Thursday, May 3, 2007

Enyart's Straw Man [SK]

Nice post on PBA. I especially like your reply (in the comments section) to readers who champion the Enyart piece. Like you, I am not impressed with his take. The biggest problem is he attacks a strawman. Almost no pro-life leader I know ever said the PBA ban, by itself, would reduce abortions. Rather, we supported it because 1) It puts important premises into our legal system that need to be there for future legislation, and 2) It's a great public education tool that brings home the inhumanity of the abortion act. Both those things are needed if we are to progress further.

Regarding #1 above, the three most important from my perspective are these:

A) For the first time ever since Roe, the Court upheld a law which restricted abortion, though I agree the law does little to protect unborn children right now. Still, the upholding of ANY restriction is an important first step legally. Prior to 1998, 30 states passed laws prohibiting PBA. In all but two states, federal judges threw out the restrictions as unconstitutional. Now, with this most recent SCOTUS decision, state lawmakers will once again be emboldened to propose new limits on abortion.

B) The upholding of the ban suggests the right to an abortion is not absolute, nor can it be supported as such by appealing to the Constitution. That sends an important message to state legislators around the country.

C) For the first time, the Court upheld a bill that did not contain a "health" exception. (The bill had a "life" exception--a very different thing.) Thus, the Court chipped away at the ruling in Casey, Carhart, and Roe/Doe. Perhaps even more importantly, the Court rejected the "possible worlds" argument put forth by pro-aborts. That argument simply said that if ANY possible (not plausible) objection could ever conceivably be raised regarding the Constitutionality of an abortion restriction, that restriction should be thrown out. Up till now, that's exactly what the federal courts have done. Not any more. That's a nice step forward for our side. (Hadley Arkes says more about that in his excellent NR piece.)

Regarding #2, our opponents hate PBA legislation precisely because it works against them, not for them. They've said so from the start of the PBA debate. Pro-abortion columnist Anne Roiphe writes: "The anti-abortion forces will again display horrible pictures of the technique, which they call partial-birth abortion. Although few in the abortion rights movement take this approach seriously, it has emotional resonance and erodes public support for all abortion." (“Moment of Perception,” New York Times, September 19, 1996.)

She's not the only one to fear the visual impact of the debate. "When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say 'choice' and we lose," writes feminist Naomi Wolf. (“Pro-Choice and Pro-Life,” The New York Times, April 3, 1997.) Later, in a 1998 article in George Magazine, Wolf states: "The brutal imagery, along with the admission by pro-choice leaders that they had not been candid about how routinely the procedure was performed, instigated pro-choice audiences' reevaluation of where they stood." As a result, "the ground has shifted in the abortion wars." ("The Dead Baby Boom," George Magazine, January 27, 1998.) Cynthia Gorney, author of Articles of Faith, a book about the abortion wars, says that serious damage has been done to the pro-abortion side. "One of the dirty secrets of abortion is it’s really gruesome, but nobody would look at the pictures. With partial-birth, the right-to-life movement succeeded for the first time in forcing the country to really look at one awful abortion procedure." (Cited in Larry Reibstein, “Arguing at a Fever Pitch,” Newsweek, January 26, 1998.)

The quotes from Wolf, Rophie, and Gorney are critically important. The abortion rights people are conceding their weakest point and we should listen. They are terrified of any debate over abortion procedures. That's not the ground they want to fight on. (If anyone doubts abortion-choicers hate anything that visualizes abortion, look no further than Serge's recent debate in KC.)

If Enyart, et al, haven't seen "Amazing Grace" (the story of William Wilberforce), they should. There's a great scene where Wilberforce wines and dines some members of parliament, then takes them on a cruise up the river to see a slave ship. The sight and smell were revolting and sickened everyone. Though his incremental approach had years to go before achieving ultimate success, Wilberforce's visit to the slave ship--a modest first step that didn't save one slave that day or even the next--eventually helped right the British Ship of State.

I think we're doing the same thing here with PBA.


  1. Scott,
    Thank you for your thoughts on this issue although we disagree on this issue.

    I am an elder at Denver Bible Church where Bob Enyart is the pastor. We are looking for a strong debater like you who feels strongly that this is a good ruling to debate Pastor Enyart in a 5 round, moderated, written debate at aka "TOL".

    To give you an idea of the format examples of other excellent debates at TOL can be found at;

    Please let me know if you are up for the challenge.

    For the record, I am a huge fan of your Abortion 101 audio and I appreciate your effort on behalf of the unborn. I just think you have it all wrong on this one and am hoping the truth will be exposed for all regardess of who wins the debate.

  2. The debate topic might better be related to overall pro-life strategy.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. James,
    Thanks for the debate invite, but I'm just finishing up a grueling 5 month speaking schedule and the summer months are reserved for family and rest. My Fall is also nearly booked, leaving early next year as the soonest possible date. Since I prepare judiciously for all debates, I simply do not have the time right now to take on another exchange. (I recently debated Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU, in April.) However, if Bob wants to respond in the comments section to any of my particular posts, he's welcome to do so. I'll reply to his claims there, as time permits.
    Best Regards,

  5. So you would be available in about January or February of 08? That time frame will work for Pastor Enyart. I think you have my e-mail, so call me with any further questions and to confirm your interest in proceeding and the exact dates in 08 that would work best for you.

    Thanks Scott.

  6. Hi James, thanks for your comment.

    One question though - Scott has responded to a number of points that Enyart had made. You make the very strong claim that he is "all wrong on this one". I don't see any factual or logical errors (aka a straw man or false dilemma) in Scott's post, so why don't you take the time to respond to any of the points Scott has addressed. Since you claim he is "all wrong", I suppose you could choose any or all of them. No need to wait until 2008!


