(January 21, 2001)
Randall K. OBannon, Ph.D., is director of Research and Education
for the National Right to Life Trust Fund, a partner organization
of the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C. He is
a member of Manassas Assembly of God (Charles Nestor, pastor) in Manassas,
Va. He spoke recently with Scott Harrup, general editor of the Pentecostal
How did you become involved in the right-to-life movement?
OBannon: My Christian family constantly showed me lifes
wonder and sacredness. My father is a science professor at the Church
of Gods Lee University. Moral and theological issues were discussed
at our table. For years, my parents invited college students home
after church on Sunday nights to examine those same issues.
I came to Washington in 1988 to enter Georgetown Universitys
doctoral program in philosophy to study ethics. While at Georgetown,
I worked part-time for National Right to Life. My involvement grew
until I was offered this position in 1994.
Evangel: Polls reveal conflicting attitudes toward abortion in
our nation. Which way do you see the pendulum swinging?
OBannon: Polls tell us more people identify abortion
as murder, and others say they support abortion in fewer circumstances.
In 1990, there were 1.6 million U.S. abortions. By 1996, that had
dropped to around 1.35 million.
Education is making a difference, whether it is resources offered
by pro-life groups or advances in ultrasound and other monitoring
technologies during pregnancy. Anyone who sees an ultrasound photo
or listens to a fetal heartbeat knows this is a baby and not just
"tissue." People are recognizing that what the pro-life
movement has said about children in the womb is true.
Another factor, I believe, has been the campaign to ban partial-birth
abortions. With children being pulled from the womb and killed, I
think many people began to recognize that this is what abortion is
all about. And the Christian community has started promoting pregnancy
care centers, showing women that there are other options.
Evangel: If a majority of Americans oppose abortion, why are more
than a million children still aborted every year?
OBannon: Even people who are uncomfortable with abortion
(including some Christians who profess pro-life ideals) may have an
abortion or urge a loved one to have an abortion to avoid the stigma
of a pregnancy out of wedlock. I remember reading of one woman who
said, "If I have an abortion, Im the only one who will
know Ive sinned. If I have the baby, everyone will know Ive
sinned." Believers should voice concern and respect for the dignity
of life. But they also need, like Christ, to open their arms to those
who sin and actively seek their restoration.
Evangel: Does a culture that is ambivalent to, or supportive of,
abortion become a "culture of death" in other areas?
OBannon: Once you devalue human life, everything becomes
negotiable. Some people are astounded that body parts from aborted
babies are sold. But if some human beings are not viewed with inherent
worth, then they can become just another commodity. Moving from abortion
to euthanasia, people are evaluated solely on what they are perceived
to offer society. This has repercussions to other issues like violent
crime. Once society decides that human life is cheap, then killing
another human being is not significantly different from any other
Evangel: How has the right-to-life movement responded to the legalization
of euthanasia in Oregon?
OBannon: We challenged that referendum in court and
have fought the pro-death attitude in the court of public opinion.
People should understand it is a violation of basic constitutional
positions and is fraught with dangers for manipulation. "Freedom
to die" quickly becomes a "duty to die." Studies tell
us people who try to commit suicide are calling for help. They want
to know if anyone cares. Endorsing assisted suicide tells that person
no one cares. We in the pro-life movement and Christian community
must say to that person, "You are valuable."
Evangel: Human life is eternal and its earthly limits are in Gods
hands. How can believers promote this truth?
OBannon: We should treat life as one of Gods
greatest gifts. People need to see our joy in serving Christ and living
in this beautiful world He has made. A Christian who only sees lifes
tribulations cant convince anyone of the value of life. We need
to celebrate births, weddings and other milestones with great joy.
And we can even celebrate the value of life when faced with the death
of believers. The Bible tells us that the death of those who have
lived a godly life is precious in Gods sight. People must see
the joy of our transformed life, the joy of our eternal hope, and
that we have divine purpose in all that we do.