By / Feb 23

Earlier this week, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) healthcare system announced that it was pausing all in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments. This pause is due to the perceived fear of prosecution and lawsuits in light of the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, Feb. 16, stating that human beings in the embryonic stage have the same legal rights and protections as children who are born. 

Barbara Collura, president and CEO of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, released a statement noting that UAB has “been forced to make an impossible decision: pause IVF procedures for those hoping to build their families, or put their patients and doctors at risk of prosecution.” She went on to note that “[t]his cruel ruling, and the subsequent decision by UAB’s health system, are horrifying signals of what’s to come across the country.” UAB spokewoman Hannah Echols said they are “saddened” by the court’s ruling and noted that patients can continue the IVF process up through egg retrieval, though fertilization and implantation must be paused for this time due to the ruling.

What happened in the Alabama Supreme Court ruling?

The move by the UAB healthcare system centers around a case where the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of three couples who sued a fertility clinic in Mobile after a 2020 incident where their frozen human embryos were dropped and destroyed. The court ruled in LePage v. Mobile Infirmary Clinic, Inc. that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, first enacted in 1872, also applies to “extrauterine children” even if they are stored in cryogenic freezers. The Justices noted that the location of the unborn child, in or outside the womb, does not matter according to the existing statute.

Justices cited their interpretation of this act as in accordance with the language found in Amendment 2 of the Alabama state constitution which was ratified in 2002. The amendment states that “it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” The ruling notes,

“Here, the text of the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is sweeping and unqualified. It applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation. It is not the role of this Court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy. That is especially true where, as here, the People of this State have adopted a Constitutional amendment directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection.”

This ruling has sent shock waves throughout the country, including the pro-life movement which has historically been torn over the ethics of IVF. 

What is IVF?

IVF has become a routine, albeit financially costly, procedure in many fertility clinics around the world for couples who want children but are unable to conceive by natural means. Doctors often give couples options ranging from various testing, medicinal interventions, and assistance in natural reproduction. If these efforts fail, medical professionals, such as an endocrinologist or an OBGYN, may recommend an IUI (intrauterine insemination) procedure where sperm is collected from the man, cleaned, and then inseminated into the woman at peak fertility via a catheter. If couples choose not to go this route or if it has been tried without success, many will be encouraged by doctors to consider IVF. However, the ethics of the treatment are rarely discussed in great detail with couples—whether in the fertility clinic or even in the Church itself. 

Resolve notes that around 2% of all births in the U.S. employ IVF technologies. The procedure involves the harvesting of ovum from a woman and sperm from a man, both of which are prepared before fertilization of the egg(s) takes place in a lab. Often, but not always, the “best” fertilized eggs are chosen for implantation based on various characteristics. Implantation is not successful for couples every time, thus a couple may choose to keep trying with other human embryos from their “cohort.” Many couples choose to freeze their embryos for possible future use, even if they do conceive. 

The procedure is widely embraced by many, including some Christian couples who desperately want to have children. Many advocates see this procedure as morally good or at least permissible because it can allow couples to conceive. IVF has become so common throughout our society that you likely know someone who has utilized these technologies in hopes of having a family. Many couples have been encouraged by trusted medical professionals to utilize this technology and may not have been aware of the extent of the ethical issues at stake when it was undertaken.

It is vital to note in these conversations about the ethics of IVF that all children conceived through this technology are not only made in the image of God, but should also be seen as good gifts from God. How a child is conceived does not change that fundamental truth. Further, the desire for children is a moral good as designed by God, rooted into the fabric of the created order. Infertility is a widespread reality, affecting 1 in 6 couples today, and is a sad reminder of the devastating effects of the Fall. 

When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, it infected every part of creation, including our bodies, and introduced death, both spiritually and physically. Now, our bodies regularly get sick or do not function as they were intended, often due to no particular fault of our own. Infertility should be viewed as the tragic reality of living in a world that is broken (Gen. 3) and is a crushing diagnosis for couples who desperately want to have children. This is a difficult and sensitive subject that must be navigated with deep pastoral wisdom and counseling, including helping Christian couples facing these challenges to consider all aspects of this reproductive technology before moving ahead with the procedure.

What are some of the ethical considerations for Christians with IVF?

As already noted, the pro-life movement has historically been divided over the ethics of IVF and this issue must be navigated with wisdom rooted in both truth and grace. The desire for children is inherently good and a gift from God, but the IVF procedure should be concerning for Christians given the Bible’s affirmation of the inherent dignity and value of every human person—from fertilization/conception to natural death.

Many committed to a pro-life ethic are open to IVF as a fertility treatment in certain circumstances, including:

  • Choosing to have only one egg fertilized at a time, ensuring no human life is created and left frozen or discarded; 
  • Embryo adoption, where embryos are donated to other couples desiring children. This is a frontier issue in bioethics that is a moral good in light of the circumstances surrounding how these human embryos were created;
  • No surrogacy or third-party donation of sperm or ovum, which introduces a third party into the marital union. 

