Explainer: Companies provide abortion drugs in light of state restrictions

By / Oct 25

As more states enact strict abortion laws and bans, some companies are tragically stepping in to provide medication abortions through drugs obtained overseas. This development narrows the window of opportunity to serve women in crisis and educate them about other options, ends the life of a baby, and could pose a greater risk to the mother’s life. 

What drugs are used for medication abortions? 

Mifepristone (formerly known as RU-486) blocks the hormone progesterone, causing the lining of the uterus to thin and preventing the embryo from staying implanted and growing. In most medication abortions, mifepristone is followed about two days later by a drug called misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the fetus and placenta. 

Previously, the first dose had to be administered in a doctor’s office. During the coronavirus pandemic, however, that requirement was suspended. It is unclear whether it will be reinstated. For now, a telehealth visit is the only requirement for obtaining a medication abortion. 

What is the increased risk to the mother? 

These medication abortions pose significant medical risks for women. A review of nearly 7,000 abortions performed in Australia in 2009 and 2010 found that 3.3% of patients who used mifepristone in the first trimester required emergency hospital treatment, in contrast to 2.2% of patients who underwent surgical abortions. Women receiving medication abortions were also admitted to hospitals at a rate of 5.7% following the abortion, as compared with 0.4% for patients undergoing surgical abortion.

When is this abortion medication used? 

While this abortion process is recommended just for the first trimester of pregnancy, it does extend the option for abortion beyond the six-week measure recently enacted in Texas. However, another Texas law recently reduced the legal term for medication abortion from 10 to seven weeks’ gestation. The new law, which will go into effect Dec. 2, will also prohibit the mailing of abortion-inducing drugs. However, organizations like Aid Access, an Austria-based organization that provides abortion drugs in multiple countries, has stated it will continune to provide medication abortions in states like Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, Montana, and Oklahoma, all of which have passed laws banning sending abortion medications through the mail.

How does Aid Access work?

Aid Access employs U.S. healthcare providers who are licensed to prescribe the drugs in 18 states. But for those states where they do not have licensed providers or where mailing the drugs is banned, their founder, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, prescribes the medication and ships it from a pharmacy in India. For Aid Access, this is a way to get around the new laws, which target those who provide the pills rather than the women who use them. Shipping the pills from India makes it unlikely that states will act to prosecute the provider. 

In light of tightening restrictions on abortion in the U.S., Aid Access has also started providing medications to women who are not currently pregnant but want to have the drugs on hand for future use. Gomperts sees this not just as an option for providers, but as an obligation. “I think that doctors do have an obligation to make pills available in advance, particularly when they know that people will encounter obstacles when they need a procedure,” she said. “Advance provision still means the doctor is the gatekeeper. It’s not over-the-counter, which is the ultimate goal. But it’s a step closer. And it allows pregnant people to take the medicines the moment they have a positive pregnancy test.”

How should Christians respond? 

Organizations like Aid Access pose a challenge for pregnancy resource centers and individuals seeking to serve women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. If abortion pills are in a woman’s medicine cabinet, she is less likely to reach out for help. Efforts to ban abortion, including medication abortion, need to continue. In addition, we should increase education about when life begins and the longterm effects of abortion. And we must make an effort to enact policies that make abortion less likely. But in the midst of all of this necessary work, we need to have compassion for the woman who sees taking pills as the solution to her unplanned pregnancy. The church must come alongside abortion-vulnerable women in order to serve them and help make abortion unthinkable and unnecessary. 

And more than anything else, we need to live out the words of our Savior, who taught us how to care for and serve one another in love, lifting up the brokenhearted and caring for the poor and needy. It’s the love he offers and the good news of eternal life through him that will provide the hope women in crisis truly need.

ERLC’s pro-life ministry, The Psalm 139 Project, dedicates ultrasound machine to pregnancy resource center in Maryville, Tennessee

By / Oct 20

Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 20, 2021—The Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has donated an ultrasound machine to Pregnancy Resource Center in Maryville, Tenn., as a part of a strategic partnership with Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tenn.) and Tennessee state legislative leaders to place life-saving ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers across the state. 

The machine was placed at Pregnancy Resource Center in mid-September, and the center will host a dedication ceremony, Oct. 21 at 5:30 p.m. EST at their location, 103 Station Drive, Maryville, Tenn., 37804.

The partnership between the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project and Tennessee represents a total investment of $183,000 to place machines across the state. One hundred percent of financial contributions to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and training for their use.

“Our ability to partner with Pregnancy Resource Center in Maryville holds a special place in my heart as this is my hometown and a community I’ve grown up in since childhood,” said Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives. “I’m confident the wonderful staff at Pregnancy Resource Center will provide life-saving care and the hope of the gospel to vulnerable women and preborn babies across East Tennessee. I am especially grateful for the generous partnership between our state leaders and the Psalm 139 Project so we can serve centers like Pregnancy Resource Center with these life-saving machines at no cost to them. We will continue to advocate for the vulnerable until abortion becomes illegal, unthinkable and unnecessary across the world.”

Pregnancy Resource Center opened in 1986 and is a medical pregnancy clinic providing pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, sexually transmitted disease testing and support programs. They average around 25-35 patients a week and also have a mobile medical unit that serves the surrounding counties. They see approximately 1,200 clients per year.

“As we are about to embark on an expansion of our ministry, it is critical that we are able to provide a window into the womb to families facing unexpected pregnancies,” said Pregnancy Resource Center Executive Director Valerie Millsapps. “The placement of this ultrasound machine is already at work helping brave families make life decisions for their preborn children.”

ERLC’s Elizabeth Graham will be present at the dedication service along with local pastors and other community leaders.

The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project focuses on aiding pregnancy resource centers by securing ultrasound machines and providing training for their use. The centers use the machines in their life-saving work to support women and families in crisis pregnancy situations, helping many to make the choice for life.

One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203. Learn more at psalm139project.com.

Important Supreme Court cases to watch this term

By / Oct 5

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court began its 2021-22 term. For the first time in more than 18 months, the justices will be physically present in the courtroom for oral arguments. Justice Kavanaugh will participate remotely because he tested positive for COVID-19 last week. According to the Supreme Court, “Courtroom access will be limited to the Justices, essential Court personnel, counsel in the scheduled cases, and journalists with full-time press credentials issued by the Supreme Court.”  However, the court will provide a live audio feed for the October, November, and December oral arguments.

The previous term of the Supreme Court contained some important cases that advanced the cause of religious liberty in the United States. This term, the cases the court will be hearing and deciding could have major implications on both religious liberty and life issues. Here is a rundown of some of the cases we will be watching. 

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

In mid-May, the Supreme Court granted cert on a case reviewing a Mississippi law that would replace the ‘viability standard’ with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The issue the court will be deciding is whether pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitional.

Mississippi passed a law in 2018 titled the “Gestational Age Act,” prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks except in a medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality. According to the findings in the legislation, “an unborn human being’s vital organs begin to function at ten weeks’ gestation. Hair, fingernails, and toenails also begin to form.” And “at twelve weeks’ gestation, an unborn human being can open and close his or her fingers, starts to make sucking motions, and senses stimulation from the world outside the womb.” 

A doctor with Jackson Women’s Health Organization filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the law and requesting an emergency temporary restraining order (TRO). A district court enjoined Mississippi from enforcing the law, finding that the state had not provided evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks. Additionally, the district court believed that the Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from banning abortions prior to viability. The case represents a significant opportunity for the pro-life movement as hundreds of proposed state laws protecting the unborn could potentially take effect.

The ERLC filed an amicus brief in this case, requesting the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the precedent set in the Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) decisions that have prevented states from prohibiting abortion. The ERLC joined with other pro-life organizations on the brief, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. 

Oral arguments for Dobbs will be held on Dec. 1, 2021.

For further reading:

Carson v. Makin

Each state is required to ensure that they are providing every school-aged child access to a free education. The state of Maine relies on local school administrative units (SAUs) to ensure that children have access to free education. For private schools to be approved, they must meet the state’s compulsory attendance requirements, and it must be “nonsectarian in accordance with the First Amendment.”

