In Defense of Live Action’s Goals

Having been instructed numerous times by defenders of Live Action’s tactics that I am a moron, or secretly pro-abortion, or just perversely hostile to Live Action for no sane reason, or “jealous” of them for some inscrutable reason that I am not jealous of all the other prolife apostolates and ministries, I now find myself in the curious position of defending Live Action.  Why?  Because as I have said multiple times, I want them to succeed.  My problem is not with their ends, which I heartily endorse, but with their means (namely, lying and tempting people to do grave evil), which are wrong.  However, when I say that I endorse their goals, I discover there are readers who think that there simply *is* no way to morally justify trying to expose what happens in clinics.  In brief, some of my readers don’t merely think the means (lying and tempting clinic workers to the grave sin of assenting to commit murder) are wrong.  They think the whole project of secretly recording the horrifying conversations with clinic employees is wrong.

I disagree.  Here’s why:


Fourth Video from Six-Month Undercover Investigation Reveals Illegal, Inhuman, and Gruesome Practices at Abortion Centers across the Country

Arlington, VA: Today, late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart is exposed, in the fourth Live Action Inhuman video, discussing the grisly details of the procedure and misleading a pregnant woman about dangers. The video also exposes Carhart’s bogus claims that “[a]ll the late abortions Carhart has done in Germantown have involved fetuses with anomalies[.]” He was perfectly willing to schedule a late-term abortion for a perfectly healthy pregnant woman and baby.

This is the fourth in a series of undercover videos, found at, involving the illegal and inhuman practices of late-term abortion centers, as well as describing in horrific detail what happens to the mother and baby in a late-term abortion.

Live Action President Lila Rose said, “Dr. Carhart’s testimony is shocking and sickening. He compares a baby in the womb to ‘meat’ in a ‘slow cooker.’ He jokes about his abortion toolkit, complete with ‘pickaxe’ and ‘drill bit.’ Finally, he outright lies when he claims that his patient, Jennifer Morbelli, died of complications in her pregnancy rather than from his abortion.”

When a Live Action investigator, who is 26 weeks pregnant, asks about what happens to the baby during the procedure, Dr. Carhart responds:

Dr. Carhart: It gets soft – like, mushy – so you push it through.

Woman: So what makes the baby “mushy”?

Dr. Carhart: The fact that it’s not alive for 2 or 3 days.

Woman: Oh. So I’ll have a dead baby in me?

Dr. Carhart: For 3 days, yeah… It’s like putting meat in a crock pot, okay? … It gets softer. It doesn’t get infected or–

Woman: OK, so the dead baby in me is like meat in a crock pot.

Dr. Carhart: Pretty much, yeah … in a slow cooker.

Dr. Carhart tells an undercover Live Action investigator who is 22 weeks pregnant:

We do a shot into the fetus to end the pregnancy the first day. … Well, if everything works right, you just deliver them and they come out fine. I mean, if for some reason that doesn’t happen, then we have to take them out in pieces…

A twenty-six-week pregnant Live Action investigator inquires what will happen in the case of complications:

Woman: But if we run into trouble … for some reason, I’m not able to deliver, you’ll be able to get it out in pieces.

Dr. Carhart: We’d take it out…

Woman: What do you use to break it up? Just–

Dr. Carhart: A whole bunch of–

Woman: You’ve got a toolkit.

Dr. Carhart: A pickaxe, a drill bit, yeah (laughs).

Carhart tells the Live Action investigator that one of his patients died of complications in the pregnancy rather than from the abortion:

We have had one woman die in the clinic, OK?… She was a lot farther along than you, but the coroner, it was reported to the coroner and everything, and they said, “yeah, she died again of complications with the pregnancy, but not from the abortion.” Everything from the abortion went fine.

It has since been confirmed that Jennifer Morbelli died due to complications in the abortion procedure performed by LeRoy Carhart.

“Our investigation reveals that the horrors of the abortion industry leaves devastated two victims: the mother and the child,” said Rose. “Our videos expose the truly gruesome, illegal, and inhuman practices going on inside many of America’s abortion centers. Unfortunately, this is just another day at the office for abortionists and their staff.”

Last week, Live Action released videos ( of a Bronx, NY abortion counselor describing how a born-alive baby would be placed in a jar of toxic “solution” to ensure death, a D.C. doctor who would leave a baby born alive after a botched abortion to die, and a Phoenix, AZ clinic worker who “would not resuscitate” should a baby be born alive after a failed abortion. The videos are part of Live Action’s six-month undercover investigation shedding light on the illegal and inhuman practices of numerous abortion centers throughout the country.

Rose is calling for Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Attorney’s office to investigate and prosecute those who admit they violate federal law. Rose also called on local health and law enforcement officials to investigate and put an end to gruesome practices that endanger women and children.

From the letter to General Holder: “[W]e have reasonable cause to consider LeRoy Carhart a grave threat to any woman or child to pass through his abortion facilities’ doors. … General Holder, as the United States’ foremost law enforcement officer, you have unparalleled resources at your disposal to protect the most vulnerable among us. I ask you to take the proper precautions as Attorney General to ensure that no one else is victimized by this man.”