Those who disagree with IVF on ethical grounds express deep concern for several reasons, including: 

  • It severs/interrupts the natural union of a man and woman (including the possible use of donor ovum and sperm, introducing a third party); 
  • An abundance of human embryos are often created but are not always implanted. Frequently, they are discarded and destroyed;
  • And, in some cases, the underlying thinking displays a level of hubris that somehow humanity, through our technologies, are empowered to act in the place of God, deciding to create human life and choose which human embryos are given a chance, usually due to extraneous factors. 

Discarding or destroying human embryos is especially problematic. Until recently, many doctors believed that abnormal cell growth in human embryos may negatively affect the success of IVF. Thus, many human embryos were discarded or destroyed before implantation. But even among the “healthy” embryos, a couple often must decide what to do with them if they choose not to implant them. They are generally frozen (in suspended animation) until they are used in another implantation process or saved for the future expansion of a couple’s family. Embryos can also be put up for adoption—in local or national embryo registries for other couples trying to conceive. Sometimes, embryos are even donated for the abhorrent practice of scientific experimentation on human embryos. There are countless variables at play, but the bottom line is that children must never be discarded or destroyed. 

Some pro-life IVF advocates will note that even in natural conception, fertilized eggs do not always implant into the uterine lining of the woman for various reasons. Thus, they conclude that IVF is essentially the same as the natural process yet helps many couples conceive. However, this logic is flawed in that it equates the natural process of conception with the creation of embryos by fertility doctors through substantive human intervention and technological means. While the aim of helping couples conceive is laudable and to be commended, this particular procedure routinely seeks to interfere with the natural process to a degree that human life at the embryonic stage is commonly seen as something made by human hands and, thus, possibly disposable, rather than a gift from God through the miracle of life that is to be received and cherished at all times. It begs the question: Just because we can pursue these technologies, it is something that we should do? 

Life begins at conception, which means human embryos are children; they are human beings made in the image of God. Therefore, we all must seek to protect and honor their lives as we consider the gravity of what our technological developments have wrought—and that includes our best-intentioned efforts to overcome a challenge as heart-wrenching as infertility. Couples facing this can feel isolated or hurt, so it is incumbent on the Church to walk alongside them in this journey as they consider the ethical complexities associated with IVF and understand all possible options to grow their family.

As our family has and continues to struggle with infertility, I identify with the deep desire for children. This is a moral good married couples should pursue, but not by any means available or without adequate moral deliberation. Christians, of all people, must consider the full weight of procedures like IVF in community as we seek to prioritize the family and protect the most vulnerable among us.

By / Feb 23

One of the primary ways the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission fulfills its ministry assignment in the public square is through public policy advocacy, both on a federal and on a state level. While the ERLC’s advocacy work in Washington, D.C., remains a vital component of our work, the politically-divided and often lengthy federal processes mean more and more weighty decisions are being made at the state level. As a result, the ERLC recently released our 2024 State Policy Agenda, which outlines state legislation being considered around the country that the ERLC has flagged as items of support or concern in conjunction with our Southern Baptist state conventions and other partners.

These pieces of legislation are best summarized by the four overarching policy priorities determined by the mission of the ERLC: 

  • protecting life, 
  • safeguarding religious liberty, 
  • bolstering marriage and families, 
  • and upholding human dignity.

Below is a short summary of our policy priorities in these areas in the 2024 State Policy Agenda. You can also learn more about each of these items by reading the agenda itself.

Life

As Southern Baptists, we believe that each person is made in the image of God, and thus, is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, level of ability, or stage of development. As a result, the ERLC continues to advocate for life to be protected, both at the beginning and end of life.

Following the Dobbs decision in 2022, the pro-life movement has seen both monumental gains for life in many states and new and concerning challenges to pro-life advocacy begin to emerge. In response, the ERLC continues to encourage the federal government to fulfill its duty to protect human life and combat the evil of abortion in all forms, while also seeking to protect life on a state level. Though attainable pro-life victories will look different across the country, it is important that each state work toward any positive steps it can to save lives. Here are some aspects of our state pro-life legislative priorities:

  • Supporting Abortion Restrictions: Some examples of legislation we are encouraged to see filed this year include Assembly Bill 975 in Wisconsin which would ban abortion at 14 weeks, and the Born Alive Protection Act in Kansas which was filed once again despite being vetoed after passage by the governor in April of 2023. Though we hope to see these states eventually eradicate abortion, we are glad to see steps being taken to save precious preborn lives.
  • Oppose Chemical Abortions: For example, New Hampshire Senate Bill 567 directs the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to “protect and expand access to” abortion under the deceptive label of “necessary women’s reproductive health” access including, specifically, the abortion drug mifepristone.
  • Promote Pregnancy Resource Centers: Through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project and advocacy efforts, we continue to emphasize the excellent help offered by pregnancy resource centers and protect their right to help women choose life by opposing legislation like the Deceptive Practices of Limited Services Pregnancy Centers Act in Illinois that seeks to undermine their work.
  • Oppose Taxpayer Funding for Abortion: Some states, such as Missouri through House Bill 1563, are taking necessary action against the misuse of taxpayer money to fund abortion by prohibiting public funds from being expended to any abortion facility or affiliate.
  • Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide: There is a concerted effort in many states to legalize and expand the practice of physician-assisted suicide. For example, Assembly Bill 781 in Wisconsin and Tennessee House Bill 1710 would both permit a patient to seek physician-assisted suicide from their medical provider.

