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Evangelicals came to their current views on abortion through a combination of ethical reasoning, biblical hermeneutics, historical research, theological reflection, and contemporary American politics. That was my argument in a recent post, which was ...

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scott roney

May 30, 2013  4:11am

"Evangelicals came to their current views on abortion through a combination of ethical reasoning, biblical hermeneutics, historical research, theological reflection, and contemporary American politics." Citations are indeed in order. This is a quite broad assertion. Given Evangelicalism's well-known and documented "anti-intellectualism" (the Assembly of God Graduate School was so named because the word 'seminary' was anathema in that community due to its worldly & nonspiritual connotations). The fact that Francis Schaeffer takes up so much space in the topic belies the point that that was in fact a dearth of moral reasoning throughout the conservative church on the issue of abortion. There still is! Most conservative protestant Christians could not mount a well-reasoned argument for the moral justification on either side of the debate. The conservative protestant church mirrors the overly polemicized patterns of its host culture. I think the "pundit" has it correctly.

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Steve Skeete

November 14, 2012  12:14pm

It does not matter when one awakens to the knowledge of the truth as long as one honestly admits to having once held a different view . There is no shame in seeing more clearly now than one did before. So if evangelicals are pro-life when they used to be something else, I ask so what! I am yet to see a reasoned pro-choice position grounded in sound biblical exegesis, and I agree with the position that doctrines are often solidified in times of conflict. To give one's all one must be sure of what one's fight is for or about. So it is in times like ours that a clear position on abortion is vital. Today one must be able to answer questions like when does life begin? What 'right' has a woman to terminate the life of the child medical technology clearly shows is living inside her? From where does the female 'license to kill' come. Abortion is a tragedy of epic proportions, a terrible scourge on humankind. If evangelicals have recently awakened to that reality, I say good for them!

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Claire Guest

November 14, 2012  1:36am

Robert Starr, it's great to see another poster here who is steadfastly opposed to abortion. God bless you for that! I have never given unquestioning support for the Republican party. It is true that some Republicans are pro-"choice". (At the same time, the Democrats have made it ultra-clear in their platform that they are not open to a pro-life position, and Obama authored a bill as senator to prevent doctors from saving the lives of little babies who survive abortion.) One thing about Bush which I appreciated was his staunch resistance to obtaining stem cells from the bodies of aborted babies. Another thing I appreciated was his signing of the bill to outlaw partial-birth abortions. (Clinton repeatedly vetoed that same bill, which came across his desk three times after having been passed by both the Congress and Senate.) I can't answer your question without further qualifying info: How do you propose working with both parties to reduce abortions?

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Robert Starr

November 13, 2012  3:59pm

Claire Guest, I agree with you on a pro-life position. I do not agree that unquestioning support for the Republican party is an effective solution. Many Repubs are openly "Pro Choice" and many who claim to be "Pro Life" don't seem to care much about it (compared, say, to tax policy and many other things). A few Dems are Pro Life and many have intermediate positions (allow only in certain cases, parental consent, etc.). In fact Bush, McCain and Romney all had an intermedate position (allow for rape and incest). A hard-line "all or nothing approach" does not work; working with both parties to reduce abortions might work better. I would agree with you that no abortions are good. But wouldn't you agree that reducing abortions is a good thing, even if you can't get them down to zero?

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Claire Guest

November 13, 2012  12:39am

John Holecek, you say, "Mainline Protestantism folded long ago on same-sex marriage..." This is partly true, but not wholly true. What has actually happened is that schisms have arisen in mainline Protestant denominations over this issue as Bible-believing, God-honoring believers have obeyed His admonition to "come out from among them and be ye separate" (2 Corinthians 6). Christ Jesus prophesied this would happen, and the apostles echoed His warning. Many Catholics have been co-workers in crisis pregnancy refuge centers, and I appreciate them very much. At the same time, there are many other Catholics who are pro-"choice", support re-defining God's definition of marriage, vote Dem in every election (as is true of many Protestants, as well). So I don't understand how you can see this as a Catholic/Protestant issue. Perhaps I misunderstood you. If so, please feel free to clarify.

