AUSTIN, Texas (SWBTS) – Thousands of blue-clad Texans descended on the front lawn of their state capitol in Austin, July 8, for a pro-life rally organized to encourage legislators to pass two bills that would significantly limit abortions in Texas. House Bill 2 (HB2) and Senate Bill 1 (SB1), both winding their way through the legislation process of a special session of the 83rd legislature, would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks gestation and would raise the standards abortion clinics must meet to be the same as those set for ambulatory surgical centers.
Professors and students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary traveled to Austin for the rally to contribute to the visible showing of support for the life-saving legislation currently before the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott, among others, have publically expressed their unwavering support of both HB2 and SB1.
President of Concerned Women for America, Penny Nance; President of March for Life, Jeanne Monahan; hit television show, 19 Kids and Counting, mother, Michelle Duggar; former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) Executive Director Jim Richards; and senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas Robert Jeffress were among those who joined Abbott and Dewhurst in speaking at Monday’s rally.
Jeffress told the crowd of pro-life supporters standing in front of the capitol and the abortion-supporters picketing from the fringes that the battle being fought in the legislature and in culture is not a battle between republicans and democrats, but—as Ephesians 6 describes—a battle between light and darkness, good and evil, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
“And this is a battle that we’re going to win!” said Jeffress, a 2011 distinguished alumnus of Southwestern.
Jeffress said he is confident they will win the battle because science, the American people and God are all three on the side of life.
“We can debate all night whether life begins at the fertilization of the egg or at the implantation of the egg,” Jeffress said. “We can have that debate. But after four and a half months, there is no debate! That is not just a blob in that womb! It is a life and a life worth defending!”
In explaining that the American people support outlawing abortion, Jeffress referenced a Gallup Poll from January that found that 60 percent of Americans oppose abortion in the second trimester and 80 percent oppose it in the third—both of which could be outlawed in Texas if current legislation passes in both houses. Yet, Jeffress recognized some will point to the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade in which a mother was given the legal right to “choose to murder her own child,” as Jeffress put it.
“Well even the most ardent liberal has to admit that sometimes the Supreme Court gets it wrong,” Jeffress said. “If you don't believe that, go back with me to 1857 and the notorious Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court. In 1857 the Supreme Court said, ‘African Americans are not people, they have no rights, they are not persons. They are only property.’ That was Dred Scott in 1857. In 1973 the Supreme Court said the same thing about children in the womb: ‘They are not people. They have no right to purse life, liberty and happiness.’ That’s what they said in 1973. Ladies and gentlemen, Roe v. Wade was the Dred Scott decision of our day, and one day it's going to be overturned! The American people are on the side of life!”
Finally and most importantly, Jeffress said, God is on the side of life and will be the reason the battle for the unborn is won.
“Do you remember what our Lord and savior Jesus Christ said?” Jeffress asked. “He said it would be better for someone to have a millstone tied around his neck and he be cast into the sea, than to hurt a child. Now, some of the opponents of this bill are here tonight. Some of them have been heard shouting, 'Hail to Satan! Hail to Satan! Hail to Satan!' They are revealing more about their position than perhaps they would like to admit, because it is Satan who is the author of death. In John 8:44 Jesus said Satan is a murderer and he has been murderer since the beginning. In John 10:10, Jesus said Satan is a thief who has come to steal, kill and destroy. Satan always is voting on the side of death. Ladies and gentlemen, I say this to you tonight, by authority of the Word of God, anyone who opposes this bill, whether he or she realizes it, is a tool of Satan, being used by Satan to accomplish Satan's purpose of death. It was our Lord and savior Jesus Christ who said, ‘I have come that they may have life and that they might have it abundantly.’”
Dewhurst said he, too, will continue to fight for life and to protect both women and the unborn and said he had a message for all those who do not agree with the pro-life stance.
“We love you," Dewhurst said. “That’s right. We love you, because as Christians, we love you just as much as we love that unborn baby. As an American, I respect your first-amendment rights to free speech. As a Texan, I respect your toughness. But as a leader, we're going to pass this bill.”
Abbot agreed, saying from his wheelchair that he too will ‘stand’ for life, an example that disability and disadvantage do not negate the value or potential of any life.
