Back in 2014, I remember having a conversation with a reporter. It was the polite conversation that sometimes will take place following a formal interview, the kind that builds bridges for future conversations.
The chat occurred after the November 2014 election that saw Tennessee pass a strong pro-life amendment that reoriented that state’s posture toward abortion. The reporter asked my thoughts about the passage of the ballot initiative and what it might mean for the future of the issue.
I told her I believed it meant a day was coming where the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision would be overturned and states would be able to pursue solutions that save lives. And then I said, I believe in our lifetime, abortion will be a thing of the past. She scoffed. Not in a rude way, but in a way that signaled she thought that future was inconceivable.
Fast forward eight years later, and we’ve arrived at a place where the first part of that prediction has proven true. Roe is dead.
This new season has been ushered in by the most significant victory of the pro-life movement with last summer’s Dobbs Supreme Court decision. Abortion, as an issue, can now be directly dealt with at the state level. And a number of states, overnight and in the ensuing weeks, shifted to a legal posture that respects life, defends preborn lives, and serves mothers. Baptists, who have long prayed for, given countless days, and provided endless resources in the battle against the abortion industry, should rightfully rejoice at this new reality.
But we must resist the urge to declare victory. While Roe is gone, abortion is still very much a fixture in our fallen culture. In fact, we need to be clear-eyed about the road ahead, for the end of abortion will come about state by state and neighborhood by neighborhood. It is an effort that will require all of us.
Overturning a legal case and amending the laws of our land are the easy part. Turning consciences from accepting destruction to advocating for the voiceless will be a far more difficult task. But it’s one our churches should joyfully meet, and in the state of North Carolina, they are.
Last fall I had the privilege of traveling to the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. This network of churches famously touts they are on mission together and especially so on the issues of life and human dignity.
In fact, thanks to the generosity of North Carolina Baptists, last year the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) was able to come together with the convention to donate mobile ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers in both Elizabeth City and Franklin through a new Psalm 139 Project partnership. These life-saving mobile units are serving rural areas in both the western and eastern parts of the state and are serving women, proclaiming the gospel and saving lives.
As some readers may be aware, the ERLC has entered a new season. We are excited about the possibilities of supporting more pregnancy care centers in North Carolina and beyond with resources that assist our churches in their crucial life-saving work. In this new era of the pro-life movement, our efforts to stand for life together must continue with the same conviction, consistency and kindness that our Baptist family has always been known for.
As we bring this message from the Author of life (Acts 3:15), we will inevitably encounter hurdles. Already, some states have taken a path where more lives are lost and more mothers are allowed to be targeted and preyed upon by the abortion industry. We must be a people of life who speak into this moment with clarity and conviction.
And just as it took 50 years to get here, this era may last equally as long. But I am confident we will get there. Pastors proclaiming the truth, churches wrapping their arms around vulnerable mothers and anxious fathers, and Baptist entities, like North Carolina Baptists and the ERLC, cooperating together to bring resources to bear against the evil of Planned Parenthood tell me so.
As we do this vital cooperative work, we will be the very salt and light (Matthew 5) this world needs right now. For the antidote to a culture that treats life as disposable is the testimony of a holy God who views every life as immeasurably valuable.
by Brent Leatherwood, president, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of the Biblical Recorder magazine. Leatherwood was also a guest on a recent edition of the N.C. Baptists podcast.