By / Jul 21

In the hours following the historic Dobbs decision, which recognized that the states have the right to make laws regulating the practice of elective abortion, moral panic ensued. Almost immediately, pro-choice pundits took to social media and television news decrying the decision by the nation’s highest court and began to sew panic throughout our communities, claiming that the right to abortion represents much more than simply a woman’s ability to choose to end the life of the preborn baby within her.

This same idea was also pointed out by Justice Clarence Thomas in his solo concurring opinion in Dobbs where he stated, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” even as the majority disagreed with his assessment. The majority opinion in Dobbs sought to limit the scope of the decision simply to the practice of abortion and the overturning of the abortion precedents set by Roe and Casey. They stated, “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Whether one agrees or not with Justice Thomas’ rationale for reevaluating these past decisions, he rightfully pointed out what many on both sides of the debate have long acknowledged: that the right to an abortion was decided upon a tenous reading of the Constitution by the justices, being built upon a discovered right to privacy and a mantra of self-determination that dominates the modern era. 

The reality of this unstable foundation of a right to abortion was even acknowledged by Vice President Kamala Harris who noted in a Face the Nation interview that these protections were wrongly assumed to be secured by the court, never actually being codified by Congress.  As of this week, Congress is seeking to do just that. With the midterm elections in view, Democrats in the House of Representatives have moved beyond bills explicitly focused on abortion and now are looking to codify rights to same-sex marriage and contraception in the law. Though these bills will likely pass the House with bipartisan support, it’s unclear what outcomes they will face in the Senate.

The linchpin

Abortion on demand was a cultural fixture for nearly five decades in America but has always represented much more than simply the taking of a preborn life, since it became the linchpin for the wider sexual revolution rooted in self-determination and moral autonomy. Abortion became sacrosanct for many of our neighbors because it represented the longer trajectory of certain modern ideas that see the individual as the sole arbiter of truth and the “self” as the one who gets to ultimately determine the good for both the individual and society at large.

Abortion—along with the birth control pill—in many ways holds the modern project together since it represents a fundamental separation of our actions from their corresponding responsibilities and duties to others. Historian Carl Trueman makes this point in his recent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by stating that in this cultural shift, sex became unmoored from the responsibilities and the “ideal of monogamous heterosexual marriage” which “has only recently become much easier to transact (with the advent of cheap and efficient contraception)” (38). In short, abortion and the pill allowed for more promiscuous sexual behavior without the fear of an unplanned pregnancy or the duties of a family. Modernity promised that one could have moral freedom void of the natural consequences and the corresponding responsibilities of our actions. This opened a whole new world of sexual freedom and moral autonomy that can be seen clearly in Griswold — which stated that the Constitution guaranteed the right of married couples to buy and use contraception without government restriction— and Roe all the way through the historic Obergefell v. Hodges decision which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

While it is important to recognize that not all who support abortion rights or contraception today buy into every tenet of sexual libertinism, we must remember that our culture of abortion is built upon the ideal of the individual. It is a rejection of the dignity of the most vulnerable among us and directly confronts God’s design not only for sexuality and marriage but also for the moral order. Many of the visceral and raw emotional reactions to the Dobbs ruling show just how sacred abortion has become to the modern moral order. Indeed, it is the banner of the modern reign of the individual. 

The revolt

In remarks after the Dobbs ruling, President Joe Biden said, “Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as a basis for so many more rights that we’ve come to take for granted, that are ingrained in the fabric of this country” which includes “the right to make the best decisions for your health. The right to use birth control. A married couple in the privacy of their bedroom, for God’s sake. The right to marry the person you love.” In the coming days and weeks, we will see a litany of bills in Congress—namely in the Democratic-controlled House—and increased political fervor around these issues with midterm elections around the corner as many seek to retain the Roe-like individual freedoms in a post-Roe world. 

Abortion was never simply about abortion; it represents an entire way of viewing the social order through the lens of individualism and moral autonomy.

To the surprise of many, 47 Republicans voted alongside all Democrats in the House to codify marriage equality, which would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that recognized the historic definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The bill would also require all states to recognize same-sex marriages, as long as it was valid in the state in which it occurred. The “Respect for Marriage Act” is headed to the Senate, where Democrats will need 60 votes to overcome the filibuster and call for a vote. Another bill being considered in the House concerns the right to contraception, which includes possible abortifacients being mislabeled as birth control and “emergency contraception”, an alarming section that carves out conscience protections enshrined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act––a law that protects our bedrock principle of religious liberty––as well as troubling language that could give the government authority to supersede the beliefs of religious employers. And in recent weeks, we have also seen the House approve bills designed to guarantee access to elective abortion for all

As Christians seek to navigate a culture reeling from the pains of rejecting the created order as well as the details of each of these bills, we must do so with eyes open to the reality of what is being revealed. Abortion was never simply about abortion; it represents an entire way of viewing the social order through the lens of individualism and moral autonomy. It is at the very heart of the modern project of crafting our own meanings and realities—“my truth”—based on our own feelings and desires rather than recognizing that meaning and truth is rooted in a transcendent order given by our Creator. While these particular bills may be primarily about politics in light of the upcoming election and a direct reaction to the words in Justice Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs, Christians should take these votes seriously as major cultural shifts are happening throughout our culture. 

