March 19 2015 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
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
January 13 2015 by
David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The Biblical Recorder asked several ministers across the state to weigh in on the sanctity of life. Sanctity of Life Sunday is Jan. 18 and Jan. 25. The date is near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that first recognized the constitutionally-protected status of abortion in the United States. Southern Baptists believe that life, not just that of unborn babies, is precious. They encourage believers to honor and celebrate all stages of life. The day has expanded to include the elderly, adopted and those who are trafficked.
“God so values life, that He gave His only begotten Son that we might live forever with Him. If God so valued every life, we ought to see every life as valuable and worth everything we can do to protect and promote their right to live. As an adopted child, I thank God my birth mother valued life and that my adopted mom saw me as valuable.”
– Noah Crowe, First Baptist Church, Robbinsville
“Of all the shifts that have occurred in the ‘American experiment,’ none has been more devastating to our culture than the abandonment of the Christian world and life view that gave rise to, and, then sustained our great Republic. The evidence of this shift from a Judeo-Christian worldview to modern and postmodern outlooks, rooted in philosophical naturalism (i.e., atheism), has been unsettling, to say the least. One of the first major indicators that this ‘shift’ had occurred was the outcome of Roe vs. Wade. If Christians are to have any hope of reinstating the moral framework that once made this nation great, we must battle at a deeper level than the particular issues that confront us (e.g., homosexual ‘marriage,’ abortion, etc.). … Ultimately, the issue in the abortion debate turns on the nature of the child at the earliest level of development. He/she … is made in the image of God and, thus, intrinsically valuable. Hence, not only viable but eternally valuable. ‘It,’ according to the naturalistic view of things, is nothing more than the ‘product of conception,’ and thus disposable. The lives of millions of babies depend on reintroducing the Christian worldview to the ‘American experiment.’”
– Dennis Darville, First Baptist Church, Rocky Mount
“The Bible teaches in Genesis 1:26 that all humans were created in the image of God. Then in Romans 3:23 we read that we have all sinned. So the only thing sacred about us is that we were made in the very image of a perfect God. ‘Sanctity of Life’ reflects our belief that human life holds a special place in God’s plan and is sacred. Therefore, human life should be protected from abuse, violence, oppression and [even] before birth.”
– Lee Pigg, Hopewell Baptist Church, Monroe
“Sanctity of human life means that it is holy, sacred, inviolable and hallowed. The word abortion means the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, which totally disregards the sanctity of human life. The Bible tells us in Psalm 139:13-14, ‘For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Abortion is the most horrible, hideous, barbaric thing that America has allowed to happen. Since the passage of Roe v. Wade 40 years ago, roughly 55 million abortions have been performed. That means 55 million children will never attend a prom, never have a wedding day, never be able to raise children and never enjoy grandchildren. Churches, pastors, and Christians all around the world must be a voice for the unborn.”
– Timmy Blair, Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church, Fuquay-Varina
“In the month of February 2015, I will celebrate 26 years of serving pastor of a local church. And for all 26 years, not a year has gone by that I have not participated in Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Why is it so important? It is important because life is the gift of God. Historically, Christians have understood that life begins at conception, but some professing Christians have abandoned the Christian view. In every era, there are some pastors, priests, teachers and others who surrender to a hostile culture. But we have a responsibility as leaders to stand on God’s Truth, point to the evidence, both scripturally and scientifically, to inform people of every generation. It has been said, ‘A nation that sacrifices its unborn is in grave danger.’ We should pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance – before it’s too late.”
– Mark Harris, First Baptist Church, Charlotte
“I am so grateful God sees value in every man, woman, boy and girl. In Genesis 1, God makes man in His image. In Psalm 139, He calls humanity fearfully and wonderfully made. As biblical Christians, we must stand up for those God has made, but whose voices cannot be heard. We must speak for the unborn, the sex-trafficking victim, the orphan and the elderly. We must speak up because the sanctity of human life is not a political issue; it is a biblical issue. The Bible declares value in every life, and so should we.”
– John Mark Harrison, Apex Baptist Church, Apex
“Abortion is a prime example of the clash of two worlds. The world of scripture teaches that life is from the Lord (Psalm 139) and for the Lord (Jeremiah 1). In contrast, the culture of worldliness asserts that life is subject to human convenience and desire, making it plausible to extinguish life, even in the womb. The first springs from trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God, while the second is from a kingdom of self.”
