Elizabeth Graham on Human Dignity, the Church, and the Education System
Nick Vujicic: Hello and welcome to the Nick V Network. Stand for Life is what this is all about. Understanding that every single life matters. I am so excited to first of all be living in the United States of America to protect our freedoms and liberties for each single person. I though am honored to be talking about how we all can stand for life no matter where we’re at, no matter what organizations we may or may not be a part of in our local area.
Listen to me very carefully. We are about to be inspired, informed, and moved to become part of that movement in America to stand for life. I am so excited to be joined here in the studio with Elizabeth Graham, who serves as Vice President of Operations and Life Initiatives for the Ethics Religious Liberty Commissions, and has been responsible for developing and managing pro-life strategies as well as women’s initiatives. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Richmond enjoy raising their two children in East Tennessee. Everyone, I want to welcome Elizabeth Graham. Thank you for joining us in Stand for Life.
Elizabeth Graham: Thank you so much, Nick, for having me. It’s really a pleasure.
Nick Vujicic: Elizabeth. We love you. I was so moved and inspired. A lot of churches, I’ve been on their platforms, I’ve gone around the world and I just want to say congratulations on the Stand For Life Movement because this is exciting. This is something that as an evangelist going around the world, my grievance in my spirit is, why can’t we just come together and do the same thing and try to figure out how we can collaborate together instead of everyone doing their own amazing work, amazing prayer, amazing activities, but when we unify, it’s powerful. So first of all, I want to say congratulations and thank you for being the CEO of Stand For Life, and thank you for joining me on the show.
Elizabeth Graham: Well, you’re welcome. It’s a tremendous honor. It was an incredible honor to have you back with us in March. We know your schedule is very busy, but we feel so honored that you would be willing to have this conversation that you would take Stand For Life on, and it’s clear that you are deeply passionate about this issue and it pours out of every part of who you are. So I’m grateful that you’ve chosen to partner with us. It’s an honor.
Nick Vujicic: Let’s go straight to it for me, Elizabeth. So many people still don’t know the real stats of saying, “Well, wait a second.” Yes. Oh, it’s Roe v. Wade. It’s political.” This isn’t really happening in our churches, really. I want to know, Elizabeth, for someone who really doesn’t know, give us a high level view of Christians, the church surrounding this issue, and really how close to home abortion is in our circles.
Elizabeth Graham: Well, I’m going to try to give a high level overview, but it’s a very complex issue and we think has really impacted the church. We spent about nine months on a Planned Parenthood competitive analysis with our Collective Impact Alliance partners. And what we saw through that is really these themes of the way in which Planned Parenthood has been able to re-engineer the culture to accept this flawed view of the human person. The way in which they’ve done that so successfully is through sometimes not even knowing the thing that’s educating our kids.
The public school system is Planned Parenthood’s gender and sex education curriculum. It’s the only curriculum that meets state standards and federal standards for gender and sex education. So what we’re seeing is Planned Parenthood is providing this curriculum to our public schools that’s educating our children kindergarten through 12th grade. So as they’re educating our children, it’s working to re-engineer their understanding of what it means to be a person. What we would say is re-engineering them to accept this flawed vision of the human person where you disassociate the life of the child with the individual themselves. It just becomes another decision that individuals make along this-
Nick Vujicic: That is horrific. That is scary. That is heavy.
Elizabeth Graham: It really is. They’ve been really successful through the public school education, through their online resources and tools, social media, their website. Planned Parenthood also has this artificial intelligence technology. It’s an app called, “Roo,” and you can access it through their website. That technology is for any child that’s 12 years and older. So all they have to do is put their birthday in and they can access Roo. Roo is a sex ed chatbot for teens. So the very first year they launched Roo in 2019, they accessed about 1.1 million children. They doubled that reach the following year. So a child as youngest, 12 years old, and I say child because they’re children at 12 years old. So they’ve gone online, they can ask any sexual reproductive question, gender or sex education question that they have. There’s no parent filters on that app. You just have to put your birthday in and be 12 years old and then you can ask the app any question that you want.
