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 18

(RNS) — Last January, March for Life participants gathered for the first time after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, celebrating a long-sought victory even as they shifted their focus to the state level — the new battleground in the enduring abortion debate.

A year later, after a series of disappointments for the organization, in which more than half a dozen state ballot initiatives strengthened access to abortion, abortion opponents will gather again for the annual D.C. march, even as March for Life also plans at least 16 state-level marches this year, double that of 2023.

Brent Leatherwood, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he plans to represent his organization at the national march, as has long been its tradition. In contrast to Manson’s view about abortion rights and religious freedom, he said: “You can’t have rights that are at the expense of a life, especially a defenseless innocent life.”

Leatherwood said the road ahead will be a prolonged one for those who share his opposition to abortion.

I think the recent setbacks at the state level with ballot initiatives, various proposals in legislatures, are just a reminder that this is going to be a long path that we’re walking. And even though we may get various proposals passed or policy enacted, this question is not something that can be solved purely through policy. It is still very much a heart question.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Religion News Service article here.

By / Jan 18

A year ago, anti-abortion activists from across the U.S. gathered for their annual March for Life with reason to celebrate: It was their first march since the Supreme Court, seven months earlier, had overturned the nationwide right to abortion.

At this year’s march, on Friday, the mood will be very different — reflecting formidable challenges that lie ahead in this election year.

The key consequence of Dobbs was to return decision-making on abortion policy to individual states. Some Democratic-governed states — such as California, New York and New Jersey — have strengthened protections for abortion access. Roughly 20 states with Republican-controlled legislatures have either banned abortion or sought to impose new restrictions.

After Dobbs, “I didn’t want anyone to get the false sense that we were at the end of our work,” said Brent Leatherwood, an abortion opponent who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy wing.

We’ve gone from a focal point at the federal level to 50 different focal points. It may be another 50 years before we truly establish a culture of life, where preborn lives are saved and mothers are supported.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Associated Press article here.

By / Jan 10

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Supreme Court will rule on a case involving an Idaho law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.

The high court agreed to hear a challenge to the law, known as the Defense of Life Act, which makes it a felony for doctors to perform most abortions, with an exception for procedures performed when necessary to save the life of the mother.

Last Friday (Jan. 5), the Supreme Court ruled Idaho can enforce the law while the case involving the legislation is being resolved. The court is expected to hear the case in April, and a decision is expected by early summer.

The Friday ruling put on hold a lower court ruling which blocked the Idaho law, based upon a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the lawsuit filed by the Biden administration against the state of Idaho is a wrongful “twist” of federal law seeking to “thwart” the state’s legislation.

Despite what some activists and parts of culture want you to believe, abortion is not health care. In fact, it turns the entire notion of health care on its head. Equally alarming are those who, in the furtherance of abortion, seek to twist federal law to mandate that doctors violate their conscience in the medical care they provide. All of this is preposterous, and the Supreme Court should see through this backdoor attempt by the Biden Administration to thwart Idaho’s ‘Defense of Life’ state law.

Emergency room doctors are more than capable of quickly managing life-threatening situations for mothers like ectopic pregnancies with the utmost care. But they should never be forced to perform elective abortions that terminate the life of a preborn child. The Supreme Court’s decision to review this case is potentially a positive step to both uphold a state’s action to protect life and rebuke the federal government for doing Planned Parenthood’s bidding.

Brent Leatherwood

In a similar case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined that ER physicians in Texas were not required to perform emergency abortion care under EMTALA, in a decision announced just days before the high court agreed to rule on Idaho’s law barring abortion.

Leatherwood noted the importance of continuing to fight for the pro-life cause amid these ongoing legal battles.

It is imperative for all of us who care about the lives of preborn children, their mothers and families to make it clear that abortion is wrong, and the ability to end a defenseless life is no freedom at all.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Nov 13

With shifting policies and restrictions related to life and abortion across the country, pro-life ministry can look different across state lines. However, the heart behind pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) has been one and the same: to save lives and come alongside vulnerable women during the most difficult moments of their lives. 

I recently spoke with Wendy Reasner, executive director of NorthState Care Clinic in Redding, California, to hear more about the abortion landscape in California and how their PRC is working to reach more women and children with the love and hope of the gospel. Wendy also shared how churches and pro-life individuals and organizations can work together to foster a culture of life and support for the most vulnerable. 

Jill Waggoner: How would you describe the abortion culture in California?

