By / Dec 31

On Christmas Eve, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed legislation that would expand access to abortion in the state. On Dec. 29, the Massachusetts legislature overrode Gov. Baker’s veto, with a Senate vote of 32-8 and a House vote of 107-46. The abortion-expanding measure was included in the recently passed $46 billion budget. 

The ROE Act codified abortion into state law and allows for abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a cases of of “fatal fetal anomalies,” and when a physician deems it necessary “to preserve the patient’s physical or mental health.” In addition, the ROE Act lowers the age at which minors can obtain an abortion without parental consent from 18 to 16.

Gov. Baker, in a letter to the legislature, stated that he “strongly” supports a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, including the provision in the bill that would make abortions available after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus would not survive after birth. But in his letter he stated, “I cannot support the sections of this proposal that expand the availability of later-term abortions and permit minors age 16 and 17 to get an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian.” Baker requested changes to this measure, including changing the qualifying condition for a later-term abortion to “if a continuation of the pregnancy will impose, in the best medical judgment of the physician, a substantial risk to” the patient’s physical or mental health.

Current Massachusetts state law only allows for abortions after 24 weeks if “necessary to save the life of the mother, or if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.” But the ROE Act expands access to abortion and includes minors in the expanded access. 

Why does this matter?

Gov. Baker has stated that the ROE Act “would give Massachusetts some of the broadest and most significant reproductive health rights in the United States.” More than 400 Massachusetts pastors called on Gov. Baker to veto the legislation, calling it a “shocking and callous disregard for human life and the importance of parental involvement in the lives of children.”

Interestingly, Massachusetts was one of the first states to pass limits on legal abortions in the 1970s, including required parental consent for minors. Parents should have the right to protect their daughters from the dangerous practices of the abortion industry. 

This decision by the Massachusetts legislature comes after states like New York and Virginia passed increasingly expansive abortion legislation. Those states have advocated for safe and legal abortion at every gestational stage. Yet, polling shows us that the majority of Americans are opposed to late-term abortion, and 80% of Americans support abortion being limited to the first three months of pregnancy.

As Christians, we must not place our ultimate hope in legislation, but we also must not neglect the God-ordained role of government in restraining evil and shaping the conscience of society on vital issues like human dignity. We believe that every unborn child has innate dignity and worth and ought to be protected in the womb, and beyond. The ERLC is committed to protecting the life of the unborn and will continue to work to ensure that state and federal laws reflect that commitment.

By / Oct 29

Recently The New York Times published an article looking at the potential ramifications of an event that millions of Catholics, evangelicals, and human dignity advocates have been working toward for almost 50 years: the reversal of Roe v. Wade. As you might assume, the article was occasioned by the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. 

Prior to her tenure as a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the newly appointed Associate Supreme Court Justice had been vocal about her personal opposition to abortion. During her hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, for example, Barrett was asked at numerous points about a newspaper advertisement she had signed which read, “We, the following citizens of Michiana, oppose abortion on demand and defend the right to life from fertilization to natural death. Please continue to pray to end abortion.”

Overturning Roe

It is well known that the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade legalized abortions in the first, and in many cases the second trimesters of pregnancy in the United States. Lesser known is the fact that in 1992 the court issued a decision in another case involving abortion, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe’s “essential holding” about a woman’s right to an abortion before viability and established a new basis from which to measure abortion restrictions known as the “undue burden” standard. Though the pro-life movement is more of a mosaic than a monolith in terms of the persons, organizations, and activities of which it is comprised, a common goal that animates the entire movement is the reversal of these two Supreme Court rulings. 

The reason for this is simple. According to the Times article, abortions in the United States would almost immediately decrease by roughly 14% if Roe were overturned. That comes out to roughly 100,000 less abortions every year. Or to put it more accurately, it means that a single decision from the Supreme Court has the ability to save 100,000 human lives per year in one fell swoop. By themselves these statistics are staggering, but the reversal of these precedents would represent a major, if preliminary, step in the fight to rid America of the scourge of abortion.

Next steps

Though the pro-life movement is united in its opposition to Roe, the aims of the movement go far beyond achieving the destruction of this abhorrent legal precedent. If Roe were overturned, abortion would not become illegal across the country. Instead, the authority to restrict or expand access to abortions would once again be determined by individual states. Ten states currently have “trigger laws” on the books that would immediately ban most abortions without Roe in place. Another dozen states are either working toward or likely to pass similar laws to restrict abortions “in a new legal environment.” 

In an America after Roe, almost half of the 50 states would likely have protections for unborn human beings secured by law. Even so, under such circumstances the fight to end abortion would shift from a national campaign to targeted efforts to end or further restrict abortions in the remaining states. One of the reasons that the reversal of Roe is so critical is that many states have struggled to implement even the most common sense efforts to reduce the number of abortions because of successful legal challenges to these laws citing Roe and Casey as precedent. As recently as this summer, the Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law that would have required “abortion providers to meet the same medical standards as all other ambulatory surgical centers, which includes securing admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.”

Beyond making abortion illegal, our goal is to make abortion unthinkable.

The pro-life movement has already made remarkable progress in fighting against abortion at the state level. But as long as Roe remains intact, pro-life laws passed by state legislatures will continue to be subject to legal challenges to prevent their implementation. Pro-life advocates are sometimes criticized for focusing so much attention on achieving a victory at the Supreme Court, but the reality is that the reversal of Roe is essential to the ultimate success of their cause. Short of a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion—presently a near impossibilty—the Supreme Court charting a new course on abortion is the only viable path forward.

The goal

Make no mistake, overturning Roe is an absolute necessity for the pro-life movement. But this is not because the aim of the movement is to secure some long-sought legal victory. Instead, it is because the goal of the pro-life movement is to save lives. Since Roe was handed down in 1973, more that 50 million children have been lost to abortion in the United States. Fifty million brothers and sisters and sons and daughters whose names and faces and potential we will never know. It is a tragedy on a scale that is nearly beyond comprehension. In a very real sense, fighting to end Roe is itself an effort to end a culture of death.

In contrast to the bleak reality of abortion is the hope and optimism of the pro-life movement. Rooted in human dignity, the pro-life movement is pro-baby and pro-woman, because the pro-life movement is pro-people. Our aim is to change hearts and minds. Our aim is to support mothers and to ensure families, especially those in difficult situations, receive the care they need and deserve. 

Beyond making abortion illegal, our goal is to make abortion unthinkable. But there is no escaping the fact that the reversal of Roe is critical to these efforts. Even if Roe is never overturned, the pro-life movement will never cease fighting to advance the cause of life. But with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the court, there is a renewed sense of hope that now, after almost 50 years, we might see the end of Roe.

May it be so.

By / Oct 14

Since shortly after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, Catholics, evangelicals, and many others in the United States have looked forward to a day when that ruling would be overturned. But in the intervening years, the Supreme Court of the United States has not moved any closer to doing so. Instead, it has reaffirmed the essential holding in Roe and buttressed its arguments in favor of a constitutional right to abortion with its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Even so, opponents of abortion have not met these legal setbacks with silence. Over the course of nearly five decades, they have created a flourishing, comprehensive, and nationwide movement centered around a positive message about the value of human life.

As we watch the Senate Judiciary Committee conduct confirmation hearings this week for Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, many pro-life advocates are once again considering the possibility of a United States where Roe v. Wade has been overturned. But what would achieving that kind of legal victory mean for pro-life advocates that have sought it for nearly 50 years? Writing recently for Christianity Today, Russell Moore suggested, “in some ways, the day after Roe will be the beginning of the pro-life movement, not the end of it.” 

He is exactly right. Many people wrongly assume that a reversal of Roe would make abortion illegal in the United States. It would not. Instead, it would simply hand back the legal authority to restrict or protect abortion access to the states. Presently, some states have laws on the books—nine of which pre-date the Court’s 1973 ruling—that would immediately ban or significantly restrict abortion access if Roe were overturned. At the same time, 15 states have enacted protections for abortion in their state constitutions. This means that the legal battle to end abortion goes much further than the Supreme Court.

Pro-life work 

But there is a more important reason to think that the reversal of Roe would actually mark a new beginning for the pro-life movement. To reiterate what Moore said, in an America after Roe, the work of the pro-life movement will be needed more, not less.

Right now, in cities and towns across the country, selfless and sacrificial men and women give of their time, money, energy, and resources in support of the cause of life. They do this in innumerable ways, but all of their efforts are aimed at defending and preserving life. And all of this work is motivated by their common belief that every life is precious and sacred.

Honestly, I am in awe of the pro-life movement. Though it isn’t perfect, I find it remarkable that countless thousands of people of all kinds of faiths, backgrounds, and beliefs have come together to use their time and talents to protect and care for the vulnerable. They do this through advocacy and by showing up in Washington every year at the annual March for Life to honor and speak for those who cannot march or speak for themselves. They do this through legal efforts by supporting candidates and legislation intended to protect the lives of preborn children. And perhaps most importantly, they do this through innumerable forms of humanitarian work from adoption and orphan care to mentoring, counseling, and meeting material needs for mothers, fathers, children, and families in difficult situations.

Whether Roe is overturned or not, the work of the pro-life movement can and must go on.

