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FIRST-PERSON: On abortion, illegal is huge; unnecessary, unthinkable are bigger win

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In November 2021 I sat in a private convening of interdenominational church leaders from across the states, brought together by the ERLC’s Elizabeth Graham, among others, for the sole purpose of coming together to end abortion in America in our lifetime. Since the late ‘70s, Baptists and other groups have worked tirelessly, albeit disjunctively, to end abortion and provide care to mothers. For the first time in my lifetime, I felt like we were finally getting somewhere – circling our wagons, so to speak. “Chess not checkers,” was uttered by someone in the room with timely wisdom. A prayerful expectation was palpable that abortion would become not only illegal in our generation but in the words of Graham, “unnecessary and unthinkable” as well.

Less than one month later, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Last week, a leaked draft opinion from the Court revealed the likelihood that Roe v. Wade could potentially be overturned altogether this summer. There is a real possibility that abortion could become illegal, at least in some states, in our lifetime.

That is a huge win. Full stop. May Great Commission Baptists always celebrate when the righteousness of heaven is reflected in the laws of men.

However, it’s not the final win. The court’s decision would return the battle for unborn life to the states. Some states’ current legislation is favorable for abortion rights and others’ are strongly pro-life. What’s more, the abolition of legal abortion does not abolish the sinfulness of humanity, nor the sinfulness of the world deeply and desperately scarred by it; our hope for redemption from sin and sinfulness is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone. Put differently, because of the curse of sin all people everywhere are entirely capable of the worst evils we can possibly imagine, and we live in an environment that is entirely conducive to it.

Even when, by the grace of God, abortion becomes illegal in the U.S., local churches need to continue to work that it would also be unthinkable and unnecessary. While the ERLC and other pro-life organizations are busy creating biblical resources for church-based pro-life education, local churches must be immediately active toward the unthinkability and unnecessariness of abortion as well. Here are some ideas:

Make Abortion Unthinkable. Every local church serves as a repository (the “pillar and foundation,” 1 Timothy 3:15) of biblical truth. That truth includes, of course, the doctrine of the imago dei – that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and, as such, possess inherent dignity and value. It has never been, nor will it ever be, that secular government or parachurch organizations bear the responsibility to educate the people on the doctrine of the imago dei. This responsibility, and the joy that accompanies it, belong to the local church. Consider taking six to eight weeks in your small groups, student ministry, or Sunday night gatherings to teach through the doctrine of the imago dei. Offer a Tuesday or Thursday evening class for your community to teach the biblical principles of the value of life at all stages. Show them firsthand that Baptists “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death,” (BFM2000, Article XV).

To make abortion unthinkable, we’ll need to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to, and a compelling argument for, the truth that life begins at the moment of conception and is worth protecting and valuing from that very instant. Even when abortion is illegal, if it does not become unthinkable, it will find a way. The heart of man is desperately wicked, and desperation is intoxicatingly convincing. To make abortion unthinkable is to convince young minds and influential voices in their lives that the gift of God growing in the womb of an expectant mother is always a life worth saving.

Make Abortion Unnecessary. But to make abortion illegal and unthinkable without also working to make it unnecessary is the height of Christian hypocrisy. Not only have Great Commission Baptists long confessed that they will “speak on behalf of the unborn,” but also that they will “work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick,” (BFM2000, Article XV). A large portion of abortions every year come as the result of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. Such a young mother’s conscience is easily poisoned by the reverberating pro-choice lie that abortion is not just a way out, but the way out. Regretfully, other than counseling such a young mother not to have an abortion, many churches offer no substantive assistance to those in a position of choice. Brothers, this should not be.

Build a pantry of tangible pregnancy- and infancy-related items (bottles, formula, diapers, pregnancy tests, gift cards, clothes, etc.) or actively support another local organization that does, such as an associational ministry or community care facility. Scholarship adoption for couples in your church. Raise awareness of and enlist support for foster-care families in your community. Hold a job fair, scholarship practical trade education, and host financial management classes for young parents who need to learn how to earn and manage the income necessary for sustaining a family. Support a pregnancy center. Work with your local school district to conduct classes on and/or promote abstinence and sexual purity in sex education. Open your own home to an expectant mother who is being persecuted or ostracized for choosing life. When a frightened, confused young pregnant woman being pressured into abortion by family and close friends walks in your doors seeking direction, what tangible, immediate assistance will you offer her? Until you are ready for that conversation, you are not ready to make abortion unnecessary.

There is a voice heard in Ramah. Lamentation and bitter weeping. It is the sound of Rachel, weeping for her children, because they are no more (Jeremiah 31:15). Like Rachel before us, we have refused to be comforted while abortion is legal. Rightly so. Brothers and sisters, let us continue with holy indignation until we have also made it unthinkable and unnecessary.

    About the Author

  • Tony Wolfe

    Tony Wolfe is associate executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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