Illinois Baptists stand for life as abortions increase in their state

September 27, 2022

“A land of milk and honey.” In Exodus 3:8 God promised the Israelites he would take them out of Egypt where they were enslaved into a land flowing with milk and honey. Since then, the phrase has become synonymous with a place overflowing with abundance or plenty. It’s not how pro-life Christians think of abortion-friendly states as such as Illinois.   

But that’s exactly how Jennifer Pepper, the chief executive at Choices, a Memphis-based chain of abortion clinics, referred to the state of Illinois’ welcoming attitude towards those seeking and those performing abortions in an interview view St. Louis Public Radio in July. Choices is setting up a new location in Carbondale, also the location of Southern Illinois University, which is near the state’s southern border. 

“Illinois feels a little like the land of milk and honey for us,” Pepper said. “Being surrounded by hostility is not new to us. It’s something we manage and deal with because our patients need access to abortion, and we’re committed to providing that.” 

Immediately following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, Gov. J.B. Pritzker held a press conference announcing to women, “Illinois will be a safe haven for the exercise of your reproductive rights.” He and other elected officials flung open the floodgates to abortion practitioners and there they have remained.

Abortion advocates continue to point out how easy access to interstates 24, 55, 57, 64, 70 and an Amtrak station make Carbondale and the entire southern Illinois region ideal for women and their partners coming from southern and midwestern states where abortions are banned or more heavily restricted.

Illinois Baptists standing for life

Some Illinois Baptists are joining with fellow Christians and pushing back. “Abortion is not a natural thing to do. It’s against the nature of humans to take another human life” said Phil Nelson, pastor of Lakeland Baptist Church in Carbondale. He’s pastored in the Carbondale area for nearly 47 years aside for some served in campus ministry at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. 

Nelson believes to swing shut those floodgates Christians need “pray to see awakening in their churches” to “get out into their communities and share the gospel.” He sees it as the only way to turn from the “loss of respect for [human] life we’re becoming hardened to. If we don’t have awakening, abortion will die as an issue. We must spend as much effort sharing the gospel.”

Choices isn’t the only clinic moving to Carbondale which offers easy access to women from southern states where abortion is banned. Alan Braid, a Texas-based abortion doctor announced in July he would be closing his San Antonio Alamo Women’s Clinic to reopen it in Carbondale. He also closed a clinic in Oklahoma and will relocate it to New Mexico. 

Nelson along with church and other pastors went to city council meetings where they spoke out against the abortion clinics being zoned and licensed in the city. Unsuccessful in that effort, they now attend the meetings but sit and pray silently. He and a coalition of pastors along with lay leaders also sent letters appealing to local businesses to not assist in the construction and setup of the new abortion clinics which have temporarily slowed their progress.

Clinics in the Metro East St. Louis area have already seen an increase in out of state-abortion traffic. According to a report from KMOV-TV, the Fairview Heights Planned Parenthood Clinic saw an increase of 38% of out-of-state patients coming from Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida in July alone. The clinic also announced it expanded its hours from 8- to 10-hour days except for Saturdays. Plus, officials said if demand increases, they could go to 12-hour days and open on Sundays. Hope Clinic in Granite City also reported performing a higher number of abortions.

Strict new abortion laws in Wisconsin have caused Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to team up with Planned Parenthood of Illinois to work together at a clinic just inside the Illinois border in Waukegan. The Illinois clinic, open only a few years, has now doubled up on staff from both states to serve women from those states and others. Kristen Schultz, Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ chief strategy and operations officer, said in a media release it was “the perfect pairing of supply and demand. They had capacity without local demand, and we had the opposite.”

Quad Cities media outlets reported an abortion doctor from Milwaukee would be moving his practice to Rockford where he’s purchased two buildings—an old veterinary clinic and an acupuncturist office—to set up practice. 

Meanwhile, the Indiana General Assembly voted in August to put a law in place to ban most abortions in the state, Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, expressed outrage in a media release and reminded women about the strategically placed Planned Parenthood Clinic in Flossmoor, Illinois. Welch stated the clinic, which opened in 2018 near the Indiana border, was placed there “in anticipation that our neighbors would likely lose abortion access after the fall of Roe.” She said the clinic had already “seen its out-of-state abortion patients triple in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.” Indiana’s ban takes effect Sept. 15.

The situation in our society is a “spiritual issue,” said Nelson. “God has put us all here now to live in this point in history for his purposes to bring the gospel to people.

“People are afraid of dying. The only hope they have is Jesus,” he said his voice growing with urgency. “People need to be out on the streets praying and sharing the gospel.” 

Lisa Misner

Lisa Misner is the social media/public policy manager for the communications team of the Illinois Baptist State Association. She is also a contributing editor for the Illinois Baptist. 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