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SBC leaders hope partial-birth ban signals turning point for U.S.

WASHINGTON (BP)–The long-awaited enactment of a ban on partial-birth abortion hopefully will signal a turning point in America’s battle over the life-and-death issue, Southern Baptist and other pro-life leaders said.

Those hopes were expressed in light of President Bush’s Nov. 5 signing of the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act. The bill, which was enacted after an eight-year struggle, outlaws a procedure that involves the killing of a nearly totally delivered child normally in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called it a “landmark day in the long struggle” to restore the sanctity of life ethic embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

“To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous comment at a critical juncture in World War II, the partial-birth abortion ban is not the beginning of the end for abortion on demand in America, but we can hope and pray that it may well be the end of the beginning of the end for abortion on demand in America,” said Land, who attended the signing ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building.

The signing of the measure is a “significant advance against the culture of death,” wrote R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a commentary on Crosswalk.com.

The ban is “only a partial victory; nevertheless, it is a real victory, and the event that took place in the Ronald Reagan Building was more than ceremonial,” Mohler wrote.

Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson said in a written statement the ban’s opponents “understand that this is more than a symbolic victory; it is a step toward restoring legal protection and respect for the human dignity of both mother and preborn child. It is a step toward ending our culture of infanticide.”

The new law prohibits a method that normally consists of the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull provides for easier removal of the baby’s head.

Former President Clinton twice vetoed laws banning the procedure in the 1990s, and both times the Senate was unable to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary to override the vetoes.

Three-time SBC President Adrian Rogers said the enactment of the ban “seems to indicate the turning of the tide” in the country’s moral condition.

Ending legalized abortion, however, remains a difficult task, Rogers and others said.

“I think it’s going to be a long, long battle, much like the battle against terrorism or for civil rights by blacks,” said Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. “It’s not going to be done overnight, but it’s possible. I believe we are going to come to perhaps an epiphany moment when the culture wakes up and says, ‘The king has no clothes. It is wrong; it is horribly wrong.'”

Mohler said the “battle for life is going to be contested at every turn, must be fought at every level, and will require vigilance and commitment far beyond applauding at a bill-signing ceremony.”

SBC President Jack Graham joined Land, Rogers, Jerry Falwell and four others in meeting with the president in the White House Oval Office after the ceremony.

Graham told Baptist Press he is urging Southern Baptist churches and their members to “continue to pray and work for life.” One of the ways to do that is to start crisis pregnancy centers, he said. Prestonwood Baptist Church, the Dallas-area church where he is pastor, has sponsored a CPC for more than 10 years. When Graham was pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., the church started a CPC in 1984.

Overcoming abortion will require love, Graham said.

“The battle is not done, and we must stay on our knees,” he noted. It will be won “not with anger but with anguish.”