The Antidote to Van Maren’s Poison

James SilbermanAbolitionism

Jonathan Van Maren partially responded to our article which corrected his false statements from a podcast episode with Josh Brahm on various aspects of the history of the Abortion Abolition Movement and the Slavery Abolition Movement. Van Maren responded to three of the eleven points in our article.

Part two of Van Maren and Brahm’s original podcast also went live recently. Points one-through-eight of this article address Van Maren’s article, and the rest address part two of the podcast. Like my first article, this is a lengthy piece because Van Maren’s strategy is to consider no attack too petty. Everything is thrown at the wall. I again considered ignoring some of the more ridiculous assertions, but many of them were iterations of common criticisms leveled by pro-lifers, making them worth addressing.

Van Maren asserts in his first paragraph that he and I “are again talking past each other.” Having written 7,200 words addressing head-on the 11 most substantial arguments Van Maren made in the episode, I was not talking past Van Maren. But Van Maren was most certainly talking past me. He barely addresses anything I wrote.

The most remarkable line of Van Maren’s partial response was “What Silberman decides not to respond to is, as always, indicative.” Again, I wrote 7,200 words addressing head-on Van Maren’s major points. I would’ve had to write 100,000 to refute all the slanderous straw manning and ad hominem attacks. But what Van Maren elected not to respond to actually was telling. Here are just a few notable points from my article which Van Maren did not to respond to in his article or the podcast:

  • Van Maren deceptively hid from listeners the content of a letter Thomas Clarkson wrote about William Lloyd Garrison. Van Maren claimed Clarkson took issue with how radical Garrison was as if Clarkson was concerned about Garrison’s immediatism and refusal to compromise. Thus, Clarkson was an incrementalist, Van Maren’s argument goes. But Clarkson and Garrison were in agreement on their rejection of incrementalism and of regulating national sins. The letter actually was about Clarkson and Garrison’s differing views of Sabbatarianism. Van Maren should publicly correct the record on this point for the sake of his own integrity.
  • Van Maren falsely claimed that William Wilberforce supported the Dolben Act which refitted slave ships to be more comfortable for slaves. In reality, Wilberforce wrote of it that, “the Slave-carrying bill [was] a measure which a very few years after was acknowledged, as it is still universally confessed, to have been beneficial to [the West Indian Body].” Van Maren should publicly correct the record on this point for the sake of his own integrity.
  • Van Maren absurdly argues that Wilberforce’s repentance of supporting the colonization strategy is irrelevant to how we should view him.
  • As his first piece of evidence that Russell is supposedly a really mean guy, Van Maren cited Russell’s emotional video responding to three prominent Christian men who were calling abolitionists “terrorists” and “jihadis” because of two young men joining the movement who had attempted to set off a molotov cocktail at a construction site for a church building before they were saved. Van Maren left out all the context, as if Russell was just lashing out at random pro-lifers simply for disagreeing about incrementalism.
  • Van Maren’s and Brahm insanely argued that state governments upholding the right to life without federal approval was “anarchy.”
  • Van Maren and Brahm straw-manned immediatism as being an ideology that thrives on convincing frustrated people that abortion can be abolished quickly when it actually can’t. Immediatism has nothing to do with how close we are to the end goal, but with what our demand should be.
  • Van Maren argued that an abolition bill would be struck down and all pro-life regulations would be lost. In reality, the chances that a court would purport to sever an abolition bill in a way that leaves a state without any regulations is slim to none; and even if a court attempted to do so, the passage of an abolition bill means that courts no longer have the authority to violate the right to life.

These points all stand unresponded to.

Now, let’s get to what Van Maren did say.

1) Van Maren Tries to Cover His Slander

First, Van Maren takes issue with me writing that “Brahm and Van Maren claim my friend and colleague Russell Hunter believes incrementalists aren’t saved.” He writes, “I specifically said that Hunter and others stated this on social media about CBR founder Gregg Cunningham… I did not make that general statement, because I assume that this is not a general view on Hunter’s part.”

But Van Maren did make that general statement. His direct quote from the podcast: “[Russell] said those who disagreed with him – in some instances specifically I’ve got screenshots – were not saved because they disagreed with him on strategy.” Van Maren is saying here, in no uncertain terms, that Russell believes those who disagreed with him (plural) aren’t saved, and that he has screenshots (plural) to prove it. Maybe he misspoke and didn’t mean to say what he said. But he clearly made the accusation in the podcast which he denies making in the article. It is an absolute lie on Van Maren’s part to claim that he was only accusing Russell of saying it about one person on one occasion and not believing it generally.

