The Tennessee Baptist Convention launched an online petition July 23 to rally the state’s 3,000 Southern Baptist churches in support of legislation to ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy.
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, introduced the “I Stand for Life” campaign in a video on the ministry website.
“My hope is that leaders in our state will legally acknowledge that life begins at conception and also end the murderous practice of abortion in Tennessee,” said Davis, a pastor for 34 years before taking the helm of the nearly million-member state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.
After failing this year to muster support for a bill to ban abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks into pregnancy, Tennessee Republicans settled for a law that will tighten restrictions on abortion should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision recognizing a woman’s right to privacy in matters of reproductive choice.
The so-called trigger law would prohibit abortion except to save a woman’s life or prevent a serious medical condition. It would bar prosecution of women who receive an abortion.
The legislature is off for the summer, but Davis said he hopes thousands of signatures by Tennessee Baptists will persuade lawmakers not to let the goal of a total abortion ban die.
“It is an opportunity for you to sign a petition and let our state legislators know that Tennessee Baptists believe life is a gift from God and that we support laws that protect unborn children at all stages of pregnancy, from conception to birth,” Davis described the “I Stand for Life” campaign.
“I believe abortion is a blight on our culture and a sin in the eyes of God,” he said. “I believe most Tennessee Baptists believe that also.”
The petition says that Tennessee Baptists “believe God is the creator of life, and therefore He rightly defines all life, and when life begins.”
“While we acknowledge that many people reject the God of the Bible, we urge everyone to consider the ways in which God has revealed Himself in creation (all He has made), conscience (the universal sense of right and wrong in people and all cultures), and Scripture (His written message to us),” the petition says.
“Because God is the author of life, and has revealed Himself to all people, we believe He has shown us in natural revelation (creation and conscience) and special revelation (Scripture) that life begins at conception,” it continues. “This is increasingly borne out in science, which, as it advances, continues to affirm the biblical truth of life and personhood in the womb.”
“We further believe that since life begins at conception, the U.S. Constitution provides all people, born and unborn, with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the petition proclaims. “These Constitutional provisions are and should be sufficient to legally protect the lives of our state and country’s unborn children.”
The petition calls on “all of our elected and appointed officials to exercise their full authority in such a way as to protect the lives of all people from the point at which God grants life (conception) to the point at which He brings it to an end (death).”
A recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey online poll found that a majority of Tennessee voters (53 percent) think Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, while 44 percent think it should be. Across the South, just 40 percent think Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and nearly six in 10 (58 percent) think it should remain the law of the land.
In 2014 Tennessee Baptist Convention leaders helped win passage of an amendment to the state constitution eliminating language guaranteeing a right to abortion. The Supreme Court declined last year to accept an appeal of the measure, allowing the legislature to impose restrictions such as a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion.
The 2014 referendum passed by a margin of 6 percentage points in a contest of nearly 1.4 million voters.
In a July 22 column for the Baptist & Reflector, the Tennessee Baptist Convention newspaper, Davis expressed optimism about the passage of more laws protecting the unborn.
“I have no doubt that if our great network of TBC churches mobilizes and puts action to our conviction, Tennessee Baptists will be at the center of the most comprehensive pro-life initiative North America has ever seen,” the state executive wrote.
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