An Interview with Scott Klusendorf, President of Life Training Institute.
JT: Just how bad was this election for pro-lifers? Give us the big picture.
SK: There’s no doubt we’ve experienced a crushing defeat in the current political cycle. The executive and legislative branches of the federal government are now firmly in the hands of those deeply committed to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be set aside to be killed simply because they are in the way of something we want. In the weeks ahead, even before the inaugural events get underway, we can expect abortion-choicers, along with their allies in the media, to declare the abortion debate over–at least politically.
They have reason to gloat. President-elect Obama, with eager support from a Democrat Congress, can easily deliver on his promises to sign the federal Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), provide federal funding for destructive embryo research (including cloning), stack the federal courts with activist judges, and craft a national health care plan that includes abortion coverage. This is all very bad.
But surrender is not an option. We have work to do.
JT: You’ve said before that FOCA could strangle pro-life efforts for decades to come. Why is it dangerous?
SK: Indeed, there’s no mistaking that FOCA is the most dangerous piece of pro-abortion legislation to date. Obama has said this would be his first objective. In its current form, FOCA creates a federally guaranteed right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy that goes way beyond Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Should the federal courts ever reverse or otherwise gut Roe and Doe, FOCA would enshrine abortion rights into law at the legislative level. Parental consent, informed consent, restrictions on tax-funded abortions, and physician conscience laws would be swept away, along with federal and state bans on partial-birth abortion.
JT: Do you think Obama can successfully sell FOCA to the American public?
SK: Yes. He will justify it by telling the nation that abortion is a tragic choice, but laws regulating abortion don’t work. What’s needed are social programs aimed at reducing the underlying causes that lead women to abort in the first place.
The moral logic in play here is baffling.
First, if abortion does not unjustly kill an innocent human being, why is Obama worried about reducing it? But if it does unjustly kill a human being, isn’t that good reason to legislate against it?
Second, laws which allow—indeed, promote—the killing of unborn human beings are unjust even if no one has abortions. Imagine a candidate who said he was personally opposed to spousal abuse while he had a 100% voting record in favor of men having a right to beat their wives. Suppose he told the public the underlying cause of spousal abuse is psychological, so instead of making it illegal for husbands to beat their wives, the solution is to provide federally funded counseling for men. It’s no stretch to say the voting public would see right through his smokescreen, even if he favored social programs to treat the underlying causes that allegedly contribute to abuse. After all, there are underlying causes for rape, murder, theft, and so on, but that in no way makes it misguided to have laws banning such actions. Moreover, Obama is just plain wrong to say that abortion control laws don’t work. Sure they do. Michael New points out that between 1992 and 2000, many states that passed modest abortion-control legislation saw their abortion rates drop by 21 percent or greater. Meanwhile, Tom McCulsky writes that states with FOCA-style laws saw their abortion rates go up while the national average went down. Nevertheless, Obama is poised to sweep all these pro-life gains away with the stroke of a pen, and the public will buy his explanation.
By the way, Obama won’t be the only one telling pro-lifers to surrender politically. Voices within Christendom will assert that evangelicals have spent too much time on politics, with little to show for it. What’s really needed, so the claim will go, is more time preaching the gospel. Well, I’m all for preaching the gospel, but why should anyone suppose that political efforts aimed at protecting human life detract from the biblical command to go make disciples? Why can’t pro-life Christians do both? Simply put, the answer to a lack of evangelical fervor for the gospel is not to withdraw our political advocacy for the weak and vulnerable; it’s to encourage Christians to do a better job presenting the gospel. We don’t have to stop advocating protections for the innocent to do that. At the same time, it’s unfair to say that because we have not achieved everything we set out to politically accomplish in the last 28 years, we have wasted our time on political distractions. Wilberforce and Lincoln suffered crushing political setbacks before their respective nations finally did away with slavery, yet no one suggests they wasted time that should have been devoted to preaching or evangelizing. Truth is, pro-lifers are simply outnumbered and underpowered. But this in no way justifies political silence in the face of evil, the likes of which we are about to witness at a whole new level.
JT: Given our political options will be limited in the immediate years ahead, what should Christian leaders do right now to advance the pro-life cause?
SK: Rather than giving up, we should commit ourselves to four vitally important tasks.
1. Christian leaders should purposefully preach and teach a biblical view of human value, and do it often.
2. Christian leaders must not only preach about human value; they must equip their people to engage the culture. Theology gives church members a biblical foundation for their pro-life beliefs. Apologetics gives them the tools to take those biblically informed beliefs into the marketplace of ideas.
3. Pro-life Christians must hold their churches and parachurch organizations to account. I rarely–very rarely, in fact–say critical things about the church. My preference is to equip Christian leaders rather than criticize them. Yet there’s no escaping the fact that if you talk to any pro-life group reaching out to students, you’ll soon learn it’s now axiomatic that with rare exception, campus fellowship groups want nothing to do with the pro-life movement. Generally speaking, they are too afraid they might turn people off if they get involved saving innocent human lives.
4. Pro-life Christians must recruit more full-time apologists. Gregg Cunningham of the Center for Bioethical Reform once said:
There are more people working full-time to kill babies than there are working full-time to save them. That’s because killing babies is very profitable while saving them is very costly. So costly, that large numbers of Americans who say they oppose abortion are not lifting a finger to stop it. And those that do lift a finger to stop it do just enough to salve the conscience but not enough to stop the killing.