Avoidance of important points is always a good indicator that someone knows they’re wrong, as Van Maren astutely, yet obliviously pointed out. But an even greater indicator of someone who knows they’re wrong is when they are consistently unable to engage in a debate without dishonesty. Van Maren is beginning to demonstrate an undeniable pattern of deception.

2) Garrison’s Mistakes

His next argument is that William Lloyd Garrison attended seances, and it is in this context which he accuses me of not responding to his arguments. I didn’t respond because I have no desire to vindicate Garrison on every point. Sometimes he was wrong, as he was to attend a seance. But he was right when it came to demanding immediate, rather than gradual abolition.

While it is true that Garrison lacked discernment in this area, it is important to qualify that he was not simply jumping headlong into mysticism. He wrote: “As for ourselves, most assuredly we have been in no haste to jump to a conclusion in regard to phenomena so universally diffused, and of so extraordinary a character. For the last three years, we have kept pace with nearly all that has been published on the subject; and we have witnessed, at various times, many surprising ‘manifestations’; and our conviction is, that they cannot be accounted for on any other theory than that of spiritual agency. This theory, however, is not unattended with discrepancies, difficulties and trials. It is certain that, if it be true, there are many deceptive spirits, and that the apostolic injunction to ‘believe not every spirit,’ but to try them, in every possible way, is specially to be regarded, or the consequences may prove very disastrous.”

While Garrison wrongly had an open mind to this fad which had its roots in unbiblical spiritualism, he also urged caution and the weighing of spiritual experiences in light of Christian truth.

3) Does Abolishing the Trade Without Emancipation Make Wilberforce an Incrementalist?

Van Maren then gets to his first real point of substance. Without correcting or even acknowledging his misinformation regarding the Dolben Bill, he concedes that it was anti-slavery incrementalists who thwarted Wilberforce’s efforts. But he then argues that Wilberforce was still an incrementalist because he abolished the slave trade before abolishing slavery.

Of the arguments for Wilberforce’s supposed incrementalism, this is the only one which is at all tricky to deal with. (The rest can be easily dismissed with even a minuscule amount of honest research.) It would have been preferable for Wilberforce to go after the institution rather than the trade. But Wilberforce believed that the abolition of the trade and the abolition of the practice were intrinsically linked. He supposed that without the flow of kidnapped African people, the practice was essentially dead. His famous quote, “Well Henry, what shall we abolish next?” was not from 1833 upon the abolition of slavery. It was from 1807 upon the abolition of the trade. This demonstrates that in his mind, the war had been won with the 1807 bill, and he was on to the next issue.

Manstealing was the foundation of slavery, and by criminalizing that act, the abolitionists believed they were delivering the death blow to slavery. In his article on the subject from 2014, Van Maren quotes from Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild which talks about the decision of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade to abolish the trade rather than go for emancipation. Van Maren’s excerpt stops a few sentences short of the crucial line: “Abolishing the trade, Clarkson was certain, was ‘laying the axe at the very root’ of Caribbean slavery itself.”

They had a flawed understanding of the sociological mechanics of the situation, but, as Sam Riley put it, their mistake “wasn’t a failure to be an abolitionist, but a failure to see that the abolition of the trade did not necessarily entail the end of slavery. Similarly, William Lloyd Garrison believed that if the Union was dissolved, slavery would end in the South. Today many abolitionists believe that if one state abolishes abortion most other states will follow suit. Those sociological beliefs can be wrong, but they are not opposed to abolitionist principles. Wilberforce was wrong about the effects of ending the trade, perhaps Garrison would have been wrong about dissolving the Union, and perhaps states will not follow suit if one state abolishes abortion; but that doesn’t indicate that abolitionists were compromising because they were wrong about a certain cause and effect outcome…

“British abolitionists sought the immediate abolition of the sin of legalized manstealing, and then the immediate abolition of the sin of chattel slavery.”

Not all types of incremental steps are evil. As abolitionists gain more converts to the cause, we get gradually closer to the goal. That’s an ethical step in the right direction. There are even non-abolition bills that abolitionists support. Texas State Rep. Bryan Slaton motioned to amend Texas State House rules so that, before any bridges or roads could be named or renamed, the House must vote on legislation “that would abolish abortion in the State of Texas by ensuring the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all preborn children located in the State of Texas from the moment of fertilization.” Arkansas SB298 establishes that, “Whenever the United States Government assumes powers that the people did not grant it in the United States Constitution, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force,” and “The several states of the United States are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to the United States Government.” Bills like these bring us closer to abolition (as opposed to delaying abolition) without codifying injustice into law.

