The post below assumes you’ve seen the film.
Thank you, Ray Comfort. I'm thankful you care enough about abortion to do something about it. I'm grateful for the resources you personally invested to make the film. I'm glad you take abortion seriously.
For our readers, here is my quick take on the film from the perspective of a pro-life apologist. Your comments are welcome.
The Good: The big ideas are there
1) The film casts the abortion issue as a human rights issue. That is the correct way to frame the debate. In an era where some pro-lifers are duped into reframing the discussion in terms of “reducing” abortion rather than legally protecting the unborn, this was indeed refreshing.
2) The film correctly states that moral conclusions (i.e., abortion is wrong) should impact how we vote. Pretending that pro-life convictions can be divorced from the political process won’t do and Comfort, unlike many evangelical leaders, is courageous enough to connect the dots. Once again, this was refreshing to see.
3) The film correctly states that discussions about abortion often lead to larger (theological) questions about human sinfulness and the gospel as the remedy. It challenges the false dichotomy between preaching the gospel and cultural reform—used by some to downplay pro-life political and cultural reform efforts. The films shows that concerned Christians both confront injustice and preach the gospel.
4) The film challenges the fear of engaging unbelievers. Ray Comfort’s tactic of asking questions to provoke conversation is an excellent way to engage. Despite asking some very pointed questions (including some I would not have asked), his listeners don’t seem to take offense. His best question (paraphrase) was to a young woman who said she didn’t know if the unborn were human, but still thought abortion was an option. Comfort asks, “Would you blow up an old building before making sure no one was inside?” Credit Comfort for asking rather than merely preaching.
My concern: The film overlooked some important distinctions:
1) The distinction between people in the film (Venice Beach?) and the public at large—The sample used in the film is not only small; it's not where most people are in terms of historical knowledge. Most people don't know who Hitler was? True, people in Venice Beach may not, but the nation as a whole? While Comfort’s tactics worked with the morally untutored folks in the film, I’m not persuaded they will provoke a 180 with more clever critics of the pro-life view found at the local university. In short, this film, while useful, is not a silver bullet that will instantly convert folks to our position.
2) The distinction between shouting a conclusion and establishing one--A sharp abortion-choicer could easily say, “Ya, I value human life. What Hitler did to Jews was wrong, but the unborn are not valuable human beings, so the comparison fails.” To succeed, pro-lifers must first establish that the unborn are indeed human (which the film does through images rather than scientific evidence), but then show that none of the differences between the embryos we once were and the adults we are today justify killing us at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, are not value giving in the way that abortion-advocates need them to be in order to make their case. In short, jumping from killing Jews for bad reasons to killing the unborn for those same reasons leaves out important premises in the pro-life argument.
3) The distinction between killing a “baby” and unjustly killing human beings—Perhaps I am nitpicking here, but I think Comfort asks the wrong question when he points to a 6-week fetus and says, “Doesn’t that look like a baby?” What if the critic says “no?” End of discussion. Indeed, the pro-life view is not that abortion is wrong because it kills a “baby;” it’s wrong because it unjustly kills a human being regardless of his/her stage of development. That is, “baby” (infant) is just one stage of human existence on the continuum from conception to death. Therefore, killing the unborn human through elective abortion is wrong even if he’s not a “baby.” To be clear, there is nothing wrong with using pictures to convey the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion. I use those pictures in my own presentations. But I use them to reawaken moral intuitions that elective abortion is the unjust killing of a human being, not make the case the embryo or early fetus qualifies as a “baby.”
4) The distinction between voting for pro-life candidates and voting pro-life--Put simply, what does it really mean to vote pro-life? Is it as simple as never voting for a pro-abortion candidate? I submit it is not. For example, at the legislative level in particular (House and Senate races), a "pro-life" vote usually means voting for the party that, though imperfect, will best protect unborn humans against one that sanctions killing them. The reason is simple: At the legislative level, political parties more than individuals determine which laws see the light of day.
Consider the House of Representatives. If a party committed to elective abortion controls the chamber, it will squash pro-life bills and promote pro-abortion ones. Even if that pro-abortion party has a few “pro-life” members, those members will likely never get to vote on a pro-life bill unless their party is not in power!
But it gets worse. These same “pro-life” members of that pro-abortion party almost always put party politics above moral principle when it comes to the most important vote they will cast—selection of the Speaker. Remember, the Speaker of the House ultimately determines the legislative agenda and if the party committed to elective abortion controls the chamber, its candidate for Speaker will inevitably be pro-abortion. Nevertheless, these “pro-life” members vote for their party’s candidate for Speaker, which all but guarantees that pro-life bills never see the light of day! In most cases, then, they aren’t reforming their party’s pro-abortion stance; they’re enabling it! So it's not always as simple as voting for the candidate (at the legislative level) who claims to be "pro-life."
5) The distinction between intentional killing and killing that is merely foreseen--Is it always wrong to kill an innocent human being? What about ectopic pregnancy? The medical protocols on this are clear: If the doctor does not remove the embryo (which results in the embryo's death), both mother and embryo will likely die. Given the circumstances, shouldn't the physician act in such a way that he does the greatest moral good possible--in this case, save one life rather than lose two? True, the embryo dies when the physician acts to save the mother, but the physician does not intend the embryo's death. He merely foresees it. In the case of elective abortion, the death of the embryo is both intended and foreseen. A better question for the film would be, "Is intentionally killing an innocent human being ever justified to suit our own preferences?"
Despite these concerns, the film is worth seeing and Comfort gets huge accolades for his courage in confronting abortion head-on. Say what you want, at least he’s doing something about it and for that I am immensely grateful. Before ripping him, his evangelical critics need to ask themselves what they are doing to stop the bloodshed. Are they taking this holocaust as seriously as Comfort does? I can only pray that one day they will.