On December 1, 2021, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, around a Mississippi law that restricts abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Pro-life advocates view this as the best opportunity in some time to see Roe v. Wade reversed, and pro-choice supporters see this as a threat to what they consider a fundamental right of a woman over her own body. Join Scott and Sean as they discuss the arguments being made by both sides and outline the possibilities that the future might hold for abortion law in the US.

Episode Transcript

Scott Rae: Welcome to Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture, podcast from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. I'm your host Scott Rae, dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics.

Sean McDowell: I'm your co-host Sean McDowell, professor of apologetics.

Scott Rae: On December 1st of 2021, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a landmark case that may result in the overturning of the historic Roe v. Wade case from 1973, that decided the legality of abortion in all 50 states in the United States. We wanted to take some time and talk about the argument that was made on both sides. This is going to be just with Sean and me. Even though the decision will not be handed down for probably six months from now, probably in June of 2022 is when that will be handed down, but we gained some important indications about where the court might land and what some of the implications of that would be, that we wanted to explore with you together just so you're up to date on this really, really important case as it concerns the sanctity of life for the unborn.

Sean McDowell: Scott, we've both spoken out on this, we've both written on this, had a lot of conversations, but you've really done a lot of consulting and high-level work in this area and tracked it about as well as anybody. So, I'd love to throw some questions your way, and I think it may be helpful to start with a little background to this. And of course we got Roe versus Wade, 1973, we've got planned parenthood versus Casey, 1992, and then some other more recent rulings. Give us a little background to understand what's happening today.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Up until 1973, there was no federal law that governed the legality of abortion. Those were essentially decided toward state by state, and most states had prohibited abortion. And as a result, there's a lot of debate over what the instance of this was, but there were a lot of what were called back-alley abortions done by unqualified practitioners. I think that the number of those I think has been exaggerated-

Sean McDowell: Yeah.

Scott Rae: ... a bit, in fact, maybe significantly exaggerated because we know that, I mean, statistically, still roughly 90% of the abortions that were done prior to 1973 were done by licensed physicians in licensed facilities, but done illegally nonetheless. The Roe v. Wade decision changed all of that. And in combination with the Doe v. Bolton decision and what was handed down on the same day, the two of those together basically legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy. It's a myth, and it came out again in the oral arguments for this case. It's a myth to suppose that Roe v. Wade prohibited abortion just up until the baby is viable outside the womb. That wasn't true in 1973 and it's not true today. Otherwise, we wouldn't have the controversy and the discussion about things like partial birth abortions, which almost always happened in the third trimester.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: 1992 was considered the best opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the court upheld that the basic findings of Roe v. Wade allowed for some things like parental notification and things like that. So, there have been other challenges throughout the years that have tried to chip away at a woman's right to choose abortion. Most of those have been rejected by the courts and the ones that have gotten to the Supreme Court have been actually relatively rare. And this one, the current one, it's entitled Dobbs versus the Jackson Women's Health Organization, it's based on a 2018 act in Mississippi that prohibited abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, except for the sort of the standard exceptions, except for the life of the mother being in danger in cases of rape or incest. Okay? Now, the implementation of this law was blocked by a federal court on the grounds that violated Roe v. Wade, which it most certainly does.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: So the final decision we expect on this, sometime in June of 2022. At the same time, Texas has had an even more restrictive law that they've put in place called the Fetal Heartbeat Act, which basically outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is somewhere between six and eight weeks of pregnancy, often before the woman even is aware that she's pregnant. That has a bit of a different twist to it, which I think this is the reason that the Mississippi law is the one being considered by the court. And there's no enforcement procedure by law enforcement themselves in Texas. The way the law is enforced is by private citizens filing lawsuits against the different abortion providers and abortion facilities. So, law enforcement in Texas has essentially abdicated their law enforcement function and turned that over to private citizens.

Scott Rae: So, this has been, the advocates for the unborn have been waiting for an opportunity like this for an abortion case to actually get to the US Supreme Court. Abortion rights advocates have been very fearful of this day coming because they are afraid that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, then a woman's right to choose to end her pregnancy will be rolled back all over the country. Actually, in my view, neither of those things is necessarily true. We'll talk a little bit further-

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: ... about what's the likely prospect here and what are the implications for that going forward. Does that help, put it in context?

