SOHLS: Remembering 40 Years and over 50 million lives Print
Written by Marie Bowen   

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS) will be celebrated in churches across the nation this Sunday, January 20, 2013. In sermons, prayers, and songs, worshipers will acknowledge God as our Creator and affirm our identity as persons made in his image and set apart for his glory and service.

Motte Brown wrote this account of the establishment of SOHLS in 2007. It is currently posted on Boundless Line:

In 1983, an organization named Christian Action Council (now known as Care Net), founded with the help of Francis Schaeffer and former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, asked President Ronald Reagan to "create a special day to focus on the intrinsic value of human life."

Sources conflict about whether the initial proclamation was 1983 or 1984, but it was President Ronald Reagan who designated the third Sunday in January as Sanctity of Human Life Day. The third Sunday of January is the closest Sunday to the January 22nd anniversary of the 1973 Roe V. Wade Supreme Court Decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

According to Wikipedia, Reagan issued the proclamation annually for the remainder of his Presidency. Both Presidents Bush (George H. and George W.) continued the tradition interrupted by Bill Clinton's tenure of eight years as President. President Obama has declined proclamation of Sanctity of Human Life day during his presidential tenure to date.

The purpose of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS) was articulated by Ronald Reagan as follows:

Since 1973, however, more than 15 million unborn children [that number now stands at more than 50 million] have died in legalized abortions -- a tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred. These children, over tenfold [now even more] the number of Americans lost in all our Nation's wars, will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.

We are poorer not simply for lives not led and for contributions not made, but also for the erosion of our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual. To diminish the value of one category of human life is to diminish us all. Slavery, which treated Blacks as something less than human, to be bought and sold if convenient, cheapened human life and mocked our dedication to the freedom and equality of all men and women. Can we say that abortion -- which treats the unborn as something less than human, to be destroyed if convenient -- will be less corrosive to the values we hold dear?

Throughout the years since 1983, various individuals and organizations have hoped to accomplish a number of goals through the celebration of SOHLS. In addition to celebrating the intrinsic value of human life, Carenet, a network of pregnancy care centers, sees this important day as "an opportunity for pregnancy centers to share about the work they do to bring life-affirming resources to their communities and to empower women and men to choose life for their unborn children." SOHLS is a Sunday that highlights the hope and services pregnancy care centers offer. Many churches participate in raising funds by kicking off a baby bottle campaign on this day in their churches for the benefit of community pregnancy care outreach.

SOHLS is an opportunity to educate congregations on life issues. Through special bulletin inserts, special speakers, children's sermons, and targeted worship resources churches seek to turn the tragic reality of abortion into a focus on the sacred value of human life. Often special events such as a video showing, a pro-life baby shower, special Sunday lessons and sermons, or the ringing of bells, the planting of crosses, or candle vigils help to commemorate the lives lost to abortion.

Remembering Roe: a special day of prayer and fasting. SOHLS is particularly significant in 2013, the 40th year since the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton which took place on January 22, 1973 and legalized abortion in our country. In addition to the Sunday celebration a host of pro-life organizations, who together affirm the value, dignity and sanctity of human life, have joined together to organize a special day of prayer and fasting remembering Roe on January 22, 2013. Individuals may register at for web based prayer event, post prayers on the website, send a message to the president, or share personal stories of where they were when abortion was legalized

An Ecumenical prayer service: National Memorial for the Pre-Born and Their Mothers and Fathers. A special commemorative service sponsored by members of the National Pro-Life Religious Council will be held at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. ( (18th and D St.) on the January 25, 2013. Held just a few hours before the March for Life, the 8:30-10:30 am ecumenical prayer service will include participants from several denominations. Participants will commemorate lives lost to abortion and remember the life of Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life.

Resources for SOHLS

Worship resources from a distinctly Presbyterian and Reformed perspective are available under the 'Ministry Equipping' tab of this website.

Right to Life of Michigan publishes a downloadable Prolife Litany and a Christian Discussion Guide on their website.

Focus on the Family offers videos to show on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or throughout the month of January to inform about the impact of abortion on our nation.

Lutherans for Life is offering a slightly different focus in their resources for SOHLS in 2013. See their website for a host of materials for "living with Dying."

Bethany Christian Services provides online resources with a focus on adoption.