There are a number of so-called “pro-life” bills throughout America at the state and national level that seek to regulate or push back the incidence of abortion by banning a certain type of abortion procedure, such as dismemberment or partial birth abortion. There are also “pain capable” bills that ban abortion once a preborn child is capable of feeling pain. The most popular type of regulatory bills are the incremental bills that ban abortion after viability or what some call “late term abortion.” Some put this at 20 weeks, while others seek to go further to twelve weeks or even six to eight weeks.
The recent Florida House Bill 235 or “detectable heartbeat bill” is one of these incremental bills that have support from various pro-life groups.
Personhood Florida cannot support this bill for a variety of reasons. This might come as a surprise to some who believe it would eliminate the vast majority of abortions. Simply, Personhood Florida’s goal is to establish that all human beings regardless of their stage of development have a God-given right to life.
As President Trump recently stated this in no uncertain words in his 2019 State of the Union address.
There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our nation saw in recent days. Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.
These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.
Ironically, the president then provided a good illustration of the logical disconnect in a lot of current “pro-life” initiatives.
To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life. And let us reaffirm a fundamental truth — all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.
If we can say in one breath that life begins at conception because we are all made in the image of God – an ideal that Personhood Florida seeks to codify in constitutional language – and then call for a partial ban on abortion after 20 weeks, we undermine our own core beliefs. If we then load up the language of such bills with exceptions designed to pass the muster of higher court rulings that strike down such laws the next day, then we merely show that we do not even believe our own rhetoric.
What’s good about the heartbeat bill
Before getting into the many reasons why Personhood Florida cannot support Florida House Bill 235, I wanted to point out two things about the heartbeat bill that are good and actually represent an improvement over past efforts to regulate abortion in our state.
1. It uses correct, biblical language to describe the “unborn child.” The original draft of the bill had the word “fetus” throughout, but in revision it was changed to “unborn child.” This is important to us in Personhood because we want to use biblical language. It is recorded in the Gospel According to Luke that Jesus, while still in the first trimester, perhaps only a few weeks or even a few days after His conception, was recognized John the Baptist, who was called a “babe” in the womb.
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:39-41).
It’s important to note here that the word for “babe” is the Greek word, brephos. This can mean a young child, a baby or a preborn baby. It makes no difference with the Lord. All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God. If our president is bold enough to speak that, and our own Florida Constitution affirms that our right to life and liberty comes from “Almighty God,” we can certainly use that language in our legislation.
2. The language for the “life of the mother” exceptions, although not without several problems, is better than in previous “pro-life bills.” The bill has several long clauses describing what a doctor must do in a medical emergency. In summary, the bill says the following.
If a termination of pregnancy is performed during viability or after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, the physician performing the termination of pregnancy must exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the unborn human being that the physician would be required to exercise in order to preserve the life and health of an unborn human being intended to be born and not aborted. However, if preserving the life and health of the unborn human being conflicts with preserving the life and health of the woman, the physician must consider preserving the woman’s life and health the overriding and superior concern.
Ignoring several problems with this language, which I deal with below, the bill does two things that are an improvement.
First, it defines an “abortion” as “the termination of human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead unborn human being.”
Thus an abortion would not include an operation with the intent to save the mother and the child that unintentionally results in the death of one or the other. It would not include an operation that is done in a life-threatening situation, such as necessary surgery on woman who has had a “tubal pregnancy” and is in danger of death without emergency intervention. It would obviously not include a D&C after a spontaneous miscarriage, a birth by caesarean section, or surgery “to remove a dead unborn human being.”
Second, it classifies the above as a pregnancy “termination” procedure, but not as an intentional “abortion.” According to this bill, abortion has to do with the “intent” to kill a preborn child. This eliminates the confusion among some medical professionals and pro-abortion advocates who say that banning abortion prohibits life-saving care.
What’s wrong with the heartbeat bill
1. The bill defines an “unborn human being” as “an individual organism of the species Homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.”
While this is certainly true, the Florida Constitution, as well many other state constitutions and the Declaration of Independence, define the right to life as originating from “Almighty God” or our “Creator” or similar names describing our Lord. We don’t have the right to life because we are a species superior to animals. We don’t have the right to life because we can feel pain or have a heartbeat that can be detected by medical science. We have the right to life because we are created in the image of God. The language of our laws ought to reflect this biblical truth that our founding documents affirm.
2. The heartbeat bill contains contradictory language describing when life begins.
The rationale for protecting preborn children is given in the bill that the state of Florida has a legitimate interest in “protecting …. the life of the unborn human being who may be born.”
