What Seems to Unite Donald Trump, Kari Lake, and Pro-Life Abolitionists and Incrementalists

Apr 19, 2024 by David Fowler

What Seems to Unite Donald Trump, Kari Lake, and Pro-Life Abolitionists and Incrementalists
The abortion position of Donald Trump, Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Kari Lake’s response to the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision reinstating an 1864 law prohibiting abortion, and the reaction of the Alabama legislature to the IVF decision of its state Supreme Court prompted David French to pen an editorial about the pro-life community for the New York Times in which he said, “The older I get, the more I’m convinced that we simply don’t know who we are — or what we truly believe — until our values carry a cost.” I think there is something that unites these negative political reactions to the thinking of some, if not many, in the pro-life community. Could that thinking be working against the creation of a culture of life?
What is the “cost” and who won’t pay it?
The “cost” to which French[i] referred is a “political cost.” In fact, he wrote, “There is no truly pro-life party in the United States.” I think he is correct, at least at the federal level and now, increasingly, at the state level.
However, this political “cost” reminds me of Arizona Pastor Jeff Durbin questioning the pro-life bona fides of House Speaker Mike Johnson’s last November. Johnson, as a Congressman, opposed a bill in the Louisiana legislature that would have subjected an abortive woman to the death penalty.
While the penalty to be imposed on the woman was commensurate with that imposed on others who intentionally take another person’s life, Johnson knew approval of the bill would cost Republicans at the ballot box. So, he urged Louisiana’s legislators to kill the bill, and they did.
Another fissure: Durbin, the abolitionist, and Johnson, the incrementalist.
The tension between Durbin and Speaker Johnson points to a fissure in the pro-life community itself. It’s between those who are called abolitionists, like Durbin, and those who are called incrementalists, like Johnson.  
Enacting laws that would impose the death penalty on women would probably “abolish” abortion as a practical matter, hence the name abolitionists.
Incrementalists, however, want to enact laws that they hope, over time and bit by bit, leave abortion rights so narrow and hollowed out that abortion is abolished as a practical matter. 
I’ve watched as both abolitionists and incrementalists accuse the other of not being pro-life and detrimental to the cause of abolishing abortion.
What unites all these factions?
My answer to this question is no better than that of any other person unless I can root it in something that transcends my opinion. And the only opinion that fits in that category would be the God of the Bible.
But I don’t want to argue over what the Bible says about abortion itself or about which law is better than another. I want to point to what the Bible says about the way this world works and compare it to how all these three disparate camps seem, at least to me, to think the world works.
What the Bible says about how the world works.
As a framework for considering the political, incrementalist, and abolitionist camps, I offer what John Owen, famed theologian and advisor to Parliament and Oliver Cromwell said in his commentary on Hebrews, referring to Hebrews 1:3, in which the author of the Epistle says Jesus Christ is (present tense) “upholding all things by the Word of His power”:
Things do no more subsist by themselves than they were made by themselves. He "upholdeth all things by the word of his power," Heb. 1:3; and "by him all things consist," Col. 1:17. He hath not made the world, and then turned it off his hand, to stand on its own bottom and shift for itself; but there is continually, every moment, an emanation of power from God unto every creature, the greatest, the least, the meanest, to preserve them in their being and order; which if it were suspended but for one moment, they would all lose their station and being, and by confusion be reduced into nothing. "In him we live, and move, and have our being," Acts 17:28; and he "giveth to all life, and breath, and all things," verse 25. (emphasis supplied)

Then Owen adds the following:
God needs not to put forth any act of his power to destroy the creation; the very suspension of that constant emanation of omnipotency which is necessary unto its subsistence would be sufficient for that end and purpose.

Does the Republican Party’s thinking conform to this?

No. The Republican Party no longer believes God raises up and brings down nations, let alone raises up elected leaders or brings them down.

Power is now the name of the game, and the power to “make law” is distributed according to the impersonal laws of communication—direct mail, radio and television advertisements, campaign coverage in the news, soundbites, and endorsements by other people (who may also think like atheists). Being pro-life is an impediment to political power.

From what I see, even the Christian politicians think power is the name of the game and the laws of communication act as the sovereign distributor of power.

Which line of thinking do the incrementalists conform to?

Based on what was attributed to Mike Johnson, access to political power to enact incremental pro-life laws seemed determinative for him. Could not the same be said about many pro-life incrementalist?

Candidates who are too principled on abortion tend to lose elections, and with lost elections and the attendant loss of power come the inability of incrementalists to enact the laws that they hope, over time, will make having an abortion extremely difficult. And, in any event, politicians that would make principled attacks on abortion aren’t needed to enact a bit-at-a-time pro-life legislative agenda.

Attaining and holding to political power seems to be the name of the game, same as with the Republican Party.[ii]

Which line of thinking do the abolitionists conform to?

For all the finger-pointing directed by abolitionists at the incrementalists, the line between the two may be very thin. The abolitionists want to enact laws to abolish abortion. Folks like Johnson stand in the way of them having the power to enact the laws that will accomplish what they want.

While making every mother a felon would reduce the number of abortions, a worthy objective, is that going to bring about a culture of life in which people know why abortion should be illegal and think imposing the death penalty on her is a correct and sensible position?

I don’t think an enacted law itself, standing on its own, can bring about that kind of culture. Thinking enacted law can do that seems to give it a power God said even His law did not have (Galatians 3:21, “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by law.”)

If abolitionists think the law itself can create a culture of life, then the active work of the Holy Spirit isn’t needed, and I submit they will tend to think in terms of the primacy of political power, same as the Republicans and the incrementalists.

My Conclusion

In sum, I could easily argue that the key to understanding the Republican Party and its candidates, abolitionists, and incrementalists is a shared cosmology, namely, the key to making the world work right or be pro-life is enacted law, and thus the power to enact that law becomes primary. Machiavelli’s followers would be proud.

As to the long-term effects of this cosmology, I would employ Owen’s terminology: Cultures that turn from Him who is life and who gives and upholds all life by the “word of His power” will “destroy” that “which is necessary unto its subsistence.”

Law is not unimportant, but I increasingly believe a people living by faith in God and the word of His power and governing themselves accordingly before a watching world will bring about a culture of life faster and more enduring than that which can be attained by grasping for the power to enact compulsive pro-life laws.
[i] I don’t know what French wants the pro-life community do. His editorial mentioned the cynicism of his pro-choice friends being justified, and lamented portions of the pro-life community turning against folks like him, but I didn’t see a way out offered.
[ii] Moreover, fifty years of incrementalism does not appear to have created pro-life cultures in Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, or Ohio. Each of those states rejected the pro-life position when amendments to their state constitution were placed on the ballot. And Alabama’s legislature lost interest in preventing the destruction of human beings in embryonic form. Without the active work of the Holy Spirit, no law ever made anyone good in any Christian sense of the word.

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