Jonathon van Maren


A letter of encouragement to the weary pro-lifer

Jonathon van Maren

With the question of abortion, the attitude active pro-lifers often face in the church is one of apathy. This apathy, as many pro-lifers have found, is often due to the fact that most Christians believe abortion is here to stay. When approached with requests for volunteer hours, or donations, or various other proposals for action, the general attitude is that yes, abortion is wrong, and yes, it’s horrible, but it has been around for decades, the laws are against us, and the numbers of abortion are just too high to make an actual impact.

This view is not only pervasive among non-active pro-lifers, it is also creeps into the minds of those who do pro-life work quite regularly. The abortion industry is a bloody business, and in North America abortion will be perpetrated 1.2 million times a year in the United States and 100,000 times a year in Canada. In spite of decades of activism, the abortion rate seems rather unaffected, Roe v. Wade and the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court Decision remain untouched, and, as Center for Bio-Ethical Reform founder Gregg Cunningham points out, “The sewers of our cities run red with the blood of our children.”

In light of the enormity of the abortion industry, and the destruction of millions of lives and the consciences of even more, it easy is to get crushed by the weight of the situation. If pro-lifers are taking their task as seriously as they should, if they are trying to save the lives of the pre-born with the same urgency as they would a born child in imminent danger, the gravity of what is taking place should weigh heavily upon them.

But we mustn’t let the extent of the problem cause us to lose sight of what we can do. If each time we manage, with God’s help, to save a child, but cannot take any joy whatsoever in this fact because we are tormented by the fact that there were so many others we could not save, we will eventually give way to despair and lose our effectiveness. If we become persistently angry and even hateful towards those pro-lifers who are either doing nothing or do not possess the boldness to do what is necessary, we will once again compromise our effectiveness, and lack the very thing we need in the culture: Love.

While we must never lose sight of the enormity of the problem—this is, of course, one of the many reasons for the urgency of the task at hand, we must also be sure to be able to take joy in the lives that are saved. If we manage to save pre-born children, but are unable to feel any satisfaction, or gratitude, we do not understand the enormity of what was accomplished. If we profess to believe that each human life has infinite value, then the saving of even one is a miracle worthy of gratitude. While this does not excuse us from continuing onwards, and cannot be a reason to rest on our laurels, we must view these victories as refreshment while running a marathon. These victories, small as they may be, must be the encouragement that propels us forward. One more beautiful, unrepeatable child saved.

When we extol the virtues of those who risked everything to hide Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War, do we look at the six million who died and scorn their sacrifice? We do not. We thank God that there were those who recognized that even if they could only save a few, those few were infinitely valuable. While the attitude of inadequacy expressed by Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List at not having saved all he could is one that should definitely be kept in our minds (so as not to slow our efforts), the fact remains that lives were saved; this should be a source of unspeakable joy.

To argue, then, that we cannot donate our time, or our money, or our resources to the fight against the evil of abortion is to in essence say that we do not believe that pre-born children are as valuable as born children. For pro-lifers to become consumed by despair over the overwhelming loss of life that persists daily is to eventually lose our effectiveness in saving those that we can. If Corrie ten Boom or Oskar Schindler had looked at the devastating loss of life perpetrated by the Nazi machine, and retreated into despair at what the world had come to, there would not be trees planted in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Israel, and we would not remember their names.

There is an often told story that may sound extemely trite, but the underlying message of it is one that is necessary for pro-lifers to realize as we struggle to effectively save as many babies as we can and end the killing:

There was a man who was walking down the beach, where thousands of starfish lay dying due to the receding tide. In the midst of this, a boy stood, picking up starfish one at a time, and tossed them back into the ocean. The man looked at the boy, and told him, “You realize that you can’t possibly make a difference here, right? There are thousands of them!” The boy looked back at him, threw another starfish into the ocean, and replied, “I made a difference to that one.”

When people are speaking to us, expressing a similar sentiment as that sceptical man, or if we find such doubtful thoughts creep into our own minds, we must reply in the same vein: “There is one more baby that did not get dismembered inside her mother’s womb because I tried to do everything I could.”

I firmly believe that our generation will be successful in defeating the abortion culture within our lifetime. There is much that lends itself to hope, many reasons for encouragement. But for those pro-lifers who find themselves occasionally despairing, remember that every abortion that is averted, a human of infinite worth is saved a gruesome death, and the consciences of the would-be perpetrators are spared from further hardening.

And that, I think, is something worth fighting for.

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