April 30 2015 by
David Roach, Baptist Press
With abortion emerging as an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, a Florida pastor involved in pro-life ministries is urging believers to vote for pro-life candidates while not pinning their ultimate hope for protecting unborn children on either major political party.
“As we condemn the Democrats for their views, we can’t pretend that Republicans are the champions for” the pro-life cause, Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., said. “We can’t put our hopes into a party.”
On the Democratic side, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told the Women in the World Summit “religious beliefs” are among the obstacles to “reproductive healthcare” that “have to be changed.” Pro-life groups, including LifeNews.com, interpreted her remarks as an attack against evangelicals and others who oppose abortion on religious grounds.
“Yes, we’ve cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive healthcare and safe childbirth,” Clinton said April 23 according to a video of her speech posted on YouTube. “All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”
Photos from Flickr. Rand Paul photo by Gage Skidmore
Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton
Elsewhere in her speech, Clinton criticized Hobby Lobby for having “taken away” the “healthcare choices” of female employees, an apparent reference to the Christian-owned retail chain’s decision not to pay for health insurance that provides abortion-causing forms of contraception. Clinton also criticized those “who offer themselves as leaders who would defund the country’s leading provider of family planning,” an apparent reference to Planned Parenthood.
It was not clear whether Clinton’s remark about the need to change religious beliefs referred only to “reproductive healthcare” or also to a range of issues she listed before her apparent reference to abortion.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to Baptist Press’ requests for clarification prior its publication deadline.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League told LifeNews, “It was not surprising that Hillary Clinton, who strongly opposes a ban on partial-birth abortion, would tell her feminist audience that she supports Planned Parenthood. What was surprising was her comment on the need to change religious beliefs on abortion. In others words, Hillary has a problem with the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion – they must be changed.”
Donohue continued, “Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion. It’s time for Hillary to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”
Presumed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush tweeted April 26, “Americans’ religious beliefs should be respected and protected not changed @HillaryClinton.” Bush encouraged his Twitter followers to sign an online petition advocating the protection of religious liberty.
Inserra, a member of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s advisory committee, said Clinton’s comments suggest her ultimate concern is neither “reproductive healthcare” nor “choice.”
“If you’re asking someone to change their religious beliefs, you’re not very pro-choice, in my opinion,” Inserra said. “You’re pro-abortion.”
If the political left “were really concerned about women’s health and reproductive health, then they would be honest about the entire conversation of abortion,” Inserra said, “about the psychological effects, about the physical effects – things that are actually very harmful for women. They don’t seem concerned about those things.”
Inserra’s wife Krissie established a ministry at Florida State University for students who experience unplanned pregnancies, he said. That ministry routinely deals with women who experience shame, fear and regret regarding their abortions.
Two weeks prior to Clinton’s remarks, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul publicly challenged Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to state “if she’s OK with killing a 7-pound baby that’s just not born yet,” according to the Associated Press.
Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, responded, “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story.”
Paul’s public challenge came amid an exchange with reporters in which they pressed him for seemingly avoiding the question of what, if any, exceptions should be included in legislation banning abortion.
In an interview with AP, Paul said he is willing to support pro-life legislation with or without exceptions.
“I’ve supported bills with and without [exceptions], you know,” Paul, a senator from Kentucky, said. “So I will support legislation that advances and shows life is special and deserves protection.”
Inserra said Wasserman Schultz’s refusal to state that aborting a 7-pound baby is wrong illustrates the radical nature of many so-called progressive Democrats’ positions on abortion.
“It’s not about choice. It’s about abortion,” Inserra said. “If you think that it’s OK to take the life of a 7-pound baby, then you’re not pro-choice. You’re pro-abortion.”
Paul’s challenge to Wasserman Schultz “finally let us [pro-lifers] be on the offensive rather than the defensive,” Inserra said.
The 2012 Democratic Party Platform states, “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.”
Democrats for Life, a pro-life group within the Democratic Party, lists on its website three pro-life Democratic U.S. senators and four pro-life House members. The list is dated Oct. 25, 2013, however, and two of the Congressmen listed are no longer in office. Democrats for Life did not respond to Baptist Press’ request for an updated list prior to its publication deadline.
The 2012 Republican Party Platform states, “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
The 2016 platforms for both major parties will be adopted at their national conventions next year.
Inserra said Christians should both vote for pro-life candidates and work to change people’s minds on abortion through discussion and ministering to women with unplanned pregnancies. When it comes to elections though, Inserra has no qualms about advocating “one-issue voting.”
“I don’t know how a Christian can justify voting for someone who thinks it’s OK to take a life of an unborn child,” Inserra said. “... I can think of no justification whatsoever for a Christian who claims to believe the Scriptures to vote for someone who thinks that little of an unborn child and, I would say, that little of women.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Cruz begins GOP bid; social issues percolate
4/30/2015 11:03:15 AM
April 24 2015 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist and other pro-life leaders have called on Republican congressional leaders to halt the delay on a proposed ban on late abortions.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), joined nine other heads of pro-life organizations April 22 to urge the leaders of the majority in the House of Representatives to schedule a vote immediately on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The legislation would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
The pro-life leaders released a joint statement exactly three months after the originally scheduled date for a vote on the bill, H.R. 36. GOP leaders canceled a Jan. 22 roll call on the proposal after about two dozen Republicans, led by female members, expressed concern about the legislation. The House had approved the same measure in the previous congressional session, however.
