Sarah Terzo

‘It looks like a baby!’: abortion workers speak about the trauma of performing abortions

Sarah Terzo
By Sarah Terzo
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February 13, 2013 (LiveActionNews.org) - Much has been written about the emotional trauma that women go through after their abortions. But what most people don’t realize is that abortion is so inherently evil and destructive that it devastates everyone involved – the mother, the father – and the abortion provider. The doctors, nurses, and other clinic workers are human – and repeatedly seeing the bodies of aborted babies and participating in their deaths leaves emotional scars.

After giving a graphic description of how to check body parts to make sure everything is out after an abortion, Dr. Don Sloan, abortionist, says the following:

“Want to do abortions? Pay the price. There is an old saying in medicine: if you want to work in the kitchen, you may have to break an egg. The stove gets hot. Prepare to get burned.”(1)

Regardless of the motive the clinic worker has in being in the abortion business abortions are hard to deal with. According to one clinic worker interviewed by a pro-choice author Wendy Simonds:

“You’re going from dealing with people to dealing with what most people here at the Center consider a real hurdle, to do sterile room, because you have to deal with the actual abortion tissue. And for some people that’s really hard. They can be abstractly in favor of abortion rights, but they sure don’t want to see what an eighteen-week abortion looks like.”(2)

What is so upsetting about the “abortion tissue?” Pro-choicers often claim that abortion destroys collections of cells, painlessly ending a pregnancy. But according to another worker in the same clinic:

“…it looks like a baby. That’s what it looks like to me. You’ve never seen anything else that looks like that. The only other thing you’ve ever seen is a baby…You can see a face and hands and ears and eyes and, you know…feet and toes…It bothered me really bad the first time…”(3)

It is not surprising that Simonds says that clinic workers “never look at the face” when “processing tissue” from abortions.(4)

The clinic worker quoted above is not the only one to express frustration at pro-choice activists who mouth slogans without knowing the reality of what they are defending. Author Sue Hertz, who observed in an abortion clinic for a year, described the feelings of one clinic worker who attended a pro-choice brainstorming session with local activists:

The group was discussing a plan to defend abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy, up until birth:

“These people are political activists, Fran thought. Their work was critical to protecting abortion rights, but how many of them knew the reality of abortion, had seen the reality of what it destroyed?

Fran felt like standing up and saying to those arguing for unrestricted abortions,

“You haven’t seen the little feet. They look just like the little feet pushpins that the antis [pro-lifers] wear.” As a provider at Repro once said, if half the pro-choice people saw the fetal remains of a 2nd trimester abortion, they would jump the fence into the antis’ arms.”(5)

It is not just second trimester abortions that are disturbing for clinic workers. After all, an unborn baby has arms, legs, fingers, and toes by just eight weeks after conception. Jewels Green, who had an abortion as a teenager, worked in an abortion clinic that performed only first trimester abortions. This is what she says about her job:

“Working in the autoclave room was never, ever easy. I saw my lost child in every jar of aborted baby parts.”(6)

While it is unknown exactly what percentage of clinic workers have had abortions in the past, interviews with former clinic workers suggest that the number is very high. And an article in The National Catholic Register cites a study showing that 70% of Planned Parenthood workers are post-abortive.(7) Perhaps many women working at abortion clinics are trying to justify past abortions. Maybe they are reaffirming their abortion decision with every woman who they guide through the procedure. They may be living in extreme denial – lying to themselves about what they have done to their own babies, embracing the pro-choice movement as a means of emotional self-defense. Former clinic worker Norma McCorvey, who was the plaintiff in Roe versus Wade and who also worked at several abortion clinics before becoming pro-life, describes the emotional impact of the work – and touches upon the fact that so many clinic workers have had abortions themselves.