The coming days, weeks, and months will likely not be easy nor will the next steps always be clear. But one thing is clear for Christians, true freedom and happiness is never found in ourselves nor is it found in the pursuit of self-determination. It is found in a relationship with God as our Creator and by recognizing his good design for marriage and sexuality. Human beings simply were not created to bear the burden of crafting our own realities but were made by God to derive our meaning and identities from outside ourselves.

True freedom is found in the One who is not reeling in fear or surprised by our arrogance and pride. Our God is reigning over all people, nations, and even our governing institutions. Christians, from the place of hope and peace, must seek to love our God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31), recognizing that the sins of this age may seem novel at first but at their core are the same issues we have always dealt with in social ethics. Let us be found proclaiming the truth about our shared human nature and our created realities, while at the same time opening our arms to those who have been cast aside and left in the wake of a failed pursuit of individualism and the empty promises of moral autonomy from the sexual revolution.

By / Jul 15

In the weeks following the historic Dobbs decision, a good bit of misinformation has been propagated concerning what many pro-life laws across the nation actually do in protecting the life of the preborn and caring for vulnerable women in crisis. Along with this misinformation about the devastation of ectopic pregnancies and lamentable instances where the physical life of the mother is at risk, there has also been a torrent of speculative musings about the dystopian society we will now inhabit in a post-Roe context. As the ripple effects of this life-saving court decision continue to be felt throughout our society and as many states are enacting new laws concerning the practice of abortion, one aspect of the debate might surprise some who have followed the pro-life movement over the last 49 years.

Since the Dobbs ruling, opinion pieces, Twitter threads, and a host of comments from privacy scholars have raised the alarm and generated wildly speculative notions about the dangers to personal data privacy in a country without Roe. Even the White House Director of Gender Policy Jen Klein has urged caution on the grounds of data privacy for millions of Americans, though the actual details of her comments and other reporting on the matter often do not coincide with the clickbait headlines.

From alarmist calls for women to delete their menstrual cycle tracking apps to demands that technology and social media companies like Google delete and/or stop tracking sensitive location data like abortion clinic visits, there has been a deluge of fear-inducing information. This speculation is primarily about how troves of data collected in a digital society might be used by some in potential lawsuits or criminal filings against women seeking an abortion depending on their state. While much of this is uncharted territory and there are some legitimate questions that need to be asked by all citizens including state lawmakers, it must be noted that many if not all of the calls to immediate action are built on hypothetical situations and strained correlations to prior cases. Many if not all of the states enacting pro-life laws are rightfully seeking to prosecute those who prescribe the abortion medications or who perform abortions, not women in crisis who have long been preyed upon by the abortion industry and been led astray by the lies of the sexual revolution.

Personal privacy and moral autonomy

The connections between personal privacy and abortion are deeply intertwined in our modern moral order, given how our abortion-on-demand culture was built upon the discovered “right to privacy” in the “penumbras” of the Bill of Rights, infamously articulated by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in the Supreme Court’s 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision.

In this 1965 decision, the right to privacy was applied specifically to the right of married couples to obtain contraceptives. However, this “implied constitutional right to privacy” soon became the foundation for a number of subsequent Supreme Court decisions such as Roe and later Lawrence v. Texas, where the court established the right to privacy as an inherent element of self-determination and complete moral autonomy, devoid of any reference to religion or faith lived under God.

In delivering the Lawrence opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated “liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places.” He went further to argue that liberty presumes that the state should not have a dominant presence in the homes of Americans, as well as an “autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.” While many Christians may agree with Justice Kennedy on the concept of liberty where the state does not have unlimited authority, we must recognize that the modern notions of autonomy and self-determination are directly contrary to the biblical ethic rooted in the dignity of all, including the preborn. This supposed right to self-determination is deeply woven into the modern right to privacy, abortion culture, and throughout contemporary culture.

But by design of the Founders, the Bill of Rights established a framework that recognizes certain pre-political rights which the state is bound to recognize and uphold, including the right to life. This runs contrary to many of the current debates over abortion and privacy—debates that are often framed in light of our society’s ideas of moral autonomy and self-determination. This shift in the nature and foundation of rights represents a stark break from the transcendent framework they were originally rooted in so that now the individual has the right to define their own realities, no matter the cost to the moral order including our neighbors or even the life of a child in the womb.

Misleading hypotheticals and the right to privacy

In light of this modern notion of a right to privacy, the continued calls for state and federal privacy legislation in our post-Roe world, and the growing concerns over data privacy, how should Christians think about these issues—especially in light of the pressing questions of digital privacy and our concern for upholding the dignity of both the preborn and their mothers?

First, we must seek to deal in facts, not simple hypotheticals designed to instill fear. Not only did the Dobbs decision rightfully return the question of abortion to the states (where it resided prior to Roe) and rule that states have a compelling interest in protecting their citizens, including the youngest among us, it is clear that much of what we already know about these state laws is that they seek the criminalization of abortion providers, not women. While it is incumbent on lawmakers to think through the myriad ramifications of these laws on questions regarding digital privacy and data collection, it should be noted that the use of this type of data in criminal cases against women is exceedingly rare.

In recent years, there have been at least two known cases of personal data being used under a court order in an abortion-related cases. In 2013, an Indiana woman was arrested on grounds of feticide after seeking medical attention at a local hospital for “profuse bleeding after delivering a 1½-pound baby boy in a bathroom and putting his body in a dumpster behind her family’s restaurant.” In this case, text messages to a friend about abortion pills were used by prosecutors in the conviction of the woman even though the 2015 conviction was later overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

A second case involved a Mississippi woman indicted on a second-degree murder charge in January 2018 after giving birth at home to a baby boy who was later transported to a local hospital with cardiac arrest. He subsequently died at the hospital. The defendant confessed to medical professionals that she learned she was pregnant the month before at an annual OB-GYN appointment but failed to make any follow-up appointments for prenatal care or an ultrasound. 

She told investigators that she didn’t want any more children, couldn’t afford any more, and that she “simply couldn’t deal with being pregnant again.” She was at least 35 weeks pregnant when it was revealed that she illegally procured the abortion medication misoprostol through online searches. After taking the medication without the approval of doctors and well past the approved usage, her husband called for paramedics after finding her and their son in the bathroom. Medical examiners determined through an autopsy that the baby boy was born alive and died due to asphyxiation.

Both of these cases indicate that online data was used by prosecutors in what would more rightly be called disturbing instances of infanticide. These particular cases and criminal proceedings should remind us of the vital advocacy of pro-life organizations for the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection legislation. The proposed protections would see those who are born after a failed abortion receive all the medical care necessary for them to survive. 

The vast majority of states enacting pro-life legislation post-Roe are seeking to outlaw abortion or tighten the window in which abortions are legal. Most of the legislation that has been proposed does not seek to criminalize abortion-vulnerable women but rather those who perform abortions or prescribe these medications which are increasingly dangerous to the life of the mother as well as to the life of the innocent child being aborted.

Second, we must understand that the right to privacy, which should be a central concern for the Christian church in a digital society, must not be framed as at odds with a rich conception of human dignity that values all human life, including the most vulnerable among us. A central facet of the pro-life movement and its 49+ years of advocacy is that vulnerable mothers should not be criminalized. Instead, those who provide abortions—whether through medical procedures or prescription drugs—should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, has repeatedly affirmed the value of preborn life and the priority of caring for vulnerable women in crisis through over 20 resolutions over the course of 40 years, including this past summer during the anticipation of the Dobbs decision.

A Christian understanding of privacy is that of a penultimate right that supports other pre-political rights, including the fundamental right to life rooted in how God has made us as human beings in his very image (Gen. 1:26-28). The imago Dei is the backbone of a robust Christian ethic which recognizes the dignity of all people including the preborn, their mothers, and their families. Human dignity is central to our conception of the moral order and our social ethic. While Christians should rightfully stand against the manipulative and abusive use and collection of personal data in our digital society, we need to remember that a biblical vision of privacy runs contrary to modern notions of privacy built upon moral autonomy and self-determination rather than a full conception of human dignity rooted in God’s design.

Privacy is an instrumental good that should serve the overall common good of both individuals and communities. In order for this to happen, it must be framed in light of our true nature as created beings who are under the authority of an omniscient and omnipotent God. Now more than ever we must not shrink back in fear but seek to retrieve a biblical understanding of personal privacy, which accords with the dignity of every individual and cares for the most vulnerable among us.

By / Jul 15

Pro-life Christians have long understood that the Roe v. Wade decision—which institutionalized abortion on demand in all 50 states—was a moral travesty. But what has often been less clear for us is why it was considered unjustifiable as a matter of constitutional law.

A broad range of conservative and liberal legal scholars have been in agreement that the Roe decision was, as Mark V Tushnet termed Roe a “totally unreasoned judicial opinion.” A prime example of the problem was explained by Edward Lazarus, a former clerk of Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe’s majority opinion. Although Lazarus supports a right to abortion, he writes that, “as a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible.” 

