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Pro-life laws stymied by courts in 4 states

July 1 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Pro-life regulations in Texas, North Carolina, Kansas and Iowa have been stymied in court challenges.
 
Affected are a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers and for abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges; a North Carolina law requiring doctors to show pregnant women ultrasound images before performing an abortion; a Kansas law banning dismemberment abortions; and an Iowa Board of Medicine ban on “webcam” abortions.
 

Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued a stay of House Bill 2, which was slated to go into effect July 1, until the justices can consider whether to take up a challenge to HB 2 after their summer recess.
 
The Supreme Court stay, in a 5-4 vote, prevents HB 2 requirements from going into effect requiring abortion clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) and for doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.
 
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled June 8 that the two requirements are constitutional and can be enforced.
 
According to Texas Right to Life, “The justices ruled that the provisions in question will effectively remain on hold and unenforced until the abortion businesses file a full appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and until the justices return from summer recess in September” at which time “the justices will either agree to hear the abortion industry’s arguments against HB 2 or deny the request. …
 
“If the request is denied, HB 2 will go into effect immediately, and the abortion industry will have exhausted all legal resources to further stall or overturn the law,” Texas Right to Life stated. “However, if SCOTUS agrees to hear the case, the stay would most likely not be lifted until the court’s final opinion was issued.”
 

North Carolina

The Supreme Court refused June 15 to take up an appeal from North Carolina in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned a law requiring abortionists to show ultrasound images to clients so that the women would understand what happens during the procedure.
 
The lower court had ruled that the 2011 law violated abortion practitioners’ free speech rights and was “ideological in intent.” North Carolina legislators passed the measure overwhelmingly, even overriding a veto from then-Gov. Bev Perdue to put it into effect.
 
Federal appeals courts have upheld similar laws from Texas and South Dakota, according to The New York Times, which noted that such divergent rulings often prompt the Supreme Court to enter a case. Various other abortion-related ultrasound laws have been passed in more than 20 states, The Times reported.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, told WORLD News Service, “In any other medical procedure, doctors would have a duty to disclose all of the relevant information and, yet, a procedure as destructive and life-changing as abortion is held to a lower standard.”
 

Kansas

A Kansas district court judge granted a temporary injunction June 24 blocking the Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, WORLD News Service reported.
 
Kansas was the first state in the nation to ban the dilation and extraction (D&E) procedure, the most common form of second-trimester abortions. Signed into law in April by Gov. Sam Brownback, the law was slated to go into effect July 1.
 
The Center for Women’s Health, an abortion facility in Overland Park near Kansas City that carries out abortions up to 21.6 weeks, filed a lawsuit June 1 challenging the ban. District court Judge Larry Hendricks, in issuing a temporary injunction, ruled that the Kansas constitution guarantees the right to abortion. The state’s lawyers will defend the law when Hendricks hears the full case later this year. In the meantime, dismemberment abortions will continue in the state.
 
“Certainly we are disappointed,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said. “The Kansas constitution doesn’t say you can kill babies in this manner. But we think there is ample evidence from previous Supreme Court rulings to uphold a ban on this type of abortion.”
 

Iowa

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a ban on “webcam” abortions in the state June 19, stating that it placed an “undue burden” on women.
 
Iowa’s webcam, or “telemed,” abortions had enabled doctors to prescribe the RU-486 abortion pill regimen by teleconference. Rather than meeting a doctor in person, women at rural clinics have a virtual consultation with doctors in Des Moines or Iowa City. After doctors prescribe the drugs, women take one pill at the clinic and a second at home. If they have bleeding or severe complications, local emergency care is needed.
 
The Iowa Board of Medicine agreed to outlaw the practice in 2013 for safety concerns, but its decision was placed on hold while Planned Parenthood fought the decision in court. Last year, an Iowa district judge upheld the ban. But on June 19, six of the Iowa Supreme Court’s seven justices ruled the medicine board’s ban unconstitutional because it made abortions too difficult for women to obtain.
 
The plaintiff in the case, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, has performed 7,200 webcam abortions since 2008.
 
Iowa was the first state to launch a webcam abortion system. Planned Parenthood executives there began planning the system in mid-2007 as a way to perform first-trimester abortions at rural clinics where it was too expensive for them to keep a doctor on staff. Iowa law requires abortion drugs to be prescribed by a physician.
 
“The Iowa Supreme Court has approved a dangerous medical practice banned by 16 other states,” said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, which supported the ban. “There is a grave danger that telemed abortion may be assumed by abortion activists to render obsolete their need for on-site abortion providers across the country, greatly increasing the health risks for women who undergo medical abortions in remote areas.”
 
