The Point: The Triage Trap

Don’t get lost in the weeds. For the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

While discussing abortion, have you ever heard an anecdotal argument like: “Well, if you had to choose between saving a high-schooler and an unborn fetus from a burning building, which would you pick?” The strategy is to get pro-lifers to admit that unborn children are less valuable than those who are born.

But don’t fall for it. This is a triage argument—it’s a problem of choosing whom to save when you can’t save both. But except in very rare cases, abortion is not triage. Almost always it’s a simple question of whether to intentionally kill a human being who’s considered inconvenient. If neither the life of the mother nor the unborn child is in danger, then stay out of the proverbial weeds. Only one question matters in this debate: What is the unborn?

If human, then the debate isn’t complicated at all. Intentionally killing them is always wrong. And don’t be a jerk about it. Be gracious. But don’t let the pro-choice side drag you off-track. This is one issue where we can’t afford to get stuck in the weeds.


The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture
  • Scott Klusendorf | Crossway Books | March 2009

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  • Arnold Kropp

    It’s not an outsider making the choice. it’s the mother making the CHOICE to get rid of the life within. She is not in danger.

    • Phoenix1977

      “She is not in danger.”
      Really? And how do you know? Do you know that woman? Do you know her history or her future? Do you know her medical history, or her emotional one? There are, for example, genetic diseases that make being pregnant extremely dangerous for the women afflicted.
      Perhaps you should listen to both your Jesus and the current Pope: “Who am I to judge?”

      • Gina Dalfonzo

        The Pope said that in a very specific context. He was talking about people who are truly seeking to follow God and do His will despite temptations to do otherwise. It’s not the generic all-purpose “Do whatever makes you feel groovy, dude” statement that many have tried to make it.

        • Gina Dalfonzo
        • gladys1071

          I think Phoenix was trying to make the case that we cannot be judges of the reason why a woman may have an abortion, we don’t know what kind of issues any particular woman maybe facing healthwise in regards to pregnancy.

        • Phoenix1977

          “The Pope said that in a very specific context.”
          Indeed. He said it when asked about equal rights for civilly remarried Catholics and equal rights for LGBTs. Later on his statements were corrected but not by the Pope himself, but by the Vatican communications officer. So, as far as the world is concerned, the statement the Pope made still stands.

          • Gina Dalfonzo

            That’s not quite accurate, Phoenix. He was asked about the behavior of a particular priest and about “the gay lobby,” and here is his answer in full. You’ll note that the words “equal rights” never come up.

            “About Monsignor Ricca: I did what canon law calls for, that is a preliminary investigation. And from this investigation, there was nothing of what had been alleged. We did not find anything of that. This is the response. But I wish to add something else: I see that many times in the Church, over and above this case, but including this case, people search for ‘sins from youth’, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, ‘I have sinned in this’, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him Pope. We have to think a great deal about that. But, returning to your question more concretely. In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything. This is the first question. Then, you spoke about the gay lobby. So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with ‘gay’ on it. They say there are some there. I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good. If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying … wait a moment, how does it say it … it says: ‘no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society’. The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem. Thank you so much for asking this question. Many thanks.”


  • John Sinclair

    Isn’t an unborn fetus inside a living person. If I save that woman or high school girl with a baby- [fetus means baby], then I have saved two people – so yes- I would save the “fetus” first. Transparently stupid argument.

  • Sam Benito

    [Please note that I ask this with all due humble and deferential respect]:

    Are “being a ‘jerk’ and “being gracious” always, always, always mutually exclusive?

    Are there absolutely no occasions when “being a jerk” (i.e., being nigh-universally perceived as a jerk, except, perhaps, in the eyes of Heaven) is the appropriate response?

    Isn’t it permissible (and appropriate, and even mandatory) for a gracious person to figuratively ‘flip tables’ (as their gracious Lord did literally) when the issue at hand is dire enough to warrant it?

    Isn’t the issue at hand–the massacre of millions of innocents–dire enough to warrant it?

