PAUL BUTLER: This is a special audio presentation of a WORLD Opinions video panel discussion recorded live on January 19, 2023. Just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Joining the expert panel for this discussion … several WORLD Opinions contributors: Dr. Kevin DeYoung is a pastor and he teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. He and his wife Tricia have nine children.
KEVIN DEYOUNG: People feel deeply about this issue because honestly, they love children.
PB: Erin Holly is a wife mom of three and senior appellate counsel that Alliance Defending Freedom. And she served as counsel to Mississippi and the landmark Dobbs V. Jackson case.
ERIN HAWLEY: Are we governed by We the People, or are we governed by an unelected majority of justices on the Supreme Court?
PB: Ericka Anderson is an author and mother of two she hosts the worth your time podcast, which has been published in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and many more.
ERICKA ANDERSON: We know that every life is of great value and God has created us from the very first.
PB: And Dr. Andrew Walker is managing editor of WORLD Opinions and professor of Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
ANDREW WALKER: I think the very best of the conservative movement has tried to do what the very word suggests, which is to conserve certain truths.
PB: This presentation is underwritten by summit ministries. Learn more at Summit.org. Here now his WORLD Opinions editor in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Dr. Albert Mohler.
ALBERT MOHLER: We're coming out of Sunday on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision known as Roe v. Wade, that is 50 years of infamy 50 years of the death of the unborn in the womb. And we're talking about a scar in American culture, we're talking about one of the most important issues at the intersection of life and death, and the law in public policy and Christian theology, and to the state of our culture that we could imagine the decision handed down January the 22nd 1973. And a lot to think about here. And we're about to be joined by a very distinguished panel to help us think through these issues. If nothing else, the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade should be for this country and particularly for Christians in this country. A call for a very serious consideration not only of what was at stake then, but perhaps even more importantly, what is at stake now. We're going to begin our consideration today with a special report from Kent Covington from WORLD Opinions and World News.
REPORTER - KENT COVINGTON: On January 21 1973, the vast majority of states in America protected unborn lives in most situations. But one day later, that would all change.
ARCHIVE AUDIO: This is the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Good evening. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court today legalized abortion.
COVINGTON: The Roe v Wade decision invigorated a nationwide movement which had already begun at the state level. The March for Life was founded in 1974. And through the years pro-life demonstrations have taken many different forms. WORLD’s life bead reporter Leah Savas:
REPORTER LEAH SAVAS: The pro-life direct action movement started as early as the 1970s. But it really took off in the 1980s with Operation Rescue, as pro-lifers by the thousands would go outside of abortion facilities to block the entrances and to keep operations from going on at those facilities.
COVINGTON: But in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the FACE Act into law. FACE was short for freedom of access to clinic entrances. Supporters of the legislation cited acts of violence against abortion facilities by a small number of activists.
ARCHIVE AUDIO - FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: This bill is designed to eliminate violence and coercion. It is not a strike against the First Amendment. Far from it, it ensures that all citizens have the opportunity to exercise all their constitutional rights, including their privacy rights.
COVINGTON: But the overwhelming majority of protests said abortion facilities were peaceful, and the law had a chilling effect on those as well, as pro-life demonstrators feared jail time or being hit with heavy fines.
SAVAS: But it's around that same time that this compassion side of the pro-life movement really took off. More people were getting involved at pregnancy centers, more pregnancy centers were opening more were introducing medical services, especially ultrasound technology. It was just another way for pro-lifers to encourage mothers with unexpected pregnancies to love their unborn child and to recognize them as a human with the right to life.
COVINGTON: As the work of the compassion movement carried on several years ago, the pro-life movement turned its attention once More to the federal courts. With the addition of three Supreme Court justices under President Trump, the pro-life movement grew hopeful that Roe v Wade could be put to the legal test once more at the Supreme Court. But that optimism was tempered.
SAVAS: Before the Dobbs v. Jackson opinion came down, a lot of pro-lifers expected this decision from the US Supreme Court to just uphold Mississippi's 15-week law, the one behind the Dobbs v. Jackson case. But in reality, it overturned Roe v Wade all the way and returned to states the power to legislate on abortion. So that allowed a lot of states to pass laws protecting unborn life from conception, not just 15 weeks.
COVINGTON: While Roe v Wade is no longer the law of the land, its damage is lasting. But though the reversal of that ruling was not the end of the battle for the right to life itself. It did in many respects offer a new beginning and 50 years after Roe, the pro-life movement fights on.
MOHLER: Thank you to Kent Covington to him for that report. And you know, it sets it into context. The world changed in one sense on January the second, the 22nd of 1973. That one date and itself a date that will live in infamy. Everything changed in the United States because all of a sudden by decree of the Supreme Court of the United States abortion became the law of the land. There's a very important story behind that. And it's very tempting for angelical Christians in the year 2023, just to jump to the present. And we're going to talk about the challenges of the present, but in order to understand this issue, we need to go back 50 years, and we need to go back to Roe v. Wade. And I recognize that a decreasing percentage of Americans were alive on January the 22nd of 1973. But all evangelical Christians alive now in the United States need to be very, very thoughtful of what the tragic anniversary of Roe v Wade means. I want to turn first and ask Erin Hawley — turning to you, especially for your legal expertise. What exactly was Roe v. Wade? And why do we have to talk about it with this urgency? 50 years later?