House leaders have said they still intend to hold a vote on the bill.
In their statement, the pro-lifers said, “The babies and mothers being targeted by the late-term abortion industry have waited long enough for protection.”
The ban, they said, “is a simple, compassionate proposal supported by a large majority of Americans, including women and young people.”
“A vote on this popular, modest bill will serve as a benchmark as to whether the House GOP is serious about protecting unborn babies and women,” Moore and the others said.
The new Republican majority in the Senate is seeking to pass the bill, although the White House already has signaled its opposition to the measure. Obama administration officials have indicated they would recommend the president veto it.
In addition to Moore, other signers were Marjorie Dannenfelser, president, Susan B. Anthony List; Charmaine Yoest, president, Americans United for Life; Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council; Penny Young Nance, president, Concerned Women for America; Jeanne Mancini, president, March for Life; Janet Morana, co-founder, Silent No More Awareness Campaign; Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life; Kristan Hawkins, president, Students for Life of America; and Brian Burch, president, CatholicVote.org.
The House leadership’s original scheduling of the vote was significant, because Jan. 22 is the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion nationwide throughout all stages of pregnancy. Tens of thousands of pro-lifers gather each year on that date for the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
When the original roll call was canceled, pro-life leaders expressed their disappointment. Moore did not mince any words.
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice,” he said in an ERLC news release. “If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?
“The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”
Pelosi is the former Democratic speaker of the House who supports abortion rights.
The small group of Republican House members who sought delay of the Jan. 22 vote focused their concerns on the proposal’s rape exemption, which requires the assault be reported to law enforcement authorities. One of their apprehensions was its perception by women and young adults.
Women and young people, however, both support the ban with the reporting requirement, according to a poll in November by Quinnipiac University of voters nationwide. That survey showed 60 percent of Americans, 59 percent of women and 57 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favor the legislation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
4/24/2015 2:20:08 PM
April 24 2015 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The U.S. Senate passed April 22 a version of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act after reaching a bipartisan compromise that will prevent monies for victims of human trafficking from funding abortions.
As passed, the bill increases penalties for human traffickers, funds support for victims, strengthens the ability of law enforcement to investigate such crimes, and makes the victims’ patrons – commonly called “johns” – equally responsible as the traffickers themselves.
Debate on the bill had centered mainly on whether the act would create further limitations to abortion specified under the 1976 Hyde Amendment that prevents the use of public funds for abortion, except in cases of rape and incest. In the compromise, the Senate specified that fines collected from human traffickers would only be used for non-health care services, while federal money for community health centers would be used to cover abortions of unwanted pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore praised the Senate for preventing monies collected under the act from funding abortions.
“Congress sent the right message to victims of human trafficking today,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a press release April 23. “All life – born or unborn, poor or rich, male or female – matters infinitely to God. Recognition of this fact is a mandatory feature of a humane nation.”
The bill, which passed the Senate 99-0 with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas absent, now goes to the U.S. House, which earlier passed a version of the bill that does not include a victim’s fund, among other differences, The New York Times reported.
“I am thankful the Senate has acted on this important legislation,” Moore said. “Human trafficking is a modern-day plague on our world. Its victims suffer indescribably at the hands of merciless lust and rapacious greed. Every instance of human trafficking, wherever it happens and whatever kind, is a violent repudiation of human dignity and a shame on our culture.”
In remarks on the Senate floor, the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, also thanked the Senate for its bipartisanship.
“This body’s consideration of this bill has proven that compromise and bipartisanship need not be relics of the past in today’s Washington, but they are very much alive and well, particularly when the need is so very great as it is in this area,” Cornyn said. “We have found a way now on a bipartisan basis to move this legislation forward so we can offer a hand to rescue these victims of human trafficking. We can give them an opportunity to heal, and we can provide them some hope for a better future.”
The act will begin to reverse the prevalent practice of criminalizing the victims of human trafficking, Cornyn said, and will instead offer much-needed resources for victims.
The act was among several anti-trafficking bills introduced in Congress this year. Among them is the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, introduced Feb. 24 by Sen. Bob Corker, with bipartisan support.
“Today more than 27 million people, many of them women and children, suffer under forced labor and sexual servitude in over 165 countries around the world, including our own,” Corker said in introducing the bill. “Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results.”
Corker’s bill would establish the nonprofit End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation and empower it with $1.5 billion in private and public monies to fund several anti-slavery initiatives.
The ERLC is among supporters of Corker’s bill, but no action has been taken on the bill since it passed the Foreign Relations Committee in February.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
4/24/2015 1:34:08 PM
April 10 2015 by
Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Arizona’s governor has signed into law a bill that prohibits abortion insurance from being purchased through Obamacare’s taxpayer-subsidized insurance program. The bill also requires abortionists to inform women that two-step chemical abortions can be reversed.
