Why do we care so little about abortion?

Abortion is reputedly the most frequently performed surgical procedure in Australia. Currently, approximately 100 000 abortions are done each year. Since abortions began to become more easily and openly available about 25 years or so ago, perhaps, all up, two million abortions have been done in this country.

By anyone’s measure these are very large numbers, yet not many people seem to care very much that this is happening. But why should anyone care much anyway? After all, who, other than maybe dentists, knows or cares how many teeth are extracted each year?

As we well know, some people believe that each and every abortion is nothing less than the deliberate destruction of one or more young human lives – lives that they consider to be of equal moral value to your life and mine. According to this view, even one abortion, being the intentional killing of an innocent human being, is a very serious wrong, and the aborting of hundreds of thousands of preborn humans is an absolute catastrophe.

If they are correct about this, then surely it would be perfectly reasonable for them to express a great deal of concern- outrage even, along with concerted, committed action- against abortion. But as has already been noted, the reality is that few people appear to care much at all about abortion in Australia today.

Why is this so? There was not always this much indifference: twenty years ago thousands of people around the country were at least prepared to publicly express some opposition to abortion. Today, the silence is such that many people mistakenly assume that abortion must have been legalized throughout the nation.

One possible reason for the present apparent lack of concern about abortion is that some people who previously believed that abortion was the killing of a young child, may have developed a different conviction about what abortion involves. Whilst such changes to fundamental beliefs almost certainly account for some of the overall difference in attitude, this, I would suggest, is probably not the main contributing factor.

It would be reasonable to say that the main opposition that there has been to abortion has come primarily from people with Christian convictions. While it is the case that the number of people identifying themselves as Christians is dropping, I think that “committed” Christians, admittedly probably with varying degrees of conviction, generally continue to hold to the traditional Christian understanding that to deliberately end a human life by abortion is wrong.

Whether that contention is correct or not, the really important question is, why is it that those Christians who do continue to believe that abortion is wrong- whatever their number may be, why is it that even though they believe that every abortion kills an innocent child, why do they not seem to care very much that abortions are being done in huge numbers?

At this point some readers may want to take issue with the claim that it is the case that very few people do care much about abortion. But ask yourself this: what sort of response would there be if every working-day 350 two-year-olds were being taken by their mothers/parents to openly-operated centres around the country that specialised in ending these children’s lives? Now, compare your answer to that, to the response that is being made to the actual killing of that many preborn children each day.

To be fair, perhaps many people do feel at least some concern about abortion and perhaps there are even many who feel great concern, but even so it is undeniably the case that there is no commensurate response to abortion as there would be if the same number of born children were being intentionally killed. So, once again, how can it be that relatively very little is actually being done about abortion, even though there are people who believe that daily there is mass destruction of innocent human lives taking place in Australia by means of abortion?

There are several possible answers to that question. Some pro-life people, while still retaining their convictions about the wrongness of abortion, may have drawn the conclusion that opposing abortion has become a lost cause. They have seen the growth over the years in the number of abortions done and the number of death-houses providing the ‘service’. They see how society generally appears to have accepted abortion on demand – largely paid for by our taxes no less- and they conclude that the culture of abortion is now so deeply entrenched that it cannot be turned around and it is pointless to try and do so. They feel that it is time to move on from challenging abortion and instead put our efforts into battles that we may be able to win, such as euthanasia and the destructive use of human embryos.

Now while it is almost certainly true that every pro-lifer has been discouraged at times, such a response as the one above cannot be justified. For Christians, no matter how dauntingly hopeless the situation may appear to be, the option of learning to live with the evil of abortion is not rightly available to us. Even if our best efforts do not appear to be succeeding, that does not permit us to abandon the defenseless to their plight.

Then there are those who believe that abortion is wrong, who do not want to give up the battle, but who just do not know what ought to be done to stop it. They have tried, or have seen others try, everything and nothing seems to have ‘worked’. The only option seems to be to continue doing the same things that have not succeeded in stopped abortion and for many that hardly seems to be worth much effort anymore.

However we have not done all that we could do to stop abortion: in fact we have not done that which is the most obvious and normal thing to do. Ask yourself, what would be the obvious and normal thing to do if we woke up tomorrow to a situation where from that day onwards mothers/parents were going to be allowed to take their two-year-olds to openly-operated centres that specialised in killing these children?

Surely, in order to ensure that not even one two-year-old lost their life at such a death-house, it would be right to directly intervene (and I would argue non-violently intervene) at the doors of such places to prevent any children being taken in. Yes, we would also be telephoning and writing to our politicians and the media to try and get this legally stopped and we would set up crisis help centres so that mothers had proper alternatives, but we would firstly immediately and directly intervene so as to rescue the children scheduled to be killed that morning. Wouldn’t we?

We might find the prospect of taking such action to be scary and daunting but we would hardly consider it to be extreme or ridiculous behaviour – after all, if the ‘clients’ are allowed to freely enter these places, innocent children will certainly be killed. Rescuing the children would be the normal and obvious thing to do.

But what if despite all our efforts the government of the day was determined to turn a blind eye to the activities of these centres? What if the police and courts were instructed to arrest, fine and jail anyone who tried to come between the ‘post-natal abortionists’ and their young victims? Would it be right then to walk away from the doors and confine any further efforts at stopping the killing to petitions, letter-writing campaigns, etc, as each day hundreds more young lives are deliberately taken? Would it be right to allow this to go on for years on end as slowly opposition to the killing withers away and the centres and their function become part of everyday life?

Or rather, would it be right for those who recognise the precious value of each young life- lives made in the image of God- to be sitting in jail in preference to standing aside to let even one little one be killed?

It is not hard to understand why we have chosen not to intervene directly to save the unborn children from abortion. Initially, when abortion began to become openly and easily available it was hoped that the situation could be turned around without it proving too costly for ourselves. But time has shown that there are no cheap solutions to something as enormously serious as the wholesale destruction of human life.

Is it then the case that the reason that we care so little about abortion is because we care too much about our own interests? Do we not do the obvious thing and block the doors to the abortion death-houses today because we immediately recognise that to do so, and to keep doing so, would be to put all our personal interests at risk?

We can go on doing what we have been doing to try and stop abortion, perhaps forever, as each day hundreds more lives are lost. Or we can act more consistently with the claim that every abortion kills someone, someone of the same value as you and I, and act directly to try and save them, just as we would hope that someone would intervene to save us if someone were attempting to take our life.

If we do this we will assuredly pay a very high price. But perhaps that is what it will take – having hundreds, maybe thousands, of “good” citizens- doctors, pastors, truck drivers, lawyers, teachers, pensioners, students, etc, losing their possessions, sitting in jail, because they will not stand aside and let the little ones be killed. Perhaps it will take seeing people paying the price of their convictions in order for our society to eventually face up to the horror that is abortion. While this is a sobering prospect, it should hardly be a surprising one for Christians, given that Jesus told those who want to follow him that they are to take up their cross (not forgetting the joy and peace that is also promised!).