Sean McDowell: Yeah, that's a great background. If I was going to sum up this law then, is it fair to say that it uniquely presses into the stage of viability, which was 24 weeks at Rowe if I remember correctly, so 15 weeks, we're talking nine weeks before this, so two months plus?

Scott Rae: Well, Rowe would would be more in the beginning of the third trimester.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: So that would be more like what? 32, 28 weeks?

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: Maybe little bit farther along than that.

Sean McDowell: Okay. All right. So in principle then, there could not be any restrictions before viability, and this is significantly before viability.

Scott Rae: Significantly, right.

Sean McDowell: Can states restrict this, whether it's six weeks, Texas, 15 weeks in this law in Mississippi? Is that at its heart what is at stake?

Scott Rae: I'm not exactly sure.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: I think there's more to it than that.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: Because Roe, before viability, and you're right, that viability has changed, which says nothing about the nature of the unborn child, it says everything about the state of medical technology.

Sean McDowell: That's right.

Scott Rae: And viability is different for different pre-born children.

Sean McDowell: And different parts of the world right now, there's different viability per state.

Scott Rae: Oh, there's a huge distinction there. And in Roe v. Wade, the court did allow for some restrictions on abortion before viability in the first and second trimester, things that were designed to safeguard the woman's life and health.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: So they had to be in licensed facilities. They couldn't be just anybody just hanging out a shingle and saying, "I'm abortion provider."

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: So that seemed to be a reaction to some of the back-alley stuff that took place prior to 1973.

Sean McDowell: So how is this different than other challenges that have come up in the past?

Scott Rae: Well, because it sets... The past challenges were more designed, I'd put it, by a death by a thousand cuts.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: They were more significantly incremental. This one is more of a frontal assault on abortion rights. Now, I wouldn't say it's a total assault on that because in the first 15 weeks, it's still basically abortion on demand for any reason.

Sean McDowell: Yes.

Scott Rae: And so the pro-life purist are not going to like this. But I think if this were true and there were no abortion after 15 weeks, this would be a huge win for the unborn, even though it may not be everything.

Sean McDowell: Not be the ultimate.

Scott Rae: It's not everything.

Sean McDowell: But doesn't this give precedent then at least in principle? Either they deny this, or if they let it go through, we're allowing states to decide to restrict abortion rights during viability, so why couldn't other states and principle do the same?

Scott Rae: Yeah, that would actually be, I think, the likely outcome if the decision goes in favor of Dobbs and not the Woman's Health Organization. If it's decided that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, then what's likely to take place is, the court would do the same thing they did in the decision on assisted suicide in the late 1990s, where they did not say one way or another what the law of the land ought to be. What they did is, they said, this is a matter for the states to legislate, to reflect the will of the voters in that particular state, and so it would be turned back to the states. And there's a good precedent with the assisted suicide challenges to lay that out. Now, interesting, just a little while ago before we were starting this, I read on my news flash that California has just declared itself an abortion sanctuary.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: Just today.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: I think it's in anticipation of the court ruling in June of '22, that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and the matter is being left up to individual states.

Sean McDowell: Okay. I don't fully understand the particulars of the law, but when it comes to Texas, if somebody aids in abortion, would this include somebody outside of the state, aiding, and somebody leaving their state and coming to Texas, get sued within Texas, and California is saying, "If you help," and this happens in Texas, "we will still protect you and keep you in a sanctuary from Texas"? Is that what it means that it's a sanctuary state?

Scott Rae: No, I don't think so. I think what it means is that, California has already declared itself in terms of what will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that California will always be a safe place-

Sean McDowell: Oh, okay.

Scott Rae: ... for women seeking abortions.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: For example, they wouldn't have a residency requirement, for example, which a lot of states require.

Sean McDowell: Oh, okay. All right.

Scott Rae: So women could come to California.

Sean McDowell: Got it.

Scott Rae: This was not clear yet, but my guess is that, the state would also be willing to pay for the abortions for women who can't afford them.

Sean McDowell: Oh, that's very interesting, raises other ethical questions. Now, there's no surprise that places like New York, that recently, on their judicial floor, cheered some of the abortion rulings that some have said were even tied to post abortive births that were live. New York, California, there's no surprise there that they would do this, but it seems like they're acting in anticipation of what's likely coming and putting their stake in the ground. Would you go so far as to say they think that's where it's going, or they're just making it clear this is where California is, regardless?