– Rob Peters, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem
1/13/2015 1:23:46 PM
January 5 2015 by
Courtney Crandell, World News Service
BR staff | with 0 comments
A federal appeals court gave the pro-abortion movement an early gift just before Christmas, striking down a North Carolina law requiring abortionists to show their patients ultrasound images of the babies they are about to kill.
In December, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to block the law, known as the North Carolina Woman’s Right to Know Act. The appeals court ruled the law violates free speech rights because it requires doctors not only to show abortion-minded women their ultrasounds but also describe the image to them.
“The state freely admits that the purpose and anticipated effect … is to convince women seeking abortions to change their minds or reassess their decisions,” the 37-page ruling said. “The state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient.”
The law also requires abortionists to offer women the opportunity to hear their babies’ heartbeat.
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.
Pro-abortion groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America originally challenged the North Carolina law in 2011. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards hailed the court’s decision last week as a “major victory for women.”
But women deserve complete information about their pregnancies, said North Carolina Right to Life President Barbara Holt. She hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually hear an appeal.
“It is absolutely vital that a woman, at this most crucial life-and-death juncture, be provided all the information possible about the abortion procedure and the development of her unborn child,” she told National Right to Life News Today. “Simply put, the abortion decision cannot be undone. Women deserve all the facts.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court based on other, conflicting court decisions. “Monday’s opinion holding North Carolina’s law unconstitutional is now in conflict with … a case involving a similar Texas law which the 5th Circuit Court upheld,” Cooper's spokeswoman, Noelle Talley, told the Charlotte Observer.
When performing other risky surgeries, doctors provide complete information about the procedure. Abortionists shouldn’t be exempted from this standard, said Casy Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Because this law places the best interests of women and their children first, we hope that it will ultimately be upheld,” he said.
1/5/2015 12:28:00 PM
December 22 2014 by
Tom Strode, Baptist Press
Courtney Crandell, World News Service | with 0 comments
An Arizona woman's unambiguous response to the first view of her baby offers only one of many life-saving reasons for the existence of the Psalm 139 Project.
The client of New Life Pregnancy Center in Tempe, Ariz., was non-committal at best when she received a positive pregnancy test, Debbie Gillmore, the center's director, told Baptist Press. The woman declined the center's gift of a baby hat, saying, “No. I'm not so sure I want to go through with this,” Gillmore recalled.
Though she scheduled an ultrasound appointment, the center's attempts to contact her with a reminder failed. Yet, the woman, acknowledging her anxiety, arrived on time for her appointment.
The ultrasound technician displayed on the monitor her unborn child, arms and legs moving. When the beating heart appeared on the monitor, the woman blurted out, “There it is,” Gillmore reported in a written account. The technician gave the pregnant woman a model of an unborn baby about the developmental age of hers that she had just observed. Holding the fetal model, the woman looked at the face and paused before telling the technician, “Well, I guess I'd better start thinking about a name.”
Gillmore said of the woman's experience, “Being able to see life on an ultrasound monitor was the decision point for this client.”
Photo from Arizona Baptist Children's Services
The Arizona Baptist Children's Services mobile unit travels to pregnancy resource centers in the Phoenix metro area to offer exams with an ultrasound machine provided by the Psalm 139 Project.
That decision was made possible through gifts to the Psalm 139 Project, a ministry of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The project provides ultrasound machines to pro-life pregnancy resource centers throughout the country, including the one used to show the Arizona woman her child's image. This year, the Psalm 139 Project reached its 10th anniversary of supporting centers that not only seek to help women and to save babies but to share the gospel of Jesus.
The anxious woman in Arizona is only one of many across the United States who have benefited from an ultrasound machine placed through Psalm 139, which 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.”
Quantifying how many decisions for life have been made through viewing images on the Psalm 139-donated machines is difficult. Earlier this year, the eight centers that have such machines, or have had such machines in the past, reported nearly 650 choices for life by mothers while the Psalm 139 machines were in use. Three centers reported decisions for life by abortion-minded women, while others reported the total number of babies born to clients while the Psalm 139 machines were being used. Some said it is difficult to track the decisions made by their clients.