I think this sort of thing requires broad daylight to be shined upon it, in precisely the spirit of Paul’s admonition to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).  In a culture of media blackout on the horrors of a Kermit Gosnell, one of the vital functions of new media is to get the truth of what abortion really is to a public that has no clue.  And like it or not, we are a visual culture and a picture is worth a thousand words.  So seeing and hearing this kind of casually monstrous talk is important.

That’s why I propose, not that Live Action be shut down, but that they do their jobs better by adopting morally sound means to achieve their very good ends.  I want them to succeed very much.  The problem is, despite the deathless American faith that “getting your hands dirty” equals ruthless and brutal efficiency, the reality is that brutality and efficiency are typically opposites.  Here’s reality: Adopting immoral means does not speed up the process of arriving at good ends.  It just gets in the way, gums up the works, and slows everything down, often to a permanent stop.  So, for instance, I really want the viewer to get how evil it is that Carhart lies about the death of Ms. Morbelli without the viewer pausing to wonder “Maybe.  But since Live Action is lying to obtain this video, how do I know they aren’t also editing the video to make it look like Carhart is lying here?  That is, after all, what PP says they are doing.  So how do I know who’s lying here?”  The moral shortcut of lying and tempting people to agree to murder turns out to be a quick trip to a swamp of distrust and confusion that, in the end, only benefits the abortionist (Planned Parenthood turned the last Live Action campaign against them  into a very lucrative fund-raising tool since they could truthfully write letters to donors that Live Action was lying in obtaining the videos. When even LA defenders recognize that what they were doing was “lying” it’s hard to maintain trust with fence-sitters and easy to recruit them to donate to PP. When PP says “We’re not lying, they are!” and Live Action says, “As a matter of fact we are lying, but for a really good cause.  Trust us!”, it is insane to suppose people on the fence will buy Live Action’s word for it.

So, Live Action, pursue your good ends, but with the weapons of the Spirit, not the weapons of lies and temptation.  You don’t need those worldly weapons.  Throw them away and use morally healthy weapons instead.  You’ll achieve the same goals and do a better job getting there.

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  • Barbara Fryman

    I love this because you not only decry bad moral behavior, but you acknowledge very clearly that exposure of this barbaric practice is needed. Great tone, great message!

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    What bewilders me is Carhart’s stupidity. Mind you, it’s probably bound up with his immorality. Anyone with a perception of morality, however vague, would have heard all sorts of alarms ringing and screaming at the direction the conversation was taking, but Carhart just let himself be trapped making comments that would turn the stomach of an SS guard. It’s not just immorality, it’s stupidity, but it’s stupidity caused by immorality – by being totally out of touch with normal human feelings.

    • wineinthewater

      Well, as Mark often says, “Sin makes you stupid.”

      But I think what this reveals is that these “counseling” sessions are really just marketing pitches. Saying stupid and even unconscionable things to make the sale is very common in sales pitches. The salesman picks up on what he thinks the customer wants and wants to hear, and gives it to them.

      I think this is one of the reasons that these stings would be far more effective if LA didn’t lie. By asking questions and posing hypotheticals but not actually asking for an abortion, these clinics’ eagerness to push money-making abortions becomes all the clearer.

  • This whole Live Action thing reminds me of the parable where Jesus praises the dishonest steward for his shrewdness.

    • Scott W.

      Except there isn’t any lying in the parable. The unjust steward was unjust for previously wasting his master’s good. Forgiving the debts wasn’t dishonest because he had the authority to do that.

  • LJP


    Have you ever covered the topic regarding those who attempt to justify the killing of abortionists under the rhetoric of ‘defense of the innocent’ or some such? Likening it to using necessary force to interrupt the murder of a born person or similar? I was engaged in such a debate on fb yesterday and didn’t really know where to take it.

    Also, I worry about the proliferation of these videos among those who are already ardently pro-life…do we really need to subject ourselves to this? Isn’t there a very real danger of the consumption of this media for those already pro-life; a danger to tempt them to sins of unrighteous anger, wrath, vengeance? I refuse to watch these Live Action videos for precisely that reason; I can see how it could turn the hearts and minds of those on the fence, but I can see no value for those already on the right side of this issue (regardless of the tactics used, moral/immoral)

    Thank you

    • chezami

      Yep. People who kill abortionists are murderers and deserve to go to jail. Period.

    • wineinthewater

      Aquinas addressed this quite clearly in his treatise on self defense. The death of the aggressor must be an unintended consequence of self (or other) defense, it cannot be the means of defense. So, killing an abortionist in order to prevent him from performing more abortions does not meet the justification standards set out by Aquinas.

  • Lisa O

    Unfortunately, many converts to the Church carry with them the irrationality of Kantian Pietisism, as does The One Who Likes to Capitalize. It is obvious to me that lying is justified in the defense of innocent lives, as killing is justified in war or in the case of law enforcement. However, I must admit, as did Augustine, that these justifications are in the end subjective and personal. Pietists and pacifists should be left free to choose their own positions, however cowardly, but they should also realize that they have no right to criticize other Christians who take a different grey position.

