By / Jun 21

A year ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and drastically altered access to abortion in our nation. Millions of pro-life activists had worked and prayed for this moment. Yet, the nature of the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization didn’t outlaw abortion; it sent the decision-making back to the states, setting off a chain of events, some positive and life-saving, some predatory and destructive.

In my life, I have had the opportunity to live in a few different cities, in different states, each with their own culture. I was able to build relationships with pregnancy care providers in these places, visit their clinics, and support their sacrificial, God-honoring work. Every person I know that has worked in a pregnancy care center is a devoted Christian, a deep well of empathy, and a dynamic problem solver who has walked with many people through unimaginable circumstances.

As we recognize the anniversary of the monumental Dobbs case, we talked to two heroes who have provided a view of pro-life ministry in Tennessee and Illinois. It’s staggering to consider how different their experience has become. 

  • Andrew Wood is the executive director of Hope Resource Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. He hosts a weekly podcast, “A Conversation on Life,” and often speaks and writes on the issue of life around the country. The Hope Resource Center is a cost-free healthcare center for women offering medical care by licensed professionals for reproductive health concerns, education, and connection with community resources. 
  • Kathy Lesnoff worked as a medical assistant in an abortion clinic and is now the president/CEO of Mosaic Health. She currently oversees a staff of 12 with offices in Granite City and Fairview Heights, Illinois, just outside the city of St. Louis, Missouri. They also oversee a mobile medical unit parked next door to Planned Parenthood in Fairview Heights.

This article will provide a portrait of today’s varied abortion landscape, as well as inspire churches and individuals in every community to consider how they might join in supporting mothers and families in new ways. 

Jill Waggoner: How did the Dobbs decision affect access to abortion in your area? 

Andrew Wood: My home state of Tennessee passed the “Human Life Protection Act” in 2019 and a “Heartbeat Bill” in 2020. The Dobbs decision on June 24, 2022, allowed for these bills to immediately make a difference across Tennessee. The reality on the ground here in Knoxville and across the state, however, was felt as the abortion providers quickly closed their doors or altered drastically the services they provided after the Dobbs decision. 

Kathy Lesnoff: Illinois has long been considered a “sanctuary state” for abortion. However, the Dobbs decision took this idea to a whole new level. As many states across the nation proceeded to pass laws that made abortion illegal or severely limited, Illinois opened three more abortion facilities along border cities. Additionally, Planned Parenthood launched a mobile medical unit for the sole purpose of providing abortions along state lines, thereby providing even more access to abortion in Illinois.

JW: How have abortion pills by mail or abortion tourism affected the families you serve? 

AW: We are well aware that women in Tennessee are seeking abortion pills via the mail and are even traveling across state lines into bordering states to access abortion providers that are unavailable in Tennessee. This awareness has prompted partnerships and cooperation with other pregnancy centers in bordering states so that we can assist and provide care for men and women that may be making that drive in one direction or another. We believe that these partnerships will only foster better environments to serve our patients. 

KL: Over 54% of abortions are now medical. Women are opting for the pill as they feel it is an easier option with less guilt attached. To meet this increased demand, more pregnancy centers, including Mosaic Health, are offering abortion pill reversal.

Mosaic has seen multiple patients from other states whose travel has been covered by their employer. We have witnessed an increase in abortion tourism as license plates from over 30 states were seen at a local abortion facility just last year alone.

JW: How has the abortion culture of your state changed since Dobbs

AW: Laws can certainly make a difference, but you don’t change the culture overnight with a piece of legislation. Abortion was the law of the land for five decades in this country and, although a giant shift was made via Dobbs, there is still much work to do in cultivating a ethic with a high value of life. 

In Tennessee, we have been successful in legislating a decline in abortion, and the state should be applauded for that, but we haven’t stopped there. We have also started the process of eliminating obstacles to parenting, fostering environments to allow for families to flourish, and are looking at ways to see public and private partnerships work together to better serve families in need. These partnerships and this work is designed to prevent unplanned pregnancies from ever becoming crisis pregnancies. 

KL: Mosaic Health’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) is parked by Planned Parenthood six days a week. Since the Dobbs reversal, we have seen a 72% increase in women seeking an abortion on the MMU. The Dobbs decision incited even more anger from the pro-choice left, and they have been motivated to stop pro-life efforts at all costs. Senate Bill 1909 is evidence of their determination to stop pregnancy centers from providing free, confidential services across the state of Illinois.

JW: How have your client numbers been in the last year? 

AW: We have certainly seen an increase of patients since June 24, 2022. This increase was not unexpected as we knew the abortion landscape would shift if and when Roe was overturned. Year after year we saw a 17% increase in pregnancy test appointments, and we provided more ultrasounds in 2022 than we had the previous six years. Unplanned pregnancy doesn’t take a holiday because of court decisions, new legislation, or pandemics. We have served for 26 years in Knoxville and have witnessed this firsthand year in and year out. 

KL: Since the Dobbs case leak, we have seen a 64% increase across all three of our locations in women considering abortion compared to the previous year.

JW: What are you hearing from the women that come to your center? What is new, and what is the same? 

AW: Our patients are looking for assistance. Some of them are not even aware a court decision was made or a law passed in Tennessee. Others are very aware of the options in front of them, the timelines they must adhere to if they are seeking to travel out of state, and what each state offers in terms of abortion services. 

We are also seeing some women feel a sense of freedom now that abortion is not an option in Tennessee. In the past, they have felt a burden or as if abortion was being thrust upon them due to their circumstances. They feel very different now that abortion has been removed, at least in Tennessee, from their decision-making process. 

Unfortunately, we are also hearing from patients that are getting little to no follow-up care after traveling out of state for an abortion. This lack of care is frustrating as women are forced to walk through these difficult days and decisions alone and with no oversight from the very ones that provided them with the abortion in the first place. 

KL: What is new is the urgency with which many want to have an abortion and as mentioned previously, the interest in the abortion pill. Many more women know there are gestational time limitations for the abortion pill. Also new is the amount of gender-confused patients we are serving.

What remains the same is that women are convinced abortion is the best option for their future. They are emboldened to choose abortion and empowered by the self-centeredness of the current culture.

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

AW: I have often answered this question with material needs. This need will never go away. However, I think our greatest need today is discipleship. We need a smooth onramp for our patients to get connected to the local church. We need our patients to be discipled by godly women. We need our patients’ significant others to be discipled by godly men. 

We hold to a high value of life in our pregnancy centers because God created life. In the same way, we hold a high value of marriage and parenthood. Our culture is good at detaching these good and godly things from each other. We shouldn’t be surprised when the next generation lives out this detached life as they are attending more baby showers than wedding showers. The answers our patients are seeking aren’t going to be found in the culture of detachment. Instead, the answer is found in Scripture, which is taught, discussed, and lived out in the local church. 

It is my prayer that pregnancy centers across this country would have church partners lined up seeking to assist, certainly, in material needs, but more importantly in the discipleship of men, women, and babies who are making their way to thousands of pregnancy centers every single day. 

Imagine that in 10 years this onramp from the pregnancy center to the local church is flourishing with families that value God, life, marriage, and parenthood. I believe this partnership is the key to the trajectory shift we so desperately need in today’s society. We must not divorce the life issue from the Great Commandment (Love God and love your neighbor) and the Great Commission (go and make disciples.) Once we understand this, we will be well positioned to serve, love, and disciple those in need. 

KL: The greatest need from churches is a boldness to proclaim the truth regarding the life issue from the pulpit. We are seeing an increased number of women claiming to be Christians choosing abortion. We need godly leadership and voices who are unafraid to share the value of life from conception to natural death with their congregations.

We also need prayer

  • prayer that the hearts and minds of those coming through our doors will change, 
  • prayer for our staff and volunteers who are engaging in a battle of life and death every day, 
  • and prayer for the culture of death in our state to transform into a culture of life. 

We believe that God hears and answers prayer.

And we need financial partnership. It would be impossible to operate a single ultrasound machine, pay nursing staff, and offer free pregnancy tests without the financial support of generous churches and individuals throughout our community. For Mosaic Health, the past 37 years has been a testament to how unified, life-affirming advocates can transform people and save lives for generations of families to come.

By / Jun 24

Today, the Supreme Court announced a historic decision that overturns the disastrous precedent set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This decision represents a moment that we all have been praying for and working toward for decades.  Many of you as pastors and ministry leaders are seeking to lead your people well in light of this momentous decision, as well as through the contentious times ahead for our nation.

We want to partner with you in this effort and have produced several resources to this end. Below is a statement you may want to use or adapt in order to communicate with your church about today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Mississippi abortion case.


What has happened: The U.S. Supreme Court released a historic ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case on Friday, overturning the disastrous abortion precedent set by the court and sending abortion decision-making back to the states. We are now living on the backside of a deadly national legal environment that existed for nearly 50 years, under which over 60 million babies were aborted. This is a moment many have prayed and advocated for, and we thank God for his provision and for those who have worked tirelessly toward this day in our nation’s history.

What happens next:  The question of abortion is now a state-by-state decision, and those who believe that life begins at conception must work to advance pro-life measures and create a culture of life so that the preborn are protected and families are supported in every state (Psa. 139:13-16). Out of love of God and for our neighbors, we must continue to advocate for just policies that honor the sacredness of life and seek to elect representatives that will enact laws to make abortion illegal, protect the preborn, serve abortion-vulnerable mothers, and criminalize abortion providers. (Mark 12:31).

Even as we work toward making abortion illegal in our states and our nation, the reasons why women seek abortion won’t change overnight. More than ever, women and families will need compassion, hope, and practical help to meet their needs (Col. 3:12). The work of pregnancy resource centers will be critical in each community and are central to the goal of supporting families. More children than ever will be in need of loving homes, whether that be through foster care, adoption, or supporting women in crisis who choose life. The Church has been called to and equipped for this very moment

Keep in mind: Many in our midst bear the emotional and physical scars of abortion, whether they themselves have had an abortion or have participated in one. Let us cling to the truth of the gospel and the hope of our salvation in Christ that overcomes even our darkest stains. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). No matter our sin, God has told us “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:12). Regardless of our pasts and our individual sins, we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

Satan is the accuser and delights in heaping on shame and sowing lies. In the days and weeks to come, we need to redouble our efforts to stand for the dignity of every human being, including the preborn. As believers, we must fight the accusations, shame, and lies with the truth of the gospel, rooted in love of God and neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39)

How we can pray:  

  • Praise to God for hearing our prayers and for rescuing more innocent lives from death, (Psa. 10:14-18)
  • Pray for more laws to protect the preborn to be enacted and for the dignity of the preborn to be cherished throughout our communities, (Prov. 15:29)
  • Pray that a robust culture of life would take root in our nation, making abortion not just illegal but unthinkable, (Isa. 44:24)
  • Pray for the work of pregnancy resource centers, clinics, and churches in supporting women and families experiencing unintended pregnancies to continue and increase, (2 Cor. 9:8)
  • Pray for those who have experienced or participated in abortion to know the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness of all sins for those who repent, (Rom. 8:1)
  • Pray for the church to be a place of refuge for all who have been caught in the lies of the sexual revolution, (Psa. 14:1)
  • Pray for peace in our nation and for the Lord to stem thoughts of violence, (James 3:18)
  • Pray for more families to open their homes to foster care and adoption to serve children in need, (Matt. 18:5) and 
  • Pray that God would be glorified and his character would be displayed in all that we do and say in these critical days (Matt 5:16). 


We are standing with you in this moment. And it is our prayer that this guide will enable you to communicate well with those in your church so that they can go into your surrounding community as salt and light, serving the vulnerable and sharing the hope of the gospel.

By / Apr 14

As a follower of Jesus committed to a holistic pro-life ethic, from the moment of natural conception to the moment of natural death, I find myself in awe that we are perhaps weeks away from Roe v. Wade being overturned by the United States Supreme Court. And as a pastor of a small church in Studio City, California, an influential neighborhood of Los Angeles, I also realize the ruling likely won’t change much practically for our community in terms of decreasing the number of abortions. 

We live in one of the most progressive pro-choice states, and California is already passing legislation to encourage people to visit our state in order to obtain an abortion in the case that their state outlaws the procedure. These so-called “abortion tourism” policies should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the hold abortion ideology has on our country. So how should pro-life pastors and other ministry leaders in neighborhoods like mine respond to such developments, especially as more vulnerable women in need may be coming to our state? 

What stays the same

In one sense, nothing should change. The calling of a pastor is to help lead his church in obedience to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and the Great Commandments (Matt. 22:36-40) in their own context and in their own community. That calling is true whether one pastors in Mobile, Alabama, or Los Angeles, California. And so, when our God describes himself as One who “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deut. 10:18) and tells his people they should “open [their] mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open [their] mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy,then it is not difficult to see a part of that calling should be to foster a holistic pro-life culture and ministry within one’s congregation. 

This must include caring for and protecting both the unborn life in the womb and vulnerable women who are seeking help in a desperate time. At our church I try to make it a point to speak to and preach toward caring for and protecting both of those groups. Our tribal political world often only speaks to the need to protect the unborn at the expense of (or ignorance of) vulnerable women, and vice versa. The Kingdom of God never makes such bifurcations. Neither should pastors. The passions in our country around abortion are impossible to change overnight, and progressive neighborhoods like my own will, I believe, only be shifted by the pro-life side through sustained advocacy on behalf of vulnerable women along with their unborn children. 

What needs to change

But in another sense, if Roe gets overturned and more “abortion tourism” policies go into effect in states like California, things should change. Jesus told us to “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The ending of Roe would give a special, heightened cultural awareness to abortion issues and how followers of Jesus choose to respond. If our non-Christian community sees us respond with disdain toward Californians rather than California’s progressive policy responses, for example, it will likely only cement the tribal divisions around abortion. 

We absolutely should deplore the policy that leads to a holocaust of life, but we should look with compassion on those who are deceived by sin. If they see us respond like the prophet Jonah to the city of Nineveh, pouting in the dirt and bitter that things have not gone the way we desired, we cannot expect that either the unborn nor vulnerable women will be any more protected here. Worse yet would be to stand before our Lord at the end of time in regards to this issue and hear him implore us, “Should not I pity California, that great state, in which there are more than 39 million persons who do not know their right hand from their left?” (Jonah 4:11, changes mine). 

If Roe ends and California enacts more progressive policies to encourage more abortions for those local and outside the state, pro-life followers of Jesus will have a great opportunity to proclaim and show that we are a people who care about every individual affected by an unplanned pregnancy. There will be plenty of tribal culture warriors who, like Jonah, call for fire to reign down on the state. Not so for us, pastor. We must be those who vocally teach our people that the way of Jonah with Nineveh must not be our way. Instead, we must emulate the way of Jesus when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). We must be the people who compassionately show people that there are options other than terminating the precious preborn life inside of them. And we can do this while graciously advocating for the protection of these lives. 

California pastors like myself can also lead their congregations to take one tangible step together to help such women, whether giving to or volunteering at PRCs (Pregnancy Resource Centers), connecting with already active pro-life organizations, or supporting local foster care and adoption services. And may I humbly submit that we can advocate for our local and state government to enact more fiscal policies that help reduce abortions? Many progressive legislatures will never seek to reduce abortions directly but will absolutely seek to lift vulnerable women out of poverty and situations which make abortion seem like an attractive option. Pro-life followers of Jesus should be able to encourage such legislation if, in the end, it leads to the protection of more life and the formation of more healthy families. 

If we take these overall tactics, then we’ll be on our way to loving our vulnerable neighbor as ourselves, the very way that Jesus, at the cross, has loved us when we were most vulnerable in our sins. 

By / Mar 4

Sometime this summer, the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the most monumental abortion cases of the century. As Brent Leatherwood, acting president of ERLC, has said, this case is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to overturn Roe.

In preparation for that decision, here are six other Supreme Court cases related to abortion you should know about. 

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

One of the most significant cases related to abortion was not even about abortion. In 1879, Connecticut passed a law that banned the use of any drug, medical device, or other instrument that could be used for contraception. A challenge to that law came in 1961 when Estelle Griswold, the head of the state’s Planned Parenthood, opened a clinic that gave information, instruction, and medical advice to married persons as to the means of preventing conception. 

When she was arrested for violating the law, Griswold appealed her case all the way to the Supreme Court. 

In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled the law violated the “right to marital privacy.” Justice William O. Douglas claimed that the Bill of Right’s specific guarantees have “penumbras,” or zones, created by “emanations from these guarantees that help give them life and opinion.” Douglas found a “fundamental” and general “right to privacy” in the “spirit” of the First Amendment (free speech), Third Amendment (prohibition on the forced quartering of troops), Fourth Amendment (freedom from searches and seizures), Fifth Amendment (freedom from self-incrimination), and Ninth Amendment (other rights), as applied against the states by the 14th Amendment.

This “right to privacy” — a legal concept that ​​is still disputed as being in the Constitution — was used as the primary basis for legalizing abortion.  

Roe v. Wade (1971)

In 1970, “Jane Roe” (a legal pseudonym for Norma McCorvey) filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, challenging a Texas law making abortion illegal except by a doctor’s orders to save a woman’s life. Roe’s challenge was based on the idea that state laws were unconstitutionally vague and abridged her right of personal privacy, a right previously undiscovered until the Griswold case five years earlier. 

The court ruled in a 7-2 decision that the “right to privacy” is fundamental and protects a woman’s choice whether to have an abortion. However, the court also noted that right could be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and protecting “the potentiality of human life.” 

Many legal scholars have since lamented the legal reasoning used by Justice Harry Blackmun in deciding Roe. For example, Edward Lazarus, a former clerk for Justice Blackmun, wrote that, “as a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible.” Similarly, law professor Laurence Tribe wrote in a 1973 Harvard law review article that, “One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found.”

Doe v. Bolton (1973) 

In this case, “Mary Doe” argued against a Georgia law that made it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion except when it was “based upon his best clinical judgment that an abortion is necessary.” Doe contended that the word “necessary” did not let physicians know what conduct was not allowed and that the statute was subject to many different interpretations. 

The court’s opinion, which was issued on the same day as Roe, stated that a woman may obtain an abortion after viability, if necessary to protect her “health.” The court expanded the definition of “health” in way that made it almost impossible to exclude an abortion. According to the ruling, “medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors–physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age–relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”

Justice Blackmun wrote in the Roe decision that the opinions in both abortion cases (Roe and Doe) “are to be read together.”

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992)

In the late 1980s, the Pennsylvania legislature amended its abortion law to require informed consent for minors, a 24-hour waiting period prior to the procedure, and that a married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to have an abortion. The Supreme Court upheld all but one of the Pennsylvania restrictions (the marital notification provision). 