“When a later abortion was performed, workers had to piece the baby back together, and every major part–head, torso, two legs, and two arms –had to be accounted for. One of our little jokes at the clinic was, “If you ever want to humble a doctor, hide a leg so he thinks he has to go back in.” Please understand, these were not abnormal, uncaring women working with me at the clinic. We were just involved in a bloody, dehumanizing business, all of us for our own reasons. Whether we were justifying our past advocacy (as I was), justifying a previous abortion (as many were) or whatever, we were just trying to cope–and if we couldn’t laugh at what was going on, I think our minds would have snapped. It’s not an easy thing trying to confuse a conscience that will not stay dead.”(8)

It is not surprising that many abortion clinic workers experience “burnout”. According to one doctor who worked at Planned Parenthood for four years at the time of the interview:

“This can burn you out very, very quickly…not so much by the physical labor as the emotional part of what’s going on. When you do an ultrasound, particularly if you have children, and you see a fetus there, kicking, moving, living, doing things that your own child does, bringing its thumb to its mouth, and things like that- it’s difficult. Then, after the procedure, sometimes we have to actually look at the specimen, and you see arms and legs and things like that torn off…It does take an emotional toll.”(9)

An article in The Weekly Standard discussed the phenomenon of abortionist and clinic workers who leave the abortion industry. The article describes the experience of one abortionist, Lisa Harris, who performed a D&E abortion while she herself was pregnant. As she tore the leg off the baby she was aborting, she felt her own child kick in her womb. She describes her reaction in The Journal of Reproductive Health Matters:

“Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes—without me—meaning my conscious brain—even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling—a brutally visceral response—heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life.”(10)

The article goes on to say:

“Harris concluded her piece by lamenting that the pro-choice movement has left providers to suffer in silence because it has “not owned up to the reality of the fetus, or the reality of fetal parts.” Indeed, it often insists that images used by the pro-life movement are faked.(11)

Judith Fetrow, who worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic but later became pro-life, said the following about her fellow clinic workers:

“When I started at Planned Parenthood, I saw two types of women working at the clinic. One group were women who had found some way to deal with the emotional and spiritual toll of working with abortion. The second group were women who had closed themselves off emotionally. They were the walking wounded. You could look in their eyes, and see that they were emotionally dead. Unavailable for themselves, or for anyone else.”(12)

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There have not been many studies of the emotional consequences of performing abortions, but two studies done by pro-choice researchers did find the following:

“Obsessional thinking about abortion, depression, fatigue, anger, lowered self-esteem, and identity conflicts were prominent. The symptom complex was considered ‘transient reactive disorder’ similar to ‘combat technique.’

Ambivalent periods were characterized by a variety of otherwise uncharacteristic feelings and behavior including withdrawal from colleagues, resistance to going to work, lack of energy, impatience with clients and overall sense of uneasiness.

Nightmares, images that could not be shaken and preoccupation were commonly reported. Also common was the deep and lonely privacy within which practitioners had grappled with their ambivalence.”(13)

Nightmares have been reported by a number of former abortion providers. Former abortionist McArthur Hill said the following in a conference of former abortion providers:

“Many of them [abortionists] had nightmares about their participation in the abortions. In my nightmares I would deliver a healthy newborn baby and I would take that healthy newborn baby and I would hold it up, and I would face a jury of faceless people and ask them to tell me what to do with this baby. They would go thumbs-up or thumbs-down and if they made a thumbs-down indication then I was to drop the baby into a bucket of water which was present. I never did reach the point of dropping the baby into the bucket because I’d always wake up at that point. But it was clear to me then that there was something going on in my mind, subconsciously.”(14)

So the question remains – if providing abortions is so emotionally painful, why do so many men and women remain in the abortion industry and continue to do them? Perhaps we can understand this if we realize what is at stake for the abortion provider. There are abortionists who have performed more than 20,000 abortions. There are clinic workers who have been working in clinics for years, helping perform abortions every day. The number of babies that these individuals have destroyed reaches into the hundreds and thousands.