    Lying to an abortionist carries less moral weight than taking an extra piece of cheesecake in my mind. I wholeheartedly applaud LA and pray for its success.

    • Amy

      So…who gets to decide what is a morally grey area and what is clear teaching. It’s obvious to you that lying is justified in some cases. It’s equally obvious to some people that abortion is justified in some cases. Who gets to decide when we have to listen to the Church and when we can arbitrarily declare something ‘grey’?

      • Lisa O

        Who decides? We do. Moral dilemmas are inevitable. If you had a gun in your pocket at Sandy Hook, what would you do? Shoot the guy after he shot one child? After two children? Before he shot anyone? Never? It’s up to you. It’s not obvious, except of course, to the The One Who Likes to Capitalize.

        • Amy

          So each one of us is individually the arbiter of what is right and wrong for ourselves? How does this differ from the moral relativism that allows pro-choice people to sleep at night?

          • chezami

            It doesn’t. But discernment-free Catholic conservatives often wind up saying absurd things in order to defend their obvious rejections of clear teaching. The notion that it’s utterly mysterious as to whether lying in order to tempt people to commit murder is wrong is as postmodern and relativist as it gets. And the hilarious thing is, odds are very good that conservative catholic who says this is also certain that Pelosi and Kerry other Unapproved Relatvists are CINOs who need to be kicked out of the Church post haste.

          • Lisa O

            The Church is clear on abortion.
            The Church is clear on lying.
            The Church is not clear on lying as a means to reduce abortion. If you think it is, go ahead and ask 10 bishops for an opinion and see if you get 100% consensus.

            • Amy

              You didn’t answer my question. How is claiming that each of us is the arbiter of right and wrong NOT moral relativism?

            • chezami

              Yes. It is. Lying is “by its very nature” immoral. Even more immoral is tempting people to assent to murder. A refusal to admit those fact on your part does not constitute a ‘grey area” on the Church’s part. It simply means that you dissent from the Church’s teaching while refusing to admit it and want to go on pretending that you are a “Faithful Conservative Catholic” and not one of those awful CINOs.

            • chezami

              By the way, Mark Dunn, is there a reason you are pretending to be a woman named Lisa O? Do you think that by lying about your identity and gender you can gain more sympathy for your arguments? You know: “Brutish and mean man Mark Shea picks on brave prolife flower of femininity”? Or is there some other reason for lying about your identity and gender? It’s not being done to stop abortion or fight evil. So do you just like to lie for fun? Is this another grey area you’ve decided to establish? Or are we all people you’ve decided are “not entitled to the truth” and so you are free to lie to us? Any of this ringing a bell in terms of my previous warnins about how lying tends to corrode basic bonds of trust and metastasize? Why on earth should I trust a word you say when you are a proven liar?

            • ivan_the_mad

              Given that the Church condemns categorically both lying (CotCC 2485) and doing evil that good may come of it (CotCC 1789), and that both the Catechism and Scripture clearly state that the devil is the father of lies (CotCC 2482, Jn 8:44) … I fail to see how this is not crystal clear.

              Consider carefully whose ends you further, even unwittingly.

              • chezami

                Given that “Lisa” is actually a guy named Mark Dunn, lying about his identity and gender, I can see why he’s so bent on justiffying lying. After all, *think* of how many lives have been saved by his lies here! Or can’t a coward like you wrap your mind around the courage it takes to lie in a combox? .

                • ivan_the_mad

                  But Mark, the Church is not clear on gender-bending as a means to reduce lying.

                  • chezami

                    Spoken like the kantian convert coward you are. Only a really brave man pretends he is a woman in order to engage the desperadoes of a CAEI combox. Meanwhile, how many lives have *you* saved today? I bet you’d hand Jews over to Nazis in a heartbeat.

    • chezami

      Ah! The old “Pat the Convert on the Head” trick. The problem is, it’s not grey. Lying is, like it or not, intrinsically immoral. So is tempting people to assent to murder. That you choose to ignore the Church on this does not magically make it a “grey area”. It simply makes you somebody who ignores the Church and then covers it up by babbling nonsense about kantian pietism. What “your mind” thinks is an admirable expression of arrogance, but not of much else.

    • Scott W.

      “It is obvious to me that lying is justified in the defense of innocent lives”

      Then it is a good thing we don’t worship Lisa O.

  • Robert

    Mr Shea…I disagree. They already have agreed to engage in murder by taking the job. LA is just showing up in the course of their daily sin…..showing up to work! The choice is not made when LA comes through with their actors, it is made when they wake up and decide to go to work for a company that kills kids.

    Simply put: they have already given consent to the sin before LA shows up(sinned in heart), and it is not LA bringing them to that end.

    • chezami

      So it’s okay to tempt somebody to mortal sin if you are pretty sure they will agree. Sound Catholic thinking that.

      • Robert

        I think tempt is the wrong word. They are pursuing it, daily, officially. Its not a “pretty sure”, it is a certain. That’s why they are an….abortion clinic! They are actively engaged in /in the pursuit of, the killing of children on a daily basis.

        Where do you stand on phony drug deals, undercover police work, etc.? Is that different?