pro-life

The Joyless Worldview of the Pro-Choice Movement

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By Scott McClare

If you watched the Super Bowl a few weekends ago, you might have seen the ad for Doritos. It got a lot of attention because in the ad, a pregnant woman chastises her husband for eating Doritos during her ultrasound appointment, only to discover that her unborn child (visible on a monitor) also craves the chips and is reaching for them inside the womb. Though goofy, it was one of the more memorable ads from this year's game.

Apparently, the humour was lost on the folks at NARAL Pro-Choice America, however. They tweeted, after the ad aired:

That's an interesting choice of words: "humanizing fetuses." It assumes that a fetus is not human. But if it is not human, what is it? Canine? Porcine? No one can "humanize" the unborn. They are, by virtue of their human parentage, human beings. Humanity is intrinsic to our natures. It's not a title bestowed upon us because we happen to be "wanted" or made it through all nine months of gestation. Therefore, neither is our moral worth determined by these things. We have moral worth because we are human beings, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And it is because we are made in the image of God that taking another human life without justification is evil (Genesis 9:6).

Still from the Doritos "Ultrasound" spot that aired during the Super Bow, Feb. 7, 2016.NARAL also calls out stereotypes of "clueless" dads and "uptight" moms. But that invites the question: what are they the mom and dad of? if that fetus ought not to be "humanized"—if it's only a potential human being, and not an actual one—then why call them parents? Are they the human parents of non-human offspring? Of course not. In writing this tweet, NARAL assumes the very thing they are denying: the humanity of the unborn. This is incoherent, even for Twitter—and for NARAL.

It is NARAL and other abortion-rights advocates who commit the error of dehumanizing the unborn. It's easy to see why: if the unborn are not human beings, then no defense of abortion is necessary. On the other hand, if they are human beings, then no defense of abortion is possible. It is the unjust taking of a blameless human life.

Of course, it is the technology used in the Doritos ad that strikes the pro-choice position a mortal blow. Sonograms show what was hidden away for millennia: the visible humanity of the unborn, even inside the womb. The late Bernard Nathanson was once the director of the largest abortion clinic in the U.S. after New York legalized abortion in 1970. In his career as an abortionist, he oversaw more than 60,000 abortions, estimating he performed 5,000 of them himself. Like many abortion activists, he wanted to destigmatize the procedure. However, when he began using then-new ultrasound technology as a tool in his clinic, he saw the effects of abortion in real time. Over time Nathanson was compelled to reconsider his pro-abortion stance, and became a significant pro-life advocate.[1] Ironically, one of Bernard Nathanson's other claims to fame was co-founding NARAL in 1969.

Since Nathanson's time, what was once a relatively minor diagnostic tool has become a major influence on how we view pregnancy and childbirth. The millennial generation, those born after 1980, are significantly more pro-life than their parents. This is at least partly due to advances in technology, such as the widespread use of ultrasound in prenatal care.[2] Sonograms have become commonplace. Millennials have seen ultrasound images passed around by their pregnant friends, or pictures of their as-yet-unborn siblings taped to the fridge as though they were just another baby picture. (They have also seen abortion take away a third of their generation that never got a chance to live.) We can't conclude from this that the pro-life side is winning. But we can say that activist groups like NARAL don't have the option of preaching at us that we shouldn't "humanize" the unborn. We have seen the sonograms, and what they depict is undoubtedly human.

Aside from disputing the propriety of bringing Doritos into an ultrasound appointment, the on-screen couple appears happy to welcome their unborn child into the world. I like to imagine this reflects the real-life joy of the filmmaker, Peter Carstairs: the "beautiful baby" in the ad is played by an actual ultrasound of Carstairs' then-unborn son, Freddie, and given a taste for tortilla chips with a little digital trickery.[3] It's a humorous take on a routine event in the life of an expecting couple.

Compare that to the humourless worldview expressed by NARAL's Twitter complaints. Throughout the Super Bowl, the person using their Twitter account found fault with this or that advertisement for not toeing the line of their particular variety of feminism. For example, in response to an ad in which comedian Kevin Hart plays an overprotective father following his daughter on a date, they tweeted:

Maybe they don't understand that we already get that it's inappropriate. That's why it's funny!