Religious Liberty

Southern Baptists believe “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” The Baptist Faith and Message outlines the basis for the biblical teaching on religious liberty and freedom of conscience that was passed down to us from our Baptist predecessors, many of whom were imprisoned or executed as they stood for these truths.

Currently, religious liberty protections in the United States remain strong and secure. To ensure that this fundamental freedom is safeguarded, the ERLC continues to advocate for the protection of religious liberty for all people throughout the policy arena. We expect some of the following to be key religious liberty priorities in 2024:

  • Support Religious Freedom Restoration Acts: Three additional state RFRAs that have been filed in Iowa, Nebraska, and Georgia, and we remain hopeful more will follow.
  • Support Conscience Protections for Healthcare Providers: In many states, such as Oklahoma through Senate Bill 1883, Iowa through Senate Study Bill 3006, and Vermont through Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act, states are ensuring healthcare workers are not forced to choose between paving over their consciences and their duty as medical professionals.
  • Protect Conscience Rights for Adoptive and Foster Families: Some states are strengthening vital conscience and religious liberty protections for parents participating in the foster care and adoption systems. For example, Tennessee is considering such legislation with the Tennessee Adoptive and Foster Parent Protection Act
  • Safeguard Religious Expression on Campus: States like West Virginia are protecting religious liberty in higher education through Senate Bill 503, which strengthens free expression of religion protections for student groups on the campuses.

Marriage and Family

Families are the foundational institution of our society. In contrast, shifting views in our culture regarding marriage, gender, sexuality, and family have left our society in disarray. We will continue to advocate for policies that promote availability and accessibility in adoption and foster care, provide wrap-around care for vulnerable mothers and families, and promote the rights and responsibilities of parents in raising their children and pushing back on harmful gender ideology. Our advocacy for marriage and family includes:

  • Support Biblical Marriage: Some states, such as Florida through House Joint Resolution 167, allow residents to vote on repealing part of the state constitution that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman.
  • Oppose the Surrogacy Industry: Virginia, through House Bill 110, is considering repealing existing Virginia law prohibiting the practice of paid surrogacy within the state.
  • Safeguard Children from Harmful Gender Ideology: Many states have already taken action to ban “gender transitions” from being performed on children, including Texas through the passage of Senate Bill 14, which took effect in September 2023. Two additional pieces of legislation being considered this year are the Child Protection Act in Georgia and the Children Deserve Help Not Harm Act in South Carolina.
  • Protect Women in Sports: Virginia is pushing back against the influx of biological men infiltrating women’s sports as a result of harmful gender ideology through the Women’s Sports Bill.
  • Protect Children from Pornography: Last year, some states, including North Carolina and Utah, enacted age verification requirements to prevent minors from accessing pornography. This resulted in sites like PornHub completely removing access to this content in the state. This year, several other states are including similar legislation, such as West Virginia House Bill 4867 and Indiana Senate Bill 17.
  • Help Families Flourish: Some proposals, such as Senate Bill 171 in Illinois, help parents to care for their children by making items like diapers, baby wipes, and infant formulas tax exempt. Other states, such as Kansas through House Bill 2429, are establishing “alternatives to abortion programs” that promote childbirth, provide adoption assistance, and support pregnancy support centers and maternity homes.

Human Dignity

Every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, race, nationality, level of ability, or stage of development. The Bible calls us to seek justice and righteousness, especially for the vulnerable. As we advocate for fair and impartial judgment and equitable treatment of the oppressed, we bear witness to a God who is ultimately the just Judge and to a gospel that saves all who believe. These realities spur on our commitment to the following priorities:

  • Oppose Expansion of Substance Abuse and Addiction: Though the federal government has been actively working to decriminalize marijuana, it remains highly addictive and increasingly accessible. Some states, such as Virginia through House Bill 698 and Kansas through Senate Bill 135, are seeking to legalize marijuana or medical cannabis sales within their state.
  • Combat the Predatory Lending Industry: Some states, such as Washington through House Bill 1918 and South Carolina through Senate Bill 67, are pushing back against predatory lending practices by capping the interest rate on a payday loan at 36%.
  • Opposition to Gambling: Through legislation like Senate Bill 1434 in Oklahoma, Senate Bill 386 in Georgia, and legislation we are anticipating being filed in Alabama, several states are considering expansions this year to gambling in their state. 
  • Supporting Criminal Justice Reform: Some states, such as Florida through the “Air Conditioning in Inmate Housing” bill, are considering legislation that would respect the dignity of those in prison and their safety by requiring air conditioning units in good working order to be available for all housing units. Other states, such as Arizona through House Bill 2047, would create a transition program through partnerships with local nonprofits to help perpetrators of nonviolent crimes assimilate into the local community after serving their sentence.
  • Ending the Epidemic of Mass Shootings and Gun Violence: Tennessee, is taking a multi-front approach to the epidemic. For example, House Bill 1640 and House Bill 2101 ensure court records noting an individual’s mental health and likelihood to cause harm are added to the background check system. Additionally, Senate Bill 2342 makes it a criminal act to threaten mass violence, and House Bill 1625 creates a “duty to warn” if an actual threat of bodily harm is detected. 
  • Stopping Sexual Abuse: Reforms such as Senate Bill 5280 in Washington and Senate Bill 87 in Kansas would expand requirements for clergy and ministers to report the abuse or neglect of children. Missouri is also considering two proposals, House Bill 1741 and House Bill 1868, that provide greater protections to nonprofits that share credible abuse allegations with other nonprofits and expand protections for victims who wish to provide testimony through video.
By / Feb 22

Welcome to the ERLC Podcast where our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues. Today on the podcast, we’re talking about pro-life advocacy with author and speaker, Scott Klusendorf.

As part of the ERLC Podcast, we will feature special episodes from the Research team from time to time to help equip you to think deeply about the most pressing questions we face in the public square.  

As we continue our series on life, the Research team is bringing you a special interview today with Scott Klusendorf, the author of The Case for Life. Scott is a respected pro-life speaker and advocate, best known for his work with the Life Training Institute which prepares Christians to be able to articulate and defend the pro-life movement with rational and theological arguments. He has participated in debates against abortion advocates such as the Planned Parenthood directors and attorneys who have argued for abortion access before the Supreme Court. Each year, he trains thousands of pro-life students how to share their beliefs with their classmates and helps them understand the common objections to ending abortion. 

We hope that this long-form interview will help you begin to understand that Christian pro-life advocacy must be rooted in the image of God and is an intellectually defensible and coherent worldview. 

Thanks for listening to this production of the ERLC Podcast. Join us next time as we focus on the ERLC’s policy work, especially as it relates to life. 

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Lindsay Nicolet and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Feb 15

The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission (CLC) and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) are partnering through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project to provide a new ultrasound machine at the Legacy Pregnancy Resource Center in Hobbs, a southeastern New Mexico city that sits just four miles from the Texas border.

Shared commitment to ‘culture of life’

Although abortion was essentially banned in the state of Texas following Roe v. Wade’s reversal and subsequent anti-abortion laws, Katie Frugé, director of Texas Baptists’ Center for Cultural Engagement and the Christian Life Commission, said that the neighboring state of New Mexico remains an option for women seeking abortions.

“We know several abortion-vulnerable women are now traveling out of state to seek services, and we want to help support the crisis pregnancy center in Hobbs as they experience an influx of women in need of support and services,” explained Frugé.

“Texas Baptists proudly affirms the sanctity and dignity of all human life,” Frugé said. “This partnership with the ERLC is the result of our shared commitment to continuing to work to grow a culture of life in a post-Roe world.”

The ERLC added that the abortion industry has targeted Hobbs because of its location and already sees many clients from Texas. With a junior college and a four-year university in the city, Legacy has recently seen an increase in client appointments, averaging about 70 per month. They are excited to see Texas Baptists join forces to resource the city better and provide alternatives to those seeking abortions.

“At the ERLC, we are overjoyed when we can partner with state conventions as we stand for life together. This placement in Hobbs, N.M., in partnership with the BGCT, is unique since the state convention is reaching beyond its borders and giving with a missional mindset to serve their neighbors in an abortion-permissible state,” said Rachel Wiles, director of ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project.

Psalm 139 Project exists to make people aware of the life-saving potential of ultrasound technology in unplanned pregnancy situations and to help pregnancy centers minister to abortion-vulnerable women by providing ultrasound equipment for them to use.

Read the full Texas Baptists article here.

By / Feb 8

Today, we’re talking about adoption and foster care in the U.S. Welcome to the ERLC Podcast where our goal is to help you think biblically about today’s cultural issues.

We believe it’s clear in God’s Word that his perfect design is for many people to eventually unite as one man and one woman in a lifetime of marriage. That marriage, in many cases, leads to the blessing of children and establishes a family that glorifies God and benefits society. Unfortunately, in a fallen world, reality is messy. Marriage is put off and misunderstood. Families are broken and difficult. Infertility is faced far too often. And children are vulnerable and in need. 

That’s where adoption and foster care comes in to provide care for these children and help them find the loving and safe families that they were made for. The need for these ministries, organizations, and for people to get involved has only grown since the Dobbs decision overturning a federal right to abortion. 

