the Christian and pro-life community.
Blogs from individuals and organizations alike have denounced AHA entirely for its tactics and approach to the anti-abortion cause.
A writer for Canadian advocacy group Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) condemned AHA’s position on the pro-life cause as a “straw man fallacy as well as a blatant slur.”
The writer also refuted AHA’s frequent use of William Wilberforce quotes to strengthen their anti-incrementalist stance, while they seemed to ignore the actual incremental legislation toward abolition in England that ultimately succeeded.
Montana-based pastor J.D. Hall wrote in his Pulpit and Pen blog harshly criticizing AHA for protesting a Dallas church in August, causing undue agitation and division.
Scrolling through the comments generated by AHA members reveals vitriol to spare from their already-passionate side, too.
I departed from the demonstration in D.C. with a renewed perspective on the pro-life cause.
No vitriol involved.
My encounter with AHA and Hunter forced me to face myself as a Christian and advocate for life.
Do I agree with every approach, tactic, statement and rewritten hymn made by AHA?
No. I think some of the group’s output is sadly counterproductive to its cause.
The more I have researched some of AHA’s more rash discourses in the past, the more my inner diplomat cringes at its extreme edge.
But, abortion is an extreme cause.
And diplomacy never really does give pulse to a war; the soldiers do — those who work in the trenches, like my own mother did for 12 years as a crisis pregnancy counselor, providing counsel, the gospel, and tangible help to women in crisis.
These are the immediate proponents of the cause for life.
These are the ambassadors of the cause, serving with profound love and deep conviction over every person’s basic rights to life: those of all women, and those of all unborn.
It is not fair to say that all pro-lifers are content with the “status quo,” or that they actually want to propagate abortion.
AHA is gravely mistaken in making such a sweeping generalization.
However, we in the pro-life movement would do well to evaluate our actual impact on the culture itself.
Are we resigning ourselves to a “get anything we can get” approach in the political realm? Getting “anything we can get” for the cause of life is encouragement, yes, but it is not the entire victory.
Should Christians within the pro-life movement hold each other accountable for the witness they bear?
Absolutely. Must they picket a brother or sister’s church to baselessly judge their actually good work? I say no.
Moral superiority in place of loving rebuke will get no one anywhere.
AHA is not out to harm anybody.
The emphasis on “love your neighbor” is absolutely right as it pertains to the sanctity of life.
The zeal is good, as long as the output of the zeal can be “tempered with wisdom,” in the words of Hall, who is both a sympathizer and critic of the movement.
The mission and base purpose of AHA is fundamentally good, as are the questions it dares to raise.
It’s the tactics and warring vocabulary that could use some refining.
As for the rest of us Christians and pro-lifers, we ought to take a good long look at where we stand on the pro-life movement.
We must carefully consider why we stand and just how firmly we stand, before we scoff at the factions on our own side of the fight for life.
Jarrett is an opinion writer.