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My Take: Why the abortion issue won’t go away
The 2011 Right to Life march in Washington.
January 23rd, 2012
10:01 AM ET

My Take: Why the abortion issue won’t go away

Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

By R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

After recently addressing a large secular assembly on issues of moral controversy, I turned and faced a woman who urgently wanted to ask me a question: “Why won’t the abortion issue just go away?”

I knew exactly what she was asking. I often meet abortion rights advocates who honestly thought that the national controversy over abortion would simply melt away within a few years of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

That was clearly the hope of the Supreme Court majority that signed onto the opinion written by Associate Justice Harry Blackmun. In a note he wrote to himself as he drafted the final opinion and looked to its aftermath, Blackmun revealed a rather optimistic assumption: “It will be an unsettled period for a while.”

Surely, he didn’t mean for that “while” to extend four decades.

Sunday marked the 39th anniversary of the decision, and the abortion question is anything but settled. Just look at the crowds gathering in Washington on Monday for the annual March for Life.

In fact, America has been unsettled ever since Roe. Abortion has become a central issue of political conflict, debate and division. If the court had hoped to calm the waters, it failed spectacularly.

As Guido Calabresi, then dean of the Yale Law School, observed, the aftermath of Roe v. Wade produced a “sense of desperate embattlement.” As Calabresi noted, the court’s decision failed to produce a national consensus. Rather, Roe “made it impossible for the opposing views to live with each other.”

Those who thought that the decision of the Supreme Court would settle the issue had reason for that hope. On other controversial questions, the court’s rulings had produced initial furor and outrage, but the nation rather quickly accommodated itself to those decisions. Take integration in public schools.

Not so with abortion.

Why? Professor Lawrence H. Tribe of the Harvard Law School, an ardent defender of abortion rights, at least recognized that the abortion question presents nothing less than a “clash of absolutes.”

Tribe attempted to propose a means of avoiding “pitting these absolutes against one another.” All such efforts have failed, precisely because the competing claims are indeed absolutes.

When abortion-rights advocates and their allies ask why the abortion issue will not just go away, they really mean to ask why, given the stark reality of Roe, the pro-life movement has not dissipated and retreated into the history books.

Here are five reasons why:

First, the radical character of Roe – overthrowing abortion laws in 49 states – galvanized pro-life forces. The judicial imposition of abortion on demand, virtually without restriction until the third trimester, produced both shock and outrage among those who believe that the unborn child has an inalienable right to life.

Within months of Roe, an organized pro-life movement came into shape, looking for any means of limiting and eventually ending the termination of unborn life.

Second, Roe also had the effect, surely unforeseen by the Supreme Court, of bringing millions of evangelical Christians into the fight on behalf of unborn life. Prior to Roe, even many evangelicals believed that abortion was a Roman Catholic issue.

Roe was a legal earthquake that awakened a massive number of evangelicals to the deadly reality of abortion. With remarkable speed, evangelicals soon educated themselves on the issue and then mobilized themselves both politically and culturally.

Third, the death spiral of abortion simply defies adequate calculation. Over a million abortions are performed in America each year. Reports last year indicated that over 40% of all pregnancies in New York end in abortion, a rate that increases to almost 60% of pregnancies among African-American women.

The sheer scale of the death toll sears the pro-life conscience. Young people can now see that millions are missing from their own generation.

Fourth, abortion has proved to be exactly what pro-life activists warned it would be: a deadly threat to human dignity that would target specific populations. Prenatal testing has produced a deadly reality for unborn babies considered less than acceptable by their parents.

The vast majority (90%) of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are now aborted. Sex-selection abortions are legal in the wide-open “right” to abortion declared by the court. Prenatal testing of other characteristics means that parents can now abort a baby that does not meet their specifications and try again.

Fifth, powerful imaging technologies now allow a look inside the womb, a privilege unknown to previous generations. That window has transformed the equation, as millions of parents have seen their unborn children and witnessed the miracle of life.

They have seen the little human form and the actions of the unborn child, sucking its thumb as it nestles within its mother. Millions of siblings have seen the images of their unborn brothers and sisters taped to the refrigerator door.