However, the court also reaffirmed the Roe decision and imposed a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The new standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden,” which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

The ruling also said “we reject the trimester framework, which we do not consider to be part of the essential holding of Roe.”

June Medical Services LLC v. Russo (2020)

In this case the court was asked to consider a Louisiana state law designed to protect women from the dangerous practices of abortion clinics. The law required doctors performing abortions to have active admitting privileges at a hospital located no further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced. This would ensure that women seeking an abortion could be quickly transferred in the event of medical complications. The effect of the law was to hold abortion clinics to the same standards of medical care that every other medical provider in Louisiana is required to abide.

But in a 5-4 decision, the court applied and upheld the “undue burden” precedent of Casey, as well as a precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down a similar Texas law on medical standards. The result of the ruling is that a state cannot enact reasonable public health regulations on the abortion industry if a court finds that those regulations place an “undue burden” on the ability of women to obtain abortions.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (pending)

Mississippi passed a law in 2018 called the “Gestational Age Act,” which prohibits all abortions, with few exceptions, after 15 weeks’ gestational age. The only licensed abortion facility in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is challenging the law on the grounds it violates Supreme Court precedent prohibiting states from banning abortions prior to viability.

The court could decide to uphold the Mississippi restriction, and in effect change the standard set by Roe and Casey. It could also go further and overturn both, ending almost half a century of federally sanctioned killing of the unborn. Regardless of the court’s decision, it will have implications for about 40 other cases currently in the lower courts.

By / Jan 14

This weekend will mark the 38th observance of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. On that Sunday, churches across the country lament what former Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear called the “greatest moral tragedy of our day” — the evil of abortion.

While Christians use the day to pray and mourn for the preborn who have been lost, many are not aware the annual church event originated in the White House.

On the 10th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, President Ronald Reagan wrote an essay about abortion that was published in The Human Life Review and later issued as a book titled “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” the only book ever published by a sitting U.S. president. The essay is one of the most forceful defenses of life and the strongest denuciations of abortion ever issued by an American president.

“The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?” wrote Reagan. “The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law—the same right we have.”

“I have often said we need to join in prayer to bring protection to the unborn,” added Reagan. “Prayer and action are needed to uphold the sanctity of human life. I believe it will not be possible to accomplish our work, the work of saving lives, ‘without being a soul of prayer.’” 

A year later, Reagan issued “Proclamation 5147 — National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 1984,” which notes, “Since 1973, however, more than 15 million unborn children have died in legalized abortions — a tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred.” The proclamation designated Sunday, Jan. 22, 1984, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day: “I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.”

Reagan would go on to issue the proclamation annually until he left office in 1988. His successor, George H.W. Bush continued the tradition, as did George W. Bush. The practice was discontinued during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but resumed under Donald Trump. In one of its final acts before the swearing in of a new president, the Trump White House issued a proclamation in 2020. President Joe Biden has not issued a pro-life proclamtion in either 2021 or 2022. 

Today, tens of thousands of churches across America observe the Sanctity of Life Sunday. But when Regan’s first proclamation was issued, adopting the observance stirred controversy because much of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention supported abortion rights. 

As former ERLC president and pro-life pioneer Richard Land says, “When the convention members were trying to get a Sanctity of Life Sunday, the staff of [Christian Life Commission] fought against it in the Denominational Calendar Committee. When they couldn’t get the Sunday blocked, they tried to get it moved to another time of year so as to not associate it with abortion, but with war and peace issues.” At the 1985 convention, the trustee chairman of the Chrisitan Life Commission (an entity that would later be reorganized as the ERLC) offered an amendment for a “Concern for Life” date to be in April so it wouldn’t coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That amendment was rejected, though, after pro-life advocates spoke in favor of the committee’s recommendation favoring a Sanctity of Life Sunday in mid-January.

Since then, the SBC has consistently designated a Sunday in January as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

By / Dec 8

You may have seen the video that’s making the rounds through the internet after the Dobbs arguments. A group of presumably pro-choice women, vehemently protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court, recently took part in a demonstration wherein they each swallowed what were purported to be “abortion pills.” 

Did we just witness the intentional killing of four pre-born babies?

In our pro-life circles, there were, and continue to be, plenty of commentators. Some called it a form of religious worship; others, a sort of sacramental ceremony. And they’re right — this demonstration was without question an act of worship. But instead of merely pointing our fingers and diagnosing the problem — quote-tweeting from a safe distance — isn’t there a better way for us to engage with the issue and the people involved in it?

As those on both sides of the debate grow further apart and the conversation grows more militant, a piercing question hangs in the air: how will this divide ever be mended? 

Many don’t believe it will be. Some don’t even believe it can. Others just aren’t willing to do the work involved in rebuilding what’s been broken, preferring instead to wag their collective fingers and comment from afar. But how should Christians approach and seek to answer this question?  It’s really not all that complex. And we don’t need to look any further than the ministry of Jesus for our marching orders.

Jesus, friend of sinners

In the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke, readers are introduced to a supposedly derogatory phrase used to describe Jesus. Speaking to the crowds around him, Jesus repeats to them the charge that’s been levied against him: he is a “friend . . . of sinners” (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). While Jesus offers no immediate or explicit comment either for or against this accusation, Luke wants his reader to understand that this Pharisaic charge is true. But what the crowds and the Pharisees saw as evil, Jesus embraced as good (Gen. 50:20).

In the very next scene recorded by Luke, after being invited into one of the Pharisee’s homes, Jesus was approached by “a woman in the town who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37). While he was reclining at the table, presumably sharing a meal with “upright” and “clean” religious men, this woman — this sinner — descended on Jesus, fell before him, and spilled her tears and a jar of perfume on his feet. In response, the Pharisee who had invited him reiterated in his mind, with seeming disgust, that she was a sinner (Luke 7:39). Responding to this man’s thoughts, Jesus proceeded to tell a story, eventually commending this woman, declaring that her sins were forgiven, and charging her to “Go in peace” (Luke 7:50). 

While all the men around the table were clamoring for a spot in Jesus’s inner circle, it was the most unlikely character who left the table as his friend.

Christians, friends of sinners

In his book, Friend of Sinners: An Approach to Evangelism, Harvey Turner opens the first chapter with a powerful question: “Do you like sinners?” He goes on:

“I hear many Christians talking about personal holiness. They talk about being like Jesus, walking like Jesus, and following Jesus. But most Christians I know don’t love sinners like Jesus did. They don’t hang out with them, they don’t share the gospel with them, and they just plain don’t like them. But could it be that the process of becoming more holy includes hanging around those who are considered unholy?”

Jesus loved sinners, and still does. And not just that, but Jesus liked sinners, and still does. How else would we have been welcomed into the kingdom of God if Jesus hadn’t befriended us? 

So, what does all this have to do with the group of women standing on the steps in our nation’s capital, swallowing abortion-inducing pills for public viewing? After watching the video and surveying the large number of comments being offered by men and women who I greatly respect, and whose comments I mostly agree with, I couldn’t shake (and still can’t) this single question: what amount of progress might be made, in this conversation and others, if, instead of making an example of these women with our clever and incisive comments, we simply walked across the street and sought to befriend them?

Would the culture change overnight? Certainly not. But, little by little, as friendships are born “across enemy lines,” maybe the temperature of this heated debate would begin to lower, maybe pre-born babies lives would be saved from the prospect of abortion, and maybe, when confronted with the kindness of God’s people, “sinners” would be made disciples and be welcomed into eternal life with God. It is God’s kindness that leads men and women to repentance (Rom. 2:4). May God’s people go and do likewise.

“Our mission from Jesus,” Turner says, “is to make disciples of people who are not currently disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) . . . If we are not friends to sinners, we are not following him [Jesus].” 

Christians, befriended sinners

I suspect that part of the reason we find this so difficult is because we’ve forgotten some crucial things about our own pathway into God’s family, namely that Jesus has come and made friends with those of us who follow him (John 15:15). The “hound of heaven” chased us down, sinners though we were, and slathered us with lovingkindness.

Where were you when Jesus came and befriended you?

This should force us to ask a couple of questions. Are the steps of the Supreme Court off limits for Jesus to come and birth a new friendship? Are women with abortion drugs under their tongues too unclean for Jesus to welcome them, forgive them of their sins, and offer them the shalom of God? The answer to these questions is clearly no. So, why would we not follow in the way of Jesus and invite them into friendship with God by making friends with them ourselves? Can we expect to win them, and the persistent debate on life, any other way?

The people of God, regardless of where we find ourselves, have been given a new vocation: we are fishers of people, charged with going and making disciples of men and women, teaching them what it means to follow the one who says to them, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). We, imitating the God we worship, have been called to make friends with our enemies.

So, whether on the steps of the Supreme Court or the cubicle across the hall, may we, for the love of God and neighbor, have the courage to put down our commenting devices and go befriend someone into the kingdom of God. And, in the stead of our Savior, may we wear the label “friend of sinners” with joy.

By / Dec 6

“The unwanted child.”

This disturbing phrase reverberates in one’s conscience after reading the U.S. Supreme Court opinion from the 1973 case, Roe v. Wade. Justice Harry Blackmun authored the opinion that seems more like a creative writing piece than a decision rooted in the American Constitution. If some legal analysts criticize judges for “legislating from the bench,” then Roe represents the creation, passage and implementation of a whole new frontier of law sans any legislative input.

