Point of View

Short Look at World Religions

There are three monotheistic religions in the world, religions that teach that there is only one God: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.



Article ThumbnailIslam

There are three monotheistic religions in the world, religions that teach that there is only one God: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

The term "Islam" means "submission" to the will of God, and the person who submits is called a "Muslim."

The founder of Islam is Muhammad, who was born in 570 A.D. At age 40 he claimed to begin receiving revelations from a spirit being he believed was the angel Gabriel. These later were recorded and became the Qur'an, Islam's holy book.

There are Six Articles of Faith that all Muslims hold to. The first is that "there is no God but Allah." The second Article of Faith is belief in a hierarchy of angels, of which the archangel Gabriel is the highest. Each Muslim is assigned two angels, one to record his good deeds and the other to record the bad deeds. At the bottom of the angelic hierarchy are the jinn, from which we get the word "genie." They are a Muslim version of demons.

The third Article of Faith is belief in 104 holy books, with the Koran as the final revelation. The fourth is belief in the prophets. According to the Qur'an, God has sent a prophet to every nation to preach the message that there is only one God. 124,000 prophets have been sent, most of them unknown but some of them biblical characters, including Jesus. Muhammed, though, is the prophet for all times, the "Seal of the Prophets."

The fifth Article of Faith is belief in predestination. All things, both good and evil, are the direct result of the will of Allah. Islam is a very fatalistic religion.

The sixth Article of Faith is the day of judgment. Those whose good deeds outweigh their bad will be rewarded with Paradise; those whose bad deeds outweigh their good will be judged to hell. Islam is a religion of human works. The Bible tells us, though, that we can never earn God's acceptance on the basis of our deeds.

There are Five Pillars of Islam, obligations every Muslim must keep. The first is reciting the creed, "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger." The second is prayer: 17 cycles of prayer, spread out over five times of prayer each day. They must wash in a prescribed manner before they kneel down and face toward Mecca.

The third pillar is almsgiving, 2.5% of one's income for the poor. The fourth pillar is fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan. Muslims must forego food, water and sex during daylight hours. The fifth pillar is making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives.

Sometimes you will hear people say that Allah is another name for the God of the Bible. Is it the same? "Allah" is the Arabic name for God, and Arab Christians use the name Allah to describe the God of the Bible. Mohammed taught that there is one true God who is the same God that Jews and Christians ("the People of the Book") worship. He began Islam on the foundation of the God of the Bible. We can say that in principle, we worship the same God. Islam began on the foundation of belief in the one true God to combat the pagan polytheism of the area. However, Mohammed departed from this foundation, and we differ in our understanding of how God has fully revealed Himself. In the Qur'an, Allah is a distant spiritual being, but Yahweh is a Father to His children. Allah does not love wrongdoers, but God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Allah has predetermined everything about life; the God of the Bible invites us to share our hearts with Him.

Hinduism may seem like an alien religion of people on the other side of the world, but it has infiltrated our culture in all sorts of ways. You're probably familiar with most of the basic Hindu concepts without even realizing it. Have you seen the Star Wars movies? They are filled with Hindu ideas. Ever watch Dharma and Greg on TV? "Dharma" is an important Hindu term for moral duty. 30% of Americans believe in reincarnation, which is a Hindu concept. Transcendental Meditation is thinly disguised Hinduism. George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord" invokes a Hindu chant. New Age philosophy is Hinduism wrapped in Western garb.

Hinduism is tremendously diverse. It encompasses those who believe in one reality, Brahman, as well as those who believe in many gods--as many as 330 million! Some Hindus believe the universe is real; most believe it is illusion, or maya. (This world view isn't consistent with reality. You won't find Hindus meditating on railroad tracks, for instance.) Some believe Brahman and the universe are one; others see them as two distinct realities.

Despite the diversity within Hinduism, there are five major beliefs of this religion. The first is that ultimate reality, called Brahman, is an impersonal oneness. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda tells Luke that everything--the tree, the rock, etc.--is all part of "The Force." This is monism: the belief that all is one. Nothing is distinct and separate from anything else.

Another Hindu belief is that just as the air in an open jar is identical to the air around the jar, we extend from and are one with Brahman. All is one, all is god--and that means that we are god. In her book and movie "Out on a Limb," Shirley MacLaine relates a time when she stood on a beach, embracing this concept and declaring, "I am god! I am god!" It's a very Hindu concept.

Humanity's primary problem, according to Hinduism, is that we have forgotten we are divine. The consequence is that we are subject to the Law of Karma, another important Hindu belief. This is the moral equivalent to the natural law of cause and effect. You always reap what you sow. There is no grace, there is no forgiveness, there is never any escape from consequences. It's a very heavy burden to carry. Not only that, but Hinduism says that the consequences of our choices, both bad karma and good karma, follow us from lifetime to lifetime. This is another Hindu concept: samsara, the ever-revolving wheel of life, death, and rebirth, also known as reincarnation. A person's karma determines the kind of body--whether human, animal, or insect--into which he or she is incarnated in the next lifetime.

The final major Hindu concept is liberation from the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth. One can only get off the reincarnation merry-go-round by realizing that the idea of the individual self is an illusion, and only the oneness of Brahman is real. There is no heaven, though--only losing one's identity in the universal oneness.

Praise God that through the Lord Jesus, Christianity offers hope, forgiveness, grace, and a personal relationship with a personal God in heaven. Jesus means there's a point to life.

Buddhism does not believe in a personal God. It does not have worship, prayer, or praise of a divine being. It offers no redemption, no forgiveness, no hope of heaven, and no final judgment. Buddhism is more of a moral philosophy, an ethical way of life.

In his essay "De Futilitate," C.S. Lewis called Buddhism "a heresy of Hinduism." Buddhism was founded by a Hindu, Siddhartha Gautama, during the sixth century B.C. After being profoundly impacted by seeing four kinds of suffering in one day, Siddhartha committed himself to finding the source of suffering and how to eliminate it. One day he sat down under a fig tree and vowed not to rise again until he had attained enlightenment. After some time, he did so and became the Buddha, which means "enlightened one." He started teaching the "The Four Noble Truths," the most basic of Buddhist teachings.

The First Noble Truth is that life consists of suffering. The Second Noble Truth is that we suffer because we desire those things that are impermanent. This is absolutely central to Buddhism: the belief that desire is the cause of all suffering.

The Third Noble Truth is that the way to liberate oneself from suffering is by eliminating all desire. (Unfortunately, it's a self-defeating premise: if you set a goal to eliminate desire, then you desire to eliminate desire.) The Fourth Noble Truth is that desire can be eliminated by following the Eight-Fold path.

In the Eight-Fold Path, the first two steps are foundational to all the others. Step one is Right Understanding, where one sees the universe as impermanent and illusory and believes that the individual does not actually exist. If you ever hear someone say, "The world is an illusion, and so am I. I don't really exist," they're probably exploring Buddhism. (You might want to pinch them and see what they do.) Right Thought means renouncing all attachment to the desires and thoughts of oneself, even as he recognizes that the self doesn't exist.

Other parts of the Eight-Fold path are Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Awareness, and Right Meditation. Ethical conduct is very important in Buddhism. There are commands to refrain from the taking of any life (that includes ants and roaches in your house), stealing, immorality, lying, and drinking.

The Eight-Fold Path is a set of steps that describe not only a good life but one which will move the follower toward Nirvana, the goal of Buddhism. Nirvana is not heaven; it is a state of extinction, where one's essence--which does not actually exist in the first place--is extinguished like a candle flame, marking the end of desire and thus the end of suffering.

One of the important concepts in Buddhism is samsara, a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. It differs from the Hindu concept of reincarnation in that Buddhism teaches there is no self to continue from one life to the next. Another important concept is karma, the belief that you reap what you sow, and your karma follows you through the cycles of samsara. Note the inherent inconsistency here: there is no self to continue from one life to the next, but one's karma does?!

Buddhism says there are many paths to the top of the mountain, so there are many ways to God. Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me."

Both Christianity and Judaism have their roots in Old Testament faith. But Christianity is really a sister, rather than a daughter, to Judaism, which is the religion developed by rabbis from 200 B.C. on.

When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., that spelled the end of sacrifices and the priesthood. Instead of being guided by prophets, priests and kings, the Jewish people turned to rabbis as their authorities on matters of laws and practice.

There was basically one kind of Judaism until the eighteenth century when the Age of Enlightenment swept through Europe. That's when the three major branches of Judaism arose.

That one basic kind of Judaism is what is now called "Orthodox Judaism." It has a strong emphasis on tradition and strict observance of the Law of Moses.

Reform Judaism began in Germany at the time of the Enlightenment. Reform Judaism is the humanistic branch. In fact, there are many Reform Jews who dont believe in God at all. For them, Judaism is a way of life and culture with a connection to one's ancestors that is about legacy, not faith.

