Post-Dobbs Pro-Life Policy and Strategy: What Does That Look Like?

Former President Donald Trump made waves within conservative political circles after recently announcing his view on abortion regulation. Rather than endorse any kind of federal abortion ban, Trump said that individual states should have the power to restrict abortion however they choose. “Whatever [states] decide must be the law of the land––in this case, the law of the State,” Trump said.

Those favoring Trump’s view praised his policy approach as an example of prudent political pragmatism. One commentator wrote, “Politics is often described as ‘the art of the possible.’ The first-order political goal of any pro-life American today should be to preserve Texas as Texas. Trying to turn Vermont, much less California, into Texas is folly.” But as one might imagine, others disagreed, characterizing Trump’s view as a betrayal of fundamental pro-life principles. One headline reads, “Donald Trump Faces Conservative Rebellion Over ‘Abortion Rights’ Remarks.”

Where does this leave Christian voters? What view is the biblically-based approach, and why? What policy is best tailored to promote a culture of life, and how? God equipped us with faculties of moral reason to think and behave as his image-bearers in our age, and he calls us to be his example in our culture. Based on that principle, I will argue that Christians can have differing policy approaches to abortion in our time that are consistent with the truth of God’s Word. Any factor Christians use to form their view, however, must be (1) based on and derived from scripture and (2) informed by the church’s spiritually authoritative leadership and teaching. This article will first examine the Christian approach toward abortion and the government’s role in protecting unborn children. This article will then present a few of the factors that Christians can consider as they articulate their stance.



Scripture teaches us that human life is sacred beginning at the moment of conception. We are made in the image and likeness of our Creator, a grace that elevates our inherent value and personal relationship with God above all other creatures (Genesis 1:27). God knows our individual personalities before we are “formed” in the womb, a feature of personhood that God recognizes as distinct even when humans are incapable of knowing themselves (Psalm 139:13-16). In forming us, God gives us a uniquely divine purpose of serving him for the flourishing of this world in his will (Isaiah 49:1-5). These attributes of human life are intrinsically possessed by all men and women upon their conception. Thus, when God explicitly forbids his children from the practice of murder, the killing of innocent human beings (Exodus 20:13), we know this extends to the life of children in their mother’s womb through our moral reason.

The Christian desires God’s perfect will, a world where a culture of life and respect for human dignity triumphs and where abortion is completely and permanently nonexistent. In light of this, any policy framework designed to advance or promote abortion, whether as an end in and of itself or as the means for selfish political ambition, contravenes God’s moral law.

The Christian desires God’s perfect will, a world where a culture of life and respect for human dignity triumphs and where abortion is completely and permanently nonexistent.


Scripture is clear that governments are ordained by God, divinely imbued with the authority to bear the sword to punish evil and promote what is good (Romans 13:1-7). Life itself is one such basic good. In the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, “inasmuch as every substance seeks the preservation of its own being, according to its nature: and by reason of this inclination, whatever is a means of preserving human life, and of warding off its obstacles, belongs to the natural law.” If the government takes no action to secure this basic good, it becomes guilty of dereliction of duty.

Therefore, it is not acceptable under any Christian framework to argue that the government has no business in prohibiting the practice of abortion, whether that argument stems from political self-interest, modern libertarian sensibilities, or sheer apathy toward the unborn.

If Christianity is clear about the inherent value and dignity of human life, then how can Christians disagree about which policy framework is best? The answer, put simply, is that other biblically-based principles can inform Christians on how abortion policy is designed or executed. Three of those principles are the Constitution’s allocation of political authority, prudential consequences, and moral culpability.



The apostle Paul makes clear in his letter to the Romans that Christians are to submit to the “governing authorities.” But not all “governing authorities” are exactly alike. For example, the first passage of Luke 2 tells us that Christ’s birth occurred while “Caesar Augustus,” born with the name Gaius Octavius, was Emperor of Rome. Far from resembling any kind of modern democracy, Rome’s government conferred Gaius Octavius with supreme control. The Roman Senate even granted Octavius the imperial title of “Augustus” in the year 27 A.D., a word created to establish his authority as divine or venerable. Despite Rome’s idolatry, the Lord states on two separate occasions that Caesar possessed legitimate civil authority over his subjects (Mark 12:13-17, John 19:10-11).