According to The Des Moines Register, the decision was thought to be the first time in 40 years the Iowa Supreme Court has weighed an abortion case.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted and used by permission from WORLD News Service, with reporting by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston. WORLD news Service is a division of WORLD Magazine, on the Web at worldmag.com.)

7/1/2015 12:20:11 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Hearing heartbeat saves lives, Stowe leader says

June 29 2015 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS Communications

The donation of an ultrasound machine to Southern Baptists in Columbus will help pregnant women in Ohio’s largest city to hear the heartbeat of their unborn child and choose to give birth, said area leaders.
 
“For mothers who have this unintended pregnancy, once you have the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, the Lord does a lot – it helps connect for the women that what’s inside of you is real,” said Cindy Irizarry, development director of the Stowe Mission of Central Ohio and executive director of its pregnancy medical clinic.
 
“It’s a [window] to the soul for mothers to see and hear,” she noted.
 
As part of its Psalm 139 Project, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) presented the gift of the portable machine to the Stowe Mission Center, an outreach of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association (MCBA), June 14. The presentation was made during morning worship services at Southern Baptist church plant Veritas Community Church, where ERLC President Russell Moore preached on the Gospel and racial reconciliation.
 
ERLC’s communications director Dan Darling made the presentation with Irizarry and Michael Brooks, Stowe’s president and CEO.

 
6-29-15_Psalm139_WEB.jpg

“One of the things that impressed us about Stowe is the sense of mission and holistic health services they’re providing to low-income and underprivileged people,” Darling said, referencing Stowe’s urgent care, dental clinic, eye clinic, HIV/STD testing and mental health screening. “They have a great mission not only to apply the gospel to the soul but also the body. We’re very proud to partner with them.”
 
According to the ERLC, 78 percent of women who see and hear their unborn child carry their pregnancy to term. The donation of the ultrasound to Stowe is important, because the city of Columbus provides few alternatives to abortion for unplanned pregnancies, resulting in staggering rates of infant mortality and abortion.
 
For the first quarter of 2015, the infant mortality rate in Columbus is 8.8 per 1,000 live births, a 44 percent increase from the previous quarter, according to statistics from Columbus Public Health. Infant mortality rates are calculated from the number of babies that die before their first birthday, often due to socio-economic factors, pre-term or low-weight births and sleep-related deaths.
 

A great avenue of ministry

Irizarry has served as the director of Crossover, the evangelistic event prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, each of the past two years. At the request of Rich Halcombe, director of missions for MCBA and chair of the board for Stowe, Irizarry and her husband Arnaldo moved from Baltimore to Columbus in October 2014. During discussions with Halcombe and Brooks about how prostitution, fatherlessness and poverty are bringing many young pregnant women through Stowe’s doors, Irizarry and her husband decided to stay in Columbus and direct the mission’s new pregnancy clinic.
 
“This could be a great avenue for saving mothers and fathers spiritually and saving babies physically,” said Halcombe.
 
Prior to her work with Crossover, Irizarry opened two pregnancy centers in Miami and was the development director for a pregnancy center in Baltimore.
 
An unplanned pregnancy in college led Irizarry to choose an abortion, but she says the death of her unborn child later helped her find new life when she professed faith in Christ in 1995. Irizarry says she hopes Stowe’s mission will not only extend to the neighborhoods around Stowe but to students at nearby Ohio State University who think a pregnancy spells the end of their aspirations.
 
“We live in an era where women can do everything, but it’s kind of a conflicting message when you’re told that a child is going to limit you,” Irizarry said. “There’s hope; a baby doesn’t end your life, and that’s what I hope to share with others.”
 
For area pastors like Nick Nye, lead pastor at Veritas Community Church and board member for Stowe, the ERLC’s gift of the sonogram to Stowe enables churches to respond to abortion more effectively.
 
“The gospel compels us to handle it on two fronts,” Nye, an alumnus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “We can provide a deeper reality of what’s going on when a woman is pregnant, seeing the baby, but also we’re doing a lot more with adoption as a church and engaging with foster care.”
 
The MCBA has more than doubled its number of churches to 119 since 2004. In addition to its free medical services, Stowe’s ministry also served nearly 165,000 meals last year, and provides tutoring, job training and clothing distribution.
 