The ERLC has provided ultrasound equipment through Psalm 139 to centers based in San Marcos, Texas; New Albany, Ind.; Denver; Corinth, Miss.; Lakeland, Fla.; Phoenix; Louisiana and Houston. It announced in June its next gift of a machine would be to a center in Woodbridge, Va.
All the centers strongly affirmed in written interviews with BP the importance of ultrasound technology to their work.
“Having ultrasound capabilities has made all the difference in saving lives,” Martha Jobe, executive director of the Oasis Medical Center in Corinth, Miss, said. “The Holy Spirit and ultrasound are a powerful combination.”
The ultrasound machine “is the 'window to the womb,’” said Cheri Martin, executive director of Central Texas Life Care in San Marcos. “The opportunity for a mother to see her baby and hear the baby's heartbeat has made a tremendous impact on our mothers to choose life.”
Rose Condra, director of Choices for Women Resource Center in New Albany, Ind., said, “Ultrasound makes all the difference for many women and their families.” It is not only the pregnant woman but “the others in the room who fall in love with the beating heart on the screen,” she said. “This may mean that a young woman who could have been swayed (or pressured) into aborting may now be supported in a choice for life. Although women in this day and age could Google ultrasound images to see fetal development, when that child is growing inside you, it makes the image more impactful.”
Dennis Flierl oversees the work of Riverside Pregnancy Center in his role as director of community ministries for Riverside Baptist Church in Denver. Providing ultrasounds “allows us to minister to clients who would never set foot” in the church, he said. “When we do get an abortion-minded client, it makes a huge difference when they see the heartbeat and the baby move.”
Karen Snuffer, whose Care Net center in Northern Virginia was granted a machine this year through Psalm 139, said, “Aside from the gospel, ultrasound is the most effective tool pregnancy resource centers have to reveal the precious life in the womb.”
Estimates on how many women reject abortion after seeing ultrasound images of unborn children vary. Care Net – a nationwide network of Christian pregnancy resource centers – reports statistics indicate abortion-minded women are 50 percent more likely to give birth after viewing images of their unborn babies on an ultrasound monitor. Others estimate the success rate is about 80 percent.
Some centers report even more dramatic results.
Mary Lou Hendry, sanctity of human life director for the Florida Baptist Children's Home, said every woman who has agreed to an ultrasound exam in its mobile unit and has viewed an image of her child has chosen life. Cheri Martin said the success rate of ultrasound at the San Marcos, Texas, center is 95 percent.
Many pregnancy resource centers still are operating without the advantage of ultrasound technology. About 60 percent of Care Net's 1,100 affiliated centers do not have sonogram machines, said Vincent DiCaro, its chief outreach officer.
The Psalm 139 Project – like similar efforts within the pro-life movement – seeks to reduce the number of centers operating at a handicap.
“Psalm 139 is our attempt to help these centers acquire ultrasound technology so young mothers can see an image of their unborn baby and make an informed decision,” Daniel Darling, the ERLC's vice president for communications, said.
“Pregnancy resource centers are in the trenches of the pro-life movement, applying the gospel to the everyday realities in communities around the country,” Darling told BP. “Most of them operate on a shoe-string budget, reliant on donations for support. And yet the work they do is remarkable. Studies have shown that their presence in a community drops the abortion rate significantly.
“What's more,” he said, “a pro-life center is not partisan. You find loving volunteers who care for the young pregnant girls and their unborn children in a way that's redemptive and full of grace.”
The centers that receive ultrasound machines through Psalm 139 report not only infant lives saved but women saved by grace through faith in Christ.
A single mother with two children, a painful past and apparent bitterness toward “hypocritical churchgoers” visited the Oasis Medical Center, reported Julia Taylor in an article for the March 2013 newsletter of the Corinth, Miss., ministry. Taylor is a registered nurse with Oasis.
When her pregnancy test proved positive, the mother said she did not know what she would do about “it,” Taylor said. But when she viewed an image of her child on the ultrasound monitor, she asked, “Is that my baby?” And when her baby's heartbeat filled the room, tears poured down her face.
