Pastor Tish Harrison Warren sees prohibiting abortion as part of the Social Justice Movement

May 9, 2022 • 10:00 am

Reader Kenneth said he found the latest NYT column by Anglican Priest Tish Harrison Warren “hallucinatory”. His reason, amply supported by Harrison’s words, is that she is in favor of the upcoming Supreme Court decision that overturns Roe v. Wade (and is apparently against abortion per se), but sees this as an opportunity to create more social justice by supporting women and their now-to-be-born children, as well as by giving women opportunities that prevent them from getting pregnant.

This is all part of Warren’s schtick of downplaying her religious beliefs to seem more liberal and kindly. After all, the NYT don’t want religious fundamentalists in their pages, particularly ones who oppose abortion because the fetus has some kin of soul. Yet Warren, according to her column, apparently has that belief. The cowardly thing is that she doesn’t say this outright: rather, she either quotes others or conveys her views obliquely. Yet though it is her first responsibility in such a column to tell us where she stands on the issue, she shies away from it. Nevertheless, there are several places where she makes her opinion clear.

Click to read:


First, the two statements where Warren makes clear that she’s “pro-life” (aka “anti-abortion”); the bolding is mine:

Pro-life activists have been working toward overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision ever since it came down in 1973. But as I spoke to folks from pro-life and whole-life movements last week after the leak of a draft opinion that indicated the court will overturn Roe, the mood was complicated. I did not find unalloyed jubilance or triumph.

Most people I talked to expressed cautious optimism and hope but also concern. This was in part because they worried that the court’s draft opinion may shift in weeks to come. But more so because those who take a holistic approach to reducing abortion feel that legally restricting abortion, while a win for justice and the voiceless and vulnerable, is not alone enough to create a culture that is holistically pro-life and addresses the needs of both women and unborn children.

It’s pretty clear that she’s expressing her own take here by quoting others (“Most people I talked to. . .”) who agree with her. She also expresses her virtue by refusing to gloat.  Here’s the other statement:

The pro-life community has to reckon with the long-ignored elephant in the room: Economic realities, not abortion laws, are our true antagonists. Creating a pro-life culture that supports women and mothers economically is how the pro-life movement should have responded to Roe v. Wade in the first place. And now we’re two laps behind. To truly value life, we must pursue policies and community resources that support paid leave for parents, child care, equitable health care and education.

But what is Warren’s stand? Does she favor banning all abortions, including those from rape and incest? And if she grants those an exception, does she favor banning all other abortions, from the get-go? (This is implied in her statement that “legally restricting abortion” is a “win for justice and the voiceless and vulnerable.”) But she doesn’t want to be explicit.

Again, and perhaps to her credit, Warren doesn’t gloat over a court victory that she surely supports. But support it she does. Note, though, that the last sentence, “To truly value life, we must pursue policies and community resources that support paid leave for parents, child care, equitable health care and education,” tries to link the anti-abortion movement with social justice—a weird pairing indeed!

Here’s her own program to reduce abortions to nearly zero, most supported with statements by other religionists. The bullet points are hers, but my comments are in parentheses:

  • Prioritize paid universal leave
  • Address the elephant in the room (this involves rectifying the “economic inequalities” that she mentions in the last quote above).
  • Focus on affordable housing, child care, and transportation
  • Find creative ways to serve women and children (sanctuaries for abused women and children, job training for economically disadvantaged women)
  • Promote pregnancy prevention. (She mentions increased contraception and a “decrease in risky sexual behavior.” But her failure to mention “promulgating the ‘Plan B’ pill” leads me to believe that she thinks all abortion should be banned, since the Plan B Pill is an early-term abortion of a one-day-old zygote).
  • Build a coalition of people with different views on abortion. (What she means here is that everyone should accept the refutation of Roe v. Wade and work together “to boldly advocate the social services that will ensure care for both mother and child.” But what if the woman doesn’t want a child?)
  • Empower economically disadvantaged women.

It’s very clever of Warren to try folding the antiabortion movement into the social justice movement, but it won’t work. For one thing, many of the women who now seek and get abortions are already well off and economically empowered. Mistakes will be made by women from all groups classes, and to force a woman to pay for a slip-up by carrying and presumably caring for an infant she doesn’t want (the former: for nine months; the latter for at least 18 years) is a big price to pay in contrast to, say, taking the Plan B pill, which simply gets rid of an early-stage and non-sentient zygote.

The fact that Warren considers such a zygote as a human being leads me to believe that her opposition to abortion is not only wholesale, but based on the religious assumption that at the moment of fertilization, a “soul” or some holy feature enters the zygote, rendering it immune from removal. Why won’t she tell us that she believes this?