WHEREAS, as many as 30 percent of natural pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage, and
WHEREAS, fewer than 5 percent of all natural pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage after the detection of fetal cardiac activity, and
WHEREAS, more than 90 percent of in vitro pregnancies do not survive the first trimester when cardiac activity is not detected in the gestational sac, and
WHEREAS, a fetal heartbeat, therefore, is a key medical predictor that an unborn human being will reach live birth, and
WHEREAS, cardiac activity begins at a biologically identifiable moment in time, normally when the fetal heart is formed in the gestational sac, and
WHEREAS, the State of Florida has a legitimate interest from the outset of a pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn human being who may be born …
We must realize that laws not only prohibit criminal behavior, but they are also instructive. What the bill does is to send the message that human life is valuable when an organism of the species Homo sapiens has a detectable heartbeat and therefore “may be born.” It implies that the state of Florida does not have a legitimate interest in protecting human life prior to the time when a preborn child has a heartbeat when “as many as 30 percent of natural pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage.”
That being said, if the heartbeat bill were really enacted, it would end practically all surgical abortion. A fetal heartbeat is detectable at 22 days (three weeks) with a highly sensitive ultrasound or at eight weeks with a stethoscope. Few women actually realize they are pregnant prior to six to eight weeks. Few abortion clinics will perform an abortion on a pregnancy that is not at least six weeks from the last missed menstrual cycle (which is actually eight weeks). In reality, the heartbeat bill would end all abortion after this time. Further, medically necessary surgeries needed to save the life of a mother that end with pregnancy termination are rare. It’s estimated even by pro-abortion advocacy groups, such as the Alan Guttmacher Institute, that .08 percent of these pregnancy terminations (or less than one in a thousand abortions) are performed in these “hard cases” in the state of Florida each year.
While it would be a good thing to stop the surgical abortion industry, it would not stop the operation of abortion clinics that prescribe early abortifacient drugs. Since virtually no surgical abortions are performed prior to six weeks, it sends the message that life begins with a human being that has a heartbeat. This begs the question. If ending surgical abortion, which is the “cash cow” of the abortion industry, is a good thing, then why not go the whole way? What if there were a companion bill that banned prescription and over-counter sales of drugs that are intended to be used as abortifacients? Why go as far as a detectable heartbeat and no further?
This is the reason why I support establishing Personhood in our laws over abortion regulations. Personhood Florida advocates that all human beings must be recognized and protected because we are made in the image of God. Simply, the Florida Personhood Amendment initiative states:
The God-given right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.
The Personhood Amendment avoids confusing legal language and exceptions that actually contradict our message that each human life begins at conception/fertilization as a unique creation in the image of God.
3. The life of the mother clause in this bill says the doctor must operate to save the life of the mother and the preborn, but complicates the matter by adding the words “and health.”
Preserving both the life and health of both the mother and the child is the correct ethical view. At first glance, it’s not a terrible clause by itself. In isolation of the other implied and explicit exceptions, there is not a huge problem here. Of course, the “exception” to save the life of both patients doesn’t have to be stated in law because this is what doctors do routinely. They try to save lives.
Above I wrote that one good thing about this bill is that it does not use the language that “abortion is permissible for life and health of the mother.” What it does instead is describe what should happen in a life-threatening situation. There would be nothing wrong with a law that by itself explained what a doctor must do to preserve the life of both the pregnant mother and the child.
I personally think this comes close to being good language, but the heartbeat bill has a big problem. The heartbeat bill both confuses and negates its own stated ethical position.
The first and foremost problem is that it also adds the words “and health.” The word “health” can be interpreted in a number of different ways. It is common in late term abortions for women to claim that their mental health is such that they would consider committing suicide if forced to deliver a baby. In fact, it is common for abortion doctors to “coach” women to sign such affidavits so that they may skirt the law in the state of Florida and perform late term abortions in an outpatient setting.
I am all for protecting doctors who truly protect the sanctity of life and try to save both the mother and the child. If a life saving procedure results unintentionally in the death of one or the other the doctor should not be criminally culpable. This can be in some law or precedent. It all comes down to the word “intent.” So whether you call it an “exception” or not, this is not a conundrum. The doctor must operate to save both lives doing everything that is medically possible within our current medical knowledge.
However, it is unclear what this bill is actually saying. Would an emergency procedure be performed on a woman who has any type of health issue? The bill doesn’t define what types of health problems this would entail.
Here lies the second and greatest problem. The “health of the mother” exception opens up the possibility to legally abort any preborn child who is not viable under the guise of a “health” exception. Thus it shifts quickly from being a true “heartbeat bill” to a “viability bill.”
4. There is a “use of public funds prohibited” section that has a rape or incest or life and health of the mother exception.
This exception clause literally says that an “abortion” in the case of rape or incest, or to preserve the life or health of a pregnant woman can take place using public funds.
USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS RESTRICTED.— A state agency, a local governmental entity, or a managed care plan providing services under part IV of chapter may not expend funds for the benefit of, pay funds to, or initiate or renew a contract with an organization that owns, operates, or is affiliated with one or more clinics that are licensed under this chapter and perform abortions unless one or more of the following applies:
(a) All abortions performed by such clinics are:
1. On unborn human beings that are conceived through rape or incest; or
2. Are medically necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman or to avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman, other than a psychological condition.
This is extremely confusing if not contradictory. If the doctor is really trying to save both lives, then why does it matter if a rape was committed or public funds, such as Medicaid, are used? First, this not an “abortion” in the usual sense of the word or as defined earlier in the bill. It’s an emergency caesarean-section or some other procedure designed to try to save both lives. Second, why create a rape exception? Why would public funds be available in the case of a rape to try to save the life of an unborn child, but not a child conceived through consensual relations?
So the language is problematic in that it is confusing and contradicts the ethical stance laid out previously in the bill. This section is either a badly botched oversight or some type of legal sophistry that defies common sense.
5. The bill has several pages of regulations on the abortion clinics that might still operate in the cases when surgical abortions would be performed.
While it’s not unusual for pro-life bills to turn into “omnibus packages,” I found this to be one of the stranger aspects of this piece of legislation. Let’s think this through. Would a woman go to an outpatient abortion clinic in a life-threatening situation? No, they are going to go to a hospital. So the bill is odd in that it hyper-regulates an industry that would effectively be put out of business in about 99% of cases by not allowing surgical abortion. It sends the message that surgical abortion centers would still operate under a variety of restrictions and regulations – many of which are already in place, but not always enforced.
6. Finally, the penalties for committing an abortion on an “unborn human being of the species Homo sapiens” is a “felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”
To clarify, a third degree felony is the lowest level felony punishable under Florida statutes “by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.”
The third degree felony language contradicts the statement that this is an unborn human being. It’s not consistent with other homicide statutes.
I personally am not against the idea of putting all surgical abortion centers out of business under penalty of homicide laws and then dealing with the abortifacient drug issue in other legislation. The problem with abortifacient drug legislation is that prosecution would be difficult under homicide statutes for a variety of reasons. But surgical abortion can be treated as homicide or first-degree murder.
Personhood organizations cannot support heartbeat bills
In summary, Personhood Florida and all affiliates of our national group, Personhood Alliance, cannot support heartbeat bills. The language of this bill exposes inconsistencies in thinking, is self-contradictory and sends the message that certain abortions are permissible among preborn children of the species Homo sapiens who do not have a detectable heartbeat. A better approach is to combine a Personhood amendment or law with legislation that protects human life.
A Better Way to End Abortion in Florida
Personhood advocates need to understand two important realities about state abortion laws.
First, as long as states think they must follow Roe v. Wade as established law, there is no real restriction on abortion. Roe v. Wade together with Doe v. Bolton made it possible to kill a child in the womb through all nine months once certain criteria are met. The biggest “loophole” is the “health of the mother” in Doe, which includes “mental health.” So legally all a woman has to do is sign a piece of paper saying she has had thoughts of suicide and the doctor can concur. In fact, women seeking late term abortions are often coached to do this. Some states have further restrictions saying late term abortions must be done in a hospital setting or through a doctor that has hospital privileges. This is why putting “restrictions” on abortion while kneeling before the altar of Roe as “settled law” can never work. “Chipping away at Roe” is ineffectual as long as this “mental health” exception is followed.
This is the reason why I haven’t flown into hysterics over New York’s new “barbaric” abortions laws. This is already the case in every state throughout the country as long as we accept the judicial fiat “laws” of Roe and Doe.
Second, states can right now end abortion legally by doing three things.
1. Write into law or as an amendment that the life of all human beings at any stage of development must be recognized and defended. Some states actually have such Personhood language in their constitution and laws already. But too many people falsely believe Personhood is ineffectual under Roe.
2. Pass uncompromised fetal homicide laws or remove the exceptions in fetal homicide laws that protect abortionists. There have been people tried and convicted of murder for killing an unborn child. A few years ago, Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio was convicted of first degree murder for forced abortions on girls he had kidnapped. People who deceptively give pregnant women abortion pills can be tried for murder. There are many “double homicide” cases involving preborn children and their mothers. There is also a federal fetal homicide law that covers all 50 states. The problem is that these laws all have an exception that protects abortionists from prosecution.
3. Ignore or defy federal abortion-related cases that contradict state laws and state constitutions. Many states have “tenth amendment” resolutions and/or language in laws that command state officials to uphold state law over federal law.
Here in this video, Idaho state representative Heather Scott is doing just this. This needs to be the paradigm shift that all “pro-life” legislators throughout the country will adopt.
