Polly took me on a short road trip before she went to work today. I hoped to photograph farmers busily harvesting their crops, but I found few farmers in their fields. We drove to Grabill, Indiana, took a quick stroll through The Country Shops Flea Market & Antiques, and then headed to the McDonald’s in Hicksville to get a quick bite to eat. From Hicksville we took Route 18 east toward Sherwood, Ohio. Along Route 18 are a variety of religious signs. I previously wrote about them in a post titled Signs of Religious Persecution in Defiance, County, Ohio. One string of signs has been repainted and lettered with what I call the pro-life gospel.
Going East on Route 18
Going West on Route 18
The signs are owned by the Hammon family who live on Wonderly Road, Mark Center, Ohio
Tony Miano is a bombastic, arrogant street evangelist associated with John MacArthur and Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Miano’s direct oversight pastors are Mike Riccardi and a former friend of mine, Phil Johnson . Miano, a retired police officer and best buds with Ray Comfort, believes God has called him to be an open- air evangelist and itinerant preacher. A hardcore Calvinist, Miano makes no bones about the fact he considers the Arminianism preached in many Evangelical churches to be a false gospel. Miano, like his pastors John MacArthur and Ray Comfort, thinks he has the corner on the truth market. Those who believe differently are ignorant, poorly taught, or wicked, vile, unregenerate, reprobate atheists such as myself.
Last week, Miano took a group of 20 students from MacArthur’s The Master’s College to “minister” to women at Family Planning Associates in Mission Hills, California, a women’s health facility that performs abortions. Miano calls his abortuary work a ‘ministry of presence’. That’s right, a ministry of presence. In truth, it is a ministry of harassment, a ministry of forcing one’s religious beliefs on another. Miano, hoping to corrupt the minds of another generation of young Evangelicals, spent the day training The Master’s College students in the fine art of harassing women who came to the Family Planning Associates (FPA) for service and care. Here’s what Miano had to say:
The Lord has allowed a wonderful team of Christian men and women to form and to engage in loving people in action and truth, outside the Family Planning Associates abortuary, in Mission Hills, CA. Today the team and I were blessed beyond words to be joined by more than 20 students from The Master’s College.
This group of young adults was exceptional. Mature; submissive; teachable; respectful; servant-minded–and the list goes on. The students held signs and prayed. They effectively engaged in a ministry of presence.
A number of students, as well as regular members of the team, testified at the end of the morning of seeing people in cars, fitting the profile of those seeking to abort a child, making repeated passes by the abortuary, but never entering the parking lot. While tragically babies were murdered at the abortuary this morning, we left confident that the Lord used us to turn several abortive parents away–allowing unborn children to live for at least another day.
Note carefully what Miano said: the students were submissive, respectful, and teachable, Evangelical lingo for easily persuadable. Force-fed the pro-life lie and anti-Planned Parenthood talking points, these students were perfect candidates for Miano’s abortuary ministry. The students were taught by Miano the fine art of profiling a woman seeking an abortion and, applying their learning, succeeded in turning women away from getting needed health care. While Miano calls this a ministry of presence, it really is a legal means of harassing women under the guise of doing the Lord’s work. While Miano can report to his supporters that several babies got to live another day, numerous women turned away from FPA out of fear, not wanting to be accosted by the religious crazies in front of the facility.
Only in America do we allow fundamentalist religious zealots to stand between patients and their doctors when receiving medical care. Pro-life groups have carved out special legal exceptions that allow them to harass women and doctors, the same legal exceptions used by Westboro Baptist Church to harass the families of fallen soldiers. Whatever a person might believe about abortion, a woman should have the right to seek medical care without being harassed by God’s appointed agents of righteousness. If a person thinks abortion is murder, fine don’t have an abortion, but don’t impede those who think differently. Unfortunately, while abortion through the second trimester is still legal in every state, Republicans and Christian fundamentalists have worked to enact state laws that have made it increasingly hard to get an abortion, while at the same time refusing to support methods and practices that would drastically reduce the need for abortion. They will not rest until Roe v. Wade is overturned and women are once again forced to seek out illegal abortions. For those of us who think every woman has a right to control her own body and have an abortion if she desires one, we must continue to push back at laws and regulations that we know will only result in increased suffering and death.