NARAL also retweeted this remark from one of their state affiliates, after an ad celebrating "Super Bowl Babies" who are supposedly conceived on game day, hinting that they're no happier about born babies than unborn ones:

Most of us would take a healthy ultrasound as a joyful event. However, in the dour worldview of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who view everything through the lenses of their own radical ideology, even an ultrasound appointment is political. The fictional joy of an on-screen couple, as they see their unborn son on a monitor, "humanizes" the fetus and supposedly threatens the rights of women. Our cultural commentary can do better than this joyless approach.


[1] Emma Brown, "Bernard Nathanson, Abortion Doctor Who Became Anti-Abortion Advocate, Dies at 84," Washington Post, February 22, 2011, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/22/AR2011022206507.html. See also Bernard N. Nathanson, Aborting America (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979) and Nathanson, The Hand of God (Washington: Regnery, 1996).

[2] Ken Blackwell, "How the Abortion Tide Turns," Washington Times, August 2, 2015, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/aug/2/ken-blackwell-americans-becoming-more-pro-life/.

[3] Tiffany Dunk, "Aussie Filmmaker Peter Carstairs May Have a Big US Break Thanks to the Superbowl," News.com.au, January 5, 2016, accessed January 17, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/aussie-filmmaker-peter-carstairs-may-have-a-big-us-break-thanks-to-the-superbowl/news-story/bb221ab85850d1299ff4ead86a056aed.

What are Christians to Make of Sting Videos?

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By Scott McClare

By now you can't have escaped hearing about the latest Planned Parenthood (PP) scandal. Beginning on July 15, a pro-life group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a series of videos—five so far—in which actors have posed as buyers for a fictitious biomedical research company and secretly taped interviews with prominent PP personnel, in which they admit to harvesting fetal organs and tissue for sale to medical researchers. In the first video, a doctor nonchalantly eats lunch while she explains how she would "crush" the unborn child in a way to preserve desirable organs. In the second, released a week later, another doctor describes how a "less crunchy technique" would preserve the fetal organs, remarking that the cost of the specimen would need to be worth their while: "I want a Lamborghini," she quips. Each video is more graphic and revealing than the last. In the most recent, released this Tuesday, a PP employee remarks that "if we alter our process and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, it's all just a matter of line items."

However, in some Christian pro-life circles, sting operations like this one raise ethical questions—not about the abortionists' actions, which every Christian should agree are evil, but the ethics of the sting itself. After all, stings involve strategic deception, and isn't lying wrong?[1] When Paul asked, "why not do evil that good may come?" (Romans 3:8),[2] he was being sarcastic. The ends do not always justify the means.

What are Christians to make of the use of deception in stings or investigative journalism?

Christians have held basically three different views on this subject. In the first view, lying is always sinful. True moral dilemmas (situations that can only be escaped by committing one sin or another) do not exist, and there is always a way out of a tricky moral situation that does not require one to lie.[3] In the second view, moral dilemmas do exist, in which case one must commit a lesser sin to avoid a greater one. Nonetheless, the lesser sin is still sin that must be repented of and confessed. In the third view, when faced with a moral dilemma, we are obliged to obey the higher command, and in doing so are exempted from the guilt of disobeying the lesser one.

I am arguing in favour of this third position. The obligation to obey God's commands is an overarching moral absolute, worked out in the obligation to love God and our neighbours. Individual commandments are, practically speaking, absolutes. Thus, I am not arguing for situational ethics, in which there are no moral norms beyond "what is the most loving thing to do?" However, moral imperatives do need to be understood in light of their intent; as we wrestle with morally complex situations, we must try to discern the rationale for the commands. It may be possible to violate God's intent even when obeying the strict letter of the law.

We can all agree that under normal circumstances, lying is a sin, particularly when there is no need to lie, or our reasons are purely selfish. The Bible never directly commends lying, although it does commend telling the truth (for example, Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25). Truthfulness reflects the character of God, who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

Nonetheless, the ethics of deceit are not always cut-and-dried:

1. Is it sinful, in a hockey game, to deke right but pass left?

2. Is it sinful to tell your girlfriend that she looks nice, even if you think her outfit is unattractive?

3. Was it sinful for the Allies to deceive the Germans into believing the D-day invasion would assault Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy?