For more information on the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project ministry go to, psalm139project.com/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – S. Craig Sanders is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

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Gift of ultrasound to open up ministry in Columbus

6/29/2015 12:04:01 PM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



N.C. ultrasound law loses at the Supreme Court

June 22 2015 by Leigh Jones, World News Service

North Carolina abortionists will not have to describe to mothers ultrasound images of their unborn babies.
 
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that overturned a 2011 law requiring abortionists to show women the ultrasound images so that they would fully understood what happens during the procedure. The lower court ruled the law violated abortionists’ free speech rights and was “ideological in intent.” North Carolina legislators passed the measure overwhelmingly, even overriding a veto from the governor to put it into effect.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said the measure was intended to provide women with life-saving information.
 
“In any other medical procedure, doctors would have a duty to disclose all of the relevant information, and, yet, a procedure as destructive and life-changing as abortion is held to a lower standard,” she said.
 
Three other states – Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin – also require abortionists to describe the ultrasound image to women. Twenty-one states require abortionists to offer or provide women the opportunity to view their ultrasounds. Courts upheld Texas’ ultrasound law, but struck down the law in Oklahoma.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Leigh Jones s the managing editor of WORLD's website.)

6/22/2015 11:21:53 AM by Leigh Jones, World News Service | with 0 comments



Gift of ultrasound to open up ministry in Columbus

June 15 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

For Michael Brooks, the gift of an ultrasound machine this Sunday means God is providing through Southern Baptists a way for Stowe Mission of Central Ohio to help desperate women, save unborn babies and share the gospel.
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will make the presentation to Stowe two days before the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in downtown Columbus, where the mission is located. The ERLC will present the sonogram machine during the June 14 corporate worship of Veritas Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Columbus.
 
The presentation will be the latest through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project, which provides ultrasound machines for gospel-focused pregnancy help centers throughout the United States.
 
For Stowe, the machine will be a vital part of launching a ministry its leaders have seen a need for. Stowe – an outreach of the Metro Columbus Baptist Association – already offers a soup kitchen, food pantry, urgent care, dental clinic, eye clinic, HIV/STD testing, tutoring, job training, clothing distribution, as well as mental health screening in cooperation with other agencies. Such a diversified ministry has brought women in crisis through Stowe’s doors.
 
“We see teenagers coming in pregnant,” said Brooks, Stowe’s president. “We have young women who are addicted to heroin and being worked by pimps, and we see them coming in pregnant.
 
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Don’t abort, but go and be blessed,’ and not do any other things with them,” he told Baptist Press. “[T]he desire of our hearts is not just to say, ‘Don’t have an abortion’ but to be able to walk them through that process and show them that this is a real person that they have developing inside and give them a biblical worldview and then the best support that we can in bringing that person” into the world.
 
Part of helping women with crisis pregnancies is “providing the emotional and spiritual support, practical assistance through God’s people to face a future with hope that only Christ can give,” Brooks said.
 
“In many ways, we’re hoping this will open up our outreach to the community and allow us to share the Lord with them.”
 
Brooks had dreamed of Stowe starting a pregnancy help ministry, but the need for money and personnel was an impediment. God seems to be “using the ERLC and Southern Baptists to put that package together,” he said.
 
He acknowledged Stowe is “breaking the mold on how this usually works.” After ERLC staff visited Stowe and decided to donate a machine, Brooks said his worry was: “Okay, I’ve got this awesome piece of equipment that God’s given us, but I need staff to run this. And God’s honored that request too. So we have someone to put the clinic together and to run it, and we’ve got a whole folder full of names and phone numbers, nurses and folks that have been involved in pregnancy ministries that are calling and saying, ‘I’m on board. Just give me the call.’”
 
The ERLC is thankful to be able to partner with Stowe in helping women and babies, said Dan Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications.
 
“I’m inspired by the faithful service of the team at Stowe, which lives out a gospel ethic by serving the least of these with holistic health services,” said Darling, who will speak about the Psalm 139 Project June 14 at Veritas. “We’re excited about the unborn lives, created in the image of God, who will experience life due to this new ultrasound technology.”
 
ERLC President Russell Moore will preach on the gospel and racial reconciliation during all three of the services at the Veritas campus where the presentation to Stowe will be made.
 
The Metro Columbus Baptist Association has more than doubled its number of churches to 119 since 2004. Stowe’s ministry has increased dramatically as well. For instance, it has grown from about 20,000 meals served 12 years ago when Brooks arrived to nearly 165,000 last year. About 750 volunteers from local churches run the mission’s programs, he said.
 
