“Immediatist v Incrementalist” debate analysis, Part I: Let babies die today, we can save the rest later”

2015-04-29_1141Related, please read my Prologue, and also Part III: There’s only one way to cut down a tree?

The most disturbing aspect of the “immediatist” anti-abortion movement is that which is hardest to get its followers to acknowledge.

That is, by opposing incremental legislation they are condemning babies to die, some in excruciating ways, who would otherwise be saved.

For instance, Abolish Human Abortion opposes legislation that would save babies slated for abortion who are 20 weeks and older because, AHA says, it excludes younger babies.

Never mind there’s no chance of such an all-encompassing dream law making it past Round 1 in the courts.

In other words, even though we can’t save all babies NOW, we will oppose a law that could save 20-week-old babies NOW, because the latter would be morally wrong?

2015-04-29_1102This is just one example of their upside down and deadly thinking.

So, as the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Gregg Cunningham pointed out in the “Immediatist vs. Incrementalism” debate against AHA’s T. Russell Hunter on April 25 (1:08:03 on the time stamp, also in video clip below):

The inescapable conclusion of T. Russell Hunter’s argument is that until we can save that baby [pointing to a 6-day-old embryo, see screen shot above right] – until we can outlaw the abortion of that baby – we should be utterly indifferent to the slaughter of that baby, and that baby  [pointing to an 8-wk-old aborted baby, then a 10-wk-old aborted baby], and older babies….

“Utterly indifferent” is exactly right. We witnessed this indifference during the debate, wherein Hunter acknowledged incremental legislation “might be able to help somebody” and “may save some babies,” BUT is nevertheless wrong, he claimed, because “you leave this wicked tree (of abortion) growing.”

So saving some babies is wrong because the wrong we saved them from still exists?

Hunter further contradicted his position by first acknowledging, “Every child who is aborted? Image bearer, neighbor.” EVERY CHILD. Every child aborted is Hunter’s neighbor, but not really….

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There is absolutely no historical foundation for Hunter’s absolutist philosophy. As Cunningham stated in so many words during the debate and followed up in an email:

In the entire history of social reform, no activists have ever outlawed a major injustice “immediately.” Reform has only ever been achieved step-by-step.  AHA activists are willing to allow savable babies to perish in reliance on an absurd strategy that amounts to saving no babies until we have the votes to outlaw birth control pills….

Getting immediatists to focus on the very babies they are condemning to death by their all-or-nothing strategy is understandably difficult. They’d prefer these babies remain in the abstract, inexplicably dismissing them while simultaneously claiming moral superiority on the abortion issue.

Cunningham tried three times during the debate to get Hunter to focus on the babies he is casting aside on his quest. The most telling exchange can be seen below (beginning at 1:33:30 on the full debate video), where Hunter repeatedly dodged the question but ultimately referred to legislation that saves babies as “empty, illusory victories,” i.e., babies saved by incremental legislation are “empty, illusory victories,” then went completely into left field by likening such laws to killing abortionists, and finally mocked incrementalists who celebrate saved lives.

In my opinion, these were the most condemning moments in the debate…

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Here is a transcript of that exchange:

GC: I’d like to return to the question with which I began, which Russ hasn’t answered. Should we allow these babies to die rather than enact incremental legislation?

TR: No.

GC: I’m sorry?

TR: Like, should we allow – should we allow babies to die?

GC: Should we allow these – because…

TR: The charade is – the charade is not even what we’re talking about – the incrementalism/immediatism debate. Focusing the ax at the tree, getting all the people who follow incrementalism to become immediatists and help put that ax to the branch – to the root…

GC: Would you answer this question?

TG: [unintelligible]

Moderator: That was the last question. Russ, go ahead and answer that, and then we’re gonna end this.

GC: Just for the record, Russ didn’t answer the question: Should we have allowed these babies to die, which this university professor says would have died had that legislation not been enacted. Should we have allowed them to die rather than enact the incremental legislation?

Moderator: Ok, Russ, answer that question, then we’ll change.

TR: Um, well, I firmly believe that abortion is evil, and it is one of these things that the powers and principalities of darkness and high places are very in to. It’s the crown jewel of darkness, and I actually believe that if they can keep abortion going by deceiving people into becoming gradualists, they will do it. And if to deceive them they have to give them empty, illusory victories, and law professors may claim that babies were saved, they’ll do it. But I – if someone goes to an abortion mill and shoots a doctor, a baby might be saved that day, but that’s not going towards abolishing abortion. It’s not establishing justice that day [unintelligible] a baby that day.

GC: May I ask for clarification for your answer? You’re saying this guy’s making this up?

TR: Uh, no, I have to read it. But I’m just saying that convincing people to be gradualists by saying, “Hey look, we saved some,” while they’re still being – I’m pretty sure that you can convince people to be gradualists for the next 40 years…

GC: Hey Russell, let’s do both. Let’s do both. Let’s do both.

Stay tuned for Part II: “There’s only one way to cut down a tree?”

Also read Jonathon Van Maren’s, “Four observations from the Cunningham vs. Hunter debate.”

36 thoughts on ““Immediatist v Incrementalist” debate analysis, Part I: Let babies die today, we can save the rest later””

  1. From my brother Michael Plaisted. Thought it was worth posting here . . .

    “I expect Jill to be dishonest. She wants to pretend to believe that ‘AHA’ is an organization and will present it so dismissively. If she walked in truth, as if Christ was lord of her life, she would repent of her persistent misrepresentation and describe Russell in this article as being ‘of the International Coalition of Abolitionist Societies’ or ‘of ICAS’ as it is described in the actual debate on which she is attempting to comment.

    Her penchant for petty child’s games is even demonstrated when she refers to a direct quote from the debate:

    ‘“may save some babies,” BUT is nevertheless wrong, he claimed, because “you leave this wicked tree (of abortion) growing.”

    So saving some babies is wrong because the wrong we saved them from still exists?’

    It is clear that she deliberately misrepresents what Russell says. He does not say that incrementalism just allows wrong to exist. He says that it is allowed to *grow*. Instead of strawmanning the argument, Jill Stanek should repent, or at least fake intellectual honesty until she does repent. The argument was not that evil exists so nothing should be done about it. The argument was that because evil does exist, one should not engage in activity that will strengthen that evil by pruning it, or exercising out the fat to sharpen the muscle. Incrementalism doesn’t just allow evil to exist, it makes evil stronger. It is Jill’s inability to accept this that compels her to strawman any claim that points out her folly, thereby ruin her testimony with the God to whom she claims to belong.

    There are other faults in her assessment of the debate, but these are just natural fruits of the tree that is Jill Stanek. Instead of dealing with incrementalism or immediatism on Biblical terms, she chooses to make an idol out of the abortion fight. Her career is more important to her than her soul. When the light of scripture is shown on her wicked endeavors she, in the reaction of covering up sin, attempts to shoot the messenger and further compound her sin. If her position was a good and true one, she wouldn’t have to resort to strawman arguments and ad hominem. She would never engage infanticide in the spirit of ‘the ends justify the means’, but would declare God’s justice on God’s terms with God’s Spirit. Like Cunningham she would say ‘let’s do both!’ and attempt the impossible: serve both God and Mammon. I pray she repents.”


  2. What evidence do we have that abortion regulations save children? We can’t be so naive to think that banning abortion at a certain age would not result in more abortions earlier.


  3. What about all the actual men and women who were conceived in rape, and who are alive and well right now, who refuse to support any incremental legislation that includes an exception that abortion in cases of rape is ok? Are you willing to call them “dangerous and deadly” as well?

    I certainly hope you wouldn’t.

    The most powerful point of the whole debate was Russell’s point that many of God’s people are denying God’s power…the people of God denying the power of God. That’s the truth. Is God not able to do way more than we can conceive of? Does God not bless radical obedience and radical faithfulness to His Word?

    Very disappointing blog.


  4. Sigh. Can’t debate facts so the sanctimonious pharisees intone that Jesus must not be Lord of Jill’s life. GOOD GRIEF. These people are ridiculous.

    HEY AHA FOLKS-unless you can completely overturn abortion throughout the WORLD all at once–every other victory is INCREMENTALISM! Even overturning Roe in the US would be WICKED if you were HONEST and not total hypocrites because according to your logic the ROOT of abortion would still be alive and well in the world.

    But hey pharisees–pat yourself on the back and tell yourself how holy you are. I’m sure Jesus loves your pride and is totes okay with babies dying so you can try and win an argument.


  5. God saves sinners one at a time, why is it against God’s word to save the unborn one baby, or one group of babies, at a time?

    I have also heard the “tree” remarks many times and anyone who has ever cut down a large tree in their yard knows, you do not just grab a chainsaw and cut it at the base or you risk your house, your neighbor’s house, your safety, your neighbor’s safety,and other trees in your yard and your neighbor’s yard.

    A responsible tree removal involves the cutting of branches and then limbs and then sections of the trunk until the whole tree is down.

    If a tree is standing in an open field and there are no other trees around, you may cut it all at once, but if you follow the analogy, this is not a tree standing alone, but rather a tree tied up with many other trees or laws and other societal parameters.

    Give any Jew in the world the following two options and see what they would choose.

    Choice One: You can go back in time to 1933 and have a 100% chance of saving 40% of the victims of the Holocaust this trip and then additional chances in the future of going back every two years in elapsed time of the Holocaust (1935, 1937, 1939…) and having the opportunity of saving a higher and higher percentage of those targeted up to either the end of the war, or saving all the victims left at that time.


    Choice Two: You can go back in time to 1933 and have a 1 in 10,000 chance of saving 90% of the victims of the Holocaust. Then you only get three more shots in 1937, 1941, and 1945 of doing the same thing for the remaining victims at those times with the same odds, 1 in 10,000. (I use 90%, because even in abortion is completely outlawed, it will still happen.)

    Which do you think they would do? I bet most would take the guaranteed saving of many lives and working to save more than gambling with ALL THE LIVES at risk.

    Also, I will speak for myself on this. I WAS conceived in rape, and if I could stop all abortions today except those for rape, I would, and then tomorrow, I would start work to stop those from rape as well. And if it took the forfeiting of my life to ensure that victory, I would gladly forfeit my life and trust in leaders like Jill to save the rest of the babies!


  6. I cannot thank Toby enough for his post. This kind of rhetoric is all too common with AHA and since sunshine is the best disinfectant I want as many people to be exposed to it as possible.


  7. From AHA blog/Jered Ragon:

    “Allow me to recount a short story: When I first became an abolitionist I was profoundly opposed to the public use of graphic images of aborted babies. I even would argue from time to time with other abolitionists who have been doing this for much longer than me against the public use of ‘graphic images.’ One of the people that I argued with was my dear brother Todd Bullis.

    “Instead of making our disagreement on this one tactic into our only topic of conversation, he offered several times to explain his reasoning behind using them but all of the while treated me like a brother and we rejoiced in our fellowship with one another. Over time and through the fellowship and encouragement of godly men, God’s Spirit grew me to understand things a lot better. One of the things I came to understand was that my stance on ‘graphic images’ was wrong.

    “My point in saying all of this is that when I reflect on what it means to bear one another’s burdens, I think about some of the patience that I’ve been shown. Being an abolitionist requires that your thinking about things is constantly changing. It requires that you be transformed through the renewing of your mind, especially when you first become an abolitionist. If we are going to play a part in growing this movement, then we will have to patiently and clearly bring people along with us in a lot of areas. There are definitely some essentials that we should look for in people with whom we engage in the work of abolition. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and thinking that abortion is evil and we ought to work towards its abolition are good places to start.”

    What a great attitude — “Instead of making our disagreement on this one tactic into our only topic of conversation, he offered several times to explain his reasoning behind using them but all of the while treated me like a brother and we rejoiced in our fellowship with one another.” “Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and thinking that abortion is evil and we ought to work towards its abolition are good places to start.”

    Where is that attitude toward fellow believers such as Jill, Mark Harrington, Gregg Cunningham?

    Matthew 24:30 applies here. AHA, if you believe the PLMs need to be called to repentance, speak your piece, then continue on to abolish abortion at the root, however you decide to do that. No hammers needed.


  8. I’m an incrementalist for the very reasons Mark explains so well, above.

    However, I never liked the pain-capable law. NOT because it is an incrementalist law, but because it teaches that abortion is wrong because of the pain, and that is not why abortion is wrong. The time and effort and $ spent on the pain-capable law could be better spent on some national standards 72-hour waiting period, parental consent, abortionists’ admitting privileges, and transparent reporting for abortion clinics, ending tax-payer funding for PP, etc. All of these laws teach something worth learning!


  9. I am so sick of these guys whining! Give it up! T Russell lost the debate! All you other AHA people that continue this harping are just making you ALL look like whiny losers!


  10. The weird part of all of this — Is that the abolitionists behave like the other pro-lifers are the enemy. So much pro-life energy focused against the pro-life movement!

    HEAR THIS, PEOPLE!: Courts, laws, and politics will not end abortion!

    To be sure, we need laws to protect the innocent from harm. But abortions will still happen, as they did throughout the pagan and modern eras, as long as the culture accepts that killing is a suitable solution to a problem.

    The incrementalists believe that incremental laws of protection will move the culture toward increasing respect for life — the necessary prerequisite for abolishing abortion.

    The abolitionists need to be in the churches, in the communities, at the clinics, spreading their message that WE NEED TO END ABORTION NOW! When you have turned the hearts of the public to support life, then we can all be on the same page at the same time.

    But as long as AHA insists on pestering the rest of the pro-life movement, you are going to be just a gadfly. And we will have to dedicate the tail of our effort to swatting you.


  11. What evidence do we have that abortion regulations save children? We can’t be so naive to think that banning abortion at a certain age would not result in more abortions earlier.

    Well, at least one abortion regulation has prevented over a million abortions:


    We can’t be so naive to think that banning abortion at a certain age would not result in more abortions earlier.

    So if the limit was 4 weeks, do you think there would be just as many abortions as before? What about 2 weeks?


  12. So how many babies have you self-righteous AHA pricks saved? Come on, give me a statistic. For all your talk of abolishing abortion, all we see you doing is preaching hellfire & brimstone/attacking others others & sabotaging the passage of pro-life laws, which are in fact are making a difference, even if a small one (more than what we can say you’ve done to save lives). In fact, when you actively vote against & help defeat pro-life you are helping the pro-choice cause & allowing abortion to continue unregulated and lives continue to end while we wait for your all or nothing solution. What exactly is your plan for abolishing abortion all at once? How do you plan on going about it? I have yet to see a clear, definite answer.


  13. “The weird part of all of this — Is that the abolitionists behave like the other pro-lifers are the enemy. So much pro-life energy focused against the pro-life movement!”

    Ah, but that’s the beauty of it, Del. abolitionists don’t consider themselves part of the pro-life movement. In fact, some of them get quite annoyed if you suggest that they are. I believe they essentially use this as a trick to deflect accusations of infighting, even though they are fighting against people who are on the same side of the abortion fight.


  14. “So much pro-life energy focused against the pro-life movement!”

    Exactly! They’re so busy attacking the efforts of pro-life individuals & groups & self-righteously saving others that it doesn’t appear they have time to come up with a solution or concrete plans for how to defeat all abortion laws & close all clinics all at once. Oh wait, is it even realistically possible to get 99% of the population to oppose abortion in the same time period to gain the support necessary to overturn abortion-rights laws (including Roe v. Wade), to change every calloused abortion provider & nurses heart so they no longer wish to provide abortions, & to close every clinic in America?


  15. I say this not because I doubt how immense God’s power is, but rather because God gave man free will and unfortunately there will always be men who will chose the path of less resistance & self-gratification (evil) over good until the end of time.


  16. At some point both sides need to stop wasting energy on defending/arguing/trying to be right, to “win.”

    What if we stop responding, stop engaging in unproductive discussion. We don’t have to “dedicate the tail … to swatting”! As tempting as it is for our sin nature to want to show the other side where they are wrong/sinning/in error … resist.

    “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” 2 Timothy 2:14

    “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19

    “For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” Proverbs 30:33

    “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil …” 2 Timothy 2:24

    “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11

    “… to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:2

    Immediatists have made their point, called the PLMs to repent. Incrementalists have heard it. Now let’s all go back out to the field where blood is being shed and repentance is desperately needed.


  17. “Now let’s all go back out to the field where blood is being shed and repentance is desperately needed.”

    I agree.

    But you can do this pretty much every day and also not undermine your overall strategy. Just think how bad it would be if I went out to the high school today and held only picture of babies after twenty weeks and told the students that we wanted to save the younger babies (98%) but that right now the world didn’t agree with us about that, so we were there to focus on babies who feel pain.

    As we hear from students daily, they already tell us that they think the abortions they get are okay because they are in the first trimester, their babies won’t feel pain etc.



  18. I take responsibility for my overall strategy, and will answer to God for my words and actions out in the field. The main thing is being out in the field and at the abortion mills and in front of the abortionist’s home.


  19. Mary said

    “I’m an incrementalist for the very reasons Mark explains so well, above.

    However, I never liked the pain-capable law. NOT because it is an incrementalist law, but because it teaches that abortion is wrong because of the pain, and that is not why abortion is wrong.”

    This is exactly why Abolitionists oppose such legislation. Please take it one step further. If we go for legislation that requires a 72 hour waiting period what does that communicate to the culture? Yep, you got it; that abortion is wrong because sometimes women might make a rash decision, or because their parents might not know, or because they might not know all the facts about abortion. But what it does not say is that abortion is wrong because it is murder. What about legislation that says “clinics must meet such and such standards of the healthcare industry or else be shut down”? Yep, you got it. It communicates that abortion is 1) healthcare (when in fact it is not) and 2) that abortion is wrong because it is icky and sometimes done is unsanitary ways or because it is dangerous for women. Please open your eyes to this. You are almost there.


  20. It would be more constructive to your thought process and this conversation if you would look into what Immediatism does and does not entail.

    Immediatism often produces incremental results and there are things that can be done that pro-lifers cite as incrementalism which are done on a daily basis by abolitionists and they are not the sort of compromising, detrimental, or delaying incrementalism that we decry.

    There is an undermining incrementalism in the Pro-life movement that we have to fight against and that is probably where you are seeing me as someone who rejects all incrementalism.

    Increments on a treadmill versus increments that actually move toward the goal. The latter are good so long as they aren’t set up in the place of immediate action or act as a substitute and delay.”

    Incrementalism is not in and of itself bad. It is bad when it either compromises with the evil that it is seeking to be abolished (such as accepting abortion itself and seeking to write laws detailing which abortions are bad and separating them out from those which will continue to be countenanced) or when the incrementalist strategy and tactics are embraced and focused on in the place immediatism and used by those leading the incrementalist charge to distract people from unifying together and working for immediate abolition, thereby protracting the evil you seek to abolish and delaying its abolition.

    There is more to be said on this, but it is an important argument that most pro-life establishment leaders are seeking to keep hidden.


  21. So Toby-are you against overturning Roe then, by your logic? Because if you overturn Roe you are saying abortion is wrong because it is occurring on US soil. But you can go to Canada or mexico or anywhere else in the world and have an abortion.

    Let me repeat it again since you folks are so daft. ANYTHING LESS THAN A TOTAL BAN ON ABORTION THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GLOBE IS INCREMENTALISM and so by your definition immoral, wicked and proves you don’t love Jesus!


  22. Mr. Hunter,
    Can you give specific examples of incrementalism that “are good so long as they aren’t set up in the place of immediate action or act as a substitute and delay”? That will help clarify. Thank you!


  23. T. Russell,

    Ditto to the question FrebusMaxwell asked, and as a related question, please tell us what specific work AHA is doing, or advocates are doing, to ax abortion, and please also specifically describe “increments that move toward the goal.’

    Also, please respond specifically to the you who acknowledges incremental laws save babies.


  24. Toby & T. Russell,

    Please educate us about what kind of abortion-ending activities you approve of – specific examples. Thank you.


  25. We advocate any bill or law or campaign or project or tactic (etc) that calls for and actually seeks the abolish of human abortion/protects all human beings from murder.

    The bills and laws that we see as delaying abolition and/or distracting pro-lifers from the work of abolition are those bills (campaigns etc) which do not oppose abortion in and of itself (but focus on abortion procedures, places, etc) and those bills which specify which humans are to be protected from abortion (because they have reached a certain age or stage of development, or have met some other culturally approved criteria of value such as the possession of a heart beat, being conceived in consensual sex, not being diagnosed with down syndrome, spina bifida, or some other condition deemed by our culture as justifying murder by abortion).

    We advocate going out into the culture to expose abortion as sin and murder and calling individuals and communities to repent of the practice of child sacrifice and the disregard of their neighbors. We seek to activate people and call them to stand up and oppose abortion and integrate the work of abolition into their daily lives. We try to extricate the masses of pro-lifers who have placed their faith in promises of change for the past 43 years and who by and large sit on their hands, write checks to professional pro-lifers, and vote every few years on the next historic game changing bill, measure, or candidate. We want to see the church of the Living God rise up and stand on His Word and in His power and call this culture to repent. We gear all that we do towards a revival of true and vital Christianity, and we believe that the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ can and will triumph over the evil of our age.

    As for specific bills and laws, we do believe that cultural change is necessary to their passage and are focused on doing what we can to “get the votes,” as our anti-abolitionist pro-life opponents always tell us, “are not there.” But do look for specific practical actionable bills of abolition to start appearing in 2016. And please, please, please do not oppose them because they seek to protect all human beings from abortion. Please do not fight against us because you think the time is not yet come for such a bold action to be tried. Children are being murdered every second of every day. We must do all that we can to save them.

    T. Russell Hunter


  26. Frebus,

    A bill or law that defunded abortion because it was murder and murder ought not be funded would be a bill or law that was not antithetical to abolition and would not necessarily work towards acting as a delay or substitute. It could be done at the same time as a bill for total abolition.

    Another increment that might be purchased as a result of more and more people becoming immediatist and active in their communities is the banning of abortion in towns, cities, or states. Unthinking opponents like to equate this with incrementalism, but there is a clear difference in say, California banning all abortion practices and bringing all humans in California under the protection of their laws and magistrates and say, banning DandE abortions in South Dakota.

    Do I need to explain the difference? Do you see that the statewide abolition bill that bans abortion because it is the murder of human beings is different than a state Not banning abortion and not bringing humans under the protection of law but hexing a certain procedure in which they could be killed?

    Of course people would drive to another state to get an abortion but that is because in their state abortion had been abolished as murder.

    I don’t know if that is the route for immediatists to take and I would favor a federal bill of abolition, but, I am just trying to help you see the difference.



  27. I see the difference … however, a law such as you suggest would need to follow a massive wave of repentance and revival in towns, cities or states before it had a prayer of passing. In the meantime …..


  28. Slavery was not ended in a single day, nor with a single law. Freedom for Blacks was won bit by bit. Even with the Civil War, Blacks did not obtain freedom right away, nor were they even welcomed by all of the troops fighting for the North. Many people think of the Emancipation Proclamation as ending slavery in a single stroke, but even that was only one part of gaining freedom and equality for Blacks. Freedom and equality has never been won with a single law, battle, war, or regulation, but bit by bit. The single most powerful opposition to gaining equality for children in the womb is to vote against pro-life legislation, which pro-abortionists and abolitionists do with equally strong fervor. It seems strange that abolitionists would be fighting on the side of the pro-slavery laws, if this were to be about Blacks. Satan is clearly rejoicing over this division, as is the pro-abortion movement, and I believe they are one and the same. When supporting pro-life legislation, the question to ask is, “Will it save a life? Will it make an abortion more difficult to obtain? Will it cause a clinic to shut down? Will it make an abortion clinic have to work harder, pay out more money, sterilize their instruments, have clean and up-to-date equipment, change their gloves between patients, require their abortionists to be practicing doctors, etcetera, etcetera?”. If the answer is “yes”, then that is a vote in favor of life, in favor of saving a life. To fight legislation which increases awareness of the violence and the unsavory character of abortion is to be on the same side of the pro-aborts. Indeed, anyone who fights *with* the pro-aborts on the same side, is fighting for making abortion access easier, not more difficult.


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