Please also see the links for The United States of America 2.0: The Great Reset. This is short primer on doctrine of nullification, which has been one of the foundational tenets of the Personhood movement since its beginning. You may either order copies or I have posted all the articles that make up the booklet online for free.
High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!
Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification
In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.
By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
In the state of Florida and several other states, heartbeat bills are being touted by Republican legislatures as a means to challenge Roe v. Wade on a national level. Both the pro-abortion and pro-life sides have said that these bills would effectively end surgical abortion in those states. Since all surgical abortions are performed after six weeks, when a heartbeat can first be detected in a preborn child, it is conceivable that (rightly enforced) this law would end surgical abortion, thus crippling the abortion industry of it’s “cash cow.” We would be left with chemical abortion (sometimes called “abortion by pill” or “medical abortion”) which now makes up at least 30 percent of all abortions. Likely, that number would grow. However, abortions after the time a heartbeat is detected would still be illegal. This ranges from anywhere between after three to six weeks. Likely, abortionists would find legal and illegal ways to prescribe chemical abortion by pill after six weeks while not offering ultrasounds. There are a whole variety of factors that figure into this and no one really knows what the final effect would be.
In a previous article, I explained Why Personhood Florida does not support pro-life “heartbeat” bills. In response, a friend of mine asked me why we cannot support a law that even though not perfect would do so much good. Why do we have to be “all-or-nothing” in our support of Personhood?
First, we should rejoice if any life is saved. I even agree that although I think chemical abortion would become the fall back method of the abortion industry, they would still be effectively close every abortion clinic in our state. Of course, Planned Parenthood centers that still get lots of federal funding would remain open.
I’ll explain bellow why I agree that “all-or-nothingism” is a trap we can fall into. The question I will deal with first is why I consider the “Heartbeat Bill” to be not a pro-life bill at all, but a pro-abortion bill.
Prior to Roe, the state of Florida, like all states had a law banning abortion. The only exception was a life threatening situation in which a doctor could not save both lives. Then the law made the surgeon immune to prosecution. At that time, our culture trusted that in any life threatening situation, the doctor would operate to try to save both lives. Now the state of Florida allows abortion through all nine months of pregnancy under certain conditions because our state officials have falsely agreed that Roe is the “law of the land.”
The simplest method to end abortion would be to return Florida to the abortion law we had prior to Roe. As I described in my previous article, this would require either challenging Roe directly or asking or state officials to simply ignore Roe using the Tenth Amendment, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The heartbeat bill is designed to challenge Roe. So why would we do that with a bill that says life must be protected when a heartbeat is detected, but not from the moment of conception?
The Personhood Acid Test
The original meaning of “acid test” was a method developed to test gold after the Gold Rush of the 18th century. It relied on nitric acid’s ability to dissolve other metals more readily than gold. In modern vernacular, it means something which provides definitive proof of whether something is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, effective or ineffective.
To determine whether or not the heartbeat bill is pro-life or pro-abortion, I ask three questions.
- If Roe were to be overturned tomorrow, would I want Florida law to return to what it was before Roe, or would I still support a heartbeat bill, which allows abortion prior to a heartbeat bill being detected?
- If I support the heartbeat bill as a “pro-life” measure today, then what would happen if Roe is overturned? Would it be then a pro-life law or pro-abortion law?
- Do I think that a law that allows abortion prior to six to eight weeks (such as chemical abortion) can easily be repealed in favor of a complete ban on abortion if Roe is overturned?
All the laws that we passed on our state that allow abortion with some exceptions have ingrained those exceptions in our legal code. This is why if we are for defending all human life, we should support a Personhood Amendment. This would make many of the “exceptions” laws unconstitutional. Only laws that would not need to be repealed under a Personhood Amendment — under a complete ban on abortion — would stand as morally correct laws.
So a “pain capable bill” that bans abortion only after a preborn child is capable of feeling pain would need to be repealed. However, a bill defunding organizations that lobby for abortion or promote abortion through education, such as Planned Parenthood, would not. Both are incremental measures that would not end all abortion, but only the defunding bill is consistent and compliant with Personhood.
Furthermore, putting all our eggs in one basket, planning for the day that Roe v. Wade might be overturned has skewed our thinking in many ways. We see that in many states, pro-abortionists are getting ready for Roe to be overturned. They are passing laws that allow abortion through all nine months for any reason. We need to understand that overturning Roe can’t stop a single abortion in those states.
Some have also asked us to stop promoting an Personhood Amendment and instead work for a bill that would abolish and criminalize abortion. I completely agree that this should be tried. However, passing a complete ban on abortion by law isn’t a guarantee either. Most women could then cheaply (for less than the price of an abortion) drive or fly across state lines and obtain abortion where it would still be legal.
There will also be an inevitable backlash. A strongly pro-life legislature might be replaced by a pro-abortion legislature in 2 to 4 years. A constitutional amendment is harder to pass than a law, but also harder to repeal. It would be a solid defense against liberal abortion laws.
Even without such a shift in party alignment, any law completely banning abortion will be fought by some Republicans and Democrats to include the same “exceptions,” outlined in Roe — rape, incest, or the health and life of the pregnant woman. In other words, we would have a slate of “pro-life” laws that unless repealed would codify a moderate interpretation of Roe.
However, if we can pass nearly identical Personhood amendments in 38 states, then the state legislatures can vote for a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, a federal Human Life Amendment is the only path to end all abortion in all 50 states. This is the reason why I believe our primary goal ought to be to educate the public, and lobby our state officials to ratify a Personhood Amendment to our state constitution.
The Fallacy and Folly of “All-or-Nothingism”
What makes Personhood different from some groups that are also uncompromising in defense of human life is that we don’t make the false dichotomy between “incrementalism vs. immediatism.” To be sure, it is morally wrong to write into our legal code exceptions that allow for some abortions. However, we do not believe that every incremental approach to ending abortion is immoral.
Personhood is a Christ-centered, Bible-centered organization. We stand for the sanctity of all human life, not because life is intrinsically sacred, but because we are each made in the image of a holy God. The Personhood Amendment explicitly recognizes God as the source of the right to life of all human beings. Therefore, the acid test is not “incrementalism vs. immediatism,” it is whether or not a law squares with God’s Law. God has said, “You shall not murder.” Therefore, we don’t support bills that ban some form of murder, but explicitly allow other forms of murder based on age, race, mental or physical handicaps, method of abortion, ability to feel pain, or stage of development.
We believe that the Scriptures not only prohibit creating laws that allow for murder, but God also condemns “devising evil by law” and calls those who create such laws the “throne of iniquity.”
Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You?
They gather together against the life of the righteous,
And condemn innocent blood
That being said, there are several approaches that honor the Personhood of all human beings, the image of God in us, that would not end all abortion. These are approaches we should support. I will give two examples here.
- Defunding Planned Parenthood — such as removing all state and federal funding to any organization that promotes abortion.
- Laws and Court Cases that Recognize Personhood — such as a fetal homicide law dealing with automobile accidents.
Note that nothing would change if abortion were illegal and such laws were first enacted. They would stand as “Personhood compliant” laws both now and under a total abortion ban.
Imagine for a moment if pro-life legislator answered, when asked, “Are you pro-life?”
“Yes, I am pro-life. I’m against partial-birth abortions. I’m against federal funding of abortions. And I believe in a strong parental consent notification law.”
Pro-lifers for the most part would gladly accept that response.
Remember that position: Pro-life. That is the position of Clarke Forsythe and Americans United for Life, the Roman Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life and a host of other groups. They have each actively opposed or refused to endorse the Personhood initiative — a strategy for passing state amendments that would recognize the right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death — thinking that pushing for an outright ban on abortion would be counter-productive at this point in time. Instead, they choose the pragmatic approach. To be fair, I must point out that these individuals and organizations actually do support Personhood, but only deny that it is the correct strategy at the current time.
Meanwhile, in the current political climate, former Republican Senator Scott Brown from Democratic Party dominated Massachusetts, once said in a campaign interview, when asked, “Are you pro-choice?”
“Yes … The difference between me and maybe others is that I’m very — I’m against partial-birth abortions. I’m against federal funding of abortions. And I believe in a strong parental consent notification law” (Barbara Walters interview, ABC News, Jan. 31, 2010).
The point here is that whenever we speak of the incremental strategy, what we are speaking of are laws that literally advocate the position of Roe v. Wade and “pro-choice” rhetoric. Roe used the exceptions to allow abortion under certain circumstances. On the same day that Roe was handed down, the companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, expanded these exceptions to abortion on demand. So in reality, these laws with exceptions seek to narrow Doe while keeping Roe intact.
Immediatists like to point out this compromise whenever a such a “pro-life” bill with exceptions is proposed. Incrementalists like to point out that even the most compromised laws might save some lives and we need to “do what we can” while Roe stands as a legal precedent.
I strongly encourage people on both sides of the debate to stop using the straw man terms of “incrementalism” vs. “immediatism.” This is a false dichotomy. We should begin to speak in terms of obedience to God’s law vs. willful sin. In reality, when immediatists speak of abolishing abortion, we are not speaking of “overnight-ism” or “all-or-nothing-ism.” We are merely speaking of moving forward without exceptions and compromise. In reality, those speaking of the strategy of incrementalism want the abolition of all abortion.
The issue isn’t “gradual vs. absolute” or “incremental vs. immediate.” The issue is whether we are willing to compromise God’s moral mandates found in scripture.