Three families wished to send their children to private schools that were accredited, but did not meet the nonsectarian requirement because they are religiously affiliated. As a result, they were denied public financial assistance. They filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the “nonsectarian” requirement violates the Constitution on its face and as applied.

This case is a follow-up to Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a 2020 case in which the Supreme Court held that Montana could not cut families off from a scholarship program available to all because they wanted to send their children to religious schools. In Espinoza, a state constitutional provision in Montana prohibited state tuition assistance funds from being used for private, religious education. The court will take up a question that wasn’t answered in the Espinoza case — “Does a state violate the Constitution when it operates a program that provides students with money to attend private schools but bars them from attending schools that provide religious instruction?”

The ERLC filed an amicus brief, arguing that the government should not discriminate against religion or people who wish to send their children to religious institutions.

Oral arguments for the Carson case will be held on Dec. 8, 2021. 

Ramirez v. Collier

On Sept. 8, just hours before John Ramirez was to be executed for a murder in Corpus Christi, the Supreme Court granted a stay of the execution. Ramirez sued Texas prison officials in August for refusing to permit Dana Moore, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, to minister to him when he is executed. This case deals with the question of whether the state can prohibit a pastor or spiritual advisor from offering audible prayers and spiritual touch to an inmate condemned for execution.

Brent Leatherwood, ERLC’s acting president, stated that “the high court should overrule Texas’ ban and allow this important and solemn moment of ministry to proceed. Religious freedom doesn’t end as you approach the moment of death, and we have joined a brief saying as much,” Leatherwood said in written comments. “The state has yet to make a compelling argument for why Pastor Moore, an SBC pastor, cannot minister to Mr. Ramirez in these final moments.”

The ERLC filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the freedom of a condemned Texas inmate to have a Southern Baptist pastor lay hands on and pray for him when he receives a lethal injection.

Oral arguments for the Ramirez case will be held on Nov. 1, 2021.

Brief the ERLC has joined 

In addition to the cases before the Supreme Court this Fall, the ERLC has joined a brief on Petition for Writ of Certiorari (asking the court to grant cert.)

Seattle Union Gospel Mission v. Woods

Seattle Union Gospel Mission is a nonprofit ministry that serves the homeless in King County, Washington, by providing food, shelter, legal services, and addiction-recovery support. They also share the gospel with the homeless they serve. Matthew Woods, a lawyer, applied to work at the legal clinic even though he didn’t to the mission’s religious requirements for employees — including attending church and embracing the mission’s biblical view of sexual relations. Woods wasn’t hired, and he sued. 

The mission’s religious convictions are the foundation for all the work they do, and they expect every staff member to share and live in accordance with the their religious beliefs. It is that evangelization that makes the mission so successful at the work they do. The question in this case is who counts as a minister for the purposes of the ministerial exception.

The ERLC engages our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ in the public square to protect religious liberty and promote human flourishing. One of the ways we do this is by advocating for these things before the Supreme Court. While we’ve worked diligently and pray earnestly that the court will make decisions that uphold life, religious liberty, and the freedom of conscience, we ultimately place our trust in God to fulfil his plans and use the work of the ERLC along the way. As the psalmist declares, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psa. 20:7 NIV).

Explainer: Biden administration reverses abortion funding rule

By / Oct 4

Today, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the final rule to revise regulations that govern the Title X family planning program “by readopting the 2000 regulations, with several revisions.” The stated effect of the final rule is to revoke the requirements of changes ordered in 2018 that included “removing restrictions on non-directive options counseling and referrals for abortion services and eliminating requirements for strict physical and financial separation between abortion-related activities and Title X project activities.”

The new rule, which takes effect on Nov. 8, will allow health centers to receive the federal funds even if they refer patients for abortions. With this reinstatement, Planned Parenthood stands to gain up to $60 million annually in federal taxpayer funding.

ERLC acting president Brent Leatherwood said, “While some will couch this in the Orwellian terms of advancing reproductive health, we should be clear about what is occuring here: Preborn lives are in danger, mothers are rendered vulnerable to a predatory abortion industry, and taxpayer consciences are being steamrolled. This should be unacceptable in the eyes of every American. But as long as we remain a society that refuses to recognize the inherent dignity and right to life that each person possesses in the womb, we will remain a throwaway culture that wantonly discards children and bankrolls abortionists.”

What is the Title X funding program?

Title X or Title X Family Planning is the common name for Public Law 91-572 — the “Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970.” Title X is a federal grant program “dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.” The funds — currently $286.5 million a year — are given to the individual states who, based on federal rules and regulations, disperse it to qualified Title X clinics. The statute prohibits this money from being used to support abortion as a method of family planning. According to the law, “[n]one of the funds appropriated under this subchapter shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

Title X allows grant money to be “used only to support preventive family planning services.” All this really means, though, is that grant recipients like Planned Parenthood cannot directly use money from the federal government for abortion services. But money is fungible. A dollar spent for one purpose can also cover other purposes. For example, the money the federal government gives to Planned Parenthood can be used indirectly to cover operating and overhead costs such as rent and staff salary. This allows Planned Parenthood to provide abortions that are essentially subsidized by the government.  

History of Title X

In 2019 under the Trump administration, HHS issued a new final rule to reinstate Title X regulations that separate taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. The rule shifted funding from abortion providers — such as Planned Parenthood — and steered some of it toward faith-based care providers. In June 2019, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block the final Title X rule.

Title X has been somewhat of a political football, changing with different administrations.

During the Reagan administration, a regulation was issued that required that Title X projects be organized so that they are “physically and financially separate” from prohibited abortion activities. This regulation was challenged in the courts but was upheld in the 1991 Supreme Court ruling Rust v. Sullivan.

When former President Clinton took office, he reversed that regulation, and it was never reinstated. Former President Obama issued an additional regulation prohibiting states from defunding or deprioritizing abortion businesses in issuing subgrants with their Title X money. (This regulation was overturned by Congress in March 2017.) President Trump’s rule was loosely based on the Reagan-era framework.

The ERLC strongly opposed the reversal of this rule, and we will always advocate for life before Congress, the courts, and the administration. We know the abortion industry devalues human life and exploits families, and we are deeply grieved by this action. The ERLC will continue to be a voice for the voiceless and work toward a day when abortion is both unnecessary and unthinkable.

ERLC places first international ultrasound machine in Northern Ireland

By / Oct 1

Last year, the ERLC made a commitment to expanding its pro-life efforts internationally by partnering with other groups to oppose abortion, save preborn lives, and serve mothers in Northern Ireland. This week, the Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the ERLC, placed its first international ultrasound machine with Hope House, a Christian ministry seeking to love both lives of the mother and baby in pregnancy and beyond. A group from the ERLC, including Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives, personally delivered the ultrasound machine to Hope House to begin training their staff for this life-saving work. 

“These machines have proven to be life-saving tools for organizations dedicated to serving both vulnerable mothers and preborn children,” said Graham. “My prayer is that many women would be helped and babies saved through the ministry of Hope House and that abortion would become unthinkable and unnecessary not only in Northern Ireland, but across the globe.”

Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the ERLC, commented on the importance of the ERLC’s international pro-life work. 

“While our American pro-life work continues apace, the ERLC also recognizes this urgent and heartbreaking need that cannot be ignored in Northern Ireland,” said Leatherwood. “Just as the Supreme Court forced an abortion regime on our nation back in 1973, Parliament has done the same in Northern Ireland. As they face their own Roe moment, it is imperative that we stand for life with our brothers and sisters in this part of the world, equip them with life-saving technology, and pray for them as they provide hope to those in crisis so they may choose life.”

Abortion history in Northern Ireland 

Abortion was illegal throughout the United Kingdom — which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — before the 1967 Abortion Act. Because governmental power is distributed between the UK parliament and the national parliaments, the abortion laws have been applied differently in Northern Ireland than in the other parts of the U.K.

Until 2019, abortion had been illegal in Northern Ireland for more than 150 years. A law in 1861 made it a criminal offense to procure a miscarriage, and an exception was added in 1945 to say abortion could be permitted to preserve the mother’s life. No exceptions were made for rape, incest, or diagnoses of fatal fetal abnormality. However, women from Northern Ireland could have free abortions in other areas of the U.K. (England, Scotland, and Wales).

However, in October 2019, the U.K. parliament decriminalized abortion. At the time, the U.K. parliament gave the Northern Ireland government until the end of March to come up with regulations for the provision of abortion services. Medical abortions began to be provided at two hospitals in Northern Ireland in April 2020. The Department of Health funds such abortions, and doctors who have qualified in the past eight years are required to train to perform abortions.

The opposition to abortion has been driven largely by the religious nature of the country. Northern Ireland is about equally split between Catholics (41%) and Protestants (42%). In the Protestant Christian community, the reformed Presbyterians have some of the strongest support. Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists also have strong presences, as well as non-denominational churches.

How you can get involved

ERLC has partnered with two local organizations in Northern Ireland to equip Christians to navigate the abortion crisis taking place there. The partnering pro-life entities include:

  • Both Lives Matter, a campaign that advocates for both the mother and unborn child;
  • Evangelical Alliance, an organization which unites Christians from across the wider United Kingdom on issues important to believers.

The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project is able to serve pregnancy resource centers like Hope House by securing ultrasound machines and providing training for their use. The centers use the machines in their life-saving work to support women and families in crisis pregnancy situations, helping many to make the choice for life. 

You can help us save lives by getting involved with the Psalm 139 Project. One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to Psalm 139 go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203. Learn more at psalm139project.com.

What is the state of abortion around the world?

By / Sep 30

According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, around 119 million unplanned pregnancies occurred each year between 2015 and 2019. Of those pregnancies, around 61%, or 73 million, ended in abortion. These numbers represent 73 million precious lives lovingly created in the image of God. The fight to save preborn lives like these and see an end to the atrocity of abortion continues around the world, even as several countries are moving to legalize abortion for the first time.

This week, three ERLC staff members traveled to Northern Ireland to deliver a life-saving ultrasound machine to one of the country’s only pregnancy resource centers, an effort made possible by the Psalm 139 Project. While abortion was legalized in Great Britain in the 1967 Abortion Act, this law was not extended to Northern Ireland. Abortions were only allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life was at risk or her physical or mental health were greatly endangered. However, a vote in Parliament in October 2019 decriminalized abortion in the area for the first time. Now, ongoing disagreement has stalled the full roll-out of abortion services, but it is a matter of time before it is widely available in Northern Ireland. 

Like Northern Ireland, other countries around the world are seeing abortion legalized for the first time, even as efforts to end abortion in the United States are growing. Here is an overview of some of the countries making moves on both sides of the abortion debate:

Countries legalizing abortion

Mexico

Earlier this month, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that prosecuting a woman for abortion is unconstitutional, a decision that serves to practically legalize abortion. Ruling on a law from Coahuila, a state on the Texas border, the Court’s decision immediately affects only that state, but it establishes a legal precedent for other judges throughout the country. In light of the decision, court President Arturo Zaldívar stated, “From now on you will not be able to, without violating the court’s criteria and the constitution, charge any woman who aborts under the circumstances this court has ruled as valid.” Those circumstances are expected to include abortions carried out within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. 

This is a landmark decision for a country that is largely Catholic and has traditionally held strong opposition to abortion. While Texas has greatly tightened restrictions on abortion, this decision could open the door for women in Texas to seek legal abortions along the border shared with Mexico. Women already cross the border to obtain the abortion pill misoprostol from Mexican pharmacies. This decision could increase access to surgical abortion as well.

Argentina

Mexico follows in the footsteps of Argentina, another largely Catholic country, which passed a bill in December of 2020 to decriminalize abortion at up to 14 weeks of pregnancy for any reason. This makes Argentina the largest country in Latin America to legalize abortion. 