Try to imagine the emotional pain that a person has to face when she realizes she has been implicated in the death of so many human beings. The average person can feel guilt and shame for the rest of their life by accidentally running over a child with a car while driving drunk. One’s conscience can be a merciless tormentor. To blame oneself for the death of another human being is a devastating thing. To blame oneself for the deaths of thousands of human beings is almost unimaginable.

This is why clinic workers deserve our compassion. This is why those who leave the abortion industry must be treated with kindness. This is why leaving the abortion industry is such a tremendously difficult and emotionally traumatic thing for a provider to do. Pro-lifers need to be there for them. We need to reach out to them with compassion. Many of them are wounded people in an exploitative industry. Maybe they had an abortion, and wanted to be there for other women in a similar situation and make it easier for them. Maybe they bought into pro-choice rhetoric that abortion is vital for women’s freedom. Maybe when they originally got involved, they thought they were saving the lives of women who they worried would otherwise go to back alley abortionists. Or maybe they got involved because the job was offered at a time when they needed to support their families. Whatever reason, the enemy is not the clinic worker or the abortionist. The enemy is abortion.

In reaching out to clinic workers, it is vitally important to show them compassion. Angry, harsh, and judgmental language or threats of damnation only work to entrench workers and cause them to view all pro-lifers as enemies. Abortion clinic workers must overcome immense emotional barriers before they can leave, not to mention practical questions like whether they can find another job (many employers are hesitant to hire former clinic workers), whether they can support their families, etc. In fact, many clinics hire single mothers so that the workers will feel more trapped in their jobs.

For example, Joy Davis, former clinic worker, said:

“If the doctor had somebody come and apply for job whose husband was a big hot shot that made a lot of money, then he didn’t want her working for him. But if they were single, and had children, that’s the one he wanted. He could control them.”(15)

Clinic administrators know that it is hard to deal with abortion work; they sometimes seek out women who would have a hard time leaving.

Sometimes a clinic worker has been isolated from many of the support people in her life, many of whom may disapprove of abortion. The other clinic workers may be the only support system she has. She may be afraid of losing these relationships, knowing that her conversion would put a strain on them.

It is important to reach out to clinic workers with compassion. According to Rachel MacNair, who wrote a book on abortion’s impact on providers:

“Some former abortion clinic workers have been won over to the pro-life side because of the love they experienced from people who demonstrated against their clinics. Norma McCorvey, former lead plaintiff as Jane Roe of Roe V Wade, is one. The case of another, Judith Fetrow, is striking because she initially experienced hostility from pro-life demonstrators at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic where she worked. On one occasion, she was so upset by her work that she decided to leave the clinic. But on her way out, demonstrators started shouting at her, “Murderer! The blood is on your hands!” Fetrow felt as though “someone had kicked me in the stomach,” so she went back to the clinic and “back to work.”

But a sidewalk counselor named Steve reached out to her, chatting with her in a friendly way. “It took some time,” Fetrow recalled, “it took enormous dedication, and it took the patience of a saint. But over several weeks we developed a friendship across the lines, based on trust.” Fetrow again left the clinic, but this time she did not return.(16)

Most tragic of all are the acts of violence against abortion providers by anti-abortion people. Those who oppose abortion but champion violence are truly hypocritical. To be pro-life is to stand up and say that killing is not a legitimate way to solve problems. I’m going to end with the following heartbreaking story, told by former clinic worker Joy Davis, at a conference for former abortion providers. She is quoted on the DVD “Abortion: An Inside Look”:

“When I was in the abortion industry, and started having the nightmares, and started having all of the guilt, and feeling that what we were doing was so wrong, I went to a friend of mine who was an abortionist. He didn’t work with me, but he worked at a clinic close by. I went to him and told him about all the things that I was feeling. About the nightmares and the guilt. He said that he understood very well, because he also had nightmares, and that he also had a tremendous amount of guilt. I never asked him why he did abortions but I knew he would only do early first trimester pregnancies. Because once the nervous system started developing in the baby he would not terminate that pregnancy because he was afraid that he would hurt that baby. So he was a very, very, unusual man. But he gave me some good advice. He said the only thing I can tell you is to follow your heart and do what your conscience tells you to do. I asked him if that’s what he was doing. And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m working on it.’ I’d like to think that he would be here today. I’d like to think that he would’ve come out. But you see, a couple of days after that conversation he was shot and killed in front of a Pensacola abortion clinic. His name was Dr. David Gunn.”