Wendy Reasner: California has become an abortion tourism state. Gov. [Gavin] Newsom has put up billboards that say, “Please come to our state, and we will help you. We will pay for your abortion. We will pay for your travel. We’ll pay for the childcare of your other children in order for you to get an abortion.” Newsom used Scripture on those billboards. There are pilots who fly into California from other states to help women get abortions. 

The availability of abortion pills is also increasing. Right now, they’re not only offered through the mail—they’re at our local CVS and Rite Aid. You don’t have to do much to have those pills sent or prescribed to you. Before Dobbs, we were a state that was providing abortion up until birth, and nothing has changed since. So it’s just completely and purely pro-choice. 

JW: What should we know about late-term abortions?

WR: A lot of people think women are having late-term abortions to protect the health of the mother. But early court cases defined the health of the mother as anything that impedes even the mental status of the mother. So if being pregnant at the very last day of pregnancy makes the mother depressed and she wants an abortion, then that’s just fine. 

Many people also don’t know that in certain states, especially in California, if a baby survives a late-term abortion and is born alive, there are no lifesaving measures taken to help that baby.

JW: What does it look like to be pro-life in California?

WR: I would say being pro-life in California is like swimming upstream. In Northern California, where I live and where our new mobile ultrasound bus is located, it is very conservative. We’re blessed to be in a largely religious, pro-life area. However, we have to comply with all of the legislation that comes from the state, which is very pro-choice. 

JW: What has your experience been with local representatives and policies, and how do they affect your work?

WR: We are fortunate to have pro-life representatives in Northern California, but I don’t think PRC information really reaches them. We’ve contacted our local representatives to come visit our PRC, because there has been an attack on pregnancy centers all over the country and false warnings that they are fake abortion clinics. Our legislators don’t really understand what this is all about, but they don’t seem to want to visit and learn what a PRC is and how we are truly supporting women and our community. I feel like a lot of leaders—unless they’re radically pro-choice or radically pro-life—just aren’t paying attention. 

JW: What does your PRC provide for your community?

WR: We’re in a rural area and serve close to 1,000 women each year. We’ve given over 200 pregnancy tests throughout the year and also provide free ultrasounds for women. In abortion clinics, women are often not permitted to see their ultrasounds, because those working in the clinic know that an ultrasound has the greatest impact in helping a woman connect with her unborn child. So many young girls think that a baby’s heartbeat begins beating at three months and are always surprised that at six weeks, they can see the heart beating on the screen.

In addition to giving lifesaving ultrasounds, we’re walking with women throughout the journey. Through our “earn while you learn” program, mothers can earn points by educating themselves on anything related to pregnancy, parenting, budgeting, etc., taking ownership for their own education, and then using those points in our boutique to get resources and supplies for pregnancy and early childhood care. We have cribs, strollers, car seats, and clothing. We offer labor and delivery classes and spiritual connection classes, as well. 

We also offer reproductive loss classes for those who’ve had miscarriages or abortions, because the sad reality is that when a mom chooses to abort, she usually struggles afterward. We just want to make sure that mom knows how to care for herself, that she knows that she’s supported, and that she knows that she can do it.

JW: What do you want those who live in areas with more abortion restrictions to understand about the pro-life movement in places like California?

WR: There is no easy serving in the pro-life movement, no matter what state you’re in and no matter what restrictions are there, because the heart and the mind of women is pretty much the same everywhere. We are all facing a huge battle, but we know that we are serving a God who is bigger than anything. We can also praise God for states with abortion restrictions, because we know that lives are being saved there, and we know that the media is not publishing stories of girls who are choosing life.

JW: How would you encourage pro-life individuals to get involved in advocating for women and children?

WR: I would encourage pro-life individuals to get involved with a state family council of some sort or a consortium of people who are watching legislation. In California, we have the California Family Council, which has a website that displays all of the new policies that affect families. Having a finger on the pulse of legislation helps pro-life individuals organize better and to come together in their advocacy. The pro-life movement has often been divided, but together, we can be an insurmountable force for the Kingdom of God.

JW: What do you see as the greatest need from churches and other pro-life partners in the coming days?

WR: Recent research tells us that 1 in 3 women who terminate their pregnancies were attending church at the time, so I feel the greatest need from the Church is to acknowledge that this is an issue, and not to run away from it. We need to understand the women in our churches and understand that the whole reason that PRCs exist is because women are intimidated to come to their churches. I can actually speak from personal experience. As a teenager, I was too intimidated, too ashamed, and too guilty to tell someone my story.