As Sam’s final paragraph points out, it is important to note that abolishing the trade and then the practice of slavery is not incrementalism in the same way that pro-lifers pursue incrementalism. The abolitionists in Britain and America both roundly rejected regulations on the way to abolition. They also rejected dehumanizing increments. Had someone suggested protecting those who were 25 percent white, then 50 percent, then 75 percent, then abolition, it would have been roundly rejected by both American and British abolitionists. This is the sort of incrementalism pro-lifers practice with 24-week bans, 20-week bans, 15-week bans, heartbeat bills, etc. The British abolitionists worked to the best of their ability and understanding to “put the axe to the root.” They demanded the immediate abolition of the slave trade, and then the immediate abolition of slavery.

4) Van Maren Projects His Debate Trickery Onto Abolitionists

This is a minor point, but it demonstrates the pettiness of Van Maren which is important to understand. His tactic is to level every imaginable accusation. He writes: “In debate, [abolitionists] are prone to inventing and reinventing to ensure that reality coheres with their ideology (thus ‘regulationism’ and ‘overnightism’ serve as words they made up to describe concepts they made up.)”

Regulationism is not a made up word. It is a politico-economic term used to describe the view that favors government regulation of a product, service, or industry. In the context of abortion, it describes the view that abortion should be fought by trying to regulate the industry more-and-more over time.

Overnightism is a word we made up, but it is a concept pro-life incrementalists made up. They straw man immediatism as being an ideology where you can simply “snap your fingers” or “wave a magic wand” and abortion is gone overnight without any hard work or faithfulness. Van Maren made this argument against us in the Brahm podcast. So yes, we gave a name to their straw man to help people understand the difference between what we are (immediatists) and what we are not (overnightists).

To recap: Incrementalists make up a concept. Incrementalists use it to falsely accuse abolitionists. Abolitionists respond by finding a way to categorize the invented concept to deal with the false accusation, which necessarily means an invented word for the invented concept. Van Maren accuses abolitonists of being the ones bending reality to cohere to our view. This is extremely dishonest, bad-faith argumentation.

5) Are Pro-Lifers Different Than Wilberforce’s Gradualist Foes?

Van Maren writes: “The Liberator Podcast hosts attempt to conflate those who utilized incrementalism to intentionally delay the abolition of the slave trade as pursued by Wilberforce and the Society with pro-lifers who utilize incrementalist bills because they believe them to be the most effective strategy in the American political context…Legitimately disagreeing with [abolitionists] on the most effective strategy is thus cast as nefarious obstructionism.”

Whether the disagreement is legitimate or not, the pro-life lobbyists and politicians’ opposition to abolition bills is nefarious obstructionism. I believe there are some pro-life politicians and lobbyists who hate abortion but legitimately disagree with abolitionist strategy, and I think there are others who simply use “the life issue” as political prop for votes and money. Whatever the motives, submission to Roe v. Wade is sin.

Is the pro-lifers’ opposition to abolition less nefarious than the British gradualists’ opposition to Wilberforce? Not really. In 1792, British incrementalist Henry Dundas amended Wilberforce’s abolition bill to become an incremental bill. He stood before parliament and declared: “My honourable friends… have very known that I have long entertained the same opinion with them as to the Abolition of the Slave Trade, though I have differed from them as to the mode of effecting it…[T]he point of difference between us is this: I cannot help doubting as to the prudence or practicability of the mode of abolishing it, as proposed by [Wilberforce].”

Wait a second. Dundas agreed with Wilberforce’s end goal but opposed immediate abolition because he disagreed with the abolitionists as to what was the most effective and practicable strategy? Where have we heard that exact argument before? Ah, right. Van Maren. And Klusendorf. And Abby. And Right to Life. The Pro-Life Movement clearly – clearly! – is Dolben and Dundas, not Wilberforce and Clarkson.

Van Maren unwittingly admitted as much in the podcast. While under the false impression that Wilberforce supported the Dolben Act, he stated, “The Dolben bill that restricted the size of slave ships is like the brainchild for these laws regulating abortion clinics.” As referenced earlier, Wilberforce vociferously objected to regulating slave ships on the grounds that it is “universally confessed” that the Dolben Act regulations were “beneficial to [the West Indian Body].” He writes elsewhere in A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade that “half measures” dulled the enthusiasm of the Abolitionist Movement and caused complacency toward injustice. Van Maren is on record calling the Dolben Act “the brainchild” of the pro-life political strategy, and Wilberforce is on record opposing the Dolben Act.

