Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, joined the Daily Signal’s Daniel Davis to debunk the myth that pro-lifers only care about children until they’re born and discussed the current issues facing adoption agencies in America. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview.
Daniel Davis: This year, 2018, marks 45 years since the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in this country. And this year, as every year, we have March for Life, which you will be at. This year’s theme is “Love Saves Lives.” What message does that send, and what message do you think those participating in the march or those observing should take from our cultural moment 40 years after?
Russell Moore: Well, I think one of the things I really would like all American cultures to see is the way that the pro-life movement is putting into action ground-level compassion, in ways I don’t think people really see or understand. Not only in terms of advocacy for the lives of the unborn, but also in terms of equipping women who are in crisis.
When I look around at pregnancy resource centers around the country and other ministries, they are dealing with every aspect of life, helping women with job training, with adoption services when that’s necessary, or a whole range of care. And so I think many people just don’t know that, don’t understand that really.
Davis: One of the things that always strikes me at the march is not just how many people are there, but the diversity of people who are representing the movement or are active. Particularly, the young people. Why do you think the pro-life movement is gaining such traction with young people?
Moore: Well, I sort of have mixed feelings every year at the March for Life because I always think I hope my future grandchildren will not have to come to a March for Life, and will look back and say, “Why did they have to March for something that is so obvious?”—in terms of protecting human life and human dignity.
On the other hand, though, I am thrilled and elated. Imagine if you went in a time machine back to 1973, 1974, and said, “What would the pro-life movement look like in 2018?” Probably most people said there won’t be a pro-life movement, this will be settled. And now 45 years later, the mall.
The Washington mall is filled with very young people they are advocating for human life, that’s really encouraging. I think there are a number of reasons, one of the reasons being young people understand human rights and human dignity. There’s just a sense of compassion there.
Also, they’re just accustomed to seeing life in the womb represented in so many ways. When someone gets pregnant now, usually they post on Facebook or social media their first ultrasound picture and that’s the first picture of their baby. So, science has come a long way since 1973, and to deny the personhood of the unborn child really requires an act of will to look away from that.
Davis: Absolutely. You also mentioned adoption and adoption agencies. Something that is definitely an integral part of the life-affirming movement is adoption, but maybe it doesn’t get quite as much attention. You are an adopted father yourself, you’ve written and have spoken about adoption, and the role that it plays in this movement. Tell us a little bit about that, how does adoption factor into this life term?
Moore: Well, we understand that not only does every child have dignity and deserve life, but every child deserves a family. And so we have right now children who are in the foster care system all around the country who are desperately in need of parents. So you have people stepping up and moving into the lives of children—not just here in the United States but around the world—in a way that is growing and I am very encouraged by.
One of the things that some pro-choice people have said for years that just isn’t true is to say that pro-life people believe that life begins at conception, and ends at birth—so pro-life people are only concerned about unborn children. That is not the case, and you can see that with the way the pro-life community is ministering not only to women who are in crisis, up to the point of a decision, but after that. And in many instances that means stepping in to sometimes very, very difficult situations.
Just this morning I met with a woman who is an adopted mother who has three very, very severely special needs children she is pouring her life into. I see that all the time. And that is really a cheering thing.
Davis: In the adoption world, some of our viewers may be aware, that some adoption agencies feel in limbo right now because of the legal pressure that is being brought to bear on them because of their religious views. And there is some legislation in congress to help address that, as well as some other pro-life legislation. Can you talk a little bit about what those adoption providers are facing? What is at stake this year?
Moore: Well, it is crazy to me that there would be people who say that what we want to do is play culture wars with children’s lives. And to exclude an entire group of people who are on the ground actively working to help children. Instead, what we ought to be saying in American life is, “Let’s have as many people and groups as possible working to help children.”
So when you have, for instance, in Massachusetts, the Catholic Church not able to provide adoption services because they are required by law to violate their own religious convictions in order to do that. That’s not just hurting religious people, that is primarily hurting children. And so addressing that is necessary.
So what I would say to people who say they don’t like Catholic, or evangelical, or other groups that are ministering to kids and working for kids is, “Well, okay, provide alternative ways of serving kids from your own point of view, rather than silencing everyone else.”
Davis: Right. Well, there is the child welfare provider protection bill in Congress to address this, right?
Moore: Yeah. And to really free up a lot of those, not only adoption and foster care services that are, as you put it, in limbo legally right now, but also the sort of chilling effect of people who are setting out to serve children who are wondering, “Will we be able to do this?” Or, “Why would we invest so much time, money, and energy if we are going to be shut down in a year or two?” So I think that this sort of legislation would free up a great deal of energy across the country.
Davis: You have to just hope that most Americans, when they hear about adoption providers that just want to serve children, that they will be sympathetic to that.