HAWLEY: Well, Roe versus Wade was really judicial arrogation have the power to declare law over all 50 states, as you mentioned, and it could happen again. I think we need to be aware of what roe said the damage it caused. And this specific holding was really shocking. Roe v Wade was an opinion that overturned the law of nearly every single state in the United States. So throwing up federalism, the idea that we have state governments as well as federal governments, throwing out separation of powers the idea that when the Constitution is silent on an issue, we should leave those issues to the people. Instead, what the Supreme Court did was take one of the most profound issues of moral importance and decide [technical interruption]
MOHLER: You know, Erin, another issue of importance to this is the fact that this was in some sense, a manufactured case, pro-abortion advocates went to find a case. And they needed a state like Texas, and they needed to defend it like Norma McCorvey. And it was successful. But, I mean, frankly, those who filed this suit never really expected to be as victorious as they were at the Supreme Court.
HAWLEY: No, absolutely not. And it's one of the strangest judicial opinions in the fact that it was argued twice. That almost never happens. And the reason being is that justice Harry Blackmun really wanted this case to come out a certain way. So we held the case over in the intervening summer months, he went up to the Mayo Clinic at which he had served as general counsel. Now bear in mind that the Mayo Clinic performed virtually no abortions, hardly any, yet he did his own research there. He also looked to research from places like China, North Korea, other countries outside of the United States, and came up with his idea that abortion should be mandated all across the United States.
MOHLER: You know, you raise something very important there, and we can easily let that pass. But I'm gonna come back to it for a moment. On the Supreme Court at that time, were the Minnesota Twins, the chief justice, and also Justice Blackmun, so Warren Berger, the chief justice from Minneapolis. And he basically saw to it that Harry Blackmun was assigned to this responsibility. He had worked as a legal counsel for the Mayo Clinic. And yet, it's important to say, Erin that Roe v Wade is based upon a medical structure that was simply invented out of thin air, this idea of trimesters and all the rest. This was really a recipe for disaster.
HAWLEY: Absolutely. And the way the Supreme Court gets there and roe is really disingenuous and harmful because what the Supreme Court does is it says that unborn life is merely “potential life.” Well, a majority of justices on the Supreme Court decided this question where all of us and said, you know states, it doesn't matter how much people in your state want to protect life. It doesn't no matter how much science advances. It doesn't matter that we can do ultrasounds and know that babies at 15 weeks when Mississippi's law applied can move their fingers and toes. They can pick up, they can smile, they can move and stretch. And none of these things mattered under Roe.
MOHLER: Yeah, what did matter under Roe was an absolute determination on the part of progressives in this culture to use whatever means necessary to get into law, a so-called right to abortion. But the argument they made really, in many ways is as important as the result because their argument was based on a so-called right to privacy, something that later the progressives regretted.
HAWLEY: Absolutely, and I think they regretted this for a couple of reasons. But the first one bein, that it's completely fabricated. There simply is no right to privacy that would include a right to an abortion in the Constitution. I think scholars across the ideological spectrum agree on this. John Hart Ely, who is a famous law professor famously declared that Roe was bad not just because it was bad constitutional law, but because it gave no sense of any obligation even to try to be. Larry Tribe, a Harvard law professor, described the right to an abortion that's eliminated from the Constitution like a hologram from these eliminations and [SIC] . So the fact of the matter is, it's made up, and everyone really knows that.
MOHLER: Well, the Supreme Court ruled that it was so, in this past summer, in the Dobbs, you had a hand in framing that argument. But quite frankly, that came about 50 years too late. Why were such arguments not made more forcefully in the Supreme Court in the 1970s?
HAWLEY: You know, some of it had to do with the way we looked at law. You know, Justice Scalia, we all think of ourselves, hopefully on this. The other thing is as an originalist and that's the idea that the Constitution actually has meaning, and that we should interpret the Constitution according to its original public meaning how it would have been understood at the time. And that means that we are governed by the Constitution, and also that a lot of questions are left to the Democratic branches, as Justice Scalia famously put it, you know, the question is, are we governed by We the People, or are we governed by an unelected majority of justices on the Supreme Court? In a Roe, it was decidedly the unelected judges who are making the calls.
MOHLER: I want to turn to Andrew Walker. Andrew, you are a scholar and specialist in the history of the conservative movement in the United States. Let's be honest, the conservative movement in this country as we know it would not have happened as it had without Roe v. Wade.
WALKER: Yeah, that's certainly correct. I mean, within the conservative movement, there's always been a tension between what we might call kind of theological conservatives who are holding to their convictions, maybe perhaps out of a religious orientation, and then those who might be more libertarian in nature. And so there's always been this internal tension within conservatism. But I think the very best of the conservative movement has tried to do what the very word suggests, which is to conserve, and to conserve certain truths, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And so I think the conservative movement, at its very best, has tried to go back to the very founding elements and chartering documents of our nation's founding. And so in essence, the conservative movement has really, I mean, prioritized, what is the very best of the American tradition. Now, at the same time, I think the reason that conservatives have gotten arguably more conservative on this issue, is because the moral universes between conservatism and progressivism have gotten more stark. And so I mean, I think it was just last week, where we had the Democratic members in the House, I think, one Democratic member, was willing to vote to protect children who were born from a botched abortion, which is just egregious beyond all moral categories that we could possibly comprehend. And so the stark contrast of, of the party platforms themselves. Now, I still think it's the case that grassroots conservatives who predominantly vote Republican, have probably been more conservative on this issue, the Republican party elites. But if politics is good for anything, it's the art of the possible, and Republican party elites over time have had to be more responsive to that conservative base, as it has gotten more pro-life. We're seeing the next stage and chapter of that, especially now with the Dobbs decision, and it's gonna be really interesting to see what it does. Now that's no longer simply a federal issue.