6) Another Dundas-Van Maren Parallel

One other parallel between Dundas and Van Maren: When arguing against abolitionists, Van Maren’s primary argument has been that abolitionists cannot lay sole claim to the term “abolitionist.” He wants pro-lifers to have equal access to the term.

In 1792, after successfully killing Wilberforce’s immediate abolition bill and passing his own gradual abolition bill in its place, Dundas made a similar complaint: “We [gradualists] are friends to Abolition no less than you [Wilberforce], indeed we best deserve the name” (Pollock, J. Wilberforce, p. 143).

Van Maren is better than Dundas in certain regards. His work with the Center for Bioethical Reform (CCBR) to expose the evil of abortion in the public square is admirable. He has done more cultural work to expose the evil of his age than Dundas ever did. But when it comes to political strategy and posture toward immediate abolition, Van Maren and Dundas are virtually identical.

7) Straw Men Galore!

Van Maren writes: “Free the States, the political arm of the abolitionists, insists that abortion can be ended by states simply ignoring the courts and claiming (ludicrously) that because states frequently ignore the US Supreme Court on issues like marijuana, the federal government will do the same thing with abortion…The same people who rightly call abortion child sacrifice somehow think that the federal government will treat it like recreational drugs. This is not serious stuff. The political strategy of Free the States, in my view and the view of many others, is simply untenable—and falls apart when you consistently ask the question: And then what?”

Abolitionists use the examples of marijuana, immigration, gun control, EPA regulations, and others to demonstrate that nullification is a common practice. But nowhere have we ever claimed that the federal government will treat abortion like recreational drugs. We absolutely anticipate pushback from the federal government. If a Democrat controls the presidency, that pushback is likely to take the form of economic sanctions against a state(s) which upholds the right to life. It is less likely, though conceivable, that the federal government would put boots on the ground in front of abortion clinics in states which abolish abortion to keep the killing centers open by force.

It’s as if Van Maren thought that asking “And then what?”  would make us give up and go home; as if he thinks we aren’t prepared to pay the cost. We know Abby Johnson isn’t. She said in no uncertain terms that she values federal dollars more than she values rescuing preborn children from death. Given their projection of cowardice onto us, I suspect there are other pro-lifers in the same camp as Abby. But abolitionists are prepared to receive whatever persecution comes. BABIES ARE BEING MURDERED. You can put a gun to ours heads and we won’t budge from demanding abortion’s total and immediate abolition.

It is very unlikely to come to physical conflict, and we will continue advocating against physical conflict, as we always have. But federal threats of economic or physical conflict will never deter us. BABIES ARE BEING MURDERED, our demands are just, and we will not retreat a single inch.

8) Pro-Life Cultural Work

Van Maren’s final argument in the article is that the Pro-Life Movement has kept the abortion issue in play, despite Christians losing decisively on other cultural issues. While they’re not gaining ground, Van Maren argues that the fact that they’ve held public opinion steady “is nothing short of staggering.”

There are pro-life groups who have done good work in this regard. CCBR is among them. Organizations such as Created Equal, Justice For All, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, Live Action, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, and a few others do this as well. To varying degrees, these groups should be more gospel-centered than they are, but good work to expose evil has been done nonetheless. We are thankful that there are men and women brave enough to confront society with the brutality of abortion.

I will always owe a debt of gratitude to the Center for Medical Progress. It was in this video of David Daleiden and an abortionist picking through the remains of a murdered child with tweezers that I first saw the horror of abortion and was stirred to action.

It is not with the cultural outreach efforts of these groups that we take issue, though even those have room for improvement. It is their refusal to be gospel-centered and their refusal to demand abortion’s immediate abolition that are the problems.

One other important point here: While it is true that pro-life vs. pro-choice polls remain roughly even, with 46 percent of the country identifying as pro-life, only 12 percent support abortion being illegal in all cases. That means that only one-in-four pro-lifers desires to see abortion completely abolished. This is the fruit of pro-life compromise. When you put forward pain-capable unborn child protection acts, you teach people that pain-capability is what makes abortion wrong and that regulating abortion is what it means to be pro-life. That’s how you get a weak-spined, watered-down movement whose members don’t even adhere to what are supposed to be their foundational beliefs.

9) Did Russell “Attach Himself” to Jeff Durbin?

Now getting into the podcast part two, Van Maren claims at the beginning that Russell “kind of got resurrected by attaching himself to Jeff Durbin of Apologia Studios.”

