On January 22, 1984, Pro-life President Ronald Regan issued a presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday of January to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day. That day has become known as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and this year’s commemoration of that event, on Jan. 22, will be different from the rest.
When President Regan made his proclamation, abortion on demand had been the law of the land since the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. By 1984, approximately 11 million pre-born human beings had been legally aborted. Today, that number has skyrocketed to well over sixty million abortions. But this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday will be celebrated in a post-Roe v. Wade world.
I had worked and prayed hard since 1979 that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. But when I heard the much-anticipated news on June 24, 2022, I hardly celebrated. Instead, after the initial goosebumps and prayer of thanks to God, I began thinking and writing about what Christians should do next to advance the pro-life cause in a post-Roe America. Pastors should do the same.
What can they do?
First, let me thank all pastors who publicly expressed gratitude and praised God for the Dobbs decision during a church service or through a church email or bulletin. My pastor stated forthrightly that this decision was an answer to prayer, and he thanked some of the seasoned saints who had advocated for the pro-life cause for decades. This is no partisan matter but a human life issue many of us have engaged year after year, decade after decade. There is no need for pastors to comment on most Supreme Court decisions, but decisions of a great, moral nature deserve comment. For a stellar public model of this, watch Pastor Tony Evans’ statement.
Second, pastors should understand the legal and cultural history and facts on the ground about abortion today in America. Part of a pastor’s duty is to interpret the world for the church—in other words, to be discerning about the spirit of the age and not get caught up in it.
In post-Roe America, laws about abortion now vary widely from state to state. This fact was true before the Dobbs decision. Still, the differences are now more significant since individual states are free to impose any manner of restriction on abortion or have no restrictions at all. My state of Colorado does not restrict abortion up until the moment of birth, which is profoundly evil. Babies aborted late in pregnancy are viable, so abortion in these cases is infanticide since they could survive as infants if given proper care. Since other states have more restrictive laws, Colorado is, to its shame, considered an “abortion destination state.” Pastors should know the laws of their states and advise their congregations accordingly.
Third, whatever a state’s law may be about abortion, Christians should argue against abortion and be constructively pro-life. There is no doubt that abortion ends the life of an innocent, living human being and violates that human being’s right to life. This moral fact outweighs any contingencies related to convenience or opportunity for the mother. Of course, the Bible deems the pre-born to be made entirely in the image and likeness of God from conception and therefore worthy of protection and care (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 139:13-16). Sanctify of Life Sunday is an opportunity for pastors to note that fact and address the human rights of the pre-born in their sermons. On this day in 2022, I preached about this issue and human trafficking. I was told afterward by several in the congregation that they had never heard such a message in 30 years of attendance there and thanked me for doing so. This should not be the case in our churches!
To be constructively pro-life means to volunteer and contribute financially to pregnancy resource centers, many of which were vandalized in 2022. Churches may want to add one of these centers to the church’s regular giving, and pastors can encourage congregants to help these vital ministries that save so many young lives each year. Adult education classes could invite workers from these groups to speak or make short presentations during church services. They must become highly visible to the congregation as leading warriors for life.
Our Christian stand against abortion and for human life has not ended with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We may have won one major legal battle, but state-by-state, we must continue to wage other legal battles for the long haul. Beyond that, Christian pastors should instruct and exhort their churches to stand for the dignity of pre-born human life in every way possible, trusting the Lord of life for strength and success (Deuteronomy 30:19; 2 Corinthians 9:8).