A perfect example of this incredible work is the proliferation of crisis pregnancy centers. Often, numerous churches and community members band together to establish and support the work of these organizations. Crisis pregnancy centers are beacons of hope in their communities. They represent a refuge for young women facing unplanned pregnancies, a safe haven where they can turn for love, care, and support. And having witnessed this work firsthand in many different locations, I can attest that—contrary to the way they are sometimes portrayed in the media—these centers are amazing, life-giving places where young mothers and fathers are met with understanding and compassion. Because of the generosity of people who believe that every life matters, these centers are staffed by trained and competent professionals who put the love of Christ on display each day for those who don’t know where to turn, offering each person walking through their doors the resources and support they need at one of the most difficult moments in their lives. 

Seeing abortion access restricted would not mean the end of unplanned pregancies. Instead, pro-life advocates would need to be prepared to expand the critical work they are already doing. By God’s grace, we will see needs and opportunities multiply to love and serve our neighbors. More mothers will need support. More children will need care. More schools will need volunteers. More fathers will need mentors. These are just a few of the obvious reasons that pro-life work will last far beyond the end of Roe. As pro-life advocates—and especially as the people of God—we must be prepared for such a moment. 


There is, of course, no guarantee this will happen. It is known that Judge Barrett is personally opposed to abortion. And it is also apparent that the ideological makeup of the court would make it more favorably disposed toward such a legal challenge to abortion rights than it has been in decades. Still, neither Judge Barrett nor any of the current justices of the court have expressed any kind of commitment or intent to overturn Roe or restrict access to abortion. And we shouldn’t assume that they will.

Regardless of what happens, the work of the pro-life movement is critical. And it is not contingent on the legality of abortion. Roe v. Wade is the most tragic ruling in American history. Since 1973, more than 50 million children have been killed through abortion in United States. In response, millions of Americans have been galvanized to action to uphold the dignity of our unborn neighbors. Whether Roe is overturned or not, the work of the pro-life movement can and must go on.

By / Jan 18

What is the March for Life?

The March for Life is an annual pro-life event held in Washington, D.C., in January. The overall goal of the march is to “end abortion by uniting, educating, and mobilizing pro-life people in the public square.”

This year’s March will take place on Friday, January 18. The event begins with the March for Life Rally, at 11 a.m. on the National Mall. Following the Rally, the March up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and Capitol Building begins at approximately 1 p.m.

Various local events related to the March for Life are also held throughout the United States.

The March for Life Education and Defense Fund’s is also a nonprofit organization that conducts year-round pro-life education and legislative work, as well as hosting the annual March every January.

Why is the March for Life held in January?

Each year the March is held on or around the anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in the case Roe v. Wade. The first March for Life was held in the nation’s capital on Jan. 22, 1974—exactly one year after the Roe decision was announced.

How did the March for Life get started?

The annual event was started by pro-life activist Nellie Gray. Following the Supreme Court decision in Roe in 1973, Gray retired from her federal career and dedicated the remainder of her life to the protection of the unborn.

In October 1973, a group of 30 pro-life leaders gathered in Gray’s home in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Roe. According to the March for Life organization, “There was a fear that January 22 would pass as any other day rather than allow for a moment to reflect upon how legalized abortion had hurt women and taken babies’ lives over the course of the year. That was the day that plans for the first March for Life began.”

Following the Supreme Court decision in Roe in 1973, Gray retired from her federal career and dedicated the remainder of her life to the protection of the unborn. Before her death in 2012, Gray had attended every March for Life, which at the time totaled 38 rallies.

How many people attend the March for Life?

The original March in 1974 was attended by 20,000 pro-lifers. By 2003, the event brought in around 250,000 attendees each year. In the past few years, however, an estimated 300,000-400,000 people braved the cold to attend the D.C March.

How is Evangelicals for Life connected to the March for Life?

The annual Evangelicals For Life Conference began in 2016 in order to coincide with the March for Life. This three-day conference exists to help evangelicals articulate a truly Christian doctrine on the dignity of all human life. This year’s event, held at McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia, had 50 speakers and ended with attendees joining other pro-lifers for the March for Life.

ERLC also hosts a series of Congressional constituent meetings surrounding Evangelicals for Life and March for Life to promote pro-life issues, foster care and adoption, and a range of other policies related to human dignity.

By / Sep 26

Many of us have made mistakes and chosen sin in a moment, only to find ourselves in a situation that will transform our entire lives. For many young men and women, this means an unplanned pregnancy. At Evangelicals for Life, Amy Ford, who started a ministry for single and unwed mothers, shared her testimony about God’s work in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy when she was 19. We hope you are encouraged by her message.

