Four leaders share their vision for what demonstrating pro-life convictions really looks like.
COMPILED BY KATE SHELLNUTT| MAY 24, 2019
The recent debates over anti-abortion legislation advancing in states like Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia—some of the strictest bans in the country, seen as precursors to efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade—put the pro-life movement on the spot.
Critics have pushed back against what they perceived as a pro-life position to uphold life by barring abortion but offering little other support for struggling women and families. That’s a common counterpoint from pro-choice advocates, and it’s a stance convicted pro-life Christians aren’t satisfied with either. There is far more to a biblical and moral defense of life and dignity than a political position on abortion.
CT asked four pro-life leaders to share how they believe Christians can build trust in the movement in the face of current critique, cynicism, and challenges. Their responses appear below.
Kelly Rosati, consultant, foster care advocate, former Focus on the Family vice president:
We must walk our talk and care about all life, born and unborn. If we are as serious as we say we are about saving the lives of unborn children, we must come to terms with the reasons for women’s abortion decisions. At the top of the list are two glaring ones Christians could help change: an inability to care for dependents and an inability to afford a baby.
Well-meaning Christians often point out the great work of pregnancy resource centers and churches with outreaches to abortion-risk women. That work is fantastic, but those involved will be the first to tell you it isn’t even close to enough to support the needs of all the women in the US facing an abortion decision. They need what all moms need: sufficient food and clothing for their children, access to healthcare, childcare, jobs, affordable housing, and time to care for their children with paid family leave.
The common refrain from Christians is that those supports should come exclusively from churches and the private sector. Where does the Scripture prohibit public-private partnerships to save lives and advance child and family wellbeing? Why do Christians in other countries not find that same admonition? Who decided it was “Christian” to support sloganeering fiscal conservatism but oppose services for poor, pregnant, and parenting women? Creating communities where support is available and life is welcomed is complicated and nuanced, not lending itself to tweet-length solutions or ideological tirades from the left or right.
For fiscal conservatives, if saving lives is what matters most, when will our walk match our talk? When will we live pro-life and not just talk pro-life? Of course many do that, and to those who do: thank you. But there’s no denying that it’s not being done in a way sufficient to meet the need.
And, in the same way abortion rights supporters have no right deprioritizing the lives of unborn children because every life matters, pro-life supporters also have no right deprioritizing the lives of already-born children because every life matters. When we fail to demonstrate in word and deed that the lives of children in foster care, at the border, or in jeopardy from preventable death in a developing country also matter as much as the lives of unborn children and their moms, we hurt our pro-life credibility, we hurt our Christian witness, and we hurt our cause to save unborn babies.
Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, policy director at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
Truth and tone must go hand in hand. We should advocate for pro-life policies in a way that communicates both our care for the woman and her unborn little one, not one above the other. In seeking to build trust, we must be mindful of the way in which we discuss pro-life issues.
Pro-life Christians must also take care not to vilify the one in four women who’ve had an abortion. God’s grace extends to every kind of sin and every person who would place their trust in Christ. His cross offers forgiveness of sin. The world is watching and will be able to tell if our public witness reflects or obscures his love.
Another way to build trust is to develop a robust pro-life ethic that reaches as far as our belief in human dignity. The first issue that comes to mind when thinking about the pro-life community is our opposition to abortion, as it should be. We should defend life where life begins because every other human right depends on your right to life. Our unborn neighbors are the most vulnerable and voiceless, and we must stand in the gap for them.
But this is not a limiting principle. The culture our community longs to see will only come when we care holistically for the vulnerable and voiceless wherever they may be found. In lifting up the cause of the unborn, it is imperative that we also do something about the situations of desperation the abortion lobby uses to prey upon people. It is not enough to just say that abortion is not the answer. I’d challenge Christians to incorporate a robust pro-life ethic in our regard for vulnerable children in foster care, victims of human trafficking, prisoners, people with disabilities, immigrants, and refugees.
Finally, the best way to build trust is with our actions. … When the world sees that we’re not just firing off a couple of tweets, but we’re serving our local communities, we’ll gain more credibility and trust. Pro-life Christians. Let’s be consistent with our message, speak with kindness and love, incorporate a robust worldview of life, and faithfully follow Christ’s lead to love our neighbor.
Roland C. Warren, president and CEO of Care Net:
While many pro-life Christians are excited about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned in the foreseeable future, there is fear in the culture that pro-life people are only interested in a political solution and that the well-being of women and families will be at stake should this political victory come to fruition. Therefore, there is an important question we, as pro-life Christians, must ask ourselves during this pivotal time: Are we prepared for a post-Roe v. Wade society?
Here is what the pro-choice movement thinks: If abortion becomes harder to access after Roe is overturned, pro-life people will simply stand by and let women and men struggle, without any support, through difficult pregnancy decisions. Accordingly, the antidote that we as Christians can use to overcome this fear is for us to not just be pro-life but to be “pro abundant life” (John 10:10).
What does abundant life look like to a child we desire to save from abortion? As Christians, these are the tenets we should encourage and build into people’s lives:
- Because the only source of true and lasting transformation is the gospel, we must lead people into relationships with Jesus Christ.
- Because 86 percent of abortions in the United States are among unmarried women, we must promote healthy marriage as a critical factor in preventing abortions and as the optimal environment to raise children.
- Because the father of an unborn baby is the most influential factor in a mother’s decision to abort, we must work to break the cycle of abortion by engaging fathers and helping them be involved, responsible, and committed contributors to their families.
- Because our culture no longer values the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of the family as God designed it, we must seek to influence it by compassionately transforming hearts and minds.
This is the difference between being satisfied when a baby’s life is saved versus being satisfied when a child has the opportunity to be raised by his or her own two married parents, who love each other, love their child, and love God. In other words, atheists can solve for heartbeats, but Christians must solve for heartbeats that are heaven-bound.
That is why Care Net continues to grow our life-affirming network of pregnancy centers, churches, organizations, and individuals. People who understand that providing holistic, compassionate, Christ-centered support to women and men considering abortion are the key to turning the temporal victory of overturning Roe v. Wade into an eternal victory of saving the unborn, building strong families, and making disciples for Jesus Christ.
Amy Ford, president and cofounder of Embrace Grace:
For years, some pastors have been apprehensive about speaking up about life because they may view it as a political issue or because they desire the church to be known more for what we are for rather than what we are against. But as pro-life Christians, we are forlife, and we are for love.
We can build trust in the movement by serving single and pregnant moms and loving them right where they are. Being pro-life is a stance, but pro-love is an action. The church can play a powerful role in saving them both—the mom and baby—and supporting women with unplanned pregnancies, not only during the pregnancy but forever because we are a spiritual family.
Embrace Grace has support groups and discipleship classes in churches all over the nation for women with unplanned pregnancies. Demand for our groups—now near 600 in 46 states, plus 10 countries—has multiplied this year. The New York legislature’s abortion bill and the Unplanned movie are inspiring people to take action. I keep hearing, “I can’t look away any longer. What can I do?”
We all have love to give. Can you help a single mom write a résumé or look for scholarships? Can you fix her car? Can you babysit her kid? Can you cover her childcare expenses? Can you mentor and teach or nurture and care? Can you show her how to balance a checkbook? Can you give to pro-life nonprofits that are assisting women in need? Can you lead an abortion healing class? Can you lead a support group for women with unintended pregnancies?
We can’t fix all their problems, but we can point them to the One who does. And we can ensure no single mom has to walk alone.