Oklahoma has been declared the “number one” state on Americans United for Life’s “Life List” – a recognition by the nation’s oldest pro-life organization based on how well Oklahoma law protects life.
The achievement can be attributed to the many years Oklahomans have encouraged state government leaders to support pro-life legislation, including Oklahoma Baptists’ 25 years of involvement in Rose Day.
Each year, hundreds gather at the statehouse at the beginning of the new legislative session to support the lives of unborn babies by meeting with their state senators and representatives and presenting them red roses representing the sanctity of the unborn. Attendees are encouraged to bring roses to present to their representative, senator, the lieutenant governor and governor.
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating meets with Anthony Jordan, then-pastor of Northwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, during the 1995 Rose Day pro-life rally at the Oklahoma capitol. Jordan now is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
This year’s Rose Day on Wednesday, Feb. 3, began with rose distribution from 9:30-11:30 a.m. To commemorate Oklahoma Baptists’ 25-year involvement with Rose Day, Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, delivered the keynote address at the 11:45 a.m. pro-life rally in the House chamber.
“I have been involved since 1985 with the pro-life movement here in Oklahoma,” Jordan recounted. “We started having small groups meeting on the steps of the capitol. Then in 1990 we had a Rally for Life that had thousands upon thousands. In fact, Connie Chung on CBS News said 20,000 people were there. People with the capitol said it was the largest gathering ever in the history of capitol.”
Even though the 1990 Sunday afternoon rally appeared to be a great success, Jordan noticed a different result when he met with some key legislators after the event.
“They acted like [the Rally for Life] had never happened,” Jordan said. “The impact of it was to rally Oklahoma pro-lifers, but it didn’t make any difference in the legislature.”
Jordan said he and other Oklahoma Baptist leaders tried to figure out how to have a greater impact.
“Two sweet Catholic ladies for several years had been going to the capitol handing out roses, so we talked with them, and we ended up joining them with Rose Day,” Jordan said. “It’s an opportunity to be inside the building, interfacing with the legislators and with our executive branch leaders and to press on them our absolute determination that the unborn has the right to life.”
Organizers have seen the Rose Day crowd “grow and grow and grow” every year, Jordan said. “We not only fill up the House chamber and the galleries, but we also have to send [rally attendees] over to the Senate chamber.
“It is a tremendous opportunity for pro-lifers to go to our legislators, look them in the eye and tell them of their commitment to the unborn and call on our legislators to protect the unborn in Oklahoma,” he said.
Rose Day has had an impact not just for Baptists and Catholics in the past 25 years but also on other Christian denominations that have become part of the annual rally.
Rose Day attendees filled the Oklahoma State Capitol Rotunda in 1995. Oklahoma Baptists began participating in the annual pro-life rally four years earlier, this year marking 25 years of petitioning legislators in behalf of the unborn.
Jordan emphasized the significance of the recognition of senators and representatives who attend the Rose Day rally.
“I think it’s important that people understand that Rose Day is not just a time to come and rally and shout and say we are pro-life,” he said. “It is an opportunity to allow the legislators to stand up and put them on record as being pro-life. Then, when pro-life bills come up, we are able to come back to them and say, ‘You know, you were at Rose Day. You stood up and said you were committed to the life of the unborn.’ Rose Day gives us the opportunity to be able to press for legislation that will make a difference.”
Underscoring the need for vigilance, Jordan said, “You can never give up. The enemy is in opposition, always seeking to take us out of the public arena, to shut us up. … We must be a voice for the voiceless. I have committed as long as the Lord gives me life and breath I will speak for the unborn, and there are others who have made that same commitment. It’s imperative we not lose our energy.”
Jordan also noted other concerns that threaten the pro-life movement, including the judicial system.
“I think of the challenges that we face in regard to many of these pro-life bills that have been passed [when] they are killed by our Supreme Court here in Oklahoma,” Jordan said. “I think judicial reform is a very important part of looking at the future. We need judges who rule from law and not simply from their own imagination and don’t create laws. They are not legislators. That’s to be done in the legislature.”
Another concern is how abortion can be possible through pharmaceutical drugs.
“We are at a point in the pro-life movement where the battle is going to move from the clinic to the pharmacy,” Jordan said. “The way you win there is you have to win in the public arena and in the minds and hearts of young people. We have to show them.”
When a young woman goes to one a pregnancy center and is provided an ultrasound – “the fact of the matter is nearly 98 percent of those who see that unborn child in their womb choose to give life,” Jordan said. “We have to help people understand this is a child.”
Jordan said he is “praying for the day when the Congress of the United States will pass a law and will go to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court will support it and will protect the unborn child, period.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Doyle is associate editor of the Baptist Messenger at baptistmessenger.com, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)