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Pro-life - Abortion
DIRECTION MATTERS: the difference between legal, decriminalized, and regulated abortion, & why we support gestational limits
It has been 30 years now since the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s last abortion law in their R. v. Morgentaler decision (1988). Soon after, the Mulroney government made an attempt to craft a new law. But Bill C-43 was a piece of legislation that would have protected only some pre-born children. Those involved in Canada’s pro-life movement during the early 1990s were divided on whether or not an imperfect law was something they could support. Today this issue is still being debated. On the one side there are those who argue we should not support legislative measures that protect some but not all pre-born children. On the other side we are arguing for advancing abortion legislation one step at a time. We wholeheartedly believe that Bible-believing Christians can, in good conscience, support partial restrictions on abortion, including gestational limits. IN DEFENSE OF DEBATE Trying to save the pre-born is a fight to which many Christians have devoted a significant part of their lives. It is an issue we are passionate about and heavily invested in. It is, consequently, very hard for us to discuss strategy in a dispassionate manner. But when we turn to the Bible we see there is good reason to try. Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “The first to present his case seems right, until a second comes and questions him.” Finding out who is right is often aided by hearing both sides. Proverbs 27:17 makes a similar point: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” We need to imitate the Bereans (Acts 17) who were willing to hear, but then went to the Scriptures to test what was being said to them. In what follows, we are going to make our case for the morality of advancing abortion legislation one step at a time. We know some will disagree, but we hope that we can interact, as fellow Christians, in a God-honoring manner, having patience with one another and showing love to each other, as we search for the truth on this matter. WHAT WAS UNCLEAR WITH BILL C-43 IS CLEAR TODAY It’s been 30 years since Canada’s abortion law was struck down and 27 years since its intended replacement, Bill C-43, was defeated in the Senate. Many pro-life organizations celebrated the bill’s defeat. It was a piece of legislation that, according to then justice minister Kim Campbell, abortionists would have “no need to fear.” She wrote: “The legislation is designed to protect a doctor from being convicted under the new law (and) protect nurses and other medical staff acting under the doctor’s direction.” While the bill did offer more restrictions on abortion than we presently have, when compared to the law the Supreme Court had struck down only three years before, it had far fewer protections for the pre-born. There was also some reason to hope that if this bill was defeated it could be replaced with a better one. Few would have expected that for the next three decades no such bill would be forthcoming. But here is the key point: the situation then was far murkier than it is today. Then it was unclear whether a better bill might be passed, and it was unclear whether this bill limited evil or expanded it. Compared to the completely lawless situation they then had, the bill offered some limitations. But compared to the previous abortion law from just three years before, this bill greatly expanded the evil that could be done. There is nothing murky about the situation we now find ourselves in. Today we have had 30 years of unfettered abortion, and 27 years of governmental cowardice – no prime minister has ever again tried to pass an abortion law. So if a bill is proposed today that offers any limitations on abortion, it would be clear what direction this is taking us: towards limiting evil, and away from its expansion. THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT But some pro-life groups are convinced that any law that saves only some is unjust, and can’t be supported. Their argument goes something like this: Since Canada has no abortion law, promoting a law that restricts only some abortions (for example, making abortions after 12 weeks illegal) would mean that we are legalizing and condoning all of the abortions that are not banned (e.g., those happening before 12 weeks). In a January 20, 2014 editorial, The Interim, a Canadian pro-life newspaper, put it this way: We...find politically motivated compromise that creates arbitrary demarcations to protect some human lives but not others to be abhorrent, adding the insult of age discrimination to the injury of death by abortion. Protecting pre-born life requires political action, not political compromise. So the question we have to answer is: if we promoted a law that would restrict abortion to 12 weeks’ gestation, would we be legalizing and/or condoning the abortions that are permitted? ON LEGAL AND ILLEGAL To answer that question properly, we have to understand what is actually meant by the terms legalizing, decriminalizing, and regulating. From there we will explain why we all should support regulating abortion. But by no means should we support abortion being legal, let alone condoned. Confused? It actually isn’t too complicated. Please take a few minutes to walk with us through a few points. 1. What is not illegal is legal In our legal system, unless something is illegal it is presumed to be legal. For example, walking your dog without a leash is presumed to be legal unless and until a bylaw is passed requiring a leash. We could not say, before the bylaw was passed, that walking your dog without a leash was not legal; it wasn’t illegal, and so it was legal. We also need to make a distinction between something being legal and something being legalized. The common use of the word “legal” can simply be interpreted as “allowed” or “permissible.” Similarly, the term “legalized” can mean the process of removing a prohibition against something that is currently not legal (i.e., the process of making something permissible). With abortion in Canada there are no laws that regulate the practice (although some doctors’ manuals might advise some limitations). So, there are no laws regulating which procedures can be used, how late in the pregnancy the procedure can be done, or what information should be shared with the patient. And there are no waiting periods, age restrictions, parental notifications, etc. Generally speaking, we can say that abortion in Canada is completely legal from conception until the child is fully outside its mother. Abortion has yet to be regulated since the 1988 decision of the Supreme Court made it fully legal. 