One of the disheartening outcomes of this debate has been that immediatists will often portray incrementalist tactics as wicked, cowardly and willfully pro-abortion. I strongly believe that the need of this time is to have a rational debate without name calling and instead patiently educate all people for the need of Constitutional state nullification of Roe under the 9th and 10th Amendments. Although they agree with us that Roe is not law, the incrementalists’ thinking is that any direct challenge to Roe could result in a negative decision with Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing the majority opinion. Their fear is that any direct challenge could result in five Supreme Court Justices actually making Roe stronger. So the heart motivation of the pro-life incrementalists is to abolish all abortion. The problem is that our movement has a long history of acquiescing to judicial activism.
We all agree that Roe is not valid law. Therefore, our goal now ought to be to educate and convince legislators to ignore Roe — using the provision in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the 9th and 10th Amendments that the duty of protecting the rights of the preborn is delegated to the states.
To accomplish a restoration of Constitutional and biblical thinking in the pro-life movement and among pro-life legislators is a tall order. Yet it is the lynchpin in winning the battle.
We must cease to think in terms of tactics and think instead in terms of God’s ultimate strategy in using His Church. So my resolution is whenever I find myself tempted to go off the rails into the heated immediatist vs. incrementalist debate on some well-known social media network, I think of the following Bob Newhart comedy sketch, “Just Stop It!”
Strategy vs. Tactics
Our overall strategy must be to end abortion. All Christians should all agree on that. A tactic is a method or means to an end. When we employ a tactic, we need to ask two questions. First, is our method pleasing to God? Second, is it an effective use of our talents, time and resources? A tactic that is effective, yet violates God’s commandments – dishonoring to our God or our parents, murder, lust, theft, bearing false witness, covetousness – is a sinful tactic. A strategy to end abortion that is not Christ-centered grieves the heart of God. Yet not all think this way. I recently read a comment by a well-known “pro-life” leader who literally wrote:
I, frankly, don’t care how we get there, but I’m going to save every baby I can, I’m going to close every abortion mill, I’m going to crush the enemy in every way I can, and if y’all think it’s wrong, stupid, or immoral I could care less. Maybe Jesus will send me to hell, but I’ll be okay as long as I kick the “rear” of the baby killers. I’m here for one reason: to win! Period end. I’m going to win by hook or by crook. And I refuse to stand on some fictitious moral high ground as long as babies are being murdered. I’ll leave the moral high ground and wallow in the mud with the pigs — as long as the babies win.
I can only hope that this person was being sarcastic and that this does not truly represent his view. But I have actually heard many pro-life leaders use similar rhetoric. I post this quote because it speaks volumes about the spirit behind a certain segment within the “anti-abortion” movement. (I used that term because I hesitate to even call them “pro-life.”)
Over the years, I have had long conversations with people who believe in so many words that “the ends justify the means” in ending the abortion holocaust. We can kill, steal, vandalize and lie in order that preborn lives may be saved. In the end, these are tactics that are not only incrementalist, but counterproductive. Or to put is conversely, sinful, counterproductive tactics are the ultimate form of compromised incrementalism. God has a much better strategy.
God’s Strategy: The Church
To counter that idea, I use the following quote by 19th century Arminian evangelist Charles Finney (a man whose theology I have many disagreements with) who was correct about the need for the Church to be an army to bring about the reformation to society.
Now the great business of the Church is to reform the world — to put away every kind of sin. The Church of Christ was originally organized to be a body of reformers. The very profession of Christianity implies the profession and virtually an oath to do all that can be done for the universal reformation of the world. The Christian Church was designed to make aggressive movements in every direction — to lift up her voice and put forth her energies against iniquity in high and low places — to reform individuals, communities, and governments, and never rest until the kingdom and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High God — until every form of iniquity shall be driven from the earth.
Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:17-19). The important point is that we are moving as the Church, not as a pro-life organization. This does not necessarily mean an institutional church – although that would be ideal. The institutional church has government, material resources and the mandate to make disciples. However, the “Church,” from a minimalist point of view, can be “two or more” who are gathered on the foundation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Regardless of tactics, we must go forward in a Christ-centered mindset as the Church. Our way of thinking ought to be that wherever two or more are gathered, Jesus Christ is at the center, not on the periphery.
I submit that the source of incremental thinking is a Christ-less, Church-less strategy that sees that politics is the art of compromise. If you can’t get a whole loaf of bread, it’s better to get a few crumbs than to starve. God’s plan is much higher than that. His strategy through the Church is infinitely more powerful. I have never thought that the solution to the abortion holocaust is political. However, if the Church led by courageous pastors and elders would stand up in a unified force against wickedness, we can see any evil stopped in its tracks.
Can we really legislate morality?
A friend of mine who was a pastor and leader in the Operation Rescue movement, Phil Vollman, gave a great answer to this question in the 1990s. What I like about his response is that Phil will be the first to tell you that he points the finger at himself as one who knows weakness and failure. Yet despite our failures, we must stand up in this hour and be bold and courageous.
To pastors, I speak as a pastor and I want pastors to hear me. Two things are needed in this hour. Number one, sound orthodoxy is needed. For as one noted theologian has noted recently, “You can’t beat something with nothing.” If we don’t return to a Reformed faith, that is to say, the orthodox historic Reformed faith, we will not have the tools ethically to take dominion in the earth in time and history as Christ Jesus has commanded us to do. There is no arguing that point.
But there is something else that is needed on this hour and I think it is equally important. Pastors need courage. There is a great famine of courage. It will take courage to embrace the historic Reformed orthodox Christian faith. I know this personally. But it will also take courage once we have embraced that faith to apply that faith then in time and history locally in our neighborhoods where we live. When God begins to judge a nation, the first thing he does is begin to give his people a cowardly clergy. I am very fearful today that America is being sanctioned, judged, with cowardly clergy. They are all around us. You look at the clergy today and what do you see? You see politically correct and religiously correct men of the cloth who are afraid to speak the truth for Christ.
What is it costing us? So far there are over 40 million dead babies. Militant homosexuality, militant feminism, militant humanism are running amok in our culture. We have a madman in Michigan named Jack Kevorkian who has right now killed or been responsible for over 86 deaths. There is not one prosecutor in Michigan who will stand up to him. We have two states now with right to die laws. And we have the most wicked, vile president in our history. There is no end in sight.
Now I’m a pastor. I know about fear. I know about loneliness. I know about the loss of reputation. But I am convinced that if we don’t see a revival in courage in this nation. If we don’t see some men begin to stand up in courage, conviction and Christian principle and stand faithfully in a world of cowardice and compromise, then we are going to deserve everything that is coming our way, we and our children.
The great Russian prophet, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, wrote many prophetic things about his own people and the future of America.
When asked, what went wrong in Russia that God would visit upon them the brutality of communism, he only had one thing to say, “Russia forgot God.” America has forgotten her God. She’s forgotten her God because her shepherds have forgotten her God. This is not rocket science. When the pastors are walking in the fear of God and yet the comfort of the Holy Ghost, when the pastors are teaching sound orthodoxy, when they are wedding that with courage, to the things that they must do, there is victory, there is peace, and there is hope.
If we don’t see a raising of the black regiment in this hour. If we don’t see a parson’s revolution. Well then I would say, America is about to enter a long and a dark period. For as the pastors go so goes the Church. As the Church goes, so goes the nation.
The following is an excerpt from the script of a video to be produced in the future, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom: Postmillinnialism Rediscovered. Some of the following has been edited from the writings of my friends, Bob and Rose Weiner.
The Immeasurable Power of the Gospel
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head,
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth good will to men.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” December 25th, 1864
The U.S. Civil War was still raging when Longfellow wrote these words. Over 600,000 died, more than half due to disease and primitive medical care. He had just received news that his son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had suffered crippling wounds as a soldier in battle. Just two years earlier, he had lost his wife to an accident with fire. Sitting down at his desk that Christmas Day, he heard church bells ringing. It was in this setting that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a committed Christian, wrote these lines.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth good will to men.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1868
While it might have looked as though the apocalypse was at the doorstep of his nation, Longfellow quoted scripture and persisted in what was known in early America as the “Puritan Hope” – that the Gospel was strong enough, not only to convert souls, but also to transform the nations bringing “peace on earth.”
The historic belief of the Church that the Gospel is destined to overcome all opposition is totally opposite of the ideas of the end-times that have been propagated throughout evangelical Christendom over the last century. The presence of evil in the world and sin in our nation has been viewed by modern Christians as an indication that civilization is crumbling, and that we Christians on that “sinking ship” should spend as much time as possible trying to rescue as many of the passengers as we can. This has resulted in an escape-orientated Christianity rather than dominion-oriented Christianity.
As David Chilton wrote in Paradise Restored:
Regardless of their numerous individual differences, the various defeatist schools of thought are solidly lined up together on one major point: The gospel of Jesus Christ will fail. Christianity will not be successful in its worldwide task. Christ’s Great Commission to disciple the nations will not be carried out. Satan and the forces of Antichrist will prevail. Jesus returns at the last moment, like the cavalry in B-grade westerns, to rescue the ragged little band of survivors.
As a result of almost a century of this type of teaching, the Church has lost many major battles to the enemy. The Gospel is just as powerful today as it was in the days of the Reformation and the two Great Awakenings in America. It is not the Gospel that has changed; it is the orientation of the Christian that has made the difference.
Therefore, some questions we ought ask ourselves.
Do I have an eschatology of defeat or an eschatology of victory?
Do I see the devil running the world and getting more and more powerful all the time?
