An Evangelical Changes His Mind on Abortion

Schenk

Check out Terry Gross’s NPR interview with evangelical minister Rob Schenck.  I first learned about Schenck through the documentary “Armor of Light.”  The film featured his attempts to convince his fellow evangelicals that being “pro-life” and “pro-gun” were morally incompatible positions.

Schenck has also changed his views on abortion.  Once an ardent anti-abortion activist, Schenk has now softened his position.  Here is a taste of the summary of his interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air”:

On becoming an anti-abortion activist in 1988

There was a very close identification with the civil rights struggle, and I came to see this as a kind of civil rights struggle for the most vulnerable of human beings, those in the womb. And so as time went on, I embraced that. It took me a little while to become totally convinced of the rightness of that cause and I would take that into more than 20 years, actually 25 years, of activism.

On ways he and his fellow anti-abortion activists made it difficult for women seeking abortion

We engaged in mass blockades. Sometimes, we would have a dozen people in front of the doorways to a clinic. Other times, it would be hundreds. On occasion, we actually had thousands. And so we created human obstacles for those coming and going, whether they were the abortion providers themselves, their staff members, of course, women and sometimes men accompanying them that would come to the clinics. And it created a very intimidating encounter.

There were, of course, exceptions. There were women who would later thank us for being there. There were adoptions arranged where women would go through with their pregnancy, deliver their child, the child would be adopted through the pro-life network, but that was a relatively rare exception to the rule.

On reflecting on how his rhetoric while protesting abortion clinics and doctors may have contributed to the violence toward abortion providers, such as Dr. David Gunn, who was murdered in 1993; Dr. George Tillerwho was was wounded in 1993 and murdered in 2009; and Dr. Barnett Slepianwho was murdered in 1998

This became more about us, about me, about our need to win, to win the argument, to win on legislation, to win in the courts. I will tell you that my acceptance of that responsibility had to come only after a long period of reflective prayer, of listening deeply to those who were gravely affected by those murders, in therapy with my own — I will be careful to say — Christian therapist, who helped me come to terms with what really happened and how I may have contributed to those acts of violence through my rhetoric, and eventually in a confrontation, a very loving one but nonetheless an encounter, a very strong, very powerful encounter, with the relative of one of the doctors shot and stabbed. … And it was … actually at a Passover Seder table when I was confronted very gently and very lovingly by a relative who happened to be a rabbi of that one abortion provider. In that moment, I realized my own culpability in those in those terrible, terrible events.

Read or listen to the entire interview here.  He also discusses evangelicals and support for Donald Trump.

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