Both legislative houses passed the bill, signed into law March 30, along party lines after a House committee amended it to include the informed consent requirement. The abortion insurance prohibition prevents women from buying taxpayer subsidized abortion insurance except in cases of rape, incest or threats to the health of the mother.
“The American people overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer funding of abortions, and it’s no different in Arizona, where we have long-standing policy against subsidizing them with public dollars,” pro-life Gov. Doug Ducey said. “This legislation provides clarity to state law.”
The informed consent requirement is the first law of its kind to pass in the United States. The law’s critics, including Kathleen Morrell, an abortionist with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said no scientific evidence supports the bill and the reversal process isn’t well researched.
But pro-life doctor Allan Sawyer said he recently reversed a chemical abortion at 10 weeks. A young woman reached Sawyer through the website AbortionPillReversal.com after Planned Parenthood staff workers said her abortion couldn’t be stopped.
In a chemical abortion, a woman takes two pills. The first contains mifepristone, a drug that detaches the embryo from the uterus. The second drug, misoprostol induces contractions. But if the woman has only taken the first pill, a high dosage of progesterone can stop the process. The practice isn’t well known, but some pro-life groups like Culture of Life Family Services (CLFS) are working to promote it.
So far, 230 physicians can reverse abortions, and some organizations want to place an “Emergency Abortion Pill Reversal Kit” in emergency rooms and urgent care clinics across the United States, WORLD reported in February. Between May 2012 and December 2014, the few physicians who do reverse abortions saved 78 babies with 51 still unborn. More than 40 women per month call CLFS’s hotline.
While Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona President Bryan Howard said the new law interferes with women’s medical decisions, pro-life advocates in Arizona view the law as a victory for women.
“Countless more lives will be saved, and women spared a lifetime of regret,” Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy told Reuters.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Courtney Crandell writes for WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com.)
4/10/2015 10:50:48 AM
April 1 2015 by
Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press
Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments
Abortionists in Kansas will soon be banned from performing dismemberment abortions, thanks to legislation passed by the state legislature March 25.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback promised in January he would sign the bill, making the state the first to ban abortions that tear children limb-from-limb in the womb. The federal government already criminalizes partial birth abortions, but dismemberment abortions – also known as dilation and evacuation abortions – are still legal. The legislation is part of a new strategy pioneered by National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). Kansans for Life (KFL) promoted the bill based on NRLC’s model legislation.
“With the discussion about, and passage of this bill, the public will see that dismemberment abortions brutally – and unacceptably – rip apart small human beings who have all of their internal organs and who have perfectly formed fingers and toes,” KFL’s legislative director Kathy Ostrowski said.
About 8 percent of abortions in Kansas use the dilation and evacuation method. The new law now prohibits it except in cases threatening the mother’s life or irreversibly damaging her health. Dismemberment abortions occur after the first trimester when bones have already formed.
“Civilized members of society have no choice but to stand up and demand a change,” Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC legislative director, said. “When you think it can’t be uglier, the abortion industry continues to shock with violent methods of abortion.”
Abortion rights advocates argued the procedure is sometimes the safest method and insisted the law would inhibit liberty. But Balch noted those arguments forget a key party in the discussion: the baby.
“When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone,” Balch said. “The groundbreaking passage by the Kansas legislature ... has the potential to transform the debate when people realize that living unborn children are being killed by being torn limb-from-limb.”
Most Americans don’t know that dismemberment abortions are standard for second trimester abortions, Balch said in January. Because the baby’s skeleton is formed, abortionists can’t use aspiration abortions, which vacuum babies out of the womb. Instead, they must tear babies apart to remove them. Once the pieces are outside the womb, abortionists must re-assemble all the pieces to ensure the womb is empty – giving the method the nickname “jigsaw puzzle procedure.”
Pro-life leaders hope the Kansas law will help raise the public’s awareness about second-trimester abortions, especially if the law lands in court. NRLC leaders think it has a good chance of appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court, where two justices have already expressed their disgust for dismemberment abortions.
In the 2007 opinion on Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the partial-birth abortion ban, Justice Anthony Kennedy said dismemberment abortions are “laden with the power to devalue human life.” Even staunchly pro-abortion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg voiced her disapproval in her dissenting opinion on the case, Balch said.
Kansas isn’t the only state to introduce the ban. Oklahoma’s House passed a similar bill, and the Senate will debate it this week. Lawmakers in Missouri and South Carolina also have also introduced dismemberment abortion ban legislation.
And Kansas pro-lifers aren’t stopping with this success: Other legislators indicated March 25 they want to prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Kansas Coalition for Life also is working to pass another bill that bans aspiration abortions.
“We look at Kansas as a leader in the pro-life movement,” dismemberment bill sponsor Sen. Garrett Love said earlier this year.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Courtney Crandell writes for WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com.)
4/1/2015 1:01:37 PM
March 19 2015 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Legislation to bolster efforts to combat human trafficking has fallen victim to abortion rights advocates in the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic minority defeated an effort to bring an anti-trafficking bill to the Senate floor March 17 because of its opposition to language barring federal funds for abortion. The Senate twice voted 55-43 to invoke cloture, as it is known, which would directly open debate on the floor for action on the legislation.