I think that churches have taken great strides in this area. We give mothers a beautiful gift box, letting them know that there are people in the church who love them and are willing to walk with them. There is a fabulous organization (and others like it) called Embrace Grace that serves as a connector from PRCs to the Church. The church actually gets to help save lives, both physically and spiritually. 

By / Jun 27

The thought of sitting across the room from a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy strikes fear in the hearts of many. Visions of a quiet room, hushed tones, heartbreaking stories, positive tests, and difficult decisions may cause anxiety or discomfort. To be honest, this fear isn’t unwarranted. As a woman who has worked in the pregnancy resource center (PRC) world in a variety of capacities for the past 10 years, I’ve seen firsthand how serious and intense the frontlines of a PRC can be. 

Staff and volunteers willingly walk into a difficult but essential ministry every day, committed to speaking truth in love to women who are either desperate to hear it or determined to reject it. These workers stand in the gap to advocate for life within the womb and for the mothers who carry those lives. Make no mistake: what’s happening behind those closed doors is life and death.

But in an attempt to paint an accurate picture of the life-changing work happening at PRCs, churches unwillingly—perhaps, unknowingly—may be discouraging their members from connecting with pregnancy centers at all.

Your congregation is filled with women who would go weak in the knees at the thought of closing themselves in a room with a mother who is considering abortion. Their hearts may be burdened to stand for life, but the knee-knocking, white-knuckled anxiety of what “could” or “might” happen keeps them glued to the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the other half of your congregation may believe this is a ministry in which they have no place. After all, what could men possibly have to offer in this woman-focused mission field?

The beauty of the Church of Christ is that there are many parts, but one body (1 Cor. 12:12). Every member of the body has a unique, purposeful, and invaluable role to fill. Because abortion is a gospel issue, the Church must rise up to address it at all costs.

Not only is there room for everyone in the pro-life movement, but there is a desperate need for everyone—male, female, young, old, confident, fearful—to step off the sidelines and find their place within this movement. 

And at The Pregnancy Network (TPN) in North Carolina, people are rushing off the sidelines in droves.

“For many years, we struggled to have volunteer involvement beyond the core group who served as peer advocates,” said Allison Herrington, director of partnerships. “Peer advocates” refers to the trained volunteers who meet with women during their appointments to discuss options and offer the hope of the gospel message.

Herrington noted, “It wasn’t until we changed the narrative about what it means to get involved and make a difference in the pro-life movement that we started to see a shift.”

“We recognized that there was a complete subset of untapped potential within the church,” said Hope Earwood, director of development and communications. “When we started talking about how everyone has a part to play in this story—about how we needed people from all skill sets and backgrounds—we realized just how creative partners and volunteers could be.” 

Women and men who previously had written off their abilities to connect with the mission of a pregnancy resource center now found themselves using their unique talents and abilities to serve. 

Practical ways to serve

What does this look like on a practical level? 

Herrington pointed out they have a volunteers doing a variety of things including: 

  • setting up classrooms, 
  • preparing food, 
  • organizing
  • sorting baby items and donations, 
  • writing notes of encouragement for mothers, 
  • distributing class incentives, 
  • cleaning offices, 
  • and greeting clients

In addition, they have:

  • “women who use their time in school carlines to make phone calls to potential event sponsors; 
  • men with infant CPR and other professional certifications teaching sessions for our parenting classes; 
  • partners who donate funds to cover costs of billboards and other marketing tools to reach more clients; 
  • women who serve as mentors, make baby blankets, assist with mailings; 
  • and men who help set up and break down at events, and mobilize their small groups to assist with special projects.”

“Every volunteer is so flexible and willing to do whatever we need,” said Kimberly Gay, client services coordinator. “No matter what the task, people come faithfully and serve. And I believe it’s because we all want the same thing: to glorify God, love women, and protect life.”  

“Our message to our community is simple,” said Earwood. “No matter where you serve, every person makes an impact on the life of another. You have a vital role to play in this mission. And there is a place for you here.”

Steps your church can take 

So if your church wants to get more involved in the pro-life movement but isn’t sure where to start, what is the first step? 

If your community has a local PRC (and it probably does), I guarantee they would welcome your involvement with open arms. Take the initiative to invite a representative from that PRC to speak with you and your church leaders about their needs. 

