6 pro-life priorities for the president and Congress in 2017

December 20, 2016

This January, a new president and a new Congress will be sworn in. Both President Trump and the Republican-majority House and Senate have pledged to enact legislation to defend the unborn. This provides us with an opportunity to work with and persuade our new Congress and a new president to protect the unborn.

We work for protections, in law, for the unborn, because we believe every person is created in the image of God and has dignity and worth. So we are encouraging our elected officials to highlight these six pro-life priorities:

1. Codify the Hyde Amendment

The Hyde Amendment was originally introduced in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade as a bipartisan way to protect the consciences of Americans, who were then – as they are now – deeply divided on the question of whether abortion should be legal in the United States. The amendment prevents federal funds – taxpayer dollars – from being spent on abortion. The Hyde Amendment is a recognition that millions of Americans strongly object to allowing their taxes to be spent on what they believe to be the taking of a life.

But Democrats are now seeking to eliminate the Hyde Amendment, paving the way for some of the billions of federal dollars spent on healthcare to be used for abortion. Those of us who were paying attention when the truth was revealed about Planned Parenthood’s business model surely won’t be surprised by this. As long as Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers remain closely connected to Democratic leadership, we can expect efforts to expand the bottom line for Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry to continue.

As a byproduct of the way the Hyde Amendment was originally passed, the protective measure must be passed each year by every successive Congress. It is time, once and for all, for the consciences of millions of Americans to be protected by the force of permanent statute: federal funds should not be used for abortions.

2. Appoint a pro-life replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia

The surprise passing of one of the Supreme Court’s great conservative heroes sent shockwaves through the pro-life community. But the task of replacing Justice Scalia’s role goes much further than simply finding a jurist who is pro-life. Justice Scalia was an intellectual giant, forging a path for constitutional originalism into the mainstream of legal philosophy.

And indeed, President Trump must do more than simply appoint another pro-life vote to the Court; his task is to maintain the intellectual balance of power on the issue. Justice Scalia’s influence on the American judicial system will be felt for decades. We should hope that his replacement would accomplish the same during his or her tenure on the Court.

3. Repeal the HHS Mandate

Few policy objectives can be achieved with the stroke of a pen, but the repeal of the HHS Mandate is one of these, and it should be done on the first day of President Trump’s administration.

We have written extensively on the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate (also called the contraceptive mandate), and ERLC has advocated repeatedly before the courts in defense of religious liberty. The heart of the issue is a mandate imposed by the Obama Administration that all employers provide access to all forms of contraception, including those forms that can have abortive effects.

But because the HHS Mandate was created by an administrative rule and not statute, the process to reverse it can begin immediately after President Trump takes office. We urge President Trump to do so on his first day in the White House.       

4. Eliminate all funding for Planned Parenthood from the federal budget

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) currently chairs the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which is investigating Planned Parenthood’s business practices and trafficking of baby parts for research purposes. We look forward to working with and supporting this investigation as it continues.

But in addition, we will work with Congress to use the next available budget measure to defund Planned Parenthood. We were supportive of the defund effort that was vetoed by President Obama, and we will continue to work to support this effort in the coming Congress.

5. Pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act protects children in the womb who are capable of feeling pain from abortion. There is substantial evidence based on developmental structures and hormone release patterns, that by 20 weeks after fertilization, unborn children are capable of feeling pain. Indeed, fetal anesthesia is routinely used when performing in utero surgery on unborn children.

The bill would impose a ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks – the time when fetuses are capable of feeling pain. We will work with both chambers of Congress to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

6. Pass the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was passed by the house and introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ben Sasse (R–NE) during the last congressional session. The bill died in the Senate without a vote.

The bill would have amended the federal criminal code to require that all health care providers give the same standard of care to babies born alive after surviving an abortion attempt as they would give a baby born prematurely. Health care providers who violated this standard of care and were found guilty would have been subject to up to five years in prison.

We will work with the new Congress to pass this bill through the House and the Senate over the next two years.

Advancing a pro-life vision for the future

We encourage faithful Christians to use their voice help influence their Congressmen and Senators to support this legislation. But this is not the only way we display our pro-life convictions. Whether through support of adoption, participation in the foster care system, or providing counseling to expectant and new mothers through pregnancy resource centers, pro-life advocates need to not only communicate the truth of the God-given dignity of humanity, but live it out in our local communities.

If you’re interested in joining this movement of standing for the dignity of all human life, please join us in Washington, D.C., January 26-28, 2017, for the Evangelicals for Life conference.

Russell Moore

Russell Moore is a former President of the ERLC. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His latest book is The Courage to Stand: Facing Your Fear Without Losing Your Soul. His book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, was named Christianity Today’s 2019 Book of the … Read More

Travis Wussow

Travis Wussow serves as the Vice President for Public Policy and General Counsel. Travis led the ERLC’s first international office located in the Middle East prior to joining the Washington DC office. He received a B.B.A. in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from The … Read More

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