By / Jan 6

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

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

Find out more below.

Abortion after Roe v. Wade

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

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

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

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

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

Legislation in a divided government

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

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

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

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

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

A religious liberty Supreme Court case 

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

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

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

The SBC’s formal response to sexual abuse

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

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

Some of the recommendations are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering why we advocate for abortion’s end

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

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

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

A legislation rundown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The work before us 

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.

By / Jan 4

On Jan. 3, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulatory change that allows pharmacy chains and local pharmacies to distribute the first of the two-stage abortion pill regiment known as Mifepristone

Why does this matter?

This change will have devastating and widespread effects on preborn children, their mothers, our communities, and likely many pharmacists in abortion-friendly states.

First, there are the obvious and deep concerns about ending the lives of the preborn and grave dangers to women’s health with these medications. Expanded access will mean even more of these life-threatening pills will be available in our communities. While the FDA notes that it does not recommend purchasing mifepristone outside of the Mifepristone REMS Program, the loosening of these rules will inevitably lead to a growing supply and greater demand for the product, especially in states with regulations and bans on the medication.

Alongside issues of human dignity and abortion itself lie increased religious liberty concerns for those employed by pharmacies, especially large retail chains, who may be forced to distribute abortion medications against their conscience as part of their jobs. While some chains provide religious accommodations, it is unknown how many pharmacies in states that allow these medications will seek to protect the conscience rights of individuals who object on religious grounds, particularly in light of the growing push for abortion access today.

What is the ERLC doing on this new rule?

The ERLC has long sought to push back on and seek state/federal solutions to stop expansion and use of these life-taking drugs. For decades, the ERLC and other pro-life organizations worked to prevent the introduction of these pills and have subsequently sought to regulate access ever since. We have made federal regulation on the abortion pill a top priority in our forthcoming legislative agenda.

As we work toward pursuing a culture of life that not only protects the life of the preborn but also cares for vulnerable women and their families, the ERLC remains committed to upholding the dignity of every human life and combating the lies of the predatory abortion industry that benefits from this regulatory change from the FDA.

How do abortion pills work?

In a previous explainer, the ERLC noted that the method approved by the FDA for chemical abortions is a two-step process involving the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone ends a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is needed to maintain a pregnancy. Because this hormone is blocked, the uterine lining begins to shed, removing the child (in the embryonic state) that was attached. 

The second step, which occurs 24 to 48 hours later, requires taking misoprostol which causes the woman to expel the child and the uterine lining in a matter similar to a miscarriage. The second drug in this regiment is commonly used by doctors and is carried by most pharmacies today, while mifepristone is designed specifically for abortive use and is the main focus of this rule change.

It should also be noted that the FDA authorizes mifepristone to only be taken in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, although many clinics and medical providers began offering it up to 12 and 13 weeks given the push to expand access to the pill in light of the June 2022 Dobbs decision. According to Pam Belluck of The New York Times, some pills were even made available by prescription to women who are not pregnant but who feel they could use the pills someday. 

What led to this decision?

Following the demise of Roe v. Wade, demand for the abortion pill has grown exponentially, and some have gone to great lengths to obtain it. This regulatory change has been a primary focus of the Biden administration which has been working to expand abortion access since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling last year. Before the current regulatory change to the Mifepristone REMS Program, pregnant women could only legally obtain the medication with a prescription at specially certified clinics, hospitals, or mail-order pharmacies.

In April 2021, the FDA issued a letter stating that it would temporarily stop requiring an in-person visit to prescribe the abortion pill. The change was made permanent in December 2021. These moves followed a January 2021 decision by the Supreme Court to restore a federal rule that required a woman to go to a healthcare facility in person to obtain the drug because of its dangers

The FDA’s recent decision removed the in-person requirement from the Mifepristone REMS Program while leaving intact other major requirements that pharmacies will have to meet if they want to distribute this medication, including how the drug “must be prescribed by a health care provider that meets certain qualifications and is certified under the Mifepristone REMS Program” and that “certified pharmacies must ensure mifepristone is dispensed to the patient in a timely manner.” If these requirements are agreed upon and the pharmacy is certified under the program, local drugstores and chains will now have the option to carry mifeprex and its generic mifepristone tablets.

This change will mean expanded access to these life-taking drugs and will be a boon to the abortion industry that has long preyed upon women and their children for profit. Abortion access providers and the abortion industry lauded this decision as a positive step for the public. President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation Alexis McGill Johnson celebrated this decision noting that it was a “game changer for people” and “a step in the right direction for health equity.” 

