Using Grace in Pro-Life Apologetics

I’ve been stewing over some thoughts for a couple of months now, waiting for the right time to finally post them here. Yesterday, an article was released on that gave me the last of the prodding I needed. Please take a few moments to read the article HERE.

Abortion is among the greater and more tragic evils of our time. I could spend thousands of words expressing my horror and sadness about the fact that nearly 4,000 pre-born babies per day (and that’s just in the United States) are intentionally killed for the sake of convenience. I want to be very, very clear on my view: the sanctity of life is a top issue in apologetics and I am incredibly thankful for all the men and women who are fighting for the pre-born in a myriad of ways, on the front lines and behind the scenes.

However, articles such as the one I cited above show a glaring problem with the approach that is sometimes taken by pro-life advocates. The student who has been censured (and I am not commenting one way or another on the fairness of the consequences she is experiencing) was allegedly showing graphic abortion images in campus common areas, essentially forcing passers-by to see the gruesome photos.

Now, I totally get the student’s frustration with the widespread apathy the Christian community often exhibits towards abortion. I also understand that she was trying to employ a shock tactic  to open the eyes of her fellow students to a cause that absolutely should be of utmost importance to them. But as much as I empathize with her heart in this matter, I feel that her execution of pro-life apologetics was deeply flawed.

The Dean of Students stated, “We would agree to them displaying them [the images] in areas that are more enclosed where students can choose to see them.” I totally agree with the Dean on this one. Allow me to explain why.

A few months ago, I was preparing to teach a pro-life session at my church as part of an apologetics class series. On separate occasions during the time leading up to the class, I encountered two sisters in Christ–women I admire, women who positively radiate the love of Jesus and pour their lives into furthering His Kingdom–that are living with the excruciating emotional pain of a past abortion. It was one of the most important wake-up calls I’ve ever had as an apologist. In a matter of moments, I came to understand how deep the emotional scars of abortion go, that even when women understand that they have the forgiveness of Jesus they still mourn their babies and suffer intense grief about their past decision. This had a serious impact on the scope and tone of the lesson I went on to teach–I was able to offer it with a heart genuinely broken for both the babies and the mothers that are ravaged by this sin.

Based on abortion statistics, it is almost certain that there are women attending every Christian university who live with the regret and pain of having made the wrong choice about an unplanned pregnancy. I want you to think for a moment about how Jesus would have us care for these hurting sisters who, like the rest of the redeemed, have been forgiven and made clean. I certainly don’t think the definition of showing them love includes displaying grisly abortion images in places they are almost sure to see them. (We also have to ask ourselves how such a strategy affects our Gospel message to non-believers.)

The author of the article claims that the pro-life student’s “expressive rights” were repressively restricted by the university. Whether or not that is the case, an old adage is appropriate here: Just because you have the freedom to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

I actually do believe there is a time and place for such shocking material, because it is undeniable that images change minds!  But open public display without forewarning is simply not appropriate; I would argue that it can even be destructive.

One of the giants in the pro-life movement, Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute says:

[G]raphic abortion pictures do indeed educate and persuade. I know this two ways. First, I know it from over 20 years of public speaking. Second, I know it from empirical data…True, graphic abortion images must be used properly, meaning we should not spring them on unsuspecting audiences. When I use the one-minute film “This is Abortion,” I tell students exactly what is in the clip and invite them to look away if they so desire. Nearly everyone watches and almost no one complains…With Christian audiences, I introduce my remarks by stating Christ is eager to forgive the sin of abortion and that my purpose is not to condemn, but to clarify and equip.

Please give fair warning to your target audience before unveiling these types of images. Yes, the public needs to understand the awful realities of abortion, and sin must be called sin, but we cannot go on this crusade for life without sufficient measures of grace and sensitivity.

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