Buried Conscience

Some people think they can turn off their conscience. Don't believe it. Paul says that God's law is "written on the heart." And although we can be desensitized to evil, we can't really forget that it's evil. Even if you drive your conscience underground, you can never erase it. Listen to these examples taken from the new book What We Can't Not Know by J. Budziszewski. At a meeting of fellow abortionists, a physician and a nurse described a survey of fifteen of the physician's present and former staff. You might think that abortion didn't trouble them, but you'd be wrong. Some of the staff reported that they refused to look at the aborted fetus. Others looked but felt "shock, dismay, amazement, disgust, fear, and sadness." Two thought that abortion "must eventually damage the physician psychologically." One found herself becoming increasingly resentful about the casual attitudes of some patients, even though she approved of abortion herself. Two of the staff described dreams about vomiting up fetuses or about protecting other people from looking at them. Yes, even these hardened people showed the signs of buried conscience. In another story, Budziszewski tells about the "abortion pill," RU-486. It was once expected that RU-486 would be an easy way to have an abortion because swallowing a pill is simpler than undergoing a surgical procedure. The facts are much different: RU-486 can cause severe bleeding, cramping, and nausea. The expulsion of the embryo may take several days, and the woman may be able to recognize the remains of her child in the toilet or collection bucket. But get this: Pro-abortion researchers in clinical trials of RU-486 argued that for some women, these awful burdens are just what makes RU-486 attractive. These women welcome the increased suffering because they regard it as a price they ought to pay, a kind of atonement for having an abortion -- interesting. Now why would they be trying to atone if they didn't know that abortion is wrong? You may have friends who have had abortions and who say that they have never felt guilty about them. What they say may be true in their minds, but conscience is not just about what people feel. Budziszewski quotes a pro-abortion counselor who said to a pro-abortion journalist, "I am not confident even now, with abortion so widely used, that women feel it's okay to want an abortion without feeling guilty. They say, 'Am I some sort of monster that I feel all right about this?'" That question is revealing, isn't it? Plainly, if a woman has guilty feelings for not having guilty feelings, she must have guilty knowledge. She must know that what she did is wrong. Her conscience is very much alive. To learn more about the hidden workings of conscience, I recommend J. Budziszewski's book What We Can't Not Know. It has just the answers you need for your neighbors who insist that conscience is a thing of the past. Remember, atonement is possible only through repentant faith in Jesus Christ. If we refuse that, we will pay pain after pain, price after price, in a never-ending cycle because we cannot pay the one price demanded. And conscience will never let us forget it. Sources cited: Warren M. Hern and Billie Corrigan, Boulder Abortion Clinic, Boulder, Colorado, "What About Us? Staff Reactions to D & E," presented at the October 26,1978, meeting of the Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians, San Diego, California, published in Advances in Planned Parenthood 15, no. 1 (1980): 3-8. Wendy Simonds, Charlotte Ellertson, Kimberly Springer, and Beverley Winikoff, "Abortion, Revised: Participants in the U.S. Clinical Trials Evaluate Mifepristone," Social Science and Medicine 46, no. 10 (1998). See esp. 1319-21. Nicci Gerrard, with Kim Bunce and Kirsty Buttfield, "Damned if you do . . . ," The Observer (London), 22 April 2001. For further reading and information: Read Parts OneTwo, and Three of "The Live One," a Boundless series on abortion by J. Budziszewski. J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know: A Guide(Spence, 2003). Johannes L. Jacobse, "Women Are Abortion's Second Victims," BreakPoint Online, 22 January 2003.
  1. Budziszewski, "'Little Platoons': God's Design for Our Relationships," BreakPoint WorldView, March 2003.
  2. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law(InterVarsity, 1997).


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary