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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.Here is the link to his original article: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/05/11/southern-baptist-pastor-oppose-texas-bill-imprison-women-receive-abortions
Pastor Jack Graham, rebuttal to the article Pastor Graham…..
Your recent article for the Dallas News2 contains logical, factual, and theological errors. Please consider the errors that you are making in your reasoning. The errors you make are very similar to the errors that many Southern Baptists made in regard to slavery and many of them are consistent with the argumentation used to support the pro-choice cause.
HB 8969 would not have resulted in the death penalty for women who had an abortion procedure. Only six women have been given the death penalty in the state of Texas in the past thirty years1. Declaring that HB 896 puts women on death row is a red herring and doesn’t deal with the merits of the bill. Additionally, this misrepresentation has been thoroughly refuted by Bradley Pierce3 of Abolish Abortion in Texas.
What HB 896 actually did was declare equality of personhood. This is something that no one should have the right to deny to anyone. The bill affirms that a person in the womb should have the same protection as a person outside of the womb. If abortion is illegal, why would the person who put to death another not face any repercussion? Why should someone who is within the womb be second-class in their personhood? On what basis do you have the authority to declare one person superior to another?
Such a view is like declaring that slavery should be outlawed in the United States but without imposing any criminal penalties upon those who enslave others. This is absurd because it denies the value of personhood.
Having such a view would be unheard of in the present day, but it was not unheard of at the inception of the Southern Baptist Convention4. Many within the early days of the Southern Baptist Convention would have been against placing criminal penalties upon slave owners. But, what sense does that make? Slavery is sinful because it is wrong to steal the life of another human for your own profit. Why would there not be a criminal penalty for owning slaves? Remember, there were many Christians that struggled with the consequences of ending slavery. The great evangelist George Whitfield fell on the wrong side of this issue. He disagreed with the idea of ending slavery in the South because he saw the consequences it would have on the Georgian economy. Today, I am concerned that you are on the wrong side of this issue.
Just recently, Jazmin Lopez was charged with murder5 and placed in a Dallas County jail, because she allegedly murdered her recently born child. You agree that there should be criminal prosecution for those who take the life of an infant that has been born, but you don’t agree that there should be criminal prosecution for those who take the life of a pre-born child.
Why has travelling down the birth canal made this a greater crime? We both know the crime hasn’t changed; instead, we have a system that is inconsistent.
Pastor Graham, every argument you use to protect the mother from criminal prosecution after having an abortion could be used to protect the mother that commits infanticide. Don’t be surprised when people take your faulty reasoning to its logical conclusion. Perspectives like yours enable this type of behavior because it allows individuals to feel justified in denying personhood.
We are currently creating numerous pseudo-victories for the pro-life movement. Recently Representative Leach touted the passing of HB 16, The Texas Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, as a great victory for the pro-life movement. However, there was already a standing law that protected a child born alive. Texas does not allow doctors to take the life of infants born alive. Furthermore, Texas law doesn’t allow abortions after twenty weeks6 and there has never been a child that survived a birth prior to 21 weeks, 5 days7. There was no reason to pass this law and such a law will save the life of no one. Celebrating this as a victory creates a facade of success, while it does nothing to save the one-hundred and forty-nine innocent children whose lives are taken in the state of Texas every day. Additionally, this is a distraction from the fact that no other pro-life bill has made it through the legislature this session.
We don’t have an either/or in regard to helping women in crisis or protecting the lives of pre-born infants. We have strong Biblical arguments for helping those in distress and we likewise have a call to protect the lives of those who can’t protect themselves. (Psalm 82:3-4, Exodus 20:13, Proverbs 19:17, Philippians 2:4, James 1:27, Matthew 25:35-40, Hebrews 13:16, James 2:14-17, Romans 13:9, Genesis 9:5-6, Romans 13:1-5)
This isn’t an either/or issue. My church has worked for many years supporting a crisis pregnancy center financially, through volunteering and with resources. We also have several families who have adopted children. But this isn’t the only way to help. We must also speak for those who do not have a voice. There should be protections in the law for those who cannot protect themselves. And their protections should be equal to the protections for everyone else.
When slavery was legal in the United States it would have been a great act of benevolence to help those who travelled through the Underground Railroad. But you would be very shortsighted to declare that this was the only legitimate way to help those who were trapped in slavery. Many Christians supported the criminalization of the slave trade. What good would it have done to those who were enslaved if there were no criminal penalties for owning slaves?
Christians need to stand on consistent logic. If a pre-born child is a human made in the image of God then that human deserves the same respect as one who has been born. Therefore, they deserve the same protections under the law. They are no less human because they are in the womb.
Faulty Trust in the Courts:
Trusting in the courts to decide was not the solution to slavery. Instead, the Supreme Court put forward Dred Scott8, which is one of the worst rulings in the history of the court. The founders never intended for the Supreme Court to wield the power that it currently does. Placing our hope in the court as the final arbiter is a recipe for tyranny and buttresses the status quo. Lesser magistrates should be acting in ways that are consistent with both natural and Biblical Law regardless of what five unelected people with lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court declare by judicial fiat.
Pastor Graham, I fear you are making errors in reasoning that many Southern Baptists made in prior generations. Those repercussions are being felt today by modern Southern Baptists.
The Southern Baptist Convention is reeling with guilt because of the actions of our predecessors regarding slavery and Civil Rights. One of the greatest ways that you can bless the next generation of Southern Baptists is to not act in a way that will bring guilt and shame upon those who come after you. Brother, you are on the wrong side of history on this issue.
Slavery was wrong because it did not recognize the equality of personhood and grant equal protection under the law for all people and this is where you are falling short on the issue of abortion. Your perspective makes the child in the womb second class in personhood, but you don’t have the authority to make such a declaration. These are the errors made by pro-choice argumentation that should not be used by one advocating for life.
Just as slavery was recognized as sinful because it steals the life of those who are made in the image of God, so will abortion be recognized as sinful because it takes the life of one made in the image of God – a life that should have had equal protection under the law. And at that time, historians will look at those that held such compromising positions with guilt and shame because they sacrificed the honorable recognition of human life on the altar of political expediency.
Soli Deo Gloria,
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Psalms 36:1, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.”
Abortion is murder every bit as much as the taking of any innocent life is. So there should be penalties for abortion just like those that are enforced upon those who who murder a born person. Great letter pastor. I hope he listens to you and repents.