Over the past 50 years, “the most vulnerable neighbors in our midst have been taken advantage of, dispatched without care and discarded without thought,” said Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
But if Roe v. Wade is overturned, “we will witness the most significant achievement in the history of the pro-life movement,” he told messengers during his report to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 15.
“When that day comes, this convention of churches, you as Southern Baptists will have played an instrumental role in getting us to that moment,” Leatherwood said.
And it will be the beginning of a new chapter, he said. “We will begin the process of saving a new generation of families from enduring these awful and false narratives. It is up to Christians to realize such a decision, as momentous as it may be, is not the end of the challenge before us.”
There will still be mothers in crisis and families in chaos, he said.
Before Leatherwood’s report, Elizabeth Graham, vice president of operations and life initiatives for the ERLC, shared a little bit about what ministry in that new season will need to look like.
“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, it will be a historic day for life, and we will celebrate the thousands and thousands of life that will be saved,” she said. “An equally important goal is for abortion to also be unthinkable and unnecessary in the hearts and minds of our culture. … A post-Roe world is good, but a post-abortion world is what we continue to fervently work to achieve by reaching these women where they are in their time of crisis.”
That’s because the abortion question will be in the hands of the states, and even if it is outlawed, it doesn’t stop the possibility of non-public abortion methods, said Kevin Smith, who serves on the ERLC board of trustees.
“Pills can be sent to someone’s house,” and “various other non-public methodology” can be used, he said to messengers before the ERLC report.
This is one reason Leatherwood said ERLC has “pursued every feasible avenue to equip the church and continue our advocacy for life before a watching world.”
Psalm 139 Project
One way they’ve done that is through the Psalm 139 Project, which started 25 years ago under the leadership of Richard Land, a former ERLC president.
“This is an initiative to place ultrasound machines in pro-life clinics across the country,” Leatherwood said. “Because we used private donations and not Cooperative Program funding for this, we typically placed one to two machines per year.”
But two years ago under the leadership of Land’s successor, Russell Moore, ERLC announced an “ambitious goal” to place 50 machines by the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2023, Leatherwood said. “That’s why today I’m pleased to announce publicly the ERLC has secured funding to not only meet but exceed that goal six months ahead of schedule.”
It was also made possible with partnerships with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and the Florida Baptist Foundation to make this happen, he said.
During her time on the platform, Graham shared the story of a woman named Monique (name changed) who was removed from her mother at age six and lived in 13 foster families between then and when she turned 18.
While she was in the foster care system, she was adopted, and the father abused her. She was removed from that home too.
“When Monique aged out of the foster care system, she had no family, no support and nowhere to go in time of crisis,” Graham said. “She began using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain from her trauma, which led her to being trafficked and eventually she found herself unexpectedly pregnant with her first child.”
She had the baby, but DHS removed the child from her home because she was unable to provide care. She continued down a dark path, and when she became pregnant a second time, she planned to have an abortion, Graham said.
“Through a mutual friend, Monique met an advocate from a pro-life organization who showed her compassion and empathy and showed her that she had other choices,” she said. “The advocate told her she would foster her daughter, connect her to a church and help her with resources to provide ongoing support through a continuum of care. Again, counter to the ‘necessary’ message she was told by culture, Monique chose life.”
Today, Baby E is alive and ready for a forever family, Graham said. “God sent someone to her (Monique) and told her she didn’t have to believe that lie. We need to recognize that most women like Monique are considering abortion because they feel afraid, overwhelmed, unsupported and with limited options. Some can hardly support themselves, let alone a child. Some are pressured by their partner and don’t have anyone else in their life to help them.”
A potential post-Roe world
As the church faces a potential post-Roe world, “we need to welcome these women with open arms, love them, value them, support them — not criminalize them. And yes, communicate a way that reaches them with a sense of empathy all while keeping Christ’s compassion for the broken and the hurting at the center.”
One way ERLC is promoting this approach is through the Stand for Life Conference in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 22, 2023, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
“This event is being created to unify leaders, influencers and organizations and the church to strategically enhance the holistic pro-life movement through the next generation,” Graham said. “We want the church to be the first place a woman goes in her time of crisis.”
Smith said part of that holistic support will come from churches engaging with foster care and adoption systems within their states.
“If we are going to create a culture where women in crisis will take a pregnancy to term, we’ve got to create a culture where they know that many Christians desire to adopt,” he said. “They’ve got to know children won’t linger in foster care and adoption systems within our states.”
For more stories from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.