Scott Klusendorf: Abortion is a personal issue that we shouldn’t involve ourselves with. You’re absolutely right. We should trust women to make their own decisions. You’re absolutely right. It’s her body. No one - a pro-lifer like me, needs to just back off and let her make her own decision. I agree with you completely. You’re right… if - if what? - if the unborn are not human.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Scott Klusendorf was our guest last time on Focus on the Family. And he’s back again today talking about the value of every life and how you can defend, with intellectual honesty and vigor, the case for life. And your host is Focus president Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, I really appreciated the discussion last time with Scott Klusendorf, what a great resource,The Case for Life. So often in the Christian community, we turn it into simply an argument, and we don’t do the homework to really understand how to present the argument in such a way that it’s compelling for a person who disagrees with us. And that’s why I’m excited to bring Scott to the audience so you can hear these examples on how to go through the dialogue, how to embrace somebody who thinks differently. One of the most important things I heard yesterday, John, was how we need to control our emotions in that moment and understandably.
This issue of abortion, it’s the taking of life, and so there is a lot of emotion. But the goal is to attract people to the Gospel of Christ so that what they root that decision and pro-life to - so that when they make that decision to be pro-life, it’s rooted in a spiritual truth, that were made in the image of God, male and female. And it’s not our right to take life. That’s between God and humanity. And I think that’s critical for us to understand. I’m excited to get back to the discussion today.
John: Yeah. And Scott Klusendorf is the founder and president of Life Training Institute, which was established to challenge and equip pro-life advocates to, really, persuasively defend their views in the public square. And he’s been speaking full-time since 1991, and has written a number of books.The Case for Lifeis, really, the foundation for this conversation.
Jim: Scott, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Scott: Good to be here, Jim.
Jim: Scott, often I have met with people in the abortion industry, along with the same-sex activists, and I find it very intriguing, actually. Um, I don’t find a lot of support amongst my fellow Christians. Not many people put their hand up and say oh, can I go to that meeting with you? But I do. Why is it important for us to have an appetite to engage people, who aren’t thinking the way we’re thinking, that may even be hostile or antagonistic? Why do we fulfill the gospel by saying yes to the Lord, I will go and meet with them?
Scott: Well, there are three reasons. No. 1, as Christians, we ought to fundamentally realize, that person we’re talking to is no more lost in their sins than we were in ours before God found us. So, of course we should talk to them. And my hat’s off to you for doing that, Jim. Secondly, we’re commanded in Scripture to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. We’re to do it with gentleness, but we’re to do it persuasively. Thirdly - and this is key - we shouldn’t assume that people won’t change their minds.
Whenever people say to me “oh, abortion debates don’t change anybody’s mind,” they have no idea what they’re talking about. Yes, they do. Lots of people change their minds. So, gospel-centered Christians will want to engage lost people, because those lost people need the gospel as badly as we needed it, and we’ll engage because the Bible commands us to give a defense for what we believe.
Jim: Um, let me turn to the audience. If you missed the program last time, I am encouraging you to get the download. You can come to the Focus website. But, it is one of these programs where we want to equip you to have these thoughtful discussions with people. Maybe your own relatives at Christmas, when you’re over for dinner at Thanksgiving, these things pop up and you can very naturally guide a person into thinking differently about the life issue, particularly. Let’s go right there.
Let me ask you one of those Thanksgiving table discussions, maybe, with your relatives. Somebody who opposes a pro-life position might say, you know, Aunt Betty, that’s your opinion that you’re pro-life, but what about a woman’s right to choose, Aunt Betty? Do you remember Suzy? Suzy was in that tough spot. And think of Suzy’s life, if she wasn’t able to choose an abortion at that time. You know the strain that she was under. Come on, Aunt Betty. I mean, you got to agree with me. Suzy needed that right to choose.
Scott: Well, if I’m Aunt Betty - and I don’t look very much like Aunt Betty, but if I were - I would very carefully work on giving a one minute defense of the pro-life view...
Jim: What would that sound like?
Scott: ...And let’s say I’m - I’m Aunt Betty and I’m talking to my nephew, we’ll call James, who’s just come back from college, raised in a Christian home, but he goes away to college, and now, he’s thinking like a secularist. And James challenges Aunt Betty, so let’s pretend I’m Aunt Betty. I would say this to James. James, I am pro-life, because the science of embryology clearly teaches that from the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living and whole human being.
You weren’t part of another human being, like skin cells on the back of my hand. You are - you were already a member of the human family. And you know what else, James? There’s no essential difference between that embryo you once were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you back then. Differences of size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying you could be killed then, but not now. Did I get that done in a minute?
