LiveAction, Lies & the Truth about Abortion

There has been a growing debate among Catholics about the morality of the means used by LiveAction to expose Planned Parenthood’s evil agenda, with good Catholics of unquestionable pro-life convictions, deep faith and valid reasoning falling on both sides of the debate.

All of us agree that abortion is an intrinsic evil, that the cause of the unborn is the greatest civil rights issue of our time, and that we should unite in opposing and defeating those who enable the atrocity of abortion to continue, especially Planned Parenthood.

In pursuit of these noble goals however, it is important that the pro-life community not compromise its principles.

We should never forget that the pro-life movement originates from a realization about the truth of the human person: about the truth of who we are, from our very first moment. And precisely because we hold the truth of the human person so sacred, we should not quickly rule out of hand any legitimate question which suggests that what we are doing is less than worthy of a human person created in the image of God.

The Public Discourse has been doing all of us a service by hosting a debate between Christopher Tollefsen and Christopher Kaczor on LiveAction’s techniques in extracting information about Planned Parenthood’s evil practices:

Princeton Professor and pro-life hero Robert George has also weighed-in on the debate at the Mirror of Justice blog:

Tollefsen points out that Aquinas, while condemning lying even in justified wars, held that military feints are not necessarily lies and can be morally permissible. Getting to just what it is that distinguishes the two is, I predict, where this debate is heading—and that, I believe, is just where it should head.  Getting greater clarity on the issue would be valuable to all who wish to use every legitimate means, while avoiding every illegitimate one, in working to defend human rights, protect the common good, and fight grave injustices such as abortion.

… Professor Tollefsen is, I believe, profoundly right that we must not permit our cause to be sullied by lying.  We must not abandon faith in the power of truth to transform those who oppose us in the great struggle over the protection of human life in all stages and conditions.  We must not forfeit our standing in the debate as the tellers of truth.

Professor George next answers the question that I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves, does being bound to always tell the truth place us at a disadvantage in the struggle with the abortionists?

I understand the impatience; indeed, I share it.  The edifice of abortion is indeed built on a foundation of lies.  And in working to protect the victims of abortion, it is frustrating to hold ourselves to standards that so many on the other side freely disregard.  But there are no moral shortcuts to victory in this struggle.  A culture of life can only be built on a foundation of truth.  Lying may produce short term victories, but it will, in the end, frustrate our long term objective.  Respect for life—like respect for every other great human good and every other high moral principle—depends on love of truth.  Our efforts in the cause of life and every other worthy goal will, in the end, prove to be self-defeating if they undermine love of truth.

I think the arguments put forward by Tollefsen and George need to be taken seriously, but I also believe the arguments put forward by Kaczor and others also have merit. I intend to read these full arguments myself to answer my own questions about whether LiveAction’s chosen means are ethical, and if it is wise to continue such practices in the future. I hope they ask themselves the same questions before moving forward.

At the same time, however, I will continue in my efforts to promote a culture of life and to oppose and defeat the abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood that continue to kill the innocent unborn and victimize women.

As Catholics, if we are serious about ensuring that the means we choose to defend the unborn are good, we must also be equally serious about acknowledging the urgent need to actively defend the truth of the dignity of the unborn from those who daily deny it.



  • mam

    There is name for all this navel-gazing: scrupulousity.

  • Jim and Heather

    This is a quote from Mail Online:

    “He was brought up a practising Christian so it’s of no surprise that his views on sex before marriage and abortion are little old-fashioned, even for a 16-year-old boy.”

    How flipping insulting is that?!

  • Dennis JP

    PP doesn’t need to be defended by supposedly Pro-Life Theologians. It is a slaughter house & receives millions from HHS, run by the Pro-Abortion, Catholic in name only, Sebelius. PP was not tricked, they were caught doing what they do everyday. A practicing Catholic who votes & supports the party of DEATH, does so at the loss of their soul. They excommunicate themselves. The left leaning, cowardly prelates failed to publicly denounce them years ago. They grew bolder with each transgression. Let these good theologians examine these liars & subversives !

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  • Johanna

    The morality of the tactics we employ in our advocacy on behalf of the preborn is important, indeed.

    I, for one, would like to see the same type of debate be had about the morality of exceptions in abortion bans and abortion funding bans.

    Pro-life congressmen have bills in congress right now that essentially say “don’t kill babies unless their fathers are rapists or their mothers are in poor health” or “no taxpayer funding for abortion unless the abortionist is killing a baby whose father is a criminal (rapist) or mother is in poor health.”

