By / Jul 12

With last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning the precedent of Roe v. Wade, the organization March for Life has shifted its attention toward changing the hearts of Americans to make abortion unthinkable by focusing on the state and federal level in a post-Roe world. 

March for Life is the largest annual human rights demonstration in the world. The Dobbs case was an incredible pro-life victory that encouraged March for Life, and the organization is hopeful for the future. However, the work they must do is greater than ever before. 2023 marked 50 years of March for Life, and the past five decades have proven that they are up for the task of fighting for life even with the new challenges ahead in a post-Roe world. 

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said, “Yes, there is still so much work to be done, but we are encouraged by the fruits of our labors so far, and we are emboldened by the incredible dedication and passion of our marchers to take these next steps in carrying out our joyful mission.”

Focusing to the state level, too

In 2023, the March for Life in Washington, D.C., shifted from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to the steps of the Capitol. Along with this shift, the new wave of future efforts will focus on the states, continuing to advocate for women and children as the decisions now lie in the hands of the legislators. The organization hopes to march in 10 states in 2023 and to be in all 50 states in the next five to seven years.

Instead of fizzling out in a post-Roe America, March for Life has grown. 

The purpose behind these state marches is to expand the voices that have been heard in Washington for years. The leadership of March for Life understands how powerful it can be for unified masses of people declaring with one voice their commitment to protecting life. They want to send a message of clarity to legislators through the state marches. 

March for Life is also committed to increasing support for pregnant women. Violence and misinformation have threatened the work of over 3,000 pregnancy care centers and maternity homes that provide care for expectant mothers and their children across the country.

“The Supreme Court decision, contrary to the false and widely held belief, did not make abortion illegal across the country,” Mancini said. “Rather, it gave people the chance to fight for life through the democratic process.”

Countering abortion activisim in a post-Roe world

In giving pro-life activists victory, the Dobbs decision also gave pro-abortion activists the opportunity for exploitation and to induce a spirit of fear in Americans. Their efforts threaten thousands of unborn lives in pro-abortion states, as they seek to make abortion policies even more extreme than they were under Roe. Many proposals of pro-abortionists include abortion up until birth. 

Under these circumstances, education related to life, such as how preborn babies feel pain as early as 15 weeks’ gestation, is a key part of March for Life’s mission. The more the public is educated on topics like fetal development and abortion, the more they will support common sense limits. 

The task of marching at the state level is daunting, but the leadership at March for Life is facing this new era with enthusiasm and faith. 

“Our fight, which for the last five decades had been relegated to the courts, is now being waged in Congress, in our statehouses and in our communities,” Mancini said. “The landscape has changed, but our mission to create a culture of love and life where abortion is unthinkable remains the same.”

By / Jun 24

The issue of abortion has now been turned over to the states, many of which have either implemented or are considering abhorrently permissive pro-abortion proposals. Christians must continue working toward a day where abortion is no more, vulnerable mothers are cared for, and our society represents a true culture of life.

Learn more about what this decision means at ERLC.com/Dobbs

By / Jun 23

In the year since the landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, there has been a significant shift in the landscape of abortion in the United States. Soon after the Dobbs decision, many states began to impose abortion bans and restrictions. 

Abortion bans

States where abortion was banned included: 

July 2022

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi 
  • Missouri 
  • Oklahoma 
  • South Dakota 
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

August 2022

  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana

September 2022

  • Idaho 
  • Tennessee

Overall, almost half of all states have imposed some sort of restrictions, especially in the early months of pregnancy. The result is that there has been a notable decrease in the total number of abortions in America. 

According to new estimates provided by the Society of Family Planning’s national research project, #WeCount, there were an estimated 93,575 fewer legal abortions in states that banned or severely restricted abortion for at least one week in the nine-month period after Dobbs. The biggest declines were in: 

  • Texas (an estimated 24,420 fewer abortions), 
  • Georgia (14,415), 
  • Tennessee (10,235), 
  • Louisiana (6,755), 
  • Arizona (6,000), 
  • and Alabama (5,715). 

A challenging reality

However, the data also reveal a challenging reality: many individuals, unable to obtain abortions in their home states, are traveling to states where abortion is still unrestricted​. Despite the overall decline in abortion rates, there has been, according to reporting by FiveThirtyEight, an increase in the number of legal abortions in states where the procedure remains widely available​​. 

The number of legal abortions in states where abortion remained mostly available rose by 69,285 in the same period. The states with the largest increases were: I

  • llinois (an estimated 12,580 more abortions), 
  • Florida (12,460), 
  • North Carolina (7,975), 
  • California (4,350), 
  • and Colorado (4,140). 

However, many states where abortion remains legal with few restrictions, especially on the West Coast and in the Northeast, did not experience surges in abortions.