Joining us on this episode is Herbie Newell, someone who understands this reality more than most. He’s the president & executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services and its ministry arms. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased international outreach to 25 countries through adoption and strategic orphan care, obtained licensure in 17 states, and established the foster care arm at Lifeline. 

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Lindsay Nicolet and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Jan 29

Congress is considering an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) that could significantly benefit low-income families and children. The proposed expansion is part of a larger tax bill that aims to increase access to the CTC for lower-earning families. While the proposed expansion of the CTC is smaller than the 2021 expansion, it is expected to have a significant impact on low-income families and children. The ERLC joined a letter with other pro-life partners expressing our support for the CTC deal that has come together.

The proposal is part of a larger bipartisan, compromise tax package that also includes tax benefits for businesses. The package passed the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee with a vote of 40-3 and is expected to receive a vote on the House floor in the coming days. The expansion of the CTC is part of a broader conversation about the role of tax credits in supporting low-income families and reducing child poverty.

Here is what you should know about the proposed legislation:

What is the current Child Tax Credit?

The current child tax credit provides a nonrefundable credit of $2,000 per child under age 17 for families earning up to $200,000 ($400,000 if filing jointly). There’s also an additional child tax credit, which is meant to help families with insufficient tax liability to claim $2,000 per eligible child. The refundable amount is currently capped at 15% of the family’s income above $2,500.

What are the proposed changes to the Child Tax Credit?

The proposed expansion would change the way the CTC is calculated by allowing families to multiply the credit by the number of children they have. For instance, a family that makes $13,000 a year with two children would receive $1,575 per child, instead of $1,575 overall.

The proposal also includes an increase in the refundability cap, or the maximum child tax credit families can earn per child, to adjust for inflation. The cap was previously $1,600 and would increase to $1,800 in 2023, $1,900 in 2024, and so forth.

What would be the impact of this expansion of the Child Tax Credit?

The proposed expansion is expected to benefit about 16 million children in low-income families. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the expansion could lift as many as 400,000 children above the poverty line.

The expansion would be particularly beneficial for families with multiple children. Under current regulations, families with multiple children earn the same child tax credit as others with the same salary but fewer children. The proposed changes would allow these families to receive a larger amount of the credit.

The CTC was previously expanded in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan. This expansion increased the CTC to a maximum of $3,600 per child, increased the age limit, and made it fully refundable, with half the sum available in advance monthly payments. However, these changes were only for that tax year. The 2021 expansion contributed to a record low child poverty rate and helped reduce food insufficiency and increase families’ ability to meet their basic needs.

Why do some Christians support this expansion?

Christians can disagree about whether direct payments from the government is the most prudent way to spend taxpayer dollars. Yet the proven benefits of this program have led many believers to champion it as an effective means of reducing child poverty and providing more support to low-income families.

Additionally, while the proposed CTC expansion provides financial assistance to families, it also encourages self-sufficiency by helping families cover the costs of raising children and potentially enabling parents to invest in education or job training. This aligns well with an emphasis, shared by many Southern Baptists, on the importance of work and personal responsibility for promoting flourishing and dignity. 

Just as the tax code—not often a place where Christians think of advancing pro-life policy—confers benefits to marriage because of the recognition of its societal good, the aim of these payments to alleviate child poverty is one way to recognize children as a social good. Particularly in a post-Roe environment, we are eager to support vulnerable mothers and families who might be considering abortion due to their financial situation and help them choose life.

Even if we would prefer another method or our political preference advocates a different way, a society that begins to have a greater appreciation for children and advances the protection of the vulnerable is clearly something pro-life Christians should appreciate.

By / Jan 26

Public policy advocacy is one of the primary ways that the ERLC fulfills its ministry in the public square. We recently released our 2024 Public Policy Agenda, which outlines more than three dozen policy issues that will shape our work in Washington, D.C., this year.

The first session of the 118th Congress proved to be wildly unproductive and crippled by intraparty fighting, culminating in the historic ouster of a speaker of the House. Congress left 2023 without funding the government and with little progress made on dozens of priorities. It is in the midst of this dysfunction and division that we must find a way to press forward on priorities relevant to the mission of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: 

  • protecting life, 
  • safeguarding religious liberty, 
  • bolstering marriage and families, 
  • and upholding human dignity. 

Below is an overview of our policy priorities in these areas. You can learn more about each of these items in the agenda itself.