People like Miano aren’t really as interested in saving life as much they are interested in being right. For pro-life Evangelicals, the most important issue is what the Bible supposedly says about life, death, and abortion and making sure that everyone, Evangelical or not, is forced to play by their interpretation of an ancient religious text written by unknown authors thousands of years ago. In what other medical realm do we allow such a text to hold weight? Its antiquity alone invalidates its message and medical worth. Since 88% of all abortions occur within the first trimester and 98.8% of abortions occur before viability, the issue is not really about the life of fetus as much as it is the continued attempt to control women and their reproduction. I wish more Americans would understand that the difference between zealots like Tony Miano and the Muslim fundamentalist in the Middle East is quite small. While in many places the Muslim has the force of the law and is able to regulate everything from what a woman wears to when she can and can’t have sex, the Mianos of the Christian world lack the force of law to compel women to live according to their puritanical laws and regulations. They continue to chip at the edges of the establishment clause and the separation of church and state, but make no mistake about it they’ll not rest until the Christian flag flies over the White House. This is why we must continue to expose, fight, and push back. We must not rest until people understand that freedom of religion also means the freedom FROM religion, and a woman seeking an abortion has every right not to be harassed by a fundamentalist Christian abortuary ministry team and students from a fundamentalist Christian college. Perhaps, it is time to recognize that the first amendment needs some tweaking; that just like a person can’t shout FIRE in a crowded theater, neither should religious zealots be permitted to harass women seeking out medical care.
You can read my thoughts on abortion:
I’ve written about Miano previously when he sent out the following tweet after the Nepal earthquake:
Published on January 13, 2002. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin, and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.
The anniversary of the famed Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade has just past. Almost 30 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that abortion on demand was legal in the United States. Since that time, a battle between the forces called pro-life and pro-choice has raged without abatement in our country. We truly are a nation divided when it comes to abortion. Both sides have taken to the legal and political arena in an attempt to stifle or crush their opposition. In the case of the pro-life movement, some on the far extreme of the movement have taken to murdering clinic workers and the doctors who perform the abortions. Several men with such beliefs are on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
How are we, as Christians, to respond to the continued murder of babies in abortion clinics, private doctors offices and hospitals? Some may suggest that I am asserting that the word Christian and pro-life are synonymous. Such observation is correct. Christianity and pro-choice are not compatible one with the other. I have written a number of times over the years on this issue, and each time I receive letters from supposed pro-choice Christians. Perhaps such folks are well-intentioned, but it is theologically impossible to square being a Christian with also being pro-choice. To be a Christian is to walk in the steps of, and follow after, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was pro-life and the Law of God states very clearly “Thou shalt not kill.”
The command “Thou shalt not kill” has a positive precept attached to it. That precept is “thou shalt preserve life.” If we are not to kill, then we are to preserve life instead. This preserving of life extends to not only the abortion clinic, but also the prison and countries where we are engaged in war. The Bible teaches and permits capital punishment, but it also prescribes when and who it is to be carried out. The Bible permits just war, but it also prescribes when and how such war is to be carried out. We must always remember that the killing of other human beings shows the baseness of human society, not its superiority. As Christians, we have a duty to preserve life at every opportunity. We must stand against abortion. We must work to outlaw the practice in the United States and the rest of the world. We should also be actively working to promote justice for those in prison and to insist that God’s law be followed in the execution of those guilty of first degree murder. We must hold our government and military accountable for its actions in Afghanistan. Find the terrorists. Punish the evildoer, but in doing so do no harm to innocent men, women and children.
