America’s Pro-life Movement Strangely Silent
I was confused to hear a report in numerous media headlines about Mexico’s Supreme Court. An abortion law in a Mexican state that criminalized abortion was struck down. I heard that the “Mexican Roe v. Wade” would now lead the way to liberalize abortion in this nation of 128 million people. This came in the wake of the recently enacted Texas Heartbeat Act that seeks to restrict abortion. I also heard in the same hour that a powerful earthquake shook southwest Mexico.
I expected to hear an outcry from the U.S. pro-life movement condemning this ruling, calling for a national Human Life Amendment in Mexico, and audaciously declaring that the earthquake was a sign of God’s judgment on a nation that has allowed the killing of preborn children.
But most pro-life groups were silent.
Simply, America’s pro-life movement has long agreed with the decriminalization of abortion.
Meanwhile, the Texas abortion law is being touted as a victory by many of America’s pro-life organizations. However, it too explicitly prohibits penalties for women committing child murder. It also decriminalizes abortion for surgeons. The only civil penalty afforded by the Texas law is that it gives citizens the right to sue a doctor committing an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected, which is at about six to eight weeks. Thus the Texas abortion law has an almost identical effect as the Mexico Supreme Court ruling.
Paradoxically, it is the position of almost every American “pro-life” organization (with the exception of a few stalwarts) that neither women nor doctors should be criminally punished for committing abortion. The most austere pro-life bills restricting abortion propose fines for the doctors and the possible suspension of medical licenses if state boards of medicine will act.
Let’s first be clear about a bit of history on Mexico’s abortion laws.
Ten years ago in Mexico, eighteen states had already passed measures enshrining into law full Personhood protections for preborn children. The amendments and laws were passed in reaction to the legalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2009. The state measures received the support of 88 percent of the members of state legislatures including members of every major political party.
Then in September 2011, the Mexican Supreme Court rejected two actions to overturn the laws enacted by the states of Baja California and San Luis Potosí for unconstitutionality. The Court recognized “the power of the state legislature” to enact laws on the subject. However, their decision does not criminalize or decriminalize abortion in Mexico.
Mexico City, where approximately 7.87% of the national population lives, offers abortion on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. This position is considered liberal in Latin America and only Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay have similar laws. However, even with the Personhood Amendments in most of Mexico’s states, every state has various exceptions for abortion including rape and incest. Further, although the true numbers are not known, the illegal Mexican abortion rate per capita is thought to be at least as high as in the United States. This is typical in other nations throughout Latin America.
Although the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that criminalizing abortion is illegal, it did not strike down a single abortion law entirely. It did not reverse the numerous Personhood measures. It did not make abortion legal across Mexico. However, it set up a precedent to challenge the vast majority of Mexican states that mandate jail time or other criminal penalties for women who have the procedure. It should be noted that the most severe criminal penalties for abortion in Latin America usually amount to three years in prison. The courts do not try women for murder. It should also be noted that Roman Catholic countries do not enforce the death penalty for murder.
Leaders of the American pro-life movement have repeatedly said they want no penalties for women who have abortions. This is why not a word is heard about this Mexican ruling in their numerous blogs, news releases and fundraising appeals.
Not a word.
Yes, hundreds of millions of pro-life Christians throughout the world are upset by this ruling, but so far the vast majority of pro-life organizations have been silent. To their credit, Mexico’s Catholic bishops decried the decision calling it “murderous.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act
Texas Heartbeat Act restricts abortion at six weeks without any exception for rape or incest. This Act might save more lives in comparison to the abortion policy that now stands in Texas. That is a good thing. We ought to rejoice greatly when any life is saved.
It also clearly states that the Act “does not create or recognize a right to abortion before a fetal heartbeat is detected.” It is good that the law does not create a condition under which a human being can be killed with impunity. However, this statement in itself is a double-edged sword because it does not define the Personhood of the preborn child from biological beginnings.
The law specifically exempts women from civil penalties if they commit abortion.
Sec.A171.206.(b) This subchapter may not be construed to: (1) authorize the initiation of a cause of action against or the prosecution of a woman on whom an abortion is performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter;
Thus a law being heralded as a great victory essentially takes the same position as the Mexico Supreme Court. Pro-life organizations are face with a conundrum if they support both the Mexican state Personhood laws criminalizing abortion and the Texas Heartbeat Act. Further, this is not simply a position of political expediency. Numerous American pro-life organizations have gone on record saying they officially oppose the prosecution of women who have abortions, just as the Mexican Supreme Court ruled.
Winning with the Personhood Paradigm
The first principle is the recognition of the Personhood of all human beings. We are created in the image of God with the right to life and all the legal protections afforded by law to a natural Person.
I decided to move to Melbourne, Florida in 1993 after interviewing Keith Tucci several times. At that time, Pastor Keith was the director of Operation Rescue National. He had decided to stay in town and plant a church after conducting a 12-week discipleship and training course for Christian evangelism and action on the sanctity of life cause. It’s interesting how much things have not changed in almost 20 years. If I told you the interview was in 2021, you might think that much the same is true today.
Keith Tucci: Since Operation Rescue started, over 500 abortuaries in this country have shut down; there are less practicing abortionists than there have been in a decade; there are less medical colleges that teach abortion. We are getting hammered in the political arena, but that is not a problem with Operation Rescue. That just shows the fallacy of the failed political strategies of pro-life and conservative groups. It has very little to do with us. I think that we’ve helped to hold it together a little bit longer. So I think these people are looking at the wrong symptoms. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the politicians let abortion be legal, but there wasn’t a community in the country who would let an abortionist practice?
FR: So what you’re looking at is making it impossible for an abortuary to function in this country?
Keith Tucci: We’ve got to make it intolerable and only then will we make it illegal. In the history of cultural change in this nation, it was usually the grass-roots and the church who dictated change. Abolition of slavery is the most obvious example. When they dictated change by their actions and by their willingness to spend themselves, then and only then did it become illegal. I’m a firm believer that things don’t happen from the top down; they happen because the church will make a decision or won’t make a decision. We made a very key foundational error 20 years ago in the pro-life movement: we began to try to convince the world – and either falsely assumed the church was in agreement or even made an even bigger assumption in that we didn’t have to convince the church – but it was a key tactical error that has caused the church a lot of grief.
FR: Convince them that abortion is wrong?
Keith Tucci: That abortion is MURDER and that it is not optional to be in resistance to it.
This thought encapsulates everything the Personhood Paradigm has been from the beginning and is now. We are continuing to get hammered in the political arena, but we are winning on the streets. Make no mistake, the key is not politics. The foundational error is that we’ve failed to convince the Church -- and that includes much of the pro-life movement, especially the political pro-life movement -- which is the secular world, not the Church.
The first key is the Church
The way we approach the Church to convince them is paramount. A friend of mine here in Orlando, John Barros, is frequently asked to speak at events and Christian conferences and even on secular radio programs. When asked to criticize churches for their lack of action, he refuses to do so. For the many years I have known John, he has seen more churches join street evangelism at abortuaries than anyone I know. Or as John would say, “My job is to show up and see God show off.” He has seen God in His sovereignty activate these churches.
The second key is the Personhood Paradigm
Personhood first seeks to get the Church and the culture to recognize and defend the Personhood of all human beings. Many pro-lifers will say they agree with this. Most of our state legislators say they believe this.
But many probably would not like this statement of Keith Tucci:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the politicians let abortion be legal, but there wasn’t a community in the country who would let an abortionist practice?
That sounds wrong to me as a self-declared theonomist, as one who holds God’s Law as the supreme standard for morality and legislation. But in reality, that is what needs to happen first before the legal Personhood of all human beings is recognized and defended. We convince individuals, churches, and local communities at the grassroots level. Politics at most is fourth. Even though I am involved in the political process, I have no faith that we can accomplish our goals by demanding politicians do our job for us. Politicians aren’t going to do what the Church does not have the will to do.
Then in order to enact legislation, we need to appeal to the moral law of God, not the false hope of compromised legislative victories. That is, don’t worry if a law protecting all human life won’t pass constitutional muster. Just do it because it’s right and see what happens. This approach seems to speak to many churches who are worn out by politics and yet know better than withdraw into silence. There are indeed eternal truths that will lead to moral victories and will always outweigh short term bargains with wickedness.