Dana Hall McCain, a member of the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee, wrote an article opposing the Southern Baptist Resolution on Abolishing Abortion, which was passed by the convention last week. She makes six main arguments, none of which amount to a formidable refutation of abolitionism or the resolution. As will be demonstrated, her errors range from unbiblical reasoning to simple misunderstandings of abolitionism to outright slander.
1) Is the Hyde Amendment the Most Urgent Front in the Abortion War?
McCain writes: “Our committee chose to decline [the abolition] resolution and instead brought forward a very well-argued one calling on Congress and the President to preserve the Hyde Amendment. It was a definitive statement that affirmed – yet again, in plain language – our profound opposition to abortion. More importantly, it drew attention to the most urgent front in this war: fighting the Biden Administration’s efforts to run roughshod over Hyde by proposing the use of taxpayer money to fund abortions.”
It is difficult to better encapsulate the foundational flaw of pro-lifeism than Hall has here. Someone who believes a funding statute is “the most urgent front” of the war over child sacrifice does not have their eye on the ball. We will never abolish abortion unless we are making the argument that abortion is murder and must be abolished.
Pro-aborts will always be in the driver’s seat as long as the abortion discussion is focused on something other than the truth of abortion being murder. When the debate is about whether or not women should be offered an ultrasound before an abortion, pro-aborts are winning. When the debate is about whether pain-capability makes us valuable and worthy of legal protection, pro-aborts are winning. When the debate is about to what degree abortion should be regulated in the health care codes, pro-aborts are winning. When the debate is about whether taxpayers should fund abortion, pro-aborts are winning.
When Christians learn to keep the main thing the main thing in the abortion debate, we will see substantial progress in the court of public opinion and in the political realm, but not until then.
2) Did Messengers Read the Resolution?
McCain writes: “After it was declined, the Abolition group was able to rally enough support to bring their resolution out of committee by a 2/3 vote of the messengers. (I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s not difficult to get 2/3 of a room of Southern Baptists to support anything generally described as an anti-abortion statement.) Oh, how I wish all of those voters had actually read the lengthy, densely-worded document.”
Abolitionists did not show up to Nashville desiring first and foremost to pass a resolution. We desired first and foremost to grow the movement. If we wanted to sneak the more controversial aspects of the resolution through undetected by the messengers, we would not have passed out more than 7,000 abolitionist pamphlets to messengers explaining exactly what we believe and why, with a specific emphasis on answering the hard questions. We passed out pamphlets which included the full text of the resolution and included an FAQs section which addressed everything McCain objects to.
The most amazing things that came out of Nashville did not have to do with the resolution itself, but with the information about abolitionism that was disseminated and the Christians who have joined the abolitionist cause since hearing the call.
McCain knows about the pamphlets, and complains about them: “But thanks to the aggressive sidewalk campaigning of the resolution’s authors, the mental fatigue of voters after two full days of sessions, and a parliamentary process that kept discussion very brief, [a plurality of messengers voted against incrementalism].” She wants it both ways. She wants to argue that the messengers were ignorant of the content of the resolution, while also arguing that we were somehow out of line for making them aware of the content of the resolution.
3) Immediatism vs. Incrementalism
McCain writes: “[The resolution] condemned as ‘appalling’ all incremental laws restricting abortion. You read that right. The fringe group that authored the resolution labeled the legions of godly, hard-working pro-life advocates – attorneys and faithful legislators who have curtailed abortion as much as possible while Roe v. Wade stands -as [sic] part of the actual problem. It suggests that the people who have strategically reduce [sic] abortion to nearly nothing in many states, saving millions of lives in the process, are sinners who need to repent.”
First, it’s rich that the one who was shown to be in the minority among SBC messengers thinks she’s in a position to call us fringe. Our position is the official position of the national SBC, Oklahoma Baptists, Oklahoma Association of Free Will Baptists, and the Republican parties of Oklahoma, Texas, and Idaho. The time of pro-life leaders being able to mock abolitionists as a small, fringe group is long past.
Second, implied in the assertion that the pro-life leaders “have curtailed abortion as much as possible while Roe v. Wade stands” is the idea that it’s impossible to do anything more than mildly regulate abortion unless the supreme court gives us permission to. This view was perhaps best articulated by Texas Alliance for Life director Joe Pojman, who told the Houston Chronicle that “We could no sooner ignore SCOTUS than we could ignore the force of gravity.” The problem with Pojman’s statement is much bigger than politics. In equating obedience to the supreme court with a law of nature, Pojman is committing a form of idolatry. His allegiance to the true and living God is reduced to a temporary alliance whenever God’s Word happens to match the supreme court’s opinion.
Pro-life leader Scott Klusendorf said similarly at G3 in 2016 that “the federal courts have already decided in Roe versus Wade, the Casey decision, and others, that no unborn children have the right to life. They’ve already dictated that from on high.” This wasn’t just a slip. The pro-life leaders really treat the supreme court as if the justices were “on high.”
