ERLC donates ultrasound machine in Houston

April 3, 2014

HOUSTON — The expectant mother in the room adjacent to Grady Butler’s office at the Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center exclaimed with joy at the first sight of her unborn child’s ultrasound.

“The more she saw the baby inside her the more she was in awe,” said Butler, executive director of GPAC’s umbrella organization, Missions Greenspoint. The newly acquired ultrasound machine donated by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Psalm 139 Project was cause for joy.

The donation will greatly expand GPAC’s ability to reach women considering abortion when facing unplanned pregnancies, said GPAC’s director Flora Lopez. director of Greenspoint Pregnancy Assistance Center (GPAC) embraced her “baby” the day it arrived at the Mission Greenspoint ministry offices Feb. 3. 

Through the Psalm 139Project, ERLC seeks to save lives by donating an ultrasound machine to pregnancy centers in cities hosting the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, held in Houston last year

Daniel Darling, vice-president for communictions for ERLC, says the Psalm 139 ministry is part of the ERLC’s mission to equip the church to live out the gospel, “GPAC is a gospel-centered ministry staffed by people who take the Great Commission seriously. We’re honored to be a part of this gospel ministry.”

Prior to the acquisition, Lopez experienced heartbreak each time she had to tell a potential client GPAC didn’t have an ultrasound machine. She wondered whether they would they seek counsel at a disinterested medical clinic or a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic? After four days of training on the Esoteric MyLab 20 Plus, Lopez expressed confidence that God will use the technology to transform lives in the center’s  rough neighborhood.

GPAC is just one of several ministries operating under the purview of Mission Greenspoint in  northeast Houston near the outskirts of town. Typical of metropolitan areas, its economy has at time  prospered and declined. The neighborhood is composed of undereducated and economically poor families merely scraping by, under the specter of gang violence, drug dealing and prostitution. Mission Greenspoint shines in the neighborhood the light of Christ. No one comes to Mission Greenspoint or GPAC without hearing the gospel and receiving prayer, Lopez said

Most of the women GPAC encounters are not “abortion minded,” Lopez said, but see no possibility of keeping their babies. The ultrasound images provide a new perspective.

Two weeks prior to the machine’s arrival, Lopez put out the word that GPAC would be providing ultrasound examinations and needed pregnant clients to volunteer during the training period. The response was overwhelming..

The training required the two volunteer sonographers examine women at stages of six to 18 weeks gestation. Each hour a new client arrived. On the first day of training a woman called GPAC to receive the free exam. She was anxious to be seen but there were no openings. Lopez told the caller she would put her on a waiting list.

Minutes later an appointment for the next day cancelled and the other woman was scheduled for the 12:30 p.m. spot.

“That was a divine appointment,” Lopez said.

Sharee Valencia, an obstetrician/gynecologist who volunteered as a sonographer, said the woman arrived stressed and determined to have an abortion. While the woman’s boyfriend waited outside the examination room, Valencia learned he was the source of the mother’s anxiety, pressuring her to abort said. He repeatedly sent the woman text messages making it difficult for her to focus on the exam. Valencia allowed him in the room, believing it might reduce the distraction.

“He came in and the tension rose,” Valencia said. “He was not interested [in the ultrasound] and she was tense.”

The staff tried to remain calm, explaining to the woman the development of her six-week-old fetus. Body parts are not visible on an ultrasound at that stage, but the heartbeat was clearly audible.

The couple left without indicating their plans.

When Lopez followed up with the couple by phone a few weeks later, the mother said the pregnancy was progressing wonderfully.

“That told me we saved a baby,” Lopez said. “And that’s only in the training week!”

Valencia is eager to share the life-affirming message of GPAC. As a medical professional, she had learned to view abortion as a legitimate medical procedure. Then God began to work on her heart, impressing the scriptural tenet that everyone is special and created by God with a purpose for their lives.

 “Just because we can do it [abortion] doesn’t mean we should,” Valencia concluded. “I just want to do my part to show [the mothers] Jesus. If they choose abortion I still want to love them and help them.”

To learn more about the Psalm 139 Project or make a contribution, go to psalm139project.org or contact the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203.

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