Taylor then shared the gospel with her, helping her understand she did not need to “first clean herself up.” After a few minutes, the mother prayed to receive Christ. “The bitter lines of defeat disappear from her countenance, and are replaced with smiles of joy and hope,” Taylor wrote.
The mobile unit operated by the Florida Baptist Children's Home parked next to a Planned Parenthood abortion center in Orlando on Mother's Day weekend this year in a partnership outreach with a pregnancy center.
A woman arrived at Planned Parenthood intending to abort her baby, but a counselor persuaded her to enter the mobile unit for an ultrasound exam and additional information, Mary Lou Hendry told BP.
“It was a battle for life and death,” Hendry said. “When she saw the baby in her womb, she chose life that day for her unborn child. The most important decision she made that day was to receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.”
In the last five years, the ERLC has provided ultrasound machines to centers near the location of the SBC's annual meeting and donated them not only for typical centers but for mobile units in Florida, Arizona and Louisiana. The mobile units meet a variety of needs:
The unit operated by the Florida Baptist Children's Home has been used to combat the outreach of abortion clinics during natural disasters as part of the state convention's disaster relief outreach. The children's home also partners with the pregnancy center of the First Baptist Church in Orlando in “going-out” events to reach pregnant women, Mary Lou Hendry said.
The van used by the Arizona Baptist Children's Services serves five to seven pregnancy resource centers in the metro Phoenix area, reported Mona McDonald, statewide director of pregnancy care for ABCS.
The mobile unit for the Louisiana Baptist Children's Home goes throughout the state, providing its services at such events as parish fairs, health fairs, state park festivals and block parties, said Cindy Kouf, director of nursing for the LBCH's Mobile Pregnancy Care Center. The center also sets up at such locations as church and business parking lots, colleges and universities, and pregnancy resource centers without ultrasound machines.
The ERLC increasingly has worked over the past decade with Baptist state conventions – as well as associations and churches, when possible – to place machines, maintain support and help with accountability, said Bobby Reed, the entity's vice president for business and finance.
Pregnancy resource centers from throughout the country contact the ERLC with hopes of receiving machines, but the entity is unable to help all of them, Reed told BP.
“We are hopeful that in the future we will be able to increase the number of machines we place,” Reed said, “branching beyond the cities/states where they are holding the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting with the dream of having one placed in every state convention, maybe one in every SEND city that has been identified by the North American Mission Board [as the 50 cities in which its work will be prioritized], as well as other areas we can identify as those with the greatest need and opportunity for ministry.”
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 the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
12/22/2014 10:07:32 AM
November 6 2014 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Tennesseans approved Nov. 4 a constitutional amendment to allow legislative regulations on abortions there, while measures in North Dakota and Colorado to affirm the beginning of life at conception failed at the polls.
Still, Southern Baptists in Colorado view the election of pro-life U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner as a victory for unborn children, and North Dakotans will continue to proclaim the value of life from conception, leaders told Baptist Press.
Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis expressed gratefulness for voters’ support of Amendment 1, which allows the legislature to regulate abortion in the state. The amendment won with 52.6 percent of the vote in a race that was considered a toss-up when the polls opened.
“I think Tennessee has begun the process of no longer being the destination for abortions in the Southeast,” Davis said. “I’m very thankful that Tennesseans stood up for life. They showed up to vote and I’m very proud of our laymen and pastors that became engaged in the political process over this issue.”
Davis encouraged the church to move forward protecting life, as the measure does not overturn abortion rights in the state, which are protected nationwide under the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling.
“I think we’ve got to be vigilant to protect the sanctity of life,” Davis told Baptist Press. “I also think we’ve got to be very compassionate to those that find themselves considering an abortion, and lovingly provide an alternative to that abortion. Our behavior has got to match our belief about life.”
While efforts in Colorado to establish the existence of life at conception failed, the election of Gardner to oust Democratic incumbent Mark Udall was a huge win for pro-life advocates, Colorado Baptist General Convention Executive Director Mark Edlund told Baptist Press.
Udall’s campaign focused heavily on a woman’s right to choose, overshadowing Amendment 67 known as the Personhood amendment, but strengthening Gardner’s campaign.
