For about an hour through the bars of my jail cell on October 30 I talked about abortion with the prison nurse. He left the Catholic church over birth control and became “Presbyterian”. He was not willing to talk about getting right with God, but he was willing to talk about my “ludicrous” ideas on abortion.
He knew the evil and misery of our society well. He spoke of cocaine babies and AIDS babies. He spoke of the women in prison who are pregnant again and again, forgetting how often, and usually on drugs. He spoke of the 23 children per month at St. Joseph’s pulled from abusive or drug homes but not up for adoption because you have to have the parents’ OK for adoption. Abortion, he said, at least relieves some of this misery. To which I responded: “Killing people is not a good way to relieve misery.”
At first he said, “You people always use emotional language, like killing.” But before the hour was over he had conceded almost everything. He was willing to say, yes, the unborn are human persons, abortion is killing a child, it diminishes the value of life, it leads to euthanasia and fetal tissue experimentation, it is wrong, “I wouldn’t get one for my wife,” etc. But he insisted that the right of a woman to abort must be protected at virtually all costs.
What could I say? No arguments could touch him. He had conceded all the facts that I thought would lead to a pro-life position. The unborn are human persons. Aborting them is killing. It is even “wrong”. But what I came to see is that none of this carried any weight against one overriding article of faith in his mind. The right of women to choose abortion functions in his mind as an absolute—it is not debatable. It is an article of faith. He even said, “This is my belief” in a very solemn way.
I was mystified. I asked, “Is there any other area of life in which you admit the human personhood of someone but give other persons the absolute right to treat the first person any way they please, even to the point of killing?” He said, “No. Only here.” “But why?” I marveled. “It’s my belief,” he said. The woman’s “right to choose” (to have her child killed) is the supreme and ultimate value. It cannot be touched by any reasoning or any facts. It is god.
When he walked away I lay there stunned at the power and irrationality of evil. There was no getting through. Child-killing (he allowed the phrase!) is permissible if the child is in the womb. Reason: the absolute, unassailable, supreme right of a woman to do as she wishes with her “pregnancy” (=child).
What this encounter has caused me to think on again and again is the need for divine power in evangelism and social engagement. Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but are powerful in God for the tearing down of strongholds. We tear down arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
But what sort of power might break through and wake up this nurse and win his obedience to Christ? Romans 15:18-19, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In need of power,