As it appears Missouri has become the first state since the Roe v. Wade decision to virtually eliminate abortions, Baptists are celebrating while preparing for more battles ahead.
A report issued Jan. 5 by Operation Rescue declared Missouri to be abortion-free, “at least in practice.” However, Planned Parenthood still claims abortion services are offered at one of its St. Louis locations.
Operation Rescue alleges that in actuality, “no abortion appointments have been available there for months, and none are available anytime in the foreseeable future.” Instead, the group claims PP clients are being shuttled across the Mississippi River to a recently completed facility in Fairview Heights, Ill.
Planned Parenthood won a yearlong court battle in May to keep its license despite allegations by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services of several cases of life-threatening abortion injuries. Chery Sullenger, senior vice president of Operation Rescue, credits that case as well as Missouri’s strong pro-life legislation with Planned Parenthood’s decision to direct clients to Illinois, where abortion laws are more lax.
“They’re trying to avoid another legal case so the state doesn’t take their license,” she said. “Missouri has the best laws and best strategy.”
John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), praised the work of Baptists and pro-life leaders.
“We are thrilled that Planned Parenthood and any other abortion providers are frustrated with the health and safety regulations adopted in Missouri,” he said. “Public policy matters dealing with moral and social issues take incredible teamwork for a long time to come to fruition. Missouri Baptists have been part of a groundswell of people in our state who have worked hard to elect convictional pro-life state representatives, state senators and governors to stem the tide of the American Holocaust.”
MBC President Jon Nelson pointed to the Convention’s expansive pro-life platform as one reason his congregation, SOMA Community Church in Jefferson City, joined the work of Missouri Baptists.
“The MBC has been extremely involved and effective in opposing abortion efforts in the state. As the father of biological and adopted children, I appreciate those stances,” he said.
Susan Klein, executive director for Missouri Right to Life, told Baptist Press that in 2019 the state reported 1,471 abortions. From Jan. 1 through Nov. 15 of 2020, the state’s Department of Health recorded 39 abortions, a decrease of more than 97%.
Yeats said that decrease in abortions is cause for celebration, but is tempered with the knowledge that it still came with 39 innocent lives lost. Missouri Baptists, he noted, operate two crisis pregnancy centers, an adoption agency and a ministry for physically and sexually abused women through its Missouri Baptist Children’s Home.
“Some of those yet-to-be-born children could have been rescued if their mothers had examined her options and resources at one of the crisis pregnancy centers scattered across the state where caring people would do their very best to love her and her child,” he said.
“Response to abortion cannot be merely our protests and public policy but also compassionately comprehensive.”
“My heart aches for every abortion in this state, and 39 are way too many. Missouri Baptists know that every life is precious, and I’m grateful for every unborn life that is saved, especially through amazing agencies like our Children’s Home.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)