“What, exactly, is the problem with Roe?” asks Lazarus. “The problem, I believe, is that it has little connection to the Constitutional right it purportedly interpreted. A constitutional right to privacy broad enough to include abortion has no meaningful foundation in constitutional text, history, or precedent—at least, it does not if those sources are fairly described and reasonably faithfully followed.”

We can outline the legal argument against Roe (as well as the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which introduced the concept of the “viability standard”) as an opinion having no meaningful foundation in (1) the text of the constitution, (2) history, or (3) precedent. 

Text of the Constitution

As the Supreme Court points out in the Dobbs decision, the Constitution makes no express reference to a right to obtain an abortion. Still, they acknowledged that several constitutional provisions have been “offered as potential homes for an implicit constitutional right.” This supposed textual basis for the right to abortion, according to the Roe decision, is the “right to privacy”—a right that is also not mentioned in the Constitution.

The supposed right to privacy, according to the Blackmun opinion in Roe, was believed to have been found in a grab bag of constitutional provisions, including the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and 14th Amendments. As the Dobbs decision notes, “Roe expressed the ‘feel[ing]’ that the Fourteenth Amendment was the provision that did the work, but its message seemed to be that the abortion right could be found somewhere in the Constitution and that specifying its exact location was not of paramount importance.” In other words, to the justices who voted for Roe, it was so obvious that abortion must be protected somewhere in the constitution that there was no need to argue that point.

The current Supreme Court—as have most objective legal scholars—disagreed that the right to abortion is obviously hidden somewhere within the text of the U.S. Constitution. 

History

The issue of whether the right to abortion can be found in the text relies in part on the history of the United States. The Dobbs ruling notes that the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause protects two categories of rights: rights guaranteed by the first eight Amendments and a select list of fundamental rights that are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. In deciding whether a right falls into either of these categories, the “Court has long asked whether the right is ‘deeply rooted in [our] history and tradition’ and whether it is essential to our Nation’s ‘scheme of ordered liberty.’”

But as the court found, until the latter part of the 20th century, a right to abortion was “entirely unknown in American law.” When the 14th Amendment was adopted, three quarters of the states made abortion a crime at all stages of pregnancy. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right either, until a few years before Roe. There was no federal or state court recognition of such a right, and no scholarly articles even proposing a constitutional right to abortion until a few years before Roe

The history of our country clearly showed that there was not a deeply rooted fundamental right to abortion.

Precedent

Precedent refers to a court decision that is considered as authority for deciding subsequent cases involving identical or similar facts, or similar legal issues. The Supreme Court generally applies the doctrine of stare decisis (Latin for “to stand by things decided”) by following prior precedent unless there is a “special justification” for it to be overridden or overturned.

In the Dobbs ruling, the court said that a “proper application of stare decisis . . . requires an assessment of the strength of the grounds on which Roe was based.” The court found ​​that none of the precedents relied on in the Roe decision were relevant:

What sharply distinguishes the abortion right from the rights recognized in the cases on which Roe and Casey rely is something that both those decisions acknowledged: Abortion is different because it destroys what Roe termed “potential life” and what the law challenged in this case calls an “unborn human being.” None of the other decisions cited by Roe and Casey involved the critical moral question posed by abortion.

The “special justification” for overturning Roe, according to the majority, included the nature of the court’s error (“Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided”) and the poor quality of its reasoning (“Roe’s failure even to note the overwhelming consensus of state laws in effect in 1868 is striking, and what it said about the common law was simply wrong”). 

Since there is not legitimately binding precedent making abortion a fundamental constitutional right, the court says “it follows that the States may regulate abortion for legitimate reasons, and when such regulations are challenged under the Constitution, courts cannot ‘substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies.’”

It is primarily for these reasons of text, history, and precedent that the court ruled in Dobbs that, “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

By / Jul 13

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—a ruling that overturned the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and 1992 decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood—there has, rightly, been a chorus of rejoicing among pro-life advocates. But the cheers of the pro-life community, it seems, have been matched by the public outcry of those lamenting this court’s monumental decision. From late-night talk show hosts to members of Congress to Hollywood actors and actresses, the mass of objectors, not to mention their collective noise and blatant vitriol, while not surprising, has nevertheless been disconcerting. Combine that with results from the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll (and others like it) that preceded the Supreme Court decision, revealing that 64% of Americans opposed the overturn of Roe, and we have to ask: is the American public really this pro-abortion?

New polling data gathered from a recent Harvard-Harris Poll, published in early July, helps answer this question. And its answer tells a different and more nuanced story than what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on our television and computer screens. 

Americans’ thoughts on Roe

Headlining most of these studies, though the numbers vary, is the reality that a majority of Americans did, in fact, oppose the overturn of Roe v. Wade. For instance:

  • As mentioned above, the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, a survey of more than 1,300 American adults interviewed in May 2022, revealed that 64% of respondents “[did] not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned.”
  • A 2020 survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that 69% of those surveyed opposed the overturn of Roe. 
  • More recently, a survey conducted by the Land Center for Cultural Engagement and Lifeway Christian Research “found that most Americans (52%) don’t favor the overturning of Roe. v. Wade.”
  • Finally, the Harvard-Harris Poll, conducted in June 2022 “among 1308 registered voters,” showed that “over half of voters (55%) oppose[d] SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Like it or not, regardless of the study referenced, it is clear that a majority of Americans, for a variety of reasons, did not favor the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. So, what are we to make of this? Are we to assume that the majority of Americans, by virtue of their opposition to the overturn of Roe, are necessarily pro-abortion? If we dig a little deeper, public opinion is not as disheartening as these numbers may seem to suggest.

Digging deeper

While the headline of many of these polls is the American public’s general support for Roe, it is the additional polling data that sheds light on the public sentiment surrounding the issue of abortion. If we go no further than reading these headlines, we may draw the mistaken conclusion that the majority of respondents in these surveys are not just pro-Roe but pro-abortion. But that’s not what the survey data reveals. For example, Leo O’Malley, a Notre Dame law student and contributor to the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, & Public Policy, observed the following data points from the Harvard-Harris Poll:

  • While 55% of those polled opposed overturning Roe v. Wade, 49% support an abortion ban after six weeks, and 72% support an abortion ban after 15 weeks.
  • Only 10% of respondents support the Democratic position of allowing abortion up until birth. 

The findings of the Harvard-Harris Poll were, in large part, corroborated by a survey conducted by The Economist/YouGov in June 2022, showing that 38%, 54%, and 66% of respondents were in favor of banning abortion after six weeks, three months, and 15 weeks, respectively. 

Likewise, the study conducted by the Land Center and Lifeway Christian Research revealed similar findings.

  • Among those polled, 41% favored restrictions after the sixth week of pregnancy, 52% after the 12th week, 59% after the 15th week, and 65% after the 20th week. 
  • Only 10% of Americans support abortion up until the moment of birth.
  • 69% of Americans say that reducing abortions is important.

Even the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, a poll that seems especially sympathetic to the pro-abortion position, recognized “the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion rights.” After highlighting the strict partisan divide on the issue of abortion, the study goes on to report that, outside of the extremes, “nearly seven in ten (68%) [Americans] support some type of restrictions on abortion.”

Contrary to what is most often projected on our computer and television screens, it seems that the American public has a more nuanced view on the topic of abortion than we are led to believe. What does that mean for the church and the ongoing work of the pro-life movement?

Moving others with love and good deeds

While these numbers don’t reflect the views and opinions of those within our church pews exactly—”evangelicals are the cohort [that] is most pro-life,” as the Land Center/Lifeway Christian Research study made clear—they prove that the so-called consensus on “abortion rights” in this country is a myth, and that people are generally closer to the pro-life position of outlawing abortion than they are the pro-choice position of unfettered abortion access. In other words, the overwhelming majority of Americans are not “insolent opponents” of the pro-life cause. So, then, how should the church proceed? 

The apostle Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22) and that “love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4), that it “is not arrogant” (v.4), “does not act unbecomingly” (v. 5), and it “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” (v. 7). The fruit of the Spirit, Paul also says, is “peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). This is how we proceed. By walking in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25) and bearing his fruit, we perform this needed work with love, kindness, and gentleness, patiently enduring hardships, and hoping for the day when abortion becomes illegal and unthinkable to all Americans all across this country.

The point is, we will not be able to strongarm those with conflicted views on abortion over to “our side.” Instead, we’ll make friends with our neighbors and engage in meaningful conversations with them across our dinner tables. We’ll involve ourselves in our local communities and local schools, building relationships with peers and local leaders. We’ll open our homes to those who need care, whether friends or neighbors or those in our community group. And because we’re keeping in step with the Spirit, we’ll resist the temptation to caricature the people whose views on abortion deviate from our own. If we hope to see these numbers tick closer to the pro-life side of this issue—and I know we do—it won’t happen by force, but by love and good deeds, and the power of the Spirit. 

By / Jul 12

Southern Baptists affirm that every life is worthy of protection, beginning with the preborn. We believe life begins at conception and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God—including the preborn—and God’s knowledge of the preborn even precedes the creative act of conception (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13).

Southern Baptists affirm that every human is created in the image of God. As stated in a 2022 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Bible “affirms that the preborn child is a person, bearing the image of God, from the moment of conception (Luke 1:44); a truth to which Christians in every century have testified and are called to bear witness in every age and in every sphere of life.” Further, the convention’s Baptist Faith & Message affirms that “children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord” and calls us to “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

The Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022 requires states to allow the transportation of abortion pills from other states. This bill would defy existing restrictions in at least 19 states and expand access to abortion pills nationwide. Abortion pills accounted for over half of all abortions in 2020, and are four times more dangerous than surgical abortions.