2. New restrictions do not make abortion legal – it is already legal Even if there is no abortion law, abortion remains legal. Adding restrictions doesn’t make it legal, nor does it make abortion more legal. Some of what was legal is now made illegal (e.g., abortion after 12 or 18 weeks’ gestation), thereby saving some lives and limiting evil. That is exactly what the Bible calls the State to do – to limit evil. Some might object, “Wouldn’t a law prohibiting abortions after a certain number of weeks arbitrarily divide humans into ‘protected’ and ‘unprotected’ classes?” The continuum of human life begins at fertilization and ends at natural death. Currently under Canadian law only “born” humans have protection, so our law today already divides humans into “protected” and “unprotected” classes. If the law was changed to reflect increased protection by extending it to “pre-born” humans from 20 weeks to birth, then fewer babies would fall under the unprotected class, thus limiting the injustice of abortion. We certainly do and would support any initiative that would move more humans into the “protected” class. 3. In a country where there are no restrictions or laws pertaining to abortion, regulating abortion is a step toward making abortion illegal We have already established that abortion is allowed in Canada for any reason. In this case, regulating it does not mean we are granting something that was illegal the legitimacy of legal status. Rather it means limiting and regulating by law something that once had absolutely no restrictions. Note as well that regulating abortion is worthy of support only if we are moving in a direction that limits abortion. In a 1968 Canada, our argument in favor of a gestational limit law would fail: a gestational limit of 12 weeks would have expanded evil, greatly increasing the number of children left unprotected. However, in a 2018 Canada, proposing such a gestational limit is fully in accord with the Bible because such a limit would restrict evil, greatly increasing the number of children protected. It is understandable that pro-life organizations do not like to promote a law that doesn’t protect all pre-born children. We would all much prefer to see a complete ban. But the alternative is to maintain the legal reality of abortion-on-demand. A ban is simply not possible in a democratic state in which the people’s hearts are against God and against life. The Bible teaches us that the role of politics is to restrict The reality is that the law won’t be able to eradicate evil. FURTHERMORE... Two further points need to be made. First, there is a very real sense in which all pro-lifers have already endorsed a step-by-step approach to eliminating abortion, even though these steps will protect only some children. All pro-lifers support efforts to defund abortion. By doing so, they support a process that would protect some children, but not others. Under defunding, abortion remains legal as long as the mother or the father pays for the abortion. Someone could argue, “I won’t support that defunding law because it only saves poor babies while all the babies of rich mothers who can afford the abortion will still be terminated.” That may be so, but defunding abortion is a step in the right direction. Such a law does not say that abortion is right; it does say (implicitly) that you can do it as long as you pay for it yourself. So consistency demands that those opposed to gestational limits should also object to abortion defunding. Or that those who support defunding also support gestational limits. Second, one of the objections to this step-by-step approach is that it supposedly condones the death of those we cannot yet save. But saving some does not mean we condone the death of those we can’t save. As Jonathon Van Maren pointed out in a 2012 article, many Jewish children were saved during the Second World War (including by some of our parents and grandparents) because they were small enough to hide in the homes of brave families who took them in. Not only could they hide, more could hide in a small space than adults or seniors. Nobody would ever say – or even think the thought – that, because these families saved children and not adults, they were condoning the deaths of the adults that they couldn’t save. Clearly then, when we can save only some, saving them does not condone the death of any others we could not save! OUR CHALLENGE In this article we’ve explained that gestational limits would not legalize abortion because it already is legal. We’ve also argued that saving some does not condone the death of those we cannot yet save. And we’ve tried to show that all pro-lifers already support legislative efforts that will protect only some children (in this case, the children of poor mothers). We want to conclude with a challenge. If you think we are wrong, please address these points one by one and explain why. Be specific. Please show how abortion in Canada is, in any sense, not already completely legal right now. Show how a gestational limit that will protect only some differs morally from a defunding effort that will protect only some. And explain why those who saved Jewish children weren’t condoning the death of their parents (who they couldn’t save), but today when we try to save some pre-born children (via a gestational limit) we are supposedly condoning the death of the children we aren’t able to save. CONCLUSION In Canada we have opportunity right now to save some of the many pre-born children being killed by abortion. We value them all. However, in today’s political, social and legal climate, we can’t save them all – we can’t eliminate this evil. But we can take steps to limit it. We can take steps to protect more and more children. We can save some now, while continuing to push for further protection for all children in the womb. Gestational limits would be a step in the wrong direction in any country in which abortion was currently banned. But in a country such as Canada, where all abortions are legal, this is a step in the right direction. This would restrict evil. So direction matters – it makes all the difference. Of course, political and legal action in the pro-life cause can’t happen in isolation, so this is certainly not the only pro-life work that needs to be done. Far from it! The political/legal action discussed above must happen in concert with continued education, abortion awareness, cultural engagement, prayer, crisis-pregnancy counseling, adoption efforts, etc. Together, and by God’s grace, we can work towards the end of state-sanctioned abortion in Canada! This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Reformed Perspective. Mike Schouten is the director of WeNeedALaw.ca, Mark Penninga and André Schutten are both with ARPACanada.ca, and Jon Dykstra is the editor of ReformedPerspective.ca....