The vote came on legislation that would enhance penalties for such crimes as slavery and trafficking, as well as sexual exploitation of children. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, S. 178, would also increase restitution for trafficking victims and fund services for child pornography victims.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), a long-time advocate for pro-life and anti-trafficking policies, decried the Senate action.
“Stopping human trafficking is too important a priority to be held hostage by the abortion lobby’s culture-warring,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written statement. “I urge the Senate to think about vulnerable women and children in peril, rather than about the political maneuvers of the abortion-industrial complex.”
All but four Democrats voted against bringing the bill to the Senate floor. Democrats voting for cloture were Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The only Republican to vote against cloture was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. His “nay” vote was required for him to bring the measure up for a future vote.
The legislation appeared to have no chance of defeat until a week before the March 17 cloture votes. It had 13 Democratic co-sponsors upon introduction and gained unanimous approval from the Judiciary Committee. Democrats suddenly began criticizing language that bars funds made available in the bill from being used for abortions. The ban, known as the Hyde Amendment, first became law in 1976 and has since been applied widely in federal programs. The prohibition has exceptions for a threat to the life of the mother and in pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
Abortion-rights advocacy organizations such as NARAL Pro-choice America and the National Organization for Women criticized Republicans for including the language, and Senate Democrats joined them. NARAL described inclusion of the Hyde language as “another manipulative attempt by extremists.”
Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada charged Republicans with choosing “to manufacture a political fight.” He declined a GOP offer to vote on an amendment removing the Hyde language and told the Senate March 12 Republicans “need to just take abortion politics out of this bill.”
The legislation’s lead sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, said in a March 17 written statement, “It is becoming increasingly clear that Democrats are perfectly content to play politics with the most apolitical issue – stopping human traffickers and helping their victims.”
Democrats will have another opportunity to vote to bring the bill to the floor, McConnell said March 18. “Democrats owe these victims, not lobbyists, help,” he told the Senate. Before the March 17 votes, McConnell urged the White House to become involved in advancing the bill through the Senate.
Reid has called for the GOP leadership to bring the nomination of Loretta Lynch as attorney general to the floor for a confirmation vote, but McConnell has said the Senate will address the anti-trafficking measure before dealing with Lynch.
Other anti-trafficking bills have been proposed in Congress. Included is the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. The proposal, already approved unanimously by the Foreign Relations Committee, would establish a centralized effort to thwart trafficking and slavery at a time when an estimated 27 million people are enslaved globally. It would create a Washington, D.C., nonprofit foundation designed to use federal, foreign and private sector funds to reduce slavery by a measurable 50 percent.
The ERLC and other anti-trafficking advocates are strong supporters of Corker’s bill. The Southern Baptist entity has been a leading advocate for policies to combat human trafficking since the move to address the problem resulted in the first anti-trafficking law in 2000.
The U.S. State Department categorizes slavery – which exists in the United States and more than 160 other countries – as sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor or child soldiers.
The ERLC is supporting several pro-life measures in this congressional session, including the:
Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36, which would ban abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation. The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the bill Jan. 22, but the GOP leadership canceled the roll call after about two dozen Republicans expressed concerns about the legislation. The House passed the same bill in its previous session. The switch by the GOP drew criticism from pro-life proponents, including Moore, who called it an “act of moral cowardice.”
No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, S. 582 and H.R. 7, which would institute a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal funding of abortion and require consumers be informed whether abortion is covered in health insurance plans. The House approved its version in a 242-179 vote Jan. 22, when the GOP leadership substituted a roll call on this bill for one on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, S. 404 and H.R. 803, which would criminalize transporting a minor across state lines to circumvent parental involvement laws in her home state.
Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, S. 48, which would outlaw abortion based on the sex of an unborn child. The ERLC is seeking inclusion in the legislation of a ban on race-selection abortion.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
3/19/2015 11:32:32 AM
February 5 2015 by
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
With measles outbreaks in 14 states and health authorities imploring parents to weigh the minimal risks of vaccines against the ravages of preventable disease, some Christians are raising an objection of a completely different sort: the abortion connection.
The Internet rumors that claim vaccinations mean having tiny pieces of aborted fetuses injected into your body are flat-out wrong, yet there is a grain of truth in the assertion that vaccinations and abortions are linked.
Many of the most common vaccines, ones for rubella and chicken pox for example, are grown in and then removed from cells descended from the cells of aborted fetuses. Pregnant women aborted them about 40 years ago by choice, and not with the intent of aiding vaccine production.
Yet for some religious believers, those facts do not lift what they see as a moral prohibition against vaccination.
“West Virginians who object to abortion for religious or moral reasons have a right to refuse to inject abortion-related ingredients into their children,” states the website of the group West Virginians for Vaccine Exemption. West Virginia and Mississippi are the only two states that do not allow religious exemption for vaccinations.
In the rest of the nation, religious exemptions are far from rare. New Jersey, for example, where Gov. Chris Christie this week said he vaccinated his own children but stands behind the rights of parents not to, allowed nearly 9,000 school children whose parents claimed religious exemptions to go unvaccinated last year.
Health experts say even small pockets of unvaccinated children and adults can pose enormous public health risks, and point to the measles outbreak that began in Disneyland in December as but one piece of proof that nearly eradicated deadly childhood diseases will return as vaccination rates drop.
But where these scientific arguments fail, some religious authorities say there is still a moral, Christian calculus that can lead abortion opponents to choose vaccination in good conscience.
“I’m a follower of Christ, and the teachings of the Bible are the most important information that informs my thinking and my life,” said Dr. Eugene Rudd, the senior vice president of the Tennessee-based Christian Medical & Dental Associations, which takes a firm stance against abortion.
“But there is a judgment here, both scientific and moral, that says vaccination is part of my obligation – civic and moral – to others.” To protect one another, he said, “that’s an important biblical teaching.”
Rudd’s organization created a web page (cmda.org/resources/publication/immunization-ethics-statement) for Christians who struggle with the question of whether to vaccinate, and he has written on the matter for the Annals of Pharmacology, explaining how he concludes that vaccination is the moral choice. It is simply a fact that many life-giving breakthroughs in medical history were associated with less than moral practices, he wrote, and that failing to vaccinate can make one complicit in another’s suffering.
“It is relevant that those who accept vaccination for themselves or their children do so without any intention of endorsing abortion,” he further wrote. “The fact that there is a remote association with abortion does not establish moral culpability.”
The Roman Catholic Church, which opposes abortion and endorses vaccination as a general good, advises a similar reasoning process when it comes to vaccines linked – however distantly – to abortions, and the church leaves the decision up to the individual Catholic, said John A. Di Camillo, staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.
This decision-making requires Catholics to affirm the dignity of life and to testify against the destruction of unborn life, he said. And it also requires them to ask other questions. Among them:
“What are the details of a particular vaccination?”
“Is there an alternative?”
“Is the disease being vaccinated against contagious?”
When these questions are answered, he said, accepting vaccines whose origins are linked to abortion “could be morally licit.” A statement from the Pontifical Academy for Life, issued in 2005, affirms that Catholics may use such vaccines and should recognize the moral problems with them.
Karen Ernst, a vaccine advocate who leads Minnesota-based Voices for Vaccines, said there is an argument to be made that vaccines prevent abortion.
Rubella in a pregnant woman, for example, can lead to fetal deformities that might prompt that expectant mother to abort. But a woman vaccinated for rubella is not going to expose a fetus to the illness.
Ernst said that while she “applauds people who are prayerful when they discover there is some connection to abortion,” she fears that those who reject vaccinations based on a dangerous misunderstanding of science are taking advantage of those who hesitate for religious reasons.
“People who are anti-vaccine are people who are very vocally anti-vaccine,” Ernst said. “They want other people to be anti-vaccine, and one way they try to hook people in is to say ‘if you’re pro-life, you should know they are made from aborted fetuses.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Markoe is a national correspondent for Religion News Service.)
2/5/2015 10:38:17 AM
January 28 2015 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 1 comments
Southern Baptists’ ethics entity and a leading pro-family organization took a public, first step Jan. 22 in mobilizing extensive evangelical Christian involvement in the annual March for Life.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family introduced Evangelicals for Life – a major evangelical, pro-life conference in conjunction with the 2016 March for Life – at an event by the same name that preceded this year’s march. At the morning session, the ERLC and Focus on the Family announced they will sponsor with other organizations the first-of-its-kind event next Jan. 21-22 in Washington, D.C.
The ERLC and Focus are planning in 2016 “to really initiate a massive movement of evangelicals present at the March for Life,” ERLC President Russell Moore told those gathered Jan. 22 in a Washington hotel meeting room.
The March for Life, a signature event of the pro-life movement, began in 1974, a year after the Jan. 22 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide. Held on or near Jan. 22, it brings together many tens of thousands of pro-lifers – or a few hundred thousand, depending on estimates – to rally on the National Mall in Washington, then march up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill. Leaders from the diverse groups that make up the pro-life movement typically gather for the march and surrounding events.
While many religious groups are involved, Roman Catholics dominate attendance at the march. Catholic parishes and schools from numerous states send busloads to Washington for the event, and many other Catholics travel by train and vehicle. The Catholic Church also sponsors events in Washington preceding the march.
Evangelicals are deeply involved in a variety of pro-life efforts in the United States, but they have been significantly underrepresented at the March for Life. That needs to change, Moore said.
Photo by Chad Bartlett
ERLC President Russell Moore prays to close the Evangelicals for Life event Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C. Joining him in prayer are (from left) Kelly Rosati of Focus on the Family, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Phillip Bethancourt of the ERLC.
“I don’t want to see any fewer rosary beads at the March for Life, but I want to see more evangelicals here also at the March for Life,” he told the Jan. 22 ERLC-Focus gathering that included a sizable number of evangelical, pro-life leaders. “[O]ur absence is a shame. And so we don’t need any less ‘Ave Maria,’ but we need some more ‘Amazing Grace’ in the mix as well.”
Of the 2016 conference, Moore said, “You’re going to see a gathering of evangelicals saying, ‘This is our issue too.’
