This story is a bit personal, but I hope that it’s useful to other people for considering and discussing what it means to compromise on the issue of abortion.
–Joe Woodard, Asia for Life
I woke up one morning, and I knew I’d had a strange dream. But I couldn’t remember what it was about.
Later that morning, I was studying Chinese. Specifically, I was creating mnemonics to help me remember Chinese characters. When I came to the word “cooperate” (協), I tried to think of an example of cooperating, to help memorise this character.
Suddenly, I remembered my dream, where I had cooperated with something very terrible.
In my dream, I was in a medical clinic. I was talking with a Christian doctor, a man, who owned the clinic. Then I went into another room in the clinic. Another man came in to do abortions (I didn’t know if he was a doctor or not). My job was to help this doctor to do abortions.
After each woman came into the room, I assisted this man as he used various instruments to cut up the fetuses, and to remove the remains. Even while I was in the middle of doing it, I had some doubts about whether I should be doing this. But I felt that I needed to be responsible, and just continue doing my job.
After we did several abortions, we were finished. I looked at the pile of aborted baby parts, and thought about whether I should continue this work.
On the one hand, I was thinking there might be opportunities to help women choose life, by working within the system. These are the sort of thoughts going through my mind:
Perhaps I could persuade the doctors to offer women other choices. And we could even offer resources–clothes, food, help with bills–and that would help them choose life!
But, of course…if a woman wanted an abortion, I would still need to help do the abortion.
Ultimately, it was too overwhelming and terrible to think about anymore. I finally looked away from the bloody pile of fetuses, and decided I couldn’t do this anymore.
This dream did not help me to memorise the Chinese character 協. But it did give me an image of how easy it is to cooperate with evil.
“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
This 1930 photo shows Gandhi leading the famous Salt March, a famous symbol of peaceful non-cooperation with an unjust law.
“How Can Anyone Do That?”
It’s easy to judge people who do abortions: “How can those doctors kill children? What kind of person would do that for money?”
But let’s put this in a larger context. This morning, many people woke up and went to work, and part of their work was doing abortions. For them, it’s not theoretical or abstract. It’s simply their job.
Perhaps they don’t like that part of their work. And it’s probably not what they wanted to do when they were studying medicine. They might feel extremely uncomfortable or morally conflicted about it. But right now, they might not have a lot of other options. And besides, it’s only one part of what they do at work.
But for some abortion workers, the abortion procedure is more than just a job. It’s a mission. Some of them are convinced that doing abortions is actually helping women and making the world better. And maybe they’re honest and sincere about that. And so, I don’t judge the intentions of the doctors and medical staff who do abortions. But I do pray for them, because they’re terribly wrong.
It’s possible that they’ve deceived themselves. But it’s also possible that others have deceived them. In either case, they cannot see the violence in ending the lives of these tiny, innocent human beings.
Would I cooperate with doing abortions?
Most of the time, we can’t stop people from doing abortions. But pro-life people have a moral obligation to not cooperate with abortion, just as we would not cooperate with other serious evils. Practically, this means that Christians who own medical offices should not allow abortion as part of their business. And Christian medical staff should not help to do abortions.
There are very few places in the world where Christians would think twice about doing business with child molesters or child traffickers. Yet tragically, in many countries, there are Christians who are willing to sign a business contract with people who abort children for a living–even when they’re not legally required to do so.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer refused to cooperate with the anti-Jewish policies of Nazi Germany, even while serving as a pastor in a state-registered church. He gave the world a very intricate example of how to do practical good in the very worst of situations.
A Practical Example From China
Here is a more concrete and nuanced real-life situation.
There is a Chinese pro-life leader who runs a private social service centre, where women come to get information about pregnancy. He knows that most of these moms will get abortions. And he knows that he cannot stop them. But he and his staff offer them help and encouragement, and do what they can to persuade them to choose life.
Some of the women choose life, and the pro-life centre helps them in every way they need. But for the moms who choose abortion, the pro-life staff tell them clearly that they are welcome to come back for help after their abortion.
This centre does not cooperate with abortion. They don’t help the women to book abortions. They don’t help women to find abortion doctors.
The most awkward part, though, is when they are asked for directions. They are in a large medical complex–but the abortion clinic is literally down the hall from them! What should they say when someone asks where the abortion office is? Isn’t it easier just to tell them, since they’ll find out from someone else anyway? This would also help them to get along better with the other offices in the medical complex.
One of China’s many women’s clinics that promise “glamorous” and “pain-free” abortions.
But this pro-life centre has made the decision not to give directions or assistance of any kind–even when it’s awkward. I imagine this is especially difficult in their specific situation in China. But if they directly and willingly cooperate with the abortion process, they feel that the innocent blood will be on their hands too.
Would you help someone–either a doctor or a patient–with an abortion? If not, why not? If so, why?
Endnote: The pro-life movement holds that intentional, direct abortion is always wrong.
But in rare cases, treatment for a pregnant woman’s health might result–unintentionally and unavoidably–in the death of the fetus. These procedures are classified separately from abortion, because the purpose of abortion is to kill the fetus.
Doctors can’t always save both the mother and the child. But a doctor never needs to do an abortion to save a woman’s life.