We had the privilege of Michael Schwartz joining us for the Germantown 40 Days for Life Fall 2012 closing rally. Below is a transcript of the speech he prepared for the event.
In my 40 plus years of pro life activism, I think 40 Days for Life is one of the most powerful movements that I have witnessed. This movement puts the emphasis on where it belongs – on prayer. We are in the midst of a war between Satan and Jesus and this war will be won only by prayer.
Now you may have heard that there is a war being waged against women that is exactly true: it is being waged by abortionist and their enablers; in government and in the media. This would be perfectly clear if we could keep in mind two facts that are simply not well enough known. First, in the entire history of English and American law, no mother has ever been prosecuted for undergoing an abortion. The mother is always the victim of this crime. The abortionist has always the perpetrator. Second, for a long stretch of time in the 20 century, from the 1920’s to the 1960’s, the abortion industry was a project of organized crime, an adjunct of its prostitution industry. Abortion, in other words, was an instrument for keeping women enslaved. Sold as a right, when it is actually a risk – the right to be injured, abused and violated.
In the seventies, we believed – probably correctly – that the public was generally pro-life and would support life-protective laws if they could be enacted. Our opposition consisted mainly of powerful elites. But over the past generation, the American public has made its peace with commercial abortion. The terms of that peace are that commercial abortion will be tolerated as long as it does not intrude too much on those who don’t want to be involved in it.
Today, perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the voting-age public holds a principled pro-life position, believing that human life requires legal protection and that commercial abortion should be prohibited by law. A minority of no greater size (probably not even half as great) holds a principled position in favor of murder, believing that the right to kill the unborn is a fundamental aspect of human dignity that must be protected (and usually subsidized) by government. The great majority of the public – including the people we work with and go to church with and members of our extended families – are conflicted. They know that abortion is the killing of a baby and they don’t like that, but for a number of reasons, they do not want to pass laws against it. They do not have a carefully thought out list of abortions they approve of and those they disapprove: in fact, the issue causes them so much psychic pain that they do not want to hear anything more about it. Moreover, they hold generally negative views of the partisans on either side. Abortionists are generally regarded as disreputable as pimps, while their political supporters are frightening extremists – but they view pro-lifers as equally unpleasant: judgmental fanatics who want to harass women. Their position can be summed up as: we will reluctantly tolerate abortion as long as we don’t have to approve it, and as long as the status quo is not upset.
Now Satan, the leader of the forces of death, is well known as the father of lies. It is with two great lies that he has distorted popular understanding of this conflict. As for choice, it is my experience that women exercise their freedom of choice when they buy shoes. It is something they look forward to, enjoy doing and look back on with fondness. That never happens with abortion. No woman has ever said to herself, I think that I will get pregnant so that I can get an abortion. Abortion is what happens to a woman when she runs out of choices. She does not seek for her baby to die. She is alone, frightened and does not see any solution for her dilemma. If you talk with a woman who has had an abortion, they frequently say, “You don’t understand. I didn’t have any other choice. There was nothing else I could do.” It is ironic that what is presented as a choice is seen by those who seek it as a lack of choice. Our task has to be that no mother ever runs out of choices.
This is the situation that we need to change because if there is a consensus in favor of life, it does not matter what the media or politicians say. But if there is not, we will never see an end to the killing. On a public level we have to build a consensus in favor of life. If there is such a consensus, the media and the politicians lose their power. How do we build a consensus? This can only happen by changing hearts and minds.
The first step is prayer which is why 40 Days for Life is so important. Our prayers obviously need to be directed toward God but they also need to be directed for those that are confused. They believe that we are hostile to women who undergo abortions. Last year at the March for Life, I saw a group of counter protesters that said, “Good Women have Abortions.” That is true. Good people do all sorts of bad things. That is what Chapter 9 of St. John’s Gospel is all about. We have to put aside the scarlet letters and condemnation and show that we really do care about those in trouble. A mother who undergoes an abortion does not want a dead baby but she is facing some other crisis that makes it seem impossible to give the gift of life to her baby. She is frightened, alone and under pressure that we can hardly imagine. She has to know that we are there to help her and not to hurt her. Therefore, I propose that in every believing church, when we worship, that we offer prayers not for some vague end to abortion but rather for immediate help for the women in danger of abortionists.
This victory will be Christ’s or it will not happen, because there can be no doubt that we are contending against something more formidable than flesh and blood. From the beginning, our movement has been characterized by prayer, and that has been one of its strengths. Moreover, the 40 Days for Life effort is one of the very good things that has emerged lately – and it is bearing wonderful fruit! Two new directions that we should concentrate on are engaging entire congregations in prayer on a regular basis; and emphasizing the conversion of our opponents and the protection of women as intentions in our prayers.
In believing churches, it is recognized that abortion is gravely sinful. Without denying that, many active members of such churches – even many of the clergy – are in the conflicted middle and feel intensely uncomfortable about dealing with this issue except in the most sanitized terms. They may very well feel offended and react negatively if prayers for the cause of life (which might appear political) are offered as part of a regular worship service – unless they are prayers that are clearly appropriate as expressions of Christian sentiment.
Two subjects of prayer appear to be useful for integrating into our worship. First, we should pray that all mothers in danger will find the help they need to stay out of the hands of the abortionists. Focusing on the mother instead of the baby breaks a stereotype and helps our neighbors see the compassion that we certainly feel for those mothers but that is not always recognized by others.
We should pray that the local abortionist – and he should be mentioned specifically by name – will receive the grace of conversion. A prayer of this kind, offered in a public worship service, has a number of benefits. First, it will be very powerful before the Throne of God, Who desires the conversion and not the death of sinners. Second, it will make us better people and better witnesses for life because we cannot hate someone for whom we are sincerely praying. Third, it will help our conflicted brethren understand that pro-lifers are not judgmental bigots, but sincere Christians. Fourth, the abortionist is sure to hear that his name is being mentioned in church. He will find this very unsettling, and this could potentially be the event that starts him on the road to conversion.
An additional benefit of offering prayers for the cause of life as part of our regular worship services is that joining in such prayers is the most minimal first step our conflicted brethren may take for the pro-life cause – but taking that first step may lead them to take the next step.
Now, what Leroy Carhart does is disgusting and evil. To our human eyes, he is a monster but God sees it another way. To God, Leroy Carhart is a beloved child who has taken a wrong path. God wants him to turn his life around and if we pray for that intention that can have a powerful effect. After all, this is what our Lord told us to do. If Carhart converts, he will not be first. So, at the same time we pray for protection for mothers we should pray, by name, for the conversion of abortionists. Those prayers will be powerful before the throne of God but they will also have a great effect on our uncommitted friends and neighbors because they will see that we are not just a pressure group but we are sincerely following the Lord’s directions.
Second, the service and support network for mothers threatened by abortionists must be far stronger than it is. This is the best and most important part of our movement, but we should realize that pregnancy services are not a stopgap measure until some political victory is achieved. We will always need such services, and perhaps the reason why God allowed the evil of abortion to fall upon us was to awaken us to the need to stop trying to affix scarlet letters to women with untimely pregnancies and begin helping our sisters when they need us most. The need for improved pregnancy support services is especially critical in the black community and on college campuses.
No mother has an abortion by choice. Abortion is what happens to a mother when she runs out of choices. Nowhere is the cunning of our Adversary more evident than in his appropriation of the word “choice” – one of the most positive in the language – as a synonym for commercial murder.
The thousands of women and hundreds of men who staff the network of pregnancy centers across America are the real pro-choice movement in this country, and what they do is heroic. It must be amplified and strengthened in every possible way. We have just a few suggestions.
Every believing church should adopt a pregnancy center as an official “mission” of the church. This does not mean giving church funds to its support (which would make some pastors drag their feet), but rather praying regularly for the staff and clients of the center; urging members of the congregation to contribute their time, talent and treasure to the center; carrying news about the center on a regular basis in the church bulletin or similar communications medium; hosting annual or semi-annual informational presentations by the center so everyone in the congregation can become familiar with its work. If seven or eight churches of different denominations adopt a center, the center will have a more secure financial and volunteer base, and when young women from those congregations need the center’s services, they will know where to go and will be confident that they will be given the support they need. Obviously, lining up church support of this kind will help in the establishment of new centers.
There is a critical need for more help within the African American community. Four out of every ten African American babies are murdered by abortionists and African Americans, who represent only about one-tenth of the US population, account for nearly half of all abortions. Ironically, African Americans are significantly more likely than any other racial group to attend church – but many of their churches are not sufficiently involved in the pregnancy center effort. Pastors in believing churches need to approach their colleagues and give them the guidance and support they need to establish centers in their communities.
College students who become pregnant face overwhelming pressure to submit to abortion. As a group, they come as close as anyone to having no choice. There must be counseling centers on every campus – starting with the church-related colleges that are supposed to be pro-life -- whose mission shall be to help pregnant students complete their education without being forced to undergo abortion. They should handle the necessary negotiations with faculty and administration, with parents and boyfriends, and with arranging whatever financial and domestic adjustments that may be needed. Today, when a college student becomes pregnant, all she will hear from those around her is, “You have to get an abortion. You can’t have a baby.” Our task is to make sure that is never the case.
The third prong of our strategy is legislative, but the primary objective of our legislative efforts should be to move public opinion in a pro-life direction by raising issues that can be plainly seen as setting the well-being of women against the profits of abortionists. That way, even if these initiatives are not passed into law, they move people out of the conflicted camp and into the pro-life camp. And when they are passed, they will financially weaken the abortion industry and cause more abortion vendors to close.
Our legislative efforts should be mainly focused on the states rather than Washington. This is because more can be accomplished at the state level, but also, as we shall see, because public opinion will change in the states before it changes nationally – mainly because of the relatively strong pro-abortion presence in several large states. Legislation is best directed toward health and safety regulations and informed consent. This is important because even if the legislation does not pass, the debate helps to educate the public about the risks of the procedure itself.
How can this be accomplished? Not by good works alone but also through prayer and peaceful witness, as you have done so well during these past 40 Days for Life. We must move the conflicted middle from the status quo to the pro-life side, thereby building a solid consensus for life in public opinion This will be done by helping them draw the conclusion that abortion is bad for women (since they already know it is bad for babies, which is why they feel conflict).
These goals need to be pursued concurrently because each contributes to the others. As more people come to understand that abortion hurts women, there will be fewer abortions; and as more abortion facilities close their doors and fewer women are abandoned to the abortionists, more people will come to understand that abortion hurts women.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to help protect the life of every mother and her unborn child.