Life

As Southern Baptists, we believe that every person is made in the image of God, and thus, is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, level of ability, or stage of development. Because of that, the ERLC will always advocate for life to be protected. Following the Dobbs decision in 2022, we’ve seen both monumental gains for life in many states and new challenges emerge. We must persuade our lawmakers that the federal government still has an important role to play in protecting life and combatting this evil in all forms. Here are some aspects of our federal pro-life legislative priorities:

  • Protect Pro-life Riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process: Longstanding policy riders such as the Hyde Amendment are essential aspects of preventing taxpayer funding for abortion
  • Ending the Proliferation of Chemical Abortions: Chemical abortions make up a majority of all abortions and not only take the life of a preborn child, but also pose significant risks to women.  
  • Respond to the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA decision: This summer, the Supreme Court will decide whether significant restrictions on the chemical abortion drug, mifepristone, must be reinstated.
  • Oppose the Women’s Health Protection Act: This act would allow for abortion on demand nationwide, strip away conscience protections, and allow for taxpayer funding for abortion.
  • Support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act: This bill would codify the protections found in the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life funding riders.
  • Support the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act: This bill provides basic protections for precious children who survive an abortion attempt.
  • Support Federal Abortion Restrictions: Though the Dobbs decision gave power back to the states on the issue of abortion, it did not absolve Congress of its responsibility to protect life in the womb.
  • Oppose “Abortion Tourism”: Since the Dobbs decision, the Biden administration has worked to promote and mandate the right for women to travel to receive an abortion in another state.
  • Expand Hyde Protections to Prohibit Taxpayer-Funded Abortion Travel: Many of the aforementioned actions have circumvented Hyde-Amendment protections to require taxpayer funding for such abortion-related travel.
  • Oppose the Biden Administration’s Pro-Abortion Regulatory Agenda: In the absence of congressional action, the Biden administration has used its regulatory powers to promote and expand access to abortion in all contexts.
  • Support the Work of Pregnancy Resource Centers: Pregnancy resource centers are on the front line of the pro-life movement and have faced increasing attacks regarding their funding and perceived legitimacy.
  • Strengthen International Pro-Life Work: Organizations like the United Nations and other international bodies continue to press for an “international right to abortion” and seek to use international aid funding to promote abortion.
  • Oppose Physician-Assisted Suicide and all Euthanasia Efforts: Across the United States, there is an effort to expand the availability of physician-assisted suicide under the guise of “compassionate healthcare.”

Religious Liberty

A bedrock of Baptist belief is that “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” The Baptist Faith & Message continues in stating that “A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.” Our Baptist ancestors in the U.S. were instrumental in the crafting and adoption of the First Amendment to our Constitution, which guarantees free exercise of religion for all and forbids the establishment of a state-driven religion. The ERLC will continue this legacy in our moral education and in our advocacy. We expect some of the following to be issues of particular concern in 2024:

  • Oppose The Equality Act: This act would codify sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as protected classes in federal civil rights law and is the greatest threat to religious liberty ever considered in the U.S. Congress. 
  • Oppose attacks on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: Recent legislation from both parties has explicitly removed vital religious liberty protections guaranteed by law in RFRA.
  • Support the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act: This bill would prohibit government discrimination against child welfare agencies on the basis of their beliefs and ultimately protect children in the foster system and children waiting for adoption by ensuring that a wide range of child welfare providers are available to serve them.
  • Support the Conscience Protection Act: This bill provides conscience protections for healthcare workers with religious and moral convictions that prohibit them from participating in activities that go against their pro-life beliefs.
  • Oppose the Biden Administration’s Regulatory Actions: The Biden administration has extensively used its regulatory powers to curtail religious liberty and conscience protections, especially as they intersect with sexual orientation and gender identity issues.
  • Support the Safeguarding Charity Act: This bill would protect the religious liberty of faith-based organizations by clearly stating that simply holding tax-exempt status does not equate to receiving federal financial assistance.
  • Support a Two-year Universal Charitable Deduction to Encourage Giving to Charities: Under the federal tax code, people can only claim a deduction for charitable contributions if they itemize their deductions, but a universal charitable deduction would incentivize such giving from all taxpayers. 
  • Combat Global Antisemitism: Following the horrific attack on Israel on Oct. 7, there has been a significant rise in antisemitism both domestically and abroad, with alarming tolerance for antisemitic rhetoric and actions on college campuses across the country and at many of our global institutions, such as the United Nations
  • Support Protections for the Uyghur People in China: Though national attention has shifted elsewhere, the Uyghur people continue to face a genocide, and more must be done to prioritize this issue in U.S. foreign policy with China.
  • Advocate for the Elimination of Blasphemy and Apostasy Laws: Dozens of countries still enforce these laws—often through the death penalty—prohibiting one from converting to another religion or speaking or acting in any way that is deemed offensive to the god of their particular religion.
  • Support the Designation of Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern: Despite intense persecution of Christians, the U.S. State Department has ignored the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to designate Nigeria as a Country of Particular Concern for religious freedom for three consecutive years.