Scott: Now let me ask - let me ask you two a question. Now, I know this is risky. You’re supposed to be doing the interview, but did I cite any Bible verses?
Scott: Did I bring theology into it?
John: No, I don’t think there was any mention of God, no.
Scott: Not directly...
Scott: ...Assumed, of course. But notice this, did I actually make an argument?
Scott: I did. Did I give evidence? Yes. Now,here’s the great thing, James now has to answer my argument. It won’t do to say well, that’s just your religious view, Aunt Betty. Wait a minute, arguments are true or false, valid or invalid. Calling an argument religious is a dismissal. It’s a category error, like saying how tall is the number 5.
Scott: You’ve got to answer the argument now. And this brings us right to the question we left with yesterday-- What is the unborn? And this is where you want to be as a pro-life apologist. You are in the driver’s seat, when the issue is what is the unborn?
Jim: Scott, you mentioned this just now, the SLED acronym - size being the first - the S. Describe that again for those who didn’t hear us last time. Describe those four elements.
Scott: Well, what we argue is that science establishes the humanity of the unborn, but science can’t tell us how to treat anybody at any stage of development. We need to do philosophy to answer that question. And we use the SLED acronym to show there’s no essential difference between Jim the adult and Jim the embryo that would justify killing him at that earlier stage of development. Size, level of development, environment, degree of dependency - think SLED - those four differences between you, the embryo, and you, the adult, are not essential.
Jim: And we covered that thoroughly last time, so again, get the download or contact us here at Focus on the Family. I don’t want to repeat that information, but I want people to know SLED as we talk about it. Um, can I hit you with some questions to equip the listeners so that when they’re in these discussions they can use what they’re hearing today?
One argument might go something like this. You’re going to cause harm to women and violence toward abortion clinics by putting your narrow views and your religious perspective in the public square. It’s harmful. It’s bigoted. It’s - put the word in there. That’s what we’re, in the Christian faith, hearing all the time now. When a person hits you with that kind of thing, your narrow-mindedness is going to cause harm to more open-minded people...
Scott: Or they come at us and say hey, there was a shooting in an abortion clinic last week, you’re to blame. You’re elitist and your exclusive rhetoric is to blame for this because you call abortion killing.
Jim: Which, I’m glad you mentioned that. And I want your answer, but also, no pro-life person is going to condone that kind of action by a person who, normally, is found to be be mentally unstable, in that moment. I mean, just about every one that I’ve heard of. So for those in the opposition, those that support abortion - um - I think that’s a weak argument. These are people that are unstable and they are using that debate to act out in violent ways. And I don’t know any legitimate pro-life group-
Jim: -or person who supports taking a life in defense of life.
Scott: You’re exactly right, Jim. In fact, when critics bring this up, your rhetoric is what causes this violence, my first thing I point out to them is, well, if calling abortion killing makes us responsible for abortionists being shot, what about abortionists who call abortion killing? For example, Dr. Warren Hern who wrote the book,Abortion Practice, the medical teaching textbook that teaches abortion, he’s up at the Boulder Abortion Clinic, biggest abortion clinic in the world.
He says that we can no longer hide. Abortion is an act of destruction, and listen to these words of his: The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current. Now, that’s not a pro-lifer, Jim. That’s an abortion doctor saying this. Let’s go back to Camille Paglia who says listen, let’s call abortion what it is. It’s murder. The strong taking advantage of the weak. That’s not a pro-lifer. That’s someone on the other side, so if calling abortion unjust killing makes you responsible for someone being harmed in an abortion clinic, you’ve got to fault both sides then, because both sides are calling it this.
Jim: Let’s take another one. A woman should get to choose what’s right for her and her own body. This is between her and her doctor, her and her partner, her and her faith. That’s a normal argument that they put forward a lot. Why is that not adequate?
Scott: When someone says this to you, here’s what I want you to say. You know what, I agree with you. You’re absolutely right. Abortion is a personal issue that we shouldn’t involve ourselves with. You’re absolutely right. We should trust women to make their own decisions. You’re absolutely right. It’s her body. No one - a pro-lifer like me, needs to just back off and let her make her own decision. I agree with you completely.
You’re right... if - if what? - if the unborn are not human. And if you can demonstrate, using the science of embryology, that the unborn are not one of us, I agree with you because I’m vigorously pro-choice on women choosing their own health care providers, choosing their own husbands, choosing their own worldview, choosing the cars they want to drive, the jobs they want to work at, the pets they want to own. I’m pro-choice on all of those issues, but some choices are wrong, like intentionally killing an innocent human being, because he’s in the way of something we want. That’s a choice that a society dedicated to tolerance and inclusiveness should not allow.
Now, notice by saying that, I agree with them that I - I too, support choice. This is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. Planned Parenthood opposes dumping toxins in our nation’s river, just like I do. They oppose spousal abuse, just like we do. The issue here on abortion is not who’s pro-choice and who’s anti-choice? The issue is, what is the unborn? If the unborn are human, we shouldn’t have the choice to intentionally kill them.
Jim: Scott, another difficult question, perhaps one of the most difficult, even within the pro-life community, is this issue of rape, or the health and well-being of the mother. And, I love the fact that you’re demandingintellectual honesty from the pro-abortion folks. We’ve got to look in a mirror, too. These are tough moments in a person’s life, especially in that case of rape and incest, or the life and well-being of the mom. Describe our debate point in that regard, in that tough context.
Scott: Yeah. Jim, when anybody brings up rape, the first thing a pro-lifer must do is show empathy toward that woman who’s been attacked and assaulted. And too often...
Scott: ...Yes. Too often - here’s the pro-life response. Well, statistics show that most women who get raped don’t get pregnant. That is absolutely the wrong answer at that moment, even if it’s statistically true. The reality is you need to show some sympathy for that woman. So I’ll say something like this, you know, you’re right. You and I both agree. That woman who’s been assaulted has been deeply wounded and we need to support her with everything we have to help her find healing. And then I’ll ask a question to frame the debate.
I’ll say, “tell me, given you and I both agree that that woman’s been harmed, how do you think a civil society should treat innocent human beings who remind us of a painful event?” And I’ll just pause for a moment. “Is it OK to kill them so we can feel better?” Suppose I have a 2-year-old. His father is a rapist. Is it OK to execute the 2-year-old because of what his father did? And, of course, inevitably, they’re going to say no. Well, why not? “Well, because he’s a human being.” Ah. Now we’re back to the issue we’ve been talking about for two days. If the unborn are human like that toddler, should they be killed because they remind us of something painful? We keep bringing it back to the question what is it.
Jim: But Scott, we’ve got to acknowledge the emotional trauma that you are asking - and I completely support you - but you’re asking a woman who has gone through a violent event, um - to carry a child to term-
Jim: -be reminded every moment of what took place and either put that child up for adoption, or to keep that child. Do you have stories where that has turned out really well?
Scott: I know women who have given birth to children that were conceived in rape. And yes, it does turn out well. And it turns out well for a number of reasons. Here’s one reason it turns out well-- the woman who has been assaulted now gets to be involved in a redemptive act -- giving birth to a child that the society would discard and say doesn’t have a right to be here. She demonstrates something of courage, something of moral fortitude that our culture runs away from. And one of the things, I think, we need to do as pro-lifers is create a sense of, we love heroes who step up and do the right thing, even when it’s difficult.
One example I’ve used with this is when my sons were in the military. When my one son was in Afghanistan, I would say to the audience - I say, suppose my son gets captured by the Taliban, and they say to him we’re going to start torturing you and your fellow American soldiers to get intelligence out of you. But we won’t torture you, Tyler, if you will help us interrogate and torture your fellow Americans. Can he take that deal?
Jim: Of course not.
Scott: He will choose to suffer evil rather than inflict evil. And this is exactly the moral principle in play here. Look, if somebody dumps garbage on my lawn, I can’t just sweep it onto your lawn so I can feel better about it. We can’t go there. However, while we make that moral principle, we’ve got to show - as you have accurately said - the sympathy we feel for that woman who’s been wounded. So we show the sympathy, but we provide the guiding moral principle as well.
Jim: Yeah,I want to take a minute with some young people that are visiting us here at Focus. I’ve invited them to come into the studio here and ask a question. And this is what you do normally, right?
Jim: You are doing events at Christian schools- Catholic and Protestant. You also speak here regularly at a groupin Colorado Springs called Summit. And I’m hoping my boys will go to that.They train high school students in a Christian worldview, right?
Scott: There is no finer program than Summit for equipping young minds to make a persuasive defense for what they believe, so that when they go to college, they don’t get eaten up by the secular culture. They actually thrive amongst those who don’t share their views, because they know how to defend what they believe. Your - your boys should absolutely go.
Jim: Andif you have an interest in that you can contact us here at Focus on the Family, and we’ll give you their contact details. And in fact, Scott, that’s what we want to do right now. We’re going to invite some young people in, and we want them to ask you the questions that they want to ask you that, you know, is part of their culture right now. So why don’t we do that, all right?