The middle-ground branch, seeking to find moderate ground between the two extremes of the Orthodox and Reform branches, is Conservative Judaism.

If there is any religious principle that Judaism explicitly affirms and teaches, it is the unity of God. You may have heard of the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4¾"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." This one all-important principle is the reason so many Jewish people have a hard time understanding Christianity, which they see as a religion of three gods, not one God in three Persons.

The Old Testament is the Scripture of Judaism. Many Jews, though, do not consider the Old Testament to be the Word of God or inspired, although they do give it respect as a part of Jewish tradition and history.

There are some lifestyle practices that set people apart as distinctively Jewish. Traditional Jews, usually Orthodox but including some from other branches, observe the Sabbath. This means abstaining from work, driving, and lighting a fire from Friday night to Saturday night. Orthodox Jews also keep kosher, which means keeping the Old Testament dietary laws. The most well known is the prohibition against mixing meat and milk at the same meal, although many people are also aware that most Jewish people do not eat pork or shellfish.

It is difficult for Jewish people to place their faith in Jesus as Messiah because it is not considered a Jewish thing to do. In fact, they see "Jewish Christian" as an oxymoron. For many, being Jewish equals "Not Christian." But there's another big reason it is so hard for Jewish people to come to faith in Christ. They don't see a need for "salvation," because there is nothing to be saved from. If there is a God, then Jewish people already have a special relationship with Him as His chosen people. Jesus is superfluous for Jews.

If you know someone who is Jewish, pray that God will cause the scales to fall from the eyes of their heart and they will see the truth: that there's nothing more Jewish or more godly than submitting in faith to one who was, and is, the very Son of God, and who proved His love for them by dying in their place on the cross.
Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses

Have you ever answered your door to find a couple of nicely-dressed people asking to talk to you about spiritual things? Chances are they were either Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. Since both groups send many missionaries not only into American homes but to foreign countries, it makes sense to cover them in a discussion of world religions.

Many people think of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses as Christians in slightly different denominations, but this is not the case. To put it bluntly, both religions teach another gospel and another Jesus. They are cults, not Christian denominations.

Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, a teenage boy in New York. He claimed that he was visited by first God the Father and the Son, and then by the angel Moroni, who gave him golden plates, which he translated into the Book of Mormon. He said that Christianity had been corrupted since the death of the last apostle, and God appointed him to restore the truth. But Joseph Smith provided nine different versions of these events, which set the tone for the rest of his teachings.

Deuteronomy 18:22 gives God's standards for His prophets: 100% accuracy. Joseph Smith wrote a lot of prophecies, many of which never came true. He was a false prophet, and the religion he founded is not from God.

Mormonism is not Christian because it denies some of the essential doctrines of Christianity, including the deity of Christ and salvation by grace. Furthermore, Mormon doctrine contradicts the Christian teaching that there is only one God, and it undermines the authority and reliability of the Bible.

Jehovah's Witnesses was founded by Charles Taze Russell, another false prophet. His Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has produced a prodigious amount of literature. It has prophecied the return of Christ in 1914, 1925, and 1975. Again, by God's standards, the representatives of the Watchtower Society are false prophets.

Jehovah's Witnesses deny the basics of the Christian faith. They deny the Trinity. They believe there is one singular God, Jehovah. Jesus is actually the created being Michael the Archangel, and who became flesh at the incarnation. The Holy Spirit is not God but an active force much like electricity or fire. They deny the bodily resurrection of Christ. Like Mormons, they deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment.

Both of these religions teach salvation by works, not God's grace. And they teach that salvation is only found in their organizations.

What do you do if they come to your door? First, don't do anything without sending up a prayer of dependence on God. If you are not well-grounded in your own beliefs, unless you know not only what you believe but why it's true, then you should probably politely refuse to talk to them, and work on your own understanding of your faith. Both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are very successful at drawing in church-goers who can't recognize false teaching because they don't know what's true.

If you do know the Bible and what you believe, then prayerfully and humbly answer their questions and comments by showing them what the Bible says. And pray that God's Spirit will show them the truth. He is grieved that people for whom Jesus died are so deceived.

©2000 Probe Ministries.


After 15 minutes of arguing with a billing operator, the director of the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.,

begins preparing for the patients who will soon arrive. Staff members trickle in. One puts a DVD of old sitcoms on

the waiting-room television. Another straightens a pile of magazines. Someone brews a pot of coffee. By 10 a.m.,

the clinic is bustling with patients. Before the day is over, 18 women will undergo surgical abortions at Red

River. Four others will receive abortion-inducing medication.

Kromenaker, a social worker, was born in January 1972, one year before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. She

has spent her entire adult life providing abortion services and is among hundreds of clinic directors across the

U.S. navigating an ever increasing number of state-imposed abortion regulations. At Red River, the only abortion

clinic in North Dakota, a woman must wait 24 hours between scheduling an appointment and arriving at the facility.

Once there, she must undergo a counseling, verification and testing process that lasts up to five hours. If she is

a minor, she must notify her parents; get permission from one or both, depending on who has custody; or get

approval from a judge. Like Medicaid programs in some 30 other states, North Dakota's does not cover abortion

services except in instances of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.

In the past two decades, laws like the ones that govern appointments at Red River have been passed with regularity

as pro-life state legislators have redrawn the boundaries of legal abortion in the U.S. In 2011, 92 abortion-

regulating provisions--a record number--passed in 24 states after Republicans gained new and larger majorities in

2010 in many legislatures across the country. These laws make it harder every year to exercise a right heralded as

a crowning achievement of the 20th century women's movement. In addition to North Dakota, three other states--South

Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas--have just one surgical-abortion clinic in operation. The number of abortion

providers nationwide shrank from 2,908 in 1982 to 1,793 in 2008, the latest year for which data is available.

Getting an abortion in America is, in some places, harder today than at any point since it became a

constitutionally protected right 40 years ago this month.

It might seem as though recent electoral victories by Barack Obama and congressional Democrats set the stage for a

reversal of this trend. The President's campaign mobilized Democratic voters and women around the issue of

reproductive rights--an effort that produced, according to some exit polls, the widest gender voting gap in

history. But while the right to have an abortion is federal law, exactly who can access the service and under what

circumstances is the purview of states. And at the state level, abortion-rights activists are unequivocally losing.

Part of the reason is that the public is siding more and more with their opponents. Even though three-quarters of

Americans believe abortion should be legal under some or all circumstances, just 41% identified themselves as pro-

choice in a Gallup survey conducted in May 2012. In this age of prenatal ultrasounds and sophisticated neonatology,

a sizable majority of Americans supports abortion restrictions like waiting periods and parental-consent laws.

Pro-life activists write the legislation to set these rules. Their pro-choice counterparts, meanwhile, have opted

to stick with their longtime core message that government should not interfere at all with women's health care

decisions, a stance that seems tone-deaf to the current reality.

Pro-choice activists' failure to adapt to the shift in public attitudes on abortion has left their cause stranded

in the past, says Frances Kissling, a longtime abortion-rights advocate and former president of Catholics for

Choice. Kissling is part of a small group within the pro-choice movement trying to push the cause toward more

nuanced stances. "The established pro-choice position--which essentially is: abortion should be legal, a private

matter between a woman and her doctor, with no restriction or regulation beyond what is absolutely necessary to

protect the woman's health--makes 50% of the population extremely uncomfortable and unwilling to associate with

us," she says.

At the same time, a rebellion within the abortion-rights cause--pitting feminists in their 20s and 30s against

pro-choice power brokers who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided--threatens to tear it in two. Many

young activists are bypassing the legacy feminist organizations that have historically protected access to

abortion, weakening the pro-choice establishment at the very moment it needs to coalesce around new strategies to

combat pro-life gains and connect with the public.

As memories of women dying from illegal pre-Roe abortions become more distant, the pro-choice cause is in crisis.

In 1973, female lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights said Roe v. Wade was "a tribute to the

coordinated efforts of women's organizations, women lawyers and all women throughout this country." Writing a new

playbook for the pro-choice cause--one that ensures that Roe is not overturned and that access to abortion is

preserved and even expanded--would require the same kind of coordination. If abortion-rights activists don't come

together to adapt to shifting public opinion on the issue of reproductive rights, abortion access in America will

almost certainly continue to erode.

In many ways, the fight to preserve access to abortion is even more daunting than the fight to legalize it 40 years

ago. In a dynamic democracy like America, defending the status quo is always harder than fighting to change it. The

story of pro-choice activism after Roe reveals that there may be nothing worse for a political movement's future

than achieving its central goal.

Around her workspace at Red River, Kromenaker has tacked up photographs of her daughter and phone numbers for the

Fargo police department and a security hotline operated by the National Abortion Federation. In the filing cabinet

behind her desk, she keeps a green folder full of mail from pro-life activists. The correspondence ranges from

vaguely threatening notes to prayers on behalf of Kromenaker, the doctors who work at Red River and their patients.