So they’re really reaching individuals through awareness. You may not even be aware through the public school education. You might be through interest and engagement, which could be the app, it could be their website, it could be their video resources, it could be social media. Then as they begin to move you through that funnel, you begin to see, “Oh, well now I find myself in an unplanned pregnancy.” Planned Parenthood has been there, could be as early as five years old through kindergarten. So they’ve had this presence. They pull you into their funnel and then when you find yourself in an unplanned pregnancy, they’re there to help you. That’s what they would say. They’re here to help you. Have an abortion if that’s what you need or whatever additional services. That’s really on the action side. So they’ve pulled you in through the funnel all the way along. All the way through.
Nick Vujicic: Yeah.
Elizabeth Graham: So what we’re seeing in the church is, as we’ve talked about this re-engineering of the culture to accept this flawed view of the human person. We’ve seen similar implications within the context of the local church. And this is always surprising to pastors and church leaders when we share this information to them, they are beside themselves. Statistically, Guttmacher Institute is Planned Parenthood’s research and public policy arm, and it’s where a major part of our data and research comes from. They also do really strong reporting in terms of statistics. So Guttmacher tells us that in 2019-2020, 36% of women who had an abortion were attending an evangelical church at the time.
Nick Vujicic: Wow. Wow.
Elizabeth Graham: 36%.
Nick Vujicic: Wow.
Elizabeth Graham: Statistically speaking, what we know is that 33%, one in three women in the church had an abortion or have had an abortion. So just think about that. Three women sitting in a pew. The statistic is that one in three women have suffered from an abortion. To meet the criteria of 36%, she had to have attended an evangelical church once in the last four weeks.
Nick Vujicic: What?
Elizabeth Graham: Yes.
Nick Vujicic: That detailed?
Elizabeth Graham: That detailed.
Nick Vujicic: That is so sad.
Elizabeth Graham: It’s really, really devastating. So when pastors say, “I don’t have anyone in my church that’s had an abortion.”
Nick Vujicic: Wow.
Elizabeth Graham: Statistically speaking, that’s not what the statistics show us. So I’m like, if you have women within childbearing years, it is likely that you have a woman in your church who’s been deeply impacted by this issue. Oftentimes women are so afraid, there’s so much shame and so much guilt. I feel emotional even talking about it.
Nick Vujicic: I’m going to tell you right now, I want to tell everyone that these stats are so hard to imagine, so hard to think through. Then even talk about without getting emotional. Unfortunately my emotion is more anger to … I don’t want to be angry at the church. Listen, I don’t want to be angry at the church and there’s some good churches doing good. But let me give you a couple other statistics. I know in America under age 17, one out of three girls have been sexually abused in America, and one out of five boys have been sexually abused in America. It is really raw when you unpack it that way. I want to go back to real quick, the education to every church. Listen to me very carefully. You need to be active on the school board. That is also how you can block some of this absolutely incredible mess, dark, devastating curriculum that I’ve seen come through Californian funnel.
That’s actually one of the reasons why I moved out of California. We tried to stop the sex education agenda in California because it is amazing when you can actually see what they’re sharing to grade one, grade two, grade three students. It’s absurd. So how do we do that with the education side? You do all that you can to be involved when there is an opening in the school board. Ask, who are the 50 people in the church that’s actually going to run for that position? Not, “Oh, who’s the one person pushing 50 on the education within the church?” Thank you for being so bold and not being afraid to share what really is going on. This is hard to digest. As someone out there who’s been a pastor for 5, 10, 15 years, they ain’t teaching any future theological seminary graduates who’s wanting to become a pastor and a church plans at any of this. How to deal with this. They don’t know how to start the conversation of PTSD abortion, which is real.
