Press Interviews

ERLC files amicus brief in Supreme Court abortion drug case

Baptist Press

March 8, 2024

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has filed an amicus brief in an upcoming Supreme Court case which will rule on the availability of mifepristone, a drug commonly used in medication abortions.

The case, Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, will be the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of abortion since the historic overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The High Court will review an August 2023 decision made by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that placed limitations on the availability and usage of mifepristone. The ruling of the appeals court would end the availability of the drug by mail, allow the drug to be used only through the seventh week of pregnancy (rather than the previous limitation of 10 weeks) and require the drug to be administered in the presence of a physician.

This ruling, put on hold by the Supreme Court until its decision is handed down, would reverse changes the FDA made in 2016 and 2021 that eased conditions for obtaining the drug.

Originally approved by the FDA in 2000, mifepristone is reportedly used for more than half of all abortions in the United States. The drug is made by New-York based Danco Laboratories and is used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, in medication abortions.

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many pro-life advocates turned their attention to the issue of medication abortion. Advocates filed a challenge to mifepristone in November 2022. In April 2023, a federal judge in Texas suspended the FDA’s original approval of the drug and its later changes to conditions for accessing the drug which made it more widely available.

The Department of Justice appealed this decision to the Fifth Circuit, leading to the decision from last August. Although the appeals court ruled to uphold access limitations for the drug, it did not rule in favor of revoking the FDA’s initial approval of it, saying efforts for reversal came too late.

In September 2023, both the Biden administration and Danco appealed to the Supreme Court to review and reverse the Fifth Circuit’s ruling. Danco is involved in a separate case, Danco Laboratories v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which also focuses on mifepristone. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine is a medical pro-life advocacy group.

In December, the High Court agreed to review both appeals, later announcing oral arguments will be heard on March 26. The two cases will be heard together.

Since this announcement, doctors, pro-life advocacy groups, more than 20 states and more than 100 members of Congress have filed amicus briefs in the FDA case.

The ERLC filed an amicus brief on Feb. 29 alongside two fellow pro-life organizations, Human Coalition and National Association of Evangelicals.

Hannah Daniel, policy director for the ERLC, said the brief focuses on both the tremendous loss of life mifepristone has caused and its traumatic effect on the women who have used it.

“As Southern Baptists, we know that abortion takes the life of a precious child made in the image of God,” Daniel said.

Chemical abortion not only takes that life but also leaves physical and emotional scars on thousands of women who take these harmful drugs. The brief that we have filed before the Supreme Court tells the stories of those women who were sold lies and faced the horrific realities of chemical abortion. Through these powerful stories, we are urging the Court to uphold the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and reinstate vital safety precautions that will radically limit the usage of mifepristone.

Hannah Daniel

The brief is broken down into four different points of argument:

  1. Medication abortion causes significant physical harm to women.
  2. Abortion psychologically damages women.
  3. Unfettered access to mifepristone will likely increase reproductive coercion and crimes against pregnant women.
  4. All human life is valuable and must be protected from the dangers of mifepristone.

The document condemns the FDA’s approach to mifepristone over the years, and the negative effects it has caused.

“The FDA’s removal of the in-person dispensing requirement has already led to increased harm to women,” the brief states. “The FDA data shows that 12.5% of the total deaths reported to the FDA since mifepristone was approved in 2000 were recorded during the last 6 months of 2022. During this period, women were not required to visit an abortion provider to obtain a medication abortion.

“What’s more, amici believe in the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings—including women and unborn children. Amici also affirm that every human is made in the image of God and must be protected from harm. The FDA has placed the incalculably valuable lives of women and their children in harm’s way in the pursuit of political favor. Its decision cannot stand.

“The FDA’s removal of important safeguards for mothers harms the physical and mental well-being of women and ends human lives.”

The brief also includes the aforementioned personal testimonies of women who have experienced the negative effects of mifepristone first-hand. It concludes with a stern word against the FDA’s approval of the drug and its potential future.

“The FDA failed millions of women and their unborn children when it eliminated necessary safeguards for mifepristone at the insistence of the abortion industry. Even with safeguards in place, medication abortion caused severe damage to the physical and mental health of women, while ending the lives of children. Women and their unborn children alone will bear the costs of the FDA’s irresponsible deregulation of medication abortion.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

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