This bill would also functionally provide a federal protection for the emerging trend known as abortion tourism. Abortion tourism is quickly emerging as a trend promoted by some individuals, companies, and even some lawmakers. This would, in effect, seek to create pathways for access to abortion that sidesteps the compelling interest of governments that want to pursue avenues that save vulnerable preborn lives.

The ERLC strongly opposes the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022. This bill would enshrine access to the dangerous abortion pill in federal law and would promote abortion tourism nationwide. We encourage the Senate to reject this harmful bill that would handcuff state legislatures and put thousands of preborn lives and vulnerable mothers at risk.

By / Jul 12

Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a pair of bills titled the “Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022” and the “Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022.” This vote is expected to be largely along party lines, with every Republican and likely only one Democrat, Rep. Cuellar (D-TX), voting against the harmful bills. Together, these pieces of legislation are some of the most pro-abortion bills ever considered by Congress.

Speaker Pelosi brought these bills to the House floor in response to the recent landmark Supreme Court decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned disastrous abortion precedents and returned the issue to the states.

What is the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022?

The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 removes all restrictions and limits on abortion and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion. This bill also fails to protect the conscience of American taxpayers and would force taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions. Longstanding pro-life protections such as the Hyde Amendment and the Weldon Amendment would be permanently removed.

Despite the bill’s name, vulnerable women and families will only be put at greater risk if the Women’s Health Protection Act were to ever become law. The reality is, abortion is not healthcare. Because dignity is bestowed upon each person when created in the womb, then abortion is not only an assault on those made in the image of God but also causes irreparable harm to a vulnerable life. We believe abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection, and therefore cannot be considered as healthcare.

The role of government should be to protect these vulnerable, preborn babies, not to exploit them by removing restrictions on abortion that put their lives in grave danger.

This bill is extraordinarily pro-abortion and ought to shock and grieve our consciences.

What is the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022?

The Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022 requires states to allow the purchase and mailing of abortion pills from across state lines. The bill weaponizes interstate commerce protections to prevent states from restricting access to FDA-approved abortion pills bought in other states. This bill would defy existing restrictions in at least 19 states and expand access to abortion pills nationwide.

Not only would the bill curb state authority to restrict access to the abortion pill, but it would also prevent states from restricting or impeding interstate travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. Some lawmakers and advocacy groups have proposed laws that would prevent people from traveling out of state to obtain abortions or open out-of-state providers to civil liabilities. This bill would ban such efforts nationwide.

The Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022 would enshrine interstate access to the dangerous abortion pill in federal law and would promote abortion tourism nationwide. The bill is extremely pro-abortion and should be opposed by pro-life advocates.

How is the ERLC involved?

The ERLC is strongly opposed to these bills and any effort to support the abortion industry, including the legalization of abortion. We urge the House to vote down these destructive pieces of legislation and would ask the Senate to note give any consideration to these bills. Their passage would endanger thousands of vulnerable preborn lives, handcuff state legislatures from enacting pro-life protections, and steamroll over the the consciences of millions of Americans who do not wish to pay for or be compelled to provide abortions.

The ERLC will always advocate for life before Congress, the courts, and in the public square, and we are working toward a day when abortion is illegal and lives are saved, mothers are no longer told the lie that it is necessary by a predatory abortion industry, and our culture views this grievous practice as completely unthinkable. We desire to see a culture of life created where mothers are supported, resources are provided that promote the flourishing of families, and where every life is honored and valued. 

By / Jul 8

From Jan. 22, 1973, until June 24, 2022, abortion law was uniform across the United States. But in their ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court returned the “authority to regulate abortion . . . to the people and their elected representatives.” That does not mean, though, that the people or their elected representatives will immediately get to decide if abortion will be illegal in their state. 

A recent flurry of lawsuits filed by abortion providers has led some judges to block or stall newly implemented abortion bans and restrictions. Here are five states in which the legal status of abortion is being challenged.

Florida

Florida passed a law earlier this year banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation. When the law was challenged by abortion providers, a state judge issued a temporary statewide injunction preventing the law from taking effect.

The state’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, filed an appeal on behalf of the state, automatically staying the judge’s order under Florida state law. 

Current status: Abortion is legal in Florida in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Kentucky

After the Dobbs ruling, Kentucky’s trigger law went into effect, banning nearly all abortions in the state. By the next Monday, though, the state’s two remaining abortion clinics filed a lawsuit claiming the trigger law was unconstitutional since a right to privacy and bodily autonomy was protected by the Kentucky Constitution. A state judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the trigger law from remaining in effect. 

In response, the state’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, filed an emergency motion to undo the injunction. That motion was rejected by the Kentucky Court of Appeal, as was a request to the state’s Supreme Court. Cameron said on Twitter, “we’ve now asked all three levels of Kentucky’s judiciary to allow these laws to take effect. Not a single judge at any level has suggested these laws are unconstitutional, yet we are unfortunately still prohibited from enforcing them.”

A hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday to determine whether the law will remain blocked pending litigation of the lawsuit.

Current status: Abortion remains legal in Kentucky.

Mississippi

The Mississippi legislature passed a law in 2007 banning all abortions except for when a pregnant woman’s life is in danger or if the pregnancy is caused by a rape that has been reported to law enforcement. That law went into effect after the Dobbs ruling and was immediately challenged by the state’s only abortion clinic.

A state judge denied the request by the clinic to allow them to continue providing abortion while the lawsuit was being decided. 

Current status: Abortion is illegal in Mississippi.

Ohio

Hours after the Dobbs ruling, a federal judge in Ohio allow the previously blocked six-week abortion ban to take effect. ​The Ohio law bans abortions at approximately six weeks’ gestation, when a fetal heartbeat is detectable. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit claiming abortion is protected by the Ohio Constitution. 

An emergency stay on the law was denied by the Ohio Supreme Court while litigation against it moves forward.

Current status: Abortion remains legal in Ohio for the first six weeks of pregnancy.

Texas

Texas has a never-repealed law from 1925 that bans abortion and makes performing an abortion, by any method, punishable by two to 10 years in prison. After the Dobbs ruling, a group of abortion providers challenged that law. A state judge in Houston ruled that the pre-Roe abortion ban “is repealed and may not be enforced consistent with the due process guaranteed by the Texas constitution.” That allowed abortions to continue in clinics at four Texas cities until a hearing scheduled for July 12.

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision. Their ruling does not allow prosecutors to bring criminal cases against abortion providers, but it exposes anyone who assists in the procurement of an abortion to fines and lawsuits. 

Current status: Abotion is currently illegal in Texas. 

By / Jul 8

On the morning of June 24, 2022, the abortion landscape in the Unted States changed drastically with the release of the final opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case. This decision overturned the horrific precedents in both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and ultimately sent the issue of abortion back to each state to decide. Since that moment, states, federal legislators, abortion providers, pregnancy resource centers, protestors, and others immediately began to feel the effects. This, in turn, has created an overwhelming flurry of activity on a number of fronts in the abortion debate over the past week. 

It is easy to believe that the overturning of Roe means that the fight to end abortion is over, but the reality is that much remains to be done and decided on the issue. The ending of Roe is a massive step worth celebrating, but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter in the pro-life movement. In order for Christians to wisely engage this issue, it is important for us to be aware of how the advocacy efforts around abortion are quickly changing. Below is a round-up of some of the most important developments that have come about since the Dobbs decision. 

In the states

Before the Dobbs decision, states were limited in their ability to regulate abortion, but a key outcome of the opinion was a returning of this issue to the people and their democratic representatives in the states. This means that a diverse array of state laws now govern the issue of abortion, all of which provide exceptions for when a woman’s life is at risk and do not criminalize women seeking abortions

Immediately following the decision and over the next few days, a number of “trigger laws” that totally ban abortion, with slightly differing exceptions for cases of rape and incest, went into effect in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Missouri, Utah, Mississippi, Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, North Dakota, and Wyoming. In Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Arizona, abortion is currently banned due to pre-Roe bans that have remained on the books. It is likely that in some of these states, officials will ask the courts to rule on whether these laws can be reimplemented. Already, courts have temporarily blocked some of these bans in Utah, Arizona, Kentucky, and Louisiana. 

In Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, restrictions but not complete bans are currently in place, and several lawsuits have been filed to try and keep these bans from being enacted. Several other states, such as Tennessee and Mississippi, have gestational limit laws in effect until their total bans are ultimately enacted.

While we celebrate these states working to protect life, we must also acknowledge that this decision allows other states to regulate abortion as they see fit and even make their states “abortion destinations.” In Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, the right to abortion is protected under state constitution or law up until various gestational points. Even further, California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington not only protect access to abortion but are also expanding their laws to shield abortion providers from other state’s bans, create a “sanctuary” for those seeking abortions, and increase mandated insurance coverage for abortion.

One final group of states—Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—remain largely undecided on what their abortion stance will be. Currently, all of these states are allowing abortions up until various gestational limits, but either the courts, state legislatures, or voters may change those restrictions in the coming days.

In Congress

Though Democrats have had much to say on the end of Roe, the realities of a narrow majority in the House of Representatives and an evenly divided Senate prevent them from taking any real action to preserve access to abortion in states where it is now restricted or prohibited. It is important to note that while the Dobbs decision does return the issue to the states currently, it does not prohibit future federal legislation banning, restricting, or codifying abortion. Some Democrats, including President Biden, have urged Senate Democrats to carve out an exception to the legislative filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to end debate and proceed to a vote on most partisan legislation, and codify Roe with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes currently required. However, Sens. Manchin (D-WV) and Sinema (D-AZ) remain strongly opposed to this path.