Help wanted: Prophets
Our leaders, and neighbors, need to hear God’s Word from us **** God’s Word cuts. We acknowledge that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It may even be that it's because we know it can have such strong and contrasting reactions that we don’t often hear God’s Word directly referenced or quoted, even by Christians, in our work places, the mainstream media, our legislatures and courts, or other places in the public square. Ready reasons come to mind for our silence. “I’m just a grandma / just a laborer / just a teen / just a _______ .” Or, “I’m not gifted with words.” When it comes to speaking God’s Word to the world, we might like to leave this job to our pastors, missionaries, or maybe people who get paid to bring a Christian perspective to our secular leaders. Another common hurdle is our concern of throwing the pearl of the Gospel before the secular swine, resulting in a mess we would rather avoid. Nothing new under the sun So God's Word is generally excluded from the public square, and not by governmental dictate, but by Christians' own reluctance to speak it. What might happen if we decided again to speak God’s Word out loud, in public discussion and debate? Well, we can’t control how our neighbors will respond to God’s Word, but we can have a hand in determining whether they are even exposed to it. Two remarkable Old Testament stories illustrate this well, and serve as good lessons for today. They feature two kings of Judah who lived shortly before the kingdom was conquered and the people exiled to Babylon. A king with ears to hear The first king, Josiah, assumed the throne at age 8. According to 2 Kings 23:25, “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” When we think of righteous kings, David and Solomon often come to mind. But neither compared with Josiah. When Josiah was 18, he made orders to make repairs to the temple. Then something strange happened. Apparently when renovating the temple, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law. He proceeded to give it to the king’s secretary, who passed it on to the king with these rather uninspiring words “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” I call this strange because it suggests that the Book of the Law was lost and forgotten – even by the high priest and in the temple! What does it say of the spiritual health of the covenant nation of Judah when the Book of the Law is forgotten? There may have be a form of spirituality in the land, but clearly there was little faithfulness. When Josiah heard the words of the law, it struck him to the heart. He immediately tore his cloths and asked the priest, and others, to inquire of the LORD, recognizing that he and the people had not been faithful. After hearing God’s response of judgment and grace, Josiah demonstrated true leadership. He gathered all the people together and “he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD” (2 Kings 23:2). He then covenanted before the LORD, “and all the people joined in the covenant” (23:3). These were not just words and good intentions. In the following weeks, Josiah proceeded to reform the entire nation. He destroyed the idols, broke down the houses of the cult prostitutes, eradicated child sacrifices, and went from place to place removing the high places and shrines. After this he commanded the people to celebrate the Passover, “for no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel or the of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah (23:22). Based on what we know of Josiah, it seems he stayed faithful in his leadership till he died in battle. A king who loved darkness rather than the Light As was so often the case with the kings of Israel and Judah, a faithful father did not at all mean a faithful son. Josiah had a son named Jehoiakim, who became king after his younger brother Jehoahaz’s very short three-month reign ended in captivity. Jehoiakim had no use for God’s Law or his father’s reforms. Rabbinical literature describes him as a very evil man, guilty of much incest, murder, and adultery. But for those familiar with the Bible, most of us will better know Jehoiakim as the king who burned God’s Word, as recounted by the prophet Jeremiah. God instructed Jeremiah to write down all the words that He had told him. He added “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3). Through his scribe Baruch, Jeremiah wrote all the words down on a scroll. Since he was banned from going to the temple, Jeremiah had Baruch go there instead, and he read God’s Word to the people. Word made its way to the government officials, and Baruch was ordered to take his scroll and read it to them. God’s Word filled them with fear and they decided “we must report all these words to the king” (36:16). Eventually king Jehoiakim had the scroll read to him. When he would hear three or four columns “the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them in the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire” (36:23). Unlike his father Josiah’s response to the finding of the law, Jehoiakim was not fearful or repentant. Rather he ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be captured. God’s word still cuts Repentance and reform, or fire and persecution. Two kings, two generations, and two very different responses to God’s Word. Both kings responded with conviction. But the