    You call this a “debate”. The abortion holocaust seems to me much more than a “debate”, just as rescuing the Jews from their captors was more than a “debate” with the Brown Shirts.

    I agree it is possible–eminently so–to be a real jerk in this arena. But what I doubt is that every word and act that is nigh-universally perceived as jerky is truly so. What I doubt is that everything that seems to our sometimes snowflake sensibilities is truly ungracious. What I doubt is that the majority of us (Christians) have been “jerky” and “ungracious” enough in our advocacy for the unborn. What I suspect, rather, is that we have been jerky and ungracious to the preborn, by being too timorous and reticent (60 million dead seems to argue that); that we have called cowardice “graciousness” for dread fear of being thought jerks in the eyes of everyone–except the heavenly Father.

    • Gina Dalfonzo

      Thank you for raising an important question, Sam. Maybe this will sound a little naive, but I’m inclined to think that if a person is acting out of genuine love for God and for others; if he is always aware of and respectful of the image of God in the people he is interacting with; and if he does everything in his power to demonstrate that love and that respect, then he cannot be a true jerk, however unpalatable the truth he is speaking.

      There’s this guy in the Gospels who gives a really good example of how to speak the truth and not be a jerk. Name starts with a J, I think. 😉

    • gladys1071

      You call this a “debate”. The abortion holocaust seems to me much more than a “debate”, just as rescuing the Jews from their captors was more than a “debate” with the Brown Shirts.

      it is a debate, their is NOT just one side to this issue. Pregnant women have rights TOO, like the right to not be pregnant against their will.

      To me and other Pro-choice Christians, other Christians can be perceived as being “jerks” to pregnant women, by completely disregarding her rights.

      • Sam Benito

        It may be, de facto, a debate; but that’s one of my points: it ought not be. I’m bewildered by Christians who conform to a standard that is at once unconstitutional and unbiblical. That little word “inalienable” in the Declaration puts the right to life beyond all debate. So why are we treating it as though it is a debatable question?

        Pregnant women, like all the rest of us, have rights, of course. But not to have the children in their womb murdered. Roe is outrageously unjust; more so, in fact, than Dred Scott, which deprived a whole class of human beings their rights, though not always immediately their inalienable right to life, as Roe does. Roe ought never to have been recognized as legitimate. Anyone and everyone who values any human life should value every human life equally, including the life of the preborn. No one’s “rights” to anything should be permitted to trump the very basic right to life.

        “Can be perceived as being jerks . . .” Yes. That was my other point. It is all about “perception”, not reality. There is nothing jerky about peacefully, but also vigorously and uncompromisingly, seeking mere equal justice–i.e., the right to life–for any class of human beings who are wholly unable to defend themselves. In fact, it is reprehensible not to.

        • gladys1071

          Well women have rights too, and since women are the ones that have to gestate for 9 months, her rights to her body are NOT to be dismissed like they don’t matter.

          You entitle to your opinion that women should be forced to stay pregnant against their will, i will respectfully disagree with you.

  • Phoenix1977

    Recycling earlier posts?

  • gladys1071

    There are two sides to this issue. Women have a right to terminate a pregnancy whether people agree or not. A woman’s right to not be pregnant cannot be ignored and is a legitimate issue that cannot just be dismissed by pro lifers.

    Whether you agree with a woman’s decision or not , the debate is not settled and there is more than one view.

    • Phoenix1977

      “Whether you agree with a woman’s decision or not , the debate is not settled and there is more than one view.”
      Actually, the debate was settled already in 1973. Conservatives simply refuse to accept that.

      • Katie Huynh

        Yes, we do refuse to accept the fact that it’s legal to kill unborn children. It was also once legal to hold another human being as property. Thank God that there were people who refused to accept that.

        • Phoenix1977

          “Thank God that there were people who refused to accept that.”
          I don’t think your god had anything to do with it. The bible was actually used as an argument in favor of slavery, not as a reason to abolish it.

          • abeille

            It was both and it’s a good example of how the truth can be distorted and used to promote something that should not be lega.