5 pro-life riders Southern Baptists should know about

February 4, 2021

The ERLC stands by our pro-life convictions in every sphere of cultural engagement. This includes our witness and advocacy to the federal government on issues Christians care about. One of our threshold questions for our team before supporting any piece of legislation is whether the bill protects and honors the value of every human life.

Each year, Congress must pass twelve appropriations bills that fund the federal government. These bills are “must pass” pieces of legislation in that they are needed to keep the government funded and operating. Since Roe v. Wade, Congress has added pro-life “riders” to the appropriations bill, which modify with common sense limits the way appropriated funds can be spent. The riders must be reattached to appropriations bills each year, because they aren’t permanent policy. 

The Hyde Amendment is one of the most important pro-life riders; it prevents federal funds from being used to pay for an abortion. To learn more about the Hyde Amendment and why it’s so important, see our other articles on the history of the Hyde Amendment, why we still need it, and how it is currently vulnerable

Though there are many, here are five additional pro-life riders Southern Baptists should know about:

1. Weldon Amendment

The Weldon Amendment protects the consciences of health care workers by prohibiting federal funds from being used to discriminate on the basis of a health care entity’s refusal to provide, pay for, or refer women for abortion. This Amendment has passed every Congress since its introduction in 2004 and has enjoyed wide bipartisan support. 

However, under the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refused to enforce the Weldon Amendment and instead allowed violations of the law to go unrestrained. To that end, the Conscience Protection Act is sorely needed to codify the Weldon Amendment so enforcement of this important conscience protection is consistent across presidential administrations. 

To learn more about the Weldon Amendment and the Conscience Protection Act, listen to this Capitol Conversation’s episode, read this article on its importance, and learn from our policy brief

2. Dornan Amendment 

The Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate all funds (both federal and local) for the District of Columbia. The Dornan Amendment prevents all federal and local DC funds from being used to pay for an abortion. This amendment extends the type of protections afforded by the Hyde Amendment to the District of Columbia.

However, the Dornan Amendment was weakened last year as the language only prohibits federal funds from paying for an abortion. The ERLC rejects any attempt to weaken this amendment and will continue to advocate against any government funding of abortions. Learn about our advocacy in support of the Dornan Amendment here

3. Helms Amendment

The Helms Amendment is the oldest pro-life rider. First proposed in 1973, it states that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” Congress clarified in 1990 that funds could support foreign family planning organizations that included abortions in their overview of all options as long as they comply with the laws of their host country. 

Like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment is also being threatened. On July 29th, the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act of 2020 was introduced to repeal the Helms Amendment. You can read our one-pager opposing the bill here.

4. Siljander Amendment

Many organizations that perform abortions both receive federal funding and lobby the government for support. While the Hyde Amendment prevents those organizations from using the funds to perform abortions, the Siljander Amendment prevents them from using federal funds to lobby for abortion internationally. In addition, the Siljander Amendment prohibits the federal government, in its foreign policy, from lobbying for or against abortion, effectively requiring the American government to be neutral on abortion.

When the Siljander Amendment was introduced in 1981, it only prohibited lobbying for abortions. Congress has since modified the language to also prohibit lobbying against abortions. You can learn more about the Siljander Amendment and its relation to the Mexico City policy here

5. Kemp-Kasten Amendment

The Kemp-Kasten Amendment prevents U.S. funds from being being given to “any organization or program which, as determined by the President of the United States, supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” 

The president, after citing evidence that an organization supports forced sterilization or coerced abortion, may prevent funding to a specific organization. This rider has been used by pro-life administrations to withhold funds from the United Nations Population Fund as the Fund has supported China’s population control policies. Presidents who support abortion have refused to invoke this amendment. Pushing back against China’s draconian population control policies is needed now more than ever, as multiple news sources and researches have shown that China is forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women and coercing them into having abortions. 

Congress regularly passes many other pro-life riders that, like the Helms, Siljander, and Kemp-Kasten Amendments, are designed to curb the global influence of the abortion lobby. You can read more about them in this ERLC article. 

The Bible makes clear that all people are worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, ability, or stage of development. The ERLC will continue to advocate for these pro-life provisions and other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life. 

ERLC public policy and law Intern Julia Stamper contributed to this article. 

Photo Attribution:

Alex Wong / Getty Staff

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24