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. Charles Sagan

    It never fails to amuse me how people value so much the idea that we came and evolved from a one-celled plant when it was not concretely proven yet. BUT....apparently, they are the same type of people on this blog who comepletely disregard zygotes and treat them like sh!t that can be thrown anywhere and anytime as they pleases. Despite the concrete,unarguable and indisputable fact that it's part of human life and all adults came from it.

    January 31, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • momoya

      Not that your statement makes much sense, but you do realize that you are comparing apples and oranges? On one hand you talk about an idea "evolution," and on the other hand you are talking about matter "clump of cells."

      January 31, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  2. Gabe

    Everybody wants to win the debate but few are willing to find a way to work together. My friends all we need to share with our brothers and sisters is a little thing call EDUCATION! An educated society means an educate decision to take precautions. Precautions means less pregnancies. Less pregnancies means less abortions. We educate our teens and even our young minded adults and we find ourselves with a way to lower the numbers. Let's not get stuck trying to win the debate wether abortion should or shouldn't be allow, lets put effort into trying to put fewer women in that situation.

    January 31, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • PrimeNumber

      I very much agree, Gabe. But there's a problem. Education is cerebral. "Protection" requires forethought. As we know, 6ual acts usually happen when the brain is turned off. Maybe evolution had to supify people before we'd keep the species going.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  3. Jennifer

    Below is a link to a great story from a religious man who addresses Bible misconceptions. I am well-educated and have had several years of formal bible classes, even though I am not Christian - yet I loved this CNN article.


    January 31, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  4. Believer

    I believe abortion is wrong. However I do not think it should be made illegal because then we move away from the free society we live in today. We as Christians get mad when the government takes down our flags at memorials and such. We would be hypocrites to say that we should deny the right. It is legal and does not look like its going to change any time soon. Just because it is legal does not mean we need to do it. What I am against is taxpayer dollars going to abortion.
    However I have another plan to end the need for abortion. We educate, we step up not on the legalities but the necesseties. We tell the teenage girls that there are plenty of people willing to adopt. We tell them there is another way.
    Also being a man I do not blame women on the desicion of abortion, I blame men. The men who hit and run. The men who shirk responsibility. If the man who got the girl pregnant would step up and help with finances then maybe she wouldnt have to drop out. We need to step up and help take care of the women, not judging them. I believe that if more men would be willing to help raise a child then the abortion rate would go down. Half of the fear would be gone, because one of the great fears is doing it alone.

    January 31, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  5. Jake

    last comment @ jun de, not ken, who made an excellent point, and whose irritation at my reasoning is exactly what I wanted someone to take part in.
    My ultimate point was rather to note that morality should not be the backing point for an argument that supports, or is against, abortion.

    January 31, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  6. mak

    This is the dumbest question...! murdering babies day in and day out !!! and you ask the question, Why this issue does not go
    away. What is the difference between our nation and China. Even the Chinese are coming to the conclusion that is wrong,
    although they will never admit it.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  7. Disciple

    It's illegal to damage the eggs or nest of a state bird.

    So why aren't human unborn protected?

    Aren't humans worth more than birds?

    January 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Nina

      Make your case for why we need more humans rather than more birds.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  8. Jake

    Anti-choice campaigns raise interesting questions regarding morality, but they fail to explain how stopping all abortions will solve any of society's problems. Their methodology is curious to me, as they attempt to make abortion illegal.
    I see the woman who supported prohibition standing back and living in delusion that America is free of Alcohol.
    I see the rare individual who assesses the united states ongoing "war on drugs" and claims that it is a success, or even that it is winning.
    Since morality, or beliefs, religious or otherwise, strike me as the key driving force (after all, I'm even posting this comment in CNN's "Belief Blog") in an anti-choice individuals logical reasoning for thinking the way they do, I would like to know exactly how making abortion illegal will help you sleep at night, or register as a moral victory. I live in an age where individuals are exposed to enough knowledge to let them recognize that making something illegal does not actually end the practice. I recognize that making any choice a person might make illegal will force the practice to go into a "black market" scenario, and I refuse to feign ignorance over that conclusion: the examples of prohibition and the "war on drugs" have already been given.
    So, I sincerely and respectfully ask of individuals who back anti-choice campaigns by citing personal moral or religious reasons this question, which I ask out honest curiosity: how can you recognize the consequences, historically, of legally banning a certain choice a person makes, and maintain that your moral code has not been violated, or even argue that your moral or religious code has been upheld, or elevated? As I stated earlier, feigning ignorance of the results of banning choices people make (such as the inevitable creation of "black markets") is not an acceptable excuse.
    I ask this academically, and I am not trolling for uninformed, disrespectful, or antagonizing answers.
    I consider myself a moral person, and would like to see what other persons who consider themselves moral (who better to speak on the topic of morality??) have to say on this topic, although any insight offered on this subject is inherently valuable.