In 2018, Pope Francis, a native of Buenos Aires, was quoted as saying about abortion, “Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves.” In his recent comments to the U.N., Francis decried the view many hold of abortion as a solution to society’s complex problems, saying, “It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.”

Pro-abortion sentiment had previously been on the rise in Argentina, increasing in 2019 partly due to public outrage over the case of an 11-year-old who received a Caesarean section after being raped by her grandmother’s 65-year-old partner. The girl and her mother sought an abortion, but questions about guardianship rights stalled the process until she delivered a baby by C-section at 23 weeks. Abortion rights activists rallied around this situation, mobilizing to increase public demand for legalization.

South Korea

Abortion was decriminalized in January of 2021, enacting an April 2019 decision by the Constitutional Court. The decision ruled that the law holding women and medical professionals seeking or providing abortions criminally accountable was unconstitutional. Under the new law, abortion is legal on demand until 14 weeks, at which point it becomes illegal except in the case of rape, risk to the health of the mother, or if the preborn child shows signs of severe abnormalities. In such cases, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks. The law also allows for use of the abortion pill mifepristone. While abortion is now legal in South Korea, there are no laws guaranteeing the right to access an abortion, but pro-choice advocates seek such protections in the country

Thailand

In January, Thailand’s Parliament voted to legalize abortion in the first trimester, with the Senate voting 166 to 7 in favor of amending a law that imposed prison terms of up to three years for those having abortions and up to five years for abortion providers. After 12 weeks of pregnancy, however, a woman having an abortion is still subject to potential fines and a shorter prison sentence. There is an allowance for abortion after 12 weeks under certain conditions that have been determined by Thailand’s Medical Council. These conditions include pregnancies that result from sexual assault or pose a threat to the mother’s health, or those in which the preborn child is known to have abnormailities.

Countries working to reverse legalization

Poland

In October of 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal decided in favor of increasing restrictions on abortion, a law which went into effect this January. Previously, abortion in Poland was legal in the case of fetal abnormalities, pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger. This law takes away the legal option to abort in cases of fetal abnormalities. Critics have seen the decision as a means of practically doing away with abortion in the country, since 1,074 of 1,100 abortions performed in Poland in 2020 were because of fetal abnormalities.

Slovakia

Poland’s neighbor Slovakia saw a motion to tighten abortion rules narrowly defeated in a vote of 59-58 in October 2020. While the measure would have continued to allow abortion on demand until 12 weeks, it would have required the waiting period to be 96 hours instead of the current 48-hour requirement. It would also have banned clinics from advertising their services and required women to declare their reasons for obtaining an abortion. Activists in Slovakia and Poland pushed back against the measure. Many Polish women seek abortions in Slovakia because the restrictions are much lower than at home. The proponents of the proposal, many of whom are Christians, have said they will try again to see it passed.

United States

Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization, has called 2021 the “worst legislative year ever for U.S. abortion rights.” In the first sixth months of 2021, 90 abortion restrictions were enacted in the U.S., more than in any year since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. These restrictions include near-total abortion bans, bans on abortion after six weeks, bans on abortion in cases of fetal abnormality, and others.

On December 1 of this year, the Supreme Court will hear a case — Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — concerning a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Mississippi’s law has never gone into effect due to lower courts ruling that the law violates Roe. Now, Mississippi is asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the two landmark rulings legalizing access to abortion in the U.S. 

As those who believe every human life is precious and made in the image of God, we should mourn the legalization of abortion in countries around the world and pray for the efforts of those pushing against laws protecting abortion. We should also pray for wisdom and discernment for the Supreme Court justices as they prepare to hear the upcoming Mississippi case. 

We should also continue to work in our local communities to see that abortion-vulnerable women are given the care they need. If Roe is overturned, there will be an even greater need for Christians to walk alongside women in crisis, being the hands and feet of Jesus to those whom he created and loves. As we eagerly anticipate and pray for that day, let’s labor to protect every preborn life possible and intentionally serve families so that abortion becomes unthinkable. 

