Will Moderate Baptists Break Silence on Abortion?


As a justice-seeking Baptist, I wonder why we do not insist on greater limitations on abortion rights in the same way that many of us urge restrictions on gun rights, Weaver asks.

Since the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, the subject of gun control has dominated political discussions.

In recent weeks, however, the trial of Kermit Gosnell has captured the attention of many across the nation.

Gosnell is, of course, the abortion provider who was charged and eventually convicted of first-degree murder for the deaths of three babies that were delivered alive and killed in gruesome fashion at a Philadelphia clinic.

Both the Sandy Hook massacre and Gosnell killings have sparked lively conversations about the regulatory role of government and the often inconsistent ways the left and right in U.S. politics treat these issues.

Kirsten Powers, a Fox News Democrat and contributor to The Daily Beast, recently penned a column titled "Abortion Rights Community Has Become the NRA of the Left."

In her popular piece, Powers argues that medical advances since the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 have "made it clear to me that late-term abortion is not a moral gray area."

Powers continues, "Speaking as a liberal who endorses more government regulation of practically everything ... I am eternally perplexed by the fury the abortion rights contingent displays at the suggestion that the government might have a serious role to play in the issue of abortion, especially later-term abortion. More and more, the abortion rights community has become the NRA of the left: unleashing their armies of supporters and lobbyists in opposition to regulations or restrictions that the majority of Americans support."

Powers' column reminded me of an insightful essay published on CNN.com last year from Mark Osler, professor of law at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minnesota and a former professor at my alma mater, Baylor University.

Osler noted that 10 states and the District of Columbia have no statutory time limit on abortions and that five additional states allow abortion through the end of the second trimester (27-28 weeks).

Osler wrote, "We progressives tend to revere science, and there are few scientific proofs more convincing than those former preterm infants who live and thrive all around us. Though late-term abortions are only a small fraction of the total number of terminated pregnancies, it remains a defining issue for our society."

Osler added: "Some will see any accommodation on abortion as 'appeasement' of conservatives, but this attitude is nothing less than the adoption of hard-line evidence-ignoring tactics that progressives so often (and properly) decry in groups such as the National Rifle Association. We may disagree about whether life begins at conception, but it is now irrefutable that life is viable at 27 weeks. To deny this plainly observable fact is akin to denying the existence of evolution of global warming."

Baptists - specifically those of us of the moderate and progressive persuasion - have attempted to steer clear of the abortion debate whenever possible.

Like Jimmy Carter, we have cited our personal opposition to abortion and sometimes echoed the Bill Clinton saying of wanting to make abortion "safe, legal and rare."

Unfortunately, we long ago ceded abortion as an issue of moral significance to the Religious Right.

Visit a gathering of progressive Baptists. There, you will likely hear much talk of the biblical pursuit of peace and justice.

Resolutions will be passed that affirm the dignity of disadvantaged groups and champion their equality within church and in society. But, it is highly unlikely that you will hear a peep about the dignity and rights of the pre-born.

As a justice-seeking Baptist, I wonder why we do not insist on greater limitations on abortion rights in the same way that many of us urge restrictions on gun rights?

After all, greater government regulation is central to our ethic of social justice, especially when it comes to any number of poverty-related issues, health care, the financial marketplace and the environment.

And, we also respect, if not revere, science. Our endorsement of consensus science has long set us apart from our conservative brethren across the Baptist aisle, who proudly deny evolution and the reality of climate change.

So, why do more of us not do as Powers and Osler have done and speak out against, to quote Powers, "our country legally endorsing infanticide"?

I don't have the answer. But our silence is certainly not golden.

Aaron Weaver is communications manager for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. He blogs at The Big Daddy Weave. This column first appeared in the May 2013 Baptist Studies Bulletin of the Baptist History and Heritage Society and is used with permission.

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