Scott Rae: I'd say it's a preemptive strike.

Sean McDowell: A preemptive strike.

Scott Rae: That's what they're doing.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: They are ensuring that California will lead the way, and hopefully other states will follow, in becoming similar abortion sanctuaries. And it's not hard to envision what some of those other states might be, up and down the coast.

Sean McDowell: Sure. Yep.

Scott Rae: Illinois, for example. A lot of the blue states, I think, will follow the suit. The red states, we can probably draw a line from the Midwest through to the Southeast, where a lot of those states would probably vote to either outlaw abortion or significantly restrict it.

Sean McDowell: Since you made the comparison, do you have a sense of the ruling, I thought you said it was in the 90s with euthanasia-

Scott Rae: '97.

Sean McDowell: ... '97, how this played out with states? How did that play out? And should we expect the abortion to play out if this ruling is the same?

Scott Rae: Well, the way it played out in the late 90s is that, within a week after the Supreme Court ruled on... There were actually two assisted suicide cases, one from the West Coast and one from the East. And they ruled that the state could not prohibit, or the state was justified in prohibiting a civil suicide, but it was also justified in allowing it, if that was the will of their voters.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: So within a week, roughly 35 or so states passed bills in their legislatures, prohibiting assisted suicide.

Sean McDowell: Oh, wow.

Scott Rae: And the number of states that have adopted procedures for doing assisted suicide legally sort of happened more slowly and gradually because... Pretty soon some of the first states to do this were Washington, of course, which was where the case originated.

Sean McDowell: Oregon might.

Scott Rae: Or Oregon might have been first.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: But then in California and Montana, Vermont.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: And there are handful of others. But it's been low trickle. I'm anticipating if Roe v. Wade is overturned, you'll have states quickly plant their flag.

Sean McDowell: Yeah.

Scott Rae: My guess is within three months.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: You'll have most states declaring themselves one way or another.

Sean McDowell: Well, it seems like politicians are going to have to as well. Certain politicians have said their pro life, but seemingly avoided certain votes and not almost have gotten away with simply saying they are but without their feet being held to the fire. Now it's like, you can't escape it, you've got to take a stand on this issue, which to me seems like maybe a good thing.

Scott Rae: I think that will be a good thing because, at least, in the legislatures that make the votes of their members public, not every legislature does that.

Sean McDowell: Oh, interesting.

Scott Rae: We've since discovered. But the ones where that's public, then it will be very clear where people vote and where they stand.

Sean McDowell: I think now that we're three decades past the 90s and abortion is such a hotter topic, although it's ethically and philosophically tied to euthanasia issues, I think you're right, that people already know where they stand and we're going to see flags planted really quickly. Let's talk about some of the way the arguments are done. I have not listened to the ruling, not tracked it closely, but from what I hear, is a reference to what's often called stare decisis, which is a decision that has been rendered in the past should still stand.

Scott Rae: Yes.

Sean McDowell: Now, part of me when I hear that, and I don't know, partly when I hear this I think, if that's what you're arguing, then you're really on weak grounds rather than pointing to the issue itself, personhood, the merits to the case.

Scott Rae: Yeah.

Sean McDowell: If all you have is stare decisis, that seems to signal they have nowhere else to go, substantively speaking. Do you agree?

Scott Rae: Yes, but I think your premise needs a slight amending.

Sean McDowell: Amend it.

Scott Rae: Because, yes, stare decisis is the notion that settled precedent stays settled precedent. The reason they argue that the precedent is ought to stay settled, and this is pro-choice advocates who are arguing this, is because a woman's right to choose to end her pregnancy, they consider to be a fundamental right.

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: That is above legislative processes and procedures. And in their view, the court was entirely appropriate not only to decide it, but decide it in the way they did. Okay? The real debate is whether this is a fundamental right or not. Because, your point is right, if stare decisis is all that they have, then there are lots of significant Supreme Court decisions that have been overturned. Brown v. Board of Education, for example, in the 50s, which mandated the separate but equal facilities. That's clearly been done away with. Buck v. Bell in the 20s, it was a mandatory sterilization bill that was finally overturned, where Oliver Wendell Holmes had said, "Three generations of imbeciles is enough."

Sean McDowell: Right.

Scott Rae: He was, I think, quite rightly excoriated for that later on.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: So court has reversed itself on past decisions so that the fact that it's a settled precedent, may or may not be compelling based on what's underneath it.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: Now, the pro-life side has argued that there's another fundamental right at stake. And that's the life of the unborn.

Sean McDowell: The right to life. Yeah.

Scott Rae: And so they argue that Roe v. Wade should have been left to the states. It was an inappropriate way for the court to be making law, which should have been decided by the voters in that particular state. I think what the decision I think will come down to, unless there's some technicality that it will be decided on, that allows the court to punt the major decision down the road, which would not be unheard of, that the decision will come down to how the court weighs a woman's autonomy over her own body with the right to life of the unborn.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Now, let's come back to what the possible outcomes of this are and what you think may happen. But there's a question worth asking, is, why this case now? And I think it's because of our last president, Trump, who nominated, if I'm correct, three conservative leaning judges, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, the balance of the court has shifted radically to 6/3, so you need five votes. That means, if one person goes the other direction, whoever that may be, that would be conservative, then you can still win. So it seems to me, that's why this is hitting right now. Is there anything else going on why this case sprung right now? Because I kind of think pro-lifers, in one sense, it's like they're smelling blood, so to speak. And I guess, as I think about it, that's an ironic.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Maybe not the imagery I would be using.

Sean McDowell: Not the image, in fact, the opposite of that.

Scott Rae: Yes.

Sean McDowell: They're smelling the chance to resist the shedding of blood because of the numbers on the court.

Scott Rae: That's right. I think there's no doubt that the pro-life advocate see an opportunity here we haven't seen in a long time. And I think the fear is that, if the Biden administration chooses to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court, the window for this opportunity might be closed.

Sean McDowell: Got it.

Scott Rae: I mean, justice on both sides of this issue have maintained that they are not trying to politicize this. Now, I think that both pro-choice and pro-life advocates recognize that the political and legal process is essential for both of them to accomplish their goals, so neither side has any particular qualms about bringing this into the arena of public policy. In fact, I think it's appropriate regardless of which side you're on. I think that if you see both of those as fundamental rights at stake, it's appropriate, I think, to bring those into the arena of public policy. It's just the question is, will the arena of public policy be at the big picture nationwide level, or will it be state by state by state?

Scott Rae: One of the things, really interesting parts, that has been proposed is actually the notion overturning Roe v. Wade. And returning the task of legislating this to the states actually could create less divisiveness than having it decided at the national level and having one result, regardless of which way it's decided, one result shove down the throats of a lot of people who oppose it. So having places where across the country, where your views are reflected, regardless of your view on this, I think actually has the possibility of decreasing some of the polarization that we see culture wide.

Sean McDowell: Depending on how this ruling goes, it's going to be interesting to see how it affects pro-life movements because it kind of feels like, to me, if this ruling comes down and it's not at least strongly favorable towards overturning Roe versus Wade to a degree, then a lot of conservatives are going to have to seriously rethink how important even is the Supreme Court and the presidency and politics itself. If this can't do it, I can imagine there'd be a whole lot of people who'd be disillusioned. Now, the Supreme Court justices don't care. They just have to rule their job as not at stake, unless they're concerned about their reputation beyond that. I don't think they are. In some ways we have to wait until the ruling comes to really know what follows, but do you think a lot of pro-life strategies are even at stake with this ruling at south?

Scott Rae: Actually, I think a lot of pro-life strategies changed two decades ago because in 1992, that was considered to be the best shot to date, I mean, from the standpoint of a pro-life person that failed miserably. And the strategy changed at that point to be much more grassroots, much more sort of persuading one person at a time, one community at a time, much more on the local level, much more dependent on technology for ultrasound technology.

Sean McDowell: Yep.

Scott Rae: And even stuff we're learning from forensics today. DNA phenotyping, I think, it's possible if... Maybe our listeners aren't familiar with that, but it's a way forensic scientists have used this to take DNA to identify the physical features of what a suspect might look like. And in conjunction with sketch art is to get a pretty reasonable picture of what a suspect would look like without any physical description, but just with a DNA sample.

Sean McDowell: That's amazing.

Scott Rae: So if that could be done with somebody from a crime scene, why couldn't that also be done with the DNA from an unborn child?

Sean McDowell: That's really interesting. I've never thought about that, which just humanizes it in people's minds.

Scott Rae: Yeah. Totally humanize it.

Sean McDowell: So it's like the unborn... Oh, my mind just went blank. When you see the image of the ultrasound, kind of on steroids, so to speak, that's one of the main reasons-

Scott Rae: Something like that.

Sean McDowell: Oh, very, very interesting.

Scott Rae: So that strategy's already been in place. Now, I think the pro-life movement has long held that there's a legal strategy, but I think long ago, they stopped banking on that. The pro-life grassroots' movement has been, depending on your perspective on this, I mean my view, has been extraordinarily successful in making people think twice about abortion. I think there's some lack of civility.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: Probably, there's some ways that I wouldn't go about this on the streets with abortion clinics. I know sometimes the images are not done in the best of taste.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: But I think that for the groups that compassionately walk with women who have unwanted pregnancies and explain to them what's involved, the anecdotal stories are undeniable about the impact that they're having. So I'm not sure anything is going to significantly change. It's just the location of those efforts will switch from the federal level to different states.

Sean McDowell: That is a really interesting to think about because if this gets overturned, then it's not like the pro-life movement is done. In fact, I don't know if you know the answer to this, maybe we can't know, if you look at how many abortions are done in states like California and New York, how many would be in states that would likely turn it down? How many people would travel? In some ways, we don't know. Do we even have a guess? It would cut it 5%, 20%, 80%? Or should we just not guess because there's just so many factors?

Scott Rae: I think one place where we can get a little bit of data from is from Texas, since Texas passed their very restrictive abortion law. Granted that, the enforcement part of that, I'm not thrilled about.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Scott Rae: But the number of abortions has been cut by close to 50%.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: Within less than a year. So to say that making abortion illegal doesn't matter, I think empirically, that's a hard one to counter based on what's going on in Texas.

Sean McDowell: Yeah. Seems to raise interesting questions, we talk about how politics is downstream from culture, but it also shapes the way people think about what is right and wrong, and so it's also a teacher as Plato said.

Scott Rae: That's absolutely right.

Sean McDowell: I think both of those are probably true.

Scott Rae: Yeah. In fact, that's why, I think, even if the legal strategy never prevailed, it's still been worth being involved in because, I mean, Roe v. Wade had tremendous educational value in terms of educating the culture about the choice movement. So from a pro-choice advocate's perspective, that Roe v. Wade did a lion's share of their education for them, just by what the law is. And I think overturning it, I think, would've similar educational value.

Sean McDowell: Okay. So let's talk about what you think will happen. I know I keep debating our audience. But the last thing is, first, what are some possible outcomes as best we can tell of where this could go?

Scott Rae: Well, for one, the court could give overwhelming weight to the doctrine of stare decisis and keep Roe v. Wade intact and take it out of the state's hands. That's certainly a possibility. The indications are so far from the oral argument. I think enough hints have been dropped to suggest that that might be a bit of a surprise if that were the outcome.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Scott Rae: The second one is that they could overturn it and turn it back over to the states. If it was overturned, I think it would almost certainly be turned back over to the states for them to decide on their own.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: Then, there're a handful of different compromise decisions that could chip away at it but essentially keep the basic ruling of Roe v. Wade in effect. Now, I think what the Mississippi law is designed to do since it was a compromise itself, I think may have been designed to take some of these other compromises off the table and enable the court to rule on the fundamental issue itself.

Sean McDowell: Or forced the court really to play its hand, right?

Scott Rae: Yeah.

Sean McDowell: And not chip away its stuff.

Scott Rae: Right.

Sean McDowell: Just so people understand the gravity of this, that means come this June, we could see abortion restricted after 15 weeks, according to this ruling, potentially after six weeks-

Scott Rae: That would just be in Mississippi, in there.

Sean McDowell: Oh, okay.

Scott Rae: So that means, Mississippi-

Sean McDowell: In Mississippi, it would-

Scott Rae: States may draw that line in different places.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Got it. So Mississippi, potentially upheld in Texas, and then very shortly after this, because rulings usually come out in June, within a matter of months, still in 2022, we could see serious restrictions on the so-called right to abortion across the US like we haven't seen in almost 50 years.

Scott Rae: Since 1973.

Sean McDowell: So, really, since 1973, around 2023, it'd be about 50 years.

Scott Rae: Right.

Sean McDowell: That's pretty unbelievable, that people got to pause and think about the possibility of that, how radical. So if you had to bet... And I don't really have a sense in this. I heard Scott Klusendorf, one of my favorite pro-life speakers came here, did our MA program at Talbot and apologetics, he thinks the ruling's going to be six to three. He thinks it's going to be six to three. My only hesitation is, when we talk about, if it went the direction of stare decisis, is John Roberts has shown an inclination to not want to disrupt things and value precedent and he's voted a few times. This is his court on what it would be deemed more liberal, progressive positions. But I read Obergefell versus Hodges, 2015, on the same sex marriage ruling, and he was as strong and firm against that ruling imaginable. So I don't really know. I suspect it's gone that way, but I'm not as confident as him. What do you say?

Scott Rae: Yeah. I'm reluctant to speculate on-

Sean McDowell: Either way?

Scott Rae: ... either way.

Sean McDowell: Oh, wow.

Scott Rae: It wouldn't surprise me Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: I think there have been a number of hints that it could go in that direction. That wouldn't be a big surprise. There's one other thing that I think is worth mentioning in this. And that is, what happens to adoption in the event that this is overturned?

Sean McDowell: That's a great question.

Scott Rae: Because pro-choice advocates, I think, often downplay adoption as an alternative because in their view, it still sentences a woman to carry in a pregnancy for nine months. And I think sometimes pro-life advocates offer adoption somewhat simplistically, like it's this really easy thing for a woman to do, to give up her baby for adoption. And I think the pro-choice advocates are right to tell us that giving up a baby for adoption is one of the most brutally difficult things for a woman to do, but we don't then press the next question, is what is it that makes that so hard? And the reason it's so hard is because pregnant women bond to the unborn children that they're carrying in ways that you don't bond to things.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: You bond to persons like that. You have relationship with a person. And I think that's why... We don't lose a lot of sleep over selling a car, like we do a woman who gives up a baby for adoption because unborn children in the womb are not property things, they're not just a collection of parts. They're persons with souls and essences that are made in the image of God. How we view adoption, I think, will be a very interesting outcome in the aftermath of this.

Sean McDowell: So I'm going to go on a limb and there's a lot of ifs here. So if Roe versus Wade is in fact overturned, and if rulings come down that restrict abortion in a lot of states, and we have a significant number of babies that needed to be adopted, because right now we don't have enough babies to match the families' who want to adopt, if that happens, the church is going to step up. Well, I have full-

Scott Rae: We need to-

Sean McDowell: I will stake my life on that. Not everybody, but I know a lot of Christians will say, we will sacrifice, and we will take these kids. I believe that. Now, that's a lot of steps down the road.

Scott Rae: It is. But remember, it's newborns that are in the highest demand also and the lowest supply.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Rae: And the early church did it themselves. It wasn't victims of abortion, but victims potentially of infanticide that the early church, which was dirt poor themselves, stepped up and adopted hundreds and hundreds of these kids who were being left to die at the roadside from exposure, or otherwise victims of infanticide because their families couldn't support them. And the church stepped up even though they didn't really have the means to support them either, but they did that because this is what the church did at the time. This is what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.

Sean McDowell: One of the most meaningful experiences ever when I was teaching high school full time was a former student of mine came back. She graduated from high school before I started Biola, and she came to visit me after school and said, "Hey, Mr. McDowell, good to see you. I didn't know if this interested you or not, but last year while we were studying pro-life, one of my friends was pregnant high school. And I started walking her through the stuff we were learning class." I can't remember how long, she goes, "Just a few weeks ago, this baby was born. And I thought maybe you wanted to know." I was like, "Maybe you thought I want to know?" And I was like, this kid now is, I don't know, 15 plus years old. This ruling that could come down could mean people having life that otherwise would not.

Scott Rae: Right.

Sean McDowell: We got to pray for this and beyond our knees.

Scott Rae: Yeah.

Sean McDowell: You know the Bible says, obviously not talking about a Supreme Court ruler, but I think the broad principle applies, the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. Let's pray for justice and pray that the ruling is right. I was having a conversation with my kids. And those of you listening, I'd encourage you to just share this with your family. I said to my kids when we were driving to school, just recently during the ruling, I said, "You guys probably don't realize this, but in your lifetime, the debates taking place right now before the Supreme Court could be, historically speaking, some of the single most, if not, the single most important case ever. Let's pray about it." And we just prayed as a family on the way.

Scott Rae: Yeah.

Sean McDowell: But I'd love for families to be, Christian families in particular, praying for this ruling. And you know what? If it doesn't go the way we want it to, God is sovereign and God is good. We're not going to give up. We're going to keep fighting for life.

Scott Rae: And I think one of the things, if our listeners are not aware of it, they should know that a part of Biola University's theological statements is a very strong statement that is overtly pro-life and maintains that you have a person from conception forward and that we oppose attempts to take innocent life from the very beginning of conception all the way up until the end. That's part of our formal theological statements that all our faculty and a lot of our staff sign onto as a result of being employed here. So Biola's taken a pretty strong stand in support of the unborn, even though, culturally, supporting the unborn is not really one of the, one of the culturally cool social justice causes.

Sean McDowell: Yeah, that's interesting to admit.

Scott Rae: In the broader culture, we talk about the oppressed and the marginalized. I don't often hear the unborn being included in that. When I was a doctoral student, we had a fellow doctoral student who didn't have any particular religious convictions, but he had started dating a student in the class that he was TA-ing for. A number of us had been talking to him, we befriended him. They sort of fell hard for each other and turned out they were engaged and she was pregnant.

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: One Monday morning, we came in the classes together with him and he had this crestfallen look on his face like his world had just collapsed. And we just said, "Hey, what happened?" And he said, "Over the weekend, my fiance called off our engagement and informed me that she had ended the pregnancy."

Sean McDowell: Oh, my goodness.

Scott Rae: And then he looked at us and he said, "I hate to admit this, but you pro-life guys are right."

Sean McDowell: Wow.

Scott Rae: He said, "You are right because that was my child in the womb, and I didn't have any say over it."

Sean McDowell: Holy cow.

Scott Rae: He was absolutely devastated by this. It sort of hit home again, that this is not only a biblically-oriented conviction. People outside Christian faith have the same view of the unborn. My fellow doctoral student, this painful experience that gave him that perspective, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I think it's also important too that we have a heart of compassion for the women who have unwanted pregnancies.

Sean McDowell: Amen.

Scott Rae: And doing more as a culture and as a community to support women who have unwanted pregnancies, who would be more children than they had in mind, and providing better resources for women who are in some of these really tough situations. The decision to end a pregnancy is rarely an easy one.

Sean McDowell: It's weighty.

Scott Rae: As it should be. And I commend the pro-choice movement for recognizing that it is a weighty. It is a moral decision. But I think, as a university, and I know the two of us, we just have a fundamental difference on how you would weight the interest of the pregnant wound versus the interest of the unborn child.

Sean McDowell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). As we talk about this, I'm sure there's some people listening that it can bring up some pain, like the story you shared.

Scott Rae: Yeah.

Sean McDowell: We had Victoria Robinson on, it's probably been a couple years ago now, sharing her story of having an abortion and how it just haunted her for years, but the forgiveness she found in the person of Jesus Christ. So I know these debates can be public. They can be political.

Scott Rae: And they can be personal.

Sean McDowell: And they can be personal. We can forget that we're dealing with real people here. So let us speak truth boldly but with compassion. I've been amazed at how many people in my life I've discovered over time have some kind of experience with abortion that I wouldn't have expected, just naivete or whatever assumptions. And so if you're out there and you have experience with this, it's not the unforgivable sin. God loves you so much and offers his forgiveness to you and to all of us and wants to wash us clean. So that is at the heart of the gospel for sure.

Sean McDowell: \Well, thank you for listening in. I hope you will be in prayer for this upcoming ruling. Talk with your families. Graciously, kindly have conversations with your neighbors and let's follow this story. So ultimately, it's all said and done, we can live culture of life within the church and defend life as well. This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically: Conversation on Faith and Culture. If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks for listening. And remember, think biblically about everything.