Those of us who believe that every single unborn child has a right to be born cannot resign from the effort to protect those lives.

The greatest advances made by the pro-life movement have been made among the young, the generation that has known the death toll from Roe v. Wade all their lives. More evidence that the abortion issue will not simply go away.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler Jr.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (1,716 Responses)
  1. Steve D

    Abortion is absolutely unacceptable to anti-abortionists and restrictions are absolutely unacceptable to pro-abortionists.

    One major point to question is how well we've accepted integration of public schools. Yes, we have integrated schools, after massive white flight to the suburbs eviscerated our cities. We might have been far better off if the Court had said "Fine, you can have separate but equal. But you will be absolutely equal."

    Without Roe, we'd probably have hammered out a modus vivendi state by state. Top down management is a failure in almost every case.

    January 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  2. Stephanie

    The abortion issue will not go away because many who seek to make abortion illegal are really very angry people. They are angry at the independence that women have achieved in society and blame the advancement of women for their failures in life. They think women have taken their jobs, women now have many more options available to them for support than to stay with a man who does not RESPECT them. Remember – I stated many....not all. You need only look at the number of anti-abortion advocates that also seek to dismantle most forms of birth control. It is mainly about the control and subrogation of woman. There are some in the anti-abortion movement who believe with every fiber in their being that life begins when the fertilized egg is implanted – of course the ones who believe in this AND believe in birth control, better funding of birth control and the like are in the minority. And this is because abortion is the lead in issue, if you will, to the control and subrogation of women. Ask yourself this fundamental question – “What business is it of the government’s (state, local and federal) if I use birth control or what type I use”? .

    January 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      That is a crock of sh!t with no evidence backing it...

      But if you are for independent woman, allow them to sell there bodies and have the right to walk around in nothing? Would it not be hypocritical from your independent view point to restrict women in this manner?

      January 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      Yes, women have acheived a great deal of liberty. But through most of history, women lived in a "man's" world. They had few opportunities other than to stay home, work in hot fields or sweatshops, or sell their bodies. Without a man they were unviable. Through the ages good men have accepted the burden of supporting women. Did men drive women out, or even slaughter them as unviable burdens? No. But now that women have acheived independence what do they do? Flock to the abortion clinics in droves to divest themselves of unviable burdens. Maybe this partially explains the rising misogyny in our age.

      January 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  3. Confused in Cleveland

    "I would like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly."

    John Paul II

    January 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      Rachel's Vinyard, active in more that 22 countries, can help in this process.

      January 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  4. T$F%

    MILLIONS TO BE ASSASSINATED FOR THE SAKE OF $$$ LIABILITIES(mk-ultra, chip implants, electroshocks etc. performed on them) AND NEW WORLD ORDER(multiculturalism = terrorism) POLITICAL AGENDA KNOWN AS "YOU ARE NEXT"(financial liabilities are 2 expensive for the government and it is cheaper to get rid of you instead!!!)

    NOW YOU KNOW WHAT ORWELLIAN UNITED STATES CONGRESS(USSR number 2 which consists of lawyers or what are liars and physicians...lawyers, so crime per physicians can get away with it) AND OTHER GOVERNMENTS WORLDWIDE ARE SOOO BUSY WITH WHEN PLAYING/CLOWNING(acting) IN FRONT OF CAMERAS ONLY HOW SOMETHING HAVE TO BE DONE(deliberately omitting/delaying facts of genocide as seen on this complain) ROMNEY'S FATHER ALIKE WHO EXCELLED AFTER GM WAS DELIBERATELY BANKRUPT(LIKE AMERICA TODAY = success based on deliberate sabotage = known as grand treason) !!!


    LEARN TRUTH ABOUT UNITED NATIONS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS WELL AS NEW WORLD ORDER(MULTICULTURALISM = TERRORISM) GOVERNMENTS(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) !!! NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, BUT TO DENY YOUR RIGHT TO EXISTENCE !!!

