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.
Wheather you believe it's rite or wrong does not matter unless it is you that has the decision to make. Simple as that. Sure everyone has the rite to their opinion but u can't tell someone what to do with their body as much as you can tell someone what they can eat for dinner tonight that is up to that person and that person alone. I really don't understand why this is an issue especially for the government since they're always talking about the size of government intruding in peoples lives and at the same time put people to death in prison. What a damn joke. How bout you worry about yours and I'll worry about mine and we will all be fine.
Because that is just it, some people believe that an actual life is ended, and in a cruel and painful way. It is not about what someone does with their body, but with who is inside. If a parent wanted to kill a toddler, would that make it okay as long as it happened quick and easy. The toddler would not know too much yet? You may not believe that life begins before birth but that fact that there is a question, would mean that it warrants discussion by our society.
I don't see a discussion, pro. I see screaming maniacs calling anyone who disagrees with them murderers and baby killers. I see homicidal lunatics planting bombs in clinics that offer birth control and breast cancer screening, or shooting doctors in their homes and churches for offering a legal medical service. What I don't see is these people trying to prevent these pregnancies and their causes, or any recognition on their part that prohibition of abortion does not work.
For all of you Pro Lifers out there, would you rather have the abortion performed by a doctor or by a Shop Vac with a metal coat hanger coming out the hose? Either way the abortion is going to happen.
That is equivalent of asking if you would rather die with a gun to the head by a Nazi officer, or in the gas chamber in a concentration camp. Both end in the taking of your life. There is question that the unborn baby can feel pain. Many ex abortion nurses and doctors have come forward changing their views on abortion after seeing it firsthand.
One answer could be to make abortion illegal, educate the public, and go after the law breakers.
Then instead hand out more contraception, and the morning after pill instead. It seems like the New York people having with the 40 percent number are having more than one, and a lot of them are paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. Maybe some people use it a form of birth control.
You may have missed the point here. Pro-Lifers are against ALL abortions anywhere.
Babies in the womb can distinguish between sad, lively and relaxing music and they can distinguish between mom and dad having a heated debate and a full blown row.
They can feel pain when they are
 bathed in saline solution which burns their skin off their bodies while they are still living
 have their arms and legs cut off – while still living
 get slowly poisoned
 get dragged out of their bubble zone and are left to die.
If you think they can't FEEL it – why don't YOU try 'any of the above'????????No feeble excuses, you can NOT justify it.
The point Brian was making was that if abortion is not legal then the people who do legitimately need to get an abortion will have to resort to unsafe means to get one.
We tried that for decades, pro. It didn't work. What else you got?
Credenza, that's a dishonest argument. The procedure you describe is rarely performed, and only in extreme cases when the life of the mother is at risk. I have never heard of a case in which that painful decision was made without great pain and grief on the part of the parents. Your use of this as a talking point does not do you credit.
Abortions are a choice, legal or illegal. You don't get to legislate a woman's choice you only get to legislate the legality or illegality of it. Women who choose to abort is within their right to choose. Women who elect to give birth are within their right to choose. Men have no ability to get pregnant and therefore have no right to choose, giving birth or having an abortion.
When legislatures become all female then the issue can be legislated from a postion of those with a right to choose in the first place. Until then, those who wish the choice to remain legal must continue to protect Roe vs Wade with their political choices. Simple.
This is directly related to those who believe the...how is it put...the cruelest thing in life is to bring an unwanted and unloved child into it?
...I'm not sure this can be argued, mainly because it defies in logical sense whatsoever. Life = possibilities. Death = Nothing. To imagine in any fashion that a child would not wish to be born takes it a step away from the selfish burden you should feel for the action you have committed...and instead places the burden on the dead child?
I did the right thing by the baby by murdering it because it would have wanted to die instead of being unwanted in life?
Foolery. Look at yourself in the mirror, spit at it, and realize you lack humanity completely.
Plenty of people would consider some of your decisions to be "foolery." Go spit at your own image, bigot, evidently you find that action meaningful-who knows what for, though.
No one has the right to determine the life of the living. No child is born until they see the light from outside a womb. It is naive to think that laws will change the way of the world. I an others will do with our bodies and ouor lives as we Want, not what the naive think we should do.