They don’t understand how the church, there’s no course right now. That’s basically why you’ve started Stand For Life with Lauren, your CEO, and Lauren Green McAfee is the founder of Stand For Life, bringing all these organizations together because no one is talking about it to the degree extent and empowering the organizational movements that really need to happen. That should have already been done. But we, the next generation, we want everyone to know right here, right now, these are the facts. We need the church to listen and understand that, “Hey, what’s done or hasn’t been done is in the past, but there is a woman right now in your church, very likely who’s about to, or if not already considering an abortion for a secret pregnancy that she hasn’t told anyone about.” Elizabeth, help us understand as a church, how do we start the conversation? How do we come around the women or families affected with this issue?
Elizabeth Graham: Well, I think just starting the conversation anywhere is important, especially, so we’re seeing it’s culturally heightened in this moment that we’ve had the last several months due to the Dobbs case that has raised the profile of this issue. Then with the Supreme Court overturning a 50-year precedent where we had wrote, which we believe was wrongly established in the first place. But that’s given pastors a really unique opportunity to have this conversation and to talk about what does it mean to be created in the image of God? What does that mean for my faith? How do I live that out? So when I look at a mom who’s found herself in a crisis pregnancy, I want to approach her with compassion.
I want to approach her with a heart of understanding and love. She likely did not get there because she just was in a healthy relationship. She knows most of the time, or at least what we’re seeing, she knows that she’s made a mistake. She knows that she’s bought into the lie that there are not consequences for the choices that she makes sex outside of marriage. So what I would say to pastors is if you approach this conversation with one of compassion and understanding, yes, there has been a sin that has been committed, but we can still bring her to the cross without condemning her and shaming her, but actually showing her who Jesus is and that there is love and forgiveness and restoration found in him. That’s for if she finds herself pregnant and chooses life, or if she finds herself pregnant and has then chosen abortion, the impact of abortion affects generations.
Not only the lives lost, but if she gets pregnant in the future. Because statistically speaking, again, Guttmacher also tells us that 45% of women who’ve had one abortion are at risk for a repeat abortion. So if the church does not help to disrupt the cycle of abortion reaching her in the midst of her crisis, she’s at risk for a repeat abortion more than one. So that’s extremely, extremely difficult as well. We want to see her be brought into the church. We want to see a continuum of care wrapped around her. We want to see that cycle disrupted. We know her greatest need is the gospel. We know that it’s the redeeming and healing power that is found only in Jesus.
Nick Vujicic: Amen. God has a plan for every single one of those babies. Maybe it was an unexpected pregnancy during COVID with your husband, and, “There’s no way I’m too old. This is not right.” Well, I’m just going to say God has a plan for every single life. No matter what decision we’ve ever made, no matter what wrong we’ve ever done, there is that forgiveness, that redemption and hope in Jesus’ name. I want you to know to not be crippled with that depression or anxiety or that burden. Jesus has come to give you a freedom from those burdens and cares and he can redeem the past. There are those choices that really do need to be talked about within the church again. I love how this is all holistic. Before we talk to people who are watching about how do you maybe engage conversations about this issue differently because it’s very confrontational, it’s very heavy, it’s very raw, and there’s both sides that are very passionate about the stances.
As we stand for life though, what I love about Stand For Life is tell us about the curriculum now. It’s not just an inspiring interview or inspiring event that’s going to be in Washington DC on the 18th and 19th of January. I’m going to be there. A lot of other people are going to be there. It’s going to be amazing. We’ll talk about that later. But the curriculum, the awareness of the sex education program and content happening in our own school, the church that does want to do something, the church now is watching, Elizabeth, we’re ready. We’re ready to stand for life. How do we do that? So for you to respond in a way of saying, “Yeah. We are doing a curriculum,” help us to understand what Stand For Life is doing both on the education and the church programming.
Elizabeth Graham: Well, thank you for that question. I’m really excited to talk about some of the solutions that we’ve been working on. So as we saw this gender and sex education curriculum that’s in almost every major school system across the US and I want to touch on this for a second, because we evaluate, we get a request from an individual who sits on one of the largest school board districts in the State of Texas. The individual asked us, “Would you be willing to help us to evaluate the gender and sex education curriculum that’s being considered for the school district?” We said, “Absolutely, we would be more than happy.” Planned Parenthood is not supposed to have a curriculum in this school district in Texas. What we found out is that there is a third party curriculum that is being evaluated for this district that’s indirectly funded by Planned Parenthood.
So while it may not look as if Planned Parenthood themselves has a curriculum in the system, they actually do, it’s third party funded. It tells you how can you receive reproductive services without parental consent? How can you receive abortion services without parental consent? This was this year, but thank the Lord for an individual who serves as pro-life but serves on a school board, on a committee that evaluates all of their curriculums is actively engaged. She made a connection, got in touch with us. We did an evaluation of that curriculum, gave feedback on every area of the curriculum to see if that curriculum can be removed from the curriculum’s being considered. Then we have been working with the Collective Impact Alliance. We have an organization there who’s been doing phenomenal work in this space and has created an alternative curriculum for the public school system.
It takes an anthropological approach to what does it mean to be a person? So it’s not theological in nature, but what does it mean to be a person? So that curriculum, we are going to hopefully have ready in the beginning of 23, K through 12 as an alternative to Planned Parenthood gender and sex education curriculum. So as to not let our private schools feel left out because we know that this issue is impacting private schools as well. Not just public schools. The curriculum may not be the same, but they’re still being influenced by the culture. So we also have a private school version, evangelical and Catholic version of the curriculum that we’re working on, which we hope to have finalized in 23. We are piloting that curriculum now and working to pilot in another school district on the public school education side.
So that’s for education. So we hope to have the public school curriculum. We hope to have the private Christian, evangelical and Catholic school version of the curriculum as well. Then we have a church-based curriculum. So as we did these private convenings around the country, one of the main themes that we kept hearing is our pastors say, “There’s a lack of theological understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God and how do I live out my life?” So once we shared so much of the research that we’ve been doing, the pastors came back and did this exercise that we take them through, which is a strategic question and answer process. One of the things they identified is we need more resources on the image of God. So we got to work about a year ago on a curriculum on the image of God.
It’s a six-week curriculum for the church. Any church can use it. It’s over the lifecycle of the church. There’s a children’s version of the curriculum, a student version, and an adult version of the curriculum. There’s a leader guide for every age group of the curriculum and a six sermon series outline that’s a downloadable resource for pastors and church leaders. If they want an outline for, “Okay, I want to take my church through a six-week series on life, here’s a place that they can start.” We wanted to make sure that it was accessible to the small church pastors as well. So it’s going to be a free downloadable resource on the website. So we’ll have the curriculum and it will launch at the conference in Washington DC in January in 2023 called, “The Image of God.” What does it mean to be human? How do I live out my theological convictions? What does that mean for my everyday life?
Nick Vujicic: That’s amazing. Congratulations. Praise God for that. I’m so excited for that. We mentioned the conference, listen, I want to mentioned the conference really quickly in Washington DC the 18th and 19th of January. I’m going to be there. A lot of other incredible speakers are going to be there to encourage the movement and engage us to change the narrative in our culture, to reframe this from a holistic point of view, but also getting to the layers and depth of how we can all be part of the movement to stand for life. It’s going to be held in Washington DC 18th and 19th of January. The tickets are going to be found right now on Stand For life.com. Bring your whole church. Let’s see so many pastors all across America in 2023, embrace two Stand For Life series. Come on. The sermons outlined. We want God’s people to stand for life like never before.
Elizabeth, we’ve talked about the church, we talked about the education system. Let’s talk about the individual out there, the individual wherein it’s a difficult topic to start talking with people about learning what’s around the community, how to be engaged on a personal level. How do we reframe, if you will, sometimes the toxicity of some of the approach. How do we get that verbiage where it is a loving, compassionate frame of mind? When we talk about pro-life, it is a difficult topic, but the holistic approach. Teach us how to talk about the holistic approach, the spiritual approach, and the families affected with this topic. How do we as an individual stand for life?
Elizabeth Graham: So this is a great question and I think this is a difficult issue. So many women have been impacted by abortion in our culture. What we’re seeing is so many women, even in the church, may go 10-15 years and never ever speak about her abortion. I just recently heard a pastor share, he was actually speaking at one of our Stand For Life tour stops. He talked about how a woman in his church had never, ever 20 plus years prior, had never spoken about her abortion. But he was doing a Wednesday night series on tough questions and answers. The issue of abortion came up and he was talking about the overturning of Roe and how so many people were so excited about it and people were really angry about it. As he was talking about from a church perspective, how they’re addressing the issue, how they’re talking about this issue, it’s one with love and compassion, a spirit helping them to understand that there is forgiveness to be found.
An older woman stood up in the audience and she said, “I don’t need you to give me a hug or anything like that, but I just wanted to let you know that I had an abortion.” He literally stopped where he was, got off the stage, walked down into the audience, and she said, “You don’t have to hug me, you don’t have to hug me.” Because you could tell she was just, it’s the very first time she had never had the courage to share it over 20 years. He wrapped her in his arms. He said, “God loves you. There is forgiveness for you at the cross. You are not defined by that, but that there is truth and grace.”
Literally, she had been so ashamed and so embarrassed to even ever mention it. Her husband didn’t even know that she had had this abortion. Never received any kind of healing. So we’ve not even dealt with the psychological and the physical trauma that abortion does. You’ve got significant implications there with surgical abortion. Now we have this new move and chemical abortions. We’re estimating that 80% in the next year. So in ’23 going into ’24, that 80% of abortions will likely be chemical at home abortions where women are experiencing horrific circumstances in their own home without medical care. So think about the trauma and the wake of destruction that that’s going to leave. So as the church, I think our language matters. I think if we understand forgiveness and the gospel, that we will speak from that position when we’re talking to a woman about this circumstance, if she’s had an abortion, if we find a woman who comes across our path, and Amy Ford says this all the time.
She talks about, pregnant women just find her. But if we meet a woman who comes across our path, who finds herself in an unplanned pregnancy, the way that we approach her will either draw her closer to you or it will push her further away. We want to draw her closer to us so that we can ultimately connect her to the church so that the church can be the hands and feet of Jesus and the body of Christ as it wraps around her to show her that they love her, that they want to walk with her through these circumstances. So I think we have a responsibility as believers to speak in a way that is bringing people in and not pushing them further away. Oftentimes when I come across individuals who strongly disagree with me about the issue, “Well, what about the woman’s choice? Well, what about this? Well, what about that?” I think the way in which I show them respect and dignity, I don’t agree with their position. I will have disagreements with them firmly about what I believe that the Bible teaches to be true and untrue.
So when I approach them, it’s also out of one of this individual that I’m sitting across from has inherent dignity because whether or not they see it, they bear the image of Christ. They may not know Christ, but they bear his image. So I’m going to approach them and have conversations with them the same way. So that’s the position. Internally, my flesh oftentimes wants to act out of impulse, but just thinking and reminding myself that that person is created in the very image of Christ and how I treat them matters to God.
Nick Vujicic: Whoa. Elizabeth, I love you. I’m going to give you a hug when we’re done here. I want to say thank you so much. Thank you for sharing with us things that many people have not thought of or even heard in those ways, and want to say, thank you for standing for life. Thank you for coming on this show. Take the pledge. Take the pledge. What does that mean? I want you to go right now to this website, standsfl.com/nick. I’ll say it again, stand sfl.com/nick to take the pledge. Give us your name, give us your email. This is you becoming a part of the movement that we know God wants here in this country that will also send ripple effects all around the world.
Why? Because every life matters. Every life matters. God has a plan for every single baby and a plan for every mother to send you and me to embrace them in their families affected with this unexpected pregnancy. No matter what circumstance they’re in, that God’s grace is sufficient and that we as His hands and feet will come and see them through with victory, with healing and strength one day at a time. God bless you, Elizabeth, and thank you so much again.
Elizabeth Graham: Thank you so much.
Nick Vujicic: Thank you for joining me here at the Nick V Network. Stand For Life TV Talk Show series. God bless you. We’ll see you next week.