January 22, 2013

The Abortion Memorial

by Jesse Johnson

“Even though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice”

Those words were spoken by abolitionist Theodore Parker, used by Lincoln and King, and alluded to yesterday by our president. If true, they allow me to daydream about the end of legal abortion in the United States. They cause me to imagine a time when killing children is no longer morally acceptable. That time has to come soon.

arc of moral universe

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, which not only made abortion legal, it solidified abortion on demand as a federal right. That essentially is the start of the arc, which cannot last forever. This makes me wonder how the United States will recognize this era of our history when abortion on demand is a federal right. Slavery was a dark time, and when it ended, the atrocities were brushed away—now they are remembered in text books and museums. “George Washington was a man of his time,” we are told, “so he owned slaves. But don’t worry, he treated them well and freed them at his death.”

The era of segregation is similarly immortalized in our museums. I went to the American History museum this week and saw replicas of the segregated train cars used in the South, along with the audio of a woman describing how she was forced to sit in a certain section because of her race.

But I imagine the Abortion Memorial will be closer in appearance to the Holocaust Memorial. I picture walking into the hallway and being hit with statistics. “Seventy million people vacuumed legally—one every 30 seconds. Forty percent of pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion…back then.”

You would round the corner. Maybe they would have a clinical room set up, to show the visitor what it would have looked like back when this was a federal right. The docent might say: “Here are the kinds of bags the remains were put in. They had special trash collection back then. Now, statistics are unreliable, but some estimate that 30% of American woman would have been in a room like this.”

There will probably be a room dedicated to the genocidal nature of this era. It might have this quote hanging from the wall:

“Several years ago, when 17,000 aborted babies were found in a dumpster outside a pathology laboratory in Los, Angeles, California, some 12-15,000 were observed to be black.”

– Erma Clardy Craven
Social Worker and Civil Rights Leader

Memorial MuseumThere would definitely be a display titled 3801 Lancaster. In that room you could walk by a recreation of the blood stained floors of Dr. Gosnell’s office. “He didn’t do abortions like most other doctors. He would induce labor, deliver the baby, then cut the spine with a pair of scissors. He then kept the bodies in jars and bags stuffed on shelves in every nook and cranny of his office. If the baby survived delivery (which happened at least 7 times), the nurses would play with the child before they murdered him. Dr. Gosnell became a millionaire as the State of Pennsylvania looked the other way–not wanting to infringe on people’s federal right to abortion.”

“Of course,” the next room will tell you, “the moral guilt was spread throughout the country. Unlike segregation and slavery, you can’t pin abortion on a particular corner of the US. The largest killer was Planned Parenthood, and it was funded by every single American tax payer. So there is certainly enough blame to go around.”

You might even walk down a hall and come across this quote:

“They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

“This is our first task — caring for our children. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”  – President Obama

The whole place would serve as a testimony to a time when even the US Supreme Court said they didn’t know if a child in the womb was alive. Do you remember those days?

I think this day has to come soon. So much has changed since January 22, 1973. Ultrasound machines are ubiquitous, adoption is both common and regulated, and the horrors of our culture of death are being exposed.

The opinion of Roe v. Wade reads like the flat-earth society. The justices say that there is simply not “meaningful consensus” about when life begins, as there is no real way to know what is going on in the womb at the early stages of pregnancy. That produces a dividing line as comical as it is artificial; a legal ruling that says whatever is happening in the first trimester, it certainly can’t be considered life.

People don’t believe that anymore. The legal reasoning of the decision is flawed and widely mocked by people on both sides of the aisle. The medical reasoning given is so outdated it almost seems quaint. Today’s world has ultrasounds, in utero surgery, NICUs for premature babies, and YouTube videos of babies’ hands reaching from the womb. There remains no plausible defense of abortion on demand, other than simply that the children and/or pregnancy would be inconvenient, and thus the murder of the child is permissible.

But the arc of the moral universe is long, and that kind of reasoning cannot possibly hold up forever.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • M Pyburn

    Well said. So glad you posted this….According to the news the only anniversary worth talking about today is the death of Joe Paterno.

  • Thanks for posting, Jesse. Indeed, our aim should be the abolition of human abortion through the preaching of the Gospel, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and exposing the works of darkness. If you are not aware of this Gospel-driven movement, please check it out at the following:




    Here’s a recent article I posted on why we do what we do: http://airocross.com/2013/01/04/would-you-seek-the-abolition-of-pedophilia/

    If you would, please pray for me today. From 11am – noon EST, I will be open-air preaching on the American Holocaust in Uptown Charlotte across the street from the memorial service put on by http://cities4life.org

    Bless you, brother.

  • Gretchen

    This was excellent – thank you!

  • Jesse, this is a message that must be proclaimed. The responsibility falls to our generation like slavery did to Wilberforce’s and segregation fell to MLK’s. Thanks for your clarion, biblical voice in this deafening world of moral chaos.

  • Christina Phillips

    If you are going to have an abortion memorial make sure there is a room of shame for all of the men who helped created these unwanted babies. While I agree abortion is wrong, I will never agree with constant belittling of the women who make this very difficult choice. I think what annoys me most is that no attention is paid to the fact that women don’t get themselves pregnant, but they are often left to make all the decisions on their own. And yes, many women make the decision to have a baby in the worst circumstances, but to what end? My own birth mother was raped at 12 years old by 3 teenaged boys, carried me to term (not by choice) and forced to put me up for adoption by her parents. I have met this woman and to say she was scarred by this experience is beyond an understatement. While I am glad to be on this earth and to have been adopted into a wonderful family, my mother suffered mightily at the hands of 3 males that took what they wanted and her parents who made her give me away.

    I am also tired of the constant attacks on Planned Parenthood. My adoptive mother worked as an administrative assistant at Planned Parenthood in the 1980’s because she needed a job (she was not making a political statement). After working there a while, she was trained to counsel women. Many people don’t realize planned parenthood offers a variety of health services to women and counseling is required for many services (including abortion). During her tenure there, only one woman came in for a repeat abortion. After counseling her, they realized that she was special needs and men at her fast food restaurant job were taking advantage of her at work. They taught her that she had the right to refuse and how to prevent pregnancy. She did not have to come back. She couldn’t comprehend what was happening to her and was told that an abortion would “fix it”. She shouldn’t be condemned for that, but the men involved should be.

    We have all seen news articles of women being killed by the man they became pregnant by and well as so many other atrocities, yet we still only talk about the “wrongness of abortion.’ In my work with District of Columbia youth I have seen teenaged girls kicked out of their homes and beaten because their parents found out they were pregnant. Not everyone lives in a loving household with a support system. Women turn to abortion because they are desperate, not because it is easy. The constant talk about banning abortions does not solve the true problem…….why the need for abortion to begin with? Where is the support system for these women with unwanted pregnancies, where are the fathers of these babies?

    We in this country need to focus on raising good Godly men who don’t leave women alone and pregnant with, what they feel are no options. We cannot hold women to the high standard of “no abortion” if we don’t have also hold the fathers of these babies to as high a standard. I understand that not every abortion falls into a category of rape, incest or health concerns, but abandonment, fear and threats are also reasons women feel they have no other choice.

    While I agree that abortion is wrong, this is an issue that needs to be handled morally first….the legality of it will then fall in line.

    • Hi Christina. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m sure Jesse will respond a bit later, but I’d like to respond to some of the thoughts you’ve shared first.