    ABDUCTIONS / FORCED BRAIN CHIP IMPLANTS / BLACKLISTING / FORCEFUL UNEMPLOYMENT / MK-ULTRA BRAINWASHING AGAINST WHITE(under "NA ZI" lie) CIVILIAN POPULATION TODAY IN 2011/2012 ACROSS THE EUROPE AND NORTHERN AMERICA !!!WHY TO ACCEPT LIABILITIES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED WHEN WE CAN SIMPLY ASSASSINATE OUR VICTIMS(YOU) THANKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND FREE PRESS/MEDIA(most severe censorship of genocide ever !!!)!! Related to WHITES NO LONGER WELCOME IN AMERICA

    January 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  5. Dierdre

    Having an abortion does not make you "not a mother," it makes you the mother of a dead baby!

    January 30, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • jimtanker

      No, it makes you a person that had an abortion and the human fetal infestation was removed.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Reasoner

      No, jimtanker. It's that human infestation that was removed. Don't dress in up.

      January 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  6. Sheryl

    Abortion disgusts me too. However, I wonder who would be willing to adopt all of these babies born to parents who do not want them? Who will adopt all the children with genetic diseases and disorders, babies who require special care? Who can afford life long care for babies born with genetic problems? Who will adopt the babies born on crack or with fetal alcohol syndrome? Granted, there are many loving parents who WILL, but if over one million pregnancies are teminated, how many American parents actually QUALIFY financially and emotionally to raise all of these children? Will we then revise the standards and criteria for adoption? If so, how can we guarantee that these children will be raised in a loving, financially secure setting?

    January 30, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Confused in Cleveland

      "Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!"

      Mother Teresa

      January 30, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      It's a good question. Pro-choice advocates insists it's about the fetus carrier (I don't say "mother") and her body. I agree. Some women can be such monsters it might be a crime against humanity to let them reproduce.

      BTW, I leave fathers out of this comment because Roe vs Wade left them out too.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • geeky

      Prime, women should not have their reproductive choices interfered with by the Federal government, period. If you personally want to minister to women who are facing this life-altering decision, adopt her baby and give her the support she needs so she no longer feels an abortion is her only choice, then you are free to do so. But you can't take away her right to choose. All you can do is practice the love that Jesus preached and don't judge.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  7. Confused in Cleveland

    "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

    "Any country that accepts abortion, is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what it wants."

    "Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!"

    Mother Teresa

    January 30, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  8. momoya

    Father Barron thinks way too highly of his own assumptions which then make a poor platform for his specious arguments. He speaks kindly, but he doesn't understand the easy and obvious refutations to his claims.

    January 30, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  9. F. Whitaker

    LRowens:

    1. First Statement Answered: Funny...why should you care??? You admitted in point that you do not believe in Him. You speak out both sides of your mouth to make a point you are clearly unsettled on yourself. But to humor your ignorance, please consider, Ro 9:20 (KJV) "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Your pride in your understanding of God has blinded you to His clear right...HE IS GOD, THE CREATOR!

    2. Your disposition here supports the psychological dispostion of many of the criminally insane who live with large amounts of undisclosed, wicked regret and who are embittered over rejected love or the lack thereof. In turn, their selfish actions of murder are justified by their selfish motives on the lives of their innocent victims while they believe anyone attempting to stop them have become the enemy. Gal 4:16 (KJV) Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? Ex 20:13 (KJV) Thou shalt not kill.

    3. This is HUMANISM at it core...there is no God because they believe many himself is his own god. As god, man decides who lives and who dies. A critic that shares your humanism once visited a school of deaf children. He mockingly wrote on the board, "if God loves you so much, why did he make you deaf?!" Several students began to weep, but another, a small girl, made her way to the front and in her child like way wrote what words of FAITH in a loving GOD believes to be the only answer, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." Matt 11:26. HUMANISM only does what is right in their OWN EYES.

    4. It's the old time tested "proof question"! This answer will require intelligence on behalf of the one hearing it, but faith in the one who might receive it! The proof is all around you. Nature is proof, just as you would look at a portrait and assume with confidence there must be an artist (and be right) you look at creation and assume the same. Then, you pick up your Bible and learn that your assumption was right, as in Genesis 1:1, God admits to making it all. But you want to see him! Atlast, the scientist in Louis Pastures day wanted proof, that a tiny world of life destroying germs existed, and that his germ position was viable. He gave them a microscope and some lessons in faith. God gave you his BIBLE, and I am SURE, a life of lessons, and if none yet, because you are yet young and ignorant, then a lifetime of lessons to come!!

