I have obtained copy of an article on Texas H.B. 896 that was suppressed by the Baptist Press. Its suppression is odd for two reasons: 1) it is an article that would have helped bring attention to the only bill in American history to make it to a committee hearing that would have ENDED abortion in any state. Rep. Jeff Leach–a pro-life Republican from Plano, TX–AND a Southern Baptist who is a member of Jack Graham’s church (Prestonwood Baptist) is the chairman of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee which heard testimony on April 8-9 in Austin. Before the hearing convened he promised to keep the bill from seeing the floor. In fact, yesterday (May 6, 2019) was the deadline for a vote from that committee. The bill died there. It is now impossible for the bill to be revisited in any form for two years. In Texas, 55,000 babies die every year from abortion (that we know of, apart from abortifacients sold in pharmacies, etc.). Jeff Leach is responsible for killing that bill along with at least 110,000 babies until such time as it can be revisited. Welcome to the Republican Party.
2. It is odd that the Baptist Press suppressed this article the week before the deadline for the bill since the Southern Baptist Convention claims to be pro-life. The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The readership of the Baptist Press is global. A well written article on the issue could help draw attention to HB 896 and could have put more pressure on Rep. Leach to allow this bill to go to a vote. The article, as you will see in a moment, is well written and fair to the issues. It is NOT controversial and by our standards, is pretty tame. It’s just good reporting. Yet the Baptist Press is afraid to run an article like that when it could do the most good and SAVE UNBORN LIVES.
According to an email from the senior editor of The Baptist Press (Art Toalston), there are plans to do an article on immediatism and incrementalism as pro-life strategies in the future. However, since the bill stalled they decided not to run the piece I am about to share with you. I plead with Art to run this piece to no avail. Art agreed to allow me to call him to discuss it, but if I do the conversation is off the record, according to his email. May 6th has come and gone and babies are still murdered in Texas.
So what do we learn from this tragedy?
The good old boys club is alive and well in the SBC.
And the good old boys don’t give a rip about babies being murdered in the womb when they can do something about it.
The SBTC decided not to support HB 896 since it would have criminalized women seeking abortions in Texas. After Jeff Leach chose not to allow the bill to go to a vote, Jack Graham tweeted out his support of Leach’s decision. Graham is the pastor of a mega-church and wields enormous influence within the SBC as a whole. The Baptist Press will never contradict someone like Graham once he has spoken. A host of Southern Baptist pastors in Texas and elsewhere who spoke in SUPPORT of HB-896 notwithstanding.
The SBC is an oligarchy run by the good old boys who have the most money and influence. If you doubt that, ask the right questions. Why would they suppress this article? What do they gain? Someone somewhere decided that this story must die and if babies have to die with this story to keep up the status quo, so be it.
At the next Convention, someone ought to put forward a motion to investigate the Baptist Press, executive editor Shawn Hendricks and the Executive Committee who oversees it. The Press is funded by the Cooperative Program, according to the website. If your church pays into the CP, your church supports this dumpster fire.
In a pro-life convention like the SBC it is mind boggling that a bill that could have ended abortion would be killed by an SBC church member with the support of his SBC pastor and the complicity of The Baptist Press. Church discipline cases should be opened against everyone responsible. Unless I have missed something and the SBC has changed its position and is now neutral on the issue of life in the womb. Or maybe that has really been the position in practice all along–do whatever the Republican Party tells you.
One more note before I share the article. The journalist who wrote this asked me to take his byline off of the story and I am honoring his request. Think about why it is that a journalist for The Baptist Press would want his name removed from a fair, balanced story like this one?
New York pastor calls for urgent action to revive abortion abolition measure in Texas
“The Syracuse, N.Y., pastor whose protest against his state’s expanded abortion law “went viral” worldwide, is now working urgently to prevent the death of HB 896, a bill that would abolish abortion statewide.
“The legislative session on HB 896 is not done until May 6th,” wrote Jon Speed in an email. Speed testified in early April at a hearing of the Texas Legislature’s House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence, which Republican Rep. Jeff Leach chairs. Leach “has until then to call for a vote in the committee,” Speed wrote. “There is still a chance that the vote can happen.”
He wrote that “Leach is a Southern Baptist and there is support from many SBC pastors in Texas for this bill (some of whom testified in favor of the bill in Austin on April 8).” Speed called on Southern Baptists to “put pressure on” Leach to call for a committee vote on HB 896 “in the next couple of days to help save 55,000 babies per year in Texas.”
Speed, pastor of Christ Is King Baptist Church in Syracuse and owner of Jon Speed: The Book Scout bookstore, made news when he closed his bookstore in protest on Jan. 23, the day after the New York Legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act. He closed for a day to avoid collecting sales tax “for a tyrannical government that murders babies.” When he opened his store the next day, he was collecting sales tax under duress, he said.
