We can’t be pro-life if we’re not anti-poverty

November 18, 2016

We can’t truly be pro-life if we’re not anti-poverty. Follow me through the facts here.

Last month, the organization Planned Parenthood celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Since 1916, founder Margaret Sanger’s vision for this organization, reflected even it’s very name, was that every child be a wanted child. But underneath this mantra lay an ambition of systematic eugenics along with her belief that “the most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Today, Planned Parenthood has performed approximately 7 million abortions, a fraction of the 57 million pre-born lives ended since abortion was legalized. And that’s just here in the United States.

To put that number in perspective, over 57 million is about a sixth of the current population in the United States and rivals the number of atrocities committed by Joseph Stalin. This number would be similar to the genocide of the entire country of South Africa, the annihilation of all the people in South Korea, or the wiping out of the nation of Spain.

Further, of that 57 million, minorities are disproportionately represented. African Americans make up less than 13 percent of the total population in the United States, yet comprise between 30 to 35 percent of abortions. In fact, a black American woman is five times more likely to have an abortion than a white American woman.

Among professing Christians, abortion is rightly decried as a modern-day Holocaust, the killing of millions of defenseless unborn lives under the political protection of court systems and the facilitation of taxpayer funding.

These pro-life convictions are in our spiritual DNA. As far back as the 2nd century, the Early Church condemned the practice of abortion, a stance that contributed to twice as many women converting to Christianity than men.[1]

But there’s another characteristic of the Early Church that doesn’t seem to have the same urgency here in America, at least not in our conversations on important social issues. And it happens to be inextricably linked to the prevalence of abortions in our communities: If we’re going to be truly pro-life, we must also be anti-poverty.

Consider this: In 2014, 49 percent of women who had abortion procedures had incomes at 100% of the federal poverty level; that’s a single woman with no children living on $11,670 year or less. (An additional 26% of women who had abortion in 2014 had incomes between $11,670 and $23,340 per year.) Inability to afford a child is among the top reasons a woman has an abortion; a 2004 study found that 74 percent of women having an abortion cited financial constraints.

What organizations like Planned Parenthood leave out of their marketing strategies is how much money they make off of a woman in poverty.

Put yourself in her shoes: A new mother can expect to spend about $2,400 on diapers, formula and baby food alone. And that doesn’t count the cost of things like furniture, clothes or childcare. And that’s doesn’t even include the medical bills for labor and delivery (which average over $9,000). Perhaps she could apply for government assistance, like the WIC program? In that case, she must not earn more than $2,500/month without losing the additional income. This means she will be caught in the limbo of not earning enough to support herself and her child independently, but not earning so much that she is unqualified for financial help.

For the single woman with an unplanned pregnancy living on less that $12,000 per year, raising a child seems impossible, even un-survivable. For her, a 5-10 minute procedure at a neighborhood clinic for about $450 seems like a way out.

Perhaps this reinforces why pro-life advocacy that focus on the mother rather than the unborn child has proven to be more effective. According to a study entitled, “Profile of a Woman with an Unplanned Pregnancy,” a woman may agree that having an abortion means killing an unborn child, and even agree that abortion is morally wrong. However, as the article explains, “that is the price a woman in that situation is willing to pay in her desperate struggle for what she believes to be her very survival.”[2] The woman with an unplanned pregnancy believes her entire life is at stake.

Yet, in her fear and uncertainty, the woman considering an abortion will likely not hear about her increased risk of addiction, eating disorders, or future infertility, along with the shame, guilt, and difficulty in relationships she will likely endure. To quote the “Profile” again: “The terrible miscalculation of young women is that abortion can make them ‘unpregnant,’ that it will restore them to who they were before their crisis. But a woman is never the same once she is pregnant, whether the child is kept, adopted, or killed.”[3] These are the life-altering realities that a woman having an abortion may not discover until she has to live with them.

And this is how the abortion industry exploits economically vulnerable women.

This isn’t to say that all issues should have the same priority. But it does mean we cannot afford to be morally selective. We cannot work to end abortion while being ignorant of, or unmoved by, the social and economic factors that often contribute to it.

If we, as the people of God, considered the abortion-vulnerable woman as our responsibility, perhaps she wouldn’t feel like an abortion was her only option. Perhaps she wouldn’t feel quite so alone.

Our spiritual forefathers considered care for the poor an essential practice of our Christian faith (Gal 2:10, see also 1 Jn 3:18, Prov 31:8-9). The Apostle James even makes this an issue of discipleship, one that proves the validity of our saving faith (Jms 2:14-17). He asks what good it does if we see someone’s material need, tell her to live as though her need has been met, yet do nothing to contribute to her situation. For Pastor James, this would undermine our very profession of faith. How much more would it undermine our pro-life message?

Have we who claim the name of Christ abdicated our responsibility of care for the poor among us, especially economically vulnerable women, to state-sponsored programs? Or worse, do we become dismissive, and even perhaps a bit cynical when our government attempts to fulfill our ministry?

If we’re going to speak up for the unborn, we have to speak up for the poor. If we’re really going to be pro-life, we must also be anti-poverty.

This article was originally published here.


  1. ^ Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 95-128.
  2. ^ Profile of a Woman with an Unplanned Pregnancy,” The Life Choices Level 1 Volunteer Training Manual, 1st Edition 2012, 41.
  3. ^ Ibid., 42.

Katie McCoy

Katie McCoy serves as director of Women’s Ministry at Texas Baptists (Baptist General Convention of Texas). She holds a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she previously served on faculty. Read More by this Author

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