I posted several times on social media around the release of Babies Are Still Murdered Here, encouraging you to watch it and share it. It’s now on Amazon Prime, and once again I’d encourage you to take the time to watch it. And I want to elaborate here a bit on why I think it’s a really great addition to our growing pro-life arsenal, with a few specific comments about where I mildly differ with the film, with the ultimate goal of encouraging more of this sort of thing.
Let me begin with one slight difference with the film or more precisely, a slight difference with one part of the film. And in my way of thinking, it really is so minor, that I have no problem recommending the film and cheering the project on.
Heartbeat Bills, Ultrasounds, and Honest Incrementalism
My quibble is with the part of the film that focuses on the limited helpfulness of heartbeat bills and the (apparent) conclusion that since ultrasounds can be faked and beating hearts can be obscured, heartbeat bills are worthless. To this, I reply cheerily, ha, not really. But a lot rides on what people think the goal of a heartbeat bills is. I don’t mind the information on the weakness of heartbeat bills at all. That’s all very good information. If someone thinks that a heartbeat bill would essentially end or nearly end abortion in our land, they’re obviously very wrong.
My reason for robustly supporting heartbeat bills—where that is the best we can do this legislative session – is first off to simply establish as a matter of public record and public law that 6-8 week old babies actually have heart beats. I love CNN, CNBC, and all the rest of the pro-abort media establishment talking about unborn babies with heartbeats. I love hearing them hyperventilate about the coming end of abortion. That’s brilliant. That is a cultural and rhetorical success all by itself. Even if the pro-aborts are vastly over-stating the effectiveness of this kind of pro-life legislation, the panic is helpful to us if we will only be willing to ride that wave. A basic tenet of effective war tactics is pursuit. And even if they are running away panicked because we fired into the air, we should pursue and not discourage the folks who were firing into the air by saying that they haven’t saved a single baby and their efforts are worthless. Yes, I grant you that we have not won the war with these tactics, but it turns out that winning the war requires a number of tactical moves aimed at that goal.
This war is as much a rhetorical war as anything else, and heartbeat bills are rhetorical wins. The problem is not with the wins, the problem is with sitting on one of these wins as though we had finished the job. And yes, I know that’s the concern. The abolitionists are tired of the pro-life establishment taking these tiny wins, moving the ball down the field five yards, and going back to their supporters and fundraising on these gains like they won the Super Bowl. Yes, I get that frustration and I fully sympathize with it, but that doesn’t mean that moving the ball five yards is worthless.
Second, right now, doctors are not inhibited by anything if they want to end the life of a 10 week old baby, but with heartbeat bills, they would have to break the law in order to carry out the murder. Now, will some of them break the law anyway? Almost certainly. Will some of them fabricate ultrasounds to hide the heartbeat? Do snowflakes need safe spaces? But will some doctors fear the law, fear fines, fear consequences, fear political/economic repercussions and will some be put out of business and consequently will it be more difficult for a woman to get an abortion? I think almost certainly some of all of that. And furthermore, once such a law is actually enforced (more on that in a moment), it is something that can be investigated, and where these kinds of weaknesses are demonstrated (ultrasound deception, for example), additional guidelines and restrictions can be put into place. The same thing goes for the recent Kentucky ultrasound law requiring a detailed ultrasound description be given to the mother before obtaining an abortion. Even if this law can be circumvented by the ungodly (and no doubt many will), further legislation can follow up, making it more difficult to circumvent. I know many of my friends think incrementalism is a bad word, but only lazy, cowardly, and corrupt incrementalism is bad. Courageous, ambitious, and honest incrementalism – like what I’ve just described – is, well, good and helpful.
The Real Issue
But the real issue is the fact that we have not yet had a state willing to actually put such a law into action. And that means that what is necessary at this point is for a state to be willing to defy the courts on the matter. The ideal of course is for a state to pass into law a complete ban on all abortions from conception on, but such a law would also need to come with instructions to law makers and law enforcement that the will of the people is for Roe v. Wade to be defied and subsequent court rulings or injunctions to be ignored, with assurances of legal/criminal immunity for doing so. Such a bill will be presented in the coming legislative session in Idaho, and I have heard reports of several others like it in other states. And bravo for that. We should all support such legislation, and I will be on the front lines calling out the “pro-life” establishment that tries to stop it. As one of our Idaho state representatives has pointed out, there is already current state-level precedent for this, specifically on second amendment issues in conservative states, and liberal states have functionally done this with marijuana and immigration. I also think that this is a prime moment to do this with a Trump presidency and William Barr as the current Attorney General.
But if a state had the option of defying Roe and passing a heartbeat bill, I’d gladly sign on to that play as well. Frankly, at this point, I’d support a twenty week abortion ban that included language requiring defiance of courts on the matter just to begin practicing the duty of nullification and regaining ground on that front, to begin establishing a precedent for state level interposition. While it’s certainly possible that the Supreme Court will change its mind (and it should), when it comes to high-handed acts of tyranny and rebellion against God’s law (like abortion or homo-mirage), SCOTUS rulings must be ignored and defied by all other lawful magistrates. And what we need to understand is that this is a lawful part of the checks and balances of our system. When other magistrates refuse to play this role, they tempt lawless men to take matters into their own hands at all levels.
Two Final Thoughts
First, the movie Babies Are Still Murdered Here does what many abolitionists fail to do, which is underline a deep respect and gratitude for the many who have served in the Pro-life caused for decades. BASMH does not white-wash the pro-life movement or romanticize it, but while pointing out weaknesses, it highlights some of the glorious strengths and honors the faithful in the trenches. For example, George Grant has a prominent voice in the film, and he has been involved in pro-life activism since Roe was handed down while he was a high school student in Texas. Likewise, the ministry of John Barros, a member of R.C. Sproul’s congregation, becomes something of the centerpiece of the whole film, which highlights the power of the gospel, the power of God, in the midst of human weakness, hatred, and sinful darkness. John ministers at an Orlando abortion clinic, leaning on crutches, supported by the prayers of R.C. Sproul (for many years), and that really is how the gospel triumphs, displaying the power of God in human weakness at every turn. And not to put too fine a point on it, this is what I fear some of my more perfectionistic abolitionist brethren seem to miss. I happily grant that some pro-lifers choose unfaithful weakness in order to compromise and that should be challenged at every turn, but I challenge my abolitionist brothers to be open to accepting some legislative weaknesses along the way in order to finally win.
And finally, I want to finish with another note about rhetoric. There’s a fine line that BASMH threads carefully, that needs continued work on all sides as we work for the end of abortion in our land (and in the world). This is the thread of urgency and gratitude, zeal and confidence, righteous indignation and joy. Anyone who has followed my writing/preaching/teaching for very long knows that I have no problem calling a spade a spade. I pray for the courage and clarity and love to speak the unvarnished truth. And I despise the pandering, flattering, nuance-police that think the gospel demands all theological and cultural and political battles be conducted between combatants covered in emotional pillows and armed with nothing more than coy feather dusters. We need the spirit of Elijah and Ezekiel and John the Baptist and Paul and, yes, of course, Jesus, now more than ever. And this Spirit threads the needle of faithfulness with the twin strands of laughter and militance, feasting and fighting, singing and slaying. This includes a straightforward call for the end of abortion in our land. Period. Full stop. But until God grants that prayer, living under the tyranny (and that’s what it is) of abortion on demand, means the freedom to pull this idol down in pieces, by legislative cunning, evangelistic sharp shooting, cultural influence, and throwing every good rock we can find at the monster with wide, mischievous grins. This faithfulness knows that prayer is more powerful than legislation, that a table laden with good food and blessed with deep gratitude to the living God overcomes the world, and that it will only be a childlike faith and obedience and exuberance that will end the slaughter of children in our land.