Positive trends

The overall results indicate there were 24,290 fewer legal abortions between July 2022 and March 2023, compared to a pre-Dobbs baseline. Each of these represents a precious life saved, a testament to the effort of the pro-life community over the past 50 years. 

The trend is also moving in a positive direction. Abortion had been increasing in the U.S. since 2017, and abortion rates were increasing in the months before the Dobbs decision. In the two months before Dobbs, the average monthly number of abortions provided by clinicians in the U.S. was 81,730 while in the nine months after Dobbs, the average monthly number of abortions was 79,031. The national abortion rate also decreased from 13.4 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in April 2022 to 12.6 per 1,000 women. 

This suggests that while state-level restrictions are essential, the fight to protect preborn life must extend beyond the borders of pro-life states. We must continue to forcefully advocate for life-affirming laws and resources in all states and at the federal level. It’s also crucial for pro-life Christians in America to intensify our efforts in offering love, support, and resources to those faced with unexpected pregnancies. By providing a robust support system, we can help show the viability of life-affirming alternatives to abortion.

The post-Dobbs era has brought a season of change and challenge, but it’s also a season ripe with opportunities for the Christian pro-life community. It’s a call to put our faith into action, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to continue to uphold the sanctity of every human life. 

By / Jun 22

On the morning of June 24, 2022, the abortion landscape in the United States changed dramatically with the release of the final opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. This decision overturned the horrific precedents in both Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and sent the fight for life in the United States into a new chapter.

The majority of the effects of the Dobbs decision have been on the state level. By returning the issue of abortion back to the people, each state had the opportunity to decide for itself what type of laws and environment it would establish. Over the last year we’ve seen 14 states completely ban abortion and six states pass laws severely restricting it, but at the same time, we’ve seen other states become abortion “destinations” passing incredibly extreme laws and incentivizing women to travel to their states to have an abortion. 

Alongside these efforts to restrict abortion, we’ve seen many states adopt robust funding and resources to assist new families and women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. For example, in North Carolina, a recently passed bill that prohibits abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy also makes $20 million available over the next two years to fund paid parental leave for state employees and expands access to healthcare for women and children.

Though we rejoice at the progress many states have made toward establishing a culture of life, the Dobbs decision did not rid federal legislators of their ability or responsibility to act on this issue. The federal government still has a role to play in ending abortion. 

Over the last year, the ERLC has advocated in numerous ways to push back on attempts from both the executive and legislative branches to expand abortion access following Dobbs and to urge our lawmakers to move forward policies that protect life. This article provides a brief look back at how our federal officials have responded to this monumental decision

Congress

Following the Dobbs decision, congressional Democrats wasted no time in putting forward pro-abortion measures for a vote in both the House of Representatives and Senate. Once again, the misnamed Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify a right to abortion up until the moment of birth, was brought to the floor for a vote. This is the most pro-abortion bill to ever pass the House, and the ERLC remains strongly opposed to this piece of legislation. In addition to the Women’s Health Protection Act, we continue to see efforts from congressional Democrats to: 

  • label the work of pregnancy resource centers as “misinformation,” 
  • expand coverage of abortion travel, 
  • and punish states that have adopted pro-life laws.

The Dobbs decision also spurred on the House to pass legislation codifying a right to contraception, including many abortifacients, and stripping away important religious liberty protections. Though this bill did not move forward in the Senate, a related bill, the Respect for Marriage Act, did move forward, eventually becoming law late last year. The Respect for Marriage Act codified and expanded the right to same-sex marriage, amidst fears that the 2015 Obergefell decision, like Roe, could be overturned. The ERLC strongly opposed both of these bills and worked for many months against the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. 

This flurry of activity around abortion also made the annual hard-fought fight to maintain long standing pro-life policy riders in our government’s appropriations bills such as the Hyde amendment more difficult. Despite intense opposition, these riders, which prevent the use of government funding for abortion—saving innumerable lives and protecting the consciences of millions of American taxpayers—were preserved.

As we entered into a new Congress this January, we began to see some positive steps toward protecting life with the passage of the Born Alive Survivors Protection Act in the House. Unfortunately, other pro-life pieces of legislation such as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion or the SAVE Moms and Babies Act, which would significantly restrict chemical abortion, have stalled in Congress. 

After failed pro-life ballot measures in several states and recent attempts to make pro-life measures seem electorally harmful, some lawmakers have tried to step away from pro-life legislation, insisting that only state governments, rather than federal legislatures, have a role to play. The ERLC has, and will continue to urge lawmakers that Congressional action is needed to further protect life across all 50 states. Though Dobbs did send the issue of abortion to the states, it did not prohibit Congress from also taking action. 

