Abortion, Cultural Priorities And Civil Disobedience

Jan 25th, 2020 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The scandal of abortion continues to plague American civilization, with the entertainment and political culture setting the parameters.  Each cultural sector frames the abortion issue according to its preference, refusing to acknowledge that the discussion is about a human life.  The nonsense of the entertainment culture was reflected in the recent Golden Globe awards ceremony.  The atrocities that accompany abortion (e.g., marketing baby parts for research) has caused some to engage in civil disobedience.


First, the entertainment culture: During the recent Golden Globes awards ceremony, actress Michelle Williams used her acceptance speech to talk about the importance of the “right to choose” without once saying the word abortion. “I’m grateful for the acknowledgement of the choices I’ve made,” Williams said, collecting an award for her role on Fosse/Verdon, “and I’m also grateful to have lived in a moment in our society where choice exists, because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice.”   National Review columnist Alexandra Desanctis comments, “Williams is referring, of course, to pregnancy, speaking as if women all over the world mystically find themselves pregnant without having chosen to engage in an act that has the natural end of creating a distinct human life. This language is typical of abortion-rights supporters, who insist that women need abortion so that they can choose whether or not to ‘become mothers,’ ignoring the fact that a pregnant woman already has a child inside of her and therefore already is a mother.  Next, Williams asserted that her various achievements would have been impossible ‘without employing a woman’s right to choose,’ obliquely revealing that she had an abortion and believes she wouldn’t have been successful without having done so. Far from being a powerful feminist argument, this pervasive pro-abortion sentiment denigrates women’s capabilities by demanding that they subvert biology in order to succeed. Rather than empowering women, Williams is telling them that they won’t be able to fulfill their dreams without exercising the right to kill their own unborn children, that they must use violence against a vulnerable human being in order to get ahead.  Williams concluded by suggesting that opposition to abortion could only be the result of individuals imposing their religious values on society — ignoring the hundreds of thousands of pro-life people who don’t believe in God — and called on women to vote in their ‘self-interest,’ i.e., in favor of candidates who support abortion: ‘Women 18 to 118, when it is time to vote please do so in your self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them but don’t forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us.’”

Williams is thereby implying that any woman voting her self-interest necessarily will vote to support the right to abortion; indeed, all women have a responsibility to do so.  What was equally stunning about Williams’s speech is that she never used the term “abortion.” Instead, she “employed the right to choose.” Desanctis correctly concludes:  “But the right to choose what? No one disagrees that women have the right to make their own choices. The abortion debate exists not because a large faction believes women should be deprived of the ‘right to choose’ but rather because of the choice in question: to end the life of a distinct human being. Abortion-rights supporters such as Williams aren’t part of the debate at all because they are intentionally deceptive about the heart of the argument. And who can blame them? It’s far easier to issue euphemistic speeches about women’s empowerment to thunderous applause than it is to defend the taking of an innocent human life.”

Second, the political and legal culture:  In late fall 2019, a jury in San Francisco district court found pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, breach of contract, and trespass and violation of state and federal recording laws.  Daleiden, Merritt, and their Center for Medical Progress obtained undercover footage of abortion-industry workers, including from Planned Parenthood, discussing arrangements to illegally profit from the fetal body parts of aborted babies.

The videos — the first of which CMP released in the summer of 2015 — showed all sorts of horrifying things. Planned Parenthood medical directors haggling over prices for fetal body parts over a lunch of salad and wine, another joking about upping the cost for certain organs so she could afford a Lamborghini. Abortionists admitting to altering late-term abortion procedures (which is illegal) in order to improve their odds of obtaining intact, and thus more valuable, fetal body parts. Industry workers conceding they had contracts to sell fetal tissue and describing in graphic detail their efforts to conduct post-viability abortions without violating the ban on partial-birth abortion. A former clinic worker saying she had been tasked with harvesting organs from an infant whose heart was still beating.  All of this was evidence not only of cavalierly dehumanizing behavior in the abortion industry, but more specifically that several Planned Parenthood affiliates had arranged to receive a profit from biotech firms for the transfer of fetal tissue from aborted babies, including when they hadn’t properly obtained the informed consent of the pregnant women involved.

