Why we need a comprehensive approach to ending abortion

July 29, 2021

There has been a lot of conversation recently in Southern Baptist circles and beyond about the right way to fight against abortion. Perhaps you’ve heard about the debate over incrementalism or abolition. Essentially, those views represent two different camps within the broader movement of pro-life Christians seeking to end abortion. But before I dive into the specifics of each view, I wanted to say at the outset that both camps are comprised of faithful brothers and sisters who all share the same fundamental goal. In fact, even this current conversation about the way forward for the pro-life movement further reflects that the movement itself is a broad, diverse, and expanding coalition fueled by a passion to protect the unborn.


The first thing to say about the abolitionist camp is that they are laser focused on the goal of ending abortion. And because of that commitment, abolitionists dedicate their time and energy to calling for the immediate end of abortion. Through their activism and advocacy, they support legislation — focusing largely on bills in state legislatures — that would immediately outlaw abortion if passed and signed into law. 

Additionally, abolitionists tend to oppose efforts to restrict abortion that fall short of abolition. And while they may do so for many reasons, a common refrain from abolitionists is that they cannot support laws that allow any lives to be legally aborted. Though I do not consider myself to be an abolitionist (for reasons I set forth below), I think their fierce advocacy in opposition to abortion plays a critical role in keeping the heinous and grievous nature of abortion before the eyes of the American public.


In a sense, the incrementalism label is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not aware of a single person in the incrementalism camp (of which I consider myself a part), who would not desire or support the immediate eradication of elective abortion. Incrementalism doesn’t mean that one supports the slow destruction of abortion. Instead, it means that one embraces a comprehensive approach to ending abortion — one that leaves every tool and resource on the table to advance the fight for life.

Why incrementalism

At root, I consider myself an incrementalist for one simple reason: I will support almost any measure designed to save the lives of unborn children. As a Christian, I believe that every life is sacred and precious because every single human being is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). And as an image-bearer, every person deserves to be treated with honor, dignity, and respect. That certainly means that every human being has a natural right to life. Though I don’t love the label, I’m an incrementalist because I will support a whole range of efforts to save more unborn lives — up to and including the total abolition of abortion.

Another reason I’m in the incrementalist camp is that I believe abolitionism is morally right but practically wrong. I stand alongside every person in the pro-life movement in opposing the Supreme Court’s wicked and devastating decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in all 50 states. More than that, I lament and oppose every legal effort to further protect or establish abortion in the United States. But despite my opposition to these things, I recognize that short of civil war — which no one is advocating — the only legitimate remedy to the status quo is through our legal system. 

I respect the moral correctness of attempting to pass state laws to abolish abortion. But at present, if any state were to pass such legislation the federal court system would simply strike down that law as unconstitutional. And in effect, passing such a bill simply maintains the status quo. (I know some within the abolitionist camp predict more successful outcomes such as a cascade of states refusing to submit to the will of federal courts, but I am wholly unpersuaded that such scenarios represent even a remote possibility). 

Instead, I’m convinced that the best way forward is to gain every inch of ground we can. This is the long-held strategy of the pro-life movement. And it is working. That strategy includes things like heartbeat bills, partial-birth abortion bans, pain-capable bills, informed consent laws, waiting periods, and more. Each of these are tools the pro-life movement has employed to save the lives of the unborn. 

As Joe Carter has written, “Since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973 the [abolitionists] have made absolutely no progress, while the incrementalists have helped to save the lives of thousands of children. Over the past 45 years, incrementalists have helped to pass hundreds of laws restricting abortion, including 45 in 2018.” The fact is, there are men and women alive today — attending school, raising children, following Jesus — who wouldn’t be here apart from these “incremental” laws. Moreover, with a still freshly-minted conservative majority on the Supreme Court, it is possible that one of these incremental state laws may lead to the weakening or reversal of the Court’s dreaded Roe decision.


Supporting incremental measures to reduce abortion isn’t choosing a morally compromised strategy over one that is morally pure. Rather, it is about choosing not to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. It is reprehensible that the abortion regime remains firmly ensconced in America’s legal and cultural fabric. And because it is, I continue to have a deep respect for those who are committed to seeing the immediate destruction of abortion in America. But even so, I remain convinced that the best and most serious effort to reach that goal is found in the comprehensive strategy of incrementalism that seeks to take every step possible to end the culture of death and secure for us a pro-life future.

Josh Wester

Joshua B. Wester is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. 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