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"My Mother's Abortion"

David Murray
David Murray
2013 12 Jul

[Editor's note: Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is on January 19, 2014.]

Many pro-life supporters continue to be baffled and frustrated by the failure of their arguments to significantly shift public opinion against abortion. No matter how much biblical, medical, and scientific evidence we produce; no matter how minimally incremental our proposals to change the law; no matter how graphic the baby-images we produce; we don’t seem able to shift the needle.

Instead, we encounter even greater opposition and hostility. Vociferous and strident abortion rights campaigners like Wendy Davis are hailed as heroines for, wait for it, standing and talking for 10 hours to prevent even the slightest reduction in the term limits for abortions.

Energy and Dollars
Why? Why so much hatred for pro-lifers? Why so much unbridled celebration and joy over defeating any pro-life proposals? Why so much energy and and so many dollars poured into defending and even promoting abortion?

One word.


Though not true in every case, pro-life supporters have often failed to consider the powerful influence of guilt in motivating abortion rights campaigners and in explaining the media’s prejudice and bias against pro-lifers. Take this New York Times pieces as an example.

In My Mother’s Abortion, Beth Merfish explains why she sat with her mother and sister in the gallery of the Texas State Senate to support Wendy Davis in her filibuster against legislation that would limit abortions after 20 weeks.

My mother, Sherry Matusoff Merfish, sat and yelled in indignation beside my sister and me in the Senate gallery. She has two graduate degrees and has built an immensely satisfying career as a political fund-raiser devoted to the election of women who support abortion rights. She also embodies maternal warmth.

My mother chose to abort her first pregnancy, in 1972.

Pro-abortion career
Beth’s mother’s pro-abortion career began with her aborting her baby. When she told her two daughters about her abortion on the eve of their starting college, “Her voice shook but never broke as she described her fear and her decision.” Beth describes her initial stunned reaction and then, eventually, her own conversion to the pro-abortion cause:

I was shocked: at 18, I naïvely believed that only other women — not my family and certainly not my mother — needed this right that our family had long supported. We had volunteered at Planned Parenthood and canvassed for candidates who supported abortion rights. My mother said she wanted to reassure me that I had no reason to doubt her support in any situation I might face in my own life. Although it took a few years for the shock to wear off, knowing made me even more proud of her and more determined to defend reproductive rights.

Beth’s mother recently told four other pro-abortion campaigners about her decision only to discover that they also had either had an abortion or close friends had.

If abortion rights campaigners and their media supporters were polled, I believe you’d find that a hugely disproportionate number of them have had abortions or have encouraged family members to have one. This alone can explain their zeal for their cause, and also the irrational and unreasonable hostility towards any and all pro-life people and proposals.

Rights and wrongs
If we’ve done something we know to be wrong, we can either confess it and find forgiveness through Jesus Christ, or we can try to persuade ourselves and others that what we’ve done is not wrong at all.

And when our powers of persuasion fail to silence our screaming conscience, we’ve got to yell back even louder by dressing up our wrong as a “right,” even as a virtue.

And if anyone comes along with any evidence, image, argument, proposal, or law that might awaken our muffled conscience, and stimulate painful guilt, we’re going to double down on our efforts not just to shut up our conscience but those who are prodding it too. And what “Texas Senate” joy and relief when we succeed.

Change laws AND hearts
While supporting every legislative means to reduce the number of abortions, we must remember that the law cannot shift guilt. Only the Gospel of Christ can do that.

We will never win the minds of our opponents until their hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. And as every Christian knows, if there’s one thing more powerful and motivating than a guilty conscience, it’s a forgiven and cleansed conscience.

If you haven't read My Mother’s Adoption, it's an inspiring alternative to My Mother’s Abortion. Also, David French’s Abortion and the Idol of Self considers how and why people choose to have an abortion.

Life is a miracle and precious gift. Let us unite in standing firmly for it in honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, the giver of life. As we propose new laws with one hand, let’s offer new hearts with the other. While highlighting the guilt of innocent baby blood, let’s also highlight the guilt-cleansing power of Jesus’ blood.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He blogs at HeadHeartHand . and you can follow him on Twitter @DavidPMurray.