Dr. Gunn was denied the chance to come to terms with his life and work to undo the harm he had caused. This is a terrible thing to do to someone. I hope that pro-lifers will join me in reaching out to clinic workers, both current and former, with compassion.

1. Don Sloan, M.D. with Paula Hartz, Abortion: a Doctor’s Perspective, a Woman’s Dilemma (New York: Donald I Fine, 1992) 239 – 240
2. Wendy Simonds. Abortion at Work: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic. (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick) 1996 69
3. Simonds 88
4. Simonds 86-87
5. Sue Hertz Caught in the Crossfire: A Year on Abortion’s Front Line (New York: Prentice Hill Press, 1991) 122
6. “Former abortion clinic worker breaks silence, speaks out for life” by Kristen Walker LiveAction.org Thu July 20, 2011
7. TIM DRAKE “From Abortion Worker to Catholic Apostle” National Catholic Register 01/25/2013
8. Norma McCorvey Won By Love (Thomas Nelson, Inc: Nashville, TN) 1997 p 13
9. Nancy Day. Abortion: Debating the Issue (Enslow Publishing: New York) 1995
10. David Daleiden and Jon A. Shields “Mugged by Ultrasound: Why so many abortion workers have turned pro-life”. The Weekly Standard JAN 25, 2010, VOL. 15, NO. 18
11. Ibid.
12. “Is Abortion Good for Women” Rachel MacNair, Angela Kennedy. Swimming Against the Tide: Feminist Dissent on the Issue of Abortion (Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 1997) 82
13. Roe, KM “private troubles and public issues, providing abortion amid competing definitions” Social Science and Medicine, 1989 volume 29 number 1, 1197
14. “Meet the Abortion Providers’ conference by Pro-Life Action League 1993 Read full testimonyhttp://clinicquotes.com/former-abortionist-mcarthur-hill/
15. Interview with Joy Davis, Life Dynamics 1993
16. Story recounted in Mary Meehan spring/summer 2000 The Ex-Abortionists: Why They Quit. Human Life Review 26 (2/3), 7 – 28, 8 and 21 Quoted in Rachel M MacNair and Stephen Zunes. Consistently Opposing Killing: from Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War (Bloomington: Author’s Choice press, 2011) 135

Reprinted with permission from LiveActionNews.org. Sarah Terzo is a pro-life author and creator of the clinicquotes.com website. She is a member of Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.

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The first pro-abortion Republican enters the 2016 presidential race

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By Ben Johnson

EXETER, NH, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The large and expanding field of would-be Republican presidential candidates grew by one today, as George Pataki became the first GOP presidential hopeful this election season to openly support abortion-on-demand.

The 69-year-old long-shot candidate also has a history of supporting homosexual legislative causes.

In the weeks leading up to his formal announcement, George Pataki took out TV ads asking Republicans to refrain from talking about abortion and gay “marriage,” branding them “distractions.”

“In 12 years [as governor], I don’t think I talked about that issue twice,” he once said of abortion.

On same-sex “marriage,” he says, “I think, leave it to the states. I don’t think it’s a role in Washington.”

However, Pataki has a long history of enacting the homosexual political agenda as governor of New York from 1994-2006. He signed a “hate crimes” law that added the words “gay” and “lesbian” to New York state law for the first time.

He signed the Sexual Orientation Nondiscrimination Act (SONDA), which prohibits business owners from “discriminating” against homosexuals in housing or hiring, with an exemption only for religious institutions.