There are two very misleading aspects of this. First, there was no resurrection of Russell’s influence. There has been a steady growth in the Abolitionist Movement ever since it began in 2010. Between 2015 and the recording of the podcast – the period in which Russell supposedly disappeared – the Abolitionist Movement saw far more growth than it did in its first five years. 2016 came with the first abolition bill. That ballooned into abolition bills in nine states over the next four years.
Russell joined the Dan Fisher for Governor campaign in 2018 which put the Abolitionist Movement on the map politically in Oklahoma. Free the States was founded at the conclusion of the Fisher campaign. 2019 is when the Oklahoma Southern Baptists and Free Will Baptists passed resolutions demanding abortion’s immediate abolition without any compromise. 2020 saw the biggest abolitionist rally ever with almost 3,000 people at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Far from dropping off the map, the period which Russell supposedly needed to resurrect from is a period in which there was dramatic growth and progress. It is misleading of Van Maren and Brahm to insinuate otherwise.

Second, Russell did not “attach himself” to Jeff Durbin. Jeff is an awesome, encouraging, Godly brother doing amazing work pushing back the kingdom of darkness. We are proud to have him speak at our conferences, be guests on each others podcasts, share each others posts, etc. Beyond partnering in the movement, he and Russell are friends.

However, Russell’s never needed his influence “resurrected” and has not and would not “attach himself” to anyone for the sake of influence, as Van Maren suggests. Those who know the history between Russell and Jeff know they weren’t always buddy-buddy. There was a substantial period of conflict between them, and Russell would not have dreamed of compromising his beliefs in order to smooth over their disagreements. It took people on both sides realizing they had far too much in common to be fighting each other and that was pretty much that.

This entire point has no bearing on abolitionism’s theological and philosophical validity, but if Van Maren is going to continue this absurd, petty mudslinging aimed at dividing abolitionists, I will continue correcting the record.

10) Has the Abolitionist Movement Failed to Grow Quickly?

Van Maren said: “He’s constantly predicting that his movement was going to take off – and I know another pro-lifer who took a screenshot of this – that thousands, tens of thousands of abolitionists – right – swarming major cities are going to put an end to this. And that hasn’t materialized. Sure they had a rally at the State House in Oklahoma with a couple hundred people. That was pretty big. But it’s a far cry from what they said.”

It is commonly said by abolitionists, including the author of this article, that abolitionism’s spread among well-meaning Christians who desire the abolition of abortion is inevitable. The ideas are too good, true, and Biblical not to. Something along these lines is likely what Van Maren is referring to.

Russell has no idea what screenshot Van Maren claims to have. Van Maren can produce it if he wants to. But it is undeniable that abolitionism is spreading rapidly. The pro-life leaders hoped that they could simply ignore us and we would go away. But that hasn’t happened. As mentioned in the previous section, thousands of people are turning out for abolitionist rallies. Entire statewide denominations and parties are passing abolitionist resolutions. Every year, new legislators in new states are convinced of our arguments and take the bold stand of introducing a bill of abolition.

Ironically, he said during part one of the podcast that the spread of abolitionism in the legislatures is what caused Van Maren to break his silence on abolitionism, even as he denies that we are growing rapidly.

11) Abolitionists Reject Incrementalism Because We Don’t Understand Pro-Life History?

Van Maren’s first extended point in the podcast is to argue that abolitionists don’t understand the history of the Pro-Life Movement, and that if we did, we would be pro-lifers. Van Maren cites Marvin Olasky’s book Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America. Van Maren then says, “You need to understand which laws targeted [abortion] and why. I’m completely convinced that Hunter and his compatriots don’t understand any of that… The way they drove down the abortion rate, the way that abortion was treated, why they predominantly prosecuted abortionists rather than the women getting abortions is explained by a couple hundred years of history.”

Russell has read Abortion Rites, and even if he hadn’t, it wouldn’t matter. Submission to a governing authority who demands the legal sacrifice of children is a sin that delays the abolition of abortion. Regulating abortion is sin that delays the abolition of abortion. Nothing Olasky wrote or could write about pro-life history would change this.

12) The Pettiness Continues

Van Maren said: “You look at the Pro-Life Movement, let’s say, post ’73. You’ve got the hippie, lefty catholics who started us off on this. It was not drawn on ideological lines at all. The liberals were out ahead of the conservatives on this, and the catholics were out ahead of the protestants. So none of this fits very well into the sort of AHA mantra.”

Nothing about Roman Catholic, hippie incrementalists starting the Pro-Life Movement in any way contradicts anything abolitionists believe or assert. That actually fits right in with what we assert. It’s not even clear what point Van Maren is trying to make here, but his every word is delivered with unwavering confidence that what he’s saying somehow demonstrates Norman man bad.

The pettiness keeps rearing its ugly head. Every point he makes must be formulated as a jab at abolitionists, and it doesn’t matter how absurdly he has to twist reality to do it.