“It shows that you don't have to stand to fight for life or to fight for what is right,” Dewhurst said. “It also shows the error of the ways of those who believe that it's so easy to write off the lives of the disabled or the different. Texas is not going to stand idly by while life is threatened. Texas will not stand aside waiting for the next [Kermit] Gosnell to harm a woman or to kill a baby. We will protect both women and babies, and we will put killers like Gosnell behind bars!”
Nance echoed Jeffress’ evaluation of Americans’ documented opposition to abortion and described just exactly what 20 weeks of life looks like in a developing baby, explaining that a 5-month-old life in utero already has an undeniable personhood.
“A baby at 5 months has long had a detectable beating heart,” Nance said. “She has all of her vital organs. She has a face. She has the beginnings of eyebrows, eyelashes and fingernails. She can hear and respond to her mother’s voice. And worst and most tragically of all, in an abortion, she can feel the pain of the life being ripped from her little body. That, my friends, is what [the media outlets] don’t want to talk about. And they call us radical? No! They're the radicals!”
Duggar brought her youngest daughter, Josie, to the podium with her as she told Texans that the young girl could be the “poster child” for HB2, since she was born three and a half months early, yet has grown to be healthy and happy. She called the tolerance of abortion in America a “baby holocaust” in which “doctors and nurses are being paid to take the lives of innocent unborn children.” The crowd spontaneously joined Duggar as she quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 in which God says He will forgive and heal a land when God’s people pray and repent.
Huckabee, a 2012 distinguished alumnus of Southwestern, reminded the crowd that God is the creator and the endower of life and liberty and that no person should think of himself so highly as to replace God in His role of giving or taking life.
“No such thing as a life that is not worthy to be lived,” Huckabee said. “No such thing as a life that is disposable. No such thing as a life that is so insignificant, so worthless, so unwanted, so unnecessary that any of us would choose and believe that we are so God-like that we would singularly have the right to extinguish that which God created.”
Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, delivered a message on behalf of United States Senator Ted Cruz who could not attend the event:
“I want to thank the thousands of Texans who are engaging in the legislative process to speak up for the unborn,” Saenz relayed from Cruz. “Our opponents seem to advocate little or no restriction on abortion. In the past, such advocates claimed abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Today their position can fairly be interpreted as anytime, on demand and everywhere. This extreme embrace of unlimited late-term abortion is indefensible.”
Richards, who has served as executive director at the SBTC since its inception in 1998, told legislators—republican and democrat alike—who stood behind him on the platform that he represented 2,410 SBTC churches that stand for life. He prayed that the hearts of all people will come to have the Lord’s perspective on human life and that they will recognize God not only as the giver of physical life but the giver of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Lane Self and Randy Mathisen, both master’s students at Southwestern who traveled to Austin for the rally, said the rally encouraged them to see that many other people have committed to stand for life.
“It was an impressive turnout,” Self said. “It was clear that the people of Texas want to support pro-life legislation.”
Evan Lenow, assistant professor of ethics and chair of the ethics department at Southwestern Seminary, agreed and said he hopes people will see the opportunity the pro-life legislation debate has presented to pray for hearts to be turned, to share the Gospel through openings in conversation, to urge elected representatives to vote according to their district’s values, and to vote in local, state, and national elections.
“We often times struggle to find the balance between our faith and how we put that into practice in the public square,” Lenow said. “So, this was an opportunity to demonstrate to the world and to our students and to everyone involved that this is an area of importance, that we need to let our voice be heard on the issue of life, and that abortion is sinful and that it is murder. We need to take a stand publicly, not just in the classroom, not just in our discussion in the church, but actually in the public square and tell our politicians—tell those who are in government and in positions of authority—that this issue matters to us and we want our voices heard.”
An estimated 2,000 pro-life supporters rallied July 8 for Texas legislation to forbid most abortions after 20 weeks as well as improve standards of care in abortion clinics and require abortion doctors to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their practice. Many in the crowd held signs and nearly everyone wore blue to contrast the orange worn by pro-choice activists, who stood on the perimeter of the gathering. (Photo by Jerry Pierce of the Southern Baptist TEXAN)