  7. Scott, hi, Bob Enyart here. You wrote to James that "early next year [is] the soonest possible date" for a debate with me on abortion strategy (whether or not the child killing regulations our movement advocates are: a. moral; and b. effective). It is with great sadness that we could assume that come January '08, it will still be legal to kill our own children in America. Therefore, if you are willing, we should proceed. I suggest a 5-round, written, moderated debate with each side numbering its questions and answers to improve responsiveness. I’d be happy for you to choose the forum; if you’d like, has agreed to host such a debate; TOL has experience with such in their Battle Royale forum, and a Google search for "theology" typically places TOL on the first or second page of listings out of over 30 million hits. Please let me know at or 800-8Enyart. May God bless you Scott.
    -Pastor Bob Enyart
    Denver Bible Church

  8. The 35th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is January 22, 2008. That is 35 years of killing kids! Why don't we have the debate start that day (the 22nd is a Tuesday) or the week before, so it is in full swing on the anniversary? A debate of the "pro-life" strategy that has not brought about any victory for 35 years and left 50 million innocents dead is worth debating and reconsidering!

  9. James,

    I appreciate your passion for this issue, but I caution that your comments have no spirit of debate. Why would anyone want to debate in a forum where one side is accusing the others of a failed strategy that you seem to hold responsible for all of the deaths by surgical abortion?

    Point 1 - Bob claims in his literature that Dr. Dobson once held a position that he agreed with. Dr. Dobson amended his own tactics, to the displeasure of you and Bob. But why did he amend those tactics? You accuse him of falling away from the “Godly strategy” and into a heretical form of legal positivism. The moral debate over that position aside, I have yet to hear you articulate how that former position was yielding positive results prior to Dr. Dobson's apparent switch in strategy.

    Point 2 –As you have yet to express your tactical plan, I can only assume that you champion the civil disobedience approach of Operation Rescue given your association with that organization. As Rescue has been active the entire time, how do you account for the failed advancement of the cause under those tactics. The incremental approach is only one tactic that is being used. Other tactics have either equally failed or equally share in the successes, of which you claim there are none.

    You have yet to address the points that Scott made in a post that already exists. No need to wait until a formal debate to articulate your position beyond accusing others of miserable failure and laying the entire body count of abortion on those who are fighting in a manner that you disapprove. It is not constructive and it fails to intellectually address any point of stated contention. It will be much easier to assess and understand your claims that Scott is all wrong and that you and Pastor Enyart champion superior tactics when you present your actual positions.

    With sincerest respect,

  10. Bob,
    Just curious why neither you or James have addressed the points I made in the post above.

  11. Scott and Jay,
    If I respond to your specific points here and now, I know it will lead to an ongoing exchange which I do not have time for now with my vacation coming in less than a week. Believe me, it is tempting. However, my main goal is to get a much more high profile national debate scheduled with a really strong debater like you, Scott. (no disrespect to you Jay, I just don't know you)

    As for Bob, I know he is busy preparing the open letter to Dr. Dobson right now who's ministry BTW, is now lying about what this supposed PBA ban accomplishes!
    Source and live audio:

    Anyway Scott, we look forward to hearing back from you soon regarding our proposal for a January debate.

    God Bless you both,

  12. James,

    No offense is taken as I am not a professional debater and have no interest in what you are proposing. My main concern was that you seem hesitant to post substantive responses to specific points but are very eager to throw firebombs of accusation. You are free to hold whatever opinion you wish, but when you openly engage Scott and accuse him of holding to tactics that are responsible for 35 years of failure and 50 million surgical abortions it might help to bring the substance of your argument with that claim. Ad hominem attacks are easy and require no reasoned base of argument which is why they are a recognized fallacy. Scott made points that you and Bob contended were wrong. You now carry the burden of demonstrating why those specific points are wrong. For the record, those points remain unchallenged and in proper debating form we must assume that by not answering the points you are conceding that you have no reasonable objection.

    I am also very busy, and that is why I only engage in these discussions when I am ready to see them through to the end. The subject of a future debate is a private matter between you and Scott. Your assertion that his points are wrong is not. Your public assertion that his tactics have resulted in 35 years of failure is not. Fortunately, your complete failure to answer the substance of Scott’s claims is not private either.

    I hope that you enjoy your vacation and that you enjoy great success in your fight to end legalized abortion in the United States.

    In Christ,

  13. I am glad that you guys at LTI can see through Enyarts smokescreen. He will not go into things here because he likes to control the forum to his own advantage.

    Enyarts ultimate goal is publicity for himself. He will do almost anything to get media coverage. A little look at his history will bear that out. He will make outrageous accusations against people like Dobson knowing that it will get him on the news. Even on that subject, a look into the substance shows he is not representing Dobson's position and actions accurately.

    I will post this anonymously as I don't want to be on the receiving end of his venom.

    The sad thing about Enyart is the control and influence he has over his followers. They wander around in the cloud, unable to think for themselves.

    Don't waste your time with him. He is small potatoes irregardless of all the bluster and grandeur he surrounds himself with.

  14. Scott, Bob hasn't been posting here, he only stopped in to invite you to the debate that you said you couldn't get to until January or so.
    I assure you that Bob takes questions squarely and responds to them directly, and for the 35th anniversary of Roe such a debate between two thoughtful prolifers would be extraordinary.

    You seem to want to have the debate piecemeal. It'd be better to do it in earnest, and produce a resource that the pro-life community can benefit from.


  15. If Bob wants to challenge my posts, he can do it here.

  16. For the record, I am not declining to debate Bob. I am simply declining to debate him on his forum just like he is declining to debate me on mine.


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