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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. catholic engineer

    Unborn humans are not the only victims of the abortion wave. I was informed by a woman from Rachel's Vinyard that one woman in four has had an abortion. This fact alone aborts the notion of "mothering instinct." There was a time when the word Mother was held in high asteem. It was nearly synonymous with strength and wisdom. But after fifty years of feminism the word has morphed into a term for drudgery and even stupidity. A woman raising as many as four kids is jeered at by the easy-out culture. One result? Now women are seen by good men as being merely equals. Women are no longer immune to the same treatment men show each other.

    January 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Soooo....your saying that women shouldn't be equals? Not really sure what your trying to convey in your little rant there.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • catholic engineer

      @Hawaii I made an observation in the blandest possible way, accusing no individual, and not calling names. Your calling it a "rant" exposes your emotional vulnerability. It will have to be your little problem.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • J.W

      One in four sounds like a high number. Are you sure that is accurate? Out of all the women I have ever known I think I have known 2 that have had an abortion.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @catholic engineer

      Good job not answering the question...but then again I didn't really expect you to.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Will

      How many women do you know well enough to know if they had an abortion? Its not something most would talk about? Usually their families don't even know.

      January 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      You can find abortion data, that seems to be accepted by both sides, at http://www.guttmacher.org.

      January 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Jerry

      Catholic engineer-Well said!

      January 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You were "informed"? You are a liar.

      January 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  2. Primewonk

    In the 1930's the US population was about 123 million. And by historical research, there were about 800 thousand abortions. A much higher percentage than today – 309 million people and 1.3 million abortions.

    Wait – I thought things were better in the "good old days"?

    January 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  3. momoya

    At least in the US, if christians didn't get abortions, the clinics wouldn't be able to stay in operation. There wouldn't be enough business.

    Christians make up 88% of the population in the US, but rather than simply not purchasing abortions and por.nography, you feel the need to make laws that affect everybody. Why aren't you believers better at preaching to yourselves?

    January 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Because self-righteous hypocrites can only control their own behaviour by forcing everyone else to follow their laws as well.

      January 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  4. Primewonk

    Again, the anti-choice folks are being played. Your puppetmasters have no intention of overturning Roe. If they did, they'd lose their control over you.

    Think I'm nuts? From 2000 to 2006 you folks had the perfect storm. Fundiots owned the White House, Senate, House, anf the Supreme Court. You controlled the whole Federal government. Why was Roe not overturned in those 6 years?

    January 26, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  5. Numbers don't lie

    I meant..ATHEISTS are ONLY for the WEAK MINDS.

    January 26, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Ummmm

      Lying is a sin moron.

      January 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  6. ColdWaterQueen

    Hot Air Ace said:

    "I'm still waiting for a good explanation why 70+% of abortions in the USA are had by believers..."

    I have some simple but testable data from a reliable source that might help you w/ your concern

    Based on the latest survey, believers comprise 88% of the US population while atheists make up only 4%.

    If you are still surprise why that 70% abortion rate by believer's, you should go to Brazil or Mexico.

    And...you will not need some explaination why there's a lot of Chinese in China, will you?

    January 26, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • Numbers don't lie

      Let's do the math.

      Given:

      Total US population= 309,000,000
      Beliver's population= 88%
      Atheist= 4%

      309,000,000 x 88%= 271,920,000-believers

      309,000,000 x 4%= 12,360,000-atheists

      Given:

      Abortion rate:

      Believers- 70%

      atheists- 10%

      271,920,000 x 70% = 190,344,000-believers undergone abortion (This is HUGE)
      12,360,000 x 4% = 494,400-atheist undergone abortion (an ant to elephant compared with believers)

      But that was a CATCH!

      The WHOLE TRUTH is....

      271,920,000/190,344,000= 1.5-believers undergone abortion per capita.
      12,360,000/494,400= 25-atheists undergone abortion per capita.

      The 70% of believers that atheists have been yammering all this time is equivalent only to less than two person per capita. While the 10% that atheist made-up is equivalent to astonishing 25 people.

      See? which is bigger 70% or 10%?

      I hope it will serve as a warning to us all, beware of atheists deceptions. They are very good in clothing their lies as truth.

      Don't be fooled, THINK!!ATHEISTS are for the WEAK MINDS.

      January 26, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • momoya

      From where did you figures come?

      January 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  7. Navin johnson

    The signs are funny.."Stop Abortion Now".. If you look at other countries that have outlawed abotions, the abortions still haven't stopped. Illegal abortions are taking place all the time while putting the life of the mother at very high risk. If a woman wants to have an abortion, she will find a legal or an illegal way to have it. You live in a fairy tale land if anyone thinks they can really stop abotions by simply making them illegal or restricting them by other means.

    January 26, 2012 at 3:33 am |
    • theolo149

      Thats comparable to saying that we should just make murder legal because it happens anyway.

      January 26, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Murder is fatal all the time. Abortion, being a medical procedure, can be done in an environment where the woman will have the hgihest chance of a quick and safe procedure (for her at least). Since abortion will happen whether it is legal or not, then it is only common sense to make it as safe as possible, otherwise you will only get a higher mortality rate of the women. Or is it that the woman doesn't matter to you?

      January 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  8. RightTurnClyde

    Suppose there were no state criminal law and no "Ten Commandments" is it THEN not a moral problem (or a community problem) for one person to terminate the existence of another? Or to forcibly rob another? Assault? Is war "moral?" Are acts of war always legal? (no[ war crimes) There is no instance (even without law or overt moral codes) when one individual can inflict great injury or death upon another without moral and communal consequences.

    January 26, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  9. RightTurnClyde

    To me asking "Why the a.b.o.r.t.i.o.n issue won’t go away" is like asking "why the homicide issue won't go away." Not all homicides are actually premeditated murder. There are manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide and so on but they are all serious and not about to go away. Probably every drunk who ever killed someone says "I didn't mean it" but that does not mean it did not happen. (what did he mean?) So someone gets dead and somebody is responsible. It will not go away and it does trigger a response from the law and the government. Abortion is a human death; and it is not a natural human death. It is serious. It also takes many forms AND it triggers a response from the law and the government. (It is not an innocuous form of birth control for irresponsible body buddies).

    January 26, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  10. Nate

    Another reason is that technology has increased so that younger and younger premies are able to survive, thus changing the definition of viability.

    January 26, 2012 at 1:39 am |
    • RightTurnClyde

      There is also a presumption in the case of one person murdering another that the one murdered would have gone on living but for the intervening cause of homicide. So it is, then, presumed true that the fetus will go on living and become viable if no adverse intervention occurs. Hence a "non-viable" f.e.t.u.s. is normally not molested and becomes viable. There is no actual point in time after c.o.n.c.e.p.t.i.o.n where it can be said that fetuses with not become viable barring external intervention. Viability is not a valid criterion therefore because an intervening cause is what precludes it.

      January 26, 2012 at 3:03 am |
  11. Wendy

    The abortion debate has not gone away yet because, contrary to what the author claims, the left has not treated the issue as an absolute. Except for some feminists, they have contorted themselves into pretzels to avoid any trace of absolutism in the debate. They refuse to make absolute claims like a fetus is not a human being/person, and people have an absolute right to terminate a pregnancy. Instead, they have tried to avoid the moral issue and win with pragmatic arguments, like what women need, the economics of raising a child, etc.

    However, contrary to the author's hopes, the abortion debate cannot survive over the long term because the anti-abortion movement is based on the political right. The political right is moving back toward individual economic rights, and the younger generations are moving toward individual civil rights like being against substance and gay marriage laws. These are ultimately incompatible with anti-abortion laws. A person who accepts someone's right to conduct business and smoke weed unmolested by the government will not have the passion to fight against a woman's right to control her own body.

    January 25, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      You are right in seeing this as a moral as well as legal problem. In fact the moral problem is actually greater than the legal (offense against the state or the insurance company) problem. Civilizations DO decline as the become morally blind (or indifferent), e.g., Rome, Babylon, the U.S. There are moral dilemmas as well (choosing between the mother's life and the fetus) and similar moral dilemmas in war and in vehicular situations. There are moral and psychological consequences. (most of us would rather give up our own vital organs that to see our children die. It is not an easy choice nor a simple one. It is not absolute (which is probably the most valid argument against laws). It is also not true that governments know what is best or that they always make the correct choice (or even the correct policy). Nor is a.b.o.r.t.i.o.n the only "gray" are of moral choices. There are difficult moral choices for the pilots of passenger planes (or cruise ships), for capital punishment, for terminating certain kinds or road rage, involving burning propane trucks (BLEVE) .. the firemen going (or being sent) into the WTC .. OUR CIVILIZATION is predicated upon a collective moral cognizance or choices relating to individual rights to life (including helpless f.e.t.u.s.e.s).

      January 26, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  12. Reality

    Why the abortion issue won't go away? The stupidity of Pill and/or condom users and uneducuated political leaders!!!

    Only for the "newbies":

    Added details:

    Obama rode to the Blood-Red House on the backs of 35+million aborted womb-babies!!!

    What BO can do to at least lift part of the Immoral Majority leader label? (see below for a definition of the Immoral Majority)

    He says abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" but says nothing about the basic tenet of proper human conduct i.e. Thou Shalt Not Kill. And where is BO's sense of indignation that abortions are not rare and that these acts of horror demean the Golden Rule considering that he says he is a Christian. And where is his sense of indignation that women who use the Pill do not use it properly resulting in an failure rate of 8.7% as per the Guttmacher Inst-itute statistics. Using these and other Guttmacher Inst-itute data, this failure of women to use the Pill properly results in ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year. And the annual abortion rate in the USA is?? ~1,000,000 as per the CDC.

    And do males use condoms properly? No, as said failure rate for this birth "control" method is 17.4%!! Again using Guttmacher data, said failure rate results in another ~1,000,000 unplanned pregnancies every year.

    Bottom line: BO is still not aware of the basics of birth control and still remains the leader of the Immoral Majority and will remain so until he becomes a true Christian and one who respects and protects human life in all its forms and who at least emphasizes the proper use of birth control methods!!!

    The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    Added details:

    The Gut-tmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the Pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate
    (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

    o Conclusion: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    ====================================================================================

    January 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  13. Believer

    I have been reading many comments and one thing that is misunderstood is that some people believe that if abortion is murder, then so is a miscariage. There is a differnce between murder and death people!

    January 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • momoya

      Abortion is not murder. Or, if you consider abortion murder, then god is the most proficient abortionist, since so many pregnancies end in miscarriage, many times before the woman even knew she was carrying a fetus.

      January 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Believer

      That is what I just tried to explain, a miscarriage is a natural d.eath just like someone dying of cancer.

      January 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • theolo149

      momoya you can't blame a god you may or may not believe in for a miscarriage. God doesn't have any obligation to prolong anyones life, but we do, quite simply because we are equals, we sin, God doesn't.

      January 26, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  14. Kion Ling

    Tho

    January 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  15. Lion King

    Some more bothersome details: it is estimated that 46,000 women died world wide as a result of "unsafe" abortions in 2003. The number of unborn children who died as a result of both "safe" and "unsafe" abortions that same year was 46,000,000!

    January 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I question those numbers and ask for sources to confirm it.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      All the more reason to keep abortion legal so it doesn't end up becoming a shady practice in unsanitary crack houses utilizing coat hangers, greasy pliers and such. Are you a retard?

      January 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Kion Ling

      Yes – we wouldn't want the abortion industry to become shady!

      January 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • calistudent

      HawaiiGuest....these numbers are probably low. And that is precisely why abortion right must be defended. The lives of thousands of women depend upon it, and those lives are every bit as important as unborn babies.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Kion Ling

      Did u just say that those women who died as a result of abortion are "just as important as the unborn babies"?? ?

      January 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      No sources Lion? Seems like you're just pulling random numbers out of your a$$ then. Go troll somewhere else you tool.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  16. Lion King

    OK people – let's get off the unpleasant topic of abortion. What do you think this blog is about, abortion or something??? Let's get back to the pressing topic at hand, namely, how stupid, willfully ignorant, and hateful everyone who believes differently than you is!

    January 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Fiona

      What they say-Abortion is just an excuse for us to get mad at Pro-lifers. Who cares about the innocent unborn? I was given a chance, that doesn't mean that those unborn deserve a chance or a voice to speak out.
      I am here today and will live on forever and spread my loose morals.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  17. mr. Magoooooooooo

    Why The Abortion Issue Wont Go Away...
    Because religious fanatics are easily led to believe that it is a sin, even though there is no scriptural evidence for it. And don't tell me "though shalt not kill" either... That wasn't about abortion.

    January 25, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  18. Lion King

    Did you say spare us the facts?

    January 25, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Fiona

      Facts are an incovenient truth that is best left ignored.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • ReligionIs4Dolts

      "Facts"? According to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell? Better think again.

      January 25, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  19. ReligionIs4Dolts

    Spare us the spam, Right Wing Lion Turd! Love how you reply to yourself, schizoid numbskull!

    January 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  20. Lion King

    So, most especially, blacks in America, and girls in Asia, the number one targets for abortion! I hope Margaret Sanger is humming the Battle Hymn of the Republic, where ever she is!

    January 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I hope she's giving YOU a hummer. It's the only one you're likely to get, loser.

      January 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
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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.