Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pro-life and committed to ending abortion: but NOT "by any means necessary"

[Editor's note: Today's feature is a guest post by former abortion worker Jewels Green, who is now a pro-life advocate.]

Should breaking the law be advocated to advance the cause for life? Should violence be encouraged, condoned, or celebrated to further the cause for life? No, and no.

The pro-life movement has made great strides on the long road toward ending abortion in the United States—especially in the past few years. The zeitgeist is shifting, as evidenced by a CNN poll just last month that found 62% of Americans want abortion to be illegal in most or all circumstances. This finding dovetails nicely with the passage of the partial-birth abortion ban, ultrasound laws, and the proliferation of the 40 Days for Life peaceful prayer vigils that report hundreds of pregnant mothers turning away from the clinics and choosing life for their babies. These successes have been the culmination of countless hard-working people dedicated to tirelessly pursuing lawful avenues to bring about the end abortion in the United States.

We are winning, and should stay the course.

Even humorously suggesting a return to the era of blockading entrances to clinics or “occupying” the waiting rooms of abortion clinics leads down the slippery slope to further lawlessness: harassment, intimidation, vandalism, and eventually (and inevitably) violence. These tactics are morally wrong and produce dubious results. What is certain is that breaking the law in an effort to stop abortion tarnishes the movement, alienates those on the fence (or newcomers to the fold), and worst of all—it provides our pro-abortion opposition a speedy on-ramp to the high road and fosters a “comrades-in-arms” mentality that unifies their ranks and galvanizes public opinion in their favor.

I worked in an abortion clinic that was invaded by law-breakers. Not one pregnant mother chose life for her baby that day twenty years ago when six people attached themselves to a huge metal contraption for seven hours in the waiting room. Abortions were committed in an un-occupied part of the clinic while local law enforcement and FBI agents negotiated with the trespassers. The mood in the clinic that day, which was shared by staff and patients alike, was one of grim—but unwavering—determination. We celebrated continuing abortions during the occupation and were defiant in the face of intimidation.

There is no way I could have publicly adopted the pro-life moniker in an atmosphere of violence and disregard for law. In the nine months (it’s only been nine months!) since my personal conversion and self-identifying as pro-life I have volunteered, donated, testified, and continue to use my voice to speak up for those who cannot do so for themselves: the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.

I sincerely hope I am preaching to the choir on this issue and that the overwhelming majority of advocates of the right-to-life from conception to natural death are peaceful, law-abiding, and conscientious citizens who do not assume the title of life warrior literally.


Kelsey said...

Jewels, you are preaching to the choir, but this is a great piece and I'm glad you shared it anyway.

I'm curious about one thing. You said that the abortion workers "celebrated" each child who died during the occupation. Is that unusual? Do abortion workers buy the moderate pro-choice line that abortion is "tragic" but a necessary evil?

Jewels Green said...

I and every abortion worker I knew believed wholeheartedly in the tragedy of the necessary evil of abortion, but we were all blind to the (preventable! unnecessary!) tragedy of the slaughter of the unborn. We did not celebrate the deaths any more than battle-weary soldiers celebrate the deaths of the opposing regiment. We celebrated solidarity and victory in the face of violent opposition.

yan said...

i don't necessarily disagree with your conclusion, but there are arguments on the other side of the equation. before you think you have the right to sound off after admittedly only having changed your mind about the right to kill babies 9 months ago, i think you should consider the other arguments against your conclusion more carefully and thoroughly. the fact that you became personally more determined to have abortions in the face of physical opposition to abortion is not the only consideration in deciding whether physical opposition to abortion is the proper response to abortion. no doubt the germans became more determined to kill jews in the face of the allied war effort; should that effort have therefore been, um, aborted? quibble with the analogy if you like, i admit it is not perfect. still you should think more about this.

just saying.

Dawn Eden Goldstein said...

Excellent post. I agree and would go so far as to say that, in our efforts to protect and defend human life, we should not adopt any "ends justify the means" tactics, including lying.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Dawn--

I wondered how long--and who it would be--who would bring up the "lying" thing here.

I'm not going to debate the question here, but I will cite the *historical* truth about Church teaching on all lying beign "intrinsically evil": It's actually a *non-magisterial* "common teaching of Catholic theologians" that lying is intrinsically evil.

The Magisterium--the pope and bishops--have not taught or "settled" the issue. The Magisterium tolerates other opinions on that issue, such as the opinion that sting operations are not intrinsically evil.

The Catechism's teaching on lying--just like its teaching on other subjects (such as the fate of infants who die before baptism)--is "common teaching."