Word of Speed’s protest spread across social media and by way of his numerous TV and radio appearances. Emails of support came pouring in and orders for books jammed up his store’s website. The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of interviews and appearances, as well as long days filling all those backed-up book orders, he said.
Early in April, Speed, who started his anti-abortion activism in Fort Worth, Texas, turned his attention to legislation that would abolish abortion in the Lone Star State. Speed drove to Austin, Texas, to speak at an April 8 legislative hearing in favor of HB 896, which would outlaw abortion in the state.
“I was invited by Abolish Abortion Texas, which is the group that’s really doing a lot of the lobbying” for HB 896, Speed said. “This bill is historic,” he said, because “it’s really the first time that a bill to outright end abortion has gotten that far, to a committee meeting on a state level.” Also, he said, “I just wanted to have my name in the record that I’m supporting this” bill.
HB 896 would criminalize all abortion in Texas. Under the law, anyone involved in an abortion, including the aborted baby’s mother, could be held liable for criminal homicide, an offense with penalties that can include life in prison and capital punishment.
At a hearing before the House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence, Speed was one of more than 300 speakers in favor of the bill. Four speakers spoke in opposition to the measure during an eight-hour period which started on Monday evening, April 8, and ended at 3 a.m. Tuesday, April 9.
In a portion of his testimony, Speed stated, “If you say that those who murder humans outside of the womb deserve a life sentence or the death penalty, but you hedge on the issue of providing equal justice for life inside the womb, you have revealed something about what you really believe about the pro-life issue. In so doing, you reveal that, despite the pro-life plank in the platform, you have bought the pro-choice lie that life in the womb is not as precious as life outside of it.”
The bill was left pending in committee and will effectively die on May 6 unless committee chairman, pro-life Republican Leach, advances it. In an April 10 statement on Twitter, he said he won’t.
Leach’s statement says in part, “My commitment to advancing the pro-life cause is stronger than ever and that’s why I cannot in good conscience support House Bill 896 – legislation that subjects women who undergo abortions to criminal liability and even the possibility of the death penalty.”
A few days later, Speed commented on his Facebook page, “Remember this: the only bill to end this slaughter was killed in committee by a pro-life Republican. Texas HB 896. Email and phone Rep. Leach.
On the same day that Leach released his statement, the author of HB 896, fellow Republican Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington, published a video on his Facebook page. He said that HB 896 “simply accomplishes one goal. It brings equal treatment for unborn human beings under the law.” To exempt mothers from liability, he said, “would inherently treat unborn children differently than other people who are murdered.”
Tinderholt pointed out that the bill includes “protections for women in the case of a medical emergency or if they are coerced or under duress. None of those instances would result in any penalties whatsoever.”
“Finally,” he said, “we trust prosecutors and juries to show deep sympathy toward women.”
Kristine Harhoef, who spoke at the April 8 hearing in favor of the bill, expressed disappointment with Leach’s unwillingness to give the bill a vote. She agrees with Tinderholt.
“A lot of people are against the bill because they think, ‘Oh, all women who get an abortion will get the death penalty.’ No. That’s to be decided,” said Harhoef, who is active in pregnancy center ministry.
In a telephone interview from her home near Houston she said, “The punishment – as it is for all of our homicides in Texas – is to be decided by a judge and jury after they weigh in whether there was any collusion, whether they weigh in did the mother know it was a baby, did the mother know it was killing, … all the different factors of the situation. That’s for the prosecutors to figure out.”
“So there’s a line in the sand being drawn and people are sort of falling on one side or another,” Harhoef said. “We have a lot of pro-life organizations with us on this, some that came and spoke at the hearing. And we have a number who are saying, ‘No, that’s just too much. Women should never be punished, only the providers.’ We don’t think that’s just.”
Jon Speed wrote, “The fear mongering by the left and even the pro-life Republicans is an attempt to kill the bill. It turns out it is fake news, as usual.” You can read the rest of the story here.
If Southern Baptist churches really want to end abortion, they must demand more from The Baptist Press. And their leadership at the highest levels. They must not accept compromise or unethical, unbiblical thinking about bills to end abortion. If we care about this issue as much as we claim we care about this issue, someone will start a riot within the Convention over this stupidity.
As Marcus Pittman, director of Babies Are Murdered Here and Babies Are Still Murdered Here told me last night over dinner, the only way this Convention will get upset over this is if someone says, “Think about all of the little Beth Moore’s who have been aborted.” I would add, “Think of all of the little potential church members who could have given to the Cooperative Program.” The SBC is nothing if not driven by the rule of the celebrity few and a few more nickles and noses.
As shameless and crass as that is, if that’s what it takes to create some urgency in the SBC, then at this point I will take it. The blood of 60 million plus doesn’t seem to matter much.