    These same bills are being promoted as “total abortion bans” and “no funding for abortions” and “total defunding of Planned Parenthood” by those congressmen.

    Pro-life groups are saying the same (even fundraising with that claim) while never admitting to the exceptions.

    This situation raises two questions:Are exceptions moral? Is saying that an abortion ban or public funding of abortion ban will (respectively) totally ban abortion or abortion funding when, in fact, they permit the killing (and funding of that killing) of children conceived in rape, incest and children killed as a “treatment” for a mother’s deteriorating medical condition? Or, put another way, is lying okay when trying to generate the support of pro-lifers in order to get a bill passed?

    Considering the recent St. Joseph’s Hospital episode with Bishop Olmstead’s clear proclamation that killing kids is never to be used as a “cure”, why are Catholics lobbying on behalf of these bills as a “cure”?

    Why is it widely unknown that it the “status quo” that we heard so much about last year from pro-life groups during the health care debate is one that includes exceptions?

    • Matthew A. Siekierski

      Exceptions are moral, as they are a step along the way to a full ending of abortion. Given a choice between voting for a ban with exceptions or voting against a ban and leaving all abortions legal, one should vote for the ban even though there are exceptions. Much like one can vote for a pro-abortion politician (say, no realistic pro-life candidate)…it’s not ideal, but can be moral.

      Lying about the bans is immoral.

      • Johanna

        Matthew, I appreciate your response.

        Why are exceptions moral – how do you support that premise? I don’t take that as a given, hence the reason that I’m suggesting a public debate on the matter.

        I would argue that exceptions lend credence to the idea that sometimes abortions are necessary and acceptable. This, I would argue undermines our advocacy. Regulating abortion and abortion clinics, I would also argue, undermines our advocacy. It lends credibility to the notion that abortion is something other than homicide – knowingly murdering a person. Such a thing is not to be regulated, but held as a criminal action. So, why are we treating it otherwise?

        Respectfully, I think you set up a false dichotomy in your choice between a ban with a exceptions and leaving abortion decriminalized (not legal, since a violation of natural law cannot be properly understood as legal). The choice comes before that point: Should pro-life advocates be proposing laws with or without exceptions?

        Some would argue that otherwise “pro-life” politicians/people would not vote for a ban without exceptions. I do not claim to be clairvoyant, so I would not count myself among those who make such a claim. Instead, I have the attitude that, should such resistance in our “own camp” arise, the pro-life movement has a moral obligation to challenge and correct the misguided notion that the exceptions are necessary for passing *at least something, anything,* and thus they are good.

        No, I do not doubt that those who demand exceptions are genuine in their concern for the mothers who are victims of rape and incest and who are in very poor health. However genuine they are, I cannot stress enough how sorely misplaced their concern is. Their concern being very real is why I believe they are ripe for being corrected. True charity demands an end to this movement-wide acceptance of “exceptions” and a renewed commitment to advocating on behalf of the vulnerable and “least among us”. If we don’t stand up for the children of those criminals, then nobody will. We are their only hope.

        I am glad we can agree that lying or even misleading people to believe that these are total bans, whether on abortion or funding for abortion, is immoral. Maybe some progress can be made in amending such claims to be truthful.

        • Matthew A. Siekierski

          Exceptions are moral because of what is really being voted on. I can vote for a bill that limits abortion to cases of rape and incest because, although it’s not the ideal solution, it severely limits abortion. The vote is to reduce abortion, and the exceptions are accepted as a way to get those limits in place. In other words, one isn’t voting FOR the exceptions. Another way to look at it is as a double-effect…if I vote for an abortion-ban bill that contains exceptions, I’m voting to ban abortion, with the secondary effect of exceptions. I cannot vote for the bill because I support the exceptions.
          It is a fine line, but it’s there. It’s the same reason I can morally vote for a pro-abortion politician if his opponent is a million times worse on not just abortion but all other issues. I’m not voting for the abortion stance, but for everything else (when there’s no viable alternate).
          While I would love to get to the end of all abortion in one fell swoop, it’s not a realistic goal.

  • Bernie Thoms

    It is oh so right for Catholics to be concerned whether or not an immoral means is being used to a moral end. Nothing trivial or misdirected about that. Thom, you should also link to your fellow blogger Monica Migliorino Miller:



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