Marriage & Family

We believe that families are the foundational institution of our society. However, shifting views in our culture regarding marriage, gender, sexuality, and family have left our society in disarray. We will continue to advocate for policies that promote availability and accessibility in adoption and foster care; provide wrap-around care for vulnerable mothers and families; and promote the rights and responsibilities of parents in raising their children and pushing back on harmful gender ideology. Some aspects of our advocacy for marriage and family include:

  • Support Adoption and Foster Care Policies: In addition to pushing back on the alarming religious liberty trends discussed above in the adoption and foster care systems, we are advocating for policies that would support and strengthen adoption, making it more affordable and accessible
  • Support the Adoptee Citizenship Act: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 granted automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the U.S. who had at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen, but it only applied to adoptees under the age of 18 when the bill was enacted, leaving an entire population of adopted children without full U.S. citizenship. This bill closes that loophole. 
  • Ensure Intercountry Adoption Remains a Viable Option: Amidst significant declines in international adoptions, the ERLC is working with like-minded partners and the U.S. Department of State to ensure that intercountry adoption remains a viable option for families and vulnerable children around the world.
  • Support Pro-Family Policy in a Post-Roe World: The ERLC will advocate for policies that remedy marriage penalties, empower abortion-vulnerable women to choose life, and provide baseline levels of support for new parents. 
  • Oppose Harmful “Gender-Transition” Surgeries and Procedures: Going against both God’s good design and sound medical practice, “gender-transition” procedures are preying on vulnerable minors and should be outlawed. 
  • Oppose Taxpayer Funding for “Gender-Transition” Surgeries and Procedures: It is unconscionable that taxpayer dollars continue to be used to fund “gender-transition” surgeries and procedures that harm those experiencing gender dysphoria and that millions of Americans find objectionable. 
  • Support Parental Rights: Recent years have seen increased challenges to the fundamental rights and responsibilities of parents in areas of education, online access, and matters of gender and sexuality, and the ERLC will continue to support the rights of parents in both legislation and the courts.
  • Support Protections for Children Online: New data has demonstrated the detrimental effects on mental health, learning, and self-image that have come as a result from unhindered access for minors without the knowledge and consent of parents. More must be done to prevent children from accessing harmful content, such as pornography, and to empower parents in overseeing the online activity of their children.
  • Oppose Marijuana Expansion: The ERLC will continue to oppose various efforts to expand the availability and legality of marijuana in our communities, understanding the devastating impacts it has on many families.

Human Dignity

We believe that every person is made in the image of God and is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, race, nationality, level of ability, or stage of development. The Bible also calls us to seek justice and righteousness, especially for those who are vulnerable. In our advocacy for fair and impartial judgment and equitable treatment of the unjustly oppressed and marginalized, we bear witness to a God who is ultimately the just Judge and to a gospel that saves all who believe without partiality. These realities spur on our commitment to the following priorities for this year:

  • Support a Permanent Solution for Dreamers: With litigation on its way to the Supreme Court that will likely end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, these young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents remain in an unstable situation without action from Congress.
  • Rebuild the Refugee Resettlement Program: Though progress has been made in rebuilding infrastructure, we will continue to advocate for fully restoring the refugee resettlement program and America’s legacy as a beacon of hope to those fleeing persecution.
  • Support the Afghan Adjustment Act:  This bill provides a path to permanent legal status after additional vetting for Afghans who were brought to the U.S. following the fall of Afghanistan and who remain in limbo.
  • Support Border Security Enhancements and Asylum Reforms: At the 2023 annual meeting, Southern Baptists called on lawmakers to “provide clear guidance for immigrants and asylum seekers,” “maintain robust avenues for valid asylum claimants seeking refuge,” and “prioritize measures that secure our borders and to provide adequate resources to border patrol and those working in our immigration system.” 
  • Support Further Criminal Justice Reform: The ERLC will continue to advocate for reforms that focus on fairness, safety, rehabilitation, and recognize the dignity of those in prison, including provisions requiring that only biological females may be housed together.
  • Combat the Epidemic of Mass Shootings and Gun Violence: In 2018, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention gave support for “preventative measures that would reduce gun violence and mass shootings while operating in accordance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.” In 2022, messengers urged lawmakers “to take concrete steps, towards solutions that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, especially the most vulnerable among us, and to minimize the threat of gun violence throughout our society.”
  • Support Payday Lending Regulations: Short-term payday loans often come with deceptive and predatory annual interest rates of over 400%, trapping the poor in a vicious cycle of debt and despair. 
  • Oppose Efforts to Expand Gambling: Even as millions are trapped in the addictive and destructive cycle of gambling, efforts are underway at both the state and federal levels to expand gambling, particularly through sports betting. 
  • Advocate for Anti-Human Trafficking Laws: The ERLC will continue to advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation in Congress—particularly legislation aimed at supporting trafficking victims and increasing the responsibility of companies to remove this explicit content from their platforms. 
  • Support Efforts to Shape Artificial Intelligence and Technology that Emphasize Human Dignity: In 2023, Southern Baptists called on lawmakers to “proactively engage and shape these emerging technologies rather than simply respond to the challenges of AI and other emerging technologies after they have already affected our churches and communities.” The ERLC will continue to assist lawmakers in understanding these realities and advocate for policies in line with this call of human dignity and the common good.
By / Jan 24

WASHINGTON (BP) – A trio of pro-life bills, endorsed by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, were either introduced, reintroduced or passed on Thursday, Jan. 18.