The idea that we are bound by some law of Constitution, nature, or nature’s God to unconditionally submit to the supreme court, up to and including submitting to their authorization of a holocaust, is both risible and contemptible. This would be perfectly clear if we trot out the toddler — to use Klusendorf’s thought experiment. If the supreme court ruled tomorrow that children up to age four can be murdered, none of these pro-life leaders would dream of telling the states to submit to that court opinion. Or to be a little more direct, if the supreme court opined that it was legal to kill people who oppose abortion, there would, of course, be no articles from pro-lifers demanding that we submit to that court opinion. Writing such an article would be unashamedly wicked and insane. But it is no less so in the case of preborn children, because there is no moral difference between preborn humans and born humans.
Third, as Pastor Brett Baggett has said, repentance is nothing to be ashamed of. It must be a habit in the life of every Christian. Wherever there is inconsistency with God’s Word, the Christian must humbly submit themselves to correction. When we say that the path taken by the incrementalists is not effective and is not in accordance with God’s Word, we are not — as McCain suggests — saying pro-lifers are uniquely evil people who desire child sacrifice to continue. We are simply saying they are out of alignment with God’s Word. If our tone is urgent, it’s because the issue of babies dying is urgent.
Fourth, the absurdity of incrementalism is perfectly apparent to everyone in other contexts. We can trot out the toddler, and we can also point to SBC Resolution #8, which was approved by the Resolutions Committee and voted through without debate by the messengers. It called for the Chinese government to “cease its program of genocide against the Uyghur people immediately” (emphasis mine). And rightly so. How could debate on calling for the immediate end to a genocide be necessary? Everyone would have recognized the failure to be prophetic had someone tried to water down Resolution #8 by saying, “This is too uncompromising of a stand. We have to be willing to settle, and therefore, we should only demand that taxpayer money not be spent on the Uyghur genocide.”
Fifth, and very briefly, there is no State in the Union where abortion has been reduced to almost nothing. Very simply, this is a lie.
4) Is Immediate Abolition a Fantasy?
McCain writes: “There are two very distinct types of pro-life advocates. One type wants to end abortion, has an actual working knowledge of what that requires in our judicial and legislative systems, and uses strategic expertise to save as many lives as possible while setting the table to topple Roe v. Wade. The other type wants to lie on the floor kicking and screaming like a child throwing a tantrum, expecting the wider world to capitulate to that. Their strategy might end abortion in Fantasy Land, but not in the United States of America.
“They are Michael Scott, declaring bankruptcy.
“The people who wrote the resolution don’t seem to understand that it will be one of these ‘appalling’ incremental laws which sets into motion the appellate process, getting us back in front of the U.S. Supreme Court with a shot to overturn Roe. (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, for immediate example.) Alabama’s 2019 Human Life Protection Act was a legal warship designed precisely for this effort. Without the triggering incremental law, that process never begins. And without overturning Roe, there is no legal pathway to eliminating abortion in our nation.”
Again, it is only true that demanding immediate abolition is futile if the supreme court is god. Thankfully, it is not. The justices of the supreme court are fallible (to put it very, very lightly) and their powers limited. When they err and go beyond their designated powers, it is incumbent on the other branches of the federal government and on the states to check them. The concept that the supreme court is due our unconditional submission regardless of how obviously evil or unconstitutional their judgments are is anathema to our founding documents and principles, and more importantly, it is anathema to God’s Word. When the court errs so egregiously and intentionally as to legalize murder, they must be defied. They should right their own wrongs, but we need not wait for them to do so. We must obey God and uphold the Constitution.
Pro-life politicians in states like Oklahoma, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, and others have the bill to abolish abortion before them and the supermajorities necessary to pass the bill easily. There is nothing stopping them from doing so except themselves; their own cowardice and Biblical and Constitutional ignorance. They prevent abolition with the cover of pro-life leaders like McCain who urge them to only take incremental steps in unconditional submission to our black-robed deities.
Further, even from the incrementalist, judicial supremacy perspective, it is the demand for immediate abolition that will provide the needed pressure on the supreme court if Roe is ever to be overturned. As Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” It’s time to stop begging the supreme court for scraps. It’s time to start making demands.
There have been 39 abortion-related cases in the last 48 years and not one sentence of Roe has been rolled back, despite there being a Republican-appointed majority on the supreme court for all but four months of that span. The Dobbs v. Jackson case will be the first time that the supreme court will hear from an anti-abortion lawyer that they must overturn Roe or else.
The idea that demanding legislation to immediately abolish abortion is like “Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy” or “waving a magic wand” has been a common argument among the pro-lifers writing against the resolution, and almost all of them have refused discussion on the topic. I don’t blame them. This is indefensibly slanderous and they know it.