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By / Feb 3

In May 2015, health officials reported confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in areas of northeast Brazil. By the end of 2015, further reports emerged regarding an increased number of Brazilian infants born with abnormally small heads and neurologic impairment. Since the beginning of the outbreak, active transmission of Zika virus has spread to other regions of the Americas, and health officials indicate that continued spread to the United States is likely. In the face of this threat, here are some basic considerations to help you understand what is happening.

1. What is Zika virus and how is it transmitted?

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne pathogen currently causing outbreaks in several countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. Zika is a flavivirus, which means it is in the same family of viruses as dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses. The primary mode of Zika virus transmission is through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito—the same species that can serve as the vector for other tropical and subtropical viruses such as dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya. Direct transmission of Zika virus through sexual contact has been reported, and it is also likely that pregnant women can pass the infection to infants in the womb.

2. Where did Zika virus come from?

Zika virus is not a new pathogen. It was first identified in a rhesus monkey in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda. Sporadic human infections occurred in Africa and Southeast Asia, and the first human outbreak was recorded on a Micronesian island in 2007. Additional outbreaks in the Pacific Islands occurred, all of which were associated with mild, self-limited disease.

Beginning with the outbreak in Brazil in May 2015, the virus was introduced into new geographic regions conducive to sustained transmission of the infection. Conditions in the newly affected areas in South and Central America are likely to lead to continued spread of the infection because the areas are home to the vector of transmission (the Aedes mosquito), as well as large populations of susceptible people within which the infection can proliferate. Given the likelihood of international travel among asymptomatic infected individuals and the fact that the range of certain species of Aedes mosquitoes extends into southern portions of the United States, it is probable that pockets of local transmission of Zika virus will eventually occur in certain parts of the United States.

3. What medical problems are associated with Zika virus infection?

Most people who become infected with Zika virus have no discernable symptoms and are therefore unaware of the infection. About 20 percent of infected individuals will have clinically apparent disease, but even in these cases the illness is typically mild. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. These symptoms typically begin within one week of being bitten by an infected mosquito. When symptomatic, the illness usually lasts a few days to a week and resolves on its own. In rare cases, infection with Zika virus may act as a trigger for Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune illness characterized by muscle weakness and paralysis. Most people with GBS make a full recovery.

A noteworthy pattern emerging in some areas affected by the current Zika virus outbreak is the increase in the number of infants born with a condition called microcephaly. Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby is born with an abnormally small head, indicating some degree of impaired brain development during gestation. There are many known causes of microcephaly, including congenital infections (infections passed from a pregnant mother to her developing child while in the womb), poor nutrition and certain drugs or toxins. While the increased incidence of microcephaly in areas of Zika virus outbreak indicate a possible association, it is important to note that microcephaly rates have not yet increased in all areas of outbreak. Zika outbreaks prior to 2015 did not report increases in the incidence of microcephaly. Further investigations are underway in attempt to definitively determine if there is a causal link.

4. What measures are being taken to control the outbreak?

There are no specific antiviral therapies for Zika virus disease. The standard course of care for symptomatic individuals involves supportive therapies such as rest, hydration and fever and pain reducing medications. Eighty percent of infected individuals have no symptoms and require no additional care.

No vaccine is available for the prevention of Zika virus infections in humans. In areas with active or potential Zika virus transmission, the most effective methods of preventing the spread of infection center around avoidance of mosquito bites via mechanical and chemical barriers. Mechanical mosquito barriers include bed nets, air conditioned interior spaces, screened doors and windows, as well as wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants. Chemical interventions are intended to prevent mosquito bites (through the use of insect repellants) and reduce the overall number of mosquitoes present in a community (through pesticide fumigation practices).

While studies of the possible association between infection and birth defects are ongoing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Advisory urging pregnant women to postpone travel to areas with active transmission of Zika virus. If postponement of such a trip is not possible, pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant are advised to speak with a healthcare provider prior to traveling and should carefully follow all instructions on how to avoid mosquito bites.

5. How should Christians respond to the Zika virus outbreak?

While the impending spread of Zika virus and the potential harm to congenitally infected infants represent real public health challenges, we should be careful to wisely consider the proposals for infection control and prevention. Commendable responses to this outbreak are marked by resolve, not panic. Yes, we should recognize the potential severity of the threat and act accordingly, but we should also refuse to allow fear to trump our core convictions of compassion and the dignity of all human life.

The avoidance of unnecessary travel into areas of active transmission is a prudent step in curtailing the spread of Zika virus to further areas. And yet, even if we cancel our Brazilian vacations, we would do well to take interest in the growing burden of disease and be willing to come to the aid of others in need. Even as some pray that the outbreak stays “their” problem, others are thinking of ways to partner with affected communities, healthcare workers and researchers to help stop the spread of infection and care for the people impacted by it. Whether serving on the field (as many colleagues in the medical field do in various ways) or contributing in tangible ways from afar, the point is that our response should not be primarily driven by a self-centeredness that neglects the needs of those around us, but by Christ-like compassion for the suffering of others.