As a consequence, Justice Blackmun laid the foundation for the modern abortion architecture we see around us in society to this day. The language and rationale he wielded has led to an unmitigated moral disaster: over 60 million preborn lives extinguished, vulnerable women and families preyed upon by predatory abortion clinics, and whole communities targeted by an unrelenting abortion industry.

With the oral arguments presented before the court last week in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the nine current justices have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revisit Blackmun’s catastrophic opinion, as well as that of Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). The court should not hesitate to completely do away with it –– assigning it the same place in infamy alongside such morally repugnant decisions as Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857, regarding the constitutionality of citizenship for African-Americans) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896, creating the doctrine of “separate but equal”). In much the same way, the court can correct the grave mistakes of its past in ways that should hearten not only pro-life Americans, but all Americans.

What the court can correct 

For starters, the court could help begin to set aright what it damaged with the Roe ruling: the relationship between mothers and their children. As Christians who recognize the Genesis 3 reality in which we live, we understand nothing short of Christ’s return will truly repair the brokenness that affects our relationships in a fallen world, but we should not fail to recognize the ways Blackmun’s opinion did harm here. His reasoning essentially created a legal permission structure that pitted mothers against their children. Because of this, countless mothers have been sold the lie by the abortion industry that their lives will be burdened, less rich and rewarding, and, ultimately, less satisfying with a child in the picture. By overruling Roe and Casey, we can save a new generation of families from enduring these awful and false narratives.

In addition, the court would be taking a necessary step toward establishing a legal environment that views life as something to be protected, not discarded. Numerous experts agree that a favorable decision in Dobbs could return the question of abortion to the states where, it is estimated, upward of half the Union stands to affirm a range of prolife protections for preborn children. In some states, there will be an almost overnight effect that moves their legal posture from a culture of death to one of life.

Finally, the right opinion in this case could comport with the very best of America’s ideals. A number of citizens believe that, at its essence, America is synonymous with freedom. Whether one fully agrees with that statement or not, it is undeniable that our nation has played a role in expanding the definition of freedom around the globe. Even in our current moment, we are having a national conversation about the implications of that term for every individual. Yet it shouldn’t be lost on us that as we have this dialogue, our culture continues to steamroll the lives of millions of the tiniest individuals in our society each year. That cannot continue. The Dobbs case affords our nation a moment when we can finally decide to be consistent and loudly declare that the blessings of America’s “new birth of freedom” extend to born and preborn alike.

The reality is, it is past time for the court to dismantle the disastrous reasoning posited by Blackmun nearly 50 years ago. By affirming his words, the court robbed generations of preborn children of their dignity, an atrocity that must be rectified. And while that will go a long way toward correcting the errors of the past made by the state, it is up to Christians to realize such a decision, as momentous as it would be, is not the end of the challenge before us. In fact, it will represent the starting point for a new prolife generation. For all the good that a favorable court decision would do, there will still be mothers in crisis who are either unable or unwilling to give a child the love and care he or she needs.

It will be at this moment when the true test comes –– and the church must be ready. For it has a duty to look out for the child in all of this. To be her voice. To be her advocate. And we should stand ready to welcome her with open arms (Mark 10:14) and let her know the Author of life has wanted her all along.

By / Oct 29

Last Friday the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a pair of orders on Texas’ Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), a Texas law that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs anywhere between five and eight weeks into a pregnancy. The orders concern the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a lawsuit brought by abortion providers, and the case United States v. Texas, which was filed by President Biden’s administration. 

The court gave the parties in the case until this past Wednesday to file their briefs. The cases are set for oral argument on Monday, November 1, 2021. This is an unusually expedited schedule, which signals the Court is eager to resolve the issue of whether these cases can be brought by the abortion clinics and the Biden administration. 

Who decides whether a case will be expedited by the Court?

In general, justices of the Supreme Court have sole discretion about which cases they will hear. No one—including Congress or the president—can force them to review a case that has been decided by an appeals court. There is also nothing that tells the justices how they must decide which cases they will take, so they rely on custom.

The Supreme Court has adopted the custom known as the “rule of four”—a case will be reviewed by the Court if four of the nine justices so decide. In the case of Ferguson v. Lines (1957), Justice Felix Frankfurter explained the rule of four:

“The ‘rule of four’ is not a command of Congress. It is a working rule devised by the Court as a practical mode of determining that a case is deserving of review, the theory being that if four Justices find that a legal question of general importance is raised, that is ample proof that the question has such importance. This is a fair enough rule of thumb on the assumption that four Justices find such importance on an individualized screening of the cases sought to be reviewed.”

If four justices decide they will take a case, they issue a writ of certiorari, an order issued by the Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case that it will hear on appeal. The justices tend to only accept cases that will affect the entire country, rather than just the individuals involved, or that clarify legal issues that are of constitutional significance.

The Court hears oral arguments in cases from October through April, and are usually released beginning in June. All opinions of the Court are, typically, handed down by the last day of the Court’s term (the day in late June/early July when the Court recesses for the summer). With the exception of this deadline, there are no rules concerning when decisions must be released.

What are the issues the Court is looking at with SB 8?

The 1908 case of Ex Parte Young ruled that plaintiffs in lawsuits can seek injunctions against government officials charged with enforcing potentially unconstitutional laws. Based on this precedent, abortion providers attempeted to sue a numer of state officials in Texas for enforcing SB 8. But SB 8 was intentionally written so that the enforcement mechanism would be civil lawsuits brought by private citizens. 

The State of Texas therefore claims that it has no role in enforcement, and thus state officials cannot be sued. Since no state officer can enforce the law, it is unclear whether anyone can be sued to block the law from taking effect. 

The question the Supreme Court is being asked to consider in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson  is whether a state can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of an established constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil actions.

The question the Supreme Court is being asked to consider in United States v. Texas is whether the Biden administration may bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the state, state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials, or all private parties to prohibit Texas Senate Bill 8 from being enforced.

How does this affect SB 8?

It doesn’t—at least for now. As Justice Sotomayor lamented in her dissent when the recent order was handed down, the Court has once again decided not to block SB 8 from being enforced. The law will remain in effect at least until a decision is handed down on these pending cases. 

How soon could the Court rule on this issue with SB 8?

The Court could hand down a ruling within a few weeks at the earliest. At the latest, the Court could decide to hold the ruling till the end of its term in late June or early July. 

How does this affect the future of abortion?

Although SB 8 has received the most attention lately, it is not the primary case that will determine the future of abortion in America. The Supreme Court will also be hearing the state of Mississippi’s petition in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That case involves a 2018 law passed in Mississippi called the Gestational Age Act, which allows abortions after 15 weeks of gestational age only in medical emergencies or instances of severe fetal abnormality.

While the law has been blocked by lower courts as inconsistent with current precedent related to abortion, the court agreed to take up the question of whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. If pre-viability prohibitions are declared constitutional, then lawmakers could essentially overturn Roe v. Wade and make laws such as SB 8 unnecessary. 

By / Aug 4

We are in a season of transition at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission after Russell Moore’s move to Christianity Today. The team in D.C. is changing as well, and so we wanted to bring you a final show with the current team: Jeff Pickering, Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, and Travis Wussow. 

This show will air in two parts with reflections on the ERLC’s work in Washington, D.C., and a conversation with David French of The Dispatch about religious liberty, pro-life policy, and January 6th.

The motivating aim of Capitol Conversations was to foster a new evangelical imagination for political engagement and we hope it’s done that for you. On behalf of all of us at the ERLC in Washington, D.C., thanks for listening.

In the meantime, stay subscribed to Capitol Conversations as there will surely and soon be something new on this channel. And be sure to check out The ERLC Podcast as well, with new episodes from Nashville released every Friday.

Guest Biography

David French is senior editor of The Dispatch. He’s also a columnist for Time. He’s the author of Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore, and Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation, among others.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jul 27

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 27, 2021—The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission filed an amicus brief in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization todayrequesting the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) decisions that have prevented states from prohibiting abortion.  

“For too long, the Roe and Casey decisions have allowed our nation to turn a blind eye to the plight of those who have no voice,” said Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, ERLC’s acting director of public policy. “Our brief asks the Court to overturn those two cases and set a new precedent that respects every life. With each passing day, more and more people recognize preborn lives are worthy of protection. The Dobbs case provides another chance for the Court to come to that same conclusion and affirm the fundamental right to life.”

The ERLC joined with other pro-life organizations on the brief, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The case represents a significant opportunity for the pro-life movement as hundreds of proposed state laws protecting the unborn could potentially take effect.

“Government has many responsibilities. Chief among them is protecting innocent life,” said Brent Leatherwood, ERLC chief of staff. “How much more important is that responsibility when it comes to protecting preborn lives that cannot speak for themselves? Christians have long pleaded the case for America to recognize the inherent dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors. This case gives us another opportunity to do so. Until that happens, our nation will not be able to fully achieve that lofty goal of being a land that preserves life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every individual.”

The law at the center of the case is an effort by Mississippi to regulate abortion. In taking up the case, the Court agreed to review a Mississippi law that would replace the “viability standard” with a limit on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. More information about the case is available here

A new study finds that 47 out of 50 European nations limit elective abortion prior to fifteen weeks. The United States is one of only a handful of nations that allow for abortion after twenty weeks.