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Liberal Drift Debunked! ERLC Was Never Really Pro-Life

Richard Land, ERLC President from 1988 to 2013, once counseled a man to abort his child over a highly suspect "life of the mother" claim.

As the not so pro-life Southern Baptist take shots at those who believe that the unborn are people deserving of equal protection under the law and that ending their lives is murder, the latest high profile name to attack the abolitionist camp in Richard Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1988 to 2013. Evidently the man who predates Russell Moore also would have signed the open letter that Brent Leatherwood and many fake pro-life organizations signed. In his most recent column titled, What’s the best way to be pro-life?: A Southern Baptist debate, an article published by Baptist Press and the Christian Post, Land attacks the pro-life position with strawmen and confides that he supported abortion under a dubious circumstance to save the mother’s life.

Land begins by misrepresenting the situation, stating that the abolitionist are attacking the incrementalists. However, it was people like Steven Crowder who denied the most pro-life position’s existence. It was the pro-life grift organizations that penned a letter attacking the pro-life position last week to stop the Louisiana bill that would have classified abortion as a homicide.

This resolution is not, I believe, indicative of where the vast majority of Southern Baptists are on the issue. Here are the reasons why I believe this to be so. First, the same convention meeting that passed this resolution also overwhelmingly passed a resolution commending the Hyde Amendment, a classic case of “incrementalism” in that Hyde forbids the use of federal tax funding or state matching Medicaid funds for almost all abortions. Unless the Southern Baptists attending the convention were schizophrenic, one of the two resolutions is an anomaly.

Second, the “On Abolishing Abortion” resolution also contradicts numerous pro-life resolutions, all “incrementalist,” passed by the Convention over the last 40 years, some of which I helped write.

Land feels as though he’s more pro-life than he actually is and I get a sense he’s butthurt that the messengers on the floor passed a substantive resolution, despite ERLC opposition. Land argues that the weak Hyde Amendment Resolution was the will of the convention not the resolution that the messengers overrode the Resolutions Committee to get passed. The messenger’s resolution was the biggest win for Christians at an otherwise liberal dominated convention.

Consequently, I signed on to the statement by seven leading Southern Baptist ethicists, “Why We Opposed an Anti-Abortion Resolution at the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In the interest of clarity and to avoid misunderstanding, allow me to state my personal position on abortion, a position which has not changed from 1969 onward. I believe that life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-16Jeremiah 1:5) and that abortion is always the taking of a human life. I believe the only morally valid reason for aborting a pre-born human being is when the pre-born baby is a direct threat to his or her mother’s continued physical existence.

I believe God is involved whenever conception takes place. We may have been a surprise to our parents, but we were not a surprise to God. Each of us was once a child, an infant and a fetus. None of us was ever a sperm or an egg.

Lands statement is adequate but he does not follow-up these moral claims later on when examining the role that the mother plays in an abortion. Instead he would call them victims.

uring my tenure as president of the ERLC, I received a phone call from a Southern Baptist pastor (when you are the head of the SBC’s “ethics” commission you sometimes receive these kinds of calls). The pastor was in the emergency room with the chairman of his deacons. The deacon’s wife had been involved in a catastrophic automobile accident and was hovering between life and death in extremely critical condition. She was also pregnant.

The doctors on duty in the hospital were in unanimous agreement that if they were not allowed to take the baby (at 12 weeks’ gestation, too young to survive outside the womb), then both mother and baby would die because of the strain on the critically injured mother’s heart.

The pastor informed me the deacon was asking him, “Pastor, I need my wife and my other three children need their mother. Can I give the doctors the go ahead to take the baby?” The pastor then asked me, “Dr. Land, what do I tell him?”

I answered, “I do not believe you should tell him he can’t. He must seek the Lord’s guidance and make the decision himself.”

Then the pastor asked, “What would you do if it were you?”

I replied, “I would authorize the procedure to take the baby to save the mother of my other children, but I would not judge him if he made a different choice.”

In this anecdote, Richard LAnd essentially advocates for an abortion because the doctor asked. The mother’s heart would be strained by the pregnancy but not strained by the procedure necessary to abort a 12 week preborn. Does this make any sense? Emergency room doctors, are not experts on pregnancy, a fact I’ve had some experience with, especially compared to the labor and delivery wing of a hospital. For a pro-life expert, Richard Land gave grossly unsound counsel for which he evidently has no shame to this day. LiveAction, citing the Pro-Life Physicians of America address the life of the mother issue stating:

We find it extremely unfortunate that many pro-lifers have regarded the health of the mother to be a consideration in whether or not she should have the right to terminate the life of her pre-born baby.  Politicians who herald the title “pro-life” on the campaign trail frequently tout this health exception, as well as exceptions for rape and incest, as pragmatic compromises that will not offend political moderates and not alienate the pro-life community.  We do not consider this compromise consistent with pro-life Hippocratic principles at all.  To intentionally kill or condone the intentional killing of one innocent human being precludes one from being considered “pro-life” at all.  A murderer of one person is not any less a murderer if he allows thousands to live, nor if he saves thousands from dying!

When the life of the mother is truly threatened by her pregnancy, if both lives cannot simultaneously be saved, then saving the mother’s life must be the primary aim.  If through our careful treatment of the mother’s illness the pre-born patient inadvertently dies or is injured, this is tragic and, if unintentional, is not unethical and is consistent with the pro-life ethic.  But the intentional killing of an unborn baby by abortion is never necessary.

Most of what passes as a therapeutic, or medically-necessary abortion, is not necessary at all to save the mother’s life.  For example, if a mother has breast cancer and requires immediate chemotherapy to survive that can kill the baby, the physician will frequently recommend a therapeutic abortion.  Another example: if a mother has life-threatening seizures that can only be controlled by medication that will kill or severely deform her unborn child, the physician will frequently prescribe a therapeutic abortion.  In both of these cases, the abortion is not necessary to protect the mother’s health.  The necessary medication may injure or kill the pre-born child, but this is no justification for intentionally killing the child.  If the child is injured or dies from the medication prescribed to the mother to save her life, the injury was unintentional and, if truly medically necessary, not unethical.

In simpler terms, if a doctor is advising abortion, find a new doctor.

From the beginning of my involvement in the pro-life movement in 1969, we have overwhelmingly perceived mothers as victims, not perpetrators, of abortion. That certainly has been and continues to be my understanding, belief, conviction and experience.

Over and over again I have heard pro-life advocates passionately argue that in any abortion there are at least two victims — the aborted baby and his or her mother.

Richard Land appeals to the incorrect viewpoints of previous generations.

Now, there are prominent Southern Baptist leaders who are calling for the defunding of the ERLC because the ERLC’s acting president, Brent Leatherwood, signed “An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-life Organizations.” This Open Letter, signed by virtually every major pro-life organization in America, states, “Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.”

Land concludes the article by defending the ERLC. Perhaps the Conservative Resurgence 2.0 is mistaken. The ERLC is clearly evidence that there is not a liberal drift because they were always theologically liberal on the key issue of abortion.

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