Check all the moral theology resources you can get your hands on, and even the basic stuff like the "old" and the "new" Catholic encyclopedias (early and late 20th Century)--you see the history is clear.

Check out Newman's work on "Lying and Equivocation"; check out the moral theology manuals of the 20th century.

Catechisms contain everything from dogma to "common teaching"--and the stuff on lying is "common teaching."

The Church's Magisterium still tolerates less rigorous theological opinions regarding whether all so-called "lying" is intrinsically evil.

Hope this helps!

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Kelsey said...

I am not Catholic, so I'm not going to weigh in on whether or not Lila Rose, *as a Catholic*, should have conducted undercover investigations. I will say, though, that Live Action's legal undercover journalism is in no way equivalent to what the "occupiers" put Jewels through.

Anonymous said...

@ Deacon Russell:
Hi Deacon,
I get the distinction you are making, and assuming you are right (because I haven't taken the time to look into your argument by referring to the catechism or other sources), it's a very important distinction. But so what? Instead of opposing the magisterium, you find yourself opposing St. Augustine and St. Thomas, and, more importantly, the "common teaching." Is that really comforting, or helpful to your own position? I'm really curious about your thoughts. Thanks!
In Christ,

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Rob--

As I see it, the big "so what" to this is that pro-life Catholics can stop being *divided* by something that the Magisterium does not divide us over. This is an area of teaching in which we as individuals must use our own God-given consciences to apply in our lives. The "common teaching" of Augustine and Aquinas is certainly a "safe" path for Catholics to take, no question. But those who take that path should not be judging others with well-formed consciences who choose a less rigorous approach.

Bishop St. John Chrysostom and others didn't agree with Aquinas or Augustine on this. And a significant number of other theologians through history have supported or proposed less rigorous theological opinions on the subject. In doing so, such opinions were tolerated by the Magisterium.

The fact is, even the ancient Greeks and Jews debated this issue. It's an ancient debate that the Magisterium has never settled.

The point is that the Church's Magisterium does not teach that "sting operations" are intrinsically evil. And, furthermore, such actions may not even fall under the prohibition of all lying found in the "common teaching."

So, why are pro-life Catholics wasting so much energy championing one side or the other of an *unsettled* debate instead of remaining unified in confronting the greatest evil of our time?

Those are my thoughts.

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Jewels Green said...

I also do not equate investigative journalism with trespassing, harrassment, vandalism, and murder.

And I didn't even mention the week I wore a bulletproof vest to work...

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with yan's reservations here. What about a hardened 'criminal,' who repeatedly disregards the law, like Linda Gibbons? (See {} if you don't know who she is.) Do you really want to condemn this lady, and others like her, for breaking the law?

David Zacchetti said...

How can you compare the deaths of defenseless babies to those of an "opposing regiment" in combat?

Helene from Montana said...

Here's the tricky thing about being Christian. Christ calls us to follow him in laying down OUR lives. So, for any who might be inclined towards any form of lawlessness or violence, instead you should be thinking about how YOU can suffer and sacrifice your own life to stop abortion. That is a much more effective and powerful witness than physically intimidating abortion workers. But, it's so hard to let go of our attachment to the world and really pour out our own life without any guarantee that it will be effective to end abortion. By itself, my life is nothing, and losing it won't do much to end abortion. But if the entire Body of Christ were to be ready tomorrow to end abortion by inconveniencing ourselves and by being willing to suffer, then abortion would end. The same is true for many social ills.

Helen from Montana said...

Ok, I just read about Gibbons. She is awesome. And totally non-violent. That is a good example of laying down her own life to try to stop abortion. I guess technically it's a violation of the law, but it's non-violent and non-threatening. It's clear that her right to free speech trumps and is being violated and sooner or later that will be recognized, even by the liberal pro-abort Canadians. Sooner or later, there won't be any pro-aborts left in Canada or anywhere else.

M said...

Excellent post, Jewels. Very insightful and succinct. Thanks for bringing up these points. The abortion debate is about hearts and minds, and I think our movement gains more of those hearts and minds by persistent, peaceful logic and kindness. Thanks again for bringing that up.

Anonymous said...

The “lawbreaking” Jewels appears to be talking about is violence or threatened violence against persons and property, nothing of which Linda Gibbons has ever done. Linda Gibbons is a “criminal” only because Canada has no First Amendment protection of free speech and worship. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Jewels (or any thinking person) would compare Linda Gibbons with a John Burt or a Michael Griffin or those bombing abortion clinics in the 1990s.

Are we seriously advocating conversion by the sword?

Anonymous said...

I cannot fit my whole response so here is a link to it -