By / Jan 3

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

With that in mind, in addition to making abortion illegal, we must turn our focus to serving and supporting families. Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention committed to “partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” in order to “eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion,” during its annual meeting in June 2022.1 Our goal is not just for abortion to be illegal but for it to be viewed as an unthinkable act of cruelty by all of our neighbors and for our nation to truly embody a culture of life.

A scriptural foundation

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

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

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

Current realities

As a nation, our policies incentivize what we want more of and disincentivize what we want less of. The allocation of resources, as well as how we structure our tax code, reveal where our national priorities lie. Currently, many of our policies economically disincentivize marriage.2 Similarly, our laws make abortion incredibly less difficult and less expensive than adoption. According to Planned Parenthood, the cost of an abortion is generally less than $750.3 Meanwhile, the average cost of an adoption can run between $20,000–$50,000.4 Little has been done to combat the soaring costs of childcare, housing, food, and other necessities that greatly affect families. Due to inflation, it is estimated that raising a child through high school now costs approximately $300,000.5 Moreover, financial insecurity is cited by 73% of women who choose to have an abortion as the primary driver of their choice.6

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

A vision for a pro-family world

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

In the post-Dobbs world, there has been growing support among lawmakers from both parties to do more to support women in crisis and families. Additionally, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated that if Republicans retook the House in November—which they did by a narrow margin—their pro-family framework would be a legislative priority.7 There is much to still be debated on which of these policies are best and which can find the necessary bipartisan support to become law, but it is encouraging that many members of Congress are beginning to recognize a need for programs that support families and are thinking creatively on how best to do that. 

As we consider these proposals, the ERLC will advocate for policy changes that strengthen families and marriages, promote the well-being of children, recognize the dignity of work, and wisely steward financial resources. To that end, we would strongly encourage lawmakers to develop policies in the following areas that would vastly improve the ability to raise a child and ensure families can flourish: 

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

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

View the latest issue of Light magazine here.

By / Dec 27
By / Dec 27

The debate over the ethics of abortion long predated the infamous Roe v. Wade decision and will continue well after the life-saving Dobbs decision in June 2022. Many throughout ethical and philosophical circles have put forth various arguments for abortion and a woman’s right to choose. Christopher Kaczor recently released an updated version of his thorough and helpful book, The Ethics of Abortion, engaging these arguments from a philosophical perspective that is focused on the equal value of the baby, the mother, and the father.

Kaczor unpacks the loaded language used in these debates and does this alongside a forceful critique of most of the major arguments for abortion. He even addresses potential questions about emerging technologies like the use of artificial wombs in the future.

This book is full of trenchant insight into ethics in a post-Roe world. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand and respond to the debates over the morality of abortion and its intersection with social ethics.

By / Dec 27

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. 

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By / Dec 27

Imagine a pro-life movement that successfully prevented the legalization of abortion in dozens of states. Imagine a movement that attracted support not only from many Republicans but also from some of the most liberal Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Imagine a pro-life movement that supported the unborn not only through anti-abortion laws but also through calls for an expansion in prenatal and maternal health insurance and other measures to protect both children and mothers. 

In other words, imagine the pro-life movement of the early 1970s.

The Pro-Life Movement of the 70s

American abortion law in the pre-Roe era of the early 1970s was in many respects a lot like American abortion law today. Because the federal government left abortion regulation up to the states, some states, such as New York, allowed nearly unrestricted abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, while other states prohibited all abortion except when it was necessary to save a woman’s life. As is the case today, polls showed that public opinion on abortion was divided. And both the feminist movement and much of the national media were strongly supportive of abortion rights, just as we see now.

In short, the pro-life movement of the early 1970s faced some of the same challenges in winning public support that it experiences in our generation. But there were at least two key differences between the movement then and now: the pro-life movement’s political orientation and its comprehensive social vision. 

Because the pro-life movement did not position itself as a politically conservative movement, it was able to win support across the political spectrum in ways that may seem unimaginable in our current political moment. But there is a lot that we can learn from this approach, even in the midst of the partisan polarization we now face.

The pro-life movement of the early 1970s was still overwhelmingly Catholic, and the social vision they promoted reflected the priorities of a 20th-century Catholic emphasis on societal obligations to the less fortunate. Employers had an obligation to pay workers a living wage. The government had a social obligation to make sure that the nation’s citizens had adequate healthcare and educational opportunities. And the state also had an obligation to families to ensure that they could flourish.