“The amendment got married to the Senate race,” Edlund said. “And we elected Cory Gardner which was a huge step forward. He’s very pro-life, so although we didn’t get the amendment, we got the pro-life senator. So it was really a win for us.”
The failure of Amendment 67 marked the third consecutive defeat of personhood efforts in Colorado. The amendment to define “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code as “unborn human beings” gained only 35.6 percent of the vote, according to results on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.
“I don’t think we had the momentum to actually pass the amendment,” Edlund said. “I’m hoping they’ll bring it back to us in 2016, and I think we’ll have a good chance at that point actually. We’re delighted that Cory Gardner got elected and he’s going to carry our banner for us.”
Jennifer Mason, communications director of Personhood USA, told Baptist Press that the amendment has enjoyed some success, since it failed by a smaller margin this time than in 2012, when it gained less than 30 percent of the vote.
“It’s disappointing that children are not protected in Colorado today. It is very exciting that even being outspent 1300 to one, we still increased the vote by so many points,” Mason said.
Personhood USA will continue its fight in Colorado, she said.
“Yes, we definitely feel that this is something God has called us to do and we will definitely try again, especially knowing that so many people had their hearts and minds changed about the unborn child in Colorado,” Mason said. “I think it’s definitely needed to try again and build on the successes that we had in this election.”
Mason encouraged the church to continue its efforts to protect life in Colorado and beyond.
“I think that anyone who believes in Jesus can be praying for protection for the unborn and also to support local efforts, wherever they are, to protect unborn children,” Mason said. “The most important thing we can do to save babies’ lives is on a one-on-one basis, so talk to friends, talk to neighbors; if you’re able to go to the abortion clinics and offer help and hope to a woman who’s pregnant, do that.”
“Pray for us as we get ready to keep trying,” she said.
North Dakota Measure 1
North Dakotans rejected Measure 1 by a near two-to-one margin, with only 35.8 percent of voters affirming the amendment. Known as the Human Life Amendment, Measure 1 would have recognized and protected “the inalienable right to life of every human being at every stage of development.”
The measure’s failure does not weaken Dakotans’ support of the unborn, Dakota Baptist Convention Executive Director/Treasure Garvon Golden told Baptist Press.
“North Dakota still remains a strong right-to-life state,” Golden said. “The predominant view in North Dakota is that life is valuable. We’ve had a strong record in the past of not only adopting pro-life legislation, but also standing up for the rights of the unborn as well as throughout life. And this measure was just to affirm that.”
Abortion rights activists worked hard to defeat the measure, Golden said.
“I think a lot of those who opposed the measure began to focus peoples’ attentions on ‘what-ifs’ instead of the certainty of saying we are for life,” Golden said. “I don’t think the vote was a true measure of how we as North Dakotans feel about the right to life.”
Southern Baptists in the Dakotas will continue to proclaim the sanctity of life and work for its protection, Golden said.
“We’ll continue as a convention and as Southern Baptists in the Dakotas to stand on the truth that all life is valuable and we’ll continue to advocate for that. We’ll continue to preach that from our pulpits and lead our people to vote their values when they have the opportunity to, and we will put our trust in God and the democratic process.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
Planned Parenthood pushed TN for abortion
11/6/2014 11:49:17 AM
November 3 2014 by
Art Toalston, Baptist Press
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Out-of-state Planned Parenthood groups are pressing Tennesseans to reject limitations on abortion – more than $1.3 million in pressure in the nation’s most contentious abortion standoff on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Tennesseans are seeing a plethora of TV ads and direct mail pieces targeting a state constitutional amendment to enable the legislature to enact restrictions on abortion such as basic medical standards for abortion facilities and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.
Planned Parenthood groups are but part of a “Vote No on 1” campaign that outspent proponents of Amendment 1 by nearly a 3-1 margin in October, The Tennessean daily newspaper reported Nov. 1.
“Amendment 1 is of interest to Planned Parenthood because abortion is big business,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, with offices in Nashville.
“They want an unregulated Wild West of abortion in Tennessee so they can shore up their bottom line,” Moore said in a Nov. 1 statement to Baptist Press.
Amendment 1 is an opportunity “to demonstrate that human dignity is not something that should be bought and sold,” Moore said.