Do I see the ministry of the church as mainly that of a rescue mission, with no other lasting effect in the world other than saving a few individuals from hell?
Is my message for the “last days” simply: “Antichrist is coming, run to the wilderness”?
- or -
Does the Gospel center on a powerful vision that sees Christianity becoming victorious throughout the entire world before the second coming of Christ?
Such a worldview was completely foreign to many of the great Christian scholars of past centuries. On the contrary, the view of the Church in history was held by such godly and respected men as throughout history, such as, Athanasius, Augustine, Eusebius, John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Robert L. Dabney and Benjamin Warfield to name just a few.
This ought to tell us that the postmillennial worldview is well worth considering.
The date of Christmas was not determined by Church Fathers by copying the date of a pagan Roman winter solstice festival. Instead, the date was calculated from the Jewish calendar using the date of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, September 22nd, 6 BC, when Gabriel appeared to Zecharias in the Temple according to Luke 1:5. The conception of John occurred “immediately after that” when Zecharias returned home to Elizabeth to the hill country of Judea, by calculation on September 24th, 6 BC.
The conception of Jesus was calculated to have occurred when Elizabeth was “in her sixth month” (Luke 1:26,36) on March 25th, 5 BC, which was also the first day of Passover in that year. John’s birth was June 24th, 5 BC, followed by Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem on December 25th, which was also the first day of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, in that year. The Church Father, Hippolytus of Rome, in his work Chronicon, saw that each date had allegorical significance.
So why is Christmas celebrated on December 25th?
The usual answer to this question is that it was adjusted, like many Church feast days, to coincide with the pagan feast days, this one being the winter solstice. This is a convenient explanation, but the exact date of December 25th is for another reason entirely. It was proposed by several of the Church Fathers at least as early as the second century. Since the “celebration of Christmas” was a custom instituted later, the second century is far too early for the “pagan copycat” thesis to be valid. To explain how the Church Fathers arrived at this date, we need to examine first the date of John the Baptist’s conception as told in Luke.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zecharias, of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5).
According to 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, King David had divided the priests into 24 divisions who took turns serving in the Temple. During their service they lived in the Temple and were separated from their wives and children. Each order served for a period of eight days twice a year. The priests of the course of Abijah served during the 10th and 24th weeks of the Jewish year. Luke goes on to recount how the angel Gabriel appeared to Zecharias while he was serving in the Temple.
So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zecharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zecharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:8-15).
Note here that “the whole multitude of the people” (i.e., the whole nation of Israel) was present outside the Temple. Some have attempted to reconstruct the weeks of service according to Josephus’ account in Antiquities 7:14:7, which relates that the first division, the division of Jehoiarib, was on duty when Jerusalem was destroyed on August 5th, AD 70. Using this date as an anchor, the eighth division of Abijah would serve two times in the year, one of them being in late September. However, it is uncertain if these allotments began on exactly the same day of the year, since there would be four extra weeks to account for at the end of the year. But there were only two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem worshiping at the Temple. These were the fall and spring feast days. Zecharias’ vision apparently occurred on one of the high feast days, several of the Church Fathers thought it was the Day of Atonement, and then Zecharias returned to his home immediately after that.
So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived (Luke 1:23,24).
Since “the hill country of Judea,” where Elizabeth lived according to Luke 1:39;65, is no more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem, the conception of John the Baptist must have occurred soon after that. Several of the Church Fathers noticed this correspondence and made the inference that John must have been conceived shortly after the Day of Atonement, which usually falls in September. In fact, the Church Father John Chrysostom thought that Zecharias was actually the Jewish High Priest because he was in the Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which in 6 BC fell on September 22nd. So September 24th was calculated as the date of John’s conception. The birth of John occurred exactly nine months later on June 24th.
Since Jesus was conceived six months after John (Luke 1:26,36), various dates around this time, December 25th, January 2nd and 6th were given by various Church Fathers and each of these have been celebrated as the Nativity of Jesus. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church has always used January 6th or 7th as the date of Christmas.
If John was conceived during one of the spring feasts — Passover or Pentecost, which were the other two times in the year when the “whole multitude of the people” of Israel was required to be in Jerusalem — then we would have a winter birth for John and a summer birth for Jesus.
Notwithstanding, the Day of Atonement fits well as an anchor date because it points to a winter birthday for Christ. Josephus notes that Herod died shortly before the Passover in 4 BC, which began on April 11th of that year. This gives several months for the events surrounding the Nativity and fits the narrative accounts of both Matthew and Luke.
We should not be dogmatic about the exact day. However, we can use December 25th as the anchor date. This date helps explain several events recorded in the Nativity accounts and is important for establishing a timeline that supports the historicity of the Gospels.
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes(We accept PayPal and all major credit cards.)