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Claire Guest

November 13, 2012  12:30am

Robert Starr, I can only speak for myself and fellow Christians whom I have known for years IRL. I know for a fact that no politician ever influenced us to be pro-life, period. What influenced us (as I've often referenced here) is God's own Word - Jeremiah 1, Psalm 139, Jesus' words, other Scriptures as well. When I first began voting, there was no such divide between Reps and Dems - abortion was a non-partisan issue. Ironically, it seems that Jimmy Carter, who ran on a "born again" platform, had a major part in making support for abortion on demand a Dem issue. Feminists of that day chose the Dem party as their party and made deals with Dem leaders to advance their agenda (a former New York Times editor recently mentioned this in a book). The pro-life position IS very important to me, for the reason I cited earlier (as is definition of marriage). The Dems' hard Left position has definitely alienated and disenfranchised many Americans whose standard of truth is God's Holy Word.

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Robert Starr

November 12, 2012  10:51pm

I see Dudley conflating two points: 1) Republicans influenced Christians to become Pro Life. 2) Republicans used this issue to gain political support. Re Point 1, Galli is correct to say that the Republican party had a relatively minor affect on the theology behind the Pro Life position. Able scholars made contributions apart from political considerations. But the Republican party is not in the business of pushing the Pro Life view. They are in the business of getting votes, and whatever sincere support they have for Pro Life is way, way behind their interest in other issues, such as taxes. Just look at the recent election rhetoric. Galli totally misses Point 2. The Republicans have succeeded in spades to convince Christians that Pro Life is THE most important political issue and therefore that voting Republican is morally imperative for Christians. At the same time they won't make any other compromises, e.g on taxes or health care, for the sake of Pro Life. Great bargain (for GOP)

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Claire Guest

November 12, 2012  12:52am

To answer the title question: Assuming it is true that evangelicals did in fact become pro-life recently (if "evangelical" means Bible-believing Christians, I've never known any who were NOT pro-life, since the 1960s), I am glad to know that any who did become pro-life recently finally saw the light.

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John Holecek

November 11, 2012  7:26pm

How grateful I am that God led me from the confusion, contradictions, "nothing's ever settled" world of Protestantism into the Catholic Church that for 2,000 years has taught that abortion is always wrong and that marriage is reserved to a vow between a man and a woman. Mainline Protestantism folded long ago on same-sex marriage, and I imagine that Evangelicals will get soft on the issue as time passes. In the meantime, with the re-election of President Obama, you will see the Catholic Church rise up in opposition to the Health and Human Services manadate about insurance coverage for contraceptives. Evangelicals are sympathetic to the assault on the free practice of religion, however, for them contraception is a non-issue, another "Catholic thing." That artificial means of contraception are always immoral has been the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church; one of the many reason the Church is hated by the world. "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you."

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Pop Seal

November 11, 2012  6:23am

It's nearly impossible to stay engaged in a world that hates Christ, rejects Biblical ethics, and is otherwise totally materialistic. Even as a pastor, I had to simply turn away, knock the dust off my shoes, and walk away. Societies of old were notorious for child sacrifice. The walls of Jericho were "set with their young"....Joshua 6:26

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john werneken

November 10, 2012  4:22am

Thank for a good and uplifting article. And, I have not yet come to the same destination as you discuss regarding abortion. Obviously there is SOME evil in it else it would not cause so much trouble (who hears of great debates or bombings due to someone feeding or advocating feeding the poor?). Still, regardless of how I might stand on what political proposal addressing abortion, it is a problem. What causes it (undesired pregnancy) is some kind of problem Undergoing an abortion is traumatic, my daughter had one, I know that is true. Period. Losing potential human beings is a problem; we may have too many "damned people" but we do NOT have "too damn many people". And anything that among other things prevents us from reasoning together in addressing our OTHER problems, is a problem itself, if for no other reason then weakening us in that fashion.

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Jason Keuter

November 10, 2012  2:33am

I was struck by the argument that Christians embraced a new, and unprecedented reading of the Bible coming from a pro-choice writer. Putting aside for now the idea that somehow the Bible had been read to sanction abortion until the 1980's, this line of argument demands of pro-lifers an intellectual consistency not required of the prochoice position - after all, did not abortion find its legal sanction in reading the Constitution in a way it had not been read for centuries?

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n t

November 10, 2012  1:05am

Here's what I wrote on the Huffington Post site: My mom has always been an evangelical; she's very pro-life now and has been since at least the '80s. But she's mentioned to me that back in the '60s and '70s Protestants somewhat prided themselves on being more liberal on abortion than Catholics--who were thought (wrongly or rightly) to be against abortion even when the life of the mother was at stake. Also, at that time, abortion simply wasn't spoken about very much. It was a new issue in this regard. It took evangelicals some time to figure things out. How many pro-choicers can give no other reason for their position than, "Because it's a choice"? See my essay: http://cognitiveparfait.wordpress.com/category/abortion/ Human life is like a time-based artistic creation. The beginning is important!

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MARCIA YIAPAN

November 09, 2012  10:05pm

SSJ, All I want is for Christians to be able to allow for a range of opinions on this subject, and not resort to labeling debate opponents as murderers. Could you do that? If not, ask yourself this question: how could God ever command the Israelites to kill every man, woman and CHILD in the Promised Land, to make way for his arriving tribe? Other considerations trumped the "sanctity of life". Or would you fall back on the myth that the God of the OT is different from ours? He's not: our God did it and he was justified. So I maintain it's possible that an early abortion could trump bringing a poor little bastard or terribly crippled baby into the world for some women/girls today. I know one family that refused to abort a weak, weak fetus; now the little girl of four is almost blind, and has undergone many surgeries and body casts. Yet they boast that she's a "miracle baby". Really? One wants to weep for the whole family. If another woman chose abortion instead, who could blame her?

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Claire Guest

November 09, 2012  8:14pm

Wow, Marcia - talk about emotion: Your post positively reeks with emotion, and you accuse my position of being based on emotion? The first scenario you posited is unnecessarily negative, because no one can say the child would end up like that. As for your second scenario, think of Helen Keller - she was able to live a very productive life with the limitations of blindness and deafness. But, really, the bottom line is this: GOD, and GOD alone, is the only Righteous Judge. HE, and HE alone, has the RIGHT to determine who lives or dies. When mere man takes that upon himself as a 'final solution', it can never be truly righteous.

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Stephen Smythe-Jones

November 09, 2012  6:37pm

The descriptive term for a Christian, e.g., Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Protestant, etc., is nonrelevant. The only issue is whether a person who claims to be a Christian believes abortion is contrary to the Christian Faith. If he dissembles or says no, then he is a fraud and an apostate. No discussion on the matter.

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robert puharic

November 09, 2012  6:05pm

Jon Trott's gracious note is appreciated

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robert puharic

November 09, 2012  6:01pm

Grady Walton confuses truth with utility. It's like saying the laws of physics can't be true because if they WERE we'd be able to build nuclear weapons. God does not determine morals or truth. And women don't suffer because of abortion. That's a falsehood pushed by the 'prolife' movement. In addition, what about the women who give birth and kill their kids. Perhaps we should prohibit childbirth!

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Dee McDonald

November 09, 2012  1:51pm

Marcia, as for your first scenario, how do you know that kid is going to go to hell? What if my son of 8 months lives his life and then goes to hell when he dies? Should I have aborted him so there would not be that possibility? I realize the situation that you are talking about in LA is a very sad reality, but how can you make the argument that we should abort babies because we think they are going to hell? Perhaps we should start aborting babies from those who are the babies of corporate criminals because they will grow up in a situation where they will learn that stealing from people is acceptable? And then maybe they won't be saved, and then.... Where do we stop the line in this prediction business? As far as your second scenario is concerned, I'll admit that on a natural level, yes, that seems like the right thing to do. If you do not consider that there is a all-knowing God who conceives of the thought and carries out the births of each human, then of course it would seem right.