5) Should Women Be Automatically Immune In All Cases?
McCain writes: “But wait. It gets worse. They also threw in some language advocating for the prosecution of women who have abortions. They couched it in vague phrases like ‘punished equally under the law,’ but this is what they mean.”
It’s important to note what McCain is objecting to. She is objecting to the idea that preborn humans should be considered equal under the law. She says it’s vague phrasing, but it’s not that abolitionists are vague. It’s that pro-lifers hate how common sense, Biblical, and Constitutional our demand — equal justice and equal protection — is. So they accuse us of believing things we don’t to make our view seem more objectionable.
In this case, McCain goes on to say the resolution demonstrates a “harsh, one-size-fits-all view of women who seek abortions.” This is absolutely false. We are not saying that every mother who murders her child should be treated the same way. All we are saying is that preborn children should be equal under the law, meaning their murder is treated in the same fashion as the murder of anyone else.
Just like for all other crimes, the circumstances of each case will determine whether and to what degree the individuals involved are prosecuted. Those who are legitimately coerced into murdering their child should be and will be immune from prosecution if an abolition bill passes. Those who murder their children under pressure that doesn’t rise to the level of coercion might get a lesser charge like third degree murder or manslaughter. Each case will be different. Our simple demand is that unborn children be made equal under law.
As explained here, the pro-life, one-size-fits-all position that women should be immune from prosecution in all cases 1) protects self-induced abortion, 2) provides no incentive for women not to murder their children, and 3) is one of the reasons we got Roe in the first place.
6) Incrementalists “Should Be Proud of Our Legacy”
McCain writes: “I don’t think a plurality of those messengers got up last Wednesday, had a cup of coffee and their quiet time with God, and felt led by the Spirit to roll on over to the Music City Center and stab in the back those who have labored faithfully in the pro-life arena for decades.”
Similarly, ERLC researcher Josh Westen complained on the floor of the convention that the resolution laments the SBC’s participation in pro-life incrementalism. He declared, “We should be proud of that legacy.”
Indeed, pride in legacy is the issue here. The pro-life leaders have spent decades pursuing a particular strategy. They have been in the trenches together for an important cause for a long time. They identify very, very closely with their work, and they identify very, very closely with each other. A pro-life leader I used to work for would often tear up when talking about fighting abortion alongside his friends in the 90s and 2000s. The suggestion that the strategy they’ve pursued all this time isn’t a Biblical or effective strategy is a difficult pill for them to swallow. In McCain’s phrasing, it feels to them like a “stab in the back.” Though it takes different forms, this argument from pride in legacy is one of the most common anti-abolitionist “arguments.”
But it is not an actual argument. It’s a sin that prevents many long-time incrementalists from being able to adequately assess abolitionism. It is perceived as a threat to their legacy, so they do not give it a fair hearing. McCain’s egregious misunderstandings of the abolitionist position on interposition and equal protection show that she does not understand what she is writing against. A bunch of seminary professors and professional ethicists writing in Public Discourse that abolitionism “would be a little bit like Eisenhower setting the goal to capture Berlin but refusing to invade Normandy until all of France and Germany can be conquered at once,” shows that they have no idea what they are writing against (an article will be coming shortly in response to theirs). In many cases, it is the pride of pro-life leaders that prevents them from understanding or portraying abolitionism rightly.
More important than any individual point in the discussion is the foundational point that Hall’s input on this matter is entirely devoid of scripture. This is not by accident. As a certain leading pro-life movement apologist has said when asked to defend incrementalism from scripture, “You can’t fly a 747 using the Bible.” The point being, in some matters, we must learn and reason from resources outside of scripture; which is of course, true. But fighting child sacrifice is not one of those matters. Removing evils from society is something our Bible speaks directly to over-and-over again. We must push back darkness by the weapons Christ has given us; not with worldly wisdom.
While on stage at the SBC Annual Meeting arguing against the idea that abortion is sin on the part of the women murdering their children and that repentance and belief in Christ is the solution, Hall broke down crying and appealed to her experiences at a Pregnancy Resource Center. I have no reason to believe she wasn’t genuinely emotionally overcome in that moment, but I must note that making emotional appeals, not arguing from scripture, is Hall’s preferred method of persuasion.
Again, I don’t blame her, or the other pro-life incrementalists like her. There is no defending opposition to the resolution from God’s Word. It is a thoroughly Biblical document. Pro-life argumentation, on the other hand, relies on public opinion and bipartisanship and science (none of which are inherently wrong to appeal to) without ultimately grounding their argumentation in God’s Word. This difference in what abolitionists appeal to as opposed to what pro-life incrementalists appeal to is a foundational difference between the two movements. The first round of rebuttals to the resolution (all of which we will be responding to) were completely devoid of scripture. We hope the incrementalists will be more open to reasoning Biblically going forward.