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FIRST-PERSON: Overturning Roe won’t end debate. It will move it.

Mississippi's capitol building in Jackson saw the passage of a 2018 law that could have major implications for the abortion debate in America, moving it back to the states. iStock image.

NASHVILLE (BP) – If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the summer of 2022, the need to take a stance for pro-life causes will not be finished. It will be just beginning as each state will chart its own individual course.

A recent Associated Press report  speculated that if Roe is overturned, at least 20 Republican-governed states will impose abortion bans; while, 15 or so Democratic-governed states would work to maintain abortion access.

Baptist state conventions, representing the largest group of evangelical Christians in their states, will have an opportunity to be key players in the state debates. Because evangelicals are active on election day, lawmakers know these convictions translate to votes.

2018 report from Lifeway Research revealed that 85 percent of self-identified evangelicals say politics is important.

“Evangelicals have a greater passion for politics than most, which could say something about the issues of our day,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

When it comes to abortion, the issue is at hand is life and death, and Southern Baptists are clear and highly convicted on this. The Baptist Faith & Message speaks for Southern Baptists when it says, “Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.” Since 2000, Southern Baptists have passed more than 10 resolutions on abortion and the sanctity of human life at annual conventions.

While Baptist state conventions are made up of churches partnering with the Southern Baptist Convention, state conventions are better suited to deal with state issues than the national convention.

A unified voice

According to an article by Matthew Y. Emerson, Baptists worked in their own colonies to promote religious liberty even before there was a federal government in the mid-1700s. Emerson says Virginia Baptist John Leland regularly wrote Thomas Jefferson. John Clarkes continually petitioned the king of England to grant religious freedom in Rhode Island and Isaac Backus campaigned for religious liberty in Massachusetts.

While they all held to a common cause, their approach and voice likely differed because of localized relationships and common interests within their own colony. The same is true today as each state has its own unique personalities and mannerisms.

State conventions are well suited to help local Southern Baptists speak with a unified voice on behalf of life when the pro-life battle centers in state legislatures.

A unified voice impacts state legislators

The single voice of a voter is important in each state. However, to move constitution officers, such as the governor, attorney general or secretary of state, a louder voice is often more effective.

One pastor calling the state capitol to leave a message for the governor is valuable, but when hundreds of pastors call the state capitol the message rings loudly.

In addition, when hundreds or even thousands of voters reach out to the leadership of the majority or minority caucuses in their state government, it makes a difference among the group.

A unified voice impacts state legislators on a grassroots level

While calling the state capitol or a legislator line at the state capitol may seem daunting for some Southern Baptists, speaking to their local senator or representative is doable.

Most often state legislators are well known in their communities and they are very accessible. People may see them at the local high school ballgame or even the local grocery story.

Even if a person doesn’t know their state legislator personally, there’s a good chance they know someone who does and that person can help them connect.

State conventions can help local churches know what to say to legislators and how to say it when this important debate reaches their level.

While a decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade should be celebrated by the pro-life community, it will not signal the end of the debate. It will only bring it closer to home, and Southern Baptists should stand ready to stand behind our convictions with a unified and powerful voice.

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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