He also added sexual orientation to state civil rights laws, alongside such immutable characteristics as race and sex, in an apparent quid pro quo for a gay activist group's endorsement in his last run for governor. The New York Times reported that, under pressure from Pataki, the then-Senate Majority Leader “shifted his position on the bill as part of what is tacitly acknowledged, even by Senator [Joseph] Bruno's senior aides, to have been a deal to win an endorsement for Governor Pataki from the state's largest gay rights group, the Empire State Pride Agenda.”

After the LGBT activist group endorsed Pataki in 2002, citing a long list of his service to the homosexual political cause, Pataki personally lobbied senators for the bill's passage, then signed it into law that December.

Coupled with his stance on gun control, environmentalism, and other issues, he stands well to the left of the Republican mainstream.

The three-term governor of New York, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, took his own advice by largely avoiding social issues today. The closest he came was his vow, “I'd repeal oppressive laws like ObamaCare and end Common Core.”

He added that he would “fire every current IRS employee abusing government power to discriminate on the basis of politics or religion. That is not America!”

Otherwise, Pataki's announcement speech hewed to stand pat Republican issues like reducing taxes, shrinking the number of federal employees, increasing military spending, and supporting entrepreneurship.

He began by thanking his supporters, in English and Spanish.

Smiling, his head pivoting between twin teleprompters, he said, “Let me tell you some of the things I'd do right away to get oppressive government off the backs of Americans.”

He would institute a lifetime ban on congressmen acting as lobbyists after they leave office. “If you ever served one day in Congress, you will never be a lobbyist,” he said. He favors forcing Congress to live under the laws it passes, so there will be “no special rules for the powerful.”

He cited his history of cutting taxes, reducing welfare rolls, and leaving his state with billions of dollars in surplus. “That's what our policies can do,” he said. “I know we can do the same thing for the United States.”

In recent weeks, he has called for a more interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East. Today, he reminded his audience that he was governor of New York in 9/11. “I will not fear the lesson of September 11,” he said. “To protect us, first we must protect the border,” he said – an unexpected phrase, as Pataki supports amnesty for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

“We will stand with our ally, Israel, a democracy on the front lines of terror and barbarism,” he said.

Like former Sen. Rick Santorum, who announced he is running for president yesterday, Pataki agreed that “if necessary, American forces will be used to actually defeat and destroy ISIS on the ground” – although he promised not to become “the world's policeman.”

Some of his campaign promises drew skepticism, such as seeking to develop self-driving cars and to cure Alzheimer's disease and cancer within the next decade.

The speech's venue was chosen deliberately by Pataki, who considered entering the presidential race in 2000, 2008, and 2012. The town of Exeter, New Hampshire, claims to be the founding place of the Republican Party. (Ripon, Wisconsin, makes a similar claim.)

More importantly, the first-in-the-nation primary skews more libertarian on social issues than evangelical-dominated Iowa and South Carolina, so Pataki has essentially staked his candidacy on doing well in New Hampshire. Fellow pro-abortion Republican Rudy Giuliani made a similar bet in 2008, banking on a good showing among transplanted New Yorkers in the Florida primary. He left the race after finishing a distant third.

Short of a stunning upset in the Granite State, Pataki has little chance of breaking through the pack this year. A Fox News poll ranks him dead last among 16 announced and potential candidates. Holly Bailey of Yahoo! News said, “George Pataki would never say this, but you do have to wonder if he's sort of, maybe, gaming for vice president.”

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Pataki is not the first “pro-choice” Republican to run for president.  Giuliani (who supported partial birth abortion) and Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (another potential 2016 candidate, who supports abortion during the first trimester) ran in 2008. Twelve years earlier, both California Gov. Pete Wilson and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter supported abortion-on-demand. Arlen Specter later left the party and became a Democrat.

In 1988, General Alexander Haig opposed a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So did Texas Gov. John Connally in 1980.

George H.W. Bush supported abortion and voted for Planned Parenthood funding early in his career but changed his position by the time he ran for president the second time, in 1988.

President Gerald Ford was the last Republican nominee to proclaim himself “pro-choice.” 