ERLC places first international ultrasound machine at Christian, pro-life ministry in Northern Ireland

By / Sep 29

Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 29, 2021—The Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has placed its first international ultrasound machine with Hope House, a Christian ministry seeking to love both lives of mother and baby in pregnancy and beyond. 

This is the first ERLC international partnership with a local organization in Northern Ireland in order to equip Christians to navigate the abortion crisis taking place there.

A group from the ERLC, including Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives, personally delivered the ultrasound machine to Hope House today to begin training their staff for this life-saving work. 

“After a year and a half of planning, I am beyond thrilled to be here in Northern Ireland to deliver our first international ultrasound machine to the wonderful ministry of Hope House,” said Graham. “These machines have proven to be life-saving tools for organizations dedicated to serving both vulnerable mothers and preborn children. My prayer is that many women would be helped and babies saved through the ministry of Hope House and that abortion would become unthinkable and unnecessary not only in Northern Ireland, but across the globe.”

Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the ERLC, commented on the importance of the ERLC’s international pro-life work. 

“While our American pro-life work continues apace, the ERLC also recognizes this urgent and heartbreaking need that cannot be ignored in Northern Ireland,” said Leatherwood. “Just as the Supreme Court forced an abortion regime on our nation back in 1973, Parliament has done the same in Northern Ireland. As they face their own Roe moment, it is imperative that we stand for life with our brothers and sisters in this part of the world, equip them with life-saving technology, and pray for them as they provide hope to those in crisis so they may choose life.”

The partnering pro-life entities, in addition to the ERLC, focused on Northern Ireland, include:

  • Both Lives Matter, a campaign that advocates for both the mother and unborn child;
  • Evangelical Alliance, an organization which unites Christians from across the wider United Kingdom on issues important to believers.

The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project focuses on aiding pregnancy resource centers by securing ultrasound machines and providing training for their use. The centers use the machines in their life-saving work to support women and families in crisis pregnancy situations, helping many to make the choice for life.

One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203. Learn more at psalm139project.com.

Explainer: Abortion Act in the U.K. challenged but upheld by the High Court

By / Sep 27

While the effort to increase the influence of pro-life work and save as many preborn lives as possible here in America marches on, it is important to realize that the issue of abortion is an international one. 

For instance, in the United Kingdom, Heidi Crowter recently issued a challenge against the British government, asserting that part of the country’s Abortion Act is discriminatory against people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. The court, after a two-day hearing, swiftly dismissed the case, finding Crowter’s arguments unconvincing. Sadly, legislation concerning abortion in the U.K. remains unchanged. And by upholding the Abortion Act in its current form, the court is saying that untold numbers of preborn children with disabilities can continue to be lawfully aborted. 

What is the Abortion Act?

Passed in 1967, the Abortion Act states that an abortion may, under certain conditions, be lawfully allowed up until the 24th week of pregnancy. If two registered medical practitioners agree within the first 24 weeks that continuing the pregnancy would subject the woman to greater risk of “injury to her physical or mental health” than would terminating the pregnancy, an abortion is permitted by law. 

The language included in the Abortion Act goes on to state that an abortion may be lawful when “(b) the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or (c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or (d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.” 

When any of these conditions is met, it is concluded that no person shall be found “guilty under the law relating to abortion.”

Why was the Abortion Act challenged?

Crowter, a 26-year-old woman with Down syndrome, along with two others, issued their challenge to the Abortion Act by taking specific aim at article (d), which states that abortions can be allowed up until birth if there’s “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.” 

As a woman living with Down syndrome, Crowter argued that the “legislation is offensive and disrespectful,” and ultimately, “discriminatory,” to such an extent that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. 

As written, article (d) of the Abortion Act articulates ambiguous and subjective parameters that adversely affect preborn children with disabilities and markedly increase the potential that they won’t be carried to term by their mothers. It is a law that undoubtedly discriminates against these children.  

Why was the case dismissed?

As described by Sylvia Hui in the Associated Press, the case was dismissed by two senior judges who concluded that “the legislation isn’t unlawful and that it aims to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and that of women.” Acknowledging that “the case gave rise to strong feelings and differences over ethical and religious views,” the two judges went on to say that the court must “rule only in accordance with the law” and not wade into ethical and religious controversies. 