We must continue to wage the war of words with the pro-choice crowd. They speak of the “woman’s right to choose” and yet they are rarely challenged to the assertions they make in regard to this statement. I too, support a “woman’s right to choose.” She makes a choice to have sexual relations with a man, and she must live with the consequences of such an action. The pro-choice movement is at the forefront of the “right to have sex whenever with whomever movement” and then with the quickness of a magician they deny any accountability for the choice that is made. There are many choices a pregnant woman can make, but far too often abortion is the only option given because it is the easy way out. Adoption is an option. Extended family assistance in raising the child is an option. Our government needs to streamline the adoption process making it easy for families to adopt these unwanted babies
We must do more than just object to abortion. We must also put our words into action. We must help support women in their pregnancy and provide the means for their care. Every unwanted baby needs a home. My wife and I are the parents of six children, yet if needed, we would take on the responsibility of another child. It would not be easy, but our words must be backed up with action.
We must continue to oppose the fringes of the pro-life movement that advocates violence and murder in the name of God. Murdering a baby via abortion is a sin but so is murdering an abortion clinic doctor. We must not bear the sword. God gives government the responsibility of bearing the sword to punish evildoers. As we stand against abortion we must work to change the laws of the land. Abortion must once again be illegal. We must work to enact laws that make it criminal to participate in any part of the abortion process. We need to stop the tax flow to organizations that promote abortion. Let Planned Parenthood get its money from its liberal constituents, but not from the American taxpayer. There is much work to do and killing an abortion doctor will not stop the abortion mills. There will always be another to take their place. Instead, we must make abortion illegal thus removing the financial incentives that continue to fuel the abortion mills.
It is easy to become complacent in the matter of abortion. As I watched the events of September 11th my heart was grieved. I mourned and wept for days over the tragic loss of life. Yet, keeping it all in perspective, the loss of life at Ground Zero equals one day of work in the abortion clinics of America. Our hands are covered with the blood of millions of babies that have been aborted since that fateful day when Roe vs. Wade became law. We must not rest until justice for all once again prevails in our Land. May God give us the grace and strength necessary to not waver in this battle of battles.
I’ve been asked to give my take on the Planned Parenthood videos.
When it comes to Planned Parenthood’s mission, to provide healthcare to women, I am 100% in their corner. Providing abortions is a small part of Planned Parenthood’s services, and defunding Planned Parenthood would have a deleterious effect on the health of poor women. Attempts to defund Planned Parenthood are driven by religious belief and bad science. We live in a secular state, one that supposedly separates church and state and one that values science; yet, when it comes to abortion, the debate is framed by religious claims that result in skewed interpretations of science.
Strident pro-lifers, based on their religious beliefs, say that abortion is murder. I have written about this before in a post titled 25 Questions for Those Who Say Abortion is Murder. The abortion-is-murder view is irrational and is a denial of what science tells about fetal development and life. Just last week, Mike Huckabee, a Baptist preacher and a candidate for President, said he supports personhood for zygotes (see Personhood USA). That’s right, Huckabee wants constitutional protection conveyed the moment a man’s sperm unites with a woman’s egg. This means that Mike Huckabee, along with those who support personhood for fetuses and believe abortion is murder, think that the following should be considered a person protected by the constitution and those aborting them are murderers:
Fact: 63% of abortion take place within eight weeks of pregnancy.
This is what a fetus looks like at 12 weeks:
Fact: 89% of abortions take place within 12 weeks (first trimester) of pregnancy.
When I look at the science along with the aforementioned photographs, I see potential life. I don’t see a person, one deserving constitutional protection. (Please see Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contractions.) All the religious posturing and moralizing in the world won’t change my view on this matter. Why? Because it is rooted in scientific fact and reason.