conviction went in two very different directions. Western society today likes to be nice. We are known for wanting to avoid controversy. Christians aren’t immune to these societal trends. We generally don’t like to rock the boat of culture. And citing Scripture tends to do just that. It is one thing to quote the Bible at a Bible study or in the privacy of our home. It is another to bring it to our civil leaders, our business associates, or community friends. The temptation we all face is to avoid using Scripture in public discourse. Out of a desire to reach a secular and pluralist audience, we stick to language that doesn’t turn people off. There are indeed times when it is appropriate to communicate biblical truth in a way that our neighbors will listen. If we don’t know who our readers or listeners are, there can be wisdom in not triggering them before our point is made. For example, a hardened atheist or jaded ex-Christian may read our letter to the editor, see a reference to Scripture, and immediately stop reading. If it is possible to communicate the same truth without directly quoting Scripture, there may be wisdom in doing so. There are also times when we simply are not the gate-keepers of communication. If we know that those gate-keepers will not allow their publication to become a forum to communicate Scripture, there again may be wisdom in putting that Scripture into our own words. For example, when staff from the organization I work for contribute articles to large secular newspapers for publishing, we have learned that Scripture may not be welcomed. If we want to still get published, we have to show some creativity. But that said, we may be surprised by a new generation that is far more open to considering a faith-based perspective than their baby-boomer parents. Whether it is through direct quotations, or by means of rephrasing it to be appropriate for the context, the bottom line is that the communication of Scripture is not only still acceptable, it is absolutely necessary. We know that hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit through the Word. And it is our job to communicate that Scripture. Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks what it means that we are called Christians. We confess that it means we carry the three-fold office of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King. That means that every Christian is called to “confess His Name.” Prophets carry the words of God to those who need to hear it. This country is full of people who need to hear God’s truth. This isn’t a job we can pass off. It is an integral part of the job description of every Christian. We don’t know whether the person we speak to will respond like Josiah or Jehoiakim. But changing hearts is not our job. It is God’s. God calls us to be His agents. We really are modern-day prophets. None of us can do this well in our own strength. Let us constantly pray to “set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3)! We can also ask God to open our eyes to see opportunities to testify to Him, and embolden us to seize those opportunities while we still have them. As with many difficult things, the best way to learn is by simply trying, and not giving up. Let’s encourage each other to shine the light of God’s Word across our nation. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada. ------- SIDEBAR: Citing Scripture doesn’t give us immunity: Two cautions Although we need God’s Word shared, it is also important to remember that the way we share it should reflect the grace and truth that Christ exemplified. There are two common and related mistakes to avoid. First, simply because we quote Scripture does not mean that we are in the right. The Pharisees knew Scripture well, and quoted it endlessly. But they lost perspective and didn’t recognize God Incarnate, right in front of them. If we are wrong, or simply misguided, adding a Bible text doesn’t change that. In fact, it can reflect very poorly on Christ Himself. Second, even if we are communicating truth, if it doesn’t come alongside grace it isn’t faithfully representing Christ. Christ never communicated truth without grace, just as He never communicated grace without truth. We humans naturally don’t do that. Some of us tend to want to always get to the truth of the matter. And people get hurt in the process. Others emphasize grace, and compromise truth in the process. There are no shortage of examples of Christians who throw out Bible texts in their letters and meetings, while showing little love and grace to those who they are addressing. We need to realize that the person we are speaking with likely does not share our belief about the authority of God’s Word, nor do they understand its context. And this will be compounded if we never actually meet (e.g. if our communication is written). Put ourselves in the shoes of our readers. What happens when we hear a Muslim referencing the Koran and urging the West to submit to Mohammed? Not only do we disagree, we end up not listening to anything else they say. We write them off. So it is so important that our communication makes it clear that we too have to measure up, and we too struggle and fail when trying to do so. God’s Word is for us as much as it is for the people we are addressing. Truth without grace and love is a clanging gong. This world doesn’t need more noise....
