January 22, 1973, marked a dark day in our country’s history. On that day nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. It was one of the most consequential rulings in our country’s history because it not only sanctioned the killing of innocent children, but it also shifted significant decisions regarding abortion policy away from the democratic process to the judicial branch, guaranteeing the issue’s divisiveness for nearly five decades.
Since that tragic January day, it’s estimated that over 63 million unborn children have been killed by abortion.
The Roe decision would ultimately help galvanize one of our country’s strongest and most unwavering forces for the unborn: the pro-life movement. The movement subsequently gained steam and began affecting the culture and even the government.
In January 1984, on the eleventh anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, President Ronald Reagan made a Presidential Proclamation, openly rebuking the outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling it a “tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred.”
The Proclamation also did something else: it initiated a tradition that still stands to this day – Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
Every January, people of faith around the country commemorate the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, which traditionally falls on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. This year, that Sunday is on January 23.
While every Sunday presents an opportunity to share God’s heart for children in the womb, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday presents a unique opportunity for us to reflect on the preciousness of life, especially of life in the womb. In his Proclamation, President Reagan acknowledged this:
We have been given the precious gift of human life, made more precious still by our births in or pilgrimages to a land of freedom. It is fitting, then, on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that struck down State anti-abortion laws, that we reflect anew on these blessings, and on our corresponding responsibility to guard with care the lives and freedoms of even the weakest of our fellow human beings [emphasis added].
This special Sunday gives us a chance to reflect and reminds us of the solemnity of why the occasion exists. Abortion is a tragic, brutal practice that is still a reality in this country and throughout the world. Recognizing this day gives us a chance to lament and grieve the staggering amount of life lost due to abortion – life made in God’s image.
But the day doesn’t stop at lament. It helps instill hope that life is worth living -- worth living because it has intrinsic and immeasurable worth and value, no matter the amount of hardship, pain, or heartache one may go through to bring it to bear. The essence of this is captured in an excellent video ADF recently produced.
Finally, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday presents an opportunity for pastors and congregations to share why valuing and protecting unborn life matters to God, and why it should matter to us. To assist in this effort, we are providing a sample message with the hope that it will help pastors prepare to share about the sanctity of human life on January 23 or another Sunday. The sample message presents biblical and scientific truths about life in the womb, emphasizes the forgiveness that God offers to those who may have experienced abortion, and encourages prayer and action to save unborn lives and support pregnant mothers facing an abortion decision. Pastors can deliver the message as is or modify as they see fit; no attribution is needed.
As we get closer to the Supreme Court releasing its decision in the Dobbs case later this year, a ruling that could overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s important for the Church to be engaged on the issue of preserving and protecting unborn lives. If Roe is overturned, states will be free to enact abortion laws based on the wishes and values of their citizens. And communities will be charged with loving and supporting the new moms and babies who otherwise would have been victims of abortion. Pastors and congregations need to be equipped, so they can better navigate the Supreme Court’s impending decision with prudence and biblical truth. The resource we’re providing is geared to help you move in that direction. We hope you’ll take advantage of it.