Letter to the editor
Selective Social Concern Response
From: PSCF 42 (September 1991): 211-212 Response: Ratcliff
The review of David Reardon's book on the psychological effects of abortion on women (March 1991 Perspectives) renewed my amazement at evangelicals' highly selective concern with contemporary social issues. Some may remember that in 1987 the Reagan administration asked then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to prepare a report on the (presumably negative) psychological side-effects of having an abortion. After months of stalling, Koop, whose anti-abortion stance cannot be questioned, finally admitted that he couldn't produce such a report because he couldn't find any reliable medical evidence of lasting damage.
That some women who've experienced abortion have suffered psychological distress cannot be disputed. Such women should receive the counseling they need to deal with their trauma. Let's be careful, however, not to use post-abortion distress as another reactionary excuse to ban abortions. Those worried about the abuse of women by contemporary abortion practices forget that banning abortions will lead to greater suffering and death through illegal back-alley abortions. The lack of concern for tomorrow's maimed and dead women leads me to think that those voicing concern about "suffering women" either don't really care about women's health or are seriously lacking in perspective.
Like the evolution/creation debate, the abortion controversy divides evangelicals and has led to disingenous intepretations of scripture on both sides. A realist (cynic?) realizes that the law will never stop women from getting abortions. If anti-abortion evangelicals are serious about stopping abortions they must persuade individual women to keep their children or give them up for adoption. Crisis pregnancy services, love, and financial and emotional support can go a long way in this regard. What I fear is that most anti-abortionists would rather forego this difficult, grass-roots approach for a legistlated, top-down ban which serves to alienate women and to cast doubt on the motivation of anti-abortionists. I believe many evangelicals to be motivated less by a concern for social justice than by the desire to see the world conform to their image of it, and this with the least amount of effort on their part. Legislating a world view is easier than persuasion. I say this because evangelicals have historically allied themselves with the status quo, and have never been at the vanguard of social justice issues. 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.
It also surprised me that two pages from the review expressing great concern for women abused by abortion is the review of a book (by Payne and Payne) approving the use of weapons of mass destruction under the blanket of the just war theory. Is this a little schizophrenic or what? Whether first-trimester unborns are soul-endowed human beings is scripturally an open question. That already born people of whatever nationality or political ideology are living souls created individually in our God's image is eminently clear. Killing one unborn is wrong, but slaughtering millions is part of the geopolitical game.
An examination of armed human conflict reveals most of the geopolitical spoils of war to be short-lived. After a period, a former ally becomes an enemy and vice-versa. Peacemaking and non-violent methods for conflict resolution are neglected. If a cost-benefit analysis shows conventional war to be wanting, why should adding nuclear weapons to the arsenal change anything? Knowing that no lasting peace will come until Jesus, our Prince of Peace returns, how can his people advocate the use of weapons which have not made our planet safer, but many times more dangerous?
I believe it was Gandhi who said that the only people who don't believe Jesus and his message were non-violent are Christians. Fighting abortion while okaying nuclear genocide suggests that we have not seriously examined both the motivation behind and the consequences of our social and political positions.
Daniel L. Diaz
Department of Biochemistry
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH 44106 Rierdon's Response