Letter to the editor

Crass Stereotyping: a response to Diaz

As the author of the book review to which Daniel Diaz has responded (September 1991 Perspectives, pp. 211-212), I feel compelled to respond. His crass stereotyping of pro-life people is greatly oversimplified and unfair. 

His citation of C. Everett Koop's inability to produce a report on medical evidence against abortion has troubled many pro-life people to be sure. More specifically, Koop's difficulty was not documenting that medical damage was related to abortion it clearly is, as Reardon's book clearly documents rather, the problem was that the increased problems could not be directly attributed to abortion. A clear cause-and-effect relationship could not be established because most of the research is correlational. As researchers realize, experimental evidence would be needed to determine strict cause and effect, in which a random sample of women would be selected to abort, another group selected to keep their babies, perhaps a third group to adopt out their babies, and finally a control group to not have babies. While such a study would give definitive evidence, the obvious ethical and practical problems involved in doing such a study make sit unlikely that it could ever be conducted.

Are we left with no evidence of psychological problems? Hardly the correlational studies certainly point in the direction of psychological and physical side-effects. Indeed Koop, along with many others, has observed psychological and medical problems as a result of abortion. In a March 1987 review of the literature in Perspectives, the studies favoring abortion were found to be seriously flawed, and the only one not flawed indicated higher hospitalizations for aborted mothers. There is little or no evidence that abortion does not produce problems, thus the correlational research is all we have research, when done properly, that indicates problems are likely. I would like to briefly address some of the other comments by Diaz, which also reflect oversimplification in this area. I doubt if he read Reardon's book, as most of his reactions were addressed there. He states that "banning abortions will lead to greater suffering and death." In fact more women die today from back-alley abortions than before Roe v. Wade because most illegal abortions were performed by medical people prior to that decision. I am amazed at Diaz's lack of concern about the potential emotional and physical pain he admits can accompany abortion.

He states that the "the law will never stop women form getting abortions." This is a variation of the old cliche, "You can't legislate morality." Usually prohibition is cited as an example. Actually alcoholism rates dropped dramatically during prohibition, suggesting that perhaps some of the ill effects of immorality can be curbed by law. Abortion dramatically increased within the next year after the Roe vs. Wade decision. Apparently you can legislate immorality. Could the social consensus be changed through law? Perhaps so. The laws against abortion seemed to work prior to Roe vs. Wade. 

Diaz suggests that pro-life groups should persuade individual women to stop having abortions. He seems to think this is a new idea. For a long time pro-life Christians have been doing this, including Jerry Falwell (his homes for unwed mothers), Francis Schaeffer, and a host of others. In fact, most pro-life groups have such services available. The problem is that the pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood, regularly advocate abortion. The lack of a law against abortion tends to lend credence to their arguments, especially to people who are uncertain of what to do. Many women are "on the fence" prior to abortion; the Supreme Court decision may seem to imply society's approval. 

Diaz states, "The church had to be dragged kicking and screaming into repudiating slavery, into civil rights for women, minorities and the handicapped, and into caring for the environment." This is a slap in the face that seriously distorts the historical record. The leaders in the antislavery movement were not secularists but people like John Newton, William Wilberforce, and John Wesley all devout Christians who stood against the majority who favored slavery. Civil rights for women were pioneered by the Salvation Army (which ordained women over 100 years ago) and a host of other Christians such as Lord Shaftesbury. The women's movement was originally a Christian movement; only in this century did it (and the civil rights movement) become secularized. Christians such as Francis Schaeffer (another pro-life person) have labored long and hard for environmental responsibility. I personally have written several articles on the rights of the mentally handicapped. 

Diaz's final paragraphs favoring pacifism focus on a review done by another reviewer, not me, so it is quite unfair to call this "schizophrenic" it wasn't the same writer! He seems unaware that there are many Christians who are consistently pro-life in this area as well as abortion (e.g. Ron Sider.) Is not nuclear militarism a red herring to detract from the very real life and death aspects involved in killing the unborn? 

I was saddened to see Diaz's complete rejection of Reardon's book. I am still left wondering if he ever read it. If he did, I wonder why he didn't more directly react to the book, rather than to my review of it.

Donald Ratcliff
Tocca Falls, GA 30598