4. Is it sinful to lie to an abusive husband about his wife's whereabouts if you believe he means to harm her?

The first two situations illustrate that small deceptions are a part of everyday life. They are arguably trivial and do no harm. If "white lies" can be avoided, then they should be—but no one has ever called an athlete's integrity into question for faking out his opponents.

In the last two situations, however, the lies are neither trivial nor done for personal gain, but instead are intended to contain evil by defeating Hitler's armies or preventing an angry man from doing violence to his wife. The sting videos are of the same kind of moral complexity. Fortunately, the Bible provides some indirect guidance concerning this kind of moral dilemma.

The Egyptian Pharaoh intended to weaken the Israelites through infanticide. However, two Hebrew midwives refused to kill Israelite babies, and lied to Pharaoh, saying that Israelite women were giving birth before they arrived. As a result, God blessed the midwives and gave them large families of their own (Exodus 1:15-21).

Before the conquest of Jericho, the prostitute Rahab sheltered Israelite spies, hiding them on her roof, but telling the authorities they had already left the city (Joshua 2:1-7). Consequently, Rahab is commended in Hebrews 11:31 for her act of faith.

Since both of these deceptions seem to have divine approval, it appears God places a higher priority on preserving life than telling the truth. Some have argued that God commended the midwives' and Rahab's faith, but not their deceit.[4] As I see it, the deceit was intrinsic to their acts of faith, which otherwise would have failed. Honesty might be the best policy under normal circumstances, but under these circumstances God's enemies intended to kill God's people, and they did not deserve to know the truth if it would aid them in their evildoing.

Similarly, there is no question that Planned Parenthood is involved in the mass destruction of human life. It performed 1/3 of all abortions in the US, over 327 000 abortions last year.[5] By filming them doing what they do, CMP's sting simply exposed what PP does on its home turf. The fifth video, which shows someone poking through a casserole dish full of dead fetus parts, is more grotesque than anything I have seen Scott Klusendorf or Jojo Ruba present in their talks. These videos revealed the reality of what abortion is. Pro-choice critics will never again be able to falsely accuse pro-life speakers of using graphic images that misrepresent the consequences of abortion.

CMP has also exposed the utter callousness of abortion practitioners who joke about their work and chow down on salad while discussing the best way to crush unborn human beings. If Planned Parenthood had known in advance that they were being stung, they could have covered this evil up. They did not deserve to know the "buyers'" true intentions.

In the late 18th century, while abolitionist William Wilberforce toiled in Parliament to outlaw slavery, his friend Thomas Clarkson travelled throughout England, gathering evidence against the slave trade. This consisted of stories from sailors, surgeons and others involved in the trade, as well as instruments used by slavers to restrain and torture slaves. He displayed these instruments at public meetings and printed pictures of them in his pamphlets. Clarkson understood that visual aids made his lectures more persuasive than words alone. Since he was hostile to the slave trade, it was unlikely that slavers would donate their tools of torture to him willingly; therefore, it's no surprise that he sometimes used subterfuge to collect his evidence. These tools eventually helped Wilberforce rally abolitionists and helped convinced many to finally outlaw slavery.

Our present abolitionists are also gathering evidence against the horrors of the modern-day trade in human flesh. Like Thomas Clarkson, they put themselves at considerable risk, but they do so to reveal the horrors of the abortion industry in terms that an online, visually oriented culture can understand. They are bringing the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11) into the light. We need more warriors like this. May their tribe increase!


[1] For example, the Roman Catholic Church has historically taken the position that lying is always evil, even if done for good reasons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls lying "intrinsically disordered" (CCC, sec. 1753).

[2] Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[3] People who hold to this position appeal to texts such as 1 Corinthians 10:13: "[God] will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

[4] The note for Exodus 1:19 in the Geneva Bible reads, "Their disobedience in this was lawful, but their deception is evil."

[5] Penny Star, "Planned Parenthood: We Aborted 327,653 in FY2014," CNSNews.com, December 31, 2014, accessed August 6, 2015, http://cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/planned-parenthood-we-aborted-327653-fy2014.