    January 30, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Jun de

      moral.... informed.... if your mother aborted you... what is your comment now.l.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Ken

      Take children. Every one of us have "the choice" to murder our own children. Just look at the "honor killings" that have been in the news recently. Did that not involve a choice? Our society has made the decision to be "anti-choice" and make such actions illegal. That has never stopped parents from exercising their right to choice, and children are still murdered every year in the secrecy of the family home, or mysteriously found drowned in a car, or beaten to death a dumped in the woods with the parents claiming kidnapping. So maybe its time we stop wasting time with our futile murder laws and just allow parents to exercise their choice. Their gonna do it anyway, so at least give the parents a safe environment to practice their rights.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Jake

      I fail to see how that response has anything to do with the point that I was trying to make, and, seeing as how you seem to have missed my postings intention entirely, I will not bother reading too deeply into your thoughtful analysis of my commentary in return, which would no doubt be an engaging and intellectual adventure. Does anyone else have a position on the confliction of moralities as I outlined them in my original post?

      January 31, 2012 at 12:49 am |
    • Jake

      last comment @ jun de, not ken, who made an excellent point, and whose irritation at my reasoning is exactly what I wanted someone to take part in.
      My ultimate point was rather to note that morality should not be the backing point for an argument that supports, or is against, abortion

      January 31, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  9. momoya

    Dierdre, to your first post on this page:

    The question is whether or not a fetus-in-utero makes the dna contributors a "father" and "mother." How that clump of cells meets its end ("murder" or "natural death") is irrelevant.

    January 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Jun de

      If your mother aborted you.... what can you say now....

      January 31, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  10. Cat MacLeod

    It's a wedge issue that's used to keep the uneducated and ignorant filing into the polls to vote for Republicans. It'a a brilliant tactic and seems to work consistently. No I'm not a democrat.

    January 30, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Jun de

      democrat.. Or not a republican.... if your mother aborted you... what can you say now...

      January 31, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  11. Sorry

    Can any one here accept that that pregnancy is actually dangerous to a women? its not only painful getting through it, in the end its utter agony for most if not all? Why don't we talk about how hard birthing children actually is? They talk about the horrible psychological effect abortion has on women... what about the horrible psychological affect pregnancy has on women?

    I've known women who have almost died on the table, hemorrhaging, preclampsia (sp), and gestational diabetes... even one who has died trying to bring her baby into the world. I know women who have been hospitalized from the first onset of morning sickness because their bodies struggle from day one, not to mention the many things that happen along the way (I'm talking pure physical pain, not losing your waistline or wardrobe.) It seems folks would just make you believe that is selfish not to WANT to take those risks...that all fears are only petty, that modern medicine is a cure all...its not, these things still happen. And if I might add, I know a lot of women who regret having had babies, who've been mentally unbalanced (some unhinged all together) from having children. What about women who've been baby makers their whole lives who turn around an miss the life they might have had if they'd not had so many... are we not allowed to honor their wishes, or say that either?

    Pregnancy can be torture for those who are unwilling... please put that in your dialogue, because when you don't it reeks of disgrace for the woman/girl who must go through it. Yes, its just a piece of the argument, but one that angers me when its dismissed out of hand.

    I am a happy mother of two boys, and I suffered for them because I wanted them, which is why I will always be pro-choice. We should be fighting to stop abortion by making it not necessary... by better education/support on all sides. The 'lies' I got when I was told how wonderful pregnancy was anger me to this day. Many woman have no issue, but many women do... when you dismiss her struggle, you disgrace her worth.

    My two cents...

    I can't in good conscience put any woman or girl through that who doesn't want it. You keep arguing for the truth, well thats some truth too.

    January 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • momoya


      Thanks for that thoughtful reply. So many here want to jump to their familiar and secure "party slogans" rather than discuss the issue as adults. You raise excellent points. Kudos.

      January 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Jun de

      Hmmm..... Confused???...