    January 30, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  10. Confused in Cleveland

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe5kVw9JsYI&w=640&h=390]

    January 30, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  11. Confused in Cleveland

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOJjI5Yv5TU&w=640&h=390]

    January 30, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • momoya

      @Confused Interesting video, but for what reason did you post it?

      January 30, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  12. myklds

    Therefore, 80+% of Non-believers populace have contributed the abortion figures.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  13. Jen

    Abortion disgusts me. Insects and lower animals kill their children. Having said that, it's sometimes the kindest choice. When? I don't know. That's up to the woman. Which is why abortion needs to remain legal. It's impossible to write a law that outlaws only the abortions that disturb us, and allows the ones we think are okay.

    January 30, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  14. Lion King

    (sung to the tune of Hakuna Matata)

    Abort a retard-a, it's a wonderful thing
    Abort a retard-a, and the human race wins

    January 30, 2012 at 4:31 am |
  15. rlowens1

    1 – If God is against abortions, why does He perform so many?

    2 – This issue is obviously one of control and a total lack of respect for freedom and the rights of other taxpaying citizens to make such choices without the meddling of the self-righteous, self-appoimted warriors for God..

    3 – Abortion does not threaten the future of humanity, but it can be selectively used to improve it – as you noted in your example of aborted Down's Syndrome fetuses. You may not like looking at that reality, but in the long run, it probably is the best course of action for all involved – except, the meddlers who have no business being involved.

    4 – People with imaginary friends should have to prove that they exist, before they expect the rest of us to care what their imaginary friend thinks about anything.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:30 am |
    • Lion King

      I love your disdain for all religious people. It makes your arguments seem so much more reasonable.

      January 30, 2012 at 4:27 am |
    • SHesler

      "but it can be selectively used to improve it..."

      Usually pro-abortion advocates shy away from the eugenic nature of their cause. I appreciate your honesty.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • F. Whitaker

      1 – If God is against abortions, why does He perform so many?

      2 – This issue is obviously one of control and a total lack of respect for freedom and the rights of other taxpaying citizens to make such choices without the meddling of the self-righteous, self-appoimted warriors for God..

      3 – Abortion does not threaten the future of humanity, but it can be selectively used to improve it – as you noted in your example of aborted Down's Syndrome fetuses. You may not like looking at that reality, but in the long run, it probably is the best course of action for all involved – except, the meddlers who have no business being involved.

      4 – People with imaginary friends should have to prove that they exist, before they expect the rest of us to care what their imaginary friend thinks about anything.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • F. Whitaker

      LRowens:

      1. First Statement Answered: Funny...why should you care??? You admitted in point that you do not believe in Him. You speak out both sides of your mouth to make a point you are clearly unsettled on yourself. But to humor your ignorance, please consider, Ro 9:20 (KJV) "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" Your pride in your understanding of God has blinded you to His clear right...HE IS GOD, THE CREATOR!

      2. Your disposition here supports the psychological dispostion of many of the criminally insane who live with large amounts of undisclosed, wicked regret and who are embittered over rejected love or the lack thereof. In turn, their selfish actions of murder are justified by their selfish motives on the lives of their innocent victims while they believe anyone attempting to stop them have become the enemy. Gal 4:16 (KJV) Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? Ex 20:13 (KJV) Thou shalt not kill.

      3. This is HUMANISM at it core...there is no God because they believe many himself is his own god. As god, man decides who lives and who dies. A critic that shares your humanism once visited a school of deaf children. He mockingly wrote on the board, "if God loves you so much, why did he make you deaf?!" Several students began to weep, but another, a small girl, made her way to the front and in her child like way wrote what words of FAITH in a loving GOD believes to be the only answer, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." Matt 11:26. HUMANISM only does what is right in their OWN EYES.

