We knew it, and now everyone knows

by Keith Bassham

A Greek painter named Appelles in the fourth century B.C. is supposed to have uttered a phrase to a shoemaker who had criticized some of his work. The Latin phrase is “Sutor, ne ultra crepidam,” and translates roughly, “A shoemaker ought not to judge beyond his own soles,” and survives in the English proverb, “Shoemaker, stick to your last.” We would say you should not speak about those things outside your knowledge. Those who make a habit of doing so are ultracrepidarians.

Christians, especially conservative Christians, are often accused of this when they speak out on issues that touch on social policy. Their critics say they (I should say we) should confine their opinions, especially religious opinions, to matters and activities connected with altars and pulpits and other “churchy” things. And lately, those critics have decided we are pretty much wrong on those things as well.

However guilty some of us are in the “know it all” category, there are some things we all instinctively know, and among those things is the knowledge that human abortion is the taking of an innocent life. We knew it, and we have been saying so a long time. And even the so-called pro-choice people have occasionally had the honesty to say so, as Mary Elizabeth Williams did in a column for Salon.com a couple of years ago. After affirming that a fetus represents human life, she states it is a “life worth sacrificing,” and “when we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand.” Quite an admission, but even though Ms. Williams knows the fetus is a human life, she still asserted that a woman can take that life for any reason, since it is “a life worth sacrificing.”

So at least some of the pro-choice, pro-abortion people knew that a fetus was far more than a “blob of tissue” or a “bunch of cells,” just as we knew it. And then in the past few weeks, a series of videos have been released, undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood people dickering over prices of body parts — fetal hearts, livers, brains — and discussing methods of taking the baby from a womb in the way most likely to yield a sellable specimen. In video number five (the latest released as the Tribune goes to press), Melissa Farrell, director of research at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Texas, speaks of extracting “intact fetal cadavers” (presumably a well-designed and constructed “blob of tissue”).

Say what you want, and no doubt there are still quite a number of people among us who want this and other abortion practices to continue, and even in the face of the videos, lawmakers and government officials want to take a neutral stance on the issue, the fact is we knew babies were being killed under a euphemistic veil that made an abortion appear to be a routine medical procedure not much different from having a mole removed.

Now, the question is, should those admittedly human lives receive protection? Of course they should, and under certain circumstances they do. For instance, John Piper cites an Arizona doctor, a high-risk pregnancy specialist, who wrote, “There is inescapable schizophrenia in aborting a perfectly normal 22 week fetus while at the same hospital, performing intra-uterine surgery on its cousin.”

In the above referenced Salon.com article, author Williams writes, “I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of ‘scraping out a bunch of cells’ and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of ‘the baby’ and ‘this kid.’ I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same?”

What can be the difference? There is at least one. If the baby is wanted, he or she is a child and treated as a patient. If the baby is unwanted, he or she is not a child but something else. And now, because of the videos, we can also say that the unwanted baby can be divided into parts and sold to a biological research firm. Or left intact and sold as a complete cadaver.

Is my language shocking? I hope so.

Mr. Piper has been speaking and writing on this issue quite some time, and his thinking on the Christian attitude and responsibility in the face of this evil is impeccable. More than two years ago, long before the recent videos surfaced, he wrote a piece called “We Know They Are Killing Children — All of Us Know” (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/we-know-they-are-killing-children-all-of-us-know). He concludes with why he wrote the piece, and I borrow his words:

  1. To make clear that we will not be able to defend ourselves with the claim of ignorance. We knew. All of us.
  2. To solidify our conviction to resist this horrific evil.
  3. To intensify our prayer and our preaching toward Gospel-based soul-renovation in our land, because hardness of heart, not ignorance, is at the root of this carnage.

Now, we all know.