MOHLER: In one sense, the conservative movement in the United States, and its primary vehicles as Republican Party, faces the challenge, and that is now that row has been reversed and abortion has been thrown to the states, and it is a far more to use a sociological term salient issue. In an election that had been in the past, we're about to find out what the pro-life Republicans are really made of. That leads me to another question, how did the right-to-life movement become a conservative issue in the context of American politics?
WALKER: Well, I mean, I think we see that, you know, again, those moral contrasts the starkness of the menu of options on offer, you know, in the 70s, and 80s, you would still have pro-life Democrats, that's virtually impossible. Right now, in the 90s, you had President Bill Clinton, using language like safe, legal and rare — the notion there being that there is still some type of stigma around the act of abortion, we have jettisoned that as a culture to where now it's shout your abortion. So in these types of situations and climates that we're in, it really does force people to have to kind of not straddle the fence. You will be made to care, as one of my friends likes to say. I'm going to have to decide, are you on the side of the law that says all of life has a right to life? Or are you on the side that says life can be dispensed, because of some appeal to bodily autonomy, or something like that?
MOHLER: Well, you got to that word autonomy, because I would argue that the key issue in the division between the worldviews represented by those who have for abortion rights and those against is whether or not there is some kind of right to personal autonomy that extends to, for example — we now know, it extends to same-sex marriage in the view of at least a majority of the Supreme Court when it was decided in 2015. But it extends to the supposed right of a woman to abort the baby in her womb. And so we really are looking at a massive political alignment that points to something a lot deeper in terms of a moral and worldview alignment. So just very quickly, how exactly did the pro-life movement help bring into existence, the conservative movement in the United States as we know it?
WALKER: Well, I mean, I think, again, we have a contrast on offer that we have to choose from, you have a movement that is trying to say — and I'm gonna approach this as an ethics professor — you have a movement that says that bodily autonomy is the highest possible good, and we're seeing bodily autonomy play itself out in a whole host of ways, today, perhaps around the transgender issue around the use of expressive individualism. And I think we as conservatives, and we as Christians can say that bodily autonomy is good, up to a point. And bodily autonomy is good up to a point until there is another person who can claim a right to their own right to exercise bodily autonomy, and that and to exist an unborn child who is left alone and to exist, and who on their own will mature into a living human being outside their mother's womb, although they are living inside their mother's womb. And so we really have to choose what are you going to choose as far as how the law is going to come to grips with these deep, deep moral realities.
MOHLER: Well, it is a deep, deep division in moral terms in worldview and political terms. It's a deep partisan divide in the United States because even 20 years ago, it was possible to speak about pro-life Democrats and even sadly, some pro-abortion Republicans; really not so much now at all. And I think that's an absolutely crucial thing to understand in this political landscape. I want to turn to Kevin De Yong, Kevin, behind all of the politics and the judicial and legislative maneuverings, here, there's some basic theological issues at stake. I just want to ask you theologically, how did this happen?
DEYOUNG: Well, yeah, how did we get to a point where for 50 years, that on average, almost a million unborn children were killed each year? It's really unthinkable when you take what is known scientific fact, not religious or philosophical, but known scientific fact, all the leading, you know, embryology textbooks, that life begins at conception. We are talking about human life. And I don't even like speaking about, you know, pro-life as one of the Christian positions. I mean, it is THE Christian position, you can go back to the Didache, which was one of the very first you know, post, you know, apostolic documents, which is very, very clearly that to commit infanticide or abortion is a great evil and a sin. And these were, these were somewhat revolutionary ideas that were coming from both Jews and from Christians. Because in the Roman world, you often the Greco-Roman world, you often had too many mouths to feed, and you might find two boys in a family, not usually two daughters. And of course, they didn't have modern birth control, but abandonment, leaving children literally on friendships and it is the Judeo-Christian tradition that says All of life is valuable made in the image of God. And of course, that famous verse from Exodus 21, infamous to some, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, which is really a law about not retaliating more than justice requires. That's actually about death in the womb about someone who would strike a pregnant woman such that her child would die. That very famous, classic Western expression of jurisprudence actually has to do with unborn life. And it's often been said now in recent years that abortion has become a kind of sacrament for the progressive left, and just think about the simple definition from Agustin that a sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace. That's kind of what it's become. Of course, it's not grace, really. But it's become a visible tangible symbol and sign for an entire way of viewing, as Andrew said, human autonomy, but also viewing the family and supposed sexual freedom, reproductive freedom, such that it's not any longer, safe, legal and rare, as Bill Clinton said, but celebrated and shouted. And so far as what a week or two ago, a Christian representative from my old stomping grounds in Michigan was quoting Bible verses in support of abortion, because supposedly God wouldn't, you know, want to violate the sanctity of that hospital room. But what about the sanctity of the life of the child is there's something in moving those inches through the birth canal, that suddenly that child becomes some different kind of person, some different kind of being deserving of rights and protection? It really is, is illogical. But that's what often happens with deeply held religious beliefs. And that's what it is on the left.
MOHLER: Yeah. And I want to turn to that in greater length in just a moment. But I want to turn back just to say Evan Jellicle Christians, American Protestants were in the world where we have the panelists here, let me just say I’m probably all alone and having been alive when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973, I hasten to say it was 13. But look, the fact is, that it's just a statement of honesty, that evangelical Christians generally were not ready for the challenge of abortion, we're not ready for the Roe v. Wade decision, we're found, in many cases confused, and in some cases worse on the issue of abortion. And I would have to turn back however, and say, in my adult lifetime, I have seen in a relatively short amount of time, indeed, less than 10 years, I saw evangelical Christians, and confessional Protestants in this country, recover moral footing on abortion and the sanctity of life and become absolutely vital to the pro-life cause. Kevin, I just want to turn to you and say, How could it have been that American evangelical Christians were caught so unprepared for this issue in 1973?
DEYOUNG: Yeah, they really were. And it was, you know, thanks to Harold O. J. Brown, and Francis Schaeffer, and some others who, who put this on the map and got our footing. There's always been a strand and a strain of evangelical thinking, which is deeply pragmatic, and at times have fallen foul of, you know, the scandals, evangelical mind and at times, not given to deep probing social thought. And we have to be honest, that there's although we have, I think, a Protestant tradition that's put next to anyone as far as practicing it, and helping to school intellectuals in that social thought in that tradition. Roman Catholics were far ahead of the Evangelicals on that. And so we really weren't caught flat-footed. And I think because we so often tended to trust, you know, the “WASPey” sort of establishment was thought, well, you know, and because so many evangelicals thought, Well, does this have something to do with birth control? That just smells like a Catholic issue. Is this just something Catholics were concerned about? So they were just nervous, I think that this isn't really not our place to go. And of course, you know, I mean, it's before the Evangelicals sort of, for better or worse—and a lot of good—really got something of a social conscience and political involvement at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s.
MOHLER: Yeah, I think that's right. I just want to say as someone who was alive that time, there are two other things that many people don't think about. One is that where abortion was legal in 1972, 1973, was predominantly not where evangelicals were present. Right. And so the issue of abortion just was not something that most of my job has been thought through. Now, I say that to shame, but it's also just an objective fact. The other issue is that evangelical Protestants in that point of the 1970s really had no place for natural law reasoning, no creation order defenses. And that's where in many ways unprepared to make any argument. I think many of the generals had the right sentiments. But they didn't have the right arguments. And Erin was so helpful in pointing out that conservative lawyers didn't have a lot of the right arguments yet either. It took the abortion challenge to help frame many of those arguments and Roe v. Wade had a not insignificant part in that. And the same thing is true with abortion. It was a theological wake-up call. And yet, Kevin, I'm just gonna say I'm gonna make the argument and just test it with you that abortion was, as Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop and so many others pointed out, it was the catalyst that changed the evangelical conscience.
DEYOUNG: I mean, it really was, and I get frustrated, we probably all do. For folks who just say that the pro-life movement is just just a veil to cover the naked political ambitions of conservatives. But I'm sure there are people like that there are sinners and every tribe in every movement. But by and large, what I've seen, certainly in the churches that I pastor, I mean, people feel deeply, deeply about this issue. And they care deeply because honestly, they love children, they love their own children, the most parents have experienced loss in their own life through miscarriage. They know, yes, and they understand that this is human life. And it deserves protection. And it has it's its galvanized and awakened conservatives in this country. And you know, sometimes our friends from the UK have a very hard time understanding the polarity that we have here in the States. And there are some things you know, courts that are, are dangerous with that, but the reason it exists is because the pro-life movement exists. It's because, praise God, we have not yet had everyone bow the knee to bail on this issue.
MOHLER: I want to turn to Ericka Anderson, you've done such good work in this area, I just want to ask you bluntly. So how would you counter the argument that the most important issue here is a woman's bodily autonomy?
ANDERSON: Well, I would just go back to what others have said, you know, bodily autonomy, when I get accused of being against a woman's bodily autonomy, I just kind of bring up the point that there's no other circumstance in which I am against bodily autonomy for a woman have any kind of surgery that you want to have, you know, make whatever choices you want to make. But when it comes to bodily autonomy, as we know, that is a separate body within the woman's body, and she no longer has the right to be making choices on life or death for that body. And so to me, it seems like a silly argument when they make it because it's, it really just doesn't make sense based on, you know, all of the scientific technology we have and the ultrasounds and everything that we know. And we know that they know. And yet they continue to put this false argument forward every single time.
MOHLER: Okay, so make the right argument. You've done this. So well, now do it for us, in other words, make the argument for evangelical Christians on conviction about why we should defend unborn human life?
ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think we know that every life has is, is of great value, and God has created us from, from the very first, you know, he knew us before He created the world. He had a, you know, appointed our lives. And so we know even before conception, that our lives had value. And so from the moment that conception happens, we are growing into those people that God created us to be and we know that the Bible says before we were born, he knew us in our mother's womb, and that is true, and He has a plan for every single life. And so He has created us with that value, and we have no human being can take that away. No human being can have the power to say that it is not valuable. And so I think that that really is the key thing here when we're talking about, you know, our value as image bearers.
MOHLER: You know, 50 years ago, I think one of the shocking realities to many American Christians was how the Roe v. Wade decision was celebrated by so many in ways that surprised Christians. And, you know, statements were made in celebration of Roe v. Wade that went far beyond what most evangelical Christians had in terms of a moral imagination. So let me ask you a question. Ericka, how would you answer the question that nobody has the right to tell a woman what she can do with her own body?
ANDERSON: Yeah, well, again, it is not her body. And I think that, you know, I would also just add, I want to talk about the fact that when we're talking about abortion, you know, there's been 63 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. And we're talking a lot about the children that were missing from the world and from the conversations these days. But I would also add that there are so many women there 63 million women that are hurting from these choices as well. Right now, we know that pro-choice women specifically actually don't feel comfortable talking about the trauma they've experienced from abortion, they don't feel that they're allowed to talk about that. And so I think we, you know, kind of have to shift the conversation from the body conversation to what's really happening, what are the effects, and to remind people that we don't care just about babies, we also care about women, their well being, we love them. And Christians have shown up day in and day out, to love women to provide for them and to be there for them. And we have done this with the pro-life movement and through the pregnancy centers, and through our churches, above and beyond. And we continue to do that now.
MOHLER: You know, I think, morally speaking, one of the ways to kind of track both sides in this argument is to understand that the pro-life argument has basically been consistent for the entirety of the modern abortion debate in the United States that abortion is morally wrong, that life begins at conception. And indeed, these days, we have to say that means basically fertilization and because they the medical establishment has tried to redefine, you know, the whole idea of conception. And, and it's interesting to note, in contrast, that on the pro-abortion side, they change from pro-women's autonomy and pro-women's right to abortion, to using choice language, and, and then feeling like they were put on the defensive. Even just in recent years, there have been several waves of pro-abortion efforts, just to shout your abortion, make abortion a positive good. By the way, every single one of them has failed. And I think again, as Christians, we understand why it is failed. It runs directly into collision with truth in the Christian conscience, and human conscience. But I do think it's very interesting that the pro-abortion side has to change its argument pretty consistently. Okay, I want to turn to Ericka once again. And just ask you to kind of throw it to us. If you have the opportunity, just to say, say for a television audience of people who are pro-life and pro-abortion, this is the most important issue, what is the most important issue? What's the bottom line here?
ANDERSON: Well, I was just gonna touch on what you said about the language real quick, which, which is that, you know, nowadays, I'm sure you guys have seen this, they also don't want us to be called pro-life, they want to be called pro-life as well, because they say everyone's pro-life, you know, nobody is not pro-life. And so they're trying to change the language there as well, which I find a little humorous. But what is the bottom line? The bottom line is that every life has value. And a recent survey just came out that showed that 96% of women that didn't have access to abortion, when they wanted one, say that they are thankful for that they do not regret what happened to them. And so what I would say is that women, all these women don't want abortions, they, they need time, they need support, they need resources. And so much of what I've seen is that many people are not aware of all the resources that are available. The human coalition has found that 74% of women who are abortion-minded say they would not want to have an abortion if their financial circumstances or life circumstances were different. And so I think my the point that I would like to make is that there are resources, there is support. It doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to make this decision. Women do not want to have abortions. And regardless of Roe v Wade, you know, we can offer that support every step of the way. And that's why I think pro-lifers like myself, sort of in the grassroots roots movement, our mission, and our actions have not changed. Since it was overturned. We are still out there providing those things for people every day and making sure they know those things are there.
MOHLER: Yeah, I really appreciate what you did there. And I just want to kind of remind us all what you just did there. When I asked you, “what is the most important issue?” You went right to the baby. And I just think we need to acknowledge as Christians, we don't have a choice about that. If we're just talking about autonomous individuals, you know, that's a different conversation and but the biblical theological limitations on personal autonomy are incredibly significant. And that baby is a human person and human being made in God's image. And so it is not just a political tactic. It's not just a rhetorical strategy. It's a theological necessity. When we say what's most important, we have to talk about the baby. Erin Hawley, I want to come back to you for a moment. I'm so thankful for the work you did by the way, in English specifically in laying the groundwork for what became the Dobbs case in the doctor's decision, reversing Roe v. Wade. Did that go down pretty much like you expected?
HAWLEY: No, that's a great question. And so So Mississippi had a huge choice to make. Coming in, as you mentioned, I think at the beginning, or maybe within the package clip, a lot of people, including most conservative lawyers, who know a lot about the Supreme Court, expected the Supreme Court to move incrementally. They thought that because the Supreme Court had taken the case, it would probably uphold Mississippi's law, but that was it. And there was actually a lot of speculation that the way Mississippi briefed of the case and going all the way and asking the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v Wade might be harmful. And I really have to give credit to Mississippi's Attorney General Lynn Fitch and their Solicitor General Scott Stewart. They were adamant that they were pro-life. And that was the right thing to do as a constitutional matter. Roe was wrong, no question about it. So the Supreme Court should overrule it. And I don't think anyone could have been happier with the way the oral argument went on December 1, 2021. I think that day was the day people realize Roe versus Wade might actually be overruled.
MOHLER: Yes. And of course, thanks be to God, it was still at the end of our discussion, which is why we're discussing it. But it's just really, really important to set the stage here so that evangelical Christians today know what does all this mean now? And I want to go back to the argument, or the analysis you just gave about what many people expected to happen in this case. What many people expected to happen is what we now know, the Chief Justice wanted to happen. The Chief Justice wanted in an incrementalist approach, let's just, you know, uphold the Mississippi statute. Well, let’s not assail Roe at a foundational level. Three new appointees, you know, joined with the justices Alito and Thomas, frankly, to say no. And so you know, justice, as you know, appointed by President Trump really did make the difference in this case, and with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and then Amy Coney Barrett, I mean, we're looking at the fact that this was something that only we did not know we could expect in the year. 2022. I want to be honest, those of us who've been in the pro-life movement a long time, we really expected that what would happen is something like an incrementalist approach. So let me ask you, Erin, what now, this is sort of like the, you know, Adrian Rogers, the great Baptist preacher used to say that the most interesting question in the world is: What does the dog who has been chasing the car all his life do once he catches it. And so what do we do now?
HAWLEY: Well, you know, one thing I'd want to say, is just the power of prayer, as you know, these Marches for Life started right after Roe v. Wade came down there, there is power in prayer. And one reason we can know this is because of the series of impossible events that took place in order for Roe vs Wade to be overruled. If you look at the process where you just put that, yes, and when the [SIC]petition. So the case was litigated in Mississippi, Mississippi lost. The case was litigated before the conservative Fifth Circuit, Mississippi lost, then they asked the supreme court to review the case, no one thought they would take it, and in the case that on the docket for almost a year, which is nearly unheard of, during that year time period in which someone was probably writing it a thin thing we should take this case, Justice Barrett was confirmed after she was confirmed, they granted the case. After the case was granted, we get a new attorney general and Mississippi and new solicitor general who decide to ask the Supreme Court to overrule Roe vs. Wade. So in that almost impossible series of events, I think we see the hand of God moving I think we see the power of prayer. And I think we can be encouraged to strike for the fences, then we can make it our goal to make abortion unthinkable and to provide women with support and resources they need during their pregnancy and beyond and make this a country where women and babies flourish.
MOHLER: So Andrew Walker, that's no small task. You know, what do you professor Christian ethics Managing Editor WORLD Opinions? So give us a program? What do we do now, culturally? We'll turn to Erin for the legal advice I'm turning to you as an ethicist and as a Christian thinker. What do we do now? Give us an action plan.
WALKER: So I mean, it means every single person has a part to play. I mean, I think when you think about how scripture in the New Testament speaks about, the church is a body. A body has many parts. Every single part has to function according to its gifting. So I think what every single person needs to do is to ask the question, what's the next small thing that I can do to enhance the culture of life? For me personally, I like to teach, I like to write, I like to use the platforms I've been given to advance the case for life. For someone else that can mean — for Kevin to use this pulpit to promote a culture life. Erin is using her platform as a lawyer. Ericka is doing the same exact thing in her writing platform. Not everyone's going to have a writing or a legal or a teaching platform. But it does mean that you can be someone volunteering in your local church to care for women in your community. After the Dobbs decision, my wife who is a kindergarten teacher at a local classical Christian school here, she wanted to put some skin in the game. And so she and my 12-year-old daughter, now volunteer once a month here in Louisville at our local crisis pregnancy center. And so that's just one tangible way that every single person can do something, it does mean that you're going to have to welcome some degree of inconvenience to scale. But if the panel has been saying anything with resounding clarity, it's that we believe that life is beautiful. It's truly good. It's truly wonderful. If there's anything worth being inconvenienced about, it's protecting life. And so I would encourage listeners, to not overthink this, Don't make this harder than it has to be. Just think about — what is the one small thing you can do? Maybe it's having a conversation for the first time that you've just been unwilling to have. So think creatively and ask for wisdom. And don't think that just because someone is doing something in the pro-life movement, their way that you have to do it their way as well.
MOHLER: Yeah. Ericka, let me ask you an interesting question here: Should we frame arguments differently addressing men and women on this issue?
ANDERSON: Um, I mean, I think the basic argument that you're going to make for life, it doesn't need to be gendered. I think, you know, it's on its face value, it is what it is. And so, no, I don't think so.
MOHLER: Well, let me put it another way. There are certain people who would say that a movement that has too many men speaking on this issue, and an insufficient number of women, is at a cultural disadvantage. And that makes me very, very thankful for women who do the kind of work you do in the trenches. And by the way, the pro-life movement, or I say this as a man, and as a Christian leader, the pro-life movement, I've been in those trenches, ever since Roe v. Wade, I will just tell you, the most faithful people in that movement are women. And I don't want you to gender the argument. I do want to say, and I mean to say this, as a matter of moral obligation, there are arguments that women can make to women, that only women can make to women. And thankfully, you and so many others are making those arguments, I just want to set the platform for you to make that argument with emotional appeal.
ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think as moms especially we can really powerfully connect with women who are in those experiences, we know what it feels like to be in that vulnerable position of pregnancy. It's something that men, frankly, can never understand. And so you're right, I think the most powerful voices in the movement are from women. And I think it's that, you know, that loving, patient, kind prayerful voice that is going to speak to the woman who's in need, that's going to hear that in that moment, where she's in the middle of that decision. And maybe, maybe nobody even knows she's making that decision. But she's hearing this on a video or she's hearing it from someone that's, you know, outside of clinic somewhere or, you know, she's seeing it on Facebook or on social media. And so, yes, I do think that women have the advantage in speaking to women on this issue. And I hope they'll continue to do that.
MOHLER: But we desperately need preachers, pastors to speak to this issue. And Kevin, I wish you'd give a word of exhortation to your fellow pastors on this issue. There are some who will say, you know, just stay away from cultural controversial political issues, but we're talking here about life. But I want to ask you the question: How would you address your fellow pastors on this?
DEYOUNG: Yeah, it's always difficult for there's a good instinct that pastors have to not want to deviate from what is the mission of the church and the Great Commission and saving souls and planting churches. Yeah, if you're faithfully preaching through the word, this is another great reason to do expositional verse-by-verse preaching. You're going to get to texts like Psalm 139, like Exodus 21, like Jesus taking little nursing infants in his arms and things such as these belong the kingdom of heaven. So there are going to be opportunities just in preaching the Word, and then to any pastors out there, that the pastoral prayer is your secret weapon. Now, I don't mean that you sneak in partisan politics in the pastoral prayer, but there is something about when you're explicitly speaking vertically, and you're asking God that to bear mentioned to these things — I mean, it was it grieved me when I heard are either pastors let the Dobbs decision just pass by without any mention no opportunity to give thanks to God in public worship for one of the great moral victories of our time. I think two really big dangers among conservative evangelical Christians and pastors should be aware of both of these: One of them is that some Christians will not be realistic. That is we'll say Okay, great, let's get the legislation right now that is going to be everything we could ever want. That is going to outlaw abortion from the moment of conception anything less than that we're not even going to get a mess around with it. That's not how politics works. That's not realistic. But the other danger is a lack of resoluteness. And I've seen this happen so many times. I've seen it on denominational levels with conservative Christians. They work hard, they strategize, they get a victory, and the next day, they all feel really bad about themselves, because when they've got a victory, someone else felt really sad, and someone else felt upset. And so there's just a lot of hand wringing and, and self-recrimination. No, we're not, this is an excuse to be jerks. You know, we didn't dance in the aisle—we’re Presbyterians after all—but we did rejoice, unabashedly. rejoice and give thanks to God. And, you know, some spontaneous applause broke out in our cover in our congregation, because so many people have prayed and labored for this. So it's not the time to step back and say, you know, like the NAE did, and just issue a milk toe statement about how there's people on both sides, and it's a time of a lot of difficult feelings. Well, that's true for everything. This was a great moral victory, and there's much work to be done. And we need to pray about and I love Erin, reminding us to pray.
MOHLER: Yeah. And by NAE, you mean the National Association of Evangelicals. Yeah, and you know, I'll simply say this, Andrew, and I'm shooting this to you hard. The Dobbs decision is like a piece of litmus paper. It's a test. If you celebrate it. Well, we know where you stand. It's not just if you oppose it, if you fail to celebrate it, I know where you stand.
WALKER: Certainly. I mean, I think it's one of those situations that is kind of revealing, as far as where your cultural antennae are being directed. Is this something that you can take as, as kind of Kevin mentioned, a resounding victory, and not necessarily a victory lap? And that’s because, are we at home plate? No, we're not at home plate. But let's be clear, as much as we want to celebrate the overcoming of Roe, we still have a tremendous amount of work to do. And like this, arguably just gotten more complex. But I do think that this is a moment where the cultural pressures tend to do their refining work. And this is gonna be a moment where, especially at the electoral level, I mentioned this earlier, that if it's no longer a federal issue, how are federal politicians going to campaign or this is going to become a backbench issue, that they can no longer just reliably count on a set number of votes from evangelical Christian. So. So I think this is one of those areas where we need to let our, you know, freak flag fly, so to speak, and be proudly pro-life.
MOHLER: So an editorial that just appeared in The New York Times today makes the argument that pro-life politicians never meant it. And they're in a difficult position right now, because they're going to have to show what they actually did mean, or what they didn't mean, as this situation postdocs is thrown to the states, let's be honest, seven different events have taken place. The pro-life movement has lost all seven of them. We have a more significant challenge, I think, than most of us had factored in on June the first of 2022. And so, you know, Erin, I just want to ask you what, what are the prospects of fighting this at the state-by-state level right now? What's not happening that should be happening?
ERIN HAWLEY: You know, I think they're good. I think maybe to go back to some of the points; maybe we weren't as prepared as we should have been. I think when you look at the public opinion polls, you know, everyone likes to say that a majority of America favors Roe. That is simply incorrect. The regime that roe mandated, required abortions and viability, which most countries don't allow, and it allowed abortions up until the moment before birth, which only a handful of countries like North Korea and China allow. There are about 10% of people, in the distinct minority, who endorsed that sort of regime. So I think we need to make that argument along with the arguments that Ericka made about caring for women and children. As a mom, and when you see that ultrasound when you feel that baby move, you know that that's life deserving of protection. So so I'm encouraged, despite the results we wish had been different.
MOHLER: Ericka, what is something we should be doing that we're not doing right now, or what is something we need to be doing a lot better than we're doing right now?
ANDERSON: Yeah. So I, what I can speak to is … I've worked a lot with CareNet. And as some of you might know, that's one of the nation's largest, you know, umbrella of pregnancy centers. And they are really pushing their Making Life Disciples program, which is connecting all pregnancy centers with churches. And I can tell you that there are not enough churches that are plugged into pregnancy centers. Here in my local area, I just recently got my small local church plugged in, and they told me the pregnancy center that we're connected with, they were like, yeah, we're connected about 12 or 13 churches. That's not enough. There's way more churches than that. And so I would say, every church needs to be plugged in, because pregnancy centers, they have limited resources, they only have so much, and so many people that are working for them. And they need those churches to feed people into, to disciple people to offer support and long-term resources. And so I do think that we have a long way to go when it comes to that church, pregnancy center partnership, and I think it needs to be made a priority. And CareNet, it has the resources to train you and to get you all set up for that. So that would be the one major thing I would say,
MOHLER: Andrew, I'm shooting this to you fast. What's the one thing that has to change right now, among American Evangelical Christians if we're going to make a difference here?
WALKER: I think we need to have a better understanding of how scientifically sound and rationally sound the pro-life argument is. Kevin mentioned this. We have theology and philosophy of theology to go to and we should be absolutely 100% assured that we have good theology that answers these questions. We also have philosophy, we also have biology. The reason that we are pro-life is the same reason that we are laws against murder because we believe that a human life is a human life. That's a natural law argument. And sometimes we want to narrowly just singularly put this only in Bible verses. Well, I don't want us to quote Bible any less. But we also need to be well versed and have some philosophy and biological arguments as well.
MOHLER: Well, I want to thank you for your part in helping to make those arguments more accessible to evangelical Christians. And that's it, we just need to press and so that we need to press at every possible opportunity. I've really enjoyed this conversation. I think it's been very fruitful. This is such a historic occasion. And I think tragically, so in the essay that will run under my name and WORLD Opinions on Monday, I'm going to seek to make the point that in retrospect, we now know that Roe v Wade was more diabolical than it appeared at the time because one of the things we have seen is that it really did shape the American moral conscience in devastating ways. And I think there's gonna be a greater challenge to be honest, than the legal, constitutional. And in one sense, even, you know, just bare-knuckle political contests, I think you have too many Americans talking about a woman's right to an abortion is it's a thing. And if it's just an even if the media is complicit in saying, look, this is, this was a right that was taken away, pressing back on that's going to take everything we have and more. And that's one of the reasons why I want to turn to Kevin, the youngest pastor here. Kevin, one of the most important things you said tonight is that pastors need to pray aloud about this issue before the congregation and about historic events related to moral causes. In pastoral prayer, I want to invite you to do that now, just in a short summary prayer, I would greatly appreciate I think all of us would, if you would lead us in a word of prayer, as you would pray before your own congregation about this.
DEYOUNG: Sure. Let's pray. Gracious Heavenly Father, what a privilege that Jesus has instructed us to call you, our father, which means that we are your children. And we thank you for the gift of every child, ours and others, the gift of life, we thank you for the great progress for the overturning of what has been a diabolical court decision. And we pray that you would continue to give wisdom, strength, courage for all who are laboring at every level in law and teaching and education in pregnancy centers and adoption and foster homes. Oh, Lord, we would be so bold as to ask that within our lifetime, we would already as a people as a nation, look back on this regime of abortion as we do with slavery or Jim Crow, with great horror with great shame over what we were so blind to as a nation and may it be so that you are open our eyes do it through all of these means through a revival that only your spirit can bring us all sorts of disparate people to come together to this great end, for the saving of human life. In Jesus we pray, Amen.
MOHLER: And amen. You know, 15 times a week, WORLD Opinions has the opportunity three times a day, five days a week, to help to shape this argument. We take that very seriously. And I want to thank, in particular, Andrew Walker, who serves as managing editor, and Kevin DeYoung, Erin Holly, and Ericka Anderson, who are contributors. And you help to shape this argument and so many others have vital urgency. I also just want to say a word of personal pride and appreciation that the entire WORLD family has been strongly active in the defense of human life in media coverage and analysis, in helping churches and Christians know how to plug into this issue. All of us need to be doing more now. The issues are just more urgent. And time is running out. It's now before us, it's up to this generation. And so thanks for joining us tonight for this conversation. And on behalf of WORLD Magazine on behalf of WORLD Opinions, and on behalf of all those who are panelists tonight, I just want to say thank you for joining us. We also want to thank an entire team at WORLD that has helped make this possible. We'll be doing this again. We hope you will stay alert to future conversations. We want to make a difference in every way we possibly can. I also tonight, as I say goodbye, I want to thank Summit Ministries for helping to make tonight's event possible. And they also believe in the importance of truth and the war of ideas. So thank you for joining us tonight. On behalf of WORLD Opinions and the panel, good night.
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