The Pregnancy Center Support Act was introduced to the Senate on Thursday, while the Unborn Child Support Act was reintroduced the same day. Additionally, the previously introduced Pregnant Students’ Rights Act passed the House on Thursday.

These updates took place one day before the annual March for Life, and three days before Sanctity of Life Sunday on the SBC Calendar.

Hannah Daniel, ERLC public policy director, praised the work of the lawmakers involved with the bills.

“At a time when lawmakers have been timid to voice pro-life convictions, I was encouraged to see legislative activity pushing forward the cause of life last week,” Daniel said.

At the ERLC, we are celebrating the passage of the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act along with the introduction of the Pregnancy Center Support Act and the Unborn Child Support Act. These bills recognize the dignity and personhood of the preborn and also tangibly assist new mothers and families to choose life.

Hannah Daniel

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 22

WASHINGTON (BP) – Thousands of Americans braved snowy conditions Friday (Jan. 19) in support of the pro-life cause during the 51st annual March for Life.

This year’s March for Life gathering marked the second time the event has been held since the historic overturning of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 2022, returning abortion legislation to the states.

It was the court’s Roe decision, handed down in January 1973, which inspired the first March for Life event, held the following year in 1974.

Since that first March, pro-life Americans (including many evangelical Christians) have come together each January near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to support the cause and re-affirm their commitment to protect unborn children and care for their mothers.

The event is understood to be the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration.

Among those marching Friday were many staff members of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).  

ERLC policy director Hannah Daniel advocates for pro-life causes year-round through the Leland House located on Capitol Hill.

Each year, the March for Life is an opportunity for the pro-life movement to come together and refocus our efforts on the goal: saving lives. The theme of this year’s march, ‘With every woman, for every child,’ points to the road ahead. As we continue to work towards a day where abortion is illegal, we must also come alongside women who are vulnerable with care and support, empowering them to choose life.

Hannah Daniel

For Julie Masson, ERLC director of communications, marching is a family affair.

“This is my fourth time participating in the March for Life, and each year I’m amazed at how many different people come to D.C. for this event,” Masson said.

“I’m joined this year by my teenage daughter, and it’s been wonderful to see the March through her eyes. The March for Life is another opportunity for the ERLC to communicate our commitment to advocating for the most vulnerable among us. We will continue to serve mothers and save lives through our public policy priorities.”

This year’s March for Life takes place just two days before Sanctity of Life Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention (Jan. 21), marking the 39th year of observance of the day on the SBC Calendar.

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 22

For many, the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade felt victorious. And it was. Yet, we can’t overlook the reality that there’s still much work to be done as the battle to protect human life marches on. Below, Benjamin Watson helps us better understand the current landscape of the pro-life movement and the challenges we may face ahead on the state level now that a federal right to abortion is gone. 

Halftime for the pro-life movement

Benjamin Watson: If we can take ourselves back to June 24, 2022, when Roe was overturned—that was a momentous occasion. It was something that so many people had looked forward to and fought for, and it was something to be celebrated. 

At the same time, I had an overwhelming feeling that the pro-life movement may not be ready for all that was going to happen in a post-Roe America. And while it was important for the Supreme Court to make that decision, the larger issue that we must wrestle with is the fact that the driving factors, whatever they may be for women to seek abortions and men to seek abortions for their partners, are still there. 

This is almost like halftime for the pro-life movement. I played a lot of football, and we used to come in at halftime and reorder the game plan. The coach would always have some talking points and fire us up to go back out there. And for pro-lifers, this is kind of a halftime for us when we need to be engaged in this fight in perhaps a different way than we were before, maybe a more holistic way, because now the legislation is on the state level. 

An opportunity

BW: Again, the driving factors, whether relationships, housing, healthcare—all those sorts of thingsare still prevalent. Women are still struggling with those things. So, how can we as pro-lifers continue to step in and serve them in ways that promote life?

Additionally, something disturbing people should know is that chemical abortions make up about 50% of abortions now. And by chemical abortions, I mean a two-pill process that women can take in the privacy of their own bathrooms, having abortions at home without ever going to a clinic. That needs to be on our radar. Not as many people are talking about it, but it’s still ending lives. So, how do we sound that alarm and push our elected officials to create regulations? 

We should continue praying, not just for life, but for families, for our culture, for those who are in decision-making roles, whether in local, federal, or state government. We need to be a people and a Church who advocates for life in all of its phases, whether that’s the person who’s trafficked, those who are suffering from poverty, or those who are feeling the brunt of racism or discrimination. We, as believers, have an opportunity to show the world the full spectrum of what it means to be pro-life.

Check out erlc.com/podcast to hear more of this discussion and listen to additional episodes of the ERLC Podcast covering issues that matter to Southern Baptists.