Speaker Pelosi has committed to exploring legislation around data privacy concerns connected to apps such as period trackers and sensitive location data. She also has considered once again bringing the Women’s Health Protection Act to the floor for a vote. This bill is the most pro-abortion bill to pass the House, and it has failed in the Senate two times this Congress. There is no reason to believe that it would be successful with an additional attempt.

Additionally, Sens. Warren and Markey of Massachusetts introduced a bill targeting pregnancy resource centers for “disinformation”  and deception about services provided and preventing women from seeking abortions. This bill is unlikely to become law but has gained support from 15 Senate Democrats. For now, congressional Democrats are largely confined to using this issue to attempt to mobilize voters in November in hopes of winning large enough majorities to pass these pieces of legislation.

If Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives in November, as many predict, some members of Congress have suggested taking up federal abortion restrictions such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act or the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. Though those bills might pass the House, they would face an uncertain future in the Senate, and would almost assuredly be vetoed by President Biden.

In the White House and administration

Following the ruling, the president has acknowledged there is little that he is able to do, and similarly to Congressional Democrats, urged voters to elect a filibuster-proof majority in November to codify Roe. The president also joined calls to create an exception to the filibuster in order to protect abortion rights.

Within the limited authority of the presidency, Biden committed to two primary steps: ensuring that women can travel to another state to receive an abortion and protecting access to FDA-approved abortion pills. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rejected calls to use federal lands, national parks, and Veterans Affairs hospitals to provide abortion services due to the “dangerous ramifications.” The administration also launched a new website clearly laying out a woman’s “reproductive rights” and providing features such as an abortion finder and information on insurance coverage of abortion. 

The attorney general and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have made similar commitments as Biden and are exploring avenues to ensure that states cannot ban medication abortion and to increase access to these abortifacents. The HHS also released new guidance on HIPPA enforcement “making it clear that providers are not required to disclose private medical information to third parties.” This guidance comes in light of some concern expressed by some women that period tracker or health information apps could threaten privacy rights and put them at risk if they seek to travel for an abortion.

Abortion clinics and pregnancy resource centers

Immediately following the decision, reports began to emerge of abortion clinics across various states either closing entirely or stopping their abortion services. Many abortion providers are considering how they can increase capacity in states where abortion is allowed in order to meet the demand of both local women and those traveling from out of state to receive an abortion. 

Pregnancy resource centers around the country are continuingto serve more vulnerable women who may choose to use their services now that abortion providers are no longer open. At the same time, many of these clinics have faced threats and violence in the wake of the decision. 

What comes next?

All of these efforts will continue to unfold simultaneously, creating new challenges and opportunities for the pro-life movement to evolve in this new season. One such challenge that the pro-life community will have to consider is the rise of the abortion pill and efforts to expand access to it in states where abortion is now illegal, as referenced by many pro-abortion officials. The abortion pill already accounted for over half of abortions in 2019 and is approved by the FDA for use for up to 10 weeks in a woman’s pregnancy. Recent changes now allow these abortifacients to be received through the mail from other states—even other countries—and can be done without an in-person doctor’s visit in many states. This represents a massive challenge toeliminating abortions and poses new legal territory for pro-life states to navigate. The ERLC has strongly opposed the proliferation of abortion pillsand will continue to advocate against their usage.

While we celebrate the reality of a post-Roe America, we must redouble our efforts to eventually reach a post-abortion America. As the landscape around abortion across the United States continues to change rapidly, the ERLC remains committed to ending abortion, saving lives, serving mothers, and supporting families while equipping churches to continue standing in the gap and praying for vulnerable mothers and their children.

ERLC interns Daniel Hostetter, Cooper Shull, and Rebecca Fried contributed to this article.

By / Jul 5

In the recent breathtaking development from the U.S. Supreme Court, a leaked draft opinion for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case indicated that abortion rights would be reversed.

In the fallout, headlines appeared warning women that if the rulings Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overturned, their access to healthcare would be compromised—not just for abortion, but also their treatments for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.

While news reports declare “Overturning Roe v. Wade Will Make It Harder to Treat Miscarriage” and “Overturning Roe Could Make Ectopic Pregnancies Extremely Dangerous,” some pro-life advocates are saying there should be no cause for concern—and that to say otherwise is to play into the agenda of abortion advocates.

As a Christian woman who’s been involved in the pro-life movement for well over a decade, both professionally and personally, it deeply matters to me that the pro-life movement always provides the utmost care and concern for both a woman and her preborn child.

You can read the rest of this article here.

By / Jul 1

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the historic ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs, overturning the abortion precedents set in Roe and Casey. They celebrate the decision and discuss the call of the church in a post-Roe world. They also talk about the victory for religious liberty at the Supreme Court in the Coach Kennedy case. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.