Consider the unique strengths of the individuals in your church. Is your church filled with stay-at-home mothers? Empty nesters? IT gurus? Graphic designers? Writers? Businessmen and women? Event planners? The answer is almost certainly “yes” to all of these, and every last person in your congregation can serve in some capacity.

Something beautiful happens when a wave of individuals from different backgrounds, skill sets, and comfort zones unites around a common mission and purpose. When the body of Christ refuses to remain passive and complacent about putting the Word into action, and instead rallies around women in unplanned pregnancies by mobilizing every possible resource they possess, well—that’s when mothers will believe us when we say we value all life.

That’s when we live out our conviction that abortion is a gospel issue. And that’s when abortion can truly become unthinkable.


To find out more about how your church can build a healthy relationship with your local pregnancy resource center, contact The Pregnancy Network’s Associate Executive Director Luke Rosenberger at [email protected].

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 22

Ten years ago, I was visiting Shelter Yetu, an orphanage in Naivasha, Kenya. A young boy stood alone at the chalkboard, wiping away the day’s lessons with an old rag. The child—an orphan, I was told—sang quietly as he worked. I watched him from the doorway for a few minutes before greeting him in Swahili.

After some small talk about the day’s activities, I asked Boniface how long he had been at the orphanage. “One year,” he told me. Quietly, I asked him the last time he saw his family. I didn’t know—perhaps both his parents had passed away. “Last weekend,” he said with a smile. Boniface proceeded to tell me that his mother worked at a nearby farm and often came to visit him and his brother on the weekends.

So why was Boniface, who was obviously not an orphan, at an orphanage? I learned later that Boniface is the sixth of eight children. His family was displaced during Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence. They spent two years living in an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp before his father left. Eventually, Boniface’s mother found work at a local farm but couldn’t afford to send all of her children to school. So she found help the only way she could—she placed them in orphanages.

I wish I could say Boniface’s story is uncommon. But as many as 80% of children living in orphanages around the world have at least one living parent, and the vast majority have other family members who could be able to care for them if given the support to do so. The underlying reason children end up in orphanages is not because they are orphans—it is poverty. When a family is unable to meet the needs of their children, like education in Boniface’s case, an orphanage is considered a possible solution. 

Setting orphans in families

Does your church support an orphanage? Have you ever taken a short-term mission trip to serve at an orphanage? Does your family sponsor an orphan? If not, have you ever wondered how you or your church could help orphans? 

There is a clear biblical mandate for churches and believers to care for widows and orphans. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” However, our generous and sacrificial efforts to support children through orphanages and children’s homes is not producing the kind of results we have hoped for.

A growing body of research shows that orphanages are not the best place for children. 

  • Research shows orphanages harm children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.
  • Institutionalization of very young children has a similar impact on early brain development to severe malnutrition or maternal drug use during pregnancy.
  • Young adults raised in institutions are 10 times more likely to fall into sex work than their peers and 500 times more likely to take their own lives.
  • Placing a child in an orphanage quadruples the risk of sexual violence.

Families are vital for the development of children. They need the connection, belonging, and identity of a family to thrive into adulthood. Research shows significant improved outcomes for children who are cared for in their families, foster families, or adoptive families, compared to orphanages and children’s homes.

For these reasons, many countries and organizations are moving away from traditional institutional care (orphanages) to family and community-based care.  Organizations are working to strengthen families so they never need to consider an orphanage as a solution to their challenges. When a child is unable to be cared for in their own families, a foster or adoptive family allows children the opportunity stay in the community and receive the individualized support of a family.

Psalm 68 tells us that “God sets the lonely in families.” Orphans don’t just need food, shelter and education. Orphans need a safe, loving family. 

Today, Boniface and his brother are at home with their family, and Shelter Yetu is no longer an orphanage. Instead, it serves as a rescue center, helping children living on the streets, providing them with rehabilitation services reuniting them with safe, loving families and then working to empower their families. Shelter Yetu is also helping other orphanages transition to a family-based care model, resulting in more children going home. 

As part of my work as the International Orphan Care Consultant for Send Relief, one of my primary objectives is to help advise local churches in the United States on how to best care for orphans and vulnerable children based on biblical principles and emerging research in the field. We want to provide Southern Baptist churches with the tools, training, and advice needed to help you care for orphans in their affliction. Together, we can labor to see more orphans and vulnerable children know Christ’s love through placement in safe, loving families.