Seattle’s Planned Parenthood affiliate has contributed $750,000 to defeat Amendment 1, according to The Tennessean.
Three Planned Parenthood chapters in California combined for a $500,000 contribution against the measure, while two Florida chapters contributed $101,000, the newspaper reported.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is the nation’s top abortion and secular sex education provider, the organization states on its website, which lists 325,000 abortion procedures in 2012, the latest year for which statistics are available.
Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee also have given $50,000 to defeat Amendment 1, while the American Civil Liberties Union was a $100,000 contributor during October, The Tennessean reported.
The Vote No campaign spent $3.4 million in October in behalf of abortion, counting just over $2 million raised in October and earlier fundraising. The “Yes on 1” campaign, meanwhile, spent just over $1 million during the month, including a $150,000 donation by a pharmaceutical company CEO, John Gregory, and smaller donations by churches, individuals and pro-life organizations.
Amendment 1 states: “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”
The amendment is a pro-life remedy to a Tennessee Supreme Court decision in 2000 that the state constitution implies a right to abortion.
Because Tennessee borders on eight other states, it has become “the abortion Mecca in the deep South,” as one commentator put it, for residents of other states where various abortion regulations are in force.
States surrounding Tennessee already have “common sense restrictions in place,” Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector state newspaper wrote in an Oct. 31 Internet email. “That is why we have become an ‘abortion destination.’ It is too easy to get an abortion in Tennessee and that needs to stop.”
In 2012, 23.6 percent of abortions in Tennessee were performed on women residing out of state, Wilkey had reported in an earlier article, citing the Tennessee Department of Health, Division of Policy, Planning, and Assessment, Office of Health Statistics, 2012.
In addition, Wilkey noted The Tennessean had reported earlier in the year that Tennessee ranks third nationally in the percentage of out-of-state abortions.
“Tens of thousands of lives hang in the balance,” Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said in a letter coauthored with fellow Baptist advocate Gene Williams mailed to every pastor in the state in September.
Also in the balance: “the health, safety, and well-being of women and girls who can be better protected with the passage of Amendment 1,” Davis and Williams noted.
Because the issue is “a matter of policy,” the two men noted, compared to candidates running for office, “it is appropriate for you to encourage your congregation to vote yes on this amendment without fear of adverse scrutiny.”
Amendment 1, however, could face a second challenge stemming from state voting law, Wilkey, reporting in the Baptist and Reflector, has noted.
In order for Amendment 1 to pass, it will need 50 percent of the votes in the governor’s race cast plus one. For example, if 1 million people vote in the race for Tennessee governor on Nov. 4, Amendment 1 must receive 500,001 votes, according to cautionary information from Amendment 1 supporters.
Several examples, Wilkey noted, demonstrate the challenge:
Votes cast for governor: 1 million
Votes cast on amendment: 900,000
Votes FOR amendment: 480,000
Votes AGAINST amendment: 420,000
Amendment FAILS because the Amendment did not garner minimum of 500,001 votes (half the votes cast for Governor, plus 1).
Votes cast for governor: 1 million
Votes cast on amendment: 1.1 million
Votes FOR amendment: 500,001
Votes AGAINST amendment: 599,999
Amendment FAILS because it did not get a majority of the votes even though it did garner the required minimum number of votes of 500,001 (half the votes cast for governor, plus 1).
Votes cast for governor: 1 million
Votes cast on amendment: 900,000
Votes FOR amendment: 500,001
Votes AGAINST amendment: 499,999
Amendment PASSES because it garnered a majority of the votes AND garnered the minimum required number of votes 500,001 (half the votes cast for governor, plus 1).
The challenge has not deterred pastors across Tennessee from advocating for life.
Clarksville pastor Larry Robertson, president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, observed that “nail salons in Tennessee are regulated and inspected, yet abortion clinics don’t have to be? How crazy and confused is that?”
Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, was among several dozen pastors who spoke out Oct. 29 in a news conference at one of the city’s Catholic churches. “The main ones that we’re representing today are the unborn,” Gaines said.
On Twitter, Gaines had urged, “Speak on behalf of unborn children who literally cannot speak for themselves. #true-social-justice.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)
11/3/2014 12:19:55 PM
Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments