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Abortion: What Would William Wilberforce Do?

Eric Metaxas | Author | Updated: Jan 20, 2014

Abortion: What Would William Wilberforce Do?


Friends, it’s time to take stock. It’s been forty-one years since abortion on demand became the law of the land. We’ve watched in horror as the lives of fifty-five million human beings have been snuffed out.

We’ve seen countless girls and women tricked or pressured into allowing their own babies to die in the antiseptic—and sometimes not so antiseptic—confines of death chambers known as abortion “clinics.” Our once great nation has become, to use the words of Pope Francis, a “throwaway culture,” in which we discard the unborn.

Many of us are trying to fight the good fight, of course. My dear wife runs a crisis pregnancy center here in New York, working with other valiant people to bring hope and healing to mothersand their babies. Others work in legislatures or the courts to put limits to this industry of death. Others pray, or picket, or give money to help women or to pay for ultrasounds. There are a thousand ways to stand up for human dignity and the sanctity of human life. Thank God for each one!

But as much as we’ve done, it hasn’t been enough.

So what else can we do to move toward a better, more humane and just future? Well, I suggest we begin by looking to the past.

As you probably know by now, my hero, William Wilberforce, faced similar if not worse circumstances. The whole culture of his day was broken. Of course, the slave trade was the worst of it. So what did Wilberforce do? This may surprise you—it did me—but, despite all the darkness, he started by assuming the best of his fellow citizens.

Wilberforce felt that if he could only get the facts out to the British people about the slave trade, they would understand that it was an abomination. He knew that most of them simply didn’t know what was really going on. It happened far from their eyes.

The British ships traveled to West Africa and took their cargoes of slaves to the West Indies, where the sugar plantations were. The British people had no idea what happened on those ships nor in the plantations. So Wilberforce showed them.

He used posters and plaques. He got Josiah Wedgewood, the famous potter, to design a plaque of a slave in chains that said “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?” He appealed to people’s sense of decency, justice, and fairness. It took a long time, but Wilberforce, with God’s help, transformed his society, one mind at a time.

So let’s assume that many people—not all—when civilly confronted with the truth of abortion will change their minds, at least in some measure. So we need to tell them, for example, that the U.S. and Canada stand with only China and North Korea as having the most liberal abortion policies in the world. We’ve got to tell them that pro-lifers have been fighting to restrict abortions to twenty weeks in Texas and Arizona while all over Europe abortions are restricted to twelve weeks—the standard in civilized Western nations.

We also need to tell them how so many women who abort walk around with a terrible wound of loss and regret, unable to even talk about it for years because politically correct propaganda labels it “empowering.”

We need to tell our neighbors that while we hear so much about “choice,” women actually often have no choice. They would love the choice of being able to keep their baby, but they feel trapped, pressured or often bullied by “boyfriends” or even family members.

John Stonestreet and I will have more to say about all this in the coming days. But we can start by taking a page from the Wilberforce playbook and get these and other facts about the abortion culture to our fellow citizens just as he did with the horrid, entrenched institution of slavery. Let us do it civilly, albeit passionately—and see what God might do.

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: January 20, 2014

Abortion: What Would William Wilberforce Do?