“But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days” (1 Kings 15:14).
Not many people know this, but Asa was a pro-life Republican.
I would like to thank John Reasnor for taking the time to engage with my comments and posts on incrementalism, and in this place return a little of the compliment. Because I believe the underlying issue here is cultural perfectionism, what I want to do is show that the hard line stance, the view that incrementalism is by definition necessarily compromised, does not meet its own standard.
Now please note—I do want human abortion in all its forms banished, outlawed, and penalized. That is the only appropriate goal. I do not want any carve-outs remaining when the battle is done, not for rape, not for incest, and no open season on zygotes. The battle must not be over so long as there is any state-authorized lawlessness regarding unborn human lives still occurring. Period. Our objective is to take Berlin. I am only maintaining that it is appropriate for us to be fighting at Normandy now. We can’t fight in Berlin yet because we are not there yet. Some people can’t fight in Berlin because they don’t really want to, but that is a separate issue.
So please note that there are many aspects of Reasnor’s piece that I do agree with. I do agree that there is a species of incrementalism that is compromised in principle, and in the practical outworking turns out to be incrementalism working in the wrong direction. His point about legal compromises prior to Roe would be a good example. So do not assume that the continuation of this debate means disagreement all along the waterfront. I want principled abolitionists and principled pro-lifers to be able to come to an agreement. I want unprincipled “abolitionists” and unprincipled “pro-lifers” to be excluded from it.
So in what ways does abolitionism (in this configuration) fail to meet its own standard? Allow me to begin with the issue of geographical incrementalism (and it is incrementalism). Reasnor argues that the issue there is one of jurisdiction. In other words, Idaho does not have the authority to outlaw abortion in Washington, and consequently does not have the moral responsibility to do so. But a legislative body that has the authority to outlaw human abortion at 20 weeks is a body that also has the jurisdictional authority to outlaw it at 18 weeks. So the argument goes. If they have the jurisdiction, why don’t they do it?
Usually it is because of false notions of judicial supremacy. They think the Supreme Court has settled the matter in Roe, and so they are trying to chip away at that settlement, but only in ways that the Supreme Court might possibly uphold. An unquestioned assumption in their “ban after 20-weeks” incrementalism is that the United States must continue on as a civil society.
But the same stakes are operative in geographical incrementalism (and again, it is incrementalism). If Idaho outlawed abortion outright from top to bottom, and still kept their covenanted political ties with Washington, they are still unequally yoked, and they are still showing tolerance for butchery. We don’t get to say, “No, no, I don’t conduct human sacrifices at all. It is my business partner that does that.” This is because Idaho doesn’t have jurisdiction over the laws of Washington, but they do have jurisdiction over their ties to Washington.
So I live in a very conservative state that is right next to a very liberal one. Driving from Idaho to Washington happens all the time. Buying products and services in Washington is routine for folks here. Outlawing abortion in Idaho while trying to pretend that all is well between us and Washington would either be compromise (because the Union must not be threatened for any reason) or incrementalism (because we are mobilizing for Washington next). But in the meantime, any bill that outlawed abortion in one state while not severing all bonds of allegiance to states that would not do the same would be an incremental approach.
Second, our abortion laws are the sacramental center of the sexual revolution. Far more is involved in this than just legislating on behalf of the unfortunate by-products of immorality. What about the civic celebration of the immorality itself? If we agree to postpone demanding anything until we are in a position to demand it all, then we have to demand far more than just the protection of the unborn. God’s law is all of a piece. “Complete” cultural repentance that included the sixth commandment without including the seventh is a contradiction in terms. Abortion is where the sixth and seventh commandment are both violated. Laws enforcing the sixth commandment might comport with libertarianism, but neglecting enforcement of the seventh is not even incrementalism. I regard it as a theonomy fail. I simply want to register this point now and lay out the arguments for it at some later point.
Third, I earlier mentioned “unprincipled” abolitionism. Now the abolitionist position is that a proposed bill must be “complete” in how it protects all unborn life, period. If the bill still allows ungodly taking of human life (say, in weeks 1-19), then how is that not despising the revelation of God to us in Scripture? But the same principle applies if that same law includes draconian punishments that are unbiblical punishments. I am not defining draconian by what the secular sob sisters would think of it. I am defining draconian by the biblical standard. Why does the law have to be perfectly biblical when it comes to its description of the victims, but does not have to be perfectly biblical when it comes to the penalties applied?
Allow me to use a ludicrous example simply to make the point. If a bill were introduced that would protect all unborn children from abortion, but also stipulated that abortionists would be need to be drawn and quartered without a trial, would that be a bill worthy of support? The answer is no, even though it purports to protect all unborn children (as it ought). No. We want to go as far in the biblical direction as we can go, and we want to refrain from introducing any new unbiblical practices as we proceed.
Last, if I did not make it obvious above, I really appreciate Reasnor engaging with us on this topic.