In addition to the temptation to ignore the problem and hope it doesn’t come our way, other proposals for mitigating the effects of the outbreak have the potential to raise significant ethical questions. Several countries have recommended that citizens postpone pregnancies while Zika virus continues to circulate. Some of the countries, such as El Salvador, are predominantly Roman Catholic, which potentially puts the government’s recommendation at odds with the religious convictions of many people regarding birth control.

Even if one does not oppose all forms of birth control, it would be wise to consider whether these proposals will cause an increase in the use of abortifacient birth control measures. These measures include birth control medications and devices that have the potential to prevent the development of a fertilized egg, as well as surgical procedures designed specifically to do away with an infant found to have a birth defect in the womb. Sacrificing the life of an offspring to avoid the possibility of infection or the prospect of living with disability is a wicked trade. The God-given dignity of human life is more valuable than having our fear of earthly suffering assuaged.

By / Jan 19

Every year since 1976, a small provision is added to the federal budget bill; and year after year, this little-known amendment is passed with little fanfare or controversy. 

Several weeks ago, however, Hillary Clinton mentioned this amendment during a speech, calling for its complete abolishment. 

Although this announcement didn’t make major waves in the media, the fulfillment of her vision would leave a devastating wake for the rights of millions of Americans – both born and unborn.

First sponsored in 1976 by Congressman Henry Hyde, the Hyde Amendment is a provision added to every federal budget bill. It prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from directly funding abortions, except in the instance of rape, incest, or the health of the mother.

Opponents of the Hyde Amendment claim that it unfairly targets low-income women as they are unable to utilize Medicaid funds to pay for abortions. Many pro-abortion advocates claim that these restrictions impede these women’s right to an abortion as established in Roe v. Wade.

Yet the Supreme Court has said otherwise. In a 1980 case challenging the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, the Court ruled that a woman’s right to choose to abort her baby does not carry with it entitlement to have that abortion paid for with taxpayer dollars. The Court held in Harris v. McRae:

The funding restrictions of the Hyde Amendment do not impinge on the "liberty" protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment held in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 168, to include the freedom of a woman to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. […]

Regardless of whether the freedom of a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy for health reasons lies at the core or the periphery of the due process liberty recognized in Wade, supra, it does not follow that a woman's freedom of choice carries with it a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices. 

And just a year before Harris v. McRae was decided, the Court ruled in Maher v. Roe that Roe v. Wade does not establish a woman’s right to a free abortion. Maher took up the question of whether the Constitution requires a state Medicaid program to pay for abortions when it covers childbirth costs for women. The Court held:

Roe did not declare an unqualified "constitutional right to an abortion," as the District Court seemed to think. Rather, the right protects the woman from unduly burdensome interference with her freedom to decide whether to terminate her pregnancy. It implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.

Harris and Maher, along with a line of cases that followed, made clear that taxpayer funding of abortion (i.e. the abandonment of the Hyde Amendment) is a huge leap from Roe v. Wade that the State is not obligated to take.  

Roe said that the government cannot impede a woman’s choice to abort her child by, for example, criminalizing abortion. But Roe did not establish a positive right to an abortion, meaning the government would then have to finance that abortion for any woman that chooses to have one at any point in her pregnancy.

This is a critical distinction.

Post-Roe abortion cases make it very clear that federal and state governments may decide to not allow government officials, buildings, or funds be used in abortions. Why? Because governments have traditionally supported public policies that incentivize and encourage childbirth. The future of society depends on future generations.

But it goes even deeper than this. Our nation was founded upon the fundamental idea that governments exist to protect God-given rights, chief among them the right to life, no matter what your age, social class, religion, etc.

Are we as a society really ready and willing to say that somehow lives born into difficult circumstances are so invaluable that we are willing to use federal tax dollars to incentivize the termination of these lives? Such a step would abandon all reverence for life enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and more than two centuries of public policy.

Beyond this, it’s difficult to even begin grasping the numerous constitutional liberties implicated if our taxpayer dollars funded abortions. After all, there’s a big difference between your hard-earned dollars paying for political spending you voted against in the last election and your money funding the elimination of thousands of vulnerable human lives each year. This isn’t political; this is a matter of conscience and conviction relating to human dignity.

As Congressman Henry Hyde said during a House floor debate about abortion, “[This] is a debate about our understanding of human dignity, what it means to be a member of the human family, even though tiny, powerless and unwanted.”

The end of the Hyde Amendment would mean federally funded abortion on demand.

The move to abolish the Hyde Amendment is yet another signal that abortion advocates are moving away from their mantra of “safe, legal, and rare,” to something more akin to abortion “any time, for any reason, at no cost.” 

But the problem with that refrain is that it is false advertising. Abortion always has a cost. It costs a mother her child, her child its life, and society the basic understanding of what it means to be human.

By / Jan 13

In January, we remember the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and we pause to hold high the value of human life. In just a week and a half, the ERLC and Focus on the Family are hosting the first annual Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington, D.C. Tickets are still available, and if you can’t make it to Washington, there are options to live-stream the event.

But as we rightly focus on U.S. law, U.S. policy, and working to overturn Roe, we should also pause to consider the global unborn. Here are three things you need to know about abortion worldwide.

1. More than 40 million abortions are performed worldwide each year.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008, 43.8 million abortions were performed worldwide. This is an increase of 2.2 million abortions per year since 2003. Of this worldwide number, 1.21 million were performed in the United States.

To put this in perspective, about 59 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973. In other words, every two years, the number of worldwide abortions exceeds U.S. abortions since Roe v. Wade.

Staggeringly, 30 percent of all pregnancies in Europe end in abortion. The rate in Eastern Europe is even higher. Eighty-six percent of abortions are performed in the developing world.

2. International legal scholars agree that there is no international right to abortion.

Although it is common to hear or read that there is a “right to abortion” under international law, no such treaty exists. In 2011, an international group of elected officials, policymakers, and legal experts gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica, to produce an authoritative, legally reasoned statement that there is no international right to abortion. The proceeds of the gathering is called the San Jose Articles, an excellent resource on international law and abortion.

The occasion for the San Jose Articles was movement in the international community, particularly within the UN, to pressure governments to legalize abortion based on international legal obligations. For instance, Article 6 states:

The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) and other treaty monitoring bodies have directed governments to change their laws on abortion.  These bodies have explicitly or implicitly interpreted the treaties to which they are subject as including a right to abortion.

Treaty monitoring bodies have no authority, either under the treaties that created them or under general international law, to interpret these treaties in ways that create new state obligations or that alter the substance of the treaties.

Accordingly, any such body that interprets a treaty to include a right to abortion acts beyond its authority and contrary to its mandate. Such ultra vires acts do not create any legal obligations for states parties to the treaty, nor should states accept them as contributing to the formation of new customary international law.

3. Abortion providers are seeking to legalize abortion worldwide.

Abortion providers and abortions rights activists are working to make abortion on demand legal worldwide. Consider the revelations that came from the Planned Parenthood videos: Planned Parenthood operates like a business (“just a matter of line items”), and businesses seek to increase revenues and develop new revenue streams.

Cigarette companies have dramatically decreased their investment in the American cigarette market. Indoor smoking bans, restrictions on marketing, mandatory labeling requirements, and dramatic losses in American lawsuits have decreased the profit margins for selling cigarettes in the United States. So what have cigarette companies done? They moved overseas. Transnational cigarette companies are now focusing their efforts on developing the cigarette markets in China, Russia, India, and Indonesia.

Likewise, abortion providers are now focused on legalizing abortion in developing “markets” in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. The Center for Reproductive Rights is actively engaged in global advocacy to legalize abortion. Planned Parenthood also has a global advocacy organization.


Legal reform to ensure that U.S. law respects and upholds the sanctity of human life is critical. But let us not forget that we have tens of millions of unborn neighbors worldwide whose lives will be cut short.

And if we ignore the global aspect of this situation, the problem will only grow worse; we can be sure that pro-abortion advocates are doing their best worldwide to improve and develop their markets.

At the same time, the pro-life community should recognize that women’s health issues are a significant concern in the developing world. And so let us invest in and stand with women’s health programs across the world that hold high the dignity of human life.

By / Jan 6

In the Spring of 1961, Hannah Arendt sat in a courtroom in Jerusalem observing the trial of Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann was a notorious war criminal, an S.S. officer responsible for coordinating the transportation of millions of souls to death camps across Europe. Israeli Intelligence agents tracked him to Argentina, kidnapped him and flew him to Israel for a trial.

Arendt, a German-Jewish philosopher who had fled the Third Reich, was one of the world’s foremost thinkers on the politics of the 20th century. Her first book, a massive tome on The Origins of Totalitarianism, described its mechanisms — terror, fear, propaganda — and its origins — nationalism and imperialism. She saw it as the embodiment of what Immanuel Kant called “radical evil.” But sitting in that courtroom, she felt something in the foundations of her thought crumble. Eichmann wasn’t a vicious monster, eager to shed blood and lick it off his hands. He was a bureaucrat. A paper-pusher. Not Dracula, but Mr. Magoo.

