Published December 29, 2022
For several decades now, the conservative legal movement has been waging a war on two key fronts simultaneously: the battle to contract abortion rights and the battle to expand religious liberty protections. Now, in 2022, as conservative-dominated courts have given Christians cause to celebrate resounding victories on both fronts, we are slowly waking up to the possibility that these will prove Pyrrhic victories when religious liberty is used to advance abortion rights. For, while we thought the two campaigns were advancing along parallel lines, pro-abortion activists are trying to put them at cross-purposes.
One of the clearest signs of this conflict appeared in Indiana earlier this month, when a Marion County Superior Court judge blocked the state’s new abortion ban from taking effect on grounds that it violated the landmark 2015 “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” As the judge wrote, “For many individuals, such as the Plaintiffs, questions such as the beginning of life or when personhood begins cannot be stated without reference to moral, ethical, spiritual, and religious beliefs.” Since the plaintiffs insisted that it was their religious conviction that fetuses are not persons, the state could not prevent them exercising their right to abort.
Brad Littlejohn, Ph.D., is a Fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping public leaders understand the intellectual and historical foundations of our current breakdown of public trust, social cohesion, and sound governance. His research investigates shifting understandings of the nature of freedom and authority, and how a more full-orbed conception of freedom, rooted in the Christian tradition, can inform policy that respects both the dignity of the individual and the urgency of the common good. He also serves as President of the Davenant Institute.