The Church in the Post-Roe World

Uncategorized // June 26, 2022 //

Rooted in second-wave feminism, the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade held that women have a right to an abortion without government restriction. In short, if women were to be equal with men, they also had to be given the opportunity to be as equally non-pregnant as men. Therefore, abortion was the remedy.

That was 49 years ago.

At approximately 10:11 a.m. on Friday morning, June 24, 2022 news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States had reversed the 1973 decision along with Planned Parenthood v. Casey of 1992. The current court had planned to hand down a number of opinions before its summer recess. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was a case they were deliberating, which dealt with a 15-week abortion ban in the state of Mississippi. In a 6-3 decision in favor of Dobbs, the court consequently struck down Roe with a 5-4 vote with Chief Justice John Roberts offering the fourth dissent. For over nearly a half-century, these two cases, Roe and Casey, legalized abortion across our land. They have now both been overturned—a historic, landmark moment of this generation. Such a decision is a judicial tourniquet placed upon a moral hemorrhage of our country. Thanks be to God.

Writing the majority opinion in reversing Roe, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito states, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.” It is that simple. There is no constitutional right to an abortion. Roe was unconstitutional from its inception. The claim that the SCOTUS has taken away a constitutional human right can only be made by either a misreading or a misconstruing of the original authorial intent of the Constitution. As a resource, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC has compiled a list of notable quotations of Friday’s ruling, available here at Baptist Press.

What does this not mean?

In simple terms, what this does not mean is that abortion is illegal nationwide. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion as a constitutional right in all 50 states, but it was not codified into law—something many state lawmakers were aiming for very soon. The SCOTUS found abortion rights to be outside the scope of the United States Constitution and therefore not a constitutional right. Reversing Roe was less a victory for conservatives, and more so a victory for the Constitution.

What does this mean?

With the reversal of Roe, abortion rights legislation returns to the state governments, into the hands of the American people. Instead of unconstitutionally using the SCOTUS as a mini-legislature, abortion rights at the state level are a decision for the people and by the people. In a post-Roe world, states even have the constitutional authority to ban abortion, and many are doing just that. In fact, thirteen states across our union expected the soon death of Roe and duly prepared by passing “trigger laws” that would immediately, or soon thereafter, ban abortion upon Roe’s reversal. North Carolina is not one of those states, however. Be that as it may, with Roe gone the door is opened for further pro-life legislation across our nation advancing the fight for unborn lives in this most unprecedented opportunity. Though Friday’s ruling was not a sufficient victory for the pro-life movement, it was a necessary one.

Given the reversal of Roe, I’d like to challenge the church to embrace the new world with fresh, yet challenging, ministry opportunities. Here are three statements I believe churches must believe and act upon, now.

1. Churches must double down on biblical convictions.

Christians do well to remember their convictions framed by a biblical worldview—life begins at the moment of conception and that which is in a pregnant mother’s womb is a human being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27-28; Psalm 139). Our convictions will be pressured on many fronts. Church leaders will be forced to capitulate on front line issues. Every Christian in every pew must decide now what they believe and why they believe it. Few times in recent memory has our society needed to hear more clearly the gospel of Christ set forth in the broader framework of Christian truth — free from moral adulteration or cultural nominalization.

Christians must keep the main thing in focus: the protection of the unborn. The issue is not about human rights of women, but much more. The focus is on all human rights which extend to unborn human beings. The bedrock conviction undergirding the last 50 years of debate is that the inhabitant of the womb is a human being, which Christian’s are quick to say, “That’s God’s baby.” But let me be equally quick to say – that the blood of Jesus covers every sin and sinner who comes to him in saving, trusting faith. If you, dear women, have had an abortion, please run to Jesus with your sin, your life, your pain. He will take things from there.

The pro-life argument posits a simple syllogism: It’s wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings. Abortion does that very thing. Therefore, abortion is wrong. Full stop.

Fighting for the unborn in the legislative lanes of our government is not only humane, but innately Christian. Laws change behavior and government is a gift of God (Rom. 13:1-7). Although one cannot legislate morality, laws do change behavior and restrain evil.

To call our own Declaration of Independence as a witness to what Americans say they believe: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

2. Churches must flex their muscles of care and compassion.

Will the reversal of Roe have negative qualitative consequences for women? Yes, sadly and surely. But the absence of Roe is not to blame, but rather because the fallenness of our world is no respecter of persons. In every society of every age women face indescribable vulnerabilities known only to them—and not by men. And the reality of pregnancy is only one of many lifelong exposures women navigate as only a woman can. The world is real and it is fallen. From rape and incest to unplanned and promiscuous extramarital sex, women will face the reality of unwanted pregnancies. Further, some women will be subject to forced, botched and coerced abortions that will surely leave deep emotional scars. Christians must be crystal clear: Roe is not the savior of any woman, but rather the One, our Savior the Lord Jesus, born to us in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4-5).

With the reversal of Roe, we will face a new humanitarian crisis in this country. Not a crisis inside the womb, but outside the womb. Women will be having babies that they otherwise would have aborted, and not every woman is prepared for such a reality. Therefore, adoption must be our lead foot. We cannot advocate for the unborn and not care for them after their birth. It is simply a moral contradiction inconsistent with a Christian worldview (James 1:27). Now more than ever must the church flex its muscle by intentionally caring for women, their new born babies, and welcoming them into safe spaces, not to mention— the local church.

Here at Coats Baptist we talk about being in the “people business.” Now is your opportunity. Here is step one of component one of the Missionary Task. From crisis pregnancy centers to the neighbor down the street, build relationships and help the hurting. You’ll never be without a ministry. We must meet women in the trials of their life with the hope of life. There must be more care, a better way, and hope for the helpless. Abortion simply cannot be the solution to the hurting women of this world looking for answers.

With the utmost sensitivity, we must say that any trauma women will face in a post-Roe world will pale in comparison to the 62 million dead unborn babies over the last 49 years. However, we live in a real world, with no quick fix for the myriad of challenges women face. For the marginalized, victimized and traumitized mothers of today, abortion can never be the solution to the trials of life. There is a better prescription to a pregnancy in crisis, benefiting both mother and child.

Pray for the women who are right now pregnant and as of last week were planning to abort their babies. Given that much depends upon the state in which they live and the means they have to travel, pregnant women are all facing a single, personal question with renewed clarity, “What will I do now?” 

3. Churches must intentionally pursue like-minded partnerships at various levels.

I am an old millennial, born in 1983, ten years after the Roe v. Wade decision. I have never known a world with abortion rights legislated at the state level. The majority of American citizens share in my reality. This is a new world, and it’s still not pretty. A post-Roe world presents a checkered challenge throughout our country that this present generation has never seen. How we behave in pro-life states will have ramifications on those in states who still allow abortion.

Our nation is a divided union, and they are raging (Psalm 2). Provoking the monster with the overturning of Roe is frankly a risk the pro-life community is willing to take to save innocent lives. With abortion rights returned to the states, it is highly likely that alcoves of pseudo-refuge for women seeking an abortion in cooperating states will develop. Our nation will soon show its true colors through the moral temperature of its people at the state level.

Churches across state lines now face a new set of challenges. A church in one state may have ministry opportunities or hurdles that another church does not. Everything we do, down to our words and our actions, must be for the good of our brothers and sisters as they minister to the broken in a broken world. Just this past week I spoke to fellow pastors in California and Massachusetts who are about to step into a ministry context they have never known. The cooperation of Southern Baptists, no, all theologically like-minded churches, has seldom been more important than now.

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” – Proverbs 21:31

About Neal Thornton