This shocked Arendt, and sent her in search of language that could adequately describe the phenomenon. She landed on the phrase “the banality of evil,” which doesn’t dismiss the depths of evil itself as banal, but — far more terrifying — exposes the possibility that social and political realities can make the stomach-churning horrors of Nazi death camps a mere function of the state. They can happen without passion, without malice, with indifference. Not only that, as Eichmann himself testified, these social and political conditions can make someone believe that the horrors they commit are for the greater good.

While comparisons to Nazism are often overblown, I couldn’t help but hear the phrase “the banality of evil” as I watched each video exposing the trade of aborted children’s body parts by Planned Parenthood. A woman sips wine and munches on a salad while describing “less crunchy” techniques for extracting a baby from a womb. Another haggles over the prices of children’s organs and jokes that she wants a Lamborghini. Another shouts, “It’s a boy,” and proceeds to tear it limb from limb. Another recounts a woman who thought it was cool that she can stop and start a baby’s heart before cutting through his face to extract his brain.

These would be unspeakable horrors in any other context, but somehow, in our world today, these are acceptable. As Arendt described it in The Life of the Mind, “Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality, that is, against the claim on our thinking that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence." In other words, by manipulating language, we can insulate ourselves from reality.

This happens all the time in politics and war. In Soviet Russia, dissidents weren’t “executed.” They simply became “non-persons.” In modern war, we don’t talk about the “death of innocents.” We talk about “collateral damage.” Young black men are “thugs.” People seeking refuge from despotic governments are “illegals,” and their children are “anchor babies.” Such insulating language makes it easy to talk about mass deportation — ignoring the conditions those souls would be subjected to once they returned — or as one presidential candidate suggested, bombing the caves along the border that immigrants use for shelter.

Likewise, in the practice of abortion, we don’t talk about “dead babies,” we talk about “aborted fetuses” and the “products of conception.” We don’t talk about “organ harvesting,” but “tissue donation.” We don’t talk about “heads,” but “calvarium.”

For Eichmann, the death camps were not about mass murder, but about “manufacturing corpses.” The “Final Solution” was couched in thick layers of jargon, masking its sinister purposes in the dull language of bureaucracy. This kept the stark, murderous reality at a safe cognitive distance, enabling (as Arendt described it) a “remoteness from reality” and “thoughtlessness.”

Arendt’s account of the trial was titled Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. After its publication, some misinterpreted Arendt, believing that her assessment of Eichmann as a banal and bumbling bureaucrat was too dismissive of the horrors of his crimes. But that misunderstands Arendt’s point. She means to take nothing away from the horrors of what Eichmann had done. Rather she means to root it not in the persona of a cartoon villain — a move that makes Eichmann something other than ordinary and human — but in the actions of an unimpressive man who chose not to judge, not to think about what he was doing. He wrapped himself in the comforting insulation of official language, in following orders, in a sense of inevitable progress and “history,” and went about his business of coordinating the schedule of dozens of trains as they crisscrossed Europe, carting men, women and children to their deaths.

Later, Arendt wrote of Eichmann, “I was struck by a manifest shallowness in the doer that made it impossible to trace the uncontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer — at least the very effective one now on trial — was quite ordinary, commonplace and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions or of specific evil motives, and the only notable characteristic one could detect in his past behaviour as well as in his behaviour during the trial and throughout the pre-trial police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but thoughtlessness.’

We make a mistake if we see the monstrosity of the videos and label the doctors themselves (or their supporters) as monstrous. Instead, we need to see their first crime — the root of all the others — is a bland acceptance of the dehumanizing stock phrases and clichés of the pro-choice movement. Deborah Nucatola and her Planned Parenthood colleagues are not stupid. Nor are they cartoon villains — as villainous as those videos might make them seem. Rather, they have imbibed the language of the pro-choice movement, the disenchanted language that looks at bodies and refuses to assign them any meaning beyond being “products of conception.”

Again, don’t mistake me. These language games are nothing less than an attempt to be like God, to make meaning with our words other than the meaning assigned at Creation when God said “Let us make humanity in our image.”

Accepting these language shifts doesn’t mean you’re a sociopath, but it does mean you’re thoughtless. One must refuse the plain observation that a dead human being lies before them. They must choose not to think, wrap themselves in delusional language and carry out their murderous acts.

The burden for our culture starts on this ground: Are we willing (to borrow another phrase from Arendt) to “think what we are doing?” Are we willing to cut through the cloud of jargon and re-examine something most of us have become comfortable living with? Are we willing to judge? Because maybe, if those of us who are pro-life are right, our culture has committed a colossal moral outrage, and the bloodshed needs to stop.

By / Nov 2

The failure of China’s massive social experiment in coercive population control should be a warning to the church in the West. When a government is allowed to control the family and muzzle the church, the effects, both intended and unintended, can be devastating. In China, the harm to the family and women over the last three and a half decades has been enormous. The church must speak life where others sow death.

For many Americans, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the realities of China’s “one-child policy.” Our domestic debates over abortion are framed around terms like “choice” and “women’s health.” But, imagine a world in which the government makes the “choice” and where “women’s health” involves trauma from forced abortions and sterilizations. Recent headlines about an end to China’s one-child policy were generally positive, but few expressed shock that the government will continue to use coercion to limit the births of children.  

What it is, and what it’s not

How should we respond? We should rejoice that children who would have been aborted will be born, but we should also grieve and protest a policy that empowers the government to issue “birth permits” for some children and death sentences for others. The Chinese Communist Party will now allow married couples to have a second child in its next five-year economic plan to “address the challenge of an ageing population.” This is “fine tuning” the policy, not ending it.

The government should be called to account for killing children and torturing women (Eccl. 5:8, Isa. 1:17), The sheer scale of the injustice is hard to grasp. Genocides kill millions, but by its own admission, the Chinese government has killed 400 million children, and according to the China Life Alliance, an estimated 80 percent of women have been subjected to forced or mandatory abortions. In a country with 1.3 billion people, that means hundreds of millions of mothers have had children taken from their wombs by force.

There have been few attempts to hold the government accountable to their international human rights commitments. The Universal Declaration Human Rights protects the right to life (article 3), the right to found a family (article 16), and the right to be free from torture (article 5). The UN Genocide Convention does not include the unborn among protected people groups, but systemically killing them is no less an atrocity.

However, abortion politics in the West make normally outspoken advocates reticent. The female suicide rate in China is one of the highest in the world, which a report by the U.S. Department of State partially attributed to coercive population control. Yet, women’s rights advocates like the United Nations Population Fund and International Planned Parenthood Federation rarely raise alarm over the physical, mental and emotional health of women due to forced abortion and sterilization.

A culture of death

The loss to society, family and the individual in China has been enormous. In the name of economic progress, the government has created a culture of death for three and a half decades. Now it wants to reverse the trend.  

Before 1979, the average family had six children. One of the most common terms of affection for a child was—and still is—“Little Treasure” (bao bei). Then, the government began telling citizens it was their patriotic duty to have only one child and to terminate the others. This created a shift in the view of children. Today, young, upwardly mobile couples are more likely to think of children as an economic burden. After the government loosened restrictions in 2013, births rose only slightly. Paul Coyer warns, “Beijing’s move is as unlikely to alter now entrenched behavior as it is to lessen the fallout from a rapidly ageing population.”

In the traditional family, the highest duty was to care for parents and grandparents. By reducing the average number of children from six to one, the government has placed an enormous burden upon “only children” to care for two parents and four grandparents. One executive predicted that in 100 years China will become “the world’s largest elderly home”  and have the “largest population of robots.” Commodification has led to dehumanization. It’s unlikely that there will be enough human branches on China’s family tree to care for older generations.

The policy has also dramatically impacted gender dynamics. Sex-selective abortion created a gender ratio in China of 118:100 (males to females). The world’s ratio is 105:100. This has led to “bride kidnapping” and the increase of “bare branches”—young, unmarried males prone to higher levels of aggression.

In the words of the Washington Post, the policy’s architects “regarded themselves as far smarter . . . and their subjects as far more stupid . . . than they really were.” Now, “it is too late to reverse the damage.” This should be a warning to the church about the power of government to shape culture and the tremendous need for the gospel.

Renewing a culture of life

Reggie Littlejohn, a leading opponent of the policy, called upon the American church to pray: for the victims, those who carry out the policy and the church. The Chinese government silences all opposition to its population control policies by its citizens through the threat of punishment. It terrorized blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng and his family for seven years after he sued on behalf of 130,000 women who were forcibly aborted or sterilized. The government effectively muzzles the church’s voice in the public square, including on issues of life and human dignity. Church leaders may preach to their congregations that children are a gift from the Lord and that every human being is created in the image of God (Ps.127:3-5), but the government must give up its monopoly over public discourse and allow greater religious freedom and freedom of speech before the church can bring the message of the Imago Dei to society.

The gospel-proclaiming church offers so much to a people who have suffered so greatly. The gospel tells of a Savior who told adults to become like children to enter the kingdom of Heaven, a Father who lost his only child to a torturous death, and the day when the evil done will be redeemed through abundant life (Jn. 10:10).

We should rejoice for the lives that will be saved. We should mourn for the lives that will be taken. What we must not do is embrace complacency in China, in the U.S. . . or anywhere.

About the author: E.B. Oak is an international human rights attorney who worked at a women’s legal center in China with women who were forced to undergo coerced and mandatory abortions.