The Biden administration

After the Dobbs decision, President Biden asserted his commitment to federally protected abortion access in place of the precedent established by Roe. Following the decision, through his power of executive orders, Biden signed the “Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services” order, mandating the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to secure abortion access. This order has been used by federal agencies to push forward pro-abortion policies that expanded access to the abortion pill, paid for abortion travel, and used taxpayer resources to fund “education” efforts around how to access abortion.

Following that executive order, a number of agencies made drastic policy changes, in violation of federal pro-life protections, to expand abortion access. Last fall, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced an Interim Final Rule expanding access to abortion by amending current regulations and removing an exclusion on abortion counseling and abortions in the medical benefits package for veterans and eligible family members. This change in rules creates taxpayer-funded abortions by the VA. Similarly, the Department of Defense changed its policies to cover time off and travel expenses for service members seeking abortions. 

Most recently, HHS has adapted HIPPA to limit sharing of personal “reproductive health” information. This new rule establishes that healthcare providers and other related entities may violate HIPAA if they comply with investigations into illegal abortion and gender transition procedures. The rule compromises important protections for those who have been abused in order to expand abortion access.

Additional moves from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the last year have also made chemical abortion drugs more accessible than ever before. Despite the fact that 1 in 5 women who take these drugs experience a complication requiring further medical treatment, the FDA has now permanently moved to allow the abortion pill to be obtained through the mail or at local pharmacies. 

As the Biden administration has used every lever of power available to them since the Dobbs decision, the ERLC has pushed back on each of these initiatives and continues to advocate for their reversal. 

The courts

While the abortion debate has largely moved away from what was once the centerpiece of advocacy—the courts—a challenge to mifepristone, one of the two major chemical abortion drugs, is forcing the courts to once again take up questions of abortion. 

Recently, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard this case which both challenges the initial approval of mifepristone in 2000 and the subsequent removal of important safety measures that have been involved in its prescribing. The suit claims that the FDA “failed America’s women and girls when it chose politics over science and approved chemical abortion drugs for use in the United States. And it has continued to fail them by repeatedly removing even the most basic precautionary requirements associated with their use.” 

This case could result in mifepristone being entirely removed from the market for elective abortions or severely restricted. A decision in this important case is expected in the coming days and will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court. The ERLC is closely watching this case and will continue to advocate for the court to rule in favor of life.

This past year has seen incredible victories for life, but it has also shown us how much work remains to be done. New estimates suggest that as many as 94,000 lives have been saved because of the Dobbs decision between July 2022 and March 2023. We celebrate that each of these precious ones made in God’s image have been granted life, and the ERLC will continue to advocate at both the state and federal level for each and every life to be protected and valued. 

ERLC interns Sam Haymore, Jared Smith, and Tim Mackall contributed to this article.

By / Jun 14

“Life is precious.” 

We repeat this phrase frequently. As believers, we know this statement pronounces a timeless truth rooted in Scripture. In Jeremiah 1:5, the Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born, I sanctified you.” This gift of life, given to each of us by God from the moment of conception, is sacred and worthy of fervent prayers, our strongest advocacy, and our sincerest acts of service.

That is why this Commission has sought to help culture understand not just the meaning of, but the responsibilities that spring forth from the phrase, “life is precious.”

In 2023, we helped explain the historic Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision of the Supreme Court that struck down the hideous Roe v. Wade precedent. As the justices did so, they opened up a new chapter for the pro-life movement that we have long prayed for.

While we have continued our urgent work to protect life on Capitol Hill and before our nation’s highest court, I want to briefly draw your attention to the cooperative ways this Commission has been active, not just in areas of policy, but also practical ministry.

In the last year, we have locked arms with conventions in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, the Southern Baptists of Texas, and the SBC of Virginia, who have all given generously to the life-saving work of our Psalm 139 Project.

And it is fitting that the annual meeting is in Louisiana, as our next ultrasound placement will be in partnership with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, and the Northshore Baptist Association. These entities have come together, not only as an outstanding example of Baptist cooperation, but also to send a strong signal that we are willing to put our money where our heart is in order to save lives and serve mothers.

The commitment we have to protect life has guided our work at the state and national levels. In partnership with our state conventions, we brought a distinctively Baptist voice to matters important to our churches in our first ever state-level public policy review. We did this through:

  • requesting new safeguards be put in place to protect children from harmful transgender surgeries and destructive interventions in Tennessee;
  • pushing back against school administrators’ attempts to insert themselves in the relationship between a parent and child, both in Iowa and Wisconsin;
  • and standing with Nevada Baptists to successfully urge the governor to reject a bill to make that state a destination for assisted suicide.