Spanking does have a place in Canada
In an article late last year, “Spanking has no place in Canada, period” – Globe and Mail reporter André Picard argued that physical discipline is at best ineffective and at worst harmful. He concludes it is “well past time” that the government scrap Section 43 of the Criminal Code, making spanking illegal. The truth is that physical discipline, when administered in keeping with Canadian law, not only has better outcomes than other disciplinary techniques, but is preferred by children as less cruel than other techniques, such as privilege loss or isolation. We can learn from countries that have gone ahead with banning spanking, and have regretted it. How can Picard and many well-intentioned child advocates get this issue so wrong? Part of the problem is that they go only skin deep into the research. Picard notes: “there has been a significant body of research showing that the real harm from spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is not the immediate physical harm, but the lasting psychological harm.” That is about as deep as almost any mainstream media analysis goes. But if we dig deeper, we discover that the truth is far more nuanced and, in some respects, completely contradicts the mainstream spin replicated in Picard’s article. Digging into the data Picard cites a 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics study that correlates harsh physical punishment with higher rates of mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse. He correctly acknowledges that this is correlation, not proof that spanking causes these things. This is an important distinction that is lost on almost all the research that attracts mainstream attention. And the distinction matters. It could well be that aggressive children were spanked more often because they were aggressive. The heavy reliance on correlational evidence makes even the most effective disciplinary tactics appear harmful. Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, a well-known researcher on the topic, concluded: ...if we found that people who have undergone radiation treatment have a higher likelihood of having cancer, we should not conclude that the treatment is the problem or that it doesn’t work. Will anti-spanking advocates follow their logic and also argue that all discipline tactics should be banned? We need to dig deeper into the research. Picard, along with other anti-spanking activists, constantly appeal to research that lumps together harsh physical punishments, such as slapping and pushing, with the kind of mild physical discipline that our Supreme Court studied and approved. In 2007, researchers conducted a scientific review of studies that compared physical discipline with alternative methods. Twenty-six studies from the past fifty years were examined. They also examined the “optimal” type of physical discipline – conditional spanking. As reflected in the parameters laid out by our Supreme Court, conditional spanking is non-abusive, and done sparingly and under control. The conclusion of the study: “Conditional spanking was more strongly associated with reductions in noncompliance or antisocial behavior than 10 of 13 alternate disciplinary tactics.” In other words, when physical discipline is administered in keeping with Canadian law, it came out as good as, or better than, all other forms of discipline studied. Not only can physical discipline be more beneficial than other commonly used methods, a 2006 study came to another surprising finding: non-physical punishment was most frequently regarded as the worst punishment ever received, with 50% of naming at least one non-physical punishment method such as privilege loss. As well-intentioned as Picard and others may be, before they proceed further with their anti-spanking crusade, they should talk to the children. Children who have experienced appropriate physical discipline will often prefer it because it resolves the matter in a timely way and makes it less likely to occur again. Contrast that with what so many parents revert to otherwise (yelling, forced isolation, long-term privilege loss and extended grumpiness) and we begin to understand why physical discipline is the preferred choice for many honest children. Lessons learned from Sweden Picard argues that 51 countries have outlawed spanking, and it is time for Canada to follow suit. But he fails to look at what has happened in those countries. Take Sweden. In 1979, Sweden was the first country to ban spanking. The statistics coming from Sweden since then are downright shocking. Following the ban there was a 519% increase in criminal assaults by children under the age of 15 (born after the ban) against children age 7-14. Even more troubling, 46-60% of the cases investigated under the law resulted in children being removed from homes. That totaled 22,000 children in 1981, compared with 163 in Norway and 552 in Finland. Picard cites the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as another reason to ban spanking. If the residential school legacy has taught us anything, it is that we better be certain we are doing the right thing when forcefully removing thousands of children from their parents’ homes. As a side note, New Zealand followed Sweden’s example and adopted anti-spanking legislation in 2007. Just two years later, a whopping 87% of voters in a public referendum asked that the law be rescinded. It is time to drop the rhetoric and take the time to study the issue before criminalizing a form of discipline used by half of Canadian parents. Mark Penninga is the executive director of ARPA Canada. He has a MA in political science from the University of Lethbridge and has authored a policy report and numerous articles on corporal discipline. ...