Several months ago Abolish Human Abortion’s T. Russell Hunter issued an open challenge to anyone from the pro-life community to debate him on the topic of “immediatism,” which he supports, versus “incrementalism,” which the so-called “establishment” generally supports. His description of the debate frame:
I would argue for the abolitionist position – that all people who are opposed to abortion ought to unify around abolishing all forms of intentional prenatal destruction regardless of the age of the human being in question – and my opponent could argue for the pro life establishment’s position that we should focus our time and energy on regulating abortion while it remains legal and seek incremental gains against it.
Gregg Cunningham of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform eventually accepted Hunter’s challenge, and the debate was held this past Friday, April 25.
(Cunningham also rejected Hunter’s premise that incrementalism is an “either/or” thing, a concept it is actually immediatists who espouse. I find it inexplicable that they not only ignore opportunities but block attempts to save children from abortion now, thinking it is only principled to work to stop all abortions at one time in the future. But as Cunningham stated more than once, “We don’t do one or the other, we do both.”)
You can view video of the debate here. It totals almost three hours, but I think the last hour of Q&A could be skipped without missing much. Otherwise, it’s an interesting thing to watch.
A bunch of us around the country and Canada viewed it “together,” so to speak, via live stream, and the consensus was Cunningham won the debate hands down. How hands down? Nixon’s stunning debate defeat to Kennedy comes to mind. Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Jonathon Van Maren called it an “out-and-out mauling.”
Hunter came ill-prepared to support his actual premise, that pro-life incrementalism hasn’t and doesn’t work, and Cunningham quickly disproved Hunter’s claim that immediatism is buttressed by historical figures like William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. None of the aforementioned were immediatists in practice. They were incrementalists.
Which is where Hunter’s thesis fell apart. He quoted their writings, which expressed an absolutist view against slavery and segregation, but ignored their work, which demonstrated an incremental approach.
By example, someone looking back at my writings some day will readily conclude I abhor all abortions, oppose the rape/incest exception, and think abortion clinics come from the pits of hell.
Yet in practice I support a 20-week abortion ban, some legislation with rape/incest exceptions, and abortion clinic regulations. These are means to get to the end: stopping all abortions. Again, incrementalists work to stop all abortions while at the same time working to save the babies we can along the way.
The reason I’m taking the time to dissect this debate here, and in another post or two or three, is because I believe AHA and Hunter’s immediatist view is not only wrong, it’s dangerous and deadly, resulting in the senseless deaths of children.
So if you consider this mere internecine bickering, I don’t. In my opinion, lives hang in the balance.
This was exemplified clearly in the debate, which I’ll get to in my next post.
- Wish I did better in last nights debate and kept the focus on immediatism instead of letting it run all over the place and of course, there were a lot of things I wanted to say or shoulda woulda could have said….
- Definitely my first [debate]….
- I was getting pretty rilled up at times and actually holding a lot back.
- I was dead tired and dealing with all sorts of strange spiritual warfare issues and family difficulties so I was not anywhere as sharp as I needed to be.
- Because it is quite difficult to explain the difference between immediatism and incrementalism while someone is constantly calling you a pharisee, accusing you of hating babies and repeatedly telling you that they regulate abortion better than you do, I have decided to finish this powerpoint presentation and put it up in its entirety for people to evaluate and assess.
- I’m a better drawer than debater….
- I didn’t get to half of [my arguments] and was to rushed and distracted to nail Gregg where I should have.
- Then Gregg got up, said that he and his organization were awesome and uncompromising and that I was a meanie head on Facebook…. Greg then said that I was stupid and that he was awesome…. He held up that paper again and said that I completely disregarded the lives of all children ever saved from abortion and that I was a monster (but that he loved me and respected my work etc etc).
As an aside, even a cursory viewing of the debate will show Gregg was strong but behaved like a gentleman. Apparently, for all the verbal bombs he throws online, Hunter can’t handle hand-to-hand combat.
But as someone wrote to NYC Mayor de Blasio, who recently complained people are mean to him at baseball games, “Toughen up, buttercup.”
At any rate, by last night Hunter had recovered his mojo, writing, “I’m starting to realize that the debate went far better than I realized,” this, he said, because he’d heard people like me were ‘totally freaking out and making promises to write articles.”
I’m totally freaking out, all right, for the babies Hunter and his followers fight to leave in the hands of abortionists.
Stay tuned for “Part II: Let babies die today, we can save the rest later.”
And meanwhile, watch the debate and tell me what you think.
[HT for research help: Tom H.]