“I just sit in my chair and just am absolutely blown away and amazed at what God has put together here,” Brooks said. His wife, Janet, and he formerly served with the International Mission Board, then the North American Mission Board. “You dream and then you try to scheme and figure out how I can make this work and where can I get the money and those kinds of things. And God, He already knew that and has already put all those pieces in place.”
 
Previously, the ERLC has provided ultrasound machines through the Psalm 139 Project to pregnancy centers based in San Marcos, Texas; New Albany, Ind.; Denver; Corinth, Miss.; Lakeland, Fla.; Phoenix; Louisiana; Houston; and Woodbridge, Va. The presentation to Stowe will mark the sixth consecutive year the ERLC has provided an ultrasound machine to a center near the location of the SBC’s annual meeting.
 
The Psalm 139 Project gets its name from the well-known chapter in the Bible in which David testifies to God’s sovereign care for him when he was an unborn child. David wrote in verse 13 of that psalm, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
 
All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchase, delivery and installation of ultrasound machines, as well as training for staff members, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the SBC’s Cooperative Program. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to give toward providing ultrasound machines through the ministry is available at http://psalm139project.com/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/15/2015 11:56:29 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Texas abortion law gets 2nd federal court win

June 12 2015 by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

Contested portions of a 2013 Texas pro-life law, which continually have been challenged in court by abortion advocates, were upheld June 9 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
 
The decision to uphold the law as it was passed likely will mean that 49 licensed abortion clinics in Texas will be reduced to eight, as Texas House Bill No. 2 (HB 2) requires abortion facilities to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards.
 
The nonprofit Texas Values pro-family organization called the standards “steps to protect women who go into abortion facilities from being less likely to jeopardize their own lives” in June 9 news release. Texas Values, led by attorney Jonathan Saenz, played an instrumental role in HB 2’s passage in 2013 and has since worked to defend the measure in court and in the public square.
 
“Today we are thankful that the Fifth Circuit upheld a law that protects both women and children,” Saenz said. “The court’s decision ensures that abortion clinics must uphold basic health standards – standards that are required of other surgical centers in the state.”
 
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected by HB2 opponents, with Center for Reproductive Rights senior counsel Stephanie Toti calling it “the best course of action” on Twitter.
 
A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court noted in their published opinion that although many of the ambulatory surgical center (ASC) standards “seem benign and inexpensive … e.g. … ‘A liquid or foam soap dispenser shall be located at each hand washing facility,’ [the] plaintiffs conceded at oral argument that they made no effort to narrow their challenge to any particular standards of the ASC provision of H.B. 2 or its accompanying regulations. Instead, they ask us to invalidate the entire ASC requirement.”
 
Those challenging the law maintained during testimony in trial that “abortions can be safely performed in office-based settings, such as doctors’ offices and specialized clinics,” according to the ruling, and that “there is no medical basis for requiring facilities in which abortions are performed to meet ASC standards.”
 
In opposing testimony, the state of Texas said “the sterile environment of an ASC was medically beneficial because surgical abortion involves invasive entry into the uterus, which is sterile.”
 
The challenged portion of the law upheld in this most recent court decision joins another provision challenged and upheld in court regarding the requirement that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the location where an abortion is performed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a writer for the Southern Baptist TEXAN at texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

6/12/2015 11:46:40 AM by Sharayah Colter, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N.C. passes 72-hour abortion wait period

June 9 2015 by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service

North Carolina’s state legislature approved a bill June 3 that extends the state’s abortion waiting period to 72-hours, joining four other states that have passed similar legislation.
 
The Senate approved the bill by a 32-16 vote after the House passed a version of the bill in April. The legislation also requires a doctor or other medical professional to inform a woman before she obtains an abortion that alternatives exist and she has the right to review materials that describe the unborn baby and abortion alternatives. The bill allows an exception for medical emergencies.
 
The bill increases the information provided to state regulators about certain second-trimester abortions and clarifies that abortion facilities must be inspected annually. It also prohibits anyone under 18 years old from working at abortion facilities, expands the state’s statutory rape definition and includes regulations related to child support and sex offenders.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said the bill represents a “major victory that will protect women and save the lives of unborn children in North Carolina.” She urged the governor to sign it as soon as possible.
 
About 26 states currently require a waiting period before a woman can undergo an abortion. But only three – Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah – have 72-hour delays. Oklahoma’s 72-hour wait period law takes effect in November.
 
North Carolina already had a 24-hour wait period. The bill’s supporters said increasing it would allow women more time to collect information about the procedure. The bill’s House sponsors hope it will reduce abortions in the state.
 