Although I of course agree with most of Warren’s suggestions (except she needs to include Plan B and stop opposing Roe v. Wade), I do so in the interests of improving the lot of women (indeed, of everyone), not to reduce abortions (I agree with Roe v Wade and, indeed, would go farther). Her suggestions won’t work, as we can see from the fracas already ensuing before the court has even ruled. Telling women that they have to carry a child but it’s okay because they’ll get parental leave is not going to substantially reduce abortions.

When you look at the multifarious reasons why women get abortions, the futility of her program becomes clear. (As I said, I favor the program in general—just not to cut abortion.) 60% of Americans favor Roe as it stands, in my view mainly because women want to be the ones to decide about whether to have a child, not to throw that decision into the hands of others. To think otherwise is to imbue a non-sentient zygote or fetus with some supernatural property that gives it complete immunity. She might consider that “truly valuing life” also involves valuing a woman’s own adult and sentient life against that of a ball of developing cells.

Warren (from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship):

19 thoughts on “Pastor Tish Harrison Warren sees prohibiting abortion as part of the Social Justice Movement

  1. That’s nice, lady. BUT….how about keeping your religious beliefs out of public life and my personal privacy? This is NOT the United States of Jesus and we’ll thank you to remember that!

    1. Pam,
      I just came across your comments. Thank you so much.
      I really love your statement about the “United States of Jesus.” You really nailed it.

      I live in Virginia and it costs me $100 a month to receive a paper copy of the New York Times. I am sickened by the fact that Tish Harrison Warren now writes a regular column for the Times.
      Anyway, I think I’m gonna write the Times and tell them how unhappy I am with their decision to let this woman be the face of kindness and love for the New York Times. It makes me want to vomit.
      Anyway, I’m babbling, But you made my day with your brilliant comment.

  2. As you say, it won’t work. She won’t get many takers on her list of to-do’s from the right-wing side.

    That is because this is not only – or even primarily – about zygote personhood. It’s about controlling women’s reproductive rights. A world where the abortion (and STD) rate is zero but women have as much sex as they want, with whom they want, whenever they want, because of widespread and effective contraception use, sex ed, and other support services is not the conservative goal. They would, in fact, actively work against such an outcome.

    They want sex to remain risky and costly. Laws that reduce abortion by making sex less risky or costly, they will oppose. Laws that keep sex risky and costly, but as a side effect increase the abortion rate, they will support. And so they oppose free and easily obtained BC. They oppose sex ed. They even oppose HPV vaccine, even though the virus can cause cancer! Can you imagine? They’d rather keep a form of cancer than make sex less risky.

    But there is no more obvious, glaring example of this than conservative treatment of IVF. They support it…even though it leads to thousands of fertilized eggs being destroyed. Why? Well let’s let conservative Alabama pro-life legislator Clyde Chambliss explain it himself:

    “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

    See? It’s not about legislating protection for fertilized eggs. Eggs in the lab? Pffft. Not people! Don’t count! What he cares about is legislating a woman’s control over their wombs.

    1. Hence “Snowflake babies!” Infertile couples want to have kids too, but… adoption really isn’t for them. So they have those extra (not quite up-to-standard) eggs frozen, and post the extras on a site for adoption. In the hopes that some kinder soul with the resources to care for a very special-needs baby, will thaw ’em out and have them.

      God apparently does make mistakes, and they sure don’t want them.

    2. “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply. It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

      So an egg is not a true person then. It must be “egg + womb”. A completely unnecessary addition to the definition.

      Very reminiscent of the woke left’s definition of racism as “racial prejudice + power”.

      Both of these ridiculous definitions exist to get around inconvenient facts that threaten these respective ideologies. For the right, they want to use conception as a basis for banning abortion, but also (justifiably) enjoy the fruits of science such as IVF.

      For the left, they are justifiably against racism but also adhere to a belief that people of color are never in the wrong. So when shown obvious instances of people of color being racist, they have to define that behavior as somehow not being racist.

      Ideologues do not use reason to arrive at truth, they use reason to attempt to justify what they already think is true.

      1. I am of the left. I am against racism. I do not adhere to a belief that people of color are never wrong. I think your tu quoque fails, both because it strawmans the left and because in terms of impact the two are not the same (i.e. even if I adhered to that, it doesn’t lead me to criminalizing the right of 50% of the population to control their own bodies.)