So, who has the proper authority under God to regulate abortion in the United States? The answer is not so clear.

The Constitution of the United States established a federalist system wherein a federal government operates simultaneously with state governments. That Constitution separates their spheres of influence, affirming “State” sovereign rule while simultaneously elevating federal power as supreme. For instance, the Tenth Amendment provides that the “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Meanwhile, the Constitution’s grant of legislative powers to the federal government appears as an enumerated list in Article I, Section 8 and in subsequent constitutional amendments.

Certain portions of the Constitution refer to “life” as a right, but are not dispositive with regard to abortion. For example, the Fifth Amendment guarantees that “no person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Put another way, the federal government may deprive people of life, liberty, or property so long as they provide that person with due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment operates in the same way but imposes its restrictions specifically on the power of the states. Readers of the Constitution’s text would not walk away knowing who exactly is the proper authority to prohibit abortion. Nevertheless, a quick dive into history shows us that abortion was, in fact, prohibited in most places.

Before Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that contrived a constitutional right to abortion, abortion prohibitions were enacted by the states. As the Supreme Court noted in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case overturning Roe, “Not only was there no support for [abortion as] a constitutional right until shortly before Roe, but abortion had long been a crime in every single State.” However, Dobbs didn’t hold that only States may criminalize abortion. On the contrary, the Court held that their decision to overrule Roe would “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” (p. 6). This presumably includes Congress. [1]

Congress has taken some steps to protect life. In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a federal ban on partial birth abortion in a case called Gonzales v. Carhart. As enacted, that law invokes the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce as follows: “Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.” Although the Court held that Congress “has a legitimate and substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life,” it did not determine whether this law actually fell within Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. [2]

It’s possible the Supreme Court could interpret Congress’s Article I powers liberally to uphold a congressional abortion ban; or Congress could possibly invoke another power to regulate abortion. But it’s also plausible the Supreme Court could hold that Congress cannot regulate an activity that was historically and traditionally regulated by the states. This is precisely why Christians can disagree about how pro-life policies should be administered in good faith. Biblical principles can justify both a possible congressional ban or a State-focused approach (or both).



Prudence, the exercise of practical moral wisdom, is a virtue consistently praised in scripture, most notably in the story of King Solomon. Biblical commentators estimate that Solomon was likely very young when he assumed the throne from his father, King David. In that context, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream to ask him, “Ask what I should give you.” Solomon responds:

Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:5-9).

Because Solomon sought discernment over riches and power, God gave him everything—wisdom, wealth, and honor (1 Kings 3:7-15).
In Romans 12, the apostle Paul instructs believers about the essence of prudence: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Though we are not of the world, God calls us to discern and represent his perfect will in the world, what is “good, acceptable, and perfect” to him in our age.
In the abortion context, prudence may dictate different approaches to creating a culture of life. Prudence may lead some Christians to take advantage of some unprecedented political opportunities, those which likely won’t arise again soon, to fully ban abortion. But it may also lead others to favor incremental or specifically tailored bans of abortion because of the possibility that an overzealous policy could foreclose a long-lasting, generational promotion of life. Worse, it may even cause a cultural anti-life backlash.

Prudence can never be used to justify anti-life policies, but may justify different approaches to secure one end—a culture of life.

However, prudence can never be used to justify anti-life policies, whether those policies are guided by mere political self-interest or anti-Christian ideological preferences. Prudence, as a Christian value, can justify different approaches or means to securing one end—a culture of life.


Moral Culpability

“Ignorance” does not exempt someone from sin (Leviticus 5:17). Christ affirms that concept in Luke 12, but also clarifies that He extends mercy to those who commit an evil without sufficient knowledge: “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.” Justice and mercy are inextricably linked by the foundational knowledge one possesses before committing an evil.

Christians should desire that our laws reflect this same relationship, including those laws that regulate or prohibit abortion. But to accomplish that goal, lawmakers must be prepared to identify the class of individuals to be held responsible for the evil of abortion and answer why the law should punish them. If lawmakers fail to consider those questions, they risk undermining the spirit of the law, justice and mercy. Consider the following hypothetical:

A silversmith creates a beautiful set of kitchenware, including salad forks, dessert spoons, and steak knives. Per his custom, the silversmith brands this kitchenware with an icon unique to his forge and displays them in his shop for sale. The next day, the silversmith sells this set to a buyer. Unbeknownst to the silversmith, the buyer murders his wife with one of the steak knives designed and branded by the silversmith. The law punishes criminal accessories (those who “aid or abet” the criminal conduct) just like those who principally commit the crime. Should the silversmith be punished?

Our moral reason compels us to answer “no.” The silversmith did not know, and had no reason to know, that his kitchenware would be used for the purpose of murder. Moreover, the buyer used those knives in a manner contrary to the steak knife’s purpose of cutting steak fit for human nourishment. Even though the wife would not have been murdered with the kitchen knife but for his creation and sale of the knife, to punish the silversmith would undermine the purpose for criminal accessory liability, which is to punish people who know their actions directly help the commission of evil.

In a similar way, the knowledge one has about what abortion truly is can change their level of culpability. For instance, physicians who use their medical license and specialized knowledge to perform abortions know that their conduct actually ends a human life. Indeed, the Hippocratic Oath (the traditional code of medical ethics) characterized abortion as an ethically prohibited practice in the field of medicine for centuries, a fact that the Supreme Court even recognized in Roe v. Wade. Because of their specialized knowledge of human biology and familiarity with medical ethics, there is no dispute that abortionists should be held responsible for the abortions they conduct.

Some Christians also argue that the women who receive an abortion may bear a similar moral responsibility. Those adhering to this belief usually point to examples where a woman publicly celebrates her abortion. For instance, one viral TikTok shows a woman pretending to sob upon discovering her pregnancy. But she quickly drops the act to celebrate her upcoming abortion appointment, tosses her positive pregnancy test behind her, fills a wine glass, and laughs before declaring: “I am what conservatives fear!”

But Christians can also argue that most women who receive abortions likely do not possess the same kind of knowledge on human biology or medical ethics that abortionists do. If a woman truly and fully believes the typical pro-abortion argument (i.e., the operation is on “my body” and is thus “my choice”), they lack the knowledge about the purpose and nature of abortion itself, which diminishes their culpability. Thus, Christians may categorically exempt women from punishment in order for the spirit of the law to be fully realized.

Like all laws, laws prohibiting abortion must not be designed such that they disentangle justice and mercy. They must contemplate the varying degrees of knowledge one can possess before participating in abortion and implement appropriate punishments. Laws that punish individuals with knowledge of the gravity of abortion, like abortionists, are unquestionably consistent with biblical principles. But mercy ought to extend, either in the law’s text or application, where one receives an abortion in a state of ignorance.



Between the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and January 2023, approximately 64 million children have died by abortion. Our nation will never know what joys those souls could have brought into the world, what contributions they could have made to their country, what dreams they would have chased, or how big their own families could have been. But in the wake of Dobbs, the American people once again have the power and opportunity to promote a culture of life, which includes the ability to prohibit the practice of abortion. The church can and should guide lawmakers in their efforts to win the hearts and minds for the pro-life cause.

Not all pro-life policy proposals will be identical, but that doesn’t necessarily mean one is more biblically-based than another. Christians can consider and weigh a variety of biblical values, including those among the limited list in this article, to arrive at different solutions to protect life. But we must pray that those differences do not blind us from accomplishing our shared, ultimate mission of advancing God’s perfect will.


FOOTNOTES (Click footnote number to return to where you were)

[1] On page two of his concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh explicitly notes that Congress may have powers to regulate abortion: “The Constitution is therefore neither pro-life nor pro-choice. The Constitution is neutral and leaves the issue for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the States or Congress—like the numerous other difficult questions of American social and economic policy that the Constitution does not address.”

 [2] Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas clarified this in his concurring opinion as follows: “I also note that whether the Partial–Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court. The parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it.”


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