Monthly Archives: November 2014

How Proponents of Abortion-on-Demand Dodge the Issue

How Proponents of Abortion-on-Demand Dodge the Issue

Written by Tim den Bok

(View PDF version with illustrations)



Many proponents of Canada’s current policy of abortion-on-demand—defined as abortion at any time during the woman’s pregnancy, and for any reason—refuse to face the real issue. This issue is the metaphysical status of the pre-born (embryo/fetus). Hereafter, I will refer to it simply as the “status of the pre-born.” Metaphysics is the study of ultimate reality. Why is the pre-born’s status the real issue? Because if it is a person, then it is protected by the moral rule against homicide while if it is not a person, then it is not protected by this rule. By homicide I mean the direct killing of a human being. The killing of a human being is “direct” when his or her death is intended either as an end in itself or as a means to some other end. The act of homicide is, what ethicists call, prima facie (pry-mah fay-shah) morally wrong. The term prima facie is Latin for “on the face of it,” or “at first sight.” An action that is wrong in this sense is morally prohibited unless there are overriding reasons to the contrary.

Some proponents of abortion-on-demand take issue with the claim that the real issue in the debate over abortion-on-demand is the status of the pre-born. They argue that even if the pre-born is a person, it would be wrong for the government to legally compel a pregnant woman to use her body as a natural incubator to sustain it. This argument was first put forth by the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson (born 1929) in her essay “A Defense of Abortion.”1 However, the right of privacy over

one’s own body does not justify homicide. And, in fact, Thomson would seem to concur with us on this point. In the above-mentioned essay, she argues, only, that a pregnant woman has the right to withhold support from the pre-born. Nowhere does she argue that she has the right to directly kill it. But what she, seemingly, fails to understand is that this is, in fact, what abortion does. To quote the philosophers Stephen Schwarz and R.K. Tacelli, “[Although} a woman who has an abortion is indeed ‘withholding support’ from her unborn child…. abortion is far more than that. It is the active killing of a human person—by burning him, by crushing him, by dismembering him.”2 To use an analogy, borrowed from the ethicist Norman Geisler, (born 1932) abortion is like inviting a destitute person to come into your house—since in over 99 percent of pregnancies the pre-born is in the woman’s womb as a result of a free act on her part, for which she, as such, is partly responsible—and then, after deciding that he or she is no longer welcome, killing him or her.3 Given these considerations, the author Randy Alcorn (born 1954) is surely correct when he says, “It is reasonable for society to expect an adult to live temporarily with an inconvenience if the only alternative is killing a child.”4

As we will see shortly, proponents of abortion-on-demand will often go to great lengths to avoid dealing with the issue of the pre-born’s status. These dodges often, though not always, commit, what logic textbooks call, “logical fallacies.” A logical fallacy is, roughly, a mistake in reasoning. In this paper we will look at six of these fallacies. Knowledge of these fallacies will help the reader to avoid being sidetracked by them. I will also suggest a good way to defend oneself against them by asking Socratic questions, the purpose of which is to steer the discussion back to the question of the pre-born’s status, which is the real issue.

Breaking the Rules of Dialogue

Douglas Walton (born 1942) is an eminent logician (i.e., expert in logic). He says that, in general, whenever a fallacy is committed a rule of dialogue is broken.5 There are two rules in particular that proponents of abortion-on-demand who dodge the issue violate. The first rule states that participants in a dialogue must try to fulfill their burden of proof,6 Or to put it another way, “He who asserts must prove.” This is, perhaps, the most fundamental rule of argumentation. As an example, someone, such as the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), who claims that Jesus never existed, has the unenviable task of having to prove this assertion.

Opponents of abortion-on-demand have, as their burden of proof, the obligation of showing that personhood begins before birth. They typically draw this line at fertilization. By fertilization, we mean the process by which the sperm and the oocyte unite to form a one-celled embryo, known as a “primordial” embryo. Proponents of abortion-on-demand, on the other hand, must, unless they are also going to argue for infanticide, establish that personhood begins at birth.7 Why? Because, for them to concede that it begins to exist earlier than this, whether suddenly or gradually, would be to admit that, at least, some abortions are acts of homicide, and are, as such, prima facie wrong—a view which is inconsistent with the abortion-on-demand position.

The time to try to come to an agreement with one’s partner in dialogue on the real issue in the debate about abortion-on-demand, says Walton, is the opening stage of the dialogue. The importance of doing this cannot be overemphasized. For, as Walton says, “Allegations of irrelevance cannot be settled fairly if the issue of the argument was never stated or understood in the first place.”8

The second rule says that participants in a dialogue must not try to shift their burden onto the other person illegitimately.9 To help the reader understand this rule, let us first consider how to shift a burden legitimately. One way that this can be done is by offering a refutation of what the other person has said. For example, consider the claim that the existence of evil disproves that there is an all-good, all-powerful God. A legitimate way to shift the burden of proof back on to the person making this claim is to appeal to the so-called “free-will defense.” According to it, because we have a free will, we, not God, are responsible for our actions, some of which are evil. (Of course much more can be said on this matter. Our point, here, is simply that the “free-will defense” is a legitimate response to the problem from evil.) In contrast, an example of an illegitimate way to shift this burden would be something like the following:

“The Bible talks about you. Yeah, it says, ‘The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.’”

This response is illegitimate because, to quote from a textbook on critical thinking,   “One does not prove a point by attacking a person.”10


Logical Deceptions

There are several ways that proponents of abortion-on-demand dodge the real issue. As I said earlier, logic textbooks call these dodges “logical fallacies.” The term fallacy derives, in part, from the Latin word fallere, which means “to deceive.” Logical fallacies, then, are deceptions. This is true whether the deception is intentional or unintentional. (Hence, the logical sense of the term “deceive” is not identical to its ordinary meaning, which requires that the act be intentional.)

Logic textbooks group fallacies into two broad categories: formal and informal. In this paper I am only concerned with informal fallacies. “These fallacies,” one scholar says, “bear directly on issues of truth and falsity.”11 Reasons that are given for the basis of a conclusion, but that commit informal logical fallacies, are bad reasons. By this I mean that they cannot stand up under scrutiny. Because they are logically fallacious they fail the test of logic, which is an important criteria of truth. The conclusion of the argument could still be true. It is just that no good reason has been given to accept it.


The Harmful Effects of Fallacies

Albert Camus (1913–1960), the French Nobel prizewinning author and philosopher, says, “Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed, but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.”12 This has certainly been the case with regard to the mistaken ideas on abortion put forth by leading proponents of abortion-on-demand, such as Henry Morgentaler (1923–2013). Speaking of the pre-born, for example, Morgentaler says, “There is no child there.”13 This mistaken idea led him to open twenty abortion clinics throughout Canada, train over one hundred doctors on how to perform abortions, and, perhaps, most significantly, begin a fifteen-year legal campaign that culminated, in 1988, with Canada’s abortion law being declared unconstitutional in the case R. v. Morgentaler.14Sadly, as a result of these actions, countless innocent human lives have been taken.

What is true of mistaken ideas, in general, is true of logical fallacies in particular. Like mistaken ideas, they can result in actions that are extremely harmful. This has undoubtedly been the case with regard to the logical fallacies committed by proponents of abortion-on-demand. As we will see in a moment, the popular arguments for abortion all commit logical fallacies of one sort or another. In fact, the distinguishing characteristic of these arguments is that they assume, without proof, that the pre-born is not a person. This is the logical fallacy known as begging the question. In contrast, sophisticated pro-choice arguments, such as those given by philosophers, theologians, and bioethicists, do not make so obvious a mistake.

Unfortunately, because the popular pro-choice arguments are repeated over and over again in the popular media, the average person who hears or reads them assumes that they must be true. This is known as the “Big Lie Theory.” According to it—or, at least, one aspect of it—if a person tells a lie frequently enough, it will be believed. This propaganda technique was used effectively by Joseph Goebbels (1897–1945), the Reich Minister of Propaganda. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,” he said, “people will eventually come to believe it.”15 Examples of pro-choice “arguments” that have come to be accepted, not because they are true, but because of their frequent repetition, are that “Abortion is a woman’s right,” “The fetus is a part of the woman’s body,” and “Abortion is a safe, medical procedure.”


Scripture on the Rebutting of Foolish Arguments

Scripture tells us to rebut foolish arguments, or show them to be false. For example, Proverbs 26:5 (NIV) says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

Before we look at what this verse means, let us, first, be clear on what is meant here by the term “fool.” Normally, today, when the word is used, it is applied to someone of low intelligence. However, this is not what the Bible means by the term. A fool, in the biblical sense, is someone who is lacking in moral character. For example, fools, the Bible says, are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8), scornful (10:23), and are right in their own eyes (12:15).