13) Is the need for Christian Repentance a Catholic Doctrine?

Van Maren talks about Operation Rescue and the doctrine of bloodguiltiness, which is a view based on the idea that God holds those who are complacent in the midst of systematic violence and child sacrifice guilty for the blood that is shed on their watch. It is derived in part from Leviticus 20:1-5.

Van Maren comments, “It has always struck me as odd that [the doctrine of blood guiltiness] was so embraced by protestants because it strikes me as an oddly catholic penance sort of view. I’m not saying that in a pejorative way, I just find it really interesting that this sort of physical act of repentance took off and in massive numbers [among protestants].”

That Van Maren thinks Christians and nations repenting of sin is a Roman Catholic doctrine makes me worried about his understanding of sin and repentance. The very first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses was, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

I don’t know that Van Maren is an antinomian, but his observation appears to be based on antinomian reasoning.

14) Who’s The Historical Hack, Again?

Van Maren said: “I’ve often said that the Pro-Life Movement is the very first social justice, very first human rights movement that does not have the support of the media.”

Van Maren is, of course, correct when he continues on by saying “there is no lie too egregious for the press to print” in their zealous defense of child sacrifice. But it is absurd to claim that pro-lifers are the first human rights movement that faced near-unanimous press opposition.

The abolitionists of slavery were pretty much on their own right up until the 13th and 14th amendments. There were abolitionist publications such as The Liberator, The North Star, The Genius of Universal Emancipation, and a small few others. But there was little-to-no press support for the abolitionist cause outside of the abolitionist periodicals themselves. In an 1858 article entitled, “Depravity of the American Press,” Garrison wrote:

The American press is, to a fearful extent, in the hands of a cowardly, mercenary and unprincipled class of men, who have no regard for truth in dealing with what is unpopular; who cater to the lowest passions of the multitude, and caricature every movement aiming at the overthrow of established wrong; who are as destitute of all fairness in controversy as they are lacking in self-respect; and whose columns are closed against any reply that may be proffered to their libellous accusations… They not only publish all the lies they can pick up, in opposition to the struggling cause of humanity, but they busy themselves in coining lies, which they audaciously present to their credulous readers as reliable truths. There is no end to their deception and tergiversation. Such men are far more dangerous to society than burglars, incendiaries, and highwaymen…

In what part of the country–in what town or village–can an anti-slavery meeting be held, of an uncompromising character, even after a struggle of twenty-five years, without being basely misrepresented by the press, or treated with silent contempt?

The Pro-Life Movement has the support of every conservative outlet, and pro-lifers are regularly published in mainstream leftist publications such as the New York Times, USA Today, Bloomberg, and others. Of the fact that the vast majority of the mainstream press is pro-child sacrifice, there can be no reasonable doubt. But pro-lifers still enjoy far, far greater media support than what the abolitionists of slavery enjoyed. This is a bizarre and obviously false historical claim from Van Maren, who is repeatedly demonstrating that he is in no position to call others “historical hacks” and “intellectual lightweights.”

15) An Abolition Bill Van Maren Can Get Behind

Van Maren argues, like he did in part one, that an abolition bill would likely result in no lives being saved because the courts would strike it down, and further, that it would cost lives because it contains sections that a hostile judge could uphold while striking down the abolition section. Here, though, he concedes that “There’s a chance that I’m wrong. Like, if there wasn’t lives at stake, I’d love to see this play out in one state so that we actually would have an idea of what that would look like, but there’s too much to risk.” 

If Van Maren means that, then we have some abolition bills he can get behind so he can see how abolition would play out. Not all abolition bills repeal pro-life regulations. ID H0056 is one such example. It repeals only one section of the Idaho homicide statutes which protects legal abortion. It does not officially repeal pro-life regulations. It simply supersedes them while leaving them on the books by establishing that “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the attorney general shall monitor this state’s enforcement of this chapter in relation to abortion.” So other laws regulating abortion will no longer be treated as active.

Going forward, more abolition bills are going to look like this, as the same effect is reached while we take away the pro-life leaders’ favorite argument against abolition bills. If Van Maren actually believes what he said above, he will support abolition bills going forward. I sincerely hope this will be the case.

16) Van Maren Mixes Up His Talking Points

Just before saying there’s a chance he could be wrong, Van Maren says, “I have no idea how exactly an abolition bill would play out. I suspect that it would do what a lot of pro-lifers suspect it would, which is it would wipe out all the pro-life regulations, it would get blocked by the court just like the Alabama bill did, just like the 18-week abortion ban in Arkansas just did; it’s not like you can ignore the supreme court, it wouldn’t even get that far. And then you’re left with sort of, like, the most Planned Parenthood-friendly state in the union because you’ve wiped off all the pro-life regulations that were carefully passed, I suspect. That makes the most sense to me based on the facts on the ground.”

