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Gov. Lee speaks at Psalm 139 dedication in Murfreesboro

On hand at the dedication of an ultrasound machine at a pregnancy care center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., were (left to right) Brent Leatherwood, ERLC's acting president; Trevor Atwood, lead pastor of City Church in Murfreesboro and ERLC trustee; Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee; Elizabeth Graham, ERLC's vice president for operations and life initiatives; Rachel Wiles, ERLC's events project manager and Psalm 139 placement manager.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BP) – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee joined the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a local pregnancy resource center Wednesday (Jan. 26) for the dedication of an ultrasound machine – the second joint effort in recent months.

As he had in November at a Jackson center, Lee spoke at a dedication ceremony at the offices of Portico Inc., in Murfreesboro, this time for two machines donated through the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project. The placement of a machine for Portico’s new building was made as a result of a grant initiated by Lee in the 2021-22 state budget. A machine also was donated through private gifts to the Psalm 139 Project for a mobile unit operated by Portico.

The Psalm 139 Project received a grant of $182,900 from the state to place seven ultrasound machines at pro-life pregnancy centers in Tennessee. Through Psalm 139, the ERLC helps provide ultrasound technology to pregnancy centers and train staff members in its use.

The ERLC has now placed or committed to place 31 ultrasound machines toward its goal of 50 placements between December 2020 and January 2023, the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States.

In his remarks at the dedication ceremony, Lee thanked the Portico staff and volunteers for their “care and concern for women, for children, for the most vulnerable.”

He is “really happy for the ability of [the Tennessee government] to be a partner” in providing ultrasound machines, said Lee, who spoke at a dedication ceremony at Birth Choice in Jackson less than three months ago. “I believe that we’re giving a voice to the voiceless here, including the women who want to find their voice in this process.

“It’s not about winning some battle or fighting some fight. It really is about protecting the vulnerable and serving those in need, including the women and the fathers and the children that are involved in a crisis pregnancy,” said the governor, who said he wants Tennessee to be “the most adoption-friendly state in the country.”

The state grant to Psalm 139 was part of a $42.6 billion budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that the Tennessee legislature passed and Lee signed into law in May. The grant called for the Psalm 139 Project to identify pregnancy centers for the ultrasound machines and to make placements at those locations. Private gifts to Psalm 139 fund the training of staff in the use of the machines.

Ultrasound technology has proved to be a vital tool for pregnancy resource centers in their ministry to women considering abortion. The sonogram images of their unborn children have helped many women choose to give birth.

Brent Leatherwood, the ERLC’s acting president, commended Lee for marrying pro-life words with pro-life actions. The governor “understands that it is not just about saving the life of the preborn child,” Leatherwood told those gathered for the dedication ceremony. “That is very important, but there has to be a support network that comes alongside.”

At the ceremony, Elizabeth Graham, the ERLC’s vice president of operations and life initiatives, described partnering with the Tennessee government as an “incredible privilege.”

Graham said in an ERLC news release she is confident through the partnership “the hope of the Gospel will continue to reach vulnerable women and preborn babies across this region. May we continue to advocate until abortion becomes illegal, unthinkable and unnecessary across the world.”

She told Portico’s staff and volunteers at the ceremony, “[W]e know that the Lord is using you in a powerful and mighty way to change generations of lives. Every life that you are able to help save is a generation changed.”

Laura Messick, Portico’s executive director, thanked the ERLC and its supporters in the commission’s news release.

“The ministry here will be able to provide years of services to vulnerable women because of your generous hearts,” Messick said. “We praise God for His faithfulness and your obedience to His call!”

Portico, which opened more than 35 years ago, is the only pregnancy resource center in Rutherford County, according to the ERLC’s news release. In addition to ultrasound testing, the center provides pregnancy tests, prenatal assessments and vitamins, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Through Portico’s parenting education programs, a participant may receive material help during the first two years of her baby’s life.

Among others attending the dedication ceremony were Tennessee Sen. Dawn White; Beth Moore, compassion ministries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board; and several area Southern Baptist pastors, including Trevor Atwood, who closed the event in prayer. Atwood, lead pastor of City Church in Murfreesboro, is an ERLC trustee.

Since 2004, the Psalm 139 Project has helped place ultrasound equipment at centers in 16 states. In September, the project made its first international placement in Northern Ireland.

All gifts to the Psalm 139 Project go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified giving plan. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at psalm139project.org.