Desanctis summarizes the response:  “. . . [for] Planned Parenthood and its defenders . . . The videos were deceptively edited propaganda. The group’s allies, including in the media, have repeated this talking point ad nauseam for years now, despite the fact that independent reviews of the footage found that edits were made only for brevity, and none distorted the substance of the conversations recorded — a fact that was affirmed just this January in a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Recall, too, that separate investigations by both a select panel in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed enough of the CMP footage that both committees referred several Planned Parenthood affiliates, and the biotech firms and research institutions they partnered with, to the FBI and the Department of Justice for further investigation.  Nevertheless, the only people who have yet to be punished in connection with the videos are Daleiden and Merritt, the individuals who exposed fairly obvious wrongdoing. They plan to appeal the decision, and there remains hope that justice will be restored. But this latest round of controversy has been a harsh reminder for pro-life Americans.”

How the entertainment and news culture responded is even more appalling:  “Our culture is so accustomed to the violence of abortion that many people see Daleiden and Merritt as the criminals, instead of rightly recognizing the evil on display in their videos and demanding that such evil be treated as a crime. At the same time, this story has since 2015 hardly managed to garner more than a ripple of media coverage, and the coverage it has received has been almost entirely slanted in favor of Planned Parenthood’s preferred talking points.  This blackout is perhaps understandable in a society determined to turn a blind eye to the fundamental questions of our abortion debate. The CMP videos punctured the euphemisms we like to use when we talk about abortion; these callous discussions of collecting fetal organs don’t sound much like what we picture when we hear about ‘a woman’s right to choose.’  That’s why these videos have been so little discussed and why abortion-rights supporters have worked so tirelessly to undermine and silence the videos’ contents and creators. Regardless of whether the abortion-industry executives on film indeed broke the law, no one, not even Planned Parenthood, denies that abortion providers routinely possess fetal tissue. Where do those body parts come from? To whom do they belong?  This fight over the CMP videos is not just about the need to defend citizens who expose injustice. It is about forcing a society inured to that injustice to recognize what takes place in every abortion procedure.”

Daleiden and Merritt, it could be argued, engaged in a form of civil disobedience.  Was it justifiable?  Was it acceptable to do so?  Lynn Buzzard, former head of the Christina Legal Society, offers counsel on how Christians should think about civil disobedience.  Christians do have a higher law than that of human government (see Acts 4 and 5.  But God gives human governments in the main His seal of approval and disobedience to them should be considered with great caution.  He offers seven questions the believer should ask when facing the possibility of disobedience to the state:

  1. How directly and immediately does the opposed government policy contradict an unequivocal biblical teaching?
  2. What is the counsel of the Christian community about this policy? Where do godly leaders rank it among threats to the faith that must be addressed? What do they say about what the faithful person’s response ought to be? To what extent have legal, alternative protests been exhausted?
  3. What harms to society and order are likely to result from the considered act of civil disobedience, and how do these harms compare with the desired benefits?
  4. Will the form of civil disobedience be one which will evidence moral consistency and further proper respect for principled law and a moral society?
  5. To what extent will the “witness” be heard and understood by the public and by government authorities?
  6. To what extent are the acts central to maintaining my integrity as a person? To what extent may they reflect personal frustration and anger rather than a principled response?
  7. To what extent does the idea for the act of civil disobedience issue from thought-sources alien to a biblical worldview? Is it based upon biblical principles about the uses of power and coercion, the witness of the cross and the sovereignty of God, or is it based upon purely naturalistic, humanistic principles?


It is my judgment that David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt acted properly and justly in filming these various conversations about baby parts.  They show the culpability and ugliness of organizations such as Planned Parenthood.  If this is deemed an act of civil disobedience, they met the criteria and did what was right before God.  They should be applauded not punished.

See Alexandra Desanctis, “The ‘Right to Choose’ What, Michelle Williams?” in the National Review (6 January 2020); ibid., “Undercover Pro-Life Activists are Punished for Exposing Planned Parenthood,” in the National Review (19 November 2019); and Lynn Buzzard, “Civil Disobedience,” Eternity (January 1987):23.

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One Comment to “Abortion, Cultural Priorities And Civil Disobedience”

  1. Arlie Rauch says:

    Thank you especially for the helpful presentation on civil disobedience.