      4. It's the old time tested "proof question"! This answer will require intelligence on behalf of the one hearing it, but faith in the one who might receive it! The proof is all around you. Nature is proof, just as you would look at a portrait and assume with confidence there must be an artist (and be right) you look at creation and assume the same. Then, you pick up your Bible and learn that your assumption was right, as in Genesis 1:1, God admits to making it all. But you want to see him! Atlast, the scientist in Louis Pastures day wanted proof, that a tiny world of life destroying germs existed, and that his germ position was viable. He gave them a microscope and some lessons in faith. God gave you his BIBLE, and I am SURE, a life of lessons, and if none yet, because you are yet young and ignorant, then a lifetime of lessons to come!!

      January 30, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  16. WIll

    "The vast majority (90%) of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are now aborted". Well then, it looks like the vast majority of evangelicals disagree with your stubborn stance on absolutes. Way over 10% of Americans are evangelicals, in case you're having a problem with the math.

    January 30, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  17. JP

    Does anyone know what they do with all the dead babies? Hopefully, they don't just throw them in the garbage. We don't even treat animals that way. When they slaughter cows for consumption, every part is used, nothing is wasted. I would think we would treat our babies better than a cow. Are they used for livestock feed? Dog food? Any of those would be better than just the garbage.

    January 30, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  18. The commenter

    Well, we have to face that even though most of us don't like abortion (like me), it has to be legal to be safe, otherwise there will be more... you know...

    January 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  19. sqeptiq

    The "abortion issue" is settled for about 90% of Americans. It's legal; everybody doesn't like that but most of them accept it. Maybe 10% won't let it die. Just like their are a small number of Klansmen and Aryan Nations pinheads who will never let racial equality become settled.

    January 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  20. Steve

    When there is no shortage of foster parents, when no children await adoption, and when mandatory DNA registries make boys/men as responsible for pregnancy as the women/girls, then abortion will be history. Oh, and the European countries that have abortion, also value the mother and child by providing housing, adequate "child support" until 18, and national medical care.

    January 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • pattha

      Thank you. Too many folks in this country are so concerned in this country over the unborn, and yet not a thought for the born. These so called evangelical Christians could do so much positive to help the living but they won't. They'll spend time harassing poor women over a private decision. But these are the same folks who abhor the idea of providing housing, medical care, and other programs for the poor because its socialism. But don't point out to them that the numbers of people needing aid will go up exponentially if we toss out Roe.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • M

      Here's a response to each of your specific claims: vis a vis social services, with its cradle-to-grave security, Sweden's abortion rate is the same as the U.S. rate. Great Britain, with its national health care, has the highest abortion rate in Europe. It's the culture.
      Vis a vis dads, men are already held to a higher standard than women regarding providing care for children. A man who fathers a child during a one-night stand must support that child for at least 18 years, as he should, but a woman is not required to support the child for 9 months to give him life to place him for adoption.
      Regarding adoption, foster care and infant adoption are two different things. Right now, there are about 1 to 2 million couples waiting to adopt a baby in the U.S.–and infant adoption is best for the child. Adoption is harder than abortion, and in a culture of life, where adoption is the default for women unable or unwilling to care for their children, it is likely that the unwanted pregnancy rate would decline precipitously due to careful contraception use.
      Most of the children in foster care are older and/or in large sibling groups and/or have special needs and/or minorities, parenting situations that can be daunting. They are children who have been raised by and then removed from their biological parent(s)–how is abortion relevant to them, unless you wish they had been aborted? If so, shame on you. Abortion is relevant only to the extent that the single or unready parenthood is encouraged by our culture; many of these children would be better off if they had been adopted as infants.
      If you are arguing that the world must be perfect in order to stop adoption, you are using the same argument that a slaveowner would have had in the South in the early 1800s–that slavery could not be stopped until no one went hungry. You would not argue that until all cancers are curable, there is no point in cancer treatment or that until cars are completely safe, no one should drive. Improving the lives of children starts with saving their lives.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • M

      Sorry, I meant "in order to stop abortion."

      January 30, 2012 at 10:02 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.