      January 31, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • nostalgie

      then don't do the deed.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:52 am |
  12. Teach Children

    Abstinence not Abortion!

    January 30, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      An impractical "solution" at best. Mostly just wishful thinking.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Sheba

      Hawaii- So, are you encouraging children to have s e x? how about drinking etc.,

      January 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Nope, and attempting to make it seem like I did say that is a childhood rebuttal. You can teach your kids abstinence, the perils of underage drinking and driving while under the influence, but some, if not most, will do it anyway. How will you enforce abstinence? What will you do besides telling the children that se.x is wrong? Abstinence is a nice little sound-bite for people to throw around, but the implications of enforcement and the long term effects of such is something you don't think about.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Sheba

      If you take drinking so seriously , why you can't you take s e x seriously? Children should be taught to enjoy all that come from being a healthy child-school, sports etc.,
      There is a time for everything and s e x is not for children.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      You really don't get it do you? You think s.ex is not for children and I agree. I just don't have the delusion that you can control kids at all times. Once they hit between 14 and 16, parents lose a good deal of control over their children. This brings me back to the question I asked that you "conveniently" didn't answer. How will you enforce abstinence?

      January 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Sheba

      It is the duty of the parent to ensure their child learns and follows all the right principles. Keep your child occupied with activities that demands a lot of their focus and attention.
      How do you make sure your child does not drink or do drugs? same way.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      So you will force them into extracurricular activities? And what if the child does not like sports, or other activities like that? It is every parents duty to ensure that their children have as much information as possible on the subjects at hand, and to support and help their children if they make mistakes in their choices. Taking away the choices will only guarantee bigger problems in the future. It's going to happen eventually, so they should have the best and most accurate information possible, to minimize the risk of pregnancy, drinking and driving, drugs, etc.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Sheba

      Taking away choices will cause problems later on in life?
      The choice such as
      a) Drinking
      c) s e x
      and you seriously think that if you take away the above from your child you are harming them in the long run?

      God save the children from parents who think as above!!!

      Sadly, can't blame a society where adults are wrangling over things like divorce etc., they do not have the time to focus on the well being of their own.
      I pity all these children who were not given proper guidance in their young formative years.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      You have no concept of what I am trying to convey, and that's fine. Maybe if you think on it you will understand. My parents didn't lock me down, they gave me the information I needed to make an informed decision. Guess what I slipped a few times, but they were always there to pick me back up, and I have never drank and drove in my 26 years, I drank underage, but never been to jail. I have also never taken drugs. Pity me if you want for my parents style but I turned out well, and I will do the same for my daughter. Anyway time for work.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Sheba

      That is why the issue of Abortion runs much deeper and hinges upon strong societal concerns for humanity and its core values.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  13. Dr Bip

    Thank god for patriarchs telling me what I can and cannot do!!

    January 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  14. notphil

    While not 100% on point, Dierdre, what do you see as the difference between a natural death and murder.
    Dying of an illness is a natural death? What about dying of a curable illness and the doctor just watches you die??
    Does dying because a bear came into your house and ate you count as natural or murder??
    Can you murder a plant? It doesn't have a nervous system. Abortions pre-month two have no nervous systems??
    If a fetus is lost because the mother ate something toxic, that made her get sick, but didn't kill her, is that natural or murder??

    January 30, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Dierdre

      Hmm! Such difficult questions you ask.

      Before I exert any time in a response, let me see if you possess any ethical tools.

      Q: Which one of the scenarios is murder, and which one is something other than murder?

      A: You are playing with a gun, spinning it around, having a grand old time. You don't know it's loaded. All if a sudden it goes off just as your brother is walking by the door. The bullet just happens to strike him in the head and kill him instantly!

      B: You hate your brother and decide to kill him. After waiting for the right moment, you grab your gun, walk up behind him and pop him in the head

      January 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Alex P

      @ Dierdre: I believe that intent in the first scenario would classify it as not murder to me. Certainly it would be irresponsible, and the irresponsibility of said person should be punished. However, intent certainly does matter to the courts and an accidental killing such as the one in your first scenario would be prosecuted differently than the second scenario of a planned killing in cold blood. Both scenarios have the same result as one person dead, but the person in the first scenario should be punished for his negligence while the person in the second scenario should be removed from society to ensure the safety of the public and punished.