Here, Van Maren demonstrates not only that he has no understanding of the American legal system, he demonstrates his misunderstanding even of the pro-life talking points he parrots.

No one with a clue could argue that the most likely scenario with an abolition bill is that a judge defies the legislature by severing the bill to uphold the repeal sections while striking down the equal protection sections. An inseverability clause has not been ignored by a court in Oklahoma State history. The pro-life argument is merely that it is conceivable that a judge would do so. Van Maren doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Hopefully, this objection being cleared up will lead to Van Maren supporting future abolition bills.

17) How Do Incremental Bills Educate the Populace?

Van Maren argues that pro-life bills have an educational effect on the populace. He cites pain-capable bans (20-week bans) which “trigger a cultural conversation about how horrific abortion is, it draws attention to the humanity, and a lot of the people passing them know that they’re going to get stopped cold in court unless it’s a trigger ban.”

Pain-capable bans do not create a conversation about the horror of abortion, they create a conversation about the horror of aborting pain-capable children. These laws establish pain-capability as the basis for protection under the law. Beyond being fundamentally unjust, this educates the public that pain-capability is what makes humans worthy of protection. This is what led a young woman to walk into the Norman child sacrifice center in 2016 saying, “It’s okay. My baby won’t even feel any pain.” Where did she learn that it is okay to murder your baby as long as he or she doesn’t feel pain? From the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the pro-life messaging which supported it.

The same could be said of just about all pro-life legislation, including heartbeat bills. When I lived in Ohio, I met with the office of pro-life State Senator Andrew Brenner. I gave his aide an introduction to abolitionism and explained why Brenner should introduce one. When I was done, she said, “This was very interesting, but it’s Senator Brenner’s personal religious conviction that life begins at a heartbeat.” Where did he learn the ludicrous and wicked idea that humans are not alive until their heartbeats can be detected? He learned it from the Heartbeat Bill. Brenner was one of its primary champions.

Pro-life bills educate the public about abortion, but usually not in the right direction. Pro-life bills create cultural conversation about lots of things, but never about the fact that abortion is murder and that it must be abolished. Only an abolition bill does that.

18) Do Abolitionists “Camp Out” On the Idea of Punishing Women?

Van Maren says, “I don’t know why you would join the movement to fight abortion and then camp out on the topic of getting to punish women afterwards so much.”

Abolitionists do not camp out on the idea of punishing women. We wouldn’t dwell on the topic a single minute if it weren’t for pro-lifers making this one of their biggest objections to abolition bills. So, often, we must explain why giving women automatic immunity in the murder of their children:

  1. Is fundamentally unjust by denying equal protection to the preborn child,
  2. allows self-induced abortion,
  3. provides no deterrent against abortion, and
  4. undercuts the anti-abortion argument morally and legally.

See here for the full explanation on this topic.

19) The Coercion Argument Against Equal Protection

Van Maren argues against fully criminalizing abortion by arguing that some mothers are coerced into abortion: “I have personally met many people forced into abortions, that under the law [abolitionists] propose, would’ve ended up in jail.”

This is false. Coercion is fully accounted for within existing statutes and within abolition bills. The Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act, for instance, restates existing law which establishes that “Persons who committed the act, or make the omission charged, while under involuntary subjection to the power of superiors” are not capable of committing crimes. Van Maren again demonstrates his ignorance of abolition bills.

20) Blackstone’s Ratio

Van Maren again argues against criminalizing abortion by reciting an iteration of Blackstone’s ratio: “I’d rather 100 guilty people get away than one innocent person get prosecuted.” This is not rightfully an argument merely against criminalizing abortion. As employed by Van Maren, it is an argument against the very concept of laws.

In its correct context, Blackstone’s Ratio is an argument for cautiousness on the part of jurors and judges. They must not convict a man of a crime unless they are absolutely certain of his guilt because the consequences of a wrongful conviction are enormous. As John Adams put it, “when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, ‘it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.’ And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever.”

But Blackstone’s Ratio cannot be employed against legislation, and certainly not against legislation which makes all humans equal under law. If it can, then all laws must be done away with because they make possible the prosecution and conviction of the innocent.

Abolitionists have the correct position on this matter. Preborn children must be made equal under law, and those coerced into committing crimes must be protected under law. Abolition bills are consistent with this position. When they are passed and enforced, the circumstances of each case will be taken into account in prosecutorial and sentencing decisions. See this video from attorney Bradley Pierce for a detailed legal analysis of this subject.

