The Road to ROE50

A unified call to action for the pro-life movement

Elizabeth Graham

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, a momentous ruling which challenged a Texas statute that made it a crime to perform an abortion unless a woman’s life was in danger. The case was filed by an unmarried woman named “Jane Roe” who wanted to terminate her pregnancy. Ultimately, the court sided with Roe and eventually struck down the Texas law. 

The court claimed that the constitutional right to privacy is inclusive enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Tragically, Roe v. Wade has become known as the case that legalized abortion nationwide, making abortion services more accessible to women throughout the country.

January 22, 2023, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which is a significant moment for the pro-life movement. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission calls this moment in time “ROE50.”

My passion for pro-life advocacy 

My passion for pro-life advocacy and a holistic view of life stems from a series of personal experiences and coming to an understanding of God’s Word on this issue. I’ve considered myself pro-life for as long as I can remember, but watching my family and friends choose life and shaping my theological perspective while in seminary deeply influenced my perspective and fueled my desire to advocate for life. 

When I was in high school, a close friend confided in me that she was pregnant. To help me navigate this difficult situation, my mom took me to our local pregnancy center where I was given a pamphlet that discussed the ultimate reason we choose life for preborn babies: because they are made in the image of God. I was able to share this with my friend and continued to walk with her through her pregnancy. She was only 16, but her choice to give her baby life had a profound effect on my life. 

A few years later, a close family member, who was on a sports scholarship in college, also had an unplanned pregnancy. Her doctor encouraged her to abort her baby, saying it was likely the best option. She knew abortion was not something she was willing to consider, so she redirected her college plans and shifted her life to care for her baby. Several years later, I watched that family member have another conversation with the same doctor who suggested she abort another baby due to a genetic issue. 

I wish I had the time to tell you in detail the many other stories that influenced me—like participating in justice advocacy work, walking alongside a family member when she endured a miscarriage, hearing a friend’s adoption story, or being my grandfather’s co-medical power of attorney when he was in the final months of his life. The Lord has used all of those instances to shape my pro-life ethic and passion and move me to stand for life. 

Where we are today 

As I think about where the pro-life movement has been and where we are going, it’s important to take stock of where we are today. At present, the culture’s worldview continues to permeate every area of life, and, sadly, the church is not immune to its influence. Secular philosophies have redefined the value of life and created programming and education that not only teach a diminished view of life’s value, but desensitize society to a point where abortion is little more than a personal choice about “healthcare.” These philosophies have deeply embedded themselves in our terminology and education, training people to dissociate the actual life of a child from a decision they are making. Abortion becomes one of many options in the multitude of choices we have along life’s journey.

Today, the church needs to better understand and articulate what it means to be made in the image of God. We need to embrace and model this truth for the world, that every person, at every stage of life has intrinsic value and dignity because each one has been stamped with God’s image. We need what we think and believe to be shaped by the Word of God, not what we are taught in school or told to believe through other areas of culture. 

And we must stand for life. We must creatively and consistently proclaim that every life matters, every person is valuable, and that no one is expendable. The pro-life message is that, from womb to tomb, every person matters because every person bears the image of God. 

Where we are going 

In 2023, 50 years will have passed since Roe v. Wade made abortion a permanent fixture in American culture. Since then, tens of millions of preborn babies’ lives have been lost.1https://nrlc.org/uploads/factsheets/FS01AbortionintheUS.pdf This statistic haunts me daily. 

As an organization, the ERLC has been imagining what it could look like for the pro-life movement to develop a unified call to action ahead of this tragic milestone. We are beginning a journey that we call the Road to ROE50, which is a strategic window of opportunity to unify and accelerate effective strategies through pro-life work leading up to and following the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

As we begin this journey on the Road to ROE50, we want to raise awareness, inspire, educate, activate and mobilize the church as we work toward making abortion unthinkable in our generation. Here are a few ways we plan to achieve those goals: 

We believe this is a critical and pivotal time in the life of the American church. Everyone has a role to play and a way to participate in the Road to ROE50. We hope you will consider joining us on this journey.

Elizabeth Graham serves as CEO for Life Collective, Inc. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Richmond enjoy raising their two children in east Tennessee.