Oklahoma State Senator Joseph Silk has made sensational news in the pro-life community over the past month by authoring and introducing Senate Bill 13, which would criminalize the act of abortion (classifying it as a homicide punishable by time in prison). The proposed law makes no exceptions for rape or incest and recognizes unborn life from the very point of conception. Among opposition from Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic leaders, the bill stalled in committee and will likely not come to a vote before the full Oklahoma Senate. Given Oklahoma’s history of passing pro-life legislation, this turn of events may be surprising to many observers. Ultimately, the bill’s abolitionist nature could be responsible for its rejection.
Historically, the term”abolitionist” has been used to refer to political activists who seek (or sought in the case of western culture) to end the practice of slavery. Within the past few years, activists who seek to end the practice of abortion have described themselves as “abolitionists.” Senator Silk himself made a connection to slavery and abortion in his efforts to promote the bill, stating:
“The Supreme Court once ruled that slaves were private property and had no rights. The abolitionist had the rise to say, ‘You’re incorrect; that’s against basic human rights.’ That’s what SB 13 does but for innocent unborn children.”https://ktul.com/news/local/state-senator-says-making-abortion-illegal-is-similar-to-ending-slavery
Standing in contrast to abortion abolitionist ideology is that of incrementalism. Incrementalist pro-life activists advocate the regulation, not the abolition, of the abortion industry. Examples of incrementalist political policies include requiring mothers to see ultrasounds of their unborn babies before procuring an abortion and requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Such laws are aimed at reducing the number of abortions performed in a legal environment where the United States Supreme Court (through its Roe vs. Wade decision) has established abortion on demand as a constitutional right. Abolitionists, especially extremist groups such as Abolish Human Abortion (AHA), see incrementalist laws as inherently immoral. A government that regulates an evil, abolitionists argue, refuses to stamp it out. For example, the abortion abolitionist would see a law that forbids the rape of slave women not as virtuous but as inherently unjust for recognizing and legally regulating the master’s rite in his slaves.
Incrementalist ideology, along with its inherent pragmatism, is especially popular among institutional Baptists and Roman Catholics. This is perhaps why both the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and the leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma opposed Senate Bill 13. Catholic Conference Executive Director Brett Farley stated:
This measure as written almost certainly will be deemed unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court and could end up repealing regulations already in place, including the ban on partial birth abortion. We must continue to work diligently, united in common cause to save innocent human lives.https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/state-and-regional/baptist-leaders-oppose-bill-to-criminalize-abortion-proponent-flabbergasted/article_3e77c563-bb84-5376-9dc7-a4d31ba23b71.html
The Executive Director and President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (Southern Baptists) published an open letter to the state’s baptist population which shared similar concerns. In their letter, these Baptist leaders stated that they could not “get behind” Senate Bill 13 because it, among other concerns, “unnecessarily and purposely repeals hard-earned pro-life laws that have helped significantly reduce Oklahoma’s abortion rate.” Lacking support from two of the most influential pro-life religious organizations in the state, the bill has little chance of being heard before the full senate, much less passed.
It’s gut check time for Bible-believing Christians. If we believe the Bible, then we must believe that abortion on demand is murder and that those who practice it, both mother and doctor, are murderers. A consistent moral ethic demands the support of laws, no matter how impractical or judicially challenging, which recognize abortion for what exactly it is: homicide. In America, incrementalist laws have merely served to slow down the holocaust of unborn babies who have been consistently and continually sacrificed upon the altars of convenience, greed, and radical feminism. The wisdom of Baptist leaders who speak out against an abolitionist bill should, at the very least, be called into question. I argue that Christians would do better to steer funding away from the political activity of Christian lobbyists and denomination elites and towards the care and feeding of those babies with which activities such as prayer and sidewalk ministry have saved from the abortionists vacuum.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.