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Southern Baptist leaders respond to RNC’s potential pro-life public policy shift

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MILWAUKEE (BP) – A release of the Republican National Convention’s (RNC) platform reveals a potential shift in the party’s focus on a federal abortion ban. The announcement came hours after the RNC’s platform committee met on Monday morning.

“We proudly stand for families and life. We believe that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that no person can be denied life or liberty without due process and that the states are, therefore, free to pass laws protecting those rights,” according to a document released on The Hill.

The language clearly places the onus on state legislatures two years after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade.

“After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the states and to a vote of the people,” the platform states. “We will oppose late term abortion while supporting mothers and policies that advance prenatal care, access to birth control, and IVF (fertility treatments),” according to the released document.

But one evangelical seminary professor disagrees with the committee’s logic.

“Since 1984, the GOP platform has always included robust language in defense of the sanctity of human life for the unborn. It’s important that at least one major political party recognize what is clear from both Scripture and the witness of science: human life is sacred from the moment of conception and should be protected into law,” said Daniel Darling, director of Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and assistant professor of faith and culture at Texas Baptist College.

The platform will face a final confirmation vote by the platform committee on July 9 before being presented to delegates at the party’s convention July 15-18.

“Unlike the party’s platform passed in 2016, the text does not include a 20-week federal limit on abortions or call for states to pass the Human Life Amendment, which proposes to amend the Constitution to say that life begins at conception,” Politico reported. “The text instead says that states are ‘free to pass laws protecting’ the rights granted in the 14th Amendment.”

In an op-ed released by Religion News Service, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Brent Leatherwood said, “The platform of a political party should set forth the objectives of that body. As the Republican National Committee meets, instead of jettisoning or diminishing the platform’s firm pro-life stance, its members should unabashedly advance liberty and stand for life, label abortion evil, advocating for laws that acknowledge it for the sin that it is, and embrace proposals that free men and women from the destruction it leaves in its wake.”

Leatherwood urged leaders of both political parties July 3 to “to prioritize pro-life policy in their parties’ soon-to-be-released platforms.”

“Now more than ever is the time to advocate for a robust vision for life. Policymakers should craft proposals that reflect this nation’s founding ideals and ensure freedom for those who truly have no voice. This true culture of life would usher in an era when pre-born lives are saved, vulnerable mothers are shielded from the predatory abortion industry, and fledgling families are supported at both the federal and state level,” he wrote in the op-ed.

Earlier this summer, Southern Baptists voted for a resolution “to reaffirm the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage, and to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation especially in the number of embryos generated in the IVF process.”

“Since the fall of Roe, many Republicans have not been prepared for this moment, unable to articulate a consistent pro-life ethic,” Darling told BP. “There has been considerable pressure to jettison the pro-life cause because of perceived electoral challenges. Evangelicals recognize the challenge that we face: it will take a lot of persuasion to bring the culture along with us. We must be prudent in choosing the right battles in order to save as many unborn babies as we can.”

He says candidates who champion pro-life policy have been rewarded by voters.

“In the half-century of pro-life activism, candidates who stand up for the unborn have won at both the local and national level, including the presidency. It can be cone with both convictional and compassionate approach,” he said.

Darling believes it is a “mistake that the Republican Party has tried to soften this 40-year-old language.”

“Candidates would be wise to ignore this language and stick to their pro-life convictions,” he said.

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

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

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