In for Life

Late this afternoon I was admiring the beautiful cloud formations as the sun was setting. One thing rather spoiled the scene however – that was the heavy metal grill which partially obscured my view.

This grill formed a ‘cage’ which completely enclosed the tennis-court-sized yard in which I was standing. This exercise yard was attached to a 24 cell prison unit (holding 40 prisoners) and this unit, part of a prison complex holding about 700-800 men, was located on the edge of Brisbane.

I am a Christian, and unlike some who ‘find religion’ in prison, I was a Christian before I entered this place. So, what is a Christian doing in prison in Australia, especially if that Christian is ‘in for life’?

Well, I haven’t killed anyone. In fact, just the opposite is the case, I’m in here because I, along with others, have tried to save lives. I am in prison because I have been trying to stop preborn babies being killed by abortion.

Many times people have expressed astonishment when they find out that someone could end up in prison for opposing abortion. It must, therefore, be made clear that I, and several others in our group, Protect Life, have not been merely saying that we don’t like abortion. We don’t stop at writing letters to politicians or with holding placards on the footpaths outside these ‘clinics’.

For the last three years we have been engaging in non-violent direct action at the doors of these places of death. On about 60 occasions we (the numbers involved in the actual sit-ins have ranged from just one up to about six) have simply sat in front of the entrances and refused to move. In doing so we have been endeavouring to prevent the pre-born children being taken in to that place where it is intended they be killed.

For our efforts we have been arrested, charged, convicted, fined, and now I am in prison for the third time. I have not actually been sentenced to a prison term on any of these occasions. Rather, I am being held because when we are arrested now we are required to agree not to go back to that abortion ‘clinic’ until after the hearing has been held (usually a period of 2-3 months). As a matter of principle I have refused to say that I will not go back there, so I have been detained in prison.

Am I / are we crazy?

What do you think?

Some people think we are, but most people, including most Christians, don’t seem to know what to think. So, often very little is said to us about the actions. That silence can be more difficult to take than the criticisms of those who disagree with us. (Intriguingly, more interest in and support for our actions has been expressed by the inmates I’ve talked with in prison, than has been shown by most people outside.)

So, is it crazy to go to jail as part of trying to stop abortion? People say to us,“But can’t abortion be stopped by other less radical means?” Well, the record of the last 30 years is not encouraging in that direction. Perhaps 1.5 million or more pre-born children have been killed in Australia during that period, and there is little indication that significant changes for the better are happening.

Tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, another 300 or so children will be killed. If we knew where and when 300 or so born children were about to be killed (as we do with those being aborted – check in the Yellow Pages under Pregnancy Termination Services), would we consider we ought to immediately, directly intervene to save them? Surely.

“But don’t such actions cause too much trauma for the women seeking abortions, and besides, don’t we have to respect their choice?” We certainly don’t want to create unnecessary upset, but in any situation where someone acts to prevent somebody being killed, it is certain that considerable trauma will occur.

Think about it: none of us would allow the above fact to prevent us from intervening were we to come across a woman in the act of killing her two-year-old child. And neither would we feel we needed to respect her ‘choice’ to kill the child. The reality is, in both instances a child is about to die, and if we are to be consistent, a similar response is required in each instance. Beyond that, it must also be recognised that many women suffer very significant emotional and physical problems following abortion. Not intervening helps no one.

“But”, we hear people say, “such direct action is illegal: how can you justify breaking the law?” Much could be said in response to that, but only a brief response can be made here. A number of examples from the Bible, ranging from the Hebrew midwives disobeying Pharaoh (Ex 1:17) to Peter and the apostles defying the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:29), indicate that the law is not to be taken as the absolute, final arbiter of what Christians should do.

This is not to advocate anarchy but to say that where gross injustice is being done or allowed, and in particular where innocent human lives are being taken, civil disobedience is warranted, indeed required. Who would suggest that Corrie ten Boom and her family were wrong when they illegally hid Jews from the Nazis?

This is what it all comes down to – are babies before birth morally equivalent to babies (and all other human beings) after birth? For Christians, the fact that the incarnate Jesus grew and developed in his mother’s womb for about nine months, just as the rest of us have done, should be sufficient grounds for establishing the full worth of human life before birth. Certainly, from a biological point of view there is no disputing that human life begins at fertilisation.

So, we have a situation where hundreds of human beings are deliberately killed each working day in this country. And we largely allow it to go on- unchallenged, unhindered and even unremarked.

We may believe abortion kills children; we may say that abortion kills children; but if we don’t act in ways that are consistent with abortion being the killing of children, are we responding to this horror with the serious commitment that it demands? Obviously not everyone can be, or even ought to be, involved in direct action to stop abortion. But that does not mean that no one, or even that not very many people, ought to intervene directly to save lives.

Being in prison is undesirable and at times quite unpleasant. But is it better to be a free person in a society which calmly lives with the wholesale destruction of innocent, young human lives? Just what are human lives worth?