At the federal level, we have been a leading voice in opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to curtail religious liberty and conscience protections through the consequential federal rule-making process.

And overseas, we worked to strengthen this nation’s resolve to oppose authoritarian regimes that assault human dignity, destroy religious freedom, and help those fleeing persecution.

In all these matters, the ERLC is rooted in Scripture, guided by the Baptist Faith & Message, and informed by our convention’s resolutions. And everything we do is grounded in the simple phrase: Life is precious.

That truth has taken on new meaning for me, because the worst day of my life occurred on March 27, when a deranged individual entered the school of my children and opened fire. It would end as the deadliest school shooting in Tennessee history and be added to a horrific list of similar events that continue to plague our society.

Six precious lives were lost.  Seven families were fractured. And each and every child was rendered vulnerable by a person in deep emotional and psychological distress who was in desperate need of help and intervention.

In the following weeks and months, the Lord, who has graciously sustained our family throughout this nightmare, has worked on my heart and opened my eyes to the ways our culture of anger and animosity can so quickly become one of annihilation. Think about all the ways this occurs:

  • The mother who is convinced by a culture of death that the only way to truly thrive is by taking the life of her unplanned child. 
  • The young boy who has his mind preyed upon by social media and unhinged activists to become a pawn in the sexual revolution’s ever-changing definition of gender to the point he thinks he is a girl. 
  • The out-of-work father who, lacking community and neighborly love, chooses to escape into a drug culture rather than support his family. 
  • Or a survivor of abuse who seeks refuge in the church only to become vilified because of some flimsy Pharisaical or political excuse. 

There are many more examples of the ways our lives are rendered vulnerable on a daily basis. Too many. And the Lord is revealing to me all the ways he wants this Commission—and our SBC churches—to be a voice for the voiceless, to speak up for the marginalized, and to be a servant for the widow, the orphan, and the vulnerable.

When I see the three little survivors of the Covenant School shooting in my own home every day, I know that I cannot be quiet and cannot stand idly by while our culture tears itself apart, because life is precious. Far too precious.

By / Apr 11

On Feb. 2, 2023, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury released a proposed rule modifying “regulations regarding coverage of certain preventive services” under the Affordable Care Act. This is the 19th recorded change to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” since it was created under the Affordable Care Act. 

On Monday, the ERLC filed public comments in opposition to the change.

What does this rule do?

The Affordable Care Act allows the departments to create both a religious and moral exemption to the contraceptive mandate in order to rightly protect the consciences of Americans, whether they are informed by deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions regarding taking a life. 

Though the proposed rule maintains the existing protections for religious entities and employers, it rescinds the “moral exemption,” created in a 2018 Trump-era rule, that has protected employers who object to providing abortifacient contraceptives for non-religious reasons.

The departments state that they seek, through this rule, to bolster access to birth control at no cost, because the “U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has placed a heightened importance on access to contraceptive services nationwide.” In citing the Dobbs decision as the primary reason for this action, the departments implicitly acknowledge that the provision of certain contraceptives is inextricably tied to the issue of abortion and the act of taking a life.

Why is this problematic?

In support of the proposal, the departments argue that: 

  • (a) a non-religious moral exemption is “not legally required,” 
  • (b) few entities make use of the moral exemption, and 
  • (c) non-religious objections “are outweighed by the strong public interest in making contraceptive coverage as accessible to women as possible.” 

As we argued in our comments, “No significant developments have occurred in the interim that suggest a change is warranted, especially when the stakes — the trampling of citizens’ consciences — are so high.” And the United States has a long history of non-religious Americans with moral objections to taking a life. Our comments go on to state,

As Southern Baptists, we acknowledge that conscience protections are essential to our ability to live out our most deeply held beliefs. For conscience protections to be meaningful, they must not only protect the freedom to believe but also the freedom to live in response to those beliefs. 

Further, these protections are not just for religious people but must be extended to all people, regardless of their faith identification. As our comments affirm, “At the founding of our country, James Madison wrote, ‘Conscience is the most sacred of all property.’ Regardless of the source of the conviction, whether religious or moral, the Constitution guarantees the protection of the conscience.”

How has the ERLC responded?

The ERLC has submitted public comments laying out these concerns with the proposed rule and urging these agencies to reconsider making these changes. While we celebrate the preservation of the religious exemption, this proposed rule protects the consciences of fewer individuals, funnels more money to Planned Parenthood, and seeks to frame objections to contraception and abortion as a fringe religious concern. 

Whether the root of one’s conviction against taking a life is rooted in faith or something else, that person’s conscience should be protected. The ERLC will continue to monitor these changes and look for additional opportunities to raise our concerns and advocate for the protection of life and conscience rights.