Since Republicans gained a majority in the legislature in 2011, the state has passed several laws regulating abortion, including the 24-hour wait period. Some pro-lifers credit the laws with reducing the number of abortions in the state by 26 percent since 2010.
 
Gov. Pat McCrory said he plans to sign the measure. Signing the bill won’t violate his 2012 campaign promise not to enact further abortion restrictions, he said, because the measure is about protecting women’s health.
 
“We ensured that contact, including a simple phone call, would start a reasonable process that protects women’s health, and we also more clearly and rationally defined medical training and qualifications to ensure there will be no further restrictions on access,” he said.
 
Before McCrory announced he would sign the bill, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina (formerly known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) said they would deliver thousands of petitions for him to veto it.
 
“Going back on his word by allowing these new restrictions to become law would represent a fundamental betrayal of voters’ trust,” Alison Kiser, a Planned Parenthood South Atlantic spokeswoman, said.
 
But the bill’s advocates maintain the law will protect women and save children.
 
“Seventy-two hours is not asking for too much for something this important,” House co-sponsor Rep. Pat McElraft said. “Why do we not want [women] to have the opportunity to change their minds? Please let women have this opportunity to reach out to pregnancy clinics to guide her … for alternatives.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Courtney Crandell writes for WORLD News Service, an affiliate of WORLD Magazine at worldmag.com. Used by permission.)

6/9/2015 11:43:07 AM by Courtney Crandell, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Gallup: Pro-lifers at lowest number since 2008

June 8 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Abortion pro-choicers significantly outnumber pro-lifers in the U.S. for the first time in seven years, according to the Gallup 2015 Values and Beliefs poll.
 
Half of Americans identified themselves as pro-choice in the poll that has since 2001 tracked Americans’ views on abortion. The last time pro-choicers accounted for such a large chunk of the populace was in 2008, when they also numbered 50 percent.
 
Of those polled, 44 percent identified themselves as pro-life, the same percentage found in 2008, Gallup reported.
 
“The pro-choice view is not as prevalent among Americans as it was in the mid-1990s, but the momentum for the pro-life position that began when Barack Obama took office has yielded to a pro-choice rebound,” Gallup concluded. “That rebound has essentially restored views to where they were in 2008; today’s views are also similar to those found in 2001.”
 
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd said the faithful must be vigilant in holding to the biblical worldview that human life begins at conception.
 
“Any decline in America’s commitment to the unborn child, will lead toward an accelerating desecration of human life, resulting in more abuse, more violence, and more chaotic disruption,” said Floyd. “God has created us to bring Him glory. When we devalue human life in any way from the womb to the tomb, we are robbing God of His intended glory for each of us.”
 
For most of the past five years, Americans have been almost evenly divided between pro-life and pro-choice, except in 2012 when pro-lifers numbered 50 percent as compared to 41 percent pro-choice, Gallup reported.
 
Among other results of the poll, 54 percent of women identify themselves as pro-choice, compared to 46 percent of men. Politically, 31 percent of Republicans identify as pro-choice, almost unchanged from 30 percent in 2008; 50 percent of Independents identify as pro-choice, down from 54 percent in 2008, and 68 percent of Democrats identify as pro-choice, up from 59 percent in 2008.
 
The telephone survey polled 1,024 adults 18 and older in the 50 states and D.C., with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, Gallup said.
 
Despite a decline in pro-lifers, abortion rates in the U.S. were lower in 2011 than they’ve been since the 1970s, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) said in its 2015 State of Abortion in the U.S. States report in January.
 
After the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortions rose to 1.5 million a year by 1980 and peaked at 1.6 million in 1990, but began dropping in subsequent years, NRLC reported, and were down to just over a million in 2011.
 
“There is a long way to go, but it is clear that we have made a lot of progress,” NRLC said in its report. “Abortions in the United States today are down to levels not seen since the 1970s, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide.
 
“Declining abortion rates and ratios show that this is not merely a statistical anomaly,” NRLC said. Since 1973, an estimated 57 million unborn babies have been aborted.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

6/8/2015 10:30:55 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Clinton, Paul talk abortion on 2016 campaign trail

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.”

 
4-30-15abortion.jpgPhotos 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.)
 

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Cruz begins GOP bid; social issues percolate

4/30/2015 11:03:15 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



House GOP challenged to enact late abortion ban

April 24 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

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 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Senate reaches anti-trafficking compromise

April 24 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

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.

 
4-24-15_trafficking_WEB.jpg

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 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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