If there was ever an argument urging Southern Baptists not to engage in public policy matters, it has been left in tatters following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision overturning Roe v. Wade. For too long we heard liberal voices howl that we should not be involved in politics. I guess Moses, Daniel and the Apostles Peter and Paul did not get the message. Every one of them appealed to the governmental authorities of their time, just as Christian leaders have done through the centuries.
Bringing about the Kingdom of God through political activity is not the mission of the church. That occasion will happen with the return of the Lord Jesus. In the meantime, we are called to faithfulness in every aspect of our lives – including the voting booth and in the hallways of government.
While the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade may be the greatest ruling the Court has ever issued (for multiple reasons), Roe’s demise shifted from a mere possibility to reality because of the faithfulness of the pro-life movement, much of it connected to the church. The women of Missouri, whom I have stood beside on the sidewalks outside Planned Parenthood abortion clinics for years, are among the most faithful Christians I have ever known. They have prayed and lobbied lawmakers with uncommon tenacity. I have watched them stand in the rain, pleading with young mothers not to go inside the Planned Parenthood clinic and kill their babies.
Missouri columnist Nathanael Blake, writing for The Federalist.com, beautifully summed up their mighty accomplishment:
“They didn’t quit when the Supreme Court said the issue was settled, then said so again. They didn’t quit when all of the cultural powers-that-be from academia to Hollywood disdained and reviled them. They didn’t quit despite decades of minimal gains and routine betrayals by politicians and judges.
“Instead, they kept marching and praying. They kept volunteering and voting. They kept writing and speaking. They built networks of crisis pregnancy centers and other charities to help women and children in need, providing everything from diapers to baby formula to health care.
“They became adoptive and foster parents to care for the abused and abandoned. They are the grandparents who helped when told of an unexpected pregnancy, rather than encouraging the disposal of the unplanned child.
“The pro-life movement is sustained by its volunteers. And they are remarkable for their persistence and their unselfishness. They donate their time and treasure to a movement that they know will not make them safer, healthier, or wealthier.”
Overturning Roe is just the beginning. Missouri, while becoming the most pro-life state in the nation, is sandwiched between states that encourage abortions. While 167 abortions were performed in Missouri in 2020, 3,200 Missouri women travelled to Kansas that year for an abortion. More than 6,000 went to Illinois. State Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Arnold) is among lawmakers pressing for legislation to restrict abortion across state lines. She introduced a bill in the 2022 legislative session that would have allowed private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident access an abortion outside the state. Based on a similar law passed by the Texas legislature, it failed, but Coleman has vowed to reintroduce it in 2023.
Another threat to the unborn could be activist state Supreme Courts. In Kansas, for example, a liberal state Supreme Court astonishingly found “a right” to abortion in that state’s constitution. The ruling has so angered Kansans, who have voted Republican in every presidential election since 1940, that they have put it on the ballot in the August election.
It is not known how the Missouri Supreme Court would rule, but pro-life advocates expect a court challenge. The court is comprised of seven members (three appointed by Democrat governors and four by Republican). At least one of the Republican appointees have sided with Democrats in upholding tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood. Coleman said her priority is passing a constitutional amendment – by way of a statewide referendum – that makes clear there is no right to abortion in Missouri.
The Missouri Baptist Convention will continue to be engaged in pro-life efforts. The goal is not only to end abortions, but to make them unthinkable. There’ve been times in the last 50 years when many assumed we would never experience the demise of Roe. Count me among the skeptics. I am reminded of a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, and now Christmas carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day:
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail,
The right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”