Three Reasons Why You Cannot Embrace Both Abolitionism and Regulationism – Will the Pro-life Movement continue with its failed four-decade long policy?

by Pastor Matthew Trewhella

After the Lord awoke me to the grim slaughter of the preborn, I was soon introduced to the regulationist model of pro-life politics which insists that we have to work within the confines of the Roe decision by the Supreme Court. I gladly jumped into this – thankful for anything people were doing to help the babies.

Over the next ten years, I spent countless hours working on legislation that nibbled at the edges of abortion. Most of it accomplished very little, sometimes nothing at all, and most often the courts would rule it unconstitutional.

Though I believed the government authorities should simply outlaw the bloodshed altogether, I was taught by the pro-life movement that we can only hope to regulate the murder by nibbling at the edges due to Roe. So I embraced both abolitionism and regulationism.

For those not familiar with these terms, politically speaking, abolitionism calls for the immediate interposition and total abolition of abortion. Only legislation that proffers complete abolition of abortion and protection to all of the preborn – and nothing less – is embraced by abolitionists.

Regulationism, on the other hand, calls for chipping or nibbling away at abortion. Passing small measures (allowable under Roe) to curtail the number of abortions being committed now with the hope of finally outlawing it completely. This has been the paradigm of the pro-life movement for 46 years now.

Some people only embrace abolition and others only embrace regulationism – and many others say they embrace both.

I am writing to show that you cannot embrace both.

As someone who has embraced both in the past and as someone who has been involved in this battle for over 30 years now, here are three quick reasons that brought me to the conclusion that I could not embrace both.

#1. Proffering less than what is needed and necessary.

First, if you offer a politician something less to do than what is needed and necessary – he’ll take it every time! This is huge. I realized this after watching it played out before my eyes by politicians and pro-life organizations countless times.

I realized that if I continue to offer politicians something less than total abolition, we will never see this killing outlawed because the politicians will just keep taking the less that I offer. And as long as we continue to do this – we will see yet another 46 years of this bloodshed.

Abortion is cold-blooded, brutal murder. Therefore, we must not offer something less than immediate interposition and total abolition to bring justice to the situation.

When you proffer legislation that just regulates abortion, you provide the escape for the politicians; you remove the pressure they need to feel in order for them to interpose and proclaim total abolition.

My point is simple but profound: if we continue to offer the magistrates something less to do than what is needed and necessary – the immediate and total abolition of abortion – they will continue to take the lesser measure every time.

This alone should convince us to abandon regulationism under the confines of Roe.

#2. Undermining your moral high ground.

Second, when you proffer legislation that is less than immediate interposition and total abolition, not only do you undercut your political standing, but you undermine your moral high ground.

If you say “abortion is murder,” but then proffer legislation that treats it as less than murder – you completely discredit your assertion that “abortion is murder.”

For example, even The U. S. Supreme Court in their Roe v. Wade opinion used the lack of punishment to the woman and the low punishment to the abortionist as proof that the preborn child must not be “a person” and is “not murder.” [Endnote 54 of the Roe decision]

For decades now, the pro-life/pro-family organizations have proven they only want to regulate abortion and nibble at its edges. When we do this we are communicating to the magistrates that abortion really is not murder, rather, it is simply something that is “not nice.”

#3. Misusing your time.

Third, there is the matter of time.

The matter of time was instrumental in persuading me to abandon regulationism. I realized that all the time that I put into regulative legislative efforts – which only resulted in nibbling at the edges of abortion or being ruled unconstitutional by yet another federal court – was time taken away from me working for immediate interposition and total abolition.

Now that I am 58 years old – I see how much time I wasted on the regulation approach in trying to abolish abortion. I realize I must use my time strategically; and not undermine my moral assertion that abortion is murder; nor provide opportunity to politicians to do less than what is needed and necessary in the face of murder.

The regulationists in the pro-life movement have had plenty of time to prove their method is correct – they have had well over 40 years. Their policy and paradigm is a failure. In fact, many regulationist pro-lifers now see that the regulative approach is an exhausted policy as nearly every nibbling bill they bring is ruled against by the federal courts. What can be done under that paradigm – has been done under that paradigm.

This is why immediate interposition and total abolition by state governments is important. The federal judiciary simply must be defied. This should have been done in 1973 – it must be done now.

Most prolife/pro-family organizations hate such talk and have repeatedly proven that they will put time and money into opposing any effort that would actually stop abortion cold. They have much to gain through the current paradigm that has been followed for decades now.

Consider the cozy arrangement the pro-life groups and the Republicans have created for each other. The pro-life groups offer legislation which nibbles at the edge of abortion – this assures their continued existence as yet another measure will have to be introduced and fought over the following year, and the year after that, etc.

The Republicans, who like to pay lip-service to the preborn and see value in having them used as political footballs, are more than happy to accommodate the incremental legislation proposed by the pro-life groups. This gets them votes – and it gets them labeled “pro-life” with good ratings from the pro-life organizations.

For example, when abolitionists in Oklahoma gathered and demanded total abolition of abortion – SB 1118 resulted from their efforts – a bill that would have outlawed abortion in Oklahoma; made it punishable as an act of murder; and had no exceptions – that bill was killed by the GOP and pro-life organizations. Many of the senators who refused to support SB 1118 had 100% pro-life voting records from the pro-life and pro-family groups.

The pro-life organizations legitimize the Republicans and make them appear “pro-life,” and the Republicans legitimize the pro-life organizations and help them keep their coffers full of money off the bloody backs of the murdered preborn. They both win. The one who loses is the helpless preborn whom they both disingenuously claim to care about – but whose suffering they refuse to end.

I don’t say these things to be mean or to belittle. I say them because they need to be acknowledged – and we need to repent. Yes, we all need to repent. We have all been guilty of this charade at one level or another – in one way or another. I accepted the model or paradigm which was handed to me and devoted countless hours to the failed policy of regulative prolifeism. But once confronted with these facts, we must change what we do.

Sadly, the pro-life/pro-family groups have aided and abetted the fiction of judicial supremacy for decades now – teaching pro-lifers that we must obey the Supreme Court. This is not true biblically/morally; it is not true historically; and it is not true legally/constitutionally.

While regulationism claims “at least we saved some.” – the reality is the regulationist strategy has sustained this bloodshed for decades now.

We need a paradigm shift. What stops all this (the fruit of our repentance if you will) – what stops the slaughter and ends the cozy arrangement – is the doctrine of the lesser magistrates. The preborn wonder when we will demand immediate interposition and total abolition – and accept nothing less.

Matthew Trewhella is the pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church ( He and his wife, Clara, have eleven children and reside in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. To learn more about the lie of judicial supremacy or obtain the book The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Response to Tyranny and A Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government by going to the websites or