Ryan Sullivan didn’t give much thought to his pro-life position as a Christian beyond voting for pro-life politicians. Then he studied Exodus 21:22–24, where God prescribed the death penalty for any Israelite who assaulted a woman and caused her to miscarry.

“In that Scripture, the life inside the womb is treated with the exact same value as the life outside the womb,” said the pastor of Grace Community Church in Jackson, Mississippi. “Once I started thinking that way, I noticed that so much of the world around me—and even the Christian world around me—almost thinks of this abortion issue as merely a political one.”

The realization led Sullivan to embrace a new pro-life strategy: pushing local governments to declare themselves “safe” for the unborn. Members of Grace played key roles in establishing several safe cities in Mississippi. To date, 11 cities and two counties in Mississippi, North Carolina, and Alabama have done the same.

According to Les Riley, president of the pro-life Personhood Alliance, the Safe Cities and Counties Initiative shifts the strategic focus from federal-level efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade to local arenas.

Since 1973, the pro-life movement has “built huge organizations, raised millions of dollars, elected pro-life politicians and pro-life majorities, and, at the federal, state, and local levels, we’ve had control of the courts,” Riley said, “yet tens of millions of children are dead.”

The Personhood Alliance decided in 2018 it was time for another approach and started pushing for cities and counties to pass resolutions saying they are safe for the unborn. Other grassroots groups, such as Sanctuary Cities for the ...

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