21) Simple Abolitionism?

Van Maren spends a good deal of time aguing that abolitionism is appealing because of how simplistic it is in contrast with the complexity of real-life applications. He then says, “You meet 100 post-abortive women, and you’ll find 100 different reasons they had abortions. And you’re not going to find a law that eliminates all of those reasons, or disincentivizes every one of them. You’re just not.”

Yeah, you are. A prospective murder charge would have disincentivized every single one of those women from murdering their sons and daughters. A handful likely would have murdered their child anyway, but the vast majority wouldn’t. Even better, many men and women wouldn’t be so irresponsible and immoral if they didn’t have abortion as a safety net. That murder charge doesn’t only disincentivize abortion, it would disincentivize the immorality that leads to abortion. You lose those healthy incentives if you’re not willing to criminalize abortion.

This discussion of incentives relates to what Romans 13 explains is the purpose of government; namely, to be a terror to evildoers. Many pro-lifers are telling the government not to uphold its Romans 13 obligations.

Van Maren and Brahm then team up to make a different version of this argument.

Brahm: “Moral culpability is complicated. And you could have a hundred women who have abortions, and they plot out a hundred different places on a spectrum of moral culpability, and some are very culpable.”

Van Maren: “On one end, you’re going to find people who, from a moral perspective, should be prosecuted. But you can’t create legislation that addresses all of them, and so we should err on the fact of not locking up guilty people.”

The fact that the argument is so similar to Van Maren’s argument about simplicity and incentives might indicate that he once again had the talking points mixed up and Brahm had to fix his argument for him, but in any case, Van Maren and Brahm demonstrate their legal ignorance once again.

To almost everything in the above excerpt, abolitionists say, “Yes, and amen!” There are varying levels of culpability among parents who murder their children, just like there are varying levels of culpability among criminals of every sort. But varying degrees of culpability do not mean we refrain from criminalizing murder, theft, assault, fraud, etc. It means that prosecutors and jurors must treat every instance individually, taking into account all context relevant to the crime and making their prosecutorial and sentencing decisions accordingly. Prosecutors, jurors, and judges sort out the details of each case. The role of the legislator is to treat all human beings equally under the law. In the context of abortion legislation,  only an abolition bill fulfills this Biblical and Constitutional mandate.

22) Who Invented Abolitionism?

Sporadically throughout the podcast, Van Maren accuses abolitionists and Russell in particular of taking credit for ideas that other pro-lifers came up with, insinuating that Russell has deceptively passed the ideas of historical pro-lifers off as his own.

This is absolutely false. No pro-lifer anywhere put forward legislation to treat Roe as the legal nullity it is and abolish abortion prior to our friend Senator Joseph Silk in 2016. No one. Are there aspects of abolitionism which various pro-lifers over the years have held to? Yes. Some pro-lifers are gospel-centered. Some support the full criminalization of abortion. Some Personhood USA people reject incrementalism. Rescuers agree with the doctrine of interposition (albeit in a different context). But prior to Russell and the Abolitionist Movement, no one had put it all together. And until Senator Silk, no one had introduced legislation to nullify Roe and abolish abortion.

Is that to say abolitionism originated with Russell? Of course not. It originates in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Proverbs, Isaiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Matthew, Romans, Acts, Ephesians, Revelation, and many other books of scripture. These principles were then put into practice by the abolitionists of slavery. But they were not comprehensively applied to the abortion battle until Russell and the abolitionists came on the scene in 2010.

23) The Antidote to Van Maren’s Poison

At the conclusion of the podcast, Van Maren encourages people to, “Feel free to go and fact check everything I’ve said.” And with that, Van Maren handed listeners the antidote to his poison.

Three things to do!
  1. Big tech is cracking down on our ability to reach you! Our social media reach has been greatly decreased in recent months. To make sure you are not missing important content and news about abolition bills from Free the States, sign up for email updates!
  2. Be an activist! Convert people in your community to abolitionism. The best brief resource in the Abolitionist Movement for turning pro-lifers into abolitionists is the Are You An Abolitionist pamphlet. The best quadfold for outreach to pro-aborts and evangelism is the Abortion is Murder And Everybody Knows it quadfold. You can pick up copies from the Free the States store, along with t-shirts, drop cards, stickers, and activism signs!
  3. Everything we produce is possible because of the support of our donors. Help fund the fight to abolish abortion! Help us add staff and expand our programs by becoming a monthly supporter of Free the States!