      I think we would all agree that nobody in this entire country can wash their hands of the blood of these 50+ million murdered infants, least of all the deadbeat so-called men who fornicate with women and don’t take responsibility, or the cowards who pressure their girlfriends or wives into murdering their own child. As a nation, we have done this to ourselves — indeed, we’ve demanded it for ourselves. So no one is pointing the finger at one particular sub-group of people. We are all to blame: the mothers who kill their children, the fathers who pressure them into it, the judges and politicians that make sure they can do it whenever they want however they want for whatever reason they want, the citizens of this country who have granted them the power to do so, the sorry excuse for physicians who execute these murders and make millions off of it, and yes, even groups like Planned Parenthood, who boast about their killing of one child every 94 seconds, notwithstanding whatever truly beneficial services they might provide. The room of shame is for all of us.

      Also, I don’t think anyone would deny for a second that your mother has gone through horrific circumstances. Neither would we deny that a rape victim’s decision to carry her baby to term and give her up for adoption is insanely painful and one of the most difficult (and heroic) things any of us will ever have to do. But praise God she did the right thing and carried you to term. Even in the unbelievably horrifying and difficult case of rape, the question we must ask is: “How should we treat innocent human beings that remind us of an extraordinarily painful event?” We all know that it will be difficult, but we also all know that it is wrong to kill someone even though their presence and memory is heart-wrenching. The Lord Jesus grants strength to His people to suffer hardship — even unjust hardship — when they bear up under it for His sake (cf. 1 Pet 2:19). Committing murder to avoid the suffering through which Christ promises to uphold you and care for you is not honoring to Him.

      Further, no one will say that organizations like Planned Parenthood do absolutely nothing helpful to anyone at any time. Unfortunately, the good that they might do is far, far outweighed — blown out of the water — by the innocent blood they are swift to shed. It doesn’t matter how much real good you do when you’re celebrating your aid in murdering one child every 94 seconds for a year.

      Continuing, neither will any of us disagree that this issue is first and foremost one of morality, and not legislation. We would all celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I would rejoice to be able to take my grandchildren to the “Abortion Memorial” and shriek with them in horror about it as a thing of the past. But even if that happened, even if abortion was outlawed tomorrow, the battle would be just beginning for precisely the point that you make. The most ultimate problem is not that murder is legal, but that the hearts of people are so selfish and lustful (cf. James 4:1-2) that they are willing — eager, even — to kill their children to avoid the loss of freedom and the presence of suffering.

      We absolutely need to focus on raising “good godly men who don’t leave women alone and pregnant.” Though, I would add that godly men aren’t having sex with women outside of marriage in the first place. That standard should be held for men as well. But of course, the government can’t force men to live with their baby’s mother and be a faithful parent to their children. That fact in no way justifies the mother killing the baby so she doesn’t have to take responsibility either. The world is broken. But we don’t fix it by allowing legalized infanticide to continue. Surely the mother can give the child up for adoption if she is truly unable to take responsibility. Though it’s not easy, murder should never be seen as an alternative option.

      Finally, I need to express my strong disagreement with this sentence of yours: “While I agree that abortion is wrong, this is an issue that needs to
      be handled morally first. The legality of it will then fall in line.” This is absolutely wrong. This “issue” is the murder of children. No matter what factors contribute to a mother and a father being willing to kill their child, a just society should not be indifferent to criminalizing the murder of children. Will legislation solve the problem entirely? No. Certainly not. But that does not at all mean we don’t legislate. Murder (of human beings who are already born) is illegal. Rape is illegal. We would not say say that we just need to focus on the moral reasons why people kill other people, or why men rape women, and let the legality follow the morality. That would be unconscionable. We would regard as absolutely barbaric a society that said, “I absolutely believe that rape is morally repugnant, but laws will never solve the problem. We need to focus on the reasons why men feel they need to force themselves upon women. Once we raise good and godly men who know that raping women is wrong, the legality of it will fall in line.”

      Yet ours is just such a barbaric society, that applies that very infernal reasoning to the murder of children in the womb.

      I assure you, Christina, my strong words are not meant as a personal attack. Neither are they without empathy for the women and men who face these issues and hardships front and center in their everyday lives. But nothing justifies the murder of innocent children. No rationalization will ever be sufficient. This calls for unwavering resolve and strong denunciation. And it calls for living in a way consistent with the message we proclaim. May the Lord Jesus grant that you and I both put our hand to the plow of eradicating this culture of death.

      • Christina Phillips

        I don’t view your words as a personal attack at all. To be honest, I have heard all of these arguments before and will hear them again. I don’t necessarily disagree with them, but I am concerned that you still don’t see the full picture. People are murdered everyday. While it is illegal to kill anyone that has already been born (to distinguish what I am saying from abortion), that doesn’t stop people from committing murder. Morality cannot be legislated. Whether abortion is legal or not, women will continue to have them…this is the unfortunate reality that many people ignore. The debate on the legality of abortion takes away from the true issue, unwanted pregnancies.

        As for Planned Parenthood, maybe you are not aware they only perform approximately 1/4 of all abortions in the USA. Private doctors perform the remaining abortions. Also only approximately 11% of their patients come for abortion services. I was a Planned Parenthood patient for years when I was a college student on a very limited budget. They have a sliding fee scale at many locations because donations help pay their costs. Why was I a patient at Planned Parenthood? Because I have a reproductive health issue that required 3 surgeries in the last 12 years and I didn’t always have health insurance. So, yes, Planned Parenthood is the one entity that performs the most abortions (since no other one entity has so many clinics) they are also the one entity that is often able to help women who have other reproductive health issues. Yes, Planned Parenthood performs abortions, but so do a number of other doctors.

        I may not have been clear earlier. My point is not that abortion should remain legal. To be honest, I don’t care at all whether it is legal or not. I know that I would not have an abortion and I have raised my son and daughter to believe the same. I have also raised both of them to take responsibility for their actions while helping them understand that not everyone will do the same. I feel that our energy would be better spent dealing with the myriad of moral issues that lead to the desire for an abortion. I stand fully by my belief that abortion is an issue that must be handled morally, not legally.

        It was never my intention to change anyone’s mind on this issue. We are all entitled to our own opinion. One thing I am not sure you are clear on, however…..we both know that abortion is wrong, we just disagree on the solution. While your life may have shown you a clear path to what you feel is the answer, mine has shown me an equally clear (but different) path to the same answer…..no abortions.

        • There is much to respond to again, but the thing that keeps popping up in my head is what I said in my previous comment that began with, “Finally.”

          To be honest, I don’t care at all whether it is legal or not. … I stand fully by my belief that abortion is an issue that must be handled morally, not legally.

          I fear you haven’t thought through the implications of what you’re saying. Those statements are morally indefensible. That becomes obvious when you change the crime to the murder of people who are already born, or rape. You didn’t interact with that part of my comment. Simply because the root of a crime is moral, it doesn’t mean that it should be legal. Murder is about morality. Rape is a moral issue. Thievery comes from greed and coveting, both moral issues. But a civil and just society has laws in place against all of those. If a government didn’t have laws against murder, rape, and theft, we would consider it unjust. Wouldn’t you?

          Why in the world, then, should we not have laws in place against abortion? Even if it won’t solve the problem of the heart, it will greatly reduce the number of children who are murdered simply because someone bigger and stronger than them finds them inconvenient.

          Here’s a concise way of trying to summarize my point: You rightly observe that “while it is illegal to kill … that doesn’t stop people from committing murder.” So my question is: should there be no laws against murder?

          • Christina Phillips

            Somehow it appears my point was missed again. So I will simplify it for you……abortion has been legal for 40 years and will probably continue to be legal as long as the root cause is ignored. We cannot begin to convince others that abortion is wrong if we don’t address the moral issues behind it. Again I will say, we agree that abortion is wrong, we don’t agree on the way to stop abortion. I venture to say that reversing Roe v. Wade will not stop abortion, only hide it (as it was hidden before 1973). Is that really what we want? (A side note, the majority of people in the USA believe that murder of anyone already born is wrong explaining why there is no push to overturn murder laws. If the majority of people in the USA also thought abortion was murder this discussion would be unnecessary.)