Let us now look at the meaning of Proverbs 26:5. When it tells us to rebut the fool “according to his folly”, it means that we should expose his or her foolishness. For if we do not, the person may deceive himself or herself, as well as others, into thinking that he or she is right when nothing could be further from the truth.

But, you may be wondering, does not the verse immediately preceding this one tell us to not show foolish arguments to be false? It says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him yourself.” This verse uses the phrase “according to his folly” in a different sense than it is used in verse 5. When this verse uses the phrase, it means that when we argue with a fool, we should not employ the same tactics as him or her (e.g., verbal abuse, impatience, poor listening skills, etc.). Otherwise, we, too, are guilty of acting foolishly.

Six Ways Proponents of Abortion-on-Demand Avoid the Real Issue

In this paper we will look at six ways that proponents of abortion-on-demand avoid the real issue. Each of these ways are fallacies that have been given names by logicians to help one identify them and tell them apart. They are as follows: 1) argumentum ad hominem; 2) appeal to pity; 3) red herring; 4) loaded terms; 5) hasty generalization; and 6) irrelevant conclusion.

All of the above fallacies are listed in logic textbooks as fallacies of relevance. They are called this because they all try to prove a point that is not the point in question.


Socratic Questioning

As well as examining these fallacies, we will look at an effective way to answer them that involves, what is called, Socratic questioning. This type of questioning gets its name from the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470/469–399 B.C.). Three distinguishing characteristics of Socratic questioning, say Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, authors of the book The Art of Socratic Questioning, are that it “raises basic issues, probes beneath the surface of things, and pursues problematic areas of thought.”16


Three Distinguishing Characteristics of Socratic Questioning

  1. It “raises basic issues.”
  2. It “probes beneath the surface of things.”
  3. It “pursues problematic areas of thought.”



Socrates questioned his partners in dialogue with various goals in mind. One such goal was to expose the other person’s ignorance. Always, however, Socrates’ ultimate goal in asking questions was to find the truth. “My way toward the truth,” he said, “is to ask the right questions.”17

Immediately following each fallacy, in between a set of border lines, I will suggest three Socratic questions that can be put to those who employ such mistaken reasoning. Though the ultimate purpose for these questions, as with Socrates, is to find the truth, their proximate goal is to steer the discussion back to the question of the pre-born’s status.


Justifying Our Criticisms

However, it is not enough, when rebutting fallacies, to simply ask critical questions. It is also important to be able to justify one’s criticisms. For example, if your partner in dialogue attacks your position because of its origin, you need to do more than simply cry, “Genetic fallacy!” Mere assertions, in other words, will not do. You must also be able to explain what is wrong with this way of arguing, and why the argument in question is an example of this mistake. For this reason, as well as examining some of the ways in which proponents of abortion-on-demand avoid the issue, I will also explain why they are logically fallacious.


Argumentum Ad Hominem

           One way that proponents of abortion-on-demand try to divert attention away from the real issue is by attacking the opponents of this practice themselves and/or their circumstances. This is a common fallacy. The Latin name for it is argumentum ad hominem. It means “against the person.”

Unfortunately, the ad hominem attack is a very common fallacy today. Three venues where it is frequently heard are political gatherings, talk shows, and formal debates. Those who commit this fallacy do so, often, to divert attention from the fact that their position is weak. The idea here is: If you cannot attack the argument, attack the arguer. As an illustration of this point, consider the following story:

In England solicitors are allowed to prepare legal cases but not to defend them. That task belongs to barristers. On one occasion a solicitor got a case ready and passed it onto the barrister who was to “plead” it. On the day of the trial, the barrister showed up just moments before it was to begin. So confident was he that the solicitor had done a good job of getting the case ready for him—that he had not even bothered to look at it. After sitting down, he opened his briefcase and pulled out his case, only to read the following words: “We have no case: attack the plaintiff’s lawyer!”18

Examples of this fallacy, as used by proponents of abortion-on-demand, are as follows:

  • “Anti-choice groups don’t care about born children or their mothers.”
  • “It’s inconsistent of anti-choice groups to defend both the sanctity of human life and capital punishment.”
  • Anti-choice proponents are violent. They shoot abortion providers and bomb abortion clinics.”
  • “Anti-choice groups are trying to force their religious views on a pluralistic society.”
  • “Abortion is a women’s issue. Since men can’t personally experience it, they should keep their opinions about it to themselves. ”
  • “Anti-choice proponents are religious, fundamentalist zealots who hate women.”

The Greek philosopher Plato (429–347 BC) says that, “Arguments, like men, are often pretenders.”19 This is certainly true of the “arguments” above. They all

pretend to be logically sound arguments. But, though psychologically persuasive, they are all seriously flawed from a logical perspective. For the real issue in the debate about abortion-on-demand is, not the character and/or circumstances of those who oppose this practice, but the status of the pre-born. Of course, these “arguments” do have a kind of relevance. Otherwise so many people would not find them persuasive. But this relevance, as we have said, is psychological, not logical.

The ad hominem attack is not always fallacious. One place where it can be relevant is in the courtroom. Establishing, for example, that a witness was once charged with perjury, though, admittedly, ad hominem, is in no way improper. But though ad hominem attacks are warranted in some circumstances, this is not the case in a dialogue. For here, unlike in a courtroom, a person’s character and circumstances are irrelevant.

It is tempting to defend oneself against the above accusations. To do so, however, would be bad strategy. For it would allow the focus to shift from the pre-born’s status to the character and/or circumstances of opponents of abortion-on-demand.

As well as bad strategy, it is also unnecessary to defend oneself against these accusations. Why? Because even if it is true that opponents of abortion-on-demand are morally bad, it could still be the case that the pre-born is a person, and that, as such, abortion-on-demand is prima facie morally wrong. This shows that the two matters are, logically, unrelated.

The ad hominem fallacy, as a form of argumentation, is malicious. As such, it has no place in a rational dialogue, the purpose of which is to find the truth.


Three Socratic Questions

  1. “Why does that argument not commit the ad hominem fallacy?”
  2. “How does that argument help you to fulfill your burden of proof?”
  3. “How are the character and/or circumstances of opponents of abortion-on-demand relevant to the question of the pre-born’s status?”



The Appeal to Pity

           Another way that proponents of abortion-on-demand try to divert attention away from the real issue is by trying to arouse sympathy for women with unwanted pregnancies. This is a common fallacy called the appeal to pity. It occurs when, to support a conclusion, an arguer arouses sympathy for the plight of someone rather than giving reasons. It is often committed by defense lawyers in criminal trials. For example, sometimes they will try to persuade a jury that their client is innocent of murder by talking about the client’s terrible childhood. Why is this a fallacy? Because the client’s upbringing is completely irrelevant to the question of his or her guilt.

An striking example of this fallacy is given by the logician Irving Copi in his book Introduction to Logic. He tells the story of a youth who brutally killed both of his parents and, then pled for leniency on the grounds that he was an orphan!20

Of course, the appeal to pity is not always fallacious. Think, for example, of the urgent pleas for money made by humanitarian organizations like World Vision and the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada. Should we reject these pleas simply because they pull on our heartstrings? Of course not! There is nothing improper with such an appeal. For the person making it was not obligated to support a conclusion with reasons.

As is clear from the following examples, proponents of abortion-on-demand are frequently guilty of committing the appeal to pity:

  • “If abortion is made illegal, thousands of women will again die from back-alley abortions.”
  • “Outlawing abortion will result in aborted women being prosecuted and convicted for homicide.”
  • “If abortion is made illegal, only rich women will be able to afford to travel to foreign countries to get them, which is discriminatory.”
  • “Abortion should be accessible to women who feel they can’t raise a child with disabilities.”
  • “Denying abortion to women who are pregnant due to rape or incest would be cruel.”
  • “It’s a proven fact that refusing women access to abortion can harm them both physically and mentally.”
  • “If abortion is forbidden, then poor women will be forced to go on welfare to support their children.”
  • “Unless women continue to have access to abortion, unwanted pregnancies will interfere with their careers, which would make it harder for women to compete against men.”

Like the ad hominem fallacy, the appeal to pity is psychologically persuasive. As a powerful rhetorical ploy, it can be used to: 1) hide the weaknesses of one’s case; 2) divert attention away from one’s burden of proof; and 3) discredit one’s opponent.


Three Purposes for Which the Appeal to Pity Is Employed

  1. It is used to hide the weakness of one’s case.
  2. It is used to divert attention away from one’s burden of proof.
  3. It is used to discredit one’s opponent.