Regardless, the cruelest thing in this world is to bring an unwanted, unloved child into a world that has many pitfalls. Withou a source of emotional and familial support, one is doomed to a substandard life of crime and rugs and suffering. No one deserves that!! Let's look at reality!! Having a child is a life time experience and if one is not ready or willing to make that committment, then please do us all a favor and don't have a child... and have an abortion to protect that child from a life of suffering. Ohhh and by the way.... We were NOT put on this earth to suffer...
What is your proof that life begins at birth?
And, there are actually huge waiting lists of people wanting to adopt new born babies. The problem is that people who are pregnant are too selfish to allow their bodies to endure pregnancy, and then allow their offspring to be raised by someone else, so they terminate the life. I have been in adoption agencies, helping my sister to place her baby. There were so many couples to choose from, and they actually let you know everything about them because they want to be chosen so very much.
According to the article, a lot of people are aborting because they do not want to deal with a child that may be the wrong gender, or have a birth defect. I also know someone who is less than perfect and the survivor of a botched abortion. I don't think he would agree with you either.
When my poverty-stricken mother, who already had three children, thought she might be pregnant, she begged God to make it go away. She did not want me when she found out that she was going to have me. However, since she doesn't believe in abortion she gave birth to me anyway. She has always called me her "Unexpected joy." I grew up loved and, with my mother's strong belief in education, I have overcome the poverty that had afflicted my family for generations. Now, I have a master's degree, a job I love, a wonderful husband, and a baby on the way.
I was born after Roe v Wade. My mother could have easliy killed me before I was born, and I thank her for letting me live.
If a woman wants to do something to her body, a tattoo, starve herself, binge eat, exercise everyday, never get off the couch, or take birth control, that is her choice. She even has the right to kill herself if she feels so inclinded. However, once the baby is viable in her womb, it's not just her body she's making a choice for.
Pro, what is your proof that life begins at conception? Most Americans disagree with that notion, and believe instead that humanity only develops over the term of the pregnancy and is only truly invested in the third trimester. The bible says it's even later.
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Thank you Mr. Mohler for your article, I appreciate what you had to say and how well you said it.
I love this argument because a lot of the "Right to Lifers" are "Pro-Life for everyone" BUT are you also pro-death penalty?!? What if one innocent man is put to death, and it has happened, doesn't that kind of throw a monkey wrench into that theory?
It's the same old story, Kristin. The religious right's respect for life begins at conception and ends at birth.
@Nord Jim – so true and yet so sad. We have come so far in our thinking about some things and yet remain in the Dark Ages about others.
I support the morning after pill, I am anti-abortion once implanted in the womb, and I am anti-death penalty. Most of my friends have mixed views also. I know people who support both abortion and the death penalty. According to what I have been reading, the extreme right is shrinking. I don't think most people fit into boxes like the media suggests. I also notice in my experience that most people who claim to be pro-choice who I have talked to are not open to dialog and seem to deflect with other issues when talking about abortion. I can’t help but think that some people are in denial about what really occurs during abortion because they are more concerned with loosing something personally than taking responsibility for hurting someone else like a baby. You can hope something is not true, but do you really know?
I am pro-life and oppose capital punishment. I and many others support a "consistent-life-ethic."
Those who do support capital punishment can make a legitimate argument that there are extreme cases in which the failure of a society to demand a life (capital punishent) is the failure to defend life. We recognized such every day when we (as a society not as individuals) give a president and police officers the authority and weapons to impose death if necessary to defend life and justice.
I oppose capital punishment because I don't think the State can legitimately be trusted to justly apply the ultimate penalty. I also do not believe the State is a good defender of unborn life. But if the ethics, and self-control, and laws fail to an extreme degree–we are stuck with the intervention of government. The underlying issue is not government intrusion but the way of life of the society. At some point the voices of tens/hundreds of millions of unborn babies will bear witness against us.
The one thing these reproductive absolutists will not acknowledge is that we know beyond all shadow of doubt that prohibition of abortion does not work. Prior to Roe, there were millions of abortions performed on American women, both here and abroad. The only difference was the mortality rate among those women. So what these anti-choice extremists are actually advocating is a return to back-alley abortions and a precedent that allows government to control our persons, for no discernible gain whatsoever.