John: And while they’re coming in, let me just tell you our phone number it’s 800-232-6459, 800-A-family. Or online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: All right, let’s do it. Scott, you ready?
Scott: I’m ready.
Jim: All right, give your name and your age.
Nathan: I am Nathan,I am 17. And my question has to do with - we already have physician-assisted suicide in the state of Colorado. So what do we do with a culture that decides while it’s human, it’s less valuable than I am? So, like, society no longer cares about that argument.
Scott: Yeah, what about that, Nathan, where the society says we don’t care if it’s human? Here’s the good news, and then I’ll give you the bad news. The good news is the majority of your fellow citizens do not share that view. That is primarily restricted to academia. However, we are going to have to step up as Christians and make the case that humans are different than other living things, and they have value in and of themselves. That’s the primary foundational question we’ve got to address. When someone tells me, I don’t think humans are any more valuable than a rat or a cat, I will play with them a little bit and say, “I don’t think you really believe that.”
And let me ask you a few questions to show that I don’t think you really believe that. “Are you telling me there is no difference between a hit and run with a squirrel and a hit and run with a newborn, even one that’s disabled?” Or is there, as Chris Kazcor says, is there no difference between eating a hamburger and eating a Harold burger? I mean, come on we know there’s a difference. And if they still don’t like it, point out Michael Vick, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who was caught in dog fighting activities. You may remember this from a number of years ago.
He was caught using dogs to tear each other up. And he was betting on it. And what happened was he went to jail for it. Now, why are we angry at Michael Vick? Well, we don’t prosecute the dogs for tearing each other up. We’re mad at Michael Vick. Why? Because we expect better of him as a man. At our deepest intuitional levels, we know there’s something distinct about being human that does not apply to other living things.
Jim: That’s good. Let’s get the next question.
Morgan: Hi, I’m Morgan, and I’m 17. There’s a question that I’ve heard and that’s, is abortion justified in a case where the life of the mother is in danger? So, if both the mother and the fetus will die without an abortion, is it justified to at least save one of them?
Scott: Yeah, good question. Let’s go back to our definition of the pro-life argument. It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Abortion does that. Therefore, it’s wrong. When a doctor, for example, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants on the inner wall of the fallopian tube, instead of the uterine wall, when that doctor ends that pregnancy, he is not actually doing an abortion, and here’s why. He is not intentionally killing an innocent human being. He is acting to save the one life he can.
And though he can foresee the death of the embryo, he does not intend it. With elective abortion, the abortionist both foresees the death of the unborn, and he intends it. So the doctor that saves the mother’s life is doing a moral good. And think about it. What’s the choice before the doctor? Does he do nothing and lose two humans? Or does he act in such a way that he saves one life, even though the unintended, but foreseen result is the death of the embryo? And the right thing to do is to save the one life you can. Great question. Thank you, Morgan.
Jim: Let’s have another one.
Reese: Hi, I’m Reese, and I’m 20 years old. And I’m wondering, isn’t abortion the most compassionate response if a child is going to be born into an abusive home, or with a disability that would keep them from having a good quality of life?
Scott: Yeah, thank you for that question. Well, imagine I had a two-year-old. And you knew that by the time he was aged 5, he would be roughed up in the home. Would it be OK to kill that 2-year-old to spare the 5-year-old abuse? And I think we would all agree, no, of course not. Well, why not? Well, because he’s a human being. Ah, then if the unborn are human, like that toddler, and we’ve made a case on these programs the last two days that they are human, like us, they shouldn’t be killed, because they will suffer hardship any more than we’d kill a 2-year-old for that reason.
And by the way, the failure of the abuse situation does not reside with the child. It resides with the parent, who ought to know better and ought to care. We don’t kill innocent human beings in this country, or anywhere, I hope, simply because others want to rough them up. That’s not a good argument for that. And a lot of people among your generation bring this up. And I’m not surprised you hear it often because it is something that comes up often. But we don’t intentionally kill innocent human beings simply because they might suffer abuse later.
John: What about the second part of her question, Scott, a child with a disability?
John: There’s a quality of life argument there.
Scott: Yeah, same thing. Hardship does not justify homicide. The fact that the child may suffer, experience hardship, the fact the parents may, does not justify killing him. And once again, suppose we have a 2-year-old with Down Syndrome. He’s having a tough life. His parents are challenged by him. Would it be OK to kill him to relieve them of that hardship? Well, of course, everybody’s going to say no. So once again, we’re back to the fundamental question. If the unborn are human, like that toddler, should they be killed, because they face disabilities any more than we’d kill a 2-year-old for that reason?