            This will be my last post on this subject because I feel I have started an argument, and that was never my intention. I just wanted to share a different point of view of a fellow Christian………a pro-life, anti-abortion Christian who feels that Roe v. Wade is not the issue.

          • Christina, I can assure you I didn’t miss your point. Unfortunately, you continue to ignore mine, and have let my questions remain unanswered. Let me try to make this as clear as I can:

            We cannot begin to convince others that abortion is wrong if we don’t address the moral issues behind it.

            I agree.

            I venture to say that reversing Roe v. Wade will not stop abortion, only hide it (as it was hidden before 1973).

            I agree, if by “will not stop abortion,” you mean, “will not stop it completely.” Totally agree. But will it stop many abortions? Will it not make abortions more inaccessible? Before Roe, estimated abortions were in the tens and hundreds of thousands per year. Still abominable. When Roe passed, the number hit 1.2 million within three years. So no, overturning Roe will not stop abortion, but it will stop many abortions. It is not the issue, but to say it’s not an issue, or that you don’t care if it’s overturned or not, is, as I said, morally indefensible and criminally negligent. It doesn’t work to say, “I’m anti-murder, but I don’t care if murder is illegal or not.”

            Even if overturning Roe didn’t stop any abortions, it would still be incumbent upon us as a just society to outlaw murder, and threaten murderers with the fullest strength of the law. So: we need to overturn Roe, and pursue the issue morally. Make all murder illegal to save as many children as possible, and then continue to work tirelessly to ensure that people understand that it is immoral, that it’s murder, and that they shouldn’t be doing it.

            So, you’re welcome to not comment further if your prefer not to, but I would really like to hear your answer to the question I asked in my previous comment, which I’ll modify to make more clear based on your parenthetical “side note.” You rightly observe that “while it is illegal to kill … that doesn’t stop people from committing murder.” So, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that we live in a country in which it is not yet illegal to kill adults. It’s not condoned, it’s just that there are no laws on the books against murder. Would you recommend that we who believe murder to be wrong and immoral simply focus on addressing the moral issues, and should be indifferent to passing a law that outlaws murder on the pain of the severest punishment of the authorities?

    • Christina,

      I agree with your main point: this is not a problem that can be solved through legislation. As always, laws don’t correct error, they simply reflect that the consensus has changed. That was my point above. When Roe v Wade was decided, the justices honestly said there was just no way of knowing if what was in the womb was alive or not. Say what you will about that, but it is no longer true now. Medice, ethics, and morality seems to have caught up with the pro-abortion movement, and laws will (ultimately) come from that change. I agree with you that it doesn’t work the other way around.

      I also appreciate the suggestion about the hall of shame in the memorial.

      As for Planned Parenthood, here is there 2010 stats:
      Number of abortions (medical and surgical): 329,445
      Total number of abortions per week: 6,335
      Adoption referrals: 841
      Ratio of adoption referrals to abortions: 1 per 392

      I’m grateful for your work with at risk kids in DC. If there is any specific way I can pray for you or our church can help you in that task, please let me know. Thanks Christine.

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  • Vinod Anand S

    Jesse, great post. Coming from a country where selective abortion is prevalent and no appropriate laws for general abortion, I grew up thinking abortion is not an issue to be cared of. But learning from the people at US, how you challenge the government and the pro-abortion movement, I am really edified about the sanctity of the life’s conception. I really appreciate what you people are doing in defense of the defenseless.

    Also it is disheartening to see that how the pro-abortion groups particularly Planned Parenthood, push their agenda of masquerading abortion as women’s health. I really get very angry at them some times. Its really sad that unborn children issue has become controversial and anyone who opposes abortion is termed as a controversial person, on the other hand a pro-choice person is not labelled a one.

    Many people have become Herods and Pharaohs.

    This reminds me of a the last scene of the film “A Few Good Men”. The suspect’s words were, they failed to stand for those who were not able to defend themselves.

    Let God end this tyranny against these unborn children.

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