What Is a “Pain Capable Bill”? An Interview with Mark Hendrick

May 26, 2016

In this interview, Chad Ashby of College St. Baptist Church (Newberry, SC) talks with Mark Hendrick of the SCBC Office of Public Policy about the recent Pain Capable legislation that has passed in South Carolina as well as many other states.

Chad Ashby: Mark, tell us a little bit about what you do for Baptists in the state of SC.

Mark Hendrick: I have led the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s Office of Public Policy for five years. We work to educate and equip our churches to be salt and light in the culture, while addressing social and moral issues of our day. I work closely with the General Assembly of SC to relay concerns and perspectives in policy making that would align with Biblical teaching, The Baptist Faith and Message, and the practical concerns of the local churches and ministry partners we serve.

CA: Can you first explain in basic terms what the S.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act writes into law?

MH: The bill effectively ends abortion after 20 weeks of fertilization, the point at which an unborn child can feel excruciating pain. There are two exceptions in place. One would be for the life of or the severe and irreversible impairment of a major body function of the mother. The second would be in cases of a severe fetal anomaly in which the child would be incompatible of sustaining life after birth.

CA: How long has the S.C. legislature been working toward getting the Pain-Capable Bill on the books?

MH: They have been working toward this for four legislative years. It was introduced in 2013, and it came within one vote shy of passing before the clock ran out on the two-year session that ended in 2014. It was then reintroduced this session and the process had to start over from the beginning. It was debated throughout 2015 and this year, passing the legislature with only eight days left.

CA: If Governor Haley signs Bill 3114, South Carolina will join seventeen other states who have enacted a law of this sort. However, studies show that less than 1.5% of abortions happen after 20 weeks gestation. Why work so hard for so little immediate payoff?

MH: It is important to look at the big picture when measuring your success. If you look at abortion stats in our state, there has been a steady decline for the last 28 years because of gradual restrictions like this. I think we would all love to see a sweeping policy to instantly end all abortions with one law. Until the hearts of our leaders change, and Roe v. Wade is overturned, I fear this will be hard to achieve. But, I think we would all agree that trying to save as many lives as we can, when we can, is a net plus. Those numbers add up and are evident in the big picture. This bill also helps maintain momentum and keeps people engaged in this fight.

As for the low figures, policy makers don’t think twice about advocacy that pertains to texting and driving, age to purchase firearms, seatbelts, helmets on ATV’s, car seats for infants, alcohol regulations, etc. to save young lives. Why is that any different than advocacy to save what many consider to be a life in the womb?

CA: Is there anything different about the Pain-Capable Bill compared to past attempts at anti-abortion legislation?

MH: Yes, this is the first attempt to limit the weeks at which an abortion can be performed. In the past, we have had legislation that regulates the industry, bans procedures, etc. This is the first time we are able to move the time frame at which abortion on demand can be performed in the state. The bill also legitimizes the fact that an unborn child does have at least some rights in the eyes of the law.

CA: Where does the pro-life movement go from here in the state of South Carolina? Do state legislators have a next step in process?

MH: A dismemberment abortion ban will be a prime pro-life debate for next session. There was recent movement on such a bill but not enough time left in the session to gain more traction. Dismemberment legislation would outlaw aborting a baby using dismemberment in the womb—essentially ending abortions beyond 13 weeks. This would be a great issue to tackle next that those in the pro-life community could support.

CA: So often we focus on what is going on in Washington D.C. What does the advance of the pro-life movement in Columbia, SC, tell us about the importance of involvement at the state level?

MH: It reminds us of the old saying that “politics is local”. You have a much easier time influencing policy on the state level through the people you see more often in the community. I think South Carolina’s political climate and moral fabric also give us an advantage in getting things done, more so than on the national scale. If you look at South Carolina’s abortion numbers, we peaked in 1988 with over 14,000 abortions. The latest data shows us at less than 6,000. Since that time, approximately a dozen state laws limiting abortions have passed. I can’t help but think that these saved lives aren’t directly correlated to advocacy on the state level.

CA: What are a few ways that we can get involved in our state government and local communities to help advance the pro-life cause?

MH: The most practical thing is to get to know your state representatives and state senators and ask them straightforwardly what their views are on the sanctity of life. I am shocked to learn how many people in the church don’t have a clue who is making laws on their behalf at the state level. If scripture calls us to address cultural issues, vote for people with character, and pray for those in authority, then simply knowing these elected leaders makes those three mandates easier to carry out. Doing those three tasks can make a world of difference in advancing pro-life causes.

You can take time to speak up publicly for the unborn in whatever forum that might be. We had a fourteen year-old girl who was supposed to be aborted that came and testified in a Senate Subcommittee hearing, and it was probably one of the most effective tools we had.

You can also pull the roll call record on pro-life votes and share with as many people as you can. You would probably be surprised to know that leaders in churches—including ministers—voted against the Pain Capable Bill. We need to hold our officials accountable in the voting booth and demand that action be taken to save the unborn.

Finally, get plugged in the local community to talk about these pro-life issues whether that is through a group at church, a club on a school campus, or through a local crisis pregnancy center or para-church ministry. Most importantly, get on your knees and pray.

Chad Ashby
Chad Ashby is the pastor of College Street Baptist Church and a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Grove City College.

Chad Ashby

Chad Ashby is the pastor of College Street Baptist Church in Newberry, South Carolina, where he lives with his wife and three boys. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and blogs at After Math. 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