Two manufacturers of this medication, Danco Laboratories, which makes mifeprex, and GenBioPro, which makes the generic version, also released statements acknowledging that the agency had informed them of the action and promoting access to their products. Both applauded the expanded availability to local and national pharmacies, but decried that many will still not have access to these drugs due to the restrictions at the state level. 

By / Jan 4

I will always remember exactly where I was when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was officially announced, overturning the Supreme Court’s infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Dobbs upheld a Mississippi law which severely limited abortion after 15 weeks gestation. Now individual state legislatures would be enabled to decide how the abortion issue would be adjudicated in each state. 

I had prayed many times since 1973 that God would allow me to live long enough to witness Roe v. Wade and its virtual “abortion-on-demand mandate” being tossed on the ash heap of history. I had always been confident that God was going to answer my prayer affirmatively, but it was still indescribably special when it happened. 

I was overwhelmed by intense gratitude to God on behalf of myself and the millions of pro-life advocates with whom I had worked and marched over the preceding half century. We owe so much to the tens of millions of pro-life Americans, living and dead, who gave generously of their time, talents, and finances over many, many years in defense of our preborn fellow human beings’ right to life. I praised God for giving us this great victory for the preborn, and I thanked God for the multitudes of fellow pro-lifers who God used to bring about this victory for a truly righteous and holy cause. 

I have often trembled for my country when I realized how God detests abortions and how harshly he judged child sacrifice in the Old Testament. If God did not spare his chosen people, the Jews, from severe judgment for child sacrifice (Jer. 7:30-32), I knew he certainly would judge America for similarly heinous, pagan disregard for the sacred nature of all human life. 

This year we also observed the 60th anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council. The major reforms in Roman Catholicism initiated by that historic conclave helped forge the cultural rapprochement between American Evangelicals and Roman Catholics that resulted in that powerful pro-life, interfaith alliance. Without that “common cause” and interdenominational cooperation at the local, as well as at the national level, it is extremely doubtful that Roe would have been relegated to an example of truly egregious Supreme Court decision in legal textbooks.

This has been a long journey for me personally. I have been consciously “pro-life” since my sophomore year in high school in 1964. It was in the spring of that year that I had my first “encounter” with what I now know was a 12- to 14-week-old human fetus. One of my classmates had done her biology term project on human fetal development. As part of her project, she had this undeniably human fetus displayed in a formaldehyde container. (Her father was an obstetrician and had provided the fetus.) I was shocked that this little baby boy’s body was stored just casually leaning against the classroom wall until it was time for her presentation. 

From that moment on, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that each preborn child was a fellow human being and that his or her humanity was undeniable from the moment of conception onward. I believe God gave me that disturbing experience at that early stage of my life in order to help prepare me for the pro-life debate that he knew was coming. Interestingly, just six months earlier, I had committed my life to full-time Christian service and had been “licensed” to gospel ministry.

The task ahead

After a few hours of praising God for allowing us victory in overturning Roe, I focused on the difficult and arduous task ahead. The words of Winston Churchill came to mind. Reflecting on the Allied victory at El Alamein in World War II, the great wartime leader observed, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” 

The pro-life movement has won a significant and necessary victory in returning the abortion issue to the people. Tragically, the last five decades of abortion on demand in America have greatly advanced what Pope John Paul II rightly labeled as the “Culture of Death.” The reality is that Americans remain deeply divided on the issue of abortion. Polling shows that nationwide, the majority of Americans reject abortion after the first trimester.1 Unfortunately, they do not yet see that, according to biblical revelation, and as reflected in the Southern Baptist Convention’s resolutions on abortion, the only exception to making abortion illegal is to save the mother’s life.2 (I personally believe that ultimately we must have a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution to protect all our preborn citizens. However, in a democracy, it will take a great spiritual awakening to accomplish that feat.) Complicating matters further, there are dramatic differences in opinion within the various states, with California, New York, and Massachusetts allowing abortion up to the moment of birth, as opposed to overwhelmingly pro-life policies such as those found in many of the Southern and Southwestern states. 

Now, the pro-life movement must take up the cause in each state, understanding that it still, first and foremost, is a struggle for hearts and minds. The abortion issue is the leading edge of a much more fundamental debate between the culture of life and the culture of death, between a “sanctity of life” ethic versus a “quality of life” ethic, which inevitably is grounded in the answer to the question, “Who and what is a human being?”

For those of us in the pro-life movement, there is no question concerning the fundamental answer to that most consequential question. The Bible has made it clear that every human being is of incalculable value to God because he sent his Son to die for them (John 3:16). Our Heavenly Father oversees and superintends the process of the formation of each new life so that every one of us, from the moment of conception, is the unique, never-to-be-duplicated, human being that God made each of us to be (Psa. 139:13-16).

It was God’s revelation of himself to the Jews in the Old Testament that resulted in the Hebrew civilization being the only culture in the Mediterranean basin that did not routinely practice both infanticide and abortion on demand. This biblical understanding carried over into the New Testament as evidenced by the fact that early in the post-apostolic era (circa AD 130), The Didache—a type of early church manual with catechisms and doctrinal teachings—condemned abortion as unacceptable for Christians in the midst of a Greco-Roman culture where abortion and infanticide were routine.

The pro-life movement in America is at a hinge point in its spiritual and cultural history. “Time” in the historical sense is not equal. Certain times are more important than others. The Apostle Paul said it clearly when he instructed the Ephesian Christians: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16, KJV).

In Greek there are two words for time. One word, chronos, denotes time in its chronological, 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week sense. The other word, kairos, is the one the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle to use here, which signifies time in its strategic, opportune moments. Paul instructs Christians to seize upon these propitious moments, “redeeming” each one for good, because the days are “evil,” which is not kakos or evil as a state of being, but poneros, which is active, aggressive, pernicious evil. 

As we in the pro-life movement go foward, we must understand that we are engaged in spiritual warfare as we seek to rescue as many babies as possible at every step in the process. While our ultimate goal must be to radically reduce legal abortion to the single exception of saving the mother’s life, we should never allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. In the interim, if we find ourselves, by political necessity, having to temporarily compromise by accepting laws that allow abortions at up to 6 weeks’, or 9 weeks’, or 12 weeks’ gestation, etc., then let us covenant together that we will save all the babies we can and then continue in the struggle for hearts and minds, coming back again and again with ever more protections for the unborn. The final goal must always be to rescue as many babies as possible.

Lessons learned

Over the past five decades, those of us in the pro-life movement have learned some important lessons. First, our God is a God of righteousness, but he is also a God of forgiveness and redemption, and we should always couple our condemnation of abortion with the message of forgiveness and healing at the foot of the cross. We must understand that in every abortion there are at least two victims, the baby and his or her mother. We should do our best to always minister to both victims our Savior’s redeeming, healing love.

We must ask God to give us the spirit of the prophet Jeremiah, who, while he condemned the grievous sins of the people, did so with a catch in his voice and a tear in his eye, as he wept over the sins of the people and the terrible consequences which inevitably followed in the wake of their idolatry and wickedness.

Also, wherever possible, we should promote and support Christian women as leaders and spokespersons for our movement. I learned early on that when pro-abortion advocates are forced to debate pro-life leaders who are women, they lose at least half of their arguments when they can’t engage in bashing males for “wanting to control women’s bodies.” 

A picture is worth a thousand words, and we should do everything we possibly can through sonograms and other audio-visual media to present our fellow citizens with the undeniable humanity of preborn babies. One tremendous evidence of this is the astounding success of the Psalm 139 Project, which affords pregnant mothers the opportunity to see sonograms of their babies. We know from those who serve in pregnancy resource centers that the ability to see ultrasound images is extremely important in helping mothers to choose to carry their babies to term. Everything we can do to promote the ministries of pregnancy resource centers across the land should be done. I hope and pray that Southern Baptists will make it our goal to have at least one pro-life pregnancy resource center in every Baptist association in every state in the Union.

And we must do everything we can in word and deed to refute the libel that the pro-life movement is only pro-life from conception to birth. We should make it clear that we are pro-life from conception to natural death and everywhere in between. 

Finally, we should always remember that Jesus commanded us to be salt and light (Matt. 3:13-16). The salt of the law can severely restrict abortions in our country, and we must do so. However, there is a limit to what the law can do. We must also represent the light of the gospel, which transforms hearts and minds. The salt of the law can change actions. Only the light of the gospel can change attitudes. The salt of the law can change behaviors. Only the light of the gospel can change beliefs. The salt of the law can change habits. Only the light of the gospel can change hearts.

Our pro-abortion opponents are not the enemy. They are under the influence and sway of the Prince of Darkness, who is our true enemy. Let us resolve in our hearts to demonstrate the redeeming love of our Savior to all our opponents. As Dr. King so often reminded us, those whom you would change, you must first love! 

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.