By / Nov 4

Through my work with Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, I have shared publicly what it’s like to be offered a medically necessary abortion at 25 weeks pregnant. And I have shared what it’s like to walk with my sister through her grief over an abortion she experienced alone. 

I have had a specific vantage point to observe some of the many issues involved. The choice to abort never occurs in a vacuum, and if Christians want to have a true impact on the issue of abortion, we must carefully work to eliminate why abortion seems the best choice, not merely make it an illegal choice. 

How local churches can respond

On Sept. 1, 2021, my home, Texas, became as close as the United States has seen in decades to a state where abortion is banned. The law that enabled this ban, SB 8 (or the Texas Heartbeat bill), is now under consideration by the Supreme Court. 

Our gospel witness demands we prepare to rise to this occasion as a watching world looks to Texas to see how churches will respond if the laws they’ve so vocally called for and supported become a reality. 

The good news is there is not a need to reinvent the wheel. The crisis pregnancy ministries that have worked tirelessly before now continue to be the boots on the ground. They are strategic partners for churches wanting to do more. Churches are uniquely capable and equipped to be able to help alleviate much of the reasons women believe abortion is the best option. With more churches now considering and looking to be a positive resource for women, there are several paths forward: 

Expanding network currency. Churches wanting to be more involved in crisis pregnancy ministries can begin by partnering with established organizations in great need of more resources. This could mean financial support (which is sorely needed), but it could also mean helping connect the passions, interests, and skills of the church members. Although resources are not one-size-fits-all, most Dallas and Fort Worth based crisis pregnancy centers share a need for help with the following: 

  • Mental health 
  • Language and communication (especially bilingual skills)  
  • Sewing skills (for blankets, socks, etc.)
  • Childcare opportunities (VBS/Parent’s night out/stay & plays could all be great resources for pregnancy centers to share with clients).
  • GED/ESL opportunities 
  • Print supplies/office resources 

Help make easier on-ramps to existing ministries. The problem is not a lack of resources; it is connecting the right resources with the people who need them. Churches are crucial ministry partners for many pregnancy centers. This is an opportunity for churches to strengthen their communication efforts with pregnancy ministries. It is especially helpful to provide welcoming points of entrance into the church beyond a Sunday morning service, which can be threatening and overwhelming to a woman facing a difficult situation. If your church has childcare nights, or evening sporting events, or other community/relationship-building events, those would be an ideal opportunity to invite people who are in need of community and Christ’s love right now. 

Support the boots on the ground: Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.”  Pray for your local pregnancy centers, and let them know. These ministries have been and will continue to serve, love, and minister to women and children, but they are also on the receiving end of much anger, misinformation, and hostility as the Texas bill works its way through the legal system. Many of them are tired and in need of encouragement. While SB 8 continues to attract national attention, our centers need our vocal prayer and support. 

Some helpful guiding principles

The future of the Texas Heartbeat Bill is yet to be determined. However, it is my firm belief that churches should begin envisioning now what a life without Roe v. Wade could look like and work toward that. At the Christian Life Commission, we have committed to following Micah 6:8 to be our guiding reference as we navigate public policy, culture, and the building of the kingdom of God. Working toward a world post-Roe, the principles of Micah help point us in the right direction. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Act justly: As believers, we confidently stand behind the truth of the dignity and worth of the unborn. Throughout Scripture we see God’s calling upon his people to care for and protect the marginalized and the vulnerable. This calling to justice extends to the unborn. We care deeply about their protection and believe to act justly means to advocate for their dignity and rights. 

Love kindness: There is plenty of space in Christianity for conviction and compassion. It is good to have conviction and passion for the vulnerable among us. But that should never stand apart from people who are hurting and also need compassion — to listen to their cries and needs — and follow the example of James 2 by showing our faith through our works. We must creatively pool resources to meet the moment of need in the mother’s life. The banning of abortion will not undo the host of issues that culminate in the choice to abort. A Christian response ought to be marked by true kindness. 

Walk humbly: Pride is never a good look in the life of the believer. As we craft our responses and attitudes toward this issue, a haughty spirit over the victory against abortion is not the way forward. We celebrate truth and justice, but we also weep with those who weep. The celebration of progress within the pro-life cause should spur us on to love and good deeds. If the fruit of our celebration is the humiliation and pain of others, we have done it incorrectly. It is crucial to remember that while laws may help regulate and provide protection for the vulnerable, the causes which lead up to abortion will still be with us. In humility, we ought to ask God for wisdom on how to help end abortion by working to alleviate it as the seemingly better choice.

As we move toward the possible reality of a post-Roe world, may God help us exemplify the truth and grace of Jesus and uphold the dignity of every life we encounter.

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 / Oct 22

In this episode, Brent and Julie discuss pastor appreciation month and the great work of one SBC pastor in particular, Senate appropriation bills, Colin Powell’s legacy, and an update on the Texas abortion ban. They also chat about three opportunities that public school offers families, a Supreme Court case involving the right of a public school teacher to pray, and a trip around the world by a 19-year-old. 

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Colin Powell dies at age 84
  2. An Update on the Texas abortion law
  3. Joseph Kennedy and the right of a public school teacher to pray.
  4. 19-year-old Zara Rutherford flies around the world

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