Recently, I was alerted to an article from Esquire that follows Dr. Willie Parker, who runs what he calls a “ministry” of abortion in the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, The Pink House. Dr. Parker proclaims to be a Christian who performs abortions because he’s a Christian, believing that what he is doing is in service of women. Coming from Esquire, of course, the article has a strong pro-abortion lean and presents Dr. Parker as a heroic figure who saves women from death and persecution and champions their rights.
Many may think that a blog post titled “What Christians Can Learn From Dr. Parker’s ‘Abortion Ministry'” from a conservative Christian like me will be exclusively negative towards Dr. Parker, and indeed it is easy to blow holes through his and the Esquire article’s logic. There is, however, one area that the article focuses on that can help Christians realize our mistakes and improve how we approach women who are facing this choice.
Bad logic and uses of Scripture
The poor arguments and uses of Scripture in the article are legion, but I’ll just focus on two. An example of a bad use of Scripture is here:
One day, he was listening to a sermon by Dr. King on the theme of what made the Good Samaritan good. A member of his own community passed the injured traveler by, King said, because they asked, “What would happen to me if I stopped to help this guy?” The Good Samaritan was good because he reversed the question: “What would happen to this guy if I don’t stop to help him?” So Parker looked in his soul and asked himself, “What happens to these women when abortion is not available?”
The Good Samaritan was a story from Jesus designed to break down barriers between Jews and others and alert them to the fact that they should not just consider other Jews as “neighbors.” In the story, a man is beaten up and left for dead; it’s quite a far cry from most women who make choices that lead to pregnancy and then want to terminate the baby. If anything, the baby would most closely correlate with the dying man because the baby is completely helpless and at the mercy of others. Reading it Dr. Parker’s way, we might expect the Good Samaritan to have come on over and put the man out of his misery, allegedly saving him from pain and also not sacrificing his own time, money, and possible safety for him. But that is, obviously, not the story that Jesus tells.
At the least, the article at the end finally gets to the central question that is often glossed over by abortion advocates. Of course, the article and Dr. Parker then do a particularly terrible job answering it:
But here’s the vital question: Is it a person? Not by the standards of the law, he says. Is it viable outside the womb? It is not. So this piece of life—and remember, sperm is alive, eggs are alive, it’s all life—is still totally dependent on a woman. And that dependence puts it in the domain of her choice. “That’s what I embrace,” he says.
There are a few problems with this:
1. If he is a Christian, then he has to answer this question: What does the Bible say about the status of the baby? What does science say (if it can say anything at all on the matter)? Philosophy? If it’s just merely a matter of law, then, well, he shouldn’t even be complaining about Mississippi’s strict laws on abortion in the first place because that’s the “standards of the law.” This was, by any measure, a pitiful cop-out answer.
2. Saying “sperm is alive, eggs are alive, it’s all life” is guilty of the fallacy of equivocation. Clearly, what is in view here is human life, not just “life.” What a completely useless thing for the article to point out.
3. Nobody doubts that the baby is dependent on the mother and therefore at the mercy of her choices. That’s not the question: The question is whether or not choices about this baby are morally justified. There are many examples we can cite of people being dependent on others and, indeed, at their mercy: This does not constitute justification that there are no moral obligations on the part of the person in power or that would open up a pretty horrendous moral can of worms.
The article is an example of how so many people, including Christians, have such a poor understanding of the Bible and then use selected quotes out of context to justify nearly anything. Dr. Parker may be an intelligent person and skilled in his profession, but clearly logic and Scriptural competency are not his strong suits.
Recognizing the plight and needs of the women
However, although the article is full of many of the same tired and silly arguments used by abortion advocates, it does bring up one important criticism of many Christians: The Church has often failed to minister to the mothers and has often been guilty of counter-productive bullying. The Church has not fully educated Christians as to why we consider an unborn baby human life, a life that should get all the same considerations as other human lives. Instead, she has often just belted out her opposition without giving the underlying reasons while merely attacking those who perform abortions.
As the article hints, many women find themselves in desperate situations. Though it is easy to be irritated with women who simply do not want the baby to interfere with their selfish lifestyles and career ambitions or want to hide their infidelity from their husbands, we can forget that many other women seek abortions because they feel as if they have no other option. They may be poor and fear that they do not have the means to support the baby, they may fear the social shame of facing their church or parents with an unplanned pregnancy, they may fear the violent reprisal of a boyfriend who demanded that she get an abortion, or they may fear that they themselves are completely unfit to raise a child. Sometimes, Christians have been guilty of beating down these women, condemning them as “whores” with whom we do not want to associate with. In our zeal to protect one human life, as we should, we have often ostracized another, as we should not. I’ve heard stories of young women who get pregnant outside the bounds of marriage and then are basically shunned at church, when it is the church, without excusing sin, who should offer her assistance in either raising the baby or putting the baby up for adoption. Far from steering these women from abortion, we push them towards it if we crush them to the point where they feel like they have nowhere else to go.
Similarly, these acts of bullying abortion doctors by putting up their private information online are enormously silly. Yes, I believe that what they are doing is wrong, but what is that going to accomplish other than hardening their hearts? These are the same bullying tactics that many homosexual relationship activists are trying to enact on Christians, and yet some are doing the same to these doctors. Stop it. This helps nobody. Peaceful protest is fine, but even there, the aim of many Christians seems more towards bullying than it is about informing. I believe Christians should have a strong stance for the life of the unborn child, but these actions seem more mob-like than the actions of wise, compassionate, and convicted followers of Christ. Reacting to this, there are now Christians like Dr. Parker who have abandoned any semblance of sound biblical teaching to support the wanton termination of human life.
What is needed is plain ol’ Gospel teaching with reasonable application. The error of Dr. Parker is that he substituted biblical truth for his own feelings and the feelings of others, and in the end he isn’t helping these women (and certainly not the lives they carry) because such an act does not lead them to Christ at all. In fact, blaming women’s health on the lack of abortions ignores the root problems from a Christian standpoint: Sex outside the bounds of marriage, unwise marriages, bad parenting, materialism, etc. In this regard, Dr. Parker should be downright ashamed that he is boldly claiming the name of Christ when he is so weak as to say that it’s a “tough” decision to choose between the life of one’s baby and the inconvenience the baby will cause during the time of a promotion. However, those who simply hold up mean protest signs, bully doctors, and bully these women aren’t really upholding the Gospel either, which is about the merciful Savior coming down to die for sinful humans. If churches in America aren’t actually trying to address these root problems AND trying to minister to these women, they aren’t helping that much either.
There is one ministry I’ve heard of that does things well: They have a van equipped with ultrasound technology and offer free ultrasounds to women outside of abortion clinics. Far from bullying the women, they freely give their services so the women can see the child inside of them. Many women, upon seeing their baby, have their motherly instincts kick in and change their minds about abortions. Instead of taking away their choice, this ministry presents them with a choice (in fact, many women admit to them that they were seeking an abortion precisely because they actually thought they had no choice). These acts can then open up doors to share the Gospel of Christ.
When confronted with sin, Jesus never condoned it and always taught against it, but he never left it at that. There was always the offer of grace and salvation, and his compassion was such that he wept over Jerusalem despite the heated exchanges between him and the teachers of the law. If we leave out that part, we will not make lasting progress against abortion because we will not be dealing with the sin problem. The unborn child is a life worth protecting, but it is odd indeed if we forget about the spiritual issues and needs of the mother.