By Patrick Lencioni

Courageous Leadership

October 31, 2008
Column: Management that Makes a Difference

I am sending this message to  large group of people who I know to be Catholic/Christian.   I must confess that there are parts of me that don’t want to send it, because I don’t want to offend anyone or make them uncomfortable.  However, sometimes in life we are called to stand up for something we believe in even when it is not popular, not for our own good but for what we believe is best for society and for the souls of our brothers and sisters.  Please read this note with that in mind, and know that I write this humbly, as a sinner, and with love. 

Exactly one week ago tonight I was driving home from a meeting and barely missed hitting two deer crossing a busy street near my home.  Glad to have slowed down to let them pass, I suddenly noticed that there were two more waiting to cross behind my car.  I flashed my lights at two people in an oncoming car to warn them of what they couldn’t see.

Keeping my eye on the situation in my rear view mirror, I saw the car that had passed me stop suddenly and I realized that it might have hit one of the animals.  So I turned around to see what happened and anyone needed help and learned that two teenage girls had indeed hit one of the deer, a doe.  Along with those girls and a few other drivers who stopped, we watched the young deer writhe in pain and struggle to stand for a long minute or two.  And then it died.

The girls cried, and I and the other drivers felt horribly sad.  The mother deer and the others were long gone and did not return.  I called the police and animal control, waited for a while with the dead animal and the girls, consoling them, and finally left.  This story is not spectacular, but I assure you that it is completely true.  It happened on October 23rd, and it made me think about how hard it was to watch a young, innocent creature die, and without its mother.

Later that night as I was putting my 10 year old boys to bed, one of them asked me “dad, if the election doesn’t go the way we want, is abortion going to become legal?”  I was a little stunned, and then had to sadly explain that it was already legal, and that more than 3,000 babies died each day by abortion.  Telling him that Santa Claus didn’t exist was much easier. 

He then asked why anyone would have an abortion, and I explained that some women become pregnant and then decide that they don’t want to have a baby, so they get rid of it.  He then declared, “If I were a woman and were pregnant, I would never do that.  I mean, if I didn’t want the baby, I would give it,” he struggled for the words, “to an orphanage.”  His brother in the upper bunk then said, “I wouldn’t even do that.”

Well, today I find myself thinking about abortion.  And for some reason I’m thinking about the ultrasound images we see of unborn babies in their early stages.  The fingers, the faces, the very baby-like images that twenty and thirty years ago were not nearly so clear.  And I cannot help but feel that abortion is terribly, terribly wrong. 

Yes, our churches tell us so.  And yes, many doctors now tell us so.  But in our hearts, I think that all of us who honestly think about that dying deer, about the questions and reactions of my ten year old sons, and about those ultrasound images, know that it is wrong.

Politicians who call themselves pro-choice often say that they are personally against abortion, but they don’t want to impose their morality on others.  They almost always claim that rather than making abortion illegal, they want to discourage abortion through other means.  Whether this makes sense is certainly debatable, because if something is morally wrong and bad for society, keeping it legal is almost always the wrong approach.  But it is possible that a politician or a voter is sincere in their interest to eradicate abortion through non-legal means.

However, when a politician vows to take steps to increase abortion, anyone who finds abortion morally wrong, pro-choice or not, has a moral obligation to stand up and disagree.  And, I think, to avoid voting for that person.  Because if a candidate does not believe that the most innocent life is sacred, a Christian certainly cannot believe that he or she is truly concerned about life when it comes to anything else. 

Here is where this gets political, but my motivation for pointing this out is not about political parties or winning or losing elections.  It is about the most critical moral issue of our time, one that will plague our nation and our society for many years and demand an answer to the question “where were you when this all happened?”

Barack Obama has already promised that on his first day in office he will sign FOCA, the Freedom of Choice Act.  What will this do?  It will make it impossible for states to require girls/women seeking abortion to get parental consent, speak with a counselor, or get an ultrasound of their unborn baby.  It will also make it impossible to ban partial birth abortion.  And for those who don’t know – and so many people don’t know – partial birth abortion is horrific.  It is the procedure in which a late term unborn baby is pulled partially from his or her mother’s womb, scissors are inserted into its brain to scramble the contents, while the child goes into spasm and jerks in horrible pain.  Then the baby is then vacuumed from its mother’s womb.

There is no doubt that the impact and intent of FOCA is to prevent anything from happening that might make a women reconsider or be restricted in having an abortion.  It is by far the most aggressive action since the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Finally, it simply cannot be ignored that on two separate and unequivocal occasions, Barack Obama voted against providing medical care to babies who were born alive after botched abortions.

I am writing to implore you to consider the abortion issue as the most foundational issue of our culture and our time.  When you look at any society, you can judge so much of where it is headed by how it treats its most innocent and vulnerable people.  And there is no one more innocent and more vulnerable than an unborn child.

Many people will say that war or poverty or medical care are just as important issues, and just as much related to “life”.  However, each of those issues involves far less clear moral imperatives.  For instance, there is an argument to be made that there are “just wars” (think about WWII and the need to stop the Nazis, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War), and there are some poor people who are poor because of their own bad decisions and refusal to work hard (what percentage I don’t know, but it is not insignificant), and there are health care issues that are not clearly fundamental rights (elective cosmetic surgery and care for self-inflicted problems from smoking or chronic over-eating).  In other words, war, poverty and medical care have gray areas that can be debated in terms of what is good and what is evil.   Some wars are certainly wrong.  Many poor people are poor through no fault of their own.  And many sick people need and deserve care regardless of their financial means.  But there are gray areas.

Abortion, on the other hand, is not really debatable.  No child wants to be aborted.  Every abortion is the pre-mature and unnatural ending of a human life.  I heard someone say recently that all people are born pro-life, and have to learn to be pro-choice.

Finally, think about that ultrasound image of an unborn child, and the teary eyes of the mother and father seeing their first glimpse of their son or daughter.  Now ask yourself if it makes any sense to worry about that baby if there are complications during pregnancy.  To pray for him or her during that time.  To do surgery on him or her to improve the chances of survival.  Of course it does.

And then we must ask ourselves if it makes sense to let another unborn child be purposely injected with saline solution so that it will burn and die, or to have its arms and legs and face and hands chopped into pieces and vacuumed from the womb, simply because his or her mother decided he or she didn’t deserve to be born.

How can we treat these two equal and innocent creatures so differently, one as a life worthy of prayer and concern and tears, and another as disposable property?  There is no logical or moral way to explain this, not to a ten-year old, a teenager or an adult.

Yes, this is uncomfortable.  Yes, this is controversial.  But what it is not is political.  It is about life.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a liberal or a conservative, a democrat or a republican, a man or a woman.  What does matter is whether you believe in God, and the He created us in His image.  Because if you do, then it is hard to see abortion as anything but morally wrong.

I don’t write this to you out of superiority or condescension.  I am a sinner like everyone else.  And I fear taking an unpopular stand just like anyone else.  But in this case, out of love, I had to let you know how I feel. 

God bless you and all of us, and the unborn children who depend on our courage.


Patrick Lencioni is the founder and president of The Table Group, and a prolific author of best-selling books on business management, particularly in relation to team... MORE »

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