Marlowe's Shade

Monday, January 16, 2006

Would Martin Luther King Jr Have Opposed Roe vs Wade?

What stand would Martin Luther King Jr have taken on the current abortion debate?

Both pro-aborts and pro-lifers have claimed Dr King for their side, but based on the facts of Dr King's life, who has the stronger case?

Before Roe vs Wade Dr King did accept the Margaret Sanger Award in 1966 and voice support for the idea of "voluntary family planning".

As Chuck Colson noted in a column on Dr King a few years ago, groups like NARAL and the elected officials like Donna Brazile who support them have have co-opted Dr King's legacy for the abortion camp.

Colson goes on to argue King's defense of natural law which would prohibit his support of Roe vs Wade:

While in jail, King received a letter from eight ministers. They agreed with King's goals, but they thought he should call off the demonstrations and obey the law. King disagreed, and his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail explains why. "One may well ask," he wrote, "how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer, he said, "is found in the fact that there are two kinds of laws: just laws . . . and unjust laws."

"One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws," King affirmed, "but conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

A just law, King wrote, "squares with the moral law of the law of God. An unjust law . . . is out of harmony with the moral law."

This is a strong case, but Dr. King's position wouldn't necessarily prevent at least a limited support for abortion.

The truth is we can't really say either way what position Dr. King would have taken. It would seem that there were two Dr Kings whose views were never reconciled. One was the "whole Gospel" Dr King who was rooted in a strong Christian tradition, and then there was the "social justice Gospel" Dr King that opposed the Vietnam war and accepted an award named of after a notorious racist and eugenicist. Richard John Neuhaus has a fascinating portrait of the two Dr Kings and in it we see two possible directions the historical Dr King may have taken. They are represented by two of his colleagues Rev Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy. Jesse Jackson's career is well known, and it is fair to say that had King's views aligned more closely with the liberal theology of social justice embraced by Jackson and most of the mainline churches in America he too would be squarely in the liberal progressive camp and would no doubt be a supporter of Roe vs Wade. Rev Jackson's own opposition to abortion (which he at one point called a "war on the poor and the most defenseless") didn't survive his ambitions as a presidential candidate.

Ralph Abernathy on the other hand has been roundly criticized for his more Biblically-based views on the issues of the day:

Abernathy was beyond doubt closer to King than anyone else. After the assassination, he took King’s place as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), although he knew as well as anyone that he was no Martin Luther King. His book was harshly criticized for its candor about King’s sexual vagaries, but other published accounts had been more explicit on that score. What I think got to many reviewers is that Abernathy refused to toe the line on the leftist ideology of the movement and even, in the early eighties, took a conservative turn, offering some favorable words on, of all people, Ronald Reagan.

I'll challenge the reader to take a look at the article and decide which Dr. King would have won out in the end. But one indisputable fact is that Dr King had a presentiment of the price he would pay for his ministry to this country, and he demonstrated the love he had by laying down his life, and we honor him for the healing his sacrifice brought.
papijoe 10:01 AM