For the last two days, I have seen a series of frantic headlines — wounded and outraged on one side, gleeful and taunting on the other — about Representative Tim Murphy, the pro-life Congressman who reportedly pressured his mistress to have an abortion.
The fact that this happened is no more a surprise to me than it is to the mocking pro-choice commenters like CNN writer Jill Filipovic, who opened her commentary by asking “When is abortion OK even for the most vociferous pro-lifer? When that person needs one, of course.”
I’ll get to Filipovic’s comment and why I agree with that one in a moment. The first and foremost question on my mind is, why does the pro-life movement seem to feel so betrayed?
I looked up Murphy’s pro-life voting record. Down the line, he’s voted for 20-week bans, defunding bills, born alive infant protection acts, and the like. Not once has he introduced or voted for anything that would prohibit the killing of children younger than 20 weeks.
So if his mistress was less than 20 weeks pregnant (as something like 98% of pregnant women who obtain abortions are), Murphy’s action was entirely consistent with his position as a pro-life politician.
Of course pro-lifers feel betrayed because they think a pro-life politician is someone who actually believes abortion is evil, and who votes for 20-week bans as a step toward 12-week bans, which will be a step toward life at conception acts. Why they still think this after 45 years is a mystery. But the sooner they discover that pro-life politicians are just that — politicians — the sooner they can begin to use their unified voice to demand something real and meaningful. Voting for “pro-life” bills is how a politician keeps his conservative voter base. Wearing the moniker “pro-life” is how our current president convinced half the country that he represented their values, when in fact he stands in direct opposition to the values of any consistently moral person (in fact, I would bet money that Donald Trump has paid for abortions himself, but if he hasn’t, he has openly supported and participated in all kinds of sins that lead to it and prop it up).
Which leads me to why Filipovic was correct ( or rather one or two of her comments were). In fact, she’s saying what many abolitionists have also said.
There has been a longstanding battle between pro-life apologists and abolitionists about whether to use words like “sin” in reference to abortion. The prevailing pro-life opinion is that the use of theological terms will work against “saving babies” and that it is far better to argue with humanists and atheists from their own worldview, using arguments like the S.L.E.D. test.
The problem is, it’s possible (and easy in some cases) to convince people from an intellectual standpoint that abortion is murder. But when those same people are in dire circumstances, or need to cover up affairs, or find themselves in the valley of decision, intellectual assent to an idea is not enough to restrain them. Intellectual assent does not change the heart.
That’s why abolitionists insist on saying that abortion is sin, and that the answer to sin is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the Gospel has the power to take a heart of stone and turn it to a heart of flesh. Only the Gospel can make the murder of a child (and all the wickedness that leads up to it) unthinkable.
A pro-life politician can be consistently pro-life by voting for 20-week bans and killing his own children before they reach 20 weeks. In fact, that’s what we should expect in today’s culture. But a man whose mind has been renewed, who has been washed clean by the blood of Christ, who no longer lives for his own desires but for the good of others, who loves God and all those created in His image… that man should neither vote for a 20-week ban NOR would he kill his own children to cover up an affair.