The Catholics who organized the earliest efforts to defend the unborn against proposals for the liberalization of state abortion laws drew on this social teaching to situate the right to life for the preborn within a broader vision of human flourishing. In 1947, the nation’s Catholic bishops issued a declaration of human rights that began with the “right to life and bodily integrity from the moment of conception,” but then proceeded with a long list of other social rights, including the “right to a living wage,” the “right to an education,” the “right to collective bargaining,” and the “right to receive assistance from society.” 

For mid-20th-century Catholics, the right to life for the preborn was a foundational right, but they never thought of it as existing in a vacuum. Instead, it formed the premise from which all other social obligations could proceed. While libertarians often think of rights primarily in individualist terms, Catholic social teaching—especially the social teaching that was codified by the Vatican II conference in the 1960s—envisioned human rights as a codification of social obligations that we owe to people in recognition of their human dignity as those made in the image of the divine.

In recognition of this larger social vision, the pro-life organizations of the early 1970s often combined their campaign against abortion with anti-war activism, concerns about poverty, and calls for expanded social assistance. 

But when the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) made abortion legal nationwide, even the most politically progressive pro-life organizations decided that the quest to secure constitutional protection for the preborn superseded all other considerations.

The pro-life movement never got the constitutional amendment it wanted, but the process of seeking it changed the movement’s political orientation. When the Republican Party endorsed the constitutional amendment proposal in 1976—and the Democrats rejected it—many pro-life leaders who had once been Democrats decided to work instead with the Republicans. This alliance with the GOP, which deepened over the course of the late 20th century, led the pro-life movement to downplay its original comprehensive social vision or abandon it entirely.

When evangelicals entered the pro-life movement in large numbers in the late 1970s and 1980s, they brought with them a new political framework for the movement. Instead of a Catholic social vision of mutual obligations, the vision many evangelicals had was the recovery of a America which they thought was committed to Christian ideals. Overturning Roe became their holy grail because they saw Roe as the pillar of a secular liberal state that was destroying the family and the nation, in addition to the lives of the unborn.

But now that Roe has been overturned, it is not clear that conservative evangelicals are any closer to their dream of restoring Christian morality in the nation. The end of Roe has not produced a Christian nation, but instead a divided one. States in the Bible belt and other conservative areas of the Midwest and Mountain West have acted quickly to restrict abortion. On the other hand, the states of the Northeast and Pacific West, along with some Democratic states in other regions, have expanded abortion availability. Congress is deeply divided on abortion, and the bipartisan support for the pro-life cause that existed in the pre-Roe era is nowhere to be seen. 

Perhaps it is time to look back to the early pro-life movement for insights into how to transcend this partisan divide and discover a pro-life ethic that will protect the unborn while also winning allies from both sides of the political aisle. 

Recovering the Ways of the Pre-Roe Pro-Life Movement

Recovering a pro-life vision that transcends partisan divisions is critically important in our current political climate, because if we want to support the work of pro-life Christians in “blue states” and “blue cities,” pro-life activism cannot merely mean a strategy of attempting to make abortion illegal, though that is a noble goal. We have to find a way to save preborn lives even where abortion is legal.

This is where the pre-Roe pro-life movement’s comprehensive social vision would be helpful. Instead of merely seeking to make abortion illegal, many pro-life activists in the early 1970s sought to expand prenatal healthcare and protect the health of both mothers and children, as well as the lives of all people before and after birth. Some sought legal reforms that would make it easier for children to be adopted. Some wanted to expand disability insurance and create state subsidies that would give parents of children with Down syndrome and other severe disabilities the financial resources to care for their children. 

A few of these proposed reforms might win support in blue states as well as red ones today. If pro-lifers are narrowly focused on making abortion illegal, they will likely experience repeated frustration outside of conservative regions of the country. But if, on the other hand, their goal is a more comprehensive vision of human flourishing for people before and after birth, they will probably be able to find many creative ways to save human lives (including the lives of the preborn) even in states that strongly resist the idea of restricting abortion. 

This approach is different than that envisioned by some Christian political activists of the past. But it will promote the principles of God’s kingdom, and it might even lead to some gospel-centered conversations with people who strongly believe in abortion rights but are curious about Christians who want to help single mothers access affordable healthcare or who are willing to make substantial financial and personal sacrifices to care for children with Down syndrome. 

The fight against abortion cannot be won solely through politics. After all, even the pro-life activists of the pre-Roe era did not prevent the legalization of abortion in every state—nor were they able to avert the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. But they did bear witness to the great value of every human life, and they left behind a vision for human flourishing that can be applied to the political realm, as well as to efforts that transcend politics. At a time when we in the pro-life movement are seeking a path forward through uncharted political waters, the recovery of that vision holds a lot of promise. 

By / Dec 27

Someone once told me, “There’s a worldview driving everything.” The comment was made in the context of a conversation about films and television shows. In the years since I first heard that statement, I’ve found myself taking a much closer look at the viewpoints and belief systems revealed in the various kinds of media that I consume. It turns out that when it comes to media, regardless of the forum, you’ll find someone’s worldview everywhere you look. That helps explain why I’ve found myself deeply contemplating the connection between fatherhood, abortion, and a culture of life versus the culture of death. 

A Vision for a Pro-Family World

Recently, the NBC medical drama New Amsterdam decided to explore the reversal of Roe v. Wade by depicting the reactions of various characters to the breaking news. I don’t watch the show, so I wasn’t invested in its take on the subject. But I decided to take a look after seeing a clip from that episode making the rounds on the internet. 

It’s essentially a series of emotional reactions that culminates in a shot of the medical staff gathered in front of a hospital television featuring the news coverage of Roe’s reversal. Clearly, each character is overcome with grief and emotion. Most striking, though, were the reactions of two different fathers to the sudden end of Roe’s nearly 50-year legacy in that sequence.

In the first case, a father who has just seen the news is staring at his young daughter. As she plays with her toys, he just stares and weeps. Though it’s unsaid, he is clearly grieved about his daughter growing up in a world without abortion. Similarly, a second man is seen sitting in front of his laptop in such disbelief that he cannot bear to make eye contact when what appears to be his pre-teen daughter enters the room.

I’m still struck by those images. Obviously, they’re fictional portrayals, but I assume they represent both the reactions and fears of many fathers in America. And that is something worth exploring.

Fatherhood and Human Dignity

First, I want to celebrate that these men have taken up the responsibility of fatherhood. We live in a culture that has told people they can have sex without the consequences of attachment and pregnancy. However, that can only be true for men, because a woman who becomes pregnant is physiologically connected to her child. 

It is because we have freed men of their obligation as fathers that abortion becomes so attractive for many, but pregnancy and childbirth were never meant to be an individual event. Christians ought to push against the idea that a preborn child’s life is the sole responsibility of the mother and call for a culture where fathers take responsibility for the children they create. 

Nevertheless, my initial reaction to that New Amsterdam scene was to ridicule it. 

There is no doubt a crushing sense of irony—to say nothing of cognitive dissonance—in seeing these men grieve that their daughters, whom they both love deeply, now unexpectedly find themselves in a position where each girl would be “forced” to become a mother to a son or daughter of her own. In fact, the emotional response each father has on behalf of his own daughter conflicts with the episode’s intended message. Moreover, their reactions actually serve to underscore the concept of human dignity. 

These men love these girls. They see them as valuable and worthy of protection. But these facts actually serve to highlight the absurdity on display in that scene. Each man obviously recognizes the inherent value and dignity of human life, of which their daughters are but a microcosm. Yet, illogically, they both conclude it is somehow consistent with that view of the dignity of personhood to insist their daughters should retain the right to destroy the life of another human being. The men weep over their daughters’ “loss” as though abortion bears no connection to the value of another person, when, in reality, such fathers should stand against abortion precisely because they recognize the value and dignity not only of their own children but of all children. 

Akin to Injustice? 

As I was discussing this scene among friends, a wise Christian woman made an interesting observation. She remarked that many fathers of young daughters probably did respond with some mixture of anger and fear in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe. Given the alarming statistics showing that 1 in 4 women in the United States “have experienced completed or attempted rape,” she pointed out the likelihood that many fathers are motivated by concerned about their daughters’ ability to terminate a pregnancy that was not only unplanned, but the result of a heinous crime. We would do well to compassionately consider how a culture of sexual assault impacts women and those who love them.

As a pro-life evangelical and the father of two young daughters, I care greatly about these issues. I recognize my girls’ dignity and value. I see them as women created in God’s image, possessing intrinsic and inestimable beauty and worth (Gen. 1:27), and I want them to be safe. Yet, in the same way that I am able to recognize their value and dignity, I am also able to recognize the value and dignity of all people, even in the worst of circumstances.

Many Americans today, indeed many fathers, remain convinced that the reversal of Roe was an injustice. They’re wrong. It was never the case that protecting the dignity and freedom of certain people required or justified denying the dignity, freedom, and life of others. Even so, it turns out that not all of their concerns were illegitimate. 

To be clear, there is no excuse for the intentional destruction of innocent human life. Elective abortions are never an acceptable remedy, even in light of the most troubling facts. Yet the pro-life position is not calloused toward suffering. We recognize that pregnancy represents a significant hardship for many women. Moreover, we sincerely grieve with women who have suffered violence that resulted in pregnancy. Their suffering is tragic, unjust, and inexcusable.

But what does it say about our culture that so many believe prohibiting elective abortions is akin to injustice? And what lies behind the reaction of grief and fear so prominently featured in NBC’s dramatic portrayal? The answer is that many Americans have fallen prey to the ethos of the culture of death. The fearful and angry reaction of so many men and women, both real and imagined, was fueled by a lie that said abortion was the only solution to an unplanned pregnancy. 

Pro-Life Fatherhood 

So as a concluding thought experiment, let us reverse the scenario. How should fathers who recognize the inherent dignity of all people react to the same news? For starters, instead of weeping or silently looking away in disbelief, such fathers would hug their daughters. Instead of battling emotional turmoil, the men would resolve to renew their commitment to the young women they love. And they would pledge that as these girls’ fathers they would always be there to support them, regardless of the circumstances. Finally, instead of lamenting the demise of the culture of death, these men would have the courage to stand for life and call other men to do the same.

Rooted in the culture of death, the scene from New Amsterdam portrayed a worldview where abortion was a sacrament. But a worldview rooted in a culture of life reflects a reality where all life is sacred. Fathers are called to love, care for, and protect their daughters. But it turns out, there is a worldview driving that too. 

By / Dec 27

It rarely happens to me, but I could not speak. I just sat in a kind of stunned silence when I heard the news. Then, I felt like crying, which is also rare for me. My tears, however, were tears of joy. It should not be this way, but I was surprised that God had positively answered a prayer I had been praying for 32 years since I became a Christian. Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision with a 6-3 ruling. No longer is the purposeful destruction of life in the womb counted as a federally protected right. 

I have been reminded in the ensuing days of many of the tireless heroes I have known who have been on the front lines, relentlessly fighting for the end of Roe. Most of these people are ordinary Americans from all walks of life, full of faith and hope. They are people whose compassion compels them to be champions for life, from womb to tomb. The coalition looks nothing like the cartoonish caricatures some on the cultural left attempt to make them out to be. Their chief weapons in this battle have been kindness, generosity, and persistence. 

More recently, my thoughts have turned to the fact that our pro-life coalition, while rightly rejoicing in a significant victory, must not grow weary in well-doing (Gal. 6:9). The toppling of Roe did not make abortion illegal across the nation but rather turned the issue back to the states. There is work to be done—more work, not less—in every state across the nation in defending and caring for life.

What legislation is like in a more pro-life state

My state, Kentucky, faces a far different situation than my brothers and sisters in California. While our governor, Andy Beshear, is radically pro-abortion, the state is not. During statewide COVID lockdowns, the governor’s edict called for only life-saving medical procedures to be permitted, but he made an exception for the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only abortion clinic. Nevertheless, the Kentucky General Assembly preemptively passed a trigger law in 2019 to take effect immediately upon the overturning of Roe. The trigger law bans abortion in the state with an exception to save the life of the mother. Attorney General Daniel Cameron has clarified that he will enforce Kentucky’s pro-life laws. Kentucky was one of 13 states to pass post-Roe trigger laws.1

However, Kentucky is not a state free of pro-life concerns. In the recent November general elections, Kentuckians were asked to pass Constitutional Amendment 2.

The one-sentence amendment stated, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” The amendment was already passed by the state legislature in November 2021.

Constitutional Amendment 2 was simply worded to prevent activist judges from “finding” a right to abortion in Kentucky’s Constitution and ensures that the state’s abortion policy will be set exclusively by the citizens of the Commonwealth and its elected representatives. The amendment would have ensured that the citizens of Kentucky would not be coerced into funding the destruction of babies’ lives in the womb.2 Though the pro-life coalition in Kentucky advocated strongly for the bill, it failed to garner the support necessary. This demonstrates that end of Roe was but a new beginning for the work of the pro-life movement.

These legislative battles are strategically important in post-Roe America. No Christian should minimize their importance in the least. In our federal democratic republic, the sword is placed in each of our hands, and we must wield it faithfully to the glory of Christ. Nevertheless, with equal vehemence, we must assert that legislative battles are only a part of the story for the church in our post-Roe world. Our gaze must stretch from ballot initiatives all the way to the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. 

Advocating for life made in God’s image

For Christians, our pro-life commitment is rooted in the fact that we are all made in the image of our Creator God. Any thought of life, for the Christian, should always prompt thoughts about eternal life. There is always more to the story for believers than any particular cultural moment. The truth is, the bulk of on-the-ground pro-lifers I have known throughout my life as a follower of Jesus have lived this reality. The power of the pro-life cause has been that most pro-lifers have not viewed their cultural opponents as enemies. I have known many people won to the pro-life cause because of how they were served and loved by someone they viewed as an enemy. 

I will never forget when a woman came up to me after a morning church service and said, “I want to introduce you to my child. My child is only alive because of your church.” Then she told me about the day she headed to the abortion clinic where people were pleading with her to keep her baby and offering to pray for her. She said she screamed, “You do not care about this baby’s life! Just its birth!” Those people, members of the church I pastor, gave her money to get on her feet, paid for the baby’s needs, and helped her get a job. 

You know what? I still do not know who the particular members of my church were that served and loved this confused and frightened woman. I do not know because they did not do it so that others would know. They did it because they love Christ and love the people made in his image. I do not know if that woman is a Christian today, but I do know she heard the gospel and has been shown love in Christ’s name. I also know that every time she sees her child she is reminded of that love.

I thank God for the fall of Roe, and I pray that my beloved state of Kentucky will become a state where abortion is unthinkable. We must continue to work on legislative measures that will end government-sponsored predation on women in moments of crisis and confusion by legally protecting something so egregiously wrong. But I also know this: regardless, there will still be confused and frightened women in Kentucky and around the nation facing a pregnancy who will need believers to show them the love of Christ. 

Our fight against the deceitful culture of death will continue until that ancient serpent of old is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:2, 10). The Evil One has hated babies and sought their destruction since the first gospel promise that one born of woman will bring his demise (Genesis 3:15). Supreme courts matter, elected officials matter, but the Messiah and his church transcends all. The Church must understand that the pro-life movement did not begin in the 1960s; it began in the garden, and its ultimate victory is not in courts, but in a New Heavens and New Earth.

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By / Dec 27

The Supreme Court has not always been a friend to the vulnerable. To name but a few of its more disastrous decisions: the relegation of African Americans to property in Dred Scott (1857), the eugenics argument for sterilizing those with intellectual disabilities in Buck v. Bell (1927), and the bigotry of the Korematsu (1944) decision that placed Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II. In each of these, those without power were abused by a system set up ostensibly in the name of justice. 

Nowhere is that truth clearer than in the catastrophic decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. In their 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court came down against the most vulnerable in our society. Creating a right to abortion—which is the right to take a life, make no mistake—out of thin legal reasoning, those justices failed in their duty to protect and defend the cause of the powerless. 

The Church has not always been much better in that regard. Our own Southern Baptist Convention, indeed an earlier version of this very Commission, was on record as supporting abortion at the time of the Roe decision. As inconceivable as it is now, then the cause of the preborn was not an issue which caused moral outrage from Baptists, at least not those in leadership.

However, like the power of the gospel, working in places and ways that we cannot always see, there were Southern Baptists and other Christians, working to see lives protected. They were serving mothers in their communities, founding pregnancy resource centers, stocking diaper pantries, adopting children, fostering the vulnerable, and showing their true religion in their care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). 

Through their persistence and dedication to the protection of the vulnerable, they pushed against a culture that viewed life as disposable, so much so that even before the end of Roe abortion rates were falling to levels that were lower than when the court handed down its decision. They recognized the power of law and legislation, but they also knew its limitations. If the Church wanted to see the preborn protected, they would need to create a culture of life, dedicated to its protection and flourishing, rather than one that treated children as an inconvenience or “problem” to be solved with a pill or doctor’s blade. 

The work that they did laid a foundation which reached its fruition this summer when the court rightly overturned its earlier precedent. No longer was there a constitutional right to abortion, and no longer were children automatically in danger when those lines appeared on pregnancy tests.

That does not mean their cause is over. It is one thing to take a stand against a culture of death; it is another to pursue a culture of life. Through the stories and work of individuals profiled in this issue of Light magazine, and the countless others who aren’t mentioned, we are continuing to pave the path toward a society that wholeheartedly embraces life at every stage.

F. Brent Leatherwood
President, ERLC

By / Dec 16

The monitor turns on and a gentle thumping of a heartbeat appears. With every thump of the heartbeat, the handiwork of the Father is seen by a mother who is given the opportunity to choose life (Psalm 139). With every beat, the baby’s life says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I am being knit together, I am seen and known by God.” Ultrasounds allow a window into the womb, moving more women to choose life after seeing their babies on screen than those who don’t have the same opportunity. This is the pulse of the Psalm 139 Project

The Psalm 139 Project exists to purchase and place ultrasound machines in Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) and Women’s Health Centers (WHCs) around the country and train clinic staff for their use. Each placement allows abortion-vulnerable and abortion-determined women to get a glimpse of the life inside their womb. One hundred percent of all donations given to the Psalm 139 Project go toward the purchase of life-saving machines and training of the clinic staff who will utilize them.

In 2022, the Psalm 139 Project placed or committed to place 27 ultrasound machines across nine different states that are serving a wide variety of demographics within their communities. Some centers are located in major metropolitan areas while others are in small towns with limited prenatal care and pregnancy support. Rural areas requesting mobile units were a focus, as well clinics that were located near Planned Parenthood facilities. These life-saving placements represent the successful completion of our goal to place 50 machines by January 2023.

Life-saving technology 

Recently, an ultrasound was place at a PRC located in a pro-abortion state. Already, the Lord has used this technology to save a baby’s life. Here is the testimony from one of the staff members at New Hope Family Services in Syracuse, New York: 

“We had our very first life saved on our mobile unit today—with the machine we received from the ERLC! Our mobile ultrasound van was parked outside of Planned Parenthood this morning. A woman had been going into Planned Parenthood this morning for an abortion. She was on the phone with her pastor, crying. One of the sidewalk advocates started talking to her before she went in, and she expressed that she wasn’t sure she was making the right decision. She agreed to come to our unit for an ultrasound and upon seeing her baby on the screen and hearing the heartbeat, she chose LIFE!

“She already has other children and is sleeping on a family member’s couch. Our nurse called our office and arranged for her to meet with one of our staff members here at our brick-and-mortar location for counseling. So she came right over and we gave her diapers and other things she needed for her kids and gave her referrals for housing. Shortly after, I got a text from the executive director of a maternity home in our area. He and I had just been on a Zoom call yesterday where he shared that they only had one spot left and that their call volume is up 86% over last year. So I was surprised when he texted and said that she was going to be moving in there! 

“He said: ‘We literally have one two-room suite available that we have been holding in case we got a call from a pregnant woman who already had children. She just sent the sweetest text to our hotline thanking us so much for the opportunity and letting us know that she thought about it and decided that it was a good fit and she wanted to move in.’ God was saving this room just for her!!! Sadly, she told the caseworker at the maternity home that the pregnancy center and maternity home were the only people who spoke positively to her about her baby. Everyone else said ‘you went and got pregnant again’ and her boyfriend fled and said, ‘get rid of it.’ So we are praising God for this life saved today! Thank you for being part of this story by giving us the grant for the machine and nurse’s training.”

At the ERLC, we believe in standing for the life of preborn children as well as caring for the well-being of women. Through hearing the heartbeat of a preborn child, caring for the pregnant woman regardless of where she finds herself, or education others about the truth that each life has dignity, we desire to widely share the beauty of this holistic, pro-life vision. 

The pro-life movement requires us all working together to continue to see a shift in this country to make abortion unthinkable for women and to show them the true value of the life within their womb.  We would like to invite you to join us in this vital work through the Psalm 139 Project in 2023.

You can learn more about how you can help save preborn lives and raise $100,000 by Dec. 31, 2022, so we can place three more ultrasound machines in pro-abortion states like Illinois, Michigan, and California in 2023.

By / Oct 14

Recently, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) released a new Interim Final Rule (IFR): Reproductive Health Services, 87 FR 55287. The rule expands 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. Following the announcement, the VA allowed 30 days for organizations and individuals to comment with concerns. The ERLC submitted comments raising our concerns with the rule. As that comment period closed Tuesday, the VA is obligated to respond to each of these comments before moving forward with the permanent change.

What changed because of the rule?

The rule change creates a number of problems in addition to expanded abortion access. The VA has argued that their rule change preempts state laws and would allow them to offer abortion even in states where it is banned. Additionally, the rule removes gestational limits, as well as allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life or health of the mother. This functionally permits abortion on demand. The IFR argues that this is necessary because abortion is “medically necessary and appropriate” in instances of rape or incest. Finally, the rule would force medical professionals at the VA to participate in abortions, overriding conscience protections. 

Because the rule was submitted as an IFR, it did not have to go through the usual process of soliciting comments before going into effect. The VA claimed that because of special circumstances that it should be allowed to skip the review process and instead be implemented immediately. 

How did the ERLC respond?

The ERLC submitted comments opposing the rule along with other pro-life and religious liberty organizations. The ERLC objected to the way that the IFR would force taxpayers to fund abortions and force healthcare officials to violate their beliefs about the value of life. The ERLC and Southern Baptists have long affirmed that every life is worthy of protection, including the preborn. Because life begins at conception, abortion denies human life and dignity. 

Further, the ERLC condemned the IFR as unlawful because it was attempting to override the explicit statutory prohibition against the VA providing abortion services. A 1992 law explicitly forbids the VA from providing abortions. Further, the VA’s own former regulations clearly stated that the medical benefits and services would not include abortion and abortion counseling. Further, the VA’s explanation for why it should be allowed to override the 1992 law and former regulations rests on a faulty reading of a 1996 law which does not mention abortion with no evidence that Congress intended to override the former law. 

Finally, the ERLC called the administration to recognize that the rule did not provide exceptions for those who object to performing abortions because it violates their conscience rights and deeply held religious beliefs. The IFR makes no allowances for medical professionals who object, steamrolling over the rights of providers to live out their religious beliefs that every life is sacred and abortion violates human dignity. The VA’s decision to offer abortions is not a compelling government interest approaching the standard necessary to override the conscience rights of these doctors and nurses. 

As an unconstitutional rule that will lead to violations of human dignity and conscience rights, the ERLC called on the Department of Veteran Affairs to withdraw the rule.

How should Christians think about it?

The VA rule represents the most recent example of the pernicious lie that abortion is healthcare. All people should recognize that healthcare is oriented toward the preservation of human life. However, abortion’s sole purpose is the ending of a human life. However, Christians must also recognize that even the logic of abortion as healthcare falls apart in the circumstances of this rule. The VA’s new rule argues that these abortions are medically necessary, even though every state already has an exception for the life of the mother. Christians should be vocal in their opposition to this rule because it is an attempt by administration officials to circumvent state laws that clearly protect life and provide abortion on demand on the taxpayer’s dime.

Additionally, the law is a heinous overreach of the conscience rights of medical providers and would require them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. As currently written, the state is not only allowing and funding the murder of the preborn, it is ordering Christian doctors and nurses to participate. As Christians we recognize that Christ alone is Lord of the conscience, and that our ultimate allegiance is to him. As Southern Baptists, this attempt to run roughshod over the consciences of Christian medical professionals and taxpayers is but the latest instance of Caesar attempting to exercise authority over a realm in which he has none. Christians should oppose this rule and its attempt to coopt Christian men and women into furthering a culture of death.