By / Jan 26

The post-Roe world we live in is a fulfillment of the faithful work of pro-life advocates for 50 years. While there is certainly more work to be done to end abortion in all 50 states, it is a moment for celebration. Just as abortion existed before Roe v. Wade tragically made it legal, the pro-life movement faces an abortion industry committed to furthering a regime that ends life at all costs, with “abortion tourism” and the abortion pill making it easier than ever to evade bans and restrictions in the United States.

With that in mind, in addition to making abortion illegal, we must turn our focus to serving and supporting families.

Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention committed to “partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” in order to “eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion,” during its annual meeting in June 2022.

Our goal is not just for abortion to be illegal but for it to be viewed as an unthinkable act of cruelty by all of our neighbors and for our nation to truly embody a culture of life.

A scriptural foundation

God has spoken clearly throughout Scripture: Every human being is created in the image of God and possesses immeasurable dignity and worth; Every aspect of his design for human life in accordance with his will is good (Gen. 1:26-30). In the beginning, we see the institution of marriage—one man and one woman for life—as something that God creates for our good (Gen. 2). The married couple is then instructed to bear fruit and multiply as part of God’s plan for their flourishing (Gen 1:28; Ps. 127:3). 

The biblical framework for the nuclear family is a desirable end, and the good work of protecting and promoting the family in all its biblical forms is central to the ethic, life, and mission of the church. Local churches—and the parents, teachers, counselors, and foster care and adoptive families within them—walk alongside couples through difficult times, aid in the discipleship of their children, and help bring healing to broken families and hope to forgotten children. 

This pro-family work is invaluable and an essential part of our calling individually and collectively. Even as culture changes, Southern Baptists must remain committed to advancing a distinctly Christian vision for the family in the public square and safeguarding the integrity of this crucial biblical institution for the good of our neighbor.

Current realities

As a nation, our policies incentivize what we want more of and disincentivize what we want less of. The allocation of resources, as well as how we structure our tax code, reveal where our national priorities lie.

Currently, many of our policies economically disincentivize marriage.

Similarly, our laws make abortion incredibly less difficult and less expensive than adoption. According to Planned Parenthood, the cost of an abortion is generally less than $750. Meanwhile, the average cost of an adoption can run between $20,000–$50,000. Little has been done to combat the soaring costs of childcare, housing, food, and other necessities that greatly affect families. Due to inflation, it is estimated that raising a child through high school now costs approximately $300,000. Moreover, financial insecurity is cited by 73% of women who choose to have an abortion as the primary driver of their choice.

For Christians, these realities should represent a sobering challenge.

If we truly value life, family, and marriage, then we should advocate for laws that do the same, thereby making it easier for citizens of our country to choose these good things. While we will continue to work relentlessly through policy and law to make abortion illegal across the country, that simply is not enough. To create a culture of life, we must also redouble our efforts to holistically care for women and families in times of crisis and prioritize support for the flourishing of families. 

A vision for a pro-family world

As part of that commitment to bolstering the institution of the family, we should advocate for creative and responsible policies that remove unnecessary legal or economic roadblocks to marriage, ensure families—with an emphasis on abortion-vulnerable women—have the resources to parent their children, and promote full participation of both parents in the raising of children. Though the state can never be a replacement for the vital work of the church in supporting families, it is an important component that cannot be ignored (Rom. 13). 

In the post-Dobbs world, there has been growing support among lawmakers from both parties to do more to support women in crisis and families. Additionally, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated that if Republicans retook the House in November—which they did by a narrow margin—their pro-family framework would be a legislative priority. There is much to still be debated on which of these policies are best and which can find the necessary bipartisan support to become law, but it is encouraging that many members of Congress are beginning to recognize a need for programs that support families and are thinking creatively on how best to do that. 

As we consider these proposals, the ERLC will advocate for policy changes that strengthen families and marriages, promote the well-being of children, recognize the dignity of work, and wisely steward financial resources.

To that end, we would strongly encourage lawmakers to develop policies in the following areas that would vastly improve the ability to raise a child and ensure families can flourish: 

  • Legislation that provides abortion-vulnerable women with information about all of their options and avenues for support, countering the false notion that abortion is their only choice. 
  • Policies that protect pregnant women in the workplace and allow them to safely continue providing for their families throughout pregnancy. 
  • Policies that bolster the important work of pregnancy resource centers and fund them to care for women in need. 
  • Policies that eliminate tax code discrimination against the traditional family and reduce the onerous tax burden on families with children. 
  • Strategic aid programs targeted to low-income mothers and families that stimulate economic stability and independence, sparking sustainable, communal financial growth trends while also ensuring that the necessary resources are available around the birth of a child. 
  • Adoption of policies that provide a baseline of security for new families to bond with their children without economic harm. 
  • Collaborative partnerships between civil society and government that bolster social support and increase excellence, availability, and affordability in maternal healthcare and childcare without trampling on conscience rights. 
  • And policies that make adoption more affordable and accessible

We long for a world where a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy would have such overwhelming support from her community that she feels confident that she can keep and raise her child. We desire for our nation’s laws to incentivize family formation and prioritize using our resources to support families. Ultimately, we seek justice and flourishing for our neighbors so that they may see and seek the joy, fulfillment, and eternal life only found in Christ. Public policy that prioritizes the family serves that end and is an essential piece in creating a culture that truly values life.

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.

By / Jan 25

Last Friday, thousands of enthusiastic individuals from every corner of the pro-life movement gathered on the National Mall for the March for Life. This year was my first March, but many around me had traveled hundreds of miles each January for 50 years. This time, they gathered with a sense of victory in light of the overturning of Roe—but also with a solemn awareness that there will always be reason to keep going. 

Now that the movement’s igniting cause has been settled, many wondered if the March would continue. On Friday, the organization’s leader Jeanne Mancini asked the eager attendees, “Should we still march?” The crowd responded with cheers and excitement because most are all too aware of the work left to be done. Conversations throughout the day centered on the tragedy of increasing access to abortion pills that undermines state-level abortion bans, the newfound importance of pro-life state legislators, and ultimately, the task of affecting “hearts and minds” of our neighbors who are blind to the innate value of a human life.

I came away from this moving experience with three important reminders.

Praise God for our freedoms: I’m thankful that the ERLC is present in conversations about preserving religious freedom. 

No matter what happens next, we are free to raise our voices to defend the defenseless. Looking around at friends and strangers lifting up their voices as well as their banners was a moving experience. One of the most powerful moments was when a woman named Casey who has Down syndrome spoke on stage about the amazing opportunities she has had and the love and joy in her family. “I love my life!”, she exclaimed. In our global context, petitioning the government with hope and joy is a rare sight, and one to be treasured. 

Embrace interfaith and interdenominational efforts: The pro-life movement is a team effort and an opportunity to unite with our neighbors. 

The March for Life embodies unity among differences—it is a tapestry of diverse yet allied voices from many religions, and especially many Christian denominations. As I walked next to Jesuit, Catholic, and Lutheran brothers and sisters, just to name a few, I was inspired to learn more about their beliefs and lifestyles. I was challenged to see them as teammates instead of strangers with whom I see differently on important theological matters.

We may have different approaches to defending the defenseless, but it is our collective efforts at the local level that affect individual decisions for life.

Proceed faithfully: Our pro-life work should reflect our Savior.

One reason I was hesitant about coming to the March for Life in years’ past is because I feared being associated with messages that didn’t represent the truth, grace, and mercy of Jesus. My friends who counsel post-abortive women have seen the harm of shameful messaging targeted at women who chose abortion. However, my worries about insensitivity at the March proved largely untrue, at least in 2023.

Like any collaboration of imperfect humans, there is going to be some messiness, and to those in our churches who have been shamed pre- or post-abortion, I am truly sorry. Together we must proceed faithfully, holding tightly to Jesus’ example when he interacted with those considered by society to be the worst of sinners, like in this powerful scene: 

“And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mark 2:16-17 ESV).

It was 49 years ago that that the first March for Life was held on Capitol Hill following the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973, a case that fabricated a Constitutional “right to abortion” and led to abortion access in every state. Since then, the pro-life community has opened pregnancy care centers, called on members of Congress to enact policies that help inform mothers about abortion and its alternatives, adopted children who were born into adversity, and faithfully marched. Every single year, whether in deep snow, rain, or cold, thousands have marched to stand up for the rights of the voiceless in the United States.  

Throughout my lifetime, I hope to see many victories for the preborn, for the disabled community, for those at the end of life, and others who are silenced and prevented from living the life God gave them. When the decisions don’t go our way, we must continue to exercise our freedoms to assemble and petition. When enemies try to divide our movement and our churches with strife, we must remain unified and focused. When we make judgements and mistakes in the process, we must proceed faithfully, centered on the compassion of Christ.

Moving forward, the movement will change with policy and culture, and the essential work of Southern Baptist churches and the broader pro-life movement must continue. My experience at the March inspired me to keep going until abortion is unthinkable in America and around the world, and I hope you will too.

By / Jan 6

The events of 2022 had an effect on many issues that we will be dealing with in this new year. Four stories related to ERLC concerns that you should watch in 2023 are:

  1. Abortion after Roe v. Wade
  2. Legislation in a divided government
  3. A religious liberty Supreme Court case
  4. The SBC’s formal response to sexual abuse

Find out more below.

Abortion after Roe v. Wade

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in last year’s Dobbs decision marked a true turning point for the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates, and many others worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. 

Now, the pro-life movement will be faced with other challenges to protect life in the womb. 

A key issue is how we will deal with “medication” abortion. 

In 2020, abortion via pills rather than surgery accounted for the majority of all United States abortions for the first time in the pills’ 20-year history. Reinforcing access to these medication abortions was one of the Biden administration’s first responses to the fall of Roe. President Joe Biden “directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to identify all ways to ensure that mifepristone [one of the two drugs used in pill-based abortions] is as widely accessible as possible.” 

This week, the Justice Department cleared the U.S. Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs to states that have strict limits on abortion. But states may be able to fight back by prosecuting people who send abortion pills through such mailings. In addition, as Jason Thacker explains, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulatory change this week that allows pharmacy chains and local pharmacies to distribute the first of the two-stage abortion pill regiment known as Mifepristone

Legislation in a divided government

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the GOP controls the majority by only 10 votes (222-213), while in the Senate the split is 49-49 with independents who caucus with the Democrats. 

The result is that neither party will be able to pass any major partisan pieces of legislation this year. 

Lack of bipartisan support will also prevent anything from being passed other than funding requirements (debt ceiling, farm bill, government funding, etc.). 

One possible long-shot exception is immigration reform. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) have proposed legislation that would increase spending on border security by more than $25 billion, provide pay raises to Border Patrol agents, extending Title 42 for at least a year, creating regional centers to swiftly process asylum claims, and provide a pathway to citizenship for 2 million immigrant “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. as children. 

(Note: A key part of ERLC’s policy agenda is support of a permanent solution for Dreamers, the young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents and that remain without permanent legal status despite having broken no laws.) 

A religious liberty Supreme Court case 

This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, an important case for free speech and religious liberty. 

The case involves Lorie Smith, founder of the web design firm 303 Creative, who challenged a Colorado law that violates her First Amendment rights. It is the same law that was used to target Jack Phillips and which led to the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case. In that case, the Court ruled favorably for Jack Phillips on narrow grounds but failed to address the underlying conflict between anti-discrimination laws and free speech rights. 

This case has significant implications for the free speech of all people. If the court rules against Smith, it would establish a precedent that artists can be forced to create and communicate messages that violate their beliefs.  

The SBC’s formal response to sexual abuse

At the 2022 SBC annual meeting, a 288-page report was released by a task force commissioned to address allegations of sexual abuse by senior members of the denomination’s Executive Committee, mishandling of abuse allegations, and mistreatment of victims.

During the annual meeting in New Orleans this June, SBC messengers will likely be asked to address some or all of the recommendations outlined in the report. 

Some of the recommendations are:

  • Forming an Independent Commission and later establishing a permanent Administrative Entity to oversee comprehensive long-term reforms concerning sexual abuse and related misconduct within the SBC.
  • Creating and maintaining an Offender Information System to alert the community to known offenders. Make the OIS available to churches on a voluntary basis.
  • Providing a comprehensive Resource Toolbox including protocols, training, education, and practical information.
  • Creating a voluntary self-certification program for churches, local associations, state conventions, and entities based on the implementation of “best practices” to bring awareness to, and enhance prevention of, sexual abuse.
  • Improving governance controls, including the use of enhanced background checks, Letters of Good Standing, and Codes of Conduct to voluntarily strengthen hiring standards and improve governance.
By / Jan 5

In 2020, “medication” abortion—abortion via pills rather than surgery—accounted for the majority of all United States abortions for the first time in the pills’ 20-year history.1

Reinforcing access to these medication abortions was one of the Biden administration’s first responses to the fall of Roe. President Joe Biden “directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to identify all ways to ensure that mifepristone [one of the two drugs used in pill-based abortions] is as widely accessible as possible”2 in the very same statement in which he asserted a right to engage in interstate abortion trafficking.3 

These are the emergent twin frontiers of the pro-life legal battle: abortion pills and abortion trafficking. 

These abortions aren’t as “safe and effective” as they’re made out to be, either.4 Abortion pills are four times more likely to land vulnerable mothers in the emergency room than first-trimester surgical abortions.5 Surgical abortions pursued out-of-state can be risky, too, as the side effects can be severe for mothers. Women undergoing out-of-state abortions risk being stranded away from family or friends while they suffer potentially extreme pain, bleeding, 6 grief, or anxiety.7

However, these two abortion strategies have become the preferred ways for the federal government and regulatory agencies to advance abortion after the Dobbs ruling—thereby hampering pro-life legislators at the state level.8 

The text of the Dobbs decision was clear: the court sought ultimately to allow “each State to address abortion as it pleases.”9 It specifically rendered judgment that no “right to abortion” is derived from the U.S. Constitution. 

In other words, while it was a tremendous pro-life victory that allows elected officials to make laws protecting children in the womb, Dobbs emphatically did not end abortion in the United States. Much of the fight to protect vulnerable little ones remains with us.

Remembering why we advocate for abortion’s end

That’s why it is essential that legislators, activists, and Christians remember why we “address” abortion at all: to end the ongoing massacre of innocent, human life in the womb. 

As early as six weeks,10 a heartbeat of about 110 BPM is detectable in the womb—no matter how hard pro-abortion activists may fight to revise longstanding, uncontroversial medical consensus.11 By 12 weeks, all of the little human’s major body systems are present and reflexes begin to develop.12 At 18 weeks, children can hear their mothers’ heartbeat.13 In the last trimester, they can taste—and smile or grimace at—the flavors of the food their mother eats.14

This is not simply a political or campaign issue. This is not just the states’ legal responsibility. This is the gravest human rights abuse in our society. These are children. They always have been and always will be. Children were at the heart of the pro-life movement from its inception—as individuals sought to protect these vulnerable neighbors from the abortion provider’s hand—and they remain there to this day.

A legislation rundown

Yet there is legislation on the books in aggressively pro-abortion states to expand the legal killing of these children. Seven states have no gestational limit on abortion whatsoever,15 and another 26 states16 only limit abortions at or around the point of “fetal viability,” generally between 22 and 24 weeks.17

Given the fact that 91% of U.S. abortions occur in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy,18 viability protections translate into unrestricted abortion access for the vast majority of women who desire an abortion. In other words, many of the children who may have been killed under Roe may also be killed under Dobbs.

The state-level response to Dobbs is varied, and a range of pro-life strategies are before the courts at this very moment.Thus far, six states responded by introducing “personhood amendments,” amendments to their state constitution that would permanently enshrine the human child in the womb as a legal person.19 The Dobbs decision explicitly sidestepped the question of fetal personhood, so these amendments—and the litigation battles they spawn—are breaking new legal ground.20

Other states, like Missouri, are exploring protecting children from abortion traffficking.21 Following a model like Texas’ novel S.B. 8 law, Republican Missouri Rep. Mary Coleman introduced legislation that would allow private citizens to sue anyone they knew had pursued an out-of-state abortion.22 

Additionally, 19 states required abortion pill providers be present for the administration of the first dose, making out-of-state “telemedicine” in these cases effectively illegal.23 Part of this provider requirement is often a guarantee of emergency care for women undergoing “self-managed” abortions—a surprising stipulation if they are in fact as safe as proponents make them out to be.24

However, international providers are untouchable by current federal regulation.25 One such provider, Aid Access, is based in Europe and provides medical abortions to Americans in states where life is protected.26 It’s run by a pro-abortion activist and was actively pursued by the Trump administration’s FDA for providing “unapproved” forms of the drugs used in medical abortion, but continues providing abortions-by-mail to this day.27 Aid Access claimed it received more than 10,000 requests for the abortion pill regimen in the week after the Dobbs decision.28 

International pills pose deep and dangerous risks for women who may not have consulted their own doctor who knows their medical history. An incorrect dose could lead to a hemorrhage, for example, or if a woman is Rh negative and doesn’t receive Rhogam at the time of her abortion, she could be putting herself at serious risk in future pregnancies. 

The work before us 

The future of the pro-life movement is growing much more complex. We are not merely fighting to protect women and children from a badly-reasoned 1973 Supreme Court precedent. We are fighting to defend them against international activists, other states, domestic activists, and even the current administration. Addressing the use or expansion of abortion pills and abortion trafficking, in all their forms, will become essential as we seek to protect human life in the womb in America. 

But there is another side to this picture. Legally protecting children in the womb alone fails to address the very real and pressing needs of vulnerable mothers all over the nation who are in desperate need of material, emotional, and social support. So—as voters, as members of the pro-life movement, and as Christians—we must rally around women, as well. 

We need to find a way to restore motherhood to its rightful status as a role to be celebrated, cherished, and protected. 

It will take charity, humility, and tireless work from all parts of the pro-life movement in order to do so: part legislative, part community-based, part spiritual ministry, and part prayer. 

But it is possible. And it is imperative that we work to realize it. Millions of children in the womb and their mothers depend upon us, now more than ever. The legacy of the pro-life movement hangs in the balance, and we cannot afford to lose momentum or clarity.

So work and pray. Pray in gratitude for each life rescued by existing abortion restrictions, many enacted by the Dobbs decision. And work fervently to rescue children in the many states where their lives are not yet protected or valued. The very fabric of our society depends upon it. 

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.