Kromenaker is proud and outspoken about her work, but she takes different routes to work every day to avoid falling

into a routine that might make her a target for pro-life zealots. (Abortion doctor George Tiller was at his regular

Sunday church service when he was shot and killed by a pro-life activist in 2009.) "Even if I'm at Target looking

at clothes, I never let my guard down," she says. It might seem like paranoia to be so vigilant, but in the late

1990s, Kromenaker testified at the trial of a man accused of trying to start a fire at a clinic where she worked

before Red River.

In 2011, Kromenaker testified again, this time at a committee hearing in the North Dakota state senate, which was

considering a bill passed by the house that sought to ban medication-induced abortions, among other provisions.

Despite Kromenaker's testimony and the efforts of pro-choice activists in North Dakota, the bill passed the state

senate 42 to 5 and was signed into law on April 18, 2011. (Red River is suing to overturn the law, which a judge

has blocked from going into effect.)

In November, feminists celebrated the defeat of U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri, who said a woman's

body can resist a pregnancy in the case of "legitimate rape," and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who said pregnancies

conceived in rape are "intended" by God. Even before Election Day, Cecile Richards, president of Planned

Parenthood, said, "This past year and a half has been a remarkable period of unifying women and men and a whole new

generation of folks who understand that none of these rights or access can be taken for granted."

Yet the candidate who beat Mourdock, Democrat Joe Donnelly, is also pro-life and believes abortion should be

illegal except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother. Voters in Indiana also elected

conservative Republican Representative Mike Pence as the new governor. Pence has been introducing legislation since

2007 to eliminate federal funding for women's-health clinics that provide abortions, including a GOP House effort

to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011. And in North Dakota, which has a Republican governor and legislature,

Kromenaker is girding for new legislation she expects to be introduced that would grant fetuses "personhood" status

and directly challenge the constitutional basis for Roe v. Wade.

The modern era of state restrictions on abortion began in 1992 with the Supreme Court's decision in Planned

Parenthood v. Casey. The court upheld Roe v. Wade but said states have a right to regulate abortion as long as they

don't write laws that impose an "undue burden" on women. Pro-life politicians enacting laws to limit abortion are

now testing the limits of the Casey ruling. Their ultimate goal is to land another abortion case before a

sympathetic Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Roe. Along the way, in what Charmaine Yoest, president of the

antiabortion group Americans United for Life, describes as a strategy to "work around Roe," pro-life activists hope

to severely--or completely--curtail access to abortion at the state level.

In Mississippi, pro-life activists pushed for passage of a 2012 law requiring that doctors who perform abortions

have admitting privileges at local hospitals. None of the out-of-state physicians who perform abortions at the

state's sole abortion clinic have these privileges. The clinic remains open while a federal judge examines the

constitutionality of the law and whether it presents an undue burden to women seeking abortions. Governor Phil

Bryant, who signed the law, said it was part of an effort to "end abortion in Mississippi."

The Volunteer Women's Medical Clinic in Knoxville, Tenn., was open for 38 years before it closed in August 2012,

citing the state's Life Defense Act, passed earlier in the year, which also requires doctors to have hospital

admitting privileges. A doctor who worked at the facility obtained hospital privileges but died suddenly of a

stroke, and clinic director Deb Walsh said she couldn't afford to keep her doors open while she tried to replace


In Virginia, the state board of health adopted a rule last year requiring abortion clinics to comply with

architectural zoning regulations for hospitals. Like the Mississippi law and one just enacted in Michigan requiring

abortion clinics to be licensed, the Virginia rule seems designed to make clinics safer, but there is little

evidence that women's health had previously been in danger. Loretta Ross, who co-founded Sister Song, an Atlanta-

based reproductive-rights group focused on the needs of women of color, is among those in the pro-choice movement

who marvel at the pro-life strategic vision even though she opposes its goals. "The entire women's-health movement

was predicated on the lack of women's safety and gender consciousness in health care settings," says Ross. "It is a

classic example of our opponents learning from us and taking our script."

In fact, those most affected by new zoning laws are independent clinics like Red River, whose tight margins make it

financially burdensome for them to adapt to new requirements. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider

in the U.S., but independent clinics collectively deliver the majority of abortions in America. And as abortion

services have become concentrated in specialized clinics--as opposed to hospitals, which accounted for the vast

majority of abortion facilities in 1973--clinics have become easier targets. Pro-life groups celebrate every clinic


The other strength of the state-based clinic laws, which often are based on text written by pro-life activists and

lawyers and distributed to lawmakers, is that they are hard to campaign against. The zoning regulation in Virginia,

for example, would require abortion clinics to widen all hallways to 5 ft. (1.5 m). "Is that the kind of thing that

will rally voters?" asks Cristina Page, author of the book How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. "'We're not

going to expand these hallways to be 5 ft. wide!' is not a compelling message. The villain is now in the fine


When the Red River clinic opened in downtown Fargo 15 years ago, the surrounding area was a sea of blight and empty

storefronts. In the years since, the area has undergone a dramatic revitalization that recently earned it a spot on

a list of great neighborhoods in America. Two doors down from the clinic, customers of a deli check out using

iPads. Across the street, a boutique hotel and restaurant serves upscale cocktails and locally sourced food.

The beige brick building that houses the clinic looks like a vestige of a more hostile era. A glass-block wall

shields those inside from view. The lock on the interior door is operated by a switch inside, and patients are

buzzed in only if they have appointments. Twenty to 25 abortions are performed every week at Red River, and the

procedures are usually all scheduled on a single day. On these days, a staffer inside watches a set of closed-

circuit televisions monitoring the entrance and the handful of protesters from a local Catholic church who show up

and mill around out front with graphic signs showing aborted fetuses.

The atmosphere outside is tense, but inside, on the second floor, the waiting room is filled with sunlight. Lush

houseplants are perched everywhere, and signs and posters decorate the walls: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. WE TRUST WOMEN.


Kromenaker, who has run Red River since it opened, was born in a small town in northern Minnesota. Her family later

settled in a suburb of Minneapolis, and Kromenaker graduated from Minnesota State University at Moorhead, just a

few miles from Fargo. She and her husband, a California native, have stayed put in part so she can continue her

work. "We're committed to this clinic," she says.

In Fargo, Kromenaker is battling the state legislature and the local pro-life community. But in Washington,

establishment pro-choice activists are dealing with another set of threats that are mostly self-inflicted. What

pro-choice activists call "the movement" is in many ways more fragmented than it's ever been, thanks to a widening

generational divide. The problem is rooted in leadership, which is concentrated in a small but powerful army of

women who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided and who now oversee a number of establishment feminist

organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, run by Nancy Keenan, 60; the National Organization for Women,

headed by Terry O'Neill, 60; and Feminist Majority, run by co-founder Eleanor Smeal, 73.

Some of these leaders and their similarly aged deputies have been reluctant to pass the torch, according to a

growing number of younger abortion-rights activists who say their predecessors are hindering the movement from

updating its strategy to appeal to new audiences. This tension had been brewing for years, but in 2010, Keenan told

Newsweek that she worried that the pro-choice cause might be vulnerable because young people weren't motivated

enough to get involved. The complaint struck young activists like Steph Herold, 25, as an effort to place blame on

others for mistakes the establishment pro-choice movement has made along the way. "They are the generation that

gave us legalized abortions, but they also screwed up," says Herold, pointing to the pro-choice establishment's

failure to stop the 1976 Hyde Amendment, a law that prohibits federal funding of abortions and disproportionately

affects poor women. At a conference last May, Herold heard a women's-clinic owner who has worked in the abortion

field for some 40 years echo Keenan's complaint--that young people aren't involved enough in the pro-choice

movement. Herold was furious. She stood up and, trembling, walked to a microphone. "We're counseling your patients

and stuffing your envelopes," Herold told the clinic owner. "You should be talking to us and not just about us."

The power struggle isn't based on differences over the right to access abortion. Young activists fighting for

reproductive rights have the same hard-line view of abortion access as their predecessors: they say it should be

unrestricted by state governments and that the decision to terminate a pregnancy should be left solely to women and

their doctors. But the infighting could splinter the movement if the younger generation abandons those feminist

institutions that have traditionally been the headquarters for voter-mobilization campaigns, fundraising and

lobbying, the lifeblood of any political movement. Erin Matson, 32, became a vice president of NOW in 2009 but

recently resigned. "When you want to build a jet pack, sometimes that means you have to leave the bicycle factory,"

she says.

Matson says she is considering starting a new organization to specifically target young people. "A number of young

women are just saying, 'To hell with it, I'm just going to lead,'" she says. "It's easier for young women to

exercise leadership right now than before we had this technology." The technology Matson refers to is the Internet.