“[W]e’re wanting to cultivate a new generation of born-again men and women who care about the unborn, who care about their mothers and who care about consciences that are torn apart by the culture of death,” he said.
Moore and Focus President Jim Daly are the only conference speakers named so far.
Kelly Rosati, Focus’ vice president of community outreach, told the audience of about 70 pro-lifers, “We really believe that God is doing something in the evangelical community to encourage and strengthen those of you who have been on the front lines for so long.... We are going to turn this around, and we are never, never going to stop speaking out for unborn kids.”
Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, appeared at the evangelical event to commend participants and the plans for the 2016 conference.
“On behalf of the March for Life and personally, I just can’t thank you enough,” she said.
The ERLC and Focus supported the march later in the day. At least 10 ERLC staff members and five Focus staffers participated in the rally and march. Moore appeared on the rally stage among pro-life leaders, and he gave the benediction at the March for Life-sponsored Rose Dinner in the evening.
In a panel discussion during the Jan. 22 Evangelicals for Life event, Moore, Rosati and Samuel Rodriguez said they are encouraged by evangelical involvement on the life issue.
He especially is encouraged considering where evangelicals were in the years after Roe v. Wade, Moore said.
At the beginning, evangelicals thought it was “a Catholic issue” and didn’t say much except for “a few prophetic voices,” he told the gathering. Then people assumed young evangelicals would surrender the abortion issue and become pro-choice, he said.
“That is not true at all,” Moore said. “It is almost impossible for me to find a pro-choice, young evangelical. And it is almost impossible for me to find a young evangelical who isn’t passionately concerned about the lives of the unborn and about their mothers.”
He also is encouraged “because the life issue is connected to so many other things,” he said. “When we deal with the question of the vulnerable and the unborn, then we’re spending time concentrating on that issue of the dignity of humanity, on that issue of love for neighbor, on that issue ... of pleading for the innocent.”
That drives evangelicals to care about others, including orphans and the poor, he said.
Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the next generation is committed to justice and sees “the pro-life commitment as part of the justice motif.”
“That pro-life platform serves as the impetus behind many of the civil rights issues that Christians are now advocating for in the 21st century,” he said.
Focus is excited at what it describes as “a renaissance in the evangelical pro-life movement,” Rosati told the audience.
Young evangelicals’ “comprehensive commitment to pro-life causes ... is going to enhance our work on behalf of the preborn,” she said. “I believe that with all my heart. And I think that’s one of the trends we’re going to see” continue in the future.
A thread runs through both the life and race issues, Rodriguez said. The “abortion industry is targeting the ethnic community like no other,” placing its clinics in Latino and African-American neighborhoods, he said. “So if you are in favor of bringing about racial reconciliation, it behooves you to address abortion.”
For pro-life evangelicals, Moore said, “the most important weapon we have in our arsenal is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The most important pro-life chapter in the Bible is not Psalm 139 but Romans 3, that God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
He added, “God is just. He hears the cries of the unborn. And, Paul tells us in Romans 3, God is the justifier – so that in the cross we have the justice of God and the mercy of God.”
Evangelicals “need to be the sort of people who are addressing this issue in our churches, talking to the conscience,” he said. “But you don’t leave it there, because you also say, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation,’ which means that woman who has had the abortion or that man who has paid for the abortion who is in Christ, God does not see that person as the one who had the abortion. God sees that person exactly as He sees Jesus Christ: ‘You are my beloved child with whom I am well pleased.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/28/2015 12:02:40 PM
January 23 2015 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were guilty of “moral cowardice” when they canceled a scheduled vote on a bill to ban late-term abortions, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist said.
On the eve of the annual March for Life, House Republican leaders abandoned their plan to vote Jan. 22 on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36. The Jan. 21 reversal by House leadership put off a vote on a bill that would ban abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
House leaders pulled the scheduled vote after about two dozen Republicans, led by female members, expressed concerns about the legislation, according to news reports. The chamber, however, had approved the same measure in the previous congressional session.
Russell Moore did not mince words in his response to the GOP’s action.
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?
“The Republicans in Congress should come and explain this atrocity to the hundreds of thousands of people gathering here in the nation’s capital to march for life,” he said in an ERLC news release late Jan. 21. “The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”
Moore continued his criticism of House Republicans Jan. 22 during an event in Washington, D.C., shortly before the March for Life.
Describing the proposal as a “reasonable, moderate bill,” he told the pro-life audience, “This isn’t a radical move, and the House Republicans became scared and showed a complete lack of moral conviction and competence.”
While a pro-life renaissance is occurring at the grass-roots level, “[W]e still have politicians that are trembling and shaking over ghosts from the past instead of dealing with reality as it is,” Moore said.
In place of a vote on the pain-capable abortion ban, House leaders substituted a roll call on the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, H.R. 7, while people were gathered on the National Mall for the March for Life. The House approved the bill with a 242-179 vote.
The measure, which the House also passed last year, would institute a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal funding of abortion by standardizing bans on such funds that now exist in various federal programs. It also would halt money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health-care law.