By dismissing the case, the judges concluded that “the legislation was a matter for Parliament ‘which can take account of different interests and viewpoints, rather than in litigation.’”

What’s next?

Crowter is adamant that she intends to appeal the court’s ruling. “We face discrimination every day in schools, in the workplace, and in society,” she said. “Thanks to the verdict, the judges have upheld discrimination in the womb too.” Paul Conrathe, a lawyer representing the claimants, commented further, saying, “By allowing babies with (Down) syndrome to be aborted up to birth, unlike neurotypical babies, the law sends a powerful message that the lives of people with (Down) syndrome are of lesser value.”

How should Christians think about this?

We believe that every person, from the moment of conception, bears the image of God and, therefore, should be valued and treated with equal dignity at every stage of development and at any level of physical or mental ability. 

As applied to the Abortion Act, this means that it is both unjust and unconscionable to allow abortions to lawfully occur at any point simply because a preborn child runs the risk of being “seriously handicapped.” While one may argue that the intent of this law is compassion, the reality is that it is a grim, barbaric allowance that devalues the lives of preborn children with disabilities. 

The ERLC stands resolutely opposed to this and other such legislation, both here and abroad, that so clearly diminishes the value of God’s image-bearers. And we will continue to stand for life in the public square, before the courts in the U.S., and before Congress.

Explainer: House passes extreme pro-abortion legislation

By / Sep 24

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021.” This vote was largely along party lines, with every Republican and only one Democrat, Rep. Cuellar (D-TX), voting against the harmful bill. This piece of legislation is one of the most pro-abortion bills to have ever passed the House.

Speaker Pelosi brought this bill to the House floor as a direct response to the lifesaving Texas Heartbeat Act (SB8) that went into effect at the beginning of September.

What is the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021? 

The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 removes all restrictions and limits on abortion and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion. This bill also fails to protect the conscience of American taxpayers and would force taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. Longstanding pro-life protections such as the Hyde Amendment and the Weldon Amendment would be removed.

Despite the bill’s name, vulnerable women and families will only be put more at risk if the Women’s Health Protection Act were to ever become law. Additionally, abortion is not healthcare. If human dignity is given to each person when created in the womb, then abortion is not only an assault on the image of God but also causes irreparable harm on a vulnerable life. We believe abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection, and therefore cannot be considered as healthcare.

The role of government should be to protect these vulnerable, preborn babies, not to exploit them by removing restrictions on abortion that put their lives in grave danger.

This bill is extraordinarily pro-abortion and ought to shock and grieve our consciences.

How is the ERLC involved?

The ERLC is strongly opposed to this bill and any effort to legalize abortion. We urge the Senate not to pass this destructive piece of legislation. It would put thousands of vulnerable, preborn lives at risk and steamroll over the the consciences of millions of Americans who do not wish to pay for or be compelled to provide abortions.

The ERLC will always advocate for life before Congress, the courts, and in the public square, and we’re are working toward a day when abortion is both unnecessary and unthinkable. We desire to see a culture where mothers are supported and provided with resources and where life is honored and valued. 

Matthew Soerens on Afghan refugees

By / Sep 2

As the United States departed from Afghanistan, there remains an urgent humanitarian crisis in the country, both for the U.S.’s Afghan allies and those fearing persecution from the Taliban.

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Matthew Soerens, the U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief to discuss how and why Christians can serve Afghan refugees who qualified for the Special Immigrant Visa Program and the Refugee Resettlement Program.

Guest Biography

Matthew Soerens is the U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief, where he helps evangelical churches to understand the realities of Afghan refugees and immigration and to respond in ways guided by biblical values. He also serves as the National Coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition that advocates for immigration reforms consistent with biblical values.

Matthew previously served as a Department of Justice-accredited legal counselor at World Relief’s local office in Wheaton, Illinois and, before that, with World Relief’s partner organization in Managua, Nicaragua. He’s also the co-author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis (Moody Publishers, 2016).

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