They don't. You miss much of Mohler's point. Evangelicals didn't even have this on their radar. It was the extreme nature of Roe that mobilized them–not that they held an absolutist position. It was the extreme attack on the dignity of life that mobilized the opposition; and is why in 100 years the society will look at Roe like we view Dred Scott decision.
The concept of government controlling what an American does with her own body is what is extreme. Overthrowing those statutes was simple justice.
If they spent 1/10 the time, money and attention to unwed mothers, poor families, and the racial divide in adoptions (everyone wants a white baby, no one wants ethnic babies, ethnic toddlers, or white or ethnic teenagers), then maybe women would be less scared about having problem/unwanted pregnancies.
As for 40% of babies conceived in New york being aborted... I want that source please.
No, they don't. They are the very definition of hypocrites.
I parent a child whose mother (my wife) carried to term–knowing it was risky. She died. I parent a bi-racial adopted child. The child's mother gave birth instead of aborting because a pro-life ministry offered her personal and financial support. They supported the adoption by accepting what we could pay versus normal fees for adoptions. There are national networks of churches supporting adoptions. In public debates we often hammer on folk, "Well if you mean it, why don't thousands on the ground just quietly go to work." But when people do that invisibly-we inherently don't see it. If six of those people pick up signs, travel 2,000 miles and harass a physician that performs abortion–it is national news. And that becomes "the face".
Source would be New York State, Department of Health, available on line, you go to vital statistics of NYS (by year) and then to the year you are interested in. You can see who pays for the abortions, how many by age, race.
I read your article, and here's what I took away from it:
The choice to abort or carry to term is a deeply personal, difficult decision to make. There are many factors, and what might be acceptable for one case would not be acceptable for another. In some cases, abortion is immoral. In other situations, it is the only moral option.
In other words, it should be left up entirely to the pregnant woman (and ideally her partner) to make this difficult decision, not the courts.
Thank you for galvanizing my feelings on the matter.
Maybe Mr. Mohler would like to explain why his "convention" is seeking out a new name other than "Southern Baptist"? And why the convention is decreasing in the number of converts – 4 straight years in a row now.
And having money problems ... and most of the churches plateauing or declining in membership.
So it makes sense that Southern Baptists are so "pro-life". More like "pro-money".
The opponents of abortion would have more credibility if they also cared about babies after they are born, not only before. A recent medical child suffocation experiment by oxygen withholding from premature babies in 16 hospitals predictably killed 23 "extra" preemies in the low-oxygen group to protect them from blindness (see http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0911781). Moreover, the new guidelines for American intensive care nurseries now recommend lower oxygen levels although according to that study, this better-dead-than-blind policy kills one baby for every two cases of blindness prevented.
Researchers in parallel studies in Australia, New Zealand, and England looked at the same pooled data and recommended strongly to avoid the low oxygen levels because of this increased mortality. (See http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMc1101319). People in those countries are obviously more baby-friendly and truly pro-life than the hypocrites in the U.S. where fetuses are merely political footballs, and those who claim to protect all life don't care if babies are cruelly asphyxiated once they have passed the birth canal. Where is the compassion from all those do-gooders?
Even the universities led by the Chair and Vice Chair of the U.S. Bioethics Commission cooperated in that recent preemie massacre and wrote that such abuses are now impossible here, and they get away with such lies and crimes. (See http://retinopathyofprematurity.org/BioethicsOwnViolations.htm)
These Christians are only "pro-life" until the egg is hatched.
That is why they are so against universal healthcare – it would take away from their own $$$$ and benefits. And they aren't giving that up for NO ONE.
I find it sad that you are so uninformed in your history to suggest that Christians do not care about a child after they are born. Hospitals, The Red Cross, BoyScouts, Public Education, Abolition of Slavery, The Civil Rights Movement, the YMCA and on and on and on and on and on. What other group has even touched the record of care after birth then the Christian Church?
@ History – and haven't the greatest number of people been murdered in the name of God? The crusades, the Gaelic Irish slaughtered, the Spanish Inquisition, the Jewish community has also suffered, do I need to continue on?
And, dear me, I didn't even mention the Native Americans, but I don't need to mention the blankets laden with smallpox, here's a pretty necklace, lets trade for some land...........
Nothingnewhere – That's certainly true in your case, same old.....same old..........
The Knights of Columba spend millions each year paying for medical bills, treatment and practical help accomodation for young moms who decided NOT to have abortions. There is NO pressure – NO judgement, just care and love for people who need support.
Most people who adopt are Christian or people of faith.
Tell me, this, if you have so much to say – how many abortions have you tried to prevent; OR last time there was a tsunami or mud-slide, how many orphans did you offer a home to?????????
Unless you can give a number above ZERO, please stop knocking people who respect human life.
Of course you won't see THAT in the media – far too positive and anti-everything the 'death culture' in America promotes.
incase of emergency
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Let the evangelicals pay for all the court costs for this debate about abortion. Let them pay the attorney fees, just like they can pay for the cost of the medical bills for the unwed mothers and all the anchor babies that will now come to this country, just to be born.
YOU CAN NOT MAKE BABIES IF YOU GO THROUGH THE BACK DOOR
That explains why there aren't a lot of gays getting abortions – thanks DAVE!
This issue has always been simple, and still is 40 years later. Against abortion? Don't have one! But you don't get to decide the issue for all women. Simple.
As long as I don't have to pay for it.
This is the absolutist position Mohler and Tribe were talking about. Your statement is solely regarding a mother's choice. the opposing position is about life: the baby's life, the mother's life, and your life. Mohler's statement is why the issue will not go away. Your statement demonstrates it.
Justice, that's the crux of the issue. There are competing judicial interests here. One is the notion that government has no right to tell people what to do with their own bodies. The other is the notion that a fertilized egg is a person - a concept with which 2/3 of Americans disagree. But even if it were supported by a majority, since there are competing intersts, the next test is whether a decision would be effective. And since we know categorically that prohibition of abortion is totally, completely ineffective, there is no supportable reason to place that tyranny on American women.
So does that make Roe a good decision–a "right to privacy"?????
This issue has always been simple...
Against child molestation? Don't molest a child! But you don't get to decide the issue for all pedophiles.
Against slavery? Don't own a slave! But you don't get to decide the issue for all slaveowners.
Against cannibalism? Don't eat anyone! But you don't get to decide the issue for all cannibals.
Against murder? Don't murder anyone! But you don't get to decide the issue for all everyone.
Against appallingly stupid arguments like the one made by Artemiss Luminos? You know what to do.
Sorry to all you Pro Lifers, but you have no arguement! Are you all really dumb/ignorant/naive enough to believe that life begins with the fertilization of an egg? This would be physically impossible. I can fertilize an egg in a petri dish and create "life" as you would call it. However, unless this "life" is put into a female body(host), it will die. The same goes for a fetus. Until the third trimester, the fetus is still dependent on its mother(host) to provide and sustain life. Until the fetus can sustain itself, it's not living, this cannot be disputed. If you don't agree with that point, then you are contradicting the very definition of life and death as we know it. In sum, as stated by Roe v. Wade, abortion should be allowed until the third trimester, or until the fetus is capable of sustaining its' own life.
And of course this topic is going to 'affect' the younger generation.
The same generation that is grown accustomed to HAND-OUTS and government telling them what to do.
Yeah, because generalizing an entire generation works for each one that does it!
Then all evangelicals should be made to pay for the upkeep of these unwanted kids – not the taxpayers of this country.
HAHAHAHHAHAHA! That's too funny. Much like liberals should be left with the burden of supporting all those who refuse to work. HAHAHAHHAHAHAH! Great argument "nothing new here". And you're funny to single out "taxpayers" as if they're separate from evangelicals, as if they're mutually exclusive. Moron.
Have all the kids you want – just don't expect me to pay for them.
And be forewarned – they grow up to commit crimes, they will be shown NO mercy. They had their 9 months of mercy when they were still in the womb.
Actually, they have no mercy in the womb – they're not considered alive *and* are at risk of being legally murdered. Moron.
Why won't the abortion issue go away?? Why won't everyone who disagrees with me keep their opinions to themselves!!!
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