        1. “People of color are never wrong” may be a bit strong, but it is not far off. For example, as has been documented on this very site, the modern left tends to demonize Israel and overlook the aggression coming from Palestine. We have seen many examples of misinformation about the troubles in that part of the world peddled by otherwise reliable outlets like the NYT:

          “The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has long chronicled the Times’s bias against Israel. In a study undertaken in 2011, CAMERA found a “disproportionate, continuous, embedded indictment of Israel that dominates both news and commentary sections. Israeli views are downplayed while Palestinian perspectives, especially criticism of Israel, are amplified and even promoted.”

          The primary reason for this bias is the assumption that Israel represents white, colonial, Western values and is always oppressing the poor non-white Palestinians. It is a clear case of anti-white (or “white-adjacent”) ideology.

          This bias often forces the NYT to ignore, underplay, or distort clear evidence of aggression and crimes against Israelis.

          Another example is the reporting of Kyle Rittenhouse and Frank James. I’m sure that you know who Kyle is. The far left cognoscenti and several left-leaning media outlets labeled him a white-supremacist. Even Mr. Biden strongly insinuated that Kyle was a white supremacist.

          This is despite the fact that the people he shot were also white, and there was scant evidence that Kyle had any anti-racial motivations for his admittedly foolhardy intervention in Kenosha. And as we know, he was ultimately found to have acted in self-defense.

          However, you probably needed to google who Frank James is. He’s the racist black guy who just shot up a train in NCY just last month. His racist motivations for the shooting are trivially easy to document.

          So the story of a person who has documented, incontrovertible hatred against another race, and acts on that hatred by attempting to murder members of that race, is substantially underplayed as an act of overt racism and stuffed into the memory hole as quickly as possible.

          But do you think for one second that if Mr. James was a documented white racist shooting up a train full of black people that this story would have been in and out of the news cycle in a day or two? It is staggering to note how different the reaction would have been.

          The left has bought in fully to the notion that it is basically impossible for people of color to actually be racist. Mentally ill, or evil perhaps, but definitely never racist BY DEFINITION. As a correlate, the left latches on to any whiff of evidence of white racism to bolster the narrative that the US is both rotten to the core with racism, and is besieged by “white nationalists”.

        2. It is logically impossible to criminalize a right. That just doesn’t make sense. What happened was that a right was, reportedly, found not to exist by a constitutional process which you are powerless to affect. That’s the whole point. Rights are interpreted by courts so popular passions cannot hold sway. Once the right is confirmed not to exist, legislatures will be free to criminalize behaviour that was formerly protected by the right, but is no longer. Whether they do or not is up to what they think they can get re-elected on. Nothing else.

          Now women in abortion-unfriendly states need allies….if they want them.

    3. Actually in combing through anti-abortion bills this past weekend, I think I found the informed answer. One law —I don’t remember if it was Alabama’s— exempted from prosecution actions intended to improve the survival of embryos, just that wording. In IVF, Implanting all 10 blastocysts or whatever age they’re at, would result in their all dying —I suppose the law could have required the embryos to be frozen for mandatory later implantation over the subsequent years. But it doesn’t. And if a woman given drugs to stimulate ovulation ends up with sextuplets, selective reduction could be done lawfully, even though the embryos have implanted naturally in the uterus.

      One thing I will say. From your tone I can see you are not a consensus builder. If you want women to be able to have abortions in states where they currently won’t, think hard about how many moderate, changeable minds your polemic will bring over. If I was listening to you in Jerry’s living room, that is what I would say.

      1. Leslie, you just repeated the points I made in post #2 while telling me I’m ‘not a consensus builder.’ You’re exactly right about Alabama. They did precisely that. I achieved consensus with you on that point 11 hours before you wrote your post covering it. 🙂

        Joe’s analysis, however, is IMO inapt. The right adopted anti-abortion historically late to deceive and manipulate the public about their anti-women’s rights stance. But the core of their resistance has always been opposition to women’s rights. Hand them a social policy that reduces abortion by making safe sex for women more accessible, they’ll reject it. Because it’s always been about preventing women from controlling their own sex lives, and opposing abortion is just their 20th-21st century socially acceptable way to accomplish it. In contrast, the left is not using opposition to racial prejudice to hide some discriminatory motive, opposing racial inequality is truly their motive. And the problem is that they occasionally go overboard with it.

        1. “In contrast, the left is not using opposition to racial prejudice to hide some discriminatory motive, opposing racial inequality is truly their motive.”

          I disagree. At least some leftists (albeit a minority but a vocal and powerful one nonetheless) do seem to want to actively discriminate against white people, who they view as intrinsically corrupt. This is the logical outcome of the religious nature (as argued by the likes of John McWhorter) of woke anti-racism.

        2. It’s your tone, Eric. A good case study in politics (not law) would be how Mississippi managed to enact a law allowing abortion on demand up to 15 weeks that a deep Red state could live with. Mississippi of all places. To me, that’s the interesting thing, not the Supreme Court opinion. Look back on your original post #2 and imagine yourself giving that in testimony to a committee of the Mississippi legislature at the invitation of Planned Parenthood. How many undecided politicians do you think you would have swayed and how many would have just got their backs up? But sway them somebody did.

          OK, you’re not in a Mississippi committee room trying to engage and persuade to compromise. “All right, we’ll give you 15 weeks if you take out the rape and incest exemption after that.” You’re speaking your mind here to an audience contemptuous of Republicans and evangelicals. It would play well to a rally in Washington DC or Portland. But that’s not where the fight is going to be. The legislators who might be on your side have to find a compromise they can run for re-election on in Louisiana. You have to help them if you want any abortion access in conservative states.

          I admit an interest here. Abortion has resurfaced from a long slumber in Canada. I know that fiery denunciations of the other side won’t help. It will be a compromise that, one hopes, will preserve almost everything we have now. Just like Mississippi.

  3. >”To truly value life, we must pursue policies and community resources that support paid leave for parents, child care, equitable health care and education.”

    How nice. Every pro-choice person I know has always supported that, as do everyone of my friends, which includes a few very religious and conservative ones.

    Had pro-life gone that route, I would have been thrilled. There probably would have been less abortions and actual support for children. Nothing was stopping them. Nothing is stopping them now. They just don’t want to, because women.

    Have been to several RTL conferences, even one from the Personhood movement (the ones who print those grotesque billboards of dead babies). Some can actually manage to sound reasonable and sympathetic.

    But in the end, invariably one of the speakers will comment: “I don’t want to pay for their babies” and “Maybe they (women) should learn to keep their knees together.”

    1. Why does anybody believe that abortion and “paid leave for parents, child care, equitable health care and education” are mutually exclusive? Just look at pretty much any other Western style democracy. My country, for example, allows abortion up to 24 weeks, has pretty good terms for maternity and paternity leave (although not the best in Europe but any means), universal healthcare and fairly reasonable state funded education.

      There are people here who are against abortion and probably people who want more lenient terms but there is really zero political will to change anything.

  4. Just another example of how useless religion is, except to make one feel like a good person without having to do anything. They so love to preach and tell others how to live their lives, so long as it doesn’t involve any actual sacrifice on their part.

  5. Drivel.

    To think that, week in and week out, this nation’s newspaper-of-record gives this woman a forum for letting the grey matter leak out of her ears onto wood pulp and ink.

  6. I also think Tish Warren is a pro-forced-birth-of-a-rapist-child, as we should call this view. She is definitely not “pro life“ and that slogan is also scientifically questionable. Even though a blind gut is technically “alive”, it is obviously not an independent organism, which is what “pro-life” implies. The “pro-life” people are also usually pro-death penalty, pro-war, and pro-environmental-pollution.

    It’s however futile to argue. It has nothing to do with science, or religion (the Bible speaks of breath as the start of life, cf. Ezekiel 37:5). The position is negatively correlated with income and education, and of course linked to political affiliation; perhaps a way to cut back women’s rights. I guess most people who give their opinion in surveys don’t have strong feelings either way, which would be even more a reason to default to choice. Those who are vocal about wanting a famously “small government” — so small, it can patrol women’s uteruses —want that because it is convenient tribal marker. The people who mouth off the loudest aren’t currently pregnant, and if their daughters are affected, they do Nancy Reagon heel-turner to the next state.

    Democrats did have opportunities to make a proper law to allow abortions, and they didn’t. They did have a popular candidate with an unprecedented grassroots support, especially among demographics who otherwise wouldn’t (and didn’t) vote. And they had that anti-establishment candidate in a moment when the Zeitgeist was haunting towards anti-establishment. The Democrats also didn’t protest enough when Republicans denied their judge pick, and went along “as usual” when Republicans picked their judges last minute. It’s such a foul play — all the time — by Republicans, but the nation (Democrats foremost) just shrug it off. Nobody is ever held accountable.

    This whole direction is deplorable, but I can’t help myself to think there’s a significant degree of either Democrat incompetence or tacit agreement to Republican shenanigans (I tend to believe it’s the latter, as Democrats aren’t doing much progressive, liberal or left politics. They behave like a standard status-quo conservative party, not even interested in rolling back Republican politics). This tells me that, overall, America is more conservative than commonly assumed.

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