The House approved in June 2013 basically an identical version of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act that it failed to vote on Jan. 22. The roll call in favor of the bill nearly two years ago was 228-196.
Reps. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Jackie Walorski of Indiana led the Republican members who expressed concerns to House leadership about the pain-capable abortion ban, according to news reports.
Ellmers wants to drop a requirement in the rape exception of the bill that the assault be reported to law enforcement authorities, she told reporters Jan. 22, according to the Washington Examiner. She also said Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, should be certain their legislation is not perceived as “harsh and judgmental” by women and young adults.
Women and young people both support the ban with the reporting requirement, however, according to a poll in November by Quinnipiac University. That survey showed 60 percent of Americans, 59 percent of women and 57 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favor the legislation.
Ellmers voted for the ban in 2013 but said the rape reporting requirement “wasn’t evident in the base language of the bill,” the Examiner reported.
The pain-capable ban’s sponsor – Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona – responded gently to the actions by some of his GOP colleagues.
“I’ve maintained an open heart, because I realize that all of the people involved have sincere perspectives and have knowledge and experiences and information that I don’t have,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “So my heart is open – my desire here is not a political victory, it is to try to somehow be part of catalyzing an awakening in America to where we finally see the humanity of these little victims and the inhumanity of what’s happening to them.”
Other pro-life leaders joined Moore in expressing their discontent with the House’s failure to vote on the pain-capable bill. Meanwhile, they commended its quick action on the funding ban.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) was “profoundly disappointed” the vote was postponed.
“Pro-life citizens across the nation are sharply disappointed with those lawmakers who violated commitments to constituents. ... In some cases these actions were apparently dictated mainly by inordinate concern with political correctness and garnering favorable coverage from the mainstream news media,” NRLC President Carol Tobias said. “Some of these lawmakers may ultimately conclude that they were ill advised to sacrifice the trust of their pro-life constituents so egregiously.”
Three female heads of pro-life organizations – Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Jeanne Monahan of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, and Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America – said, “While we are disappointed that the House will not be voting on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act today, we are pleased that the House is moving forward to stop taxpayer funding of abortion.”
They support a “prompt vote” on the pain-capable ban and will work “to ensure the maximum number of votes” in the House on the legislation, the female leaders said in a written statement.
The new Republican majority in the Senate also is seeking to pass the pain-capable ban, but the White House already has signaled its opposition to the measure. Obama administration officials indicated in a Jan. 21 policy statement they would recommend the president veto it.
In the Jan. 22 vote on the taxpayer funding ban, Rep. Richard Hanna of New York was the sole Republican to oppose it. Only three Democrats – Reps. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Collin Peterson of Minnesota – voted for the bill.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
1/23/2015 5:20:28 PM
January 19 2015 by
David Roach, Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
In 1979, Larry Lewis picked up a copy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and saw a full-page ad listing the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) among denominations that affirmed the right to abortion.
“Right there beside the Unitarians and universalists was the Southern Baptist Convention,” Lewis, a St. Louis pastor who went on to become president of the Home Mission Board (HMB; now the North American Mission Board), told Baptist Press (BP). “... That bothered me a lot.”
So Lewis did something about it, proposing in 1980 the first of more than 20 pro-life resolutions adopted by the SBC over the next few decades. When Lewis became HMB president of in 1987, one of his first actions was to create the office of abortion alternatives to help churches establish crisis pregnancy centers.
Thanks to Lewis and others, newspapers do not call the SBC pro-choice anymore.
Before Roe v. Wade
In 1979 though, it may have seemed a reasonable classification.
Baptists and Roman Catholics had long agreed that life begins at conception, but Baptist scholars, unlike their Catholic counterparts, generally did not develop biblical and theological arguments regarding unborn children. By the mid-20th century, abortion rarely came up among Southern Baptists, and average church members had only “a general feeling that abortion was wrong,” Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, told Baptist Press.
Things got worse in the ‘60s. “The whole nation and culture kind of went off the rails and lost its moral moorings, including any kind of understanding of the sanctity of pre-born life,” he said.
Larry Lewis, former president of the Home Mission Board seen here in 1979, led the board to establish a ministry to assist churches in opening crisis pregnancy centers.
Between 1965-68, abortion was referenced at least 85 times in popular magazines and scholarly journals, but no Baptist state paper mentioned abortion and no Baptist body took action related to the subject, according to a 1991 Ph.D. dissertation by Paul Sadler at Baylor University.
In 1970, a poll conducted by the Baptist Sunday School Board found that 70 percent of Southern Baptist pastors supported abortion to protect the mental or physical health of the mother, 64 percent supported abortion in cases of fetal deformity and 71 percent in cases of rape.
Three years later, a poll conducted by the Baptist Standard newsjournal found that 90 percent of Texas Baptists believed their state’s abortion laws were too restrictive.
Support for abortion rights was not limited to theological moderates and liberals. At New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1970s, some conservative students who went on to become state convention presidents and pastors of prominent churches supported abortion for reasons other than to save the life of the mother, Richard Land, said former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
“They pretty much bought into the idea that life begins when breath begins, and they just thought of [abortion] as a Catholic issue,” Land, who attended New Orleans Seminary between 1969-72, said of his fellow students.