But though the above arguments are psychologically persuasive, like the ad hominem fallacy they are, nonetheless, logically fallacious. As such, they are all bad arguments. To see why this is so, we need, again, to ask ourselves the question: What are proponents of abortion-on-demand supposed to be trying to prove? The answer to this question, as I said earlier, is that a person begins to exist at birth! Instead what they often try to do, as we have seen, is arouse sympathy for women with unwanted pregnancies. But this is not the real issue. As such, these arguments are logically irrelevant.

It is important to understand that in rejecting the above arguments as irrelevant, we are in no way insensitive to the misfortunes of women with unwanted pregnancies. It is simply that none of the reasons given above justify homicide.


Three Socratic Questions

  1. “Why does that argument not commit the logical fallacy appeal to pity?”
  2. “How does that argument help you to fulfill your burden of proof?”
  3. “Your argument presupposes that the pre-born is not a person. What is your justification for this presupposition?”



Hasty Generalization

           Another common tactic used by proponents of abortion-on-demand for voiding the real issue is to focus on the so-called “hard cases.” By this I mean abortion for the reasons of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, and threat to the woman’s life.

Both sides in this dispute agree that a woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape or incest is the victim of a horrible crime. Nonetheless, research shows that all of the “hard cases” combined, account for less than one percent of all abortions.21 This means that more than 99 percent of the pre-born who are aborted are perfectly healthy, were conceived through consensual sex, and do not pose a risk to the woman’s life!  However, a person could be excused today for thinking that the exact opposite is the case: that it is the “hard cases” that account for the vast majority of abortions performed in Canada. The media is largely to blame for this false impression. One of its favourite questions to ask opponents of abortion-on-demand is, “Do you believe that abortion is justified in the case of rape?” For example, this question was asked of Stockwell Day, former leader of the Canadian Alliance.22 More recently, Rick Santorum was asked this question during his 2011 campaign for Republican Party nomination for President of the United States.23

Tim Graham, of the Media Research Center, calls the rape-question, “One of the hoariest tactics of liberal media personalities.…” He says further, “Can you imagine a liberal interviewer asking if they [pro-choicers] would accompany their daughter to the clinic? Or what would they do if the daughter regretted their abortion? No, only the pro-lifers get this hardball.”24

Rather than facing the real issue, some proponents of abortion-on-demand try to justify their position by attempting to arouse sympathy for the victims of rape and incest who become pregnant. In doing so, they commit the fallacy, just discussed, of appeal to pity.   They also commit the fallacy called hasty generalization. One logic textbook defines this fallacy as follows: “If one considers only exceptional cases and hastily generalizes to a rule that fits them alone, the fallacy committed is that of [hasty generalization].”25 According to another logic textbook, this fallacy says, “Accept this general conclusion because these (unusual or atypical) cases support it.”26 An example of this fallacy would be the argument that, since we lock up dangerous criminals, it is okay to rob law-abiding citizens of their freedoms.27

Proponents of abortion-on-demand seem to commit the fallacy hasty generalization when they try to justify this practice by appealing to the “hard cases.” Their reasoning seems to be as follows: “Look at pregnancies involving the “hard cases” of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, and threat to the woman’s life. It would be a terrible injustice to legally force women in such situations to give birth. Therefore, there should be no legal restrictions whatsoever on abortion.” But this is clearly a fallacious argument. For even if one were to grant that abortion is justified in the “hard cases”—which, as we have seen, make up less than one percent of all abortions—it would not follow that abortion-on-demand is acceptable. To argue that it is, says the ethicist Francis Beckwith, would be like saying that just because one is justified in breaking the speed limit in the case of an emergency, that, therefore, there should be no speed limit at all.28


Three Socratic Questions


  1. “Why does that argument not commit the logical fallacy hasty generalization?”
  2. “How does that argument help you to fulfill your burden of proof?”
  3. “Even if one were to grant that abortion is justified in the “hard cases”, how would it follow from this that abortion-on-demand is acceptable?”



Loaded Terms

           Sometimes proponents of abortion-on-demand try to dodge the issue by resorting to the use of a loaded term (or phrase). This fallacy occurs when a loaded term (or phrase) is used, in place of reasons, to undermine a person’s position. Words that are loaded are not neutral but make a value judgment. For example, someone who is determined about something could, depending on one’s view of the matter, be described as either tenacious or pigheaded. As well, a person who takes his or her religion seriously could be called very religious, or a religious extremist or fanatic.

Another name for this fallacy is question-begging epithet. It was first described in this way by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1784–1832) because, since a loaded term makes a value judgment that is not proved, this fallacy is a subclass of the fallacy begging the question. The fallacy begging the question occurs when one assumes what one is supposed to prove.

As should be clear from the previous example, it is not always a mistake in reasoning to use loaded terms. It all depends on the context. For example, it is, obviously, not fallacious to use loaded terms in a poem. It is fallacious, however, to use them when one is in a dispute with someone.

As we said earlier, proponents of abortion-on-demand often resort to the fallacies of loaded terms to dodge the issue of the status of the pre-born. Consider, for example, the following imaginary exchange between a proponent and opponent of abortion-on-demand:

OPPONENT OF ABORTION-ON-DEMAND:The real issue in the           abortion debate is the status of the pre-born. For if the pre-born is a person,        then it is protected by the moral rule against homicide, while if it is not a            person, then it is not protected by this rule. From this, it follows that my          burden of proof is to show that the pre-born is a person, while yours is to             show that it is not.”

PROPONENT OF ABORTION-ON-DEMAND:That’s ridiculous! I find it            absolutely outrageous that you anti-choice people think that you can deprive      women of our right to choose, our right to make reproductive choices, our         right to control the decisions affecting our own bodies!”

Let us examine what happened in the above exchange. The opponent of abortion-on-demand began by, correctly, focusing the discussion on the status of the pre-born. In response, the proponent of this practice let loose with an angry outburst containing the following loaded phrases: “anti-choice people,” “right to choose,” “right to make reproductive choices,” and “right to control the decisions affecting our own bodies.” These phrases are all question-begging epithets because they all assume, without proof, that abortion is a legitimate woman’s right. But this could only be the case if the pre-born is not a person. For if the pre-born is a person, then it is protected by the moral rule against homicide.



Three Socratic Questions

  1. “Why does that argument not commit the logical fallacy loaded terms?”
  2. “How does that argument help you to fulfill your burden of proof?”
  3. “That argument presupposes that the pre-born is not a person. What is your justification for this presupposition?”



Red Herring

This fallacy occurs when a person diverts attention away from the real issue. Usually, this is done to hide the weakness of a case. This fallacy gets its colourful name from a technique used to train hunting dogs. This practice involves dragging a smelly red herring across the path of dogs that are in pursuit of a prey. If the dogs follow the new trail, they are scolded and jerked back onto the original trail. In this way they are taught to stick to a scent.

An example of this fallacy would be the skeptic who, in response to the claim by a Christian that the New Testament is a historically reliable document, replies that it is full of contradictions. This is a red herring because the point in question was not the inerrancy of the New Testament, but its historical reliability. These are two totally separate issues. For if a document had to be inerrant to be historically reliable, no historical documents could be considered reliable!

It is not hard to see how most, if not all, of the arguments that we have looked at in this paper in support of abortion-on-demand commit this fallacy. The real question in this debate, as I have said, repeatedly, is the status of the pre-born. All of the fallacious arguments that we have looked at in this paper draw attention away from this question in one way or another. The ad hominem argumentsdo this by attacking the character and/or circumstances of opponents of abortion-on-demand. The arguments that appeal to pity try to dodge the real issue by arousing sympathy for women with unwanted pregnancies. The arguments that commit the fallacy hasty generalization attempt to sidetrack us by focusing on the “hard cases.” The arguments that contain loaded terms try to divert us through the use of loaded terms.


Three Socratic Questions

  1. “Why does that argument not commit the red herring fallacy?”
  2. “How does that argument help you to fulfill your burden of proof?”
  3. “Is this the real issue that we should be focusing on?”


Irrelevant Conclusion

Many of the above arguments put forth by proponents of abortion-on-demand also commit the fallacy irrelevant conclusion. This fallacy occurs when one tries to establish a point that is not the point in question. An example of this fallacy is the argument that because torturing terror suspects to elicit important information often works, therefore, the statement, “Torture is morally justifiable,” is true. This argument commits the fallacy irrelevant conclusion because proving that torture works is not the same as showing that it is morally justifiable.

Proponents of abortion-on-demand, as I argued above, should be trying to prove that a person begins to exist at birth. Instead, as we have seen, they attempt to demonstrate that, among other things, opponents of abortion-on-demand are of questionable character, or that women with unwanted pregnancies are deserving of our sympathy, or that the “hard cases” are a common occurrence. But in doing so, they are trying to prove a point that is not the point in question.


Three Socratic Questions

  1. “Why does that argument not commit the fallacy irrelevant conclusion?”
  2. “How does that argument help you to fulfill your burden of proof?”
  3. “Is the point you are trying to establish the point in question?”



The Need for Gentleness

“No one,” as the Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias (born 1946) has pointed out, “likes to be hit over the head with logic.” For, by its very nature, logic, like math, is hard, objective, and impersonal. With logic, as one textbook on the subject says, “Order is the key word.”29 Logic is all about putting our thoughts in order. Given this fact, it is not surprising that the experience of being corrected with logic can leave one cold. To make matters worse, those doing the correcting can easily come across as heartless. This is especially the case given the sensitive nature of abortion. For this reason, when presenting this material, it is important to follow the biblical admonition to correct those who are in error with gentleness. We would do well to heed the following instructions from the apostle Paul (c. 5—c. 67):

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able         to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they     will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the        devil‘s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he             wants.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, NLT)



In this paper we have examined six logical fallacies that are often committed by proponents of abortion-on-demand in an attempt to dodge the real question in the debate over this practice: Is the pre-born a person? I also suggested, as a way to try to steer the discussion back to this issue, several Socratic questions that can be put to those who commit these fallacies. I am confident that the reader, equipped with, both, the knowledge of these fallacies, as well as these Socratic questions, should, with some practice, be able to keep a discussion about abortion-on-demand focused on the status of the pre-born. “To be forewarned,” as the saying goes, “is to be forearmed.”





1. Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion,” in The Problem of Abortion, 2d ed., ed. Joel Feinberg (Wadsworth Publishing Company: Belmont, CA, 1984), 173–87.

2. Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death—Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI, 1993), 133.

3. Norman Geisler, Christian Ethics—Options and Issues (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1989), 141.

4. Randy Alcorn, Pro Life Answers to Pro Choice Arguments (Multnomah Press: Portland, OR, 1992), 80.

5. Douglas N. Walton, Informal LogicA Handbook for Critical Argumentation (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 1994), 18.

6. Ibid, 18.

7. There are some proponents of abortion-on-demand, such as Michael Tooley and Peter Singer, who also defend infanticide. However, it has been my experience that most proponents of this position are unwilling to go to such extreme measures. Though they may be pro-choice with regard to abortion, the same is not true when it comes to infanticide.

8. Douglas N. Walton, Informal LogicA Handbook for Critical Argumentation (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, 1994), 60–61.

9. Ibid, 18.

10. M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley, Asking the Right Questions—A Guide to Critical Thinking (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1994), 74.

11. Ed. L. Miller, Questions that MatterAn Invitation to Philosophy (McGraw-Hill Book Company, The United States of America, 1984), 43.

12. James W. Sire, Habits of the Mind—Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 2000), 212.

13. William D. Gairdner, The War Against the Family (Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited: Toronto, ON, 1992), 431.

14. “Henry Morgentaler.” 01/03/14. Web.

15. “Joseph Goebbels quotes.” Web.

16. Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder, The Thinker’s Guide to The Art of Socratic Questioning (Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, Dillon Beach, CA, 2007), 3.

17. Ronald Gross, Socrate’s Way—Seven Master Keys to Using Your Mind to the Utmost (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam: New York, NY, 2002), 47.

18. Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic (Collier-Macmillan Canada: Toronto, ON, 1969), 61–62.  

19. Henry A. Virkler, A Christian’s Guide To Critical Thinking (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1993), 184.

20. Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic (Collier-Macmillan Canada: Toronto, ON, 1969), 65.  

21. Brian Clowes, Ph. D., The Facts of Life—An Authoritative Guide to Life and Family Issues (Human Life International: Front Royal, VA, 1997), 178.

22. “Stockwell Day”—INJUSTICEBUSTERS.

Stockwell_Day. htm. 15/02/01. Web.

23. “Piers Morgan Pushes Santorum If He’d Oppose Abortion If His Raped Daughter Was ‘Begging You’ For It. morgan-pushes-santorum-if-hed-oppose-abortion-if-his-raped-daughter. 23/01/12. Web.

24. Ibid.

25. Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic (Collier-Macmillan: Canada, Toronto, ON, 1969), 68.

26. Norman Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come Let Us ReasonAn Introduction to Logical Thinking (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1990), 105.

27. Irving M. Copi, Introduction to Logic (Collier-Macmillan Canada: Toronto, ON, 1969), 85.

28. Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death—Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI, 1993), 69.

29. Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come Let Us Reason—An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI), 12.





November 19th, 2014|Categories: The Project||Comments Off on How Proponents of Abortion-on-Demand Dodge the Issue

Saved By Mother Teresa



MOther teresa





“Mother Teresa’s person, life, love, devotion, and holiness are very moving and very beautiful. And the story of how Sara was saved by Mother Teresa is very moving and very beautiful.”
—DR. STEPHEN SCHWARZ, Philosopher and Author

“I thought that Saved—By Mother Teresa was beautifully done. I enjoyed reading it, and it brought a tear to my eyes.”
—MARY CUDNEY, President of the Collingwood and District Pro-Life

Saved—By Mother Teresa is a beautifully told story.” —PAUL BROUGHTON, Owner of Life Cycle Books

Saved—By Mother Teresa is well written and the subject matter is excellent.”—FR. JOHN GALLAGHER, Theologian and Author

“Sara denBok’s story is a heartfelt chronicle of her early childhood as one of Mother Teresa’s ‘children.’ It is a touching account of the impact the Sisters of Charity have on the lives of the abandoned and dying and provides a very personal perspective on the life of Blessed Teresa.”—ELIZABETH RING-CASSIDY, Psychometrist and Author

“This is a beautiful testimony of how a loving person—Mother Teresa—can bring God’s love to the attention of the whole world. It also impresses on us the fact that we are most effective in loving others when we channel that love through Jesus, the Son of God.” —DR. DONALD DEMARCO, Philosopher and Author

“Mother Teresa provided very real help to the poor and vulnerable because she said, ‘they were Jesus in disguise.’ This is one such tangible story, with Mother Teresa rescuing an orphan from the streets of Calcutta and in the process both saving and transforming a little girl’s life.”—PAUL TUNS, Editor, The Interim

“I love Sara’s story; it made me cry more than once. —VIRGINIA CHATHAM, English Professor

Sara denBok is a DSW (Developmental Service Worker), who lives and works in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada. Her husband, Tim denBok, is a support worker with people who are mentally and physically challenged. Together they have two children, Daniel and Leah, who are 18 and 14 years old, respectively.

Tim and sarah

Inquiries concerning speaking engagements my be directed as follows:

Sara denBok
3 Victory Dr., Collingwood, ON., Canada, L9Y 2G6
(705) 444-5516



Life Cycle Books Canada
Parts of this booklet may be quoted for publication without permission, but Life Cycle Books Canada would appreciate receiving a copy of the article in question or any other form of acknowledgment.


Tim denBok


Life Cycle Books Canada 1085 Bellamy Rd. N. Unit 20 Toronto, ON M1H 3C7

This is Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, which, translated into English, means Home of the Little Children.



Here is my soon-to-be adoptive dad, Eldon Bell, and I standing on the roof of Nirmala Shishu Bhavan.



Here I am, during my return to Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, standing in the same spot as in the previous photo, with one of the Sisters and some of the orphans.


Here I am at the airport in New York, being signed over to my new adoptive parents by the airline stewardess. My new, adoptive mom, Audrey Bell, is on the left. I am being held by adoptive dad, Eldon.



 For my adoptive parents, Eldon and Audrey Bell. Thank you for wanting me.



Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun. As such she had taken a vow of chastity. Yet, ironically, though most women have only a few children, she had, literally, thousands of them—children whom she rescued from disease, malnourishment, and death. (TIME magazine went so far as to even call her the “Mother to the World.”1) She called these children “my children.” To them, she was, truly, their “mother.” I am one of those children, and this is my story.


The Saint of the Gutters

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 and died in 1997, at the age of 87. She spent most of her life in India helping the people, she called, “the poorest of the poor”, acquiring the name “the saint of the gutters.” But, contrary to what many believe, she was not, herself, Indian. She was born in the former Yugoslavia (present-day Macedonia) of Albanian parents. Nor was her real name “Teresa”. Her name at birth was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She took on the name “Teresa” in 1928 when she became a Catholic nun. She named herself after Saint Therese of Lisieux, who lived in the 19th century. She became Mother Teresa—as opposed to, simply, Sister Teresa– in 1937 when she took her final vows.

Mother Teresa had been teaching children with the Sisters of Loreto, a religious order in Calcutta when, on a train trip to the mountains in Darjeeling on September 10, 1946, something happened to her that would change her life forever. She heard, audibly, the voice of Jesus speaking to her, and had several visions of him. What Jesus said to her was this: “Carry Me into the holes of the poor. I want Indian nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love among the poor, the sick, the dying, and the little children.”2 (As the reader will see shortly, this period of intense spiritual light would soon be followed by a prolonged interval of spiritual darkness.)

Mother Teresa’s first reaction to this calling was one of reluctance. She did not want to leave Loreto. She liked it there. But Jesus was insistent. ‘There are plenty of nuns to look after the well-to- do people’, she would report him saying, ‘but as for my very poor, there are absolutely none. For them I long—them I love. Wilt thou refuse?”3 Mother Teresa, of course, did not refuse. Every year since then, theMissionaries of Charity have celebrated September 10 as InspirationDay.4

Immediately upon returning from Darjeeling, Mother Teresa asked the Calcutta archdiocese for permission to form her own order. The Sisters of this order, she explained, would, in their dress and lifestyle, fully identify with the poor.5 Her Superiors were not, at first, persuaded. However, permission was eventually granted, and in 1950 Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity.“ At the time of her death, there were 3,842 Missionary of Charity Sisters in 594 foundations in 120 countries.”6 Unlike many Christian leaders who are the head of large organizations, Mother Teresa has never made a plea for donations, relying instead on God to supply all of her needs.

Mother Teresa won many awards, most notably, the Nobel Peace Prize. In announcing Mother Teresa as the recipient of the award for 1979, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee explained, in part, that, “Mother Teresa’s work has been recognized and acclaimed throughout the world….”7

Mother Teresa was one of the most admired women in the last couple of decades of the 20th century. According to the polling organization, Gallup, in fact, she was the most admired woman in the world for several of those years, beating out other famous woman such as Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher. When she was alive she was considered by many to be a living Saint. Since her death, the Catholic Church has begun the long process of canonizing her, or making her a saint.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is … joy …”

India is one of the poorest nations in the world. One third of the world’s poor live there. Approximately 40% of India’s population lives below the poverty line.8 When Mother Teresa was alive this number was even higher. However, Mother Teresa never allowed the misery and affliction that surrounded her on every side to be reflected on her countenance. On the contrary, she exuded joy. “We must be able to radiate the joy of Christ, express it in our actions. If our actions are just useful actions that give no joy to the people, our poor would never be able to rise up to the call which we want them to hear, the call tocome closer to God. We want to make them feel that they are loved. If we went to them with a sad face, we would make them much more depressed.”9

Obviously, Mother Teresa’s joy was not dependent on outward circumstances. What, then, was the source of it? In a word: God. According to Galatians 5:22, joy is a “fruit of the Spirit” that should be characteristic of all Christians. That Mother Teresa possessed it in such abundance is all the more remarkable when you consider that, as a series of letters she wrote to a spiritual confidant reveal, from 1949 until her death, she experienced, what St. John of the Cross called, a “dark night of the soul.” She was simply unable, like the biblical character Job during his trials, to feel God’s presence at this time. In one letter she says, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. The tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak.”10 Was Mother Teresa’s radiant smile, then, a mere facade? No. To believe so would be to confuse the joy of the Spirit with a feeling of contentment. The joy of the Spirit, however, far from being a mere emotion, is a state of mind that is grounded in the knowledge that one is saved, that one’s name is written in the “book of life” (Revelations 13:8). Though this trial left Mother Teresa’s faith severely shaken, her love for Christ, she said, continued “unbroken.”11


The Home of the Destitute and Dying

Near the beginning of her ministry in Calcutta, Mother Teresa came across a woman lying on the street who was, as she says, “half eaten by the rats and ants.”12 Personnel at the hospital refused to admit her. She, after all, had no money to pay them. When Mother Teresa refused to leave until they let the woman stay, they, grudgingly, gave in to her demand. As a result of this experience, Mother Teresa realized that there was a need for a ministry that would provide care for those who were dying. Within 24 hours she had gained access to an abandoned, ancient Hindu temple. Thus began Nirmala Hiriday, or the “Home for the Destitute and Dying.”

In India there is often a reluctance to help those who are suffering. The reason for this is that most who live in India are Hindus, and, as such, believe in the doctrine of karma. There are variousschools of thought that have developed over the centuries with regard to this ancient doctrine. But it is, roughly, the belief that what happens to a person in this life is the result of what he or she did in a previous life. Thus, the suffering that one endures now is the, inevitable, consequence of one’s, past, evil actions. And that is just the way it is.

Fortunately for the many whom Mother Teresa helped, she did not believe in karma. Rather, she believed, on the basis of Jesus’ parable of the “Sheep and the Goats”, that those who suffer are, in some mystical sense, “Christ in his distressing disguise.”13 She believed that in them she encountered Jesus, just as surely as she did when partaking of the sacraments. She says, “This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come; in, that we give it and we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible. Because it is a continual contact with Christ in his work, it is the same contact we have during Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament. There we have Jesus in the appearance of bread. But here in the slums, in the broken body, in the children, we see Christ and we touch him.”14

In an interview with the journalist Malcolm Muggeridge in 1968, Mother Teresa said that she and the Sisters of her order had rescued over twenty-three thousand people from the streets of Calcutta alone. Of these, she said, about half had died.15 Below, in her own words, are the descriptions of two such rescues:

“One evening, we went out and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in the most terrible condition. I told the Sisters: ‘You take care of the other three I will take care of the one who looks worse’. So I did for her all that my love can do. I put l her in bed, and there was a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, and she said one thing only: ‘Thank you.’ Then she died. Then there was a man we picked up from a drain, half eaten by worms. And after we had brought him to the home, he only said, ‘I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die as an angel, loved and cared for.” Then after we had removed all the worms from his body, all he said-with a big smile-was: ‘Sister, I am going home to God.’ And he died.”16


A Prayer Warrior

Prayer was to Mother Teresa a necessary condition for fulfilling her calling. Without it, she said she would not have had the strength to serve the “poorest of the poor.” She said, “To love as Jesus loves, meeting daily with Him through prayer is essential. Without it, love dies. What blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul.”17 This explains why prayer played such a prominent part in Mother Teresa’s day-to-day life. To quote Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, an associate of Mother Teresa for twenty years, “Prayer permeated Mother Teresa’s day: she started, ended, and filled each day with prayer.”18 One has only to look at Mother Teresa’s daily schedule to see the importance that she placed upon prayer. She woke up at 4:40 a.m. Her morning prayer began at 5:00 a.m. This was followed by Divine Office, Meditation, and Holy Mass until about 7:00 a.m. Mother Teresa also met with the community for prayer at other times like Midday Prayer at 12:00 p.m. Beginning at 2:00 p.m., she did Spiritual Reading, followed by Holy Hour and Divine Office from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. She prayed at 8:00 p.m. after dinner, as well as a night prayer at 9:00 p.m. She said, “We try to pray through our work by doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus. That helps to put our whole heart and soul into doing it.”19


“This is my blood which was shed for you…”

Another vital source of strength for Mother Teresa was the sacraments, particularly, Holy Communion. When Mother Teresa was asked from where she got her spiritual power, without hesitating she replied: “It comes from Christ and the Sacrament.”20 In the above mentioned interview, Mother Teresa told Muggeridge that Holy Communion “was the spiritual food which sustains her, without which, she said, she could not get through a single day or hour of the life of dedication she has chosen.”21 So important was the Eucharist to Mother Teresa that she and the Sisters partook of it daily during Mass. As well, beginning in 1973, she decided to have a daily service known as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which used to be done only once a week when she first started. During this time, for one hour, the sacrament, which Catholics believe is the actual body of Christ, was exposed and adored by her and the Sisters. She said, “Holy Communion, as the word itself implies, is the intimate union of Jesus and our soul and body. If we want to have life and have it more abundantly, we must live on the flesh of our Lord.”22

Holy Communion was not only the spiritual food that sustained Mother Teresa, it also provided her with a model for how to treat the poor. This is beautifully illustrated in the following story told by Mother Teresa: “[Our sisters] had to go the home for the dying. And before they went, I said to them … ’You saw during Holy Mass with what tenderness, with what love, father was touching the Body of Christ. Make sure it is the same body in the poor that you will be touching. Give that same love, that same tenderness.’ They went. After three hours, they returned, and one of them came up to my room and said, ‘Mother, I’ve been touching the body of Christ for three hours. Her face was shining with joy.’ I said, ‘What did you do, sister?’ ‘Well, just as we arrived, they brought a man covered with maggots. He had been picked up from a drain. And for three hours, I have been touching the body of Christ. I knew it was He.’”23

My Story

Though Mother Teresa was, to many people, simply a woman to be admired, to me she is much more. For if it was not for her, I would probably not be alive today. As the front-page story that appeared in the Toronto Star on September 10, 1997 says, I was ‘Saved–by Mother Teresa’. Let me, briefly, tell you my story. My purpose in putting it on paper is to pay tribute to this godly woman to whom I owe so much.

I was only three years old when a police officer found me wandering, alone, on one of Calcutta’s many crowded streets. I had three open sores on my head, and was probably bleeding. (My mother thinks that I was, likely, mauled by a dog because, upon first seeing one shortly after arriving in Canada, I was “deathly afraid.”) The police officer must have felt sorry for me, and, knowing that Mother Teresa never turned a child away, took me to her orphanage, Nirmala Shishu Bhavan. In English this means ‘Home of the Little Children.’ I know nothing about myself prior to having been brought to Mother Teresa, with one exception: I was Bindu the Hindu, and spoke Bengali. I do not know my last name. Nor do I know when I was born. Mother Teresa gave me my birth date. I could be a year older or younger.

Though there is no way to know for sure, it is likely that I was abandoned. Why do I say this? There are a couple of reasons. First, girls are not valued very highly in India. As evidence of this, inIndia, sex-selection abortions of girls are common occurrences. The sex-selection abortion of girls is the aborting of a pre-born female for no other reason than that she is the “wrong” sex. This practice is especially prevalent among the Hindu population in India. According to one study that was done in Bombay, India, in 1984, of 8,000 sex- selection abortions that were performed there, 7,999 of the pre-born who were killed were girls.24

Infanticide was once the primary means used in India for eliminating unwanted female offspring. Today this is done, largely, through sex-selection abortion.25 However, though the means have changed, the end result is the same: the killing of an unwanted, baby girl!

There are, at least, a couple of reasons why female children are not valued very highly in India. First, there is the illegal, but still common, practice, in India, of paying for a dowry gift. A dowry is the payment, often financial, by the family of the bride to the family of the bridegroom. This transaction occurs at the same time that the bride is given away. A dowry gift can be very expensive, costing the bride’s family as much as 10 years wages.26 Second, parents of a girl are expected to throw a party for her when she reaches puberty.27

Another reason why I think that I was probably abandoned, is that, after I was found, the orphanage, in an attempt to find my parents, put up posters about me around the streets of Calcutta. However, no one came forward to claim me.

Happily for me Mother Teresa did not share this view of the low worth of baby girls. She valued all human life—boys and girls, young and old—and never turned away a child that was brought to her. Her orphanage was full of girls. For example, when, as an adult, I returned to the orphanage for a visit, about which more will be said later, there were 150 babies upstairs in cribs—three to a crib—and 150 toddlers downstairs, the vast majority of which were girls. “How can there be too many children?”, Mother Teresa once said, “That is like saying there are too many flowers.”28

Mother Teresa, commenting on the high mortality rate among children in India, said, “Yes, many would die, especially among those children that are unwanted. Quite possibly they would have been either thrown away or killed. But that way is not for us; our way is topreserve life, the life of Christ in the life of the child.”29 Muggeridge, while touring the orphanage with Mother Teresa, asked her if “it was truly worth while trying to salvage a few abandoned children who might other wise be expected to die of neglect, malnutrition or some related illness.” Mother Teresa’s poignant reply was simply to hold up a tiny, malnourished girl and say, “Look, there’s life in her!”30

I lived at the orphanage for two years until age 5. In December of 1974 my now, adoptive parents, Eldon and Audrey Bell, were visiting India along with some friends of theirs, Alf and Lela Rees, who had, previously, been missionaries in India for ten years. Alf, through the Bishop of Calcutta, with whom he had developed an acquaintance, arranged for a meeting with Mother Teresa. Included in this meeting was a tour of Nirmala Shishu Bhavan. At that time there were 93 orphans there, including me. This was when I first met my soon-to-be adoptive parents. At the time, they were forty-eight years old, had three children, and had no intention of having any more. I, apparently, had other plans for them. For no sooner did they walk into the orphanage, then, I am told, I made a beeline straight towards the man who, in less than a year’s time would be my dad, and clung to his leg. This happened again when they returned for a second visit. Seventeen years later, while serving as the Master of Ceremonies at my wedding, Alf would joke that I saw my soon-to-be dad as my “one-way ticket” out of India. If so, my plan worked to perfection. For soon afterwards, Eldon and Alf approached Mother Teresa about adopting me. They were both wearing sunglasses and must have looked shady because Mother Teresa got the notion that they wanted to purchase me— and then, presumably, sell me again for a profit. Needless to say, she flatly refused to let them have me. But after being assured that they only wanted to adopt me, and not buy me, Mother Teresa, eventually, relented, and the process of my adoption was set in motion.

One of the conditions of my adoption was that my adoptive parents had to send Mother Teresa a photograph of me with a letter informing her as to how I was doing. This was to be done until I was 18 years old. Mother Teresa made this demand of all of the couples who adopted children from Nirmala Shishu Bhavan. Later I was to learn that she kept these pictures and letters in a scrapbook.

A year after Mother Teresa consented to my adoption, I was put on a plane bound for New York. (At the time there were no flightsfrom India to Toronto.) I was the first child from Nirmala Shishu Bhavan ever to be adopted to Canada.

Not surprisingly, my move from the East to the West was not without a few bumps along the way. For example, my first meal in Western civilization was, appropriately enough, a McDonald’s hamburger. However, since Hindus don’t eat beef, I, promptly, took the hamburger apart and ate—the pickle. During my first year here, while on vacation in Florida, I stepped into the deep end of a swimming pool, having never seen one before, and had to be fished from the bottom of it by my dad. I must have thought my adopted family’s black and white TV badly needed some colour. For the first opportunity that I had, I gave it some—with my crayons.


Memories Better Forgotten

Though most people can remember some things that happened to them when they were a child of four or five, I cannot remember anything until I was seven. As such, I have no memory of my biological parents. However, I am told that, as a little girl, I did speak of my Indian mother once. One day I picked a little flower and put it behind my ear and said that I remembered my mother doing that. Nor can I remember my two years at Nirmala Shishu Bhavan.

It has been suggested to me that one reason I can’t remember anything from this period in my life is that it was too traumatic. Psychologists say that when something very painful happens to someone, he or she will, as a way to cope, sometimes bury the experience deep in his or her subconscious. The technical name for this is “repression.” (I will come back to this topic in a moment.) Whatever may be the case, my earliest memory—significantly enough—is of becoming a Christian, at the age of seven, while attending summer camp at, what was then called, the Stayner Missionary Campgrounds.


I Return to My Birthplace

In 1994, with my husband, Tim, I returned to Nirmala Shishu Bhavan for a visit. It was the first time I had been there since, as a little girl of five, I had said goodbye to the other orphans and the nuns who livedthere, including Mother Teresa. Previous to our going there, Mother Teresa sent me a letter in which she said, in part, “Come with hearts to love and hands to serve Jesus in the crippled, the abandoned, the sick and dying in anyone of our Centres.”

For months leading up to the return to my birthplace I was very nervous. I was worried that the familiar sights of my childhood would awaken memories that were, perhaps, better forgotten. But, as it was, I had nothing to worry about. For upon arriving at Nirmala Shishu Bhavan I found that I could not remember any of the people or places with whom I had been so intimately acquainted as a child. I, however, had not been forgotten. For one of the nuns there, Sister Charmaine, remembered me. She recognized me, she said, by the scar over my right eye.

The highlight of my return to India was my visit with Mother Teresa in the Mother House. As soon as I introduced myself as one of Mother Teresa’s “children”, I was immediately ushered into the “court yard”, where she had her living quarters—which was actually just a simple room. Upon first seeing Mother Teresa, I was, immediately, struck with how small in stature she was. She only stood 148 cm (4’ 10”) and weighed 40. 82 kg (90 lbs.). At this time Mother Teresa was very old. She had also been unwell for several years with a heart condition. It was hard to believe that this tiny woman was universally recognized as a moral and spiritual giant. I also particularly remember that her feet were swollen, such that I wondered how she could even walk on them. When I met her she was hunched over and could only speak in a whisper. Unfortunately, this made it very hard for me to hear her. The fact that she still had a strong Albanian accent also made it difficult for me to understand what she was saying. As you can imagine, this was frustrating to me because I very much wanted to take in what she was telling me. But as she held both of my hands lovingly in hers, I heard her distinctly say several times, “The family that prays together stays together.” I will never forget the touch of her hands. They were as soft as velvet. Her presence exuded peace and love. It was a feeling that I have never since experienced to such a degree. It made me think of how those in Jesus’ presence must have felt.

Before I said goodbye to Mother Teresa, I gave her a picture that I had drawn of me standing on the roof of Nirmala Shishu Bhavan. Under the picture, in calligraphy, I put the Bible verse, “Let the little childrencome unto me.” Mother Teresa liked the picture very much and said that she would hang it on a wall in the Mother House.

The only thing that went wrong about my meeting with Mother Teresa is that Tim neglected to open the shutter on our camera before taking pictures of Mother Teresa and I together. As a result they all turned out black. So, unfortunately, I have no pictures of the two of us together.

Others have commented on the otherworldly quality exuded by Mother Teresa. For example, in his book Something Beautiful for God, Muggeridge, who was, at the time, a skeptic, said of Mother Teresa:“…I never met anyone more memorable. Just meeting her for a fleeting moment makes an ineffaceable impression. I have known people burst into tears when she goes, though it was only from a tea party where their acquaintance with her amounted to no more than receiving her smile. Once I had occasion to see her off, with one of the Sisters, at Calcutta railway station…. When the train began to move, and I walked away, I felt as though I were leaving behind me all the beauty and all the joy in the universe. Something of God’s universal love has rubbed off on Mother Teresa, giving her homely features a noticeable luminosity; a shining quality. She has lived so closely with her Lord that the same enchantment clings about her that sent the crowds chasing after him [Jesus] in Jerusalem and Galilee….”31

Tim and I spent most of the week that we were in India working with the orphans at Shishu Bhavan. Children immediately swarmed us, when we first set foot into the orphanage. I had five children jump on me: one on each leg, one on each arm, and one around my neck. (Does this sound familiar? Remember I had done the same thing to my soon-to-be dad twenty years earlier.) During this time the duties of Tim and I included: teaching the children English, feeding the younger children lunch, and playing games with the children. It was humorous to see how the younger children of a year to a year-and- a-half old were toilet trained. For this they were seated, about ten at a time, outside on a board with holes cut in it. As they sat there, they would, repeatedly, nod on and off, several times almost falling off theboard. For shower time, the children would be scrubbed with a bar of soap and, then, hosed down. As we worked with the children, I was constantly reminded of the fact that I had once been one of them. And though they were loved, it made me grateful to my parents for having decided to adopt me. Interestingly, though I usually find the experience of working with a lot of children stressful, during the time Tim and I worked at Nirmala Shishu Bhavan I felt a tremendous sense of peace.

Hanging on the wall of Nirmala Shishu Bhavan is the following poem, written by Kent M. Keith, that I think summarizes well the attitude that characterized Mother Teresa:

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered, LOVE THEM ANYWAY

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives, DO GOOD ANYWAY

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies, SUCCEED ANYWAY

The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow, DO GOOD ANYWAY

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable, BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight, BUILD ANYWAY

People really need help but may attack you if you help them, HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth, GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY.


Mother Teresa’s Moral Authority

What was it about Mother Teresa that caused people who met her to react in the way described above and to be drawn to her? It was her moral authority. The great sociologist Max Weber, as paraphrased by the Christian author and sociologist Anthony Campolo, defined authority as follows: “When a leader is able to persuade others to do his will without coercion, when he presents himself in such a way that people want to obey him, when they recognize him as a legitimate leader with the right to expect compliance with his wishes, I say that he has authority.”32 How does one develop moral authority? Byspending one’s life in service for others. Few possess such authority. One who had it was William Wilberforce. He was the English reformer who, along with other members of the Clapham Sect, brought about the end of slavery and the slave trade in the British Empire. The Italian statesman Count Pecchio, while visiting Britain, described the following scene as Wilberforce entered the House of Commons: “When Mr. Wilberforce passes through the crowd every one contemplates this little old man worn with age, and his head sunk upon his shoulders, as a sacred relic.”33

Speaking of Mother Teresa’s moral authority, Campolo, says:“She commands no army, she sits in no parliament, she has no wealth and yet when she speaks, the world listens. Mother Teresa possesses no power in this world, but she does possess great authority. Her authority has been established by her willingness to sacrifice in the service of others. She has followed the example of her Saviour and has become a suffering servant…. Mother Teresa follows the example of Jesus and, consequently, has some of the same attraction and authority that people find in the crucified Lord. The more one gives to others in love, sacrifices for the well-being of others, and suffers for the cause of righteousness, the more one grows in authority. Mother Teresa finds herself in possession of great authority because she has done all of these things..”34


Afflicting the Comfortable

It has been well said of Jesus that he “comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.” To the Pharisees who were self- righteous, for example, Jesus was surprisingly harsh, calling them such things as “white-washed tombs”, “brood of vipers”, and “blind guides.” To such people as the woman caught in adultery, and the woman at the well, on the other hand, Jesus was very tender. Mother Teresa, more than anyone I can think of, also exhibited these two extremes of behavior. This was no more evident than in her response to the horror of mass abortion. To the survivors of botched abortions, for example, she offered a loving home. On one occasion, when Tim and I were visiting the orphanage, one of the nuns showed me the tiniest little baby girl. On all accounts the baby looked very healthy,but upon closer examination I noticed that she had stitches on her ear. When I asked the nun about this I was told that she had been found in a dustbin, the result of a botched abortion. To those who advocated the killing of the pre-born, on the other hand, Mother Teresa did not mince words.

As an example of Mother Teresa’s outspokenness concerning abortion, consider the talk she gave at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on February 5, 1994. People of all political stripes and religious beliefs attend this annual event. For this reason, the talks given at it are, usually, of a non-controversial nature. Among the 3,000 in attendance were many VIPs, including President Clinton, the First Lady, Vice-President Al Gore, his wife, and Supreme Court justices.

Mother Teresa began her speech by talking about Jesus’ teaching that whatever we do, or not do, to the undesirables of society, we do, or not do, to him. She, then, talked about such innocuous subjects as the death of Jesus for our sins, our need to “give until it hurts”, the importance of caring for our parents when they are elderly, and making time for our children. Since Mother Teresa is a Roman Catholic nun, all of this would have been more or less expected. No surprise there. But she, then, hit them between the eyes with the following statement, as if with a two-by-four:

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child—murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? … Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the great destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”35

There was a brief moment in which one could hear a pin drop, then, beginning from one side of the room to the other, everyone stood and began applauding, and did not stop for over five minutes. Everyone, that is, except the Clintons and the Gores, as well as a few others. According to Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, the Clinton’s and the Gore’s sat in their chairs “look[ing] like seated statues at Madame Tussauds.”36 The audacity of Mother Teresa—at an early morning breakfast of all things—left many in the audience

flabbergasted. (One senator, during Mother Teresa’s talk, turned to his wife and said, “Is my jaw up yet.”) But to the Christians in the audience, Mother Teresa’s words on this cold February morning should not have come as a surprise. For she was simply following the example of her Savior—afflicting the comfortable.


Mother Teresa Dies

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997. As some of you may recall, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash just six days before. Because Princess Diana was still a young woman of 35 when she died, her death was a huge shock. Simone de Beauvoir compared the shock of losing her mother to that of hearing the noisy engine of the airplane in which one is flying suddenly go silent.37 The news that Princess Diana—the “people’s Princess” as she was affectionately called—had died, was like that for many. Mother Teresa’s death, on the other hand, caught few by surprise. She was 87 years old, after all, and had not been well for a long time. So it is not surprising that Princess Diana’s death overshadowed that of Mother Teresa’s.

I learned of Mother Teresa’s passing, like most people, from the media. Like millions of other people I watched her funeral, with my husband, on TV. I have always regarded Mother Teresa as my spiritual mother. So her death, needless to say, filled me with a deep sadness. At the same time, though, I was happy for her. She was, finally, with the Saviour—her “spouse”, as she often described him—whom she knew and loved so intimately. She was able to love even the most wretched of human beings because they were, she said, Jesus in his “distressful disguise.” Now, however, she was able to see, and express her love to Jesus, no longer with his identify concealed, but in his new, glorified body. I am sure their meeting was a joyous affair.


My “Fifteen Minutes of Fame”

Almost immediately after Mother Teresa died I began getting phone calls from the media for interviews. I had ten interviews in seven days. It seemed like everyone—the Toronto Star, Global News, VR Land news, Global Network, even a Radio station in Vancouver— wanted to speak to me. I am a shy and soft spoken person by nature. Iam not comfortable being in the spotlight. So, as you can imagine, this was somewhat of a stressful week for me. Why, then, did I do it? Why did I not just take my phone off of the hook? Because Romans 13:7, says, “…give honour to whom honour is due” (KJV). And so I wanted to tell as many people as I could of what Mother Teresa had done for me, and to remind them of her message of love.


