“I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on his website.
“Because I’m reminded that … there are babies warmly nestled in wombs who won’t be there tomorrow. I’m reminded that there are children … who’ll be slapped, punched and burned with cigarettes before nightfall.”
Since 1973, many Americans have observed Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS) as a day to celebrate the intrinsic value of all human life.
Moore said, “But I also love Sanctity of Human Life Sunday when I think about … the ex-orphans all around adopted into loving families … And I love to see men and women who have aborted babies find their sins forgiven, even this sin, and their consciences cleansed by Christ.”
Sanctity of Human Life: abortion
Forty-two years ago, Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) filed a lawsuit claiming that a Texas law criminalizing most abortions violated her constitutional rights.
The Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 22, 1973, that the states were not allowed to outlaw or regulate any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, and they could only enact abortion regulations related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters. Also, abortion laws were meant to protect the life of the baby only in the third trimester.
SOHLS is held on the Sunday in January that falls closest to the day on which the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions were handed down by the Supreme Court.
This year SOHLS will be Jan. 19
A recent article noted that abortions are on the decline in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study used voluntary data from 44 states, New York City and the District of Columbia.
From 2001 to 2010, the number of reported legal abortions in the U.S. fell by nine percent. The number of teenagers getting abortions dropped most significantly, probably due in part to the overall drop in teenage pregnancies. For that 10-year period, the abortion rate among teenagers fell about 30 percent.
For 2008, the CDC reported 825,564 abortions in the U.S. Because the CDC’s statistics are dependent upon voluntary information, the Guttmacher Institute reports that these numbers are much higher, likely around 1.21 million.
SOHLS also provides an opportunity for pregnancy centers to share about the work they do. They utilize life-affirming resources to empower communities and families to choose life for their unborn children.
Enter Amber Lehman
Lehman was raised by a single mother in Wilmington. Around the age of 13, she became sexually active and by 15, she was pregnant.
Lehman made the decision to abort the child.
Later she became very promiscuous and decided to join a friend by becoming a “call girl,” an escort to wealthy men.
In 1998, Lehman began attending a local church even though nothing changed in her life, she said. At this church, she watched a church play where the death of Jesus was portrayed.
Lehman realized right then how much God loved her despite her past. She took as many friends back to see the play as she could. All the partying stopped. Her life had been changed.
The church Lehman attended hosted “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday,” where she sat listening to the pastor talk about abortion and the great loss of life that it causes.
She soon showed up at her pastor’s office with a profound sense of guilt. Taking Lehman under his wing, the pastor plugged her into the church’s ministries.
Lehman later moved to Wake Forest to attend The College at Southeastern where she received a bachelor of arts degree in biblical studies.
After applying for a 10-hour-a-week fundraising position at First Choice Pregnancy Solutions (then named Pregnancy Support Services of Wake Forest), Lehman eventually interviewed for the executive director position and was chosen due to her fervor for this cause. The position was changed to CEO in 2010, and she has been serving in this role ever since. Also known as FCPS, the organization’s mission is to communicate accurate and truthful information to those affected by an unplanned pregnancy as well as provide physical, emotional and spiritual support.
Lehman said, “Perhaps if people saw Christians serving relentlessly ‘the least of these,’ Christians who would sincerely say, ‘We are here for you and you can choose life with confidence of our support.’ Then women would see hope of support and acceptance when they are considering an abortion.”
Sanctity of Human Life: adoption and foster care
With a strong focus on life in general, SOHLS has also seen a day when both adoption and foster care have been advocated.
Many women and men in America struggle with infertility. Specifically for women, the CDC estimated that number to be approximately 6.7 million.
“[Infertility] is a very delicate subject and the first thing pastors should be doing is assuring couples of God’s love,” said Ryan Anderson, William E. Simon fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
“If couples can’t conceive through an act of love, we have to ask the questions, ‘Are there other children who are in need of love? And can you realize your vocation as a parent by adopting or providing foster care?’”
Founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Tony Merida has noted that most believers consider adoption and orphan care in a couple of circumstances: when they cannot have children, or when they want to help local and/or state children’s homes.
“These are good things to do,” he said. “But I turned into an adoption advocate, an adoptive dad and eventually a writer on the subject (Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care
) not because of infertility but because of theology.”
He said, “Believers understand that God is Father. But what kind of father is He? He is an adoptive Father! None of us were born Christians. If you are a believer, it is because God has adopted you into the family … All races brought together by God’s adoption of spiritual orphans.”
Approximately 500,000 children are in foster care in the U.S.
This number haunted David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. In 2009, Platt contacted the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Ala., and asked how many families were needed to meet their county’s foster and adoption requests.
Being told that they needed 150 families, Platt shared the conversation with his church and more than 160 families signed up.
Platt said, “We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home.”
Russell Moore has been an outspoken advocate for adoption and foster care. With two adopted sons of his own, Moore said, “We’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But I hope, please Lord, someday soon, that Sanctity of Human Life Day is unnecessary.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Some of Amber Lehman’s story was adapted from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s OUTLOOK Magazine from fall 2011 and Shanna Lehr’s blog, “Flourish.”)