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MARCIA YIAPAN

November 09, 2012  9:59am

Claire, you grasp at straws because your position is weak and based on emotion. Consider this scenario: a 13-year-old girl is gang raped as initiation into her L.A. Bloods. She conceives and gives birth to a boy who grows up to be a criminal, is shot and dies at age 25. He goes to hell. Would it not have been better for the fetus that would become him to have been aborted at three months' gestation? ...Or how about this one: An unbelieving Jewish woman's fetus has Tay-Sachs genes, which means it will turn into a person who is both blind and deaf with motor and mental impairments. Jews are trying to wipe out this incurable disease by aborting all such fetuses. Can you blame them? Would you outlaw such abortions today? Remember--the voters are listening.

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Dee McDonald

November 09, 2012  9:34am

Marcia, the subject is not silent on abortion anymore than an issue such as pornography. Just because the Bible does not mention the word "Internet" does not mean that we can't reason that endulging in the easy access of pornography on the Internet is a sin. It would be helpful to read Galli's discussion again on reasoniong and ethics. There are plenty of modern day sins that are not directly mentioned in the Bible, yet, no one would condone them.

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Jason Person

November 09, 2012  6:09am

This response would have been more honest if Galli just admitted his first response was mistaken. It was apparent from that response that he was not very familiar with this segment of evangelical history. As it is, Galli concedes the debate he was having with Dudley (which was a historical one) and then attempts to start an entirely different debate, faulting Dudley's historical Op-Eds for not being about philosophy.

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Claire Guest

November 09, 2012  3:23am

CONFESSIONS OF AN EX-ABORTIONIST: "How did I change from prominent abortionist to pro-life advocate? In 1973, I became director of obstetrics of a large hospital in New York City and had to set up a prenatal research unit, just at the start of a great new technology which we now use every day to study the foetus in the womb. A favourite pro-abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible; that the question is a theological or moral or philosophical one, anything but a scientific one. Foetology makes it undeniably evident that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any of us enjoy. AS A SCIENTIST I KNOW, NOT BELIEVE, KNOW THAT HUMAN LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION" -- Dr. Bernard Nathanson, co-founder of NARAL -- http://www.aboutabortions.com/Confess.html

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Claire Guest

November 09, 2012  3:18am

Marcia, the Bible is not silent on abortion because God is not silent on the reality of the life in the womb. See Jeremiah 1; Psalm 139; and consider the teachings of Christ Jesus who severe words for anyone who would harm a child. He said, "As you have done it to the LEAST OF THESE, you have done it unto ME."

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Claire Guest

November 09, 2012  3:13am

Mark Matthias, YES, "There is only One lawgiver and Judge." HE is the only Righteous Judge, and if we take it upon ourselves to arrogantly deny and contradict His Word, including what He has shown us about nascent children in their mothers' wombs, we are of all people most foolish. You mention "the compassion of the president" - frankly, that lie is sickening to me, BECAUSE when he was a senator, he authored a bill to prevent doctors from saving the lives of little babies who survive abortion. He had the temerity to equate the baby in the womb to "a punishment", he has given carte blance approval to the continuation of our modern American holocaust whose death toll is now approaching 60 MILLION BABIES -- and you call THIS "compassion". It is the OPPOSITE of compassion to kill the youngest, most innocent, most helpless human beings among us. Christ Jesus said, "As you have done it to THE LEAST OF THESE, you have done it unto ME." THINK about the implications of that statement.

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Claire Guest

November 09, 2012  3:07am

Again - It is always helpful to clarify terms. The word "fetus" is simply the Latin word for "offspring". The human offspring is a baby. The fetus in the womb is a baby. The pro "choice" movement has long sought to dehumanize the little babies in their mothers' wombs, so we need to keep this truth in the forefront of any discussion. These little babies are NOT "part of their mothers' bodies", and this lie is at the crux of this modern American Holocaust which has incurred a death toll now approaching 60 MILLION babies! Each little baby has his or her OWN body. Each little baby is a separate HUMAN BEING, with his or her OWN fingerprints, DNA, blood type, and more. We should all stand strong with God's Word (Jeremiah 1; Psalm 139) in these FACTS in order to counteract the unGodly agenda which has created a horribly slippery slope. YES, ultrasound gives us a WINDOW which allows us to see the developing children in the womb. We should acknowledge their little lives as God does!

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MARCIA YIAPAN

November 09, 2012  3:04am

Since the Bible is silent on the ugly subject of abortion, I think we should be less doctrinaire. I actually think the key question could be "When does the soul arrive?" I venture to say At Birth. Nobody counts his time in the womb, but starts with the birthday when computing age, citizenship, etc. Maybe the concept of viability should be revived as a guideline. I really think many believers agree with me since they don't bother to vote against Clinton, Obama, et al. The extreme positions of the two senate cands. surely helped us lose the presidency. (Romney's religion hurt, too.) Although God never condemns abortion, he does spell out his view of bastards (poor little things) Dt 23. And yet now everybody loves a bastard. Where do they often end up? Prison is full of them. Are they likely to follow Jesus? I doubt it. I'd be much more impressed by a church that adopted lots of orphans than by one just touting opposition to abortion. Yet I know that that makes many people feel quite holy

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Dee McDonald

November 08, 2012  10:20pm

Great article Mr. Galli. I have a question concerning the abortion issue that I don't hear in today's debate. Why is the discussion about abortion rights solely framed in terms of the woman and her body? I am far from being "patriarchal" in my thinking, but it always strikes me funny that the conversation only discusses the woman's decision (and her doctor) of whether or not she has the right to have an abortion. The male is never even considered in the decision. Didn't both partners decide together to engage in an activity that potentially could lead to her becoming pregnant? Am I missing something that demonstrates it's only the woman who should be able to decide what happens to the fetus/baby? I guess if it is not a human, according to the pro-choice perspective, then "it" is just part of the woman's body. Just curious what some of you thought. Thank you.

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Mark Matthias

November 08, 2012  9:24pm

"Evangelicals came to their current views on abortion through a combination of ethical reasoning, biblical hermeneutics, historical research, theological reflection, and contemporary American politics." Did they? Well what did they derive regarding the other political party? Why is it so difficult to find members of the so called, conservative party, who have the profile that fits with the sort of people with whom Jesus would have associated? With whom would Jesus have associated? Rush Limbough, Mit Romney, John Sonunu, Anne Coulter, etc? Somehow they get a free pass with the conservatives. Which member of the gop had the compassion of the president? And which quality identified more with Christianity? They have forgotten, we are all sinners; and that, "There is only One lawgiver and Judge." This election is not about God, it's about them. Jesus didn't vote against sinners -- He healed them. Prophecy cannot be curtailed, God judges the hardened....

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Jon Trott

November 08, 2012  8:53pm

Robert Puharic, your narrative strikes a chord of recognition in me. I still believe, with doubt as a mentor on that road. But I feel a terrible sense of loss regarding what both Evangelicalism and the Pro-life movement might have been. Of course, there are many Evangelicals who do not bow the knee to the nationalistic idols of the Christian Right. And there are many pro-lifers who, rather than mono-focus on flipping Roe v Wade, are involved in cradle-to-grave outreach to mothers and their unborn children. I hope one day you'll find your way back to Christ. We need your kind -- with all your doubts and questions and even anger at our hypocrisy and lukewarmness -- to challenge us and confront our refusal to follow Jesus rather than power.

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Jon Trott

November 08, 2012  7:40pm

Mark, again, thanks for continuing this interesting and vital conversation about both history and theology as they impact the now. Right off the bat, one negative... please, couldn't you let the "fake" thing go completely? Apologize for it and move on. I admit I was so hung up on the fact you defended the word (though not in the title) I nearly didn't continue! But yes, for some of us who continue evolving (can I say that?) about abortion, it felt then more like a blurry topic coming into focus more than a clearly, deeply thought out position we held one way then switched to another. And behind all of this is the fact that birth control itself -- which I might have used as another example re "what the bible says" being an ongoing journey -- was a debate activated in many of our lifetimes. The pill began being mass-produced in 1962 or so. It changed life for women radically; and it made Christians do a lot of thinking, praying, writing. Modern abortion, likewise.

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Maurice Smith

November 08, 2012  4:35pm

Dr. Haddon Robinson once told me (as a young seminary student) that all "doctrinal statements" are essentially "conflict documents". From the Nicene Creed to the Barmen Declaration the Church has often been forced to more clearly articulate its beliefs as a result of conflict with those who take unbiblical or anti-biblical positions. It doesn't necessarily mean that our theology and belief has changed. It may simply mean that up to that point the Church hadn't found it necessary to articulate its position on that particular subject. Cultural Apologetics (my field of study in Seminary) means presenting and defending biblical faith in the face of changing or emerging cultural issues as they impact the Church. The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer didn't "invent" or create the pro-life movement. He simply accepted the biblical challenge created by Roe V Wade to better articulate a biblical and evangelical position for the Church. And I thank him.

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Jack Ratekin

November 08, 2012  3:59pm

Then, it is possible that you'll change your mind again next week?

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Bruce Mason

November 08, 2012  3:01pm

I've long accepted the pro-life position on Christian grounds. And as a moral question, I still believe abortion is usually the wrong action. But recently, I've come to appreciate the concern of pro-choice women's advocates that it is a hugely aggressive and coercive action for a goverment to mandate that a woman carry a child to term. At a policy level, such a law is not so hard to favor. At the personal level of an actual woman, though--a woman whose motives for wanting to end a pregnancy may be noble or may be contemptible--I find the issue much harder. It is her body, and an "all-knowing" government is telling this woman, with a growing life in her stomach, that she must keep letting it grow until she goes through labor. As a matter of public policy, can we really give government so much power over the individual on such an intimate matter?

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John Darida

November 08, 2012  1:54pm

I don't think it is a coincidence that as the common use of ultrasound technology in OB/GYN offices increased in the early 70's, so did pro-life opinion. Hearing a heartbeat and looking at images (no matter how fuzzy in the early days) is powerful.

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Grady Walton

November 08, 2012  1:49pm

Mr. Puharic, if there is no god, what difference does all this arguing make? If there is no god, then why is anything wrong . . . because laws made by humans say so? That's not good enough in my worldview. That said, if you want to talk about the price women have paid, well, I've known Christian women who carry tragic psychological and emotional scars as a result of the abortions they've had, even after receiving forgiveness from our loving God. Oh but the abortion industry minimizes and scoffs at such women. Yes indeed, women have paid the price. You see, abortion is a contradiction to the gift God gave women: they are the carriers and givers of life.

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PHYLLIS VITTATOE

November 08, 2012  1:35pm

Thanks to the wonders of our modern technology that allows us to view the developing fetus and see with our own eyes the characteristics of human life. I believe this has had a profound effect on attitudes toward abortion, particularly as pictures of life in the womb become part of a baby's photo album and are celebrated on social media.

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robert puharic

November 08, 2012  12:50pm

Well let me add a more personal note. I'm not going to make a systemic analysis. I was involved from the start in the prolife movement, first as a Protestant in 1973 after Roe, as a member of the "Christian and Missionary Alliance" church. I found a complete lack of support, so I converted to Catholicism in 1974. Protestants, in my view, became "prolife" when it was politically expedient, after Reagan's election. It was part of the conservative revolution and had little to do with life. It was a total attack on women's rights, worker's rights, etc. That was never present (until recently) in Catholic teaching. Catholic leaders, in my view, had a more fully developed theology of social justice (that they've now abandoned.) (Full disclosure, for 30 years I've been a pro-choice atheist.) I don't think Protestants were ever really 'prolife'. I think it was opportunistic. And I think women have paid the price.

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Claire Guest

November 08, 2012  11:02am

It is always helpful to clarify terms. The word "fetus" is simply the Latin word for "offspring". The human offspring is a baby. The fetus in the womb is a baby. The pro "choice" movement has long sought to dehumanize the little babies in their mothers' wombs, so we need to keep this truth in the forefront of any discussion.

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