Mother Teresa and Her Detractors

Mother Teresa was not without her critics. The late, atheist Christopher Hitchens, for example, wrote a whole book attacking her, irreverently, called The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. In it he portrays her as a self-righteous hypocrite. In response to Hitchen’s attacks on her, Mother Teresa, echoing Jesus’ cry from the cross, said, “May God forgive him; he doesn’t know what he is doing.”38 The specific criticisms of Mother Teresa by Hitchens and others have been many and varied. It has been claimed, for example, that the medical help given by Mother Teresa and the Sisters was not up to standard, that, as well as helping the “poorest of the poor,” Mother Teresa should have focused more on changing the system that produced so many poor people, and that her attacks on abortion and contraception, far from reducing India’s overpopulation problem, only worsened it. But, in attempting to discredit Mother Teresa, these people, in my opinion, only discredited themselves. For how can one malign the character of someone who spent her whole life loving the unloved and unlovable? As such, I will not attempt to answer any of these specific accusations. My only answer to them is the one given by the blind man, who, after being healed by Jesus, was challenged to defend him against an attack on his character. He replied, ”Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see” (John 9:25, NIV). Similarly, to those who try to malign Mother Teresa’s character, I would simply say, “Though Mother Teresa, like the rest of us, was a sinner in need of forgiveness, were it not for the love she showed to me when I was an unloved, unwanted three- year-old girl found wandering on the streets of Calcutta, I would, likely, not be alive today.”But it was not only atheists who were critics of Mother Teresa. Among her detractors were evangelical Christians. Charles Colson, the Christian author and founder of Prison Fellowship, for example,was often criticized—I assume by evangelicals since it was for this audience that his books were, primarily, written—for holding Mother Teresa up in his books as an example of a saint (i.e., someone who exhibits holiness to a very high degree). In his book The Body, he said that he had received so many letters to this effect that he had lost count.39 But Colson was not one to back down from a fight. He had, after all, before his conversion, been known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man.” In reply, he said the following:

“To me this reaction is astounding. How could anyone deny this woman’s faithful witness? Certainly no one who has been in India and seen the incredible impact she had upon millions of Hindus. Because of Mother Teresa, they revere the word Christian…. Who knows how many souls have come into the kingdom through her witness and the worldwide fame she has earned but never sought? And while, to my regret, I haven’t met Mother Teresa, friends of mine who have tell me of her total, single-minded devotion to Jesus as Lord and Savior.”40


Meeting at the Cross

Though I, obviously, do not count myself among Mother Teresa’s detractors, as an evangelical Christian I, too, like those who wrote to Colson, am uncomfortable with some of the things that Mother Teresa said and did. For example, when my husband and I visited the Mother House, we observed the Sisters bowing down to, and praying to, a statue of Mary. I understand that, in doing so, the Sisters were merely honouring Mary as the mother of Jesus and not worshipping her as one would God. I also understand that the Sisters were praying, not so much to Mary, but to God through Mary. Mary was the first Christian, the mother of Christ, and an example to all mothers. As such, she should hold a place of honour for all Christians, not just Catholics. Nonetheless, such practices offended my evangelical sensibilities.

As a Roman Catholic, Mother Teresa held many beliefs with which I, as an evangelical, disagree. These include the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the infallibility of the Pope. I do not wish to minimize such differences. But neither do I wish to focus on them. Why? Because I believe thatwhat binds Mother Teresa and me together is stronger than that which separates us. Charles Colson says that, though many doctrinal differences existed between early Christians, they “were united over one baptismal confession: ‘Jesus is Lord.’”41 Despite our doctrinal differences, Mother Teresa and I have both knelt at the cross with this same confession on our lips. And, as the Christian author David Watson says, “When we come to the cross of Christ, we come not as Protestants or Catholics or anything else; we come as sinners….”42


Revering Mother Teresa as a Saint

Like Colson, I revere Mother Teresa as a saint. For no one, I believe, loved Jesus more than she did. She said, “To me, Jesus is my God. Jesus is my spouse. Jesus is all. Jesus is my everything.”43 She was not shy about telling others that it was her goal to love Jesus more than He had ever been loved before.44 And she showed this love for Him by loving society’s outcasts—the pre-born, the poor, the destitute and dying, young girls—in His name. Mother Teresa said, “Because we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to him; but our neighbours we can always see, and we can do to them what if we saw him we would like to do to Christ.”45 Her whole life’s work, she said, was based on the teaching of Jesus that, “… whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, NIV).46 When teaching someone how to follow Christ, she would take his or her hand and, going from one finger to the next, say, “You. Did. It. To. Me.”47 The New Testament scholar Neil R. Lightfoot, speaking of Jesus’ parable of ‘The Sheep and the Goats,’ says, “The really important thing, according to Jesus is how we responded to the needs of our brothers.”48 Mother Teresa got this one “really important thing” right. How many of us can say the same? As a result, when, on the Day of Judgment, we all stand before God to receive His judgment, she will not have to say, “Lord, when did I see you in need and not help you.” For she knew that it was Jesus! She recognized Him, as she said, beneath His “distressing disguise.” And as a result, she spent her whole life loving Him by loving them. It is for this reason that, as well as honoring Mother Teresa as my spiritual mother, I revere her as a saint.



Let me close with a prayer that Mother Teresa and the Sisters recited daily:

“Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace, that where there is hatred I may bring love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring harmony; that where there is error, I may bring truth; that where there is doubt, I may bring faith; that where there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light; that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.”49

May this be our prayer as well, as we, like Mother Teresa, strive to follow the example of our Saviour.








1. David Van Biema, Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint (TIME Books: New York, NY, 2010) 40.

2. Ibid, 23.

3. Ibid, 24.

4. Ibid, 24.

5. Ibid, 23-24.

6. Mother Teresa, Where There is Love, There is God (Doubleday: New York, NY, 2010) xiv.

7. “Mother Teresa—Biographical.” 1979. Web.

8. “Poverty in India.” 2010. Web.

9. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 98.

10. “Mother Teresa’s ’40-year faith crisis’.” 24/08/07. Web.

11. David Van Biema, Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint (TIME Books: New York, NY, 2010) 92.

12. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 91.

13. Ibid, 97.

14. Ibid, 114.

15. Ibid, 91.

16. “National Prayer Breakfast Speech Against Abortion—1994.” 01/22/04. Web.

17. Mother Teresa, Where There is Love, There is God (Doubleday: New York, NY, 2010) 2.

18. Ibid, 3.

19. “Interview with Mother Teresa.” 1998. Web.

20. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 107.

21. Ibid, 53.

22. “The Spirituality of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta—In Her Own Words.” Web.

23. Mother Teresa, Where There is Love, There is God (Doubleday: New York, NY, 2010) 167.

24. “Case Study: Female Infanticide.” Web.

25. “Where are the Girls? Female Infanticide in India.” 23/12/10. Web.

26. “From Poverty to Ph. D.” 2014. Web.

27. Ibid.

28. (Note: This may be a significantly paraphrased version of what Mother Teresa actually said.)

29. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 100.

30. Ibid, 29.

31. Ibid, 17-18.

32. Anthony Campolo, Jr. , The Power Delusion (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1989) 11.

33. Kevin Belmonte, William Wilberforce—A Hero for Humanity (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 2007) 181

34. Anthony Campolo, Jr. , The Power Delusion (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1989) 72-73.

35. “Whatsoever You Do….” Web.

36. “Still, Small Voice.” 1998. Web.

37. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 13.

38. David Van Biema, Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint (TIME Books: New York, NY, 2010) 67.

39. Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, The Body—Being Light in Darkness (Word Publishing: Dallas, TX, 1992) 87.

40. Ibid, 87.

41. Ibid, 101.

42. David Watson, I Believe in the Church—The Revolutionary Potential of the Family of God (Hodder and Stoughton: London, England, 1978) 342.

43. Mother Teresa, Where There is Love, There is God (Doubleday: New York, NY, 2010) 31.

44. David Van Biema, Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint (TIME Books: New York, NY, 2010) 92.

45. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 113.

46. Ibid, 112.

47. David Van Biema, Mother Teresa: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint (TIME Books: New York, NY, 2010) 48.

48. Neil R. Lightfoot, Lessons from the Parables (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1965) 180.

49. Malcolm Muggeridge, Something Beautiful for God—Mother Teresa of Calcutta (William Collins Sons & Co Ltd: London, England, 1971) 151.





















                       SAVED—BY MOTHER TERESA


November 19th, 2014|Categories: Testimonials||Comments Off on Saved By Mother Teresa