As the fetus continues to grow it moves from being potential life to actual life. Usually this is around weeks 20-24. Fetuses can and do survive when born prematurely, and it is for this reason I support greater protection for them under the law. The state has a vested interest in protecting human life, not potential life. I do not agree that abortion after viability should be a decision made between a woman and her doctor without any regard to the fetus. Once viability is reached there is a third party — the baby — who should have rights. Not absolute rights, mind you. There are times, due to health concerns or fetal abnormality, that is it medically prudent to terminate a pregnancy after viability. Since the overwhelming majority of abortions occur before viability (98.8%) or post viability as a result of health concerns or fetal abnormality, I see no reason to oppose abortion.
Why is it that pro-life groups rarely use the aforementioned photographs to make their case? Why do they always graphically display fetuses aborted late in a pregnancy? Shock value. I wonder if some who say abortion is murder would think differently if they were presented with a picture of a zygote and not a picture of a full term fetus?
The recent videos concerning Planned Parenthood are disturbing. The group behind the videos are using highly edited footage, releasing them over a long period of time in hopes of maximizing the damage, inflaming passion, and bolstering the campaigns of pro-life candidates for President. (Please see People of the American Way post The Activists and the Ideology Behind the Latest Attack on Planned Parenthood.)
Despite my opposition to the group behind the videos, I do find the videos troubling. Is Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that they are selling at cost various fetus parts to researchers, but no in the sense that it isn’t a huge revenue stream for Planned Parenthood. What Planned Parenthood is doing is legal, no different from harvesting organs for transplant.
I am sure someone is going to say, but Bruce, look at how nonchalant the Planned Parenthood people were on the videos. I agree, this is troubling, but is their crassness any reason for the government to defund Planned Parenthood or for abortion to be outlawed or criminalized? Of course not. Again, I go back to the science. Like it or not, in most cases, the aborted fetus is a blob of developing cells. Since these developing cells are potential life, not human life, why shouldn’t researchers be permitted to use these cells and developing organs to find cures or treatments for diseases that are afflicting and killing humans?
I think the crassness displayed on the videos is troubling, but explainable. Take doctors. Doctors are around sickness and death every day. Imagine a group of doctors sitting around a table talking shop. How do you think the discussion would go? A bit of morbidity, humor, and deflection? This is their way of coping with the work they have been called to do (and yes, I think many of the people who work in abortion clinics have a sense of calling, a deep desire to help women in a time of great need). The same could be said for coroners, morticians, homicide detectives, crime scene investigators, CDC investigators, and crime scene cleaners. As someone who lives with the ugly specter of death lurking in the shadows, I have a gallows sense of humor about death. Some family members and friends are appalled by my humor, yet it is how I cope with the reality that death is stalking me and will ultimately seize me as its prey. People who are around death often use humor to cope and often seem detached from their work, and I think that is exactly what is shown on the Planned Parenthood videos.
What Planned Parenthood has is an optic problem. They allowed themselves to be snookered by ideologically driven religious nut jobs who want to make abortion, along with birth control, illegal. Planned Parenthood needs to do a better job of vetting whom they are talking to. They also need to put some of their workers and executives through sensitivity training. We say that getting an abortion is a monumental decision for a women. If this is true, then our behavior and demeanor should reflect this, not unlike our response to someone who is dying and has decided to stop medical treatment.
I am sure those on either side of this issue will disagree with me and that’s why I have been hesitant to write about it. My position on abortion is informed and quite developed, so I don’t waste my time arguing about it. I recently had several dust-ups on Facebook with people who think anyone who is pro-choice or supports Planned Parenthood is a sick, vile, evil, murderer. Rather than continue to read such drivel, I unfriended 30 or so people, including family members (and yes, I tried to educate them before I unfriended them).
I find it interesting that the same people who are so ardently pro-life are very same people who are pro-war, pro capital punishment, anti-homosexual, anti-same sex marriage, anti-immigration, and anti virtually anything that has to do with care and compassion post-birth. It seems the only life they care about is the one in the womb. These same people say they are anti-abortion, yet they oppose free birth control and standardized sex education, two things that we know reduce the need for an abortion. There’s one word for people who think like this: hypocrite.