The Baptist General Convention of Texas joined the Texans for Life Coalition, Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in an April 18 press conference voicing support for 15 bills before the state House and Senate seeking to restrict abortion.
“We are honored to be here with these pro-life legislators and these groups to support a culture of life in Texas and to help defend life,” Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the BGCT Christian Life Commission, said in the early morning press conference at the state Capitol.
The proposed bills — among more than 40 anti-abortion measures in Texas introduced this legislative session — would bar state funding for Planned Parenthood, outlaw “partial birth” abortion and ban the sale of fetal tissue.
Other legislation would require all fetal remains to be cremated or interred and prohibit health-care facilities from disposing of the remains in sanitary landfills, mandate reporting for abortion complications and ban “wrongful birth” lawsuits, preventing parents from suing doctors for malpractice after their child is born with severe disabilities.
“While we don’t have the votes on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade and abolish abortion in our nation, we must press onward in our efforts to save lives in our state and establish greater reverence for life in Texas,” Bishop Daniel Garcia of Austin said on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.
Freeman, an attorney named public policy director for the Texas Baptist moral concerns agency in 2014, spoke favorably of a bill that would require abortion providers to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in each patient admissions area, waiting room, restroom and patient consulting room.
“That, we think, is really important,” Freeman said. “Last year Texas was the number two state for calls into that hot line. We think that this bill has real practical impact for women and girls who might be sex trafficked getting that number in front of them and getting them out of those horrific situations.”
The bill would also make it a felony to knowingly use “force or the threat of force to compel an individual to receive an abortion.”
The BGCT has passed a number of resolutions over the years opposing abortion, but only recently has it emerged as a legislative priority. In 2013 Executive Director David Hardage lobbied lawmakers to pass abortion restrictions famously filibustered the year before by a state senator who had been recently honored by the Christian Life Commission for her work against predatory lending.
Such lobbying departed with a long tradition of the CLC speaking “to” and not “for” Texas Baptists on matters of public policy, distinguishing the historically moderate convention from the narrowly focused political agenda of the Religious Right.
A CLC pamphlet released in the 1990s opposed abortion on demand but acknowledged “rare circumstances” — including imminent threats to the mother’s physical and mental health, pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and severe fetal deformities — “in which Christians prayerfully choose abortion as the least tragic choice.”
The flurry of anti-abortion bills in the Republican-controlled legislature comes a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 2013 law that shut down half of the state’s abortion clinics.
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas said the bills are designed “explicitly to reduce access to abortion and stigmatize Texans seeking vital health care” and “are harmful, endanger the lives of Texans and blatantly disrespect physicians and patient privacy.”
“Texas politicians can’t seem to take a hint, continuing to advance insulting and unconstitutional restrictions on a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion,” said Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Texas politicians need to abandon their crusade against women’s dignity and focus on measures that actually improve the lives and health of women and their families.”