Do Rescues add to the problem?

Do ‘rescues’ at abortion clinics just add to the problems caused by groups resorting to the use of force to get what they want? Besides, why not ‘just’ pray against abortion?

It seems that more and more often there are reports from around the world of one pressure group or another trying to achieve their ends by using varying degrees of force. This widespread willingness to resort to force generates in many people, regardless of whether they are directly affected by the behaviour or not, a general sense of unease and destabilisation.

So to then have, on top of all the other such instances, some pro-lifers advocating that abortion needs to be stopped by means of direct action (i.e. sit-ins in front of the doors of abortion ‘clinics’ to prevent anyone gaining entry), that can make it seem just all too much. The feeling is that there are already too many instances of people using force to get what they want (in fact, recently in Brisbane a pro-abortionist blockade almost succeeded in preventing a pro-life talk going ahead), so to have pro-lifers doing that also seems only to make a bad situation even worse.

Perhaps you know that feeling.

These concerns provide a serious challenge to groups like Protect Life which advocate such direct action and therefore a response is required.

Firstly, it is perfectly understandable that the carrying out of such actions may cause people to feel considerable unease. No one likes to think that their relatively orderly society may be seriously disrupted because of the behaviour of those who would, in order to try and see their ends achieved, step outside the generally accepted avenues for change. Indeed, supporters of Protect Life would fully agree that it is perfectly right for people to become upset by actions which unnecessarily bring about conflict and harm.

The question then is, do the actions that are advocated by groups such as Protect Life –non-violent sit-ins outside abortion ‘clinic’ doors – fall into the above problematic category?

It can be tempting to group together in the one category certain actions which, while having some apparent similarities, are in fact fundamentally different. Are non-violent sit-ins at abortion ‘clinics’ just another example of people using raw force to try and get their own way or are they something different?

It is the case that Protect Life does intend that by conducting such sit-ins no one will enter those places of death. If people are deterred from getting in, the thinking goes, the preborn children cannot be killed by abortion. Those engaged in the sit-ins simply sit close together in front of the entrances, thus requiring that anyone who wants to try and enter has to literally walk on and over their bodies (depending of course on how many rescuers are involved). No attempt though is made to grab hold of anyone.

It is an essential requirement for those involved in the actions with Protect Life that they be committed to remaining completely non-violent in behaviour and speech. Not surprisingly, those who are trying to get into the building do not always show such restraint but regardless of their behaviour, the rescuers have to be completely non-aggressive and must endeavour to remain calm. These actions are conducted with the intention of preventing violence from taking place and so it is held that in order for the rescuers to be consistent, the use of any violence must be completely rejected.

Critics of the rescues may say that it is all very well for the rescuers to claim that they are not being directly violent themselves: it nevertheless remains the case that the actions, proportional to their effectiveness in achieving their stated aims, would have the effect of generating very real conflict and tension at the abortion clinics and in society generally. And supporters of Protect Life would largely acknowledge that that would be the case. Therefore, the critics argue, regardless of how rescuers may conduct themselves, the actions are at the very least highly problematic.

What though, is the issue of abortion really all about? What is it about abortion that causes people to say that it should not be allowed? The primary reason why Protect Life directly attempts to stop abortion is because the group believes that every abortion takes the life of an innocent, young, fellow human being. And it would be fair to say that all other pro-lifers would say they also believe that that is what abortion involves.

Every abortion involves the deliberate taking of the life of a fellow human being.

If that statement is quickly or casually read, its enormous import can be passed straight over. But for those who seriously regard preborn human beings as having the same moral significance as born human beings, and if in particular the Christian understanding that human beings are made in the image of God is accepted, then it is an exceedingly serious claim to make; one having truly profound implications. What goes on in abortion clinics is the regular, open, intentional, destruction of innocent, young human lives.

We would hold that whenever we know that someone is about to be killed, it is necessary and right to try, as best we are able, to intervene to help them there and then. And that always remains the case even if the intervention risks causing turmoil and upset. (If we are honest, who of us would not want others to intervene for us if we were about to be unjustly killed – even if for some reason such intervention created turmoil and upset?)

Regardless of the role that one may regard politics as playing in closing down the abortion ‘clinics’ (see the article Democracy, Christianity and Abortion), we believe that non-violent direct action is an essential element if abortion is ever to be stopped. Like it or not, the general failure to intervene directly wherever and whenever we know that preborn children are being killed, sends a loud clear message to the community that these preborn children cannot really be of the same worth as other human beings.

To block an abortion clinic door to prevent anyone gaining entry is not to engage in a mere protest – it is literally an attempt to save lives. There are occasions, perhaps most occasions, where to carry out direct action is inappropriate or wrong, but there are other occasions where it is always necessary and right. In a society where up to 100 000 lives are deliberately ended each year, year after year after year, we believe that direct intervention is not only warranted, but absolutely demanded.

But is it not enough that Christians ‘just’ pray to see abortion stopped? Doesn’t it show a lack of faith and a misunderstanding of spiritual warfare for Christians to participate in something like sit-ins outside abortion clinics?

We at Protect Life do not believe that it is right to consider our response to abortion in terms of either just praying or just taking action. It is the case that for some people their circumstances definitely preclude them from being able to be actively involved in this way and so their contribution can be specifically through prayer. For others however, as we pray about abortion (as with anything else) we must always be genuinely open to the possibility of God calling us to be actively part of the answer to our prayers. Certainly we have found that engaging in these actions has been an enormous incentive to meaningfully develop our prayer life!

The priest and the Levite may have prayed for the wounded stranger as they passed by on the other side of the road, but because they did not stop and help they were not commended by Jesus. The Samaritan quite likely prayed when he stopped to help the man (the robbers could still have been about!) but he was commended because he actually gave aid. Prayer and action go hand in hand – they are never a denial of each other.