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Ireland ‘defied God’ by voting for gay ‘marriage’: Cardinal Burke

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OXFORD, May 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Cardinal Raymond Burke lamented how formerly Catholic Ireland has gone further than the pagans in the pre-Christian days of old and “defied God” by calling homosexual behavior “marriage” in the referendum last week.

“I mean, this is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage,” he told the Newman Society, Oxford University’s Catholic organization, in an address Wednesday about the intellectual heritage of Pope Benedict XVI. The Tablet, Britain’s liberal Catholic newspaper, reported his remarks.

On Friday, 1.2 million Irish people voted to amend the country’s constitution to say: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” A little over 734,000 people voted against the proposal. 

Burke said that he could not understand “any nation redefining marriage.”

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The cardinal also emphasized the important role that parents play in protecting their children in a culture increasingly hostile to God’s laws. “The culture is thoroughly corrupted, if I may say so, and the children are being exposed to this, especially through the internet,” he said. One practical piece of advice that he offered families was to put computers in public areas to prevent children from “imbib[ing] this poison that’s out there.”

During the same Oxford visit, but during a homily at a Mass the day before, Burke called marriage between a man and woman a “fundamental truth” that has been “ignored, defied, and violated.”

Burke warned during the homily of the dangers of “various ideological currents” and of “human deception and trickery which strives to lead us into error.”

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Why young Christians can’t grasp our arguments against gay ‘marriage’

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May 28, 2015 (BreakPoint.org) -- For five years, Dr. Abigail Rine has been teaching a course on gender theory at George Fox University, an evangelical school in the Quaker tradition.

At the beginning of the semester, she tells her students that “they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.”

Writing at FirstThings.com recently, she related how five years ago it was easy to find readings that challenged and even offended the evangelical college students “considering the secular bent of contemporary gender studies.”

But today, things are different. “Students now,” she says, “arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant.”

And what do they find “intolerant”? Well, in her class, an essay entitled “What is Marriage?” by Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson, which was the beginning of the book “What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense.”

In their article, Girgis, George, and Anderson defend what they call the conjugal view of marriage. “Marriage,” they write, “is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other … that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together.” They defend this view against what they call the “revisionist view” of marriage, which redefines marriage to include, among other things, same-sex couples.

“My students hate it,” Dr. Rine wrote. They “lambast the article.” “They also,” she adds, “seem unable to fully understand the argument.” And again, these are evangelical students at an evangelical school.

The only argument for conjugal marriage they’ve ever encountered has been the wooden proof-texting from the Bible. And besides, wrote Rine, “What the article names as a ‘revisionist’ idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem ‘new’ to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.”

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As Rine points out “the redefinition of marriage began decades ago” when “the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination.”

And if marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction,” then it seems mean-spirited to Rine’s students to argue that marriage by its very nature excludes same-sex couples.

And where do students get the idea that marriage “has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction”? Well, everywhere—television, church, school, their homes, in youth groups.

Rine writes, “As I consider my own upbringing and the various ‘sex talks’ I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist.”

In other words, once you say, “I do,” you get “the gift” of sex which is presented as “a ‘gift’ largely due to its [erotic], unitive properties, rather than its intrinsic capacity to create life.” Even in the Church, children have become an optional add-on to married life rather than its primary purpose.

What can we do to win back our children, our churches, and the culture? In our recent book “Same Sex Marriage,” Sean McDowell and I lay out a game plan. We offer strategies for the short-term and the long-term, with the ultimate goal: re-shaping the cultural imagination towards what God intended marriage to be, starting with the church. Come to BreakPoint.org to pick up your copy.

As Chuck Colson once said in a BreakPoint commentary about marriage, “We Christians are very good at saying ‘No.’ But we’ve got to get better at saying ‘Yes’: showing how God’s plan for humanity is a blessing. That His ways, including faithful, life-giving marriage between one man and one woman, lead to human flourishing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Reprinted with permission from Break Point.

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