Now, admittedly, we are approaching, in academia, some people who would say, yeah, go ahead and kill that 2-year-old. The good news here is, that’s not the majority of the people you’re going to be meeting on the street. And for those who do say that in academia, by the way, those arguments they’re advancing for killing the fetus, the 2-year-old, also work for killing adults who are disabled. That means none of us are safe.
Jim: Hmm, Scott. I can remember a story where a friend of mine, who is a physician, they were having a baby. And he was in the delivery room. And the baby was born with spina bifida.
Jim: And his colleague, the delivering physician, turned to him and said, do you want us to lay that child aside?
Jim: He was aghast...
Jim: ...That a professional, a doctor like he, would even ask the question.
Jim: It really troubled him. And that little girl grew up. She has a little bit of difficulty walking.She doesn’t wear braces. But that’s really the only impact of her spina bifida.
Scott: Mmm hmm.
Jim: They did the repair and what was needed. And that’s not going to always be the outcome.
Jim: But in her case, the impact was rather minimal.
Jim: She just graduated from college. And she’s going to have a, you know, practically full life.
Scott: That’s right.
Jim: You never know the outcome.
Scott: We don’t. But, of course, as pro-lifers, we would argue, even if she didn’t have a full life, even if she never did...
Scott: ...Go on to college, she’s a valuable human being, simply because she bears the image of her Maker. The image of God in us is not predicated upon our functional capacities.
Jim: Our performance.
Scott: Or performance. It’s predicated upon us being human beings, period.
Jim: Right. All right. Let’s get the next question.
Kasey: Yeah, I’m Kasey. And I’m a recent college grad. And a question I’ve heard, actually, from some of my more pro-life friends, they will bring up, just pragmatism. So they’ll say they’re pro-life. But they’ll also say, you know, the pro-life crowd doesn’t focus enough on meaningful things that would really actually help reduce abortion. It’s a bit of a tangent. But they say, like, birth control or abortion in, you know, certain, really practical scenarios. So I would just love to get your take on that.
Scott: It’s always interesting to me that people come to the pro-life movement and say, if you really cared about stopping abortion, you would be doing more to help the poor. You’d be doing more to prevent conception in the first place. And they lay out a list of things they expect us to take on. They want us to take our already thin resources and spread them even thinner, fighting every injustice imaginable.
And as Frederick the Great once said, he who fights everywhere, fights nowhere. Imagine saying to the American Cancer Society, you have no right to oppose cancer, unless you also work to stop diabetes, AIDS and kids falling off trikes. I mean, this is crazy stuff. But, it’s what we hear said to us all the time. You might as well blame Winston Churchill and FDR for focusing exclusively on defeating the Nazis, rather than taking on every injustice on the planet. So I am not real sympathetic to people who come at us and say, well, you’re not really pro-life, because you’re not doing all these other things. Operationally, the objectives of the pro-life movement must be narrow. We are out to stop the killing of innocent, unborn human beings.
But as a Christian, I’m going to care for a lot of issues. My Christian duties will be broader than the operational objectives of the pro-life movement. And I do get concerned when some pro-lifers, by the premise of our critics, that says you’re not really pro-life unless you’re taking on all these other things. As a Christian, I’m going to care about a lot of issues. But as a pro-lifer, my operational benchmarks will be defined more narrowly. Namely, I’m out for legal protection for unborn humans.
Jim: All right, I think we have come to the end, Scott. This has been wonderful. I so appreciate the rigor in which you have approached the pro-life argument. And maybe someday, I’m gonna have to call you on the phone and say, come with me on this meeting because we’re going to talk to this pro-abortion person. Are you willing to take that phone call?
Scott: I’d be glad to do it.
Jim: OK, and - but in the meantime, if you can’t call Scott on the phone, you can certainly get his book,The Case For Life. And, we want to make that available for a contribution of any amount to help Focus on the Family in this pro-life effort to help a woman choose life. And again, we said at last time, for a gift of $60, through our Option Ultrasound effort, you can save the life of a baby. And today, when you give a gift of any amount, we’ll certainly send along a copy of Scott’s bookThe Case for Life.
John: And you can find details about the book and donations to our Option Ultrasound Program, and other resources to help you be better equipped to speak knowledgeably and intelligently with your friends and coworkers and, perhaps, people you just meet as you’re going about life at FocusOnTheFamily.com/radio, or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.
Join us next time as we get to know Jase Robertson and his wife Missy. They’re from Duck Dynasty, as they share about their daughter’s difficult medical journey.
Jase Robertson: I mean, here’s me, I consider myself one of the toughest people on the planet, whether that was in my mind or not. Seeing my daughter go through that, I was like putty.
End of Teaser