ERLC urges party leaders to prioritize pro-life issues

NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is urging the committee chairmen for both political parties to prioritize pro-life policy in their parties’ soon-to-be-released platforms.  

The Southern Baptist entity released two similarly worded letters to Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Whatley and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Jaime Harrison on Wednesday, July 3. 

Both parties are expected to release their platforms during or slightly before their respective national conventions. The RNC’s national convention is next week (July 15-18), while the DNC’s convention will take place in late August. A party’s platform lists its priority principles for the upcoming election season.

The Republican platform committee begins closed-door meetings today (July 8), according to reports.

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood wrote in the entity’s letter to Whatley that failing to maintain federal protections for pre-born life would be a “grave miscalculation.”

“For millions of Southern Baptists, one issue remains an essential priority for our nation’s policy: the sanctity of preborn life,” Leatherwood wrote.

“As chairman of the Republican National Committee, you share the important responsibility to develop and build an updated party platform. This document will be an informative tool for Americans as it conveys the GOP’s commitments on the most pressing issues of our moment. Parties should not be shy about displaying what will guide their policymaking.

“In light of that, I write to you today due to disturbing reports that suggest there is an effort to remove or diminish the GOP’s longstanding commitment to advancing federal protections for preborn life. This would be a grave miscalculation.”

The reports Leatherwood mentions refer to speculation that expected Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may modify or walk back some of the party’s conservative stances or policies regarding abortion. 

In the recent presidential debate, Trump was asked whether he would block access to the abortion pill known as mifepristone, which is reportedly used for more than half of all abortions in the United States. 

Trump referenced the recent Supreme Court decision which ruled in favor of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), overturning a decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that placed limitations on the availability and usage of mifepristone. 

“I agree with their decision to have done that, and I will not block it (access to mifepristone),” Trump said during the debate with President Joe Biden on June 27. 

“Now the states are working it out … they’re all making their own decisions. … And right now, the states control it.”

Many conservatives disagree with Trump’s refusal to strive for a nationwide ban on abortion, something Republicans have included as part of their party platform for many years. 

Yet some prominent Republicans have been quoted agreeing with Trump’s refusal to impose a ban on abortion pills. Senator J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), a supposed top pick for Trump’s vice president (VP), told NBC News on Sunday (July 7) that he supports access to mifepristone.

Also over the weekend, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.-R) said the party’s platform “has to reflect the nominee.”

In a statement on X, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a member of the RNC’s platform committee, said he was stunned by Rubio’s comments.

“I can assure you that if the GOP abandons the unborn in the Party Platform, it will dampen Bible-believing, conservative voter enthusiasm and turnout,” Perkins said.

Leatherwood said even in this post-Roe era, pro-life policy is not merely a state issue and the federal government has a role to play. 

“The right to life is a pre-political, self-evident right bestowed by our Creator on every individual from the moment of conception,” Leatherwood wrote to Whatley.

“Government is given the unique responsibility from God for protecting that most fundamental right. Citizens deserve to know where the parties stand on this matter. As it pertains to this issue, the Republican Party has been clear about the value and dignity of life for over a generation. It must not fail to do so now in this post-Roe moment.

“Some assert the Dobbs Supreme Court decision left the question of abortion solely to the states. This could not be more inaccurate. While states are empowered once more to act regarding the question of abortion, the justices in no way removed the ability of the federal government to protect life.”

The ERLC has remained engaged on the issue of abortion on both the federal and state levels. 

The entity advocated for a ban on mifepristone during the case against the Biden administration and created a resource explaining the result of another Supreme Court case which sent an Idaho pro-life law back to the Ninth Circuit Court. 

The ERLC also created a resource for Southern Baptists to track upcoming ballot initiatives related to abortion for a variety of states throughout the country. 

The entity has long resolved to advocate on behalf of Southern Baptists on the issue of abortion. Southern Baptist messengers have made their pro-life stance clear through many resolutions over the years and have participated in a variety of pro-life ministry including the support of crisis pregnancy centers.  

In the closing comments of both letters, Leatherwood appealed to Southern Baptists’ ultimate authority, the Bible, as the reason for their passionate pro-life stance. 

“Each of these churches holds fast to the truths revealed in Scripture, including that God knit each of us together before birth (Psalm 139:13-16), that we are all uniquely made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and that innocent life – whether born or preborn – deserves protection from harm,” Leatherwood said. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a writer in Nashville.)

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