      P.S. I'm still convinced you posed a trick question where your opinion on the matter is that both are murder, however I could be wrong. The way you phrased it with two scenarios and asking someone to pick seems like an easy way to trick someone into picking one when you would then catch them and say they are both murder. However, that may be the case as I do not know you, and you have not made your opinion clear in posts as far as I have read.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Jun de

      Trying to be rational.... if your mother aborted you ... what can you say now.l.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:43 am |
  15. Tom

    Because we still have idiots who think a glob of cells can live and because they think they have a god given right to control your life and your decisions. But they won't help you or the child after it's born and isn't adopted to a good family. All they can do is wring their hands, wail and condemn.

    January 30, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Jun de

      glob of cells??? Are you sure ou know what your talking about. It's a glob of cell with DNA.. Do you know that a DNA molecule when stretch out is 2 meters long.. Yes... More than 6 feet. now mr glob of cells... If your mother aborted you ... What can you say now.... Huh...

      January 31, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  16. CIB

    It is a weird combination of factors that seem to dictate the conscience of the modern, conservative Christian. On the one hand abortion is completely wrong and on the other socialized medicine is also unacceptable. How do those two ideals meet? The very basic Christian tenant states that we are “our brother’s keeper” and so to insist that a pregnancy be continued until its completion without also insisting that the woman and resulting child receive all the health care they will need is a distorted view of both Christianity and “pro-life.” Where are the rallies to insist that all children receive complete medical coverage? Why do I go to grocery stores and still see donation boxes for kidney transplants and cancer treatments for children?
    Immediate medical care for the indigent isn’t the same thing as care for the working poor, medical care that is available to all and doesn’t threaten to bankrupt already unstable families. The hard reality is that if you have a child with a serious medical condition and you don’t have health insurance but you do have just enough to get by, you risk losing everything for the sake of this one child. Now because of the ill baby the entire family loses their house, their saving, opportunities to send other children to college…
    The consistent conservative message is that people need to take responsibility for their own situation and not look to the state for a hand-out. I can’t think of anything more fundamental than deciding about whether or not to continue with a problem pregnancy. Taking responsibility for the life-long consequences that result from having a critically ill child and make a choice that represents what is best for the individual family is something that echoes long after the rabid protesters have gone home.

    January 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Bob

      The decision point is not after you have the unborn in your womb, make that wise decision before you mate.

      Now if we are talking to animals it is a different story as they do not have the power to make these choices.As humans you have all the power bestowed upon you to think before co.pulation.

      January 30, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Humane

      Think before you mate.

      January 30, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Jun de

      If your mother aborted you because of a problematic pregnancy or the hard life after giving birth , would you thank her now... she aborted you what can you say now....

      January 31, 2012 at 12:52 am |
  17. George

    A zygote is no more a baby than a chicken's egg is a chicken. The word abortion does not appear anywhere in the Bible. After God drowned almost the whole human race in the flood, including babies, infants, etc., murdering the first-born in Egypt just to make a point, citing the Bible as rationale to ban abortion is irrational. BTW, my biology book says that about 40% of all pregnacies end in spontaneous abortion, courtesy of you-know-who.

    January 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Moron. There's your sign.

      January 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  18. Pat Emmons

    How will this controversy ever be solved. If Roe v Wade is overturned and abortion banned then the pro-choice activists will be cme more outspoken until again a reversal is accomplished. What happens to middle and upper class women who travel abroad for an abortion?

    January 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Dierdre

      And if we free the slaves, who's going to pick all that cotton? How will the north get all those fine clothes they like so much?

      And if we don't exterminate all those Jews, how are we going to fix the economy and society in general?

      January 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Tom

      Diedre what's your point? No one will force you to have an abortion so butt out.

      January 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  19. Zahara

    As a woman you have a choice- get snipped. Exercise your power woman.

    Snip and spare the innocent life for goodness sakes.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jun de

      That's CHOICE there... Good advice Zahara..

      January 31, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  20. Dierdre

    If your wife or girlfriend has an abortion, that doesn't make you "not a father," it makes you the father of a dead baby!

    January 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bus2

      Does this apply to children who are stillborn? Or is your guilt trip meant to be only for the pro-choice crowd?

      January 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Dierdre

      I would say that if you don't know the difference between natural death and murder, you missed too many days of school.

      January 30, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • JFritz

      No, it makes you the father of a zygote, embryo, or fetus

      January 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Jun de

      Nice point there Dierdre....

      January 31, 2012 at 1:03 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.