I'm a Southern Baptist pastor, and here's why I oppose a Texas bill to imprison women who receive abortions
In my 30 years of pastoring a Southern Baptist church in Texas, I have faced plenty of criticism. It's par for the course, especially if you hold on to traditional, biblical views in America nowadays.
But never, in all these years, did I ever think I would find myself in a situation facing criticism for actually opposing a bill that would ban abortion in the state.
The Abolish Abortion in Texas Act, recently introduced into the Legislature, has been touted as a "pro-life" bill. But while I agree with the spirit of the bill, its mechanism of action is a far cry from "pro-life."
The bill would amend the state's criminal code, so that a woman who has an abortion could be charged with homicide and potentially face the death penalty.
I have always stood, and will always stand, for the unborn, but this bill was a bridge too far. I believe it would have caused irreparable harm to the pro-life cause, but more importantly, it does not take into account the sincere struggle many women undergo when they are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. This was not the right approach to end abortion in America.
Because I believe this, I expressed my support for Republican Rep. Jeff Leach when he said the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, which he leads, would not advance the bill. Leach is a member of our church and has authored other critical legislation to protect the life of the unborn. I would be pressed to find a state representative more committed to the pro-life cause and who — like me — would love to see the day when Roe vs. Wade is overturned.
But my Tweet supporting Leach did not sit well with everyone. Some supporters of the bill said I needed to repent and even called me an "evil" man.
I understand they were speaking emotionally. I abhor abortion as much as they do, but as Christians we need to remember we are called to not only protect the unborn but also to walk with women through their struggle. In fact, we fail if we do not care for the mother and meet her at her point of need. This is one of the key lessons we have learned through our church's pregnancy center, which we launched in 1991 to help women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies.
Over the past three decades, we have prevented tens of thousands of abortions by helping provide women with an alternative. We have never met a woman in our crisis pregnancy center who deserved to be criminally convicted of homicide. We have met many women who've faced very difficult life choices and who needed to know there was an alternative and a community that would support them if they chose it.
The women who come to our center often are alone, distressed and confused. Many of them are considering abortion not because they want to end their pregnancy, but because they don't have resources or they feel pressured to do it.
A study published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons surveyed over 1,000 post-abortion patients to understand the emotional effects abortion has on women. The study found that 6 out of 10 got an abortion to make someone else happy. It also revealed that in the aftermath of an abortion, many women report feelings of depression, guilt, shame, self-hatred and suicidal thinking. But to me, the study's most heartbreaking revelation was that 66 percent of the women said, "They knew in their hearts that they were making a mistake when they underwent the abortion."
The abortion industry presents abortion to a woman in an unplanned pregnancy as the solution to her problems — just a simple medical procedure to rid her body of an unwanted and inconsequential clump of cells. Abortion clinics don't share the ugly truth that abortion stops one heart and can break another.
Many evangelicals support overturning Roe vs. Wade, but we also believe God has not called us to punish women who are seeking or have had abortions while we pray, wait and work for the day it will be overturned. Instead, we are to show his grace and love for them — exactly what Jesus did when he approached people in need.
A better approach is House Bill 16, introduced by Leach, that protects the unborn in a compassionate and just way. Leach's bill requires doctors to treat babies who survive an abortion. Doctors who fail to provide the appropriate medical treatment would be charged with a third-degree felony and have to pay a fine of at least $100,000. The fetal heartbeat bills, introduced in various states that ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected, are also a good approach.
Simultaneously, we should put more energy toward helping mothers. If our experience has taught us anything, it's that we would see gains even when legislation falls short. More than 90 percent of the women who receive services and support at our pregnancy center choose life for their babies — that's over 45,000 lives since 1991. No matter what laws may be in place, for now, we can always make a difference if we show love and compassion to those in need.
Our focus should be on protecting the precious lives of unborn babies and supporting mothers who find themselves in a difficult situation. Both lives — mother and child — are inherently worthy and infinitely precious in the eyes of God.