By / Feb 23

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

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

What happened in the Alabama Supreme Court ruling?

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

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

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

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

What is IVF?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By / Feb 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

By / Feb 15

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

Shared commitment to ‘culture of life’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full Texas Baptists article here.

By / Feb 8

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

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

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

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

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

By / Jan 29

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

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

Here is what you should know about the proposed legislation:

What is the current Child Tax Credit?

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

What are the proposed changes to the Child Tax Credit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do some Christians support this expansion?

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

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

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

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

By / Jan 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Daniel

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah Daniel

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

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

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

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

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 22

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

Halftime for the pro-life movement

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

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

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

An opportunity

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

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

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

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

By / Jan 19

Watch as Brent Leatherwood explains why the ERLC, among other Southern Baptists, gathers at the March for Life and also clarifies what it’s going to take to promote a culture of life in our country. Additionally, he shares about the Psalm 139 Project, a ministry of the ERLC that places life-saving ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers.

By / Jan 18

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

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

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

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

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

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Religion News Service article here.