SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BP) — When New York legislators passed an expansive abortion bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law on Jan. 22, they may have inadvertently sent out a wake-up call to the state’s pro-life community.
“I do believe God is using the passage of this very offensive state law to awaken the conscience of many New Yorkers,” Terry Robertson, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New York, noted regarding the Reproductive Health Act allowing abortions up to a baby’s birth.
“The passage of this law may be a significant step toward the next great awakening,” Robertson wrote in an email to Baptist Press. “Many New Yorkers are praying.”
Jon Speed was among those in prayer.
“I couldn’t sleep that night. I just prayed about what I should do in response” to the RHA, said Speed, pastor of Christ Is King Baptist Church in Syracuse and owner of Jon Speed: The Book Scout, a local and online bookstore for used and rare books.
An idea emerged as Speed prayed.
The next day, he hung signs in his store’s windows saying it was closed and declaring a day of mourning in New York state. “We will not collect sales tax today for a tyrannical government that murders babies,” the signage stated. “We will resume regular business tomorrow, collecting sales tax under duress. End Abortion Now.”
Speed, an activist for the abolition of abortion, posted notices on his personal and business Facebook pages and his friends shared the message. “Within a couple of hours,” he said, “the Facebook notifications on my phone were just going crazy. And I realized we had gone viral.”
The social media buzz quickly triggered requests for interviews and appearances on media programs including Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity’s radio show and several Christian TV and radio shows.
The exposure was also good for his book sales on protest day, Speed said. “We had about 700 orders, but the website couldn’t keep up. We lost about 200 of them.” Before his protest went viral, he said, 10 website orders would be “a big day.”
“The opportunities to share the Gospel have been incredible,” Speed said. “On Fox & Friends, I was able to get the Gospel out there … while we were live and it really shocked some of the folks who work at Fox.” He said a security guard told him, “‘Brother, do you know what you just did? You just shared the Gospel with millions of people.’ So it was an encouragement.”
Speed is working on a 2019 update of a 2014 film he co-produced, “Babies Are Murdered Here,” challenging Planned Parenthood’s “Healthcare Happens Here” slogan. The new film will be titled “Babies Are Still Murdered Here.”
Another New York pastor, Steve Charles of New Covenant Baptist Church in Canadaigua, said RHA’s passage “has certainly got a lot of people riled up” and additionally intensified interest in the issue since it was signed by Cuomo on the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize abortion.
Charles is board chairman of Canadaigua’s local Care Net Pregnancy Center, an affiliate of the national pro-life Care Net organization. The centers offer free services to pregnant women and new mothers, as well as services for the whole family.
In the aftermath of RHA’s passage, Charles said the pregnancy center “partnered with some folks to bring in the ‘Unplanned’ movie” on March 30 about former abortion clinic director, now pro-life activist Abby Johnson. Attendees packed the screening room and a second was opened, he said. More than 230 people attended.
Donations were “just pouring in,” Charles said, and “about four times as much as we needed” was contributed. “So that showed that people really wanted to support crisis pregnancy centers in response to this,” he said.
Charles also wrote a letter to the editor of the local Daily Messenger newspaper, which published it as a guest essay. “And I was surprised that they didn’t change a single word that I said.”
His essay recommended four things Christians can do in response to the expanded abortion law:
1. Stay informed about abortion;
2. Support pregnancy centers;
3. Hold politicians accountable for their votes;
4. Pray for:
a. “Lawmakers to repent and move towards a more rational, moral, and compassionate justice;”
b. “Our society, for healing from our selfishness and coldness of heart that allows us to move in this horrible direction;”
c. “Yourself, for the conviction and strength to take action.”
Bruce Aubrey, senior pastor of Northside Church in Liverpool, N.Y., said abortion has always been of great concern to the church.
Aubrey, president of the Baptist Convention of New York, cited two key Scriptures that Christians often turn to regarding abortion.
— Psalm 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
— Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
“We’ll respond as we always have, knowing that God is and always will be opposed to the taking of innocent life,” Aubrey said.