A 1971 SBC resolution on abortion appeared to capture the consensus. It stated that “society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life.”
But the resolution added, “We call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
Reaction to Roe
When the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in 1973 with its Roe v. Wade decision, some Southern Baptists criticized the ruling while maintaining their support of abortion rights as defined in the 1971 resolution.
Others embraced the Supreme Court’s decision. A Baptist Press analysis article written by then-Washington bureau chief Barry Garrett declared that the court had “advanced the cause of religious liberty, human equality and justice.”
Norma McCorvey, the unnamed plaintiff in Roe v. Wade who later became a pro-life activist, made her first public statement after the ruling to BP, revealing her true identity. One of McCorvey’s attorneys, Linda Coffee, was a Southern Baptist and also granted BP an interview.
“It’s great to know that other women will not have to go through what I did,” McCorvey told BP in 1973, commenting on her experience of giving birth and placing her child up for adoption. “I’m glad the court decided that women, in consultation with a doctor, can control their own bodies.”
A 1981 pamphlet published by the Christian Life Commission, a precursor organization to the ERLC, spoke of “Christian concern for the value of the defenseless fetus” but went on to argue, “It is questionable that Christian love and justice would be served by extremely restrictive laws which do not give conscientious people with proper medical advice the opportunity to choose when they are faced with very grave moral dilemmas related to abortion.”
In a more extreme stance, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Paul Simmons argued that “God is pro-choice,” and some prominent Baptist leaders were among early supporters of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.
How opinions changed
Not all Southern Baptists supported abortion rights, however. Lewis became strongly pro-life in the late 1960s when he and his wife sought to adopt a child, believing they were unable to have biological children. The Lewises – who eventually had three biological children – were told they had to wait five years to adopt due to a shortage of children.
“To me it was incongruous that people would be destroying their babies when there were [couples] who were desperately wanting children,” Lewis said.
For Land, a high school science class drove home the reality that unborn babies were humans worthy of protection. A classmate whose father was an obstetrician brought a fetus to school in a jar of formaldehyde as a prop for a presentation and stored it beside Land’s desk. When Land told the teacher he was disturbed by the fetus, he was sent to the principal’s office, where a school administrator asked, “You’re not Catholic, are you?”
A few months later, Land’s mother told him doctors had urged her to abort him, believing he would be born with severe abnormalities.
“From that moment forward, I really felt an obligation to speak up for unborn children who couldn’t speak for themselves, because I had been in danger,” Land, who was president of the Christian Life Commission (CLC)/ERLC for 25 years and now serves as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, said.
As the 1970s progressed, Land, Lewis and thousands of individual Southern Baptists – including the organization Southern Baptists for Life – argued for protecting unborn life in all cases except to save the physical life of the mother. Among non-Southern Baptists, apologist Francis Schaeffer and future U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop argued that abortion was immoral and gained increased support for the pro-life cause.
Southern Baptists as prominent as W.A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, began to shift from a qualified pro-choice view to fully embrace the pro-life position.
Following the Roe v. Wade decision, news sources reported that Criswell said, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”
But, according to Land, Criswell “listened intently” to pro-life arguments during the ensuing years, including arguments Land made while teaching at Criswell College beginning in 1975. When the “Criswell Study Bible” was published in 1979, Criswell included “overtly pro-life” study notes, Land said.
Mirroring Criswell’s change of mind were similar changes in the broader evangelical world. Theologians Carl Henry and Norman Geisler, for example, both became ardently pro-life.
“Some of our pastors in those years hadn’t really studied what scripture said about abortion,” Jerry Vines, former SBC president and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., told BP. “But I think the carnage [of increased abortion following Roe v. Wade] drove them back to their Bibles to take a further look at it.”
Studying a Greek word from the New Testament “really nailed down the abortion issue for me,” Vines said.
The word “brephos,” translated as “baby,” is used eight times in the New Testament, Vines said. Six of those occurrences refer to children who have already been born, but two speak of John the Baptist in his mother’s womb.
“That’s pretty convincing evidence that scripture looks on a baby in its mother’s womb as a baby,” said Vines, who also noted Jeremiah 1 and Psalm 139 as convincing pro-life passages.
When a succession of conservative presidents were selected by messengers to lead the SBC beginning in 1979, they appointed resolutions committees that consistently proposed pro-life statements. In turn, messengers to the convention’s annual meetings supported those statements – partially because some had changed their opinions and partially because greater numbers of conservative messengers were attending the meetings.
Meanwhile, Land was elected chief executive of the Christian Life Commission in 1988 and made defending unborn life one of the entity’s priorities. Under his leadership, the CLC lobbied for pro-life legislation in Congress and taught Southern Baptists how a biblical ethic of life applied to abortion, reproductive technology, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd told BP that Southern Baptists must build on victories of the past and rearticulate their commitment to defend unborn life in every generation.
“If we continually hold high our commitment to holy scripture, to the lordship of Jesus Christ and our commitment to human life from the moment of conception, I think we can constantly be an effective voice” for life, Floyd said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
1/19/2015 1:08:37 PM
David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments