The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is focusing on pro-life work as oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 1 at the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs vs. Mississippi. Leaders from the ERLC talked with Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications of the SBC Executive Committee, during a special edition of the SBC This Week podcast released today.
“These oral arguments and this particular case coming out of Mississippi represents the best opportunity in a generation to potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade,” said Brent Leatherwood, interim president of the ERLC.
Leatherwood said it’s a time for the pro-life community to intercede in prayer for the justices of the Supreme Court as they hear the arguments.
“We need to be praying for the nine justices as they receive these arguments and then go back to their chambers and really start sussing through competing priorities,” he said.
Chelsea Sobolik, director of public policy for the ERLC, said this case is unique because it specifically deals with the viability of the unborn child in the womb.
“The Mississippi law says essentially after a child is viable at 15 weeks, elective abortion would be unconstitutional,” Sobolik said, adding that the law does makes exceptions related to the health of the mother and if severe fetal abnormalities are discovered.
Sobolik said this case is has the ability to undue the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade to legalize abortion in 1973 because it deals with viability.
“Viability is basically the key to unraveling the undue burden standard,” she said.
In the podcast, Howe, Leatherwood and Sobolik are also joined by Elizabeth Graham, vice president for operations and life initiatives for the ERLC. Graham discussed the work of the Psalm 139 Project and their goal of placing 50 ultrasound machines in pregnancy support centers across the US before the 50th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision in January 2023.
When it comes to the viability of a child outside the womb, Graham said, “What we know today from a science and medical standpoint is different from what we knew 30 or 40 years ago.”
She added that while the ERLC believes that life begins at conception, it is widely accepted in the international medical and science community that a child is viable at 15 weeks of development.
“The way you cut down a tree is a thousand cuts, and every step we take to advance that goal of both protecting life in the womb and caring for mothers and their communities is important,” Sobolik said.
Leatherwood said that for nearly five decades Roe vs. Wade has rested on equal protection under the law for every human life as granted by the 14th Amendment.
“If we’re going to follow down that path of constitutional logic, then I think we want to bring that back to the court and say, ‘You’re relying on equal protection. We want equal protection for all lives. All these pre-born lives,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Porter serves as associate vice president for convention news at the SBC Executive Committee.)