Last February, when the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer foundation eliminated its long-standing grant funding for

Planned Parenthood, a backlash quickly ensued on Twitter. Under tremendous pressure, Komen reinstated the funding.

After the episode, says Herold, "No one can say anymore that young people don't care about this issue."

In addition to being nimbler at Web-based activism, young feminists have another advantage when appealing to

millennial voters, who will make up some 40% of the electorate by 2020: relatability. "We need more leaders in this

movement who are of reproductive age," says author Page, 42. Sandra Fluke, the law student Republicans barred from

testifying before a congressional committee last year, was a valuable asset to the pro-choice cause in part because

of her relative youth. She spoke publicly about the personal reproductive rights and birth control choices of her

peers. Keenan, who has become aware that her own age might impede her effectiveness, announced last May that she

would step down in 2013. She said she hoped a younger person could replace her. "They're chomping at the bit to

have their opportunity," she says.

Young abortion-rights activists have a strategy to modernize the cause, which includes expanding it. They often

don't even mention the term pro-choice, which they say is limiting and outdated. Instead these young leaders have

embraced a cause known as reproductive justice--a broader, more diffuse agenda that addresses abortion access but

also contraception, child care, gay rights, health insurance and economic opportunity. "It's a more holistic

frame," says Matson. "And you see younger people connecting with that."

The term reproductive justice was coined in the 1990s by black feminists who wanted to broaden the appeal of

reproductive rights and speak to the needs of African-American women, whose abortion rate is 3½ times that of white

women. "The pro-choice movement would focus on 'Let's open more clinics.' The anti-choice movement would say,

'Let's stop women from going into them,'" says Ross, 59, of Sister Song. "Those of us in the reproductive-justice

movement would say, 'Let's ask why there is such a high rate of unintended pregnancies in our community. What are

the factors driving that?'"

Addressing issues like economic disparity marks a major shift from the pro-choice messages of the 1970s that made

choice the optimal virtue and an end in itself. But the shift, says Ross, is the natural maturation of the pro-

choice movement and worth the extra effort. The abortion rate in impoverished black communities has remained

disproportionately high despite efforts by Planned Parenthood and others to provide access to family-planning

services. "What this proves," says Ross, "is that if people are not convinced that they have realistic economic and

educational opportunities, you could put a clinic in a girl's bedroom and she would still think early motherhood is

a better choice."

Eye contact can be hard to come by at Red River. Many patients walk the halls with their heads down and their arms

crossed. In journals scattered throughout the clinic in which women are invited to express their feelings, patients

write about nonsupportive husbands and boyfriends and ask God for forgiveness. They write about how they can't

afford to support another child and how they are so glad Red River exists. Amid the low hum of ringing phones, the

sound of a staffer reading a state-mandated script to women wafts through the clinic's upper floor: "North Dakota

law defines abortion as terminating the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."

When her name is called, a surgical-abortion patient descends a set of stairs and steps into a room where a

technician performs an ultrasound. Afterward she enters an exam room and is met by the physician on duty. On this

Wednesday it's Dr. Kathryn Eggleston, who informs the woman that she's reviewed her chart and asks, "Are you

confident in your decision to have an abortion today?" If the woman says yes, the abortion begins; the whirring of

the vacuum aspirator used to extract the fetus can be heard in the hallway. Within 15 minutes, Eggleston emerges

from the room and enters another where the removed contents are examined and photographed for the medical record.

In the recovery room, where patients rest in overstuffed leather recliners, Kromenaker chats with a 20-something

woman who declined Eggleston's offer to go on birth control. "Do you have a boyfriend?" Kromenaker asks. No.

Kromenaker runs through a few ancillary health benefits of birth control anyway, hands the woman some condoms and

pats her shoulder.

A 24-year-old patient who drove 80 miles (130 km) alone to reach the clinic says she and her boyfriend decided

together not to continue her pregnancy, which was six weeks along. "Neither of us is anywhere near baby time right

now. We argue over who will take the dog out some days, so I don't think the diaper changing would go much better."

Another young woman at the clinic that day is less sure. When Eggleston asks if she is confident, the patient says

no. Eggleston questions her further, and once it's clear that the woman is conflicted, she gives her prenatal

vitamins and sends her home. The woman returns a week later. This time she does not change her mind.

About three-quarters of the patients at Red River are under 30. More than half have at least one child; about one-

third have had a previous abortion; fewer than 4% are minors. These statistics roughly mirror national data. In

all, more than 50 million legal abortions have occurred in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade. According to the Guttmacher

Institute, a reproductive-rights group whose statistics are cited by both pro-life and pro-choice activists, nearly

1 in 3 American women will have an abortion by age 45. Some 90% of abortions occur in the first trimester of


The abortion war, like many other political fights, is largely waged on the margins of reality. Review the policies

that have stoked widespread national debate and it's easy to assume that late-term abortions and those performed on

underage girls or women impregnated by rape or incest constitute the bulk of terminated pregnancies. In truth,

these are mere slivers of the abortion story in America. And on the whole, there is little public disagreement on

the merits of abortion in such cases. Most Americans support access to abortion in cases of rape or incest or when

the mother's life is threatened, along with a raft of common state abortion restrictions. Gallup data shows that

79% of pro-choice Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester of pregnancy and that 60%

support 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent for minors.

Establishment abortion-rights organizations oppose nearly all abortion-specific regulations. Pro-life activists

view their opponents' hard line as an opportunity to use public support to push for laws that have the indirect

effect of making the process of terminating a pregnancy more time-consuming and expensive. "As we work on this

common-ground package of legislation, we are more where the American people are," says Yoest of Americans United

for Life.

Activists like Yoest are playing a long game that kicked off when the antiabortion movement wholly adopted the

label pro-life in the 1970s. Then, in the 1980s and '90s, as pro-life protesters were dragged to court over their

activism at abortion clinics--blockading entrances, "counseling" patients seeking abortions and occasionally

resorting to violence against doctors and staff--they slowly built a formidable legal apparatus that serves their

cause today, says Joshua Wilson, an assistant professor of political science at John Jay College whose book The

Street Politics of Abortion will be published this year. Of pro-life activists he says, "If they can get laws on

the books, great, because they have the legal resources to defend them when they're challenged. It's an integrated

strategy that's very impressive."

The antiabortion cause has been aided by scientific advances that have complicated American attitudes about

abortion. Prenatal ultrasound, which has allowed the general public to see fetuses inside the womb and understand

that they have a human shape beginning around eight weeks into pregnancy, became widespread in the 1980s, and some

babies born as early as 24 weeks can now survive. Cultural norms about unwed pregnancy have shifted as well in the

decades since Roe v. Wade. "In general, the pro-choice movement leaves people with the feeling that we don't see

these things as complex because the answer is almost always, Well, it's a woman's decision," says Kissling,

formerly of Catholics for Choice. "And that's true, but we don't have kitchen-table conversations at the national-

advocacy level."

Kissling opposes the specific state laws pushed by pro-life activists but says the pro-choice movement's effort to

"normalize abortion" is counterproductive. "When people hear us say abortion is just another medical procedure,

they react with shock," she says. "Abortion is not like having your tooth pulled or having your appendix out. It

involves the termination of an early form of human life. That deserves some gravitas."

While a return to the pre-roe days of back-alley abortions seems inconceivable--even in the face of so many new

state laws restricting access to abortion--there is concern among pro-choice advocates that in places like North

Dakota, where the nearest abortion clinic could be hundreds of miles away, women might be driven to take

unnecessary risks. Those in the abortion-provider community say they worry that women in rural areas might try to

purchase pregnancy-terminating medication on the Internet without a doctor's supervision. Amplifying this fear is

the fact that the generation of doctors who stepped up to perform legal abortions after Roe have retired or died

without a robust new class of physicians to take their place. Efforts are under way at many obstetrics-gynecology

and family-practice residency programs to offer abortion training to more doctors, but the specter of protests and

unwanted attention remains. "It's a vicious cycle," says Eggleston of Red River. "If more of us were doing it,

there would be less stigma."

The smaller number of doctors willing to perform abortions has likely contributed to a fairly steady drop in the

overall abortion rate, from about 30 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 1981 to about 20 per 1,000 in 2008, according

to Guttmacher. Widespread access to birth control, which the pro-choice movement strongly supports; changing

attitudes about family and fetuses; and state regulations are also cited as reasons. In theory, a lower rate of

abortion might be something for both sides of the abortion debate to share credit for and even celebrate. But it

also illustrates the ultimate challenge for pro-choice advocates. Their most pressing goal, 40 years after Roe, is

to widen access to a procedure most Americans believe should be restricted--and no one wants to ever need.

The original version of this story equated late term abortion with "partial birth abortion," the latter of which is

illegal in the U.S. Abortions in the second and third trimester of pregnancy are performed using other procedures.


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