By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — The United States Supreme Court’s decision on June 24 to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade court ruling that legalized abortion represents “a hopeful day” for America, said Tennessee governor Bill Lee.
Lee was one of the guests on a Baptist Press livestream June 24 with Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Lee said the high court’s ruling “is an opportunity for our country really to move into a new season that is redemptive and that is healing. We’re very hopeful about what the future holds.”
He recalled that Roe v. Wade was decided when he was a teenager. “I am now in my 60s. All of my life … we have hoped for and prayed for this opportunity for that to be overturned,” the governor said.
And, he continued, it was not just a hope for a legal outcome. Instead, it was “hoping that the lives of unborn children could be saved, hoping that the pain and the injustice would be reconciled and that there would be real healing,” Lee said.
Lee noted that when he ran for governor with no previous political experience, working to help end abortions was one of the areas “that he was passionate about.” He also had hopes of using the position, if elected, “to impact in a positive way the lives of the people in our state and … to do things that would honor God in that process.”
He also related that his wife had the same passion. His wife’s mother would take her to March for Life rallies in Washington, D.C. when she was a child, Lee said. “So both of us have long held this as a really important issue in our hearts. It’s a very encouraging day. It’s kind of hard for me to believe this actually happened.
“Frankly, it’s just an answer to prayer for a lot of people that have been weighing in and praying for this day and thinking about this subject for a long time.”
After Lee became governor in 2019, the state passed the Human Life Protection Act (House Bill 1029/Senate Bill 1257) otherwise known as the “Trigger Law” which makes abortions illegal in Tennessee 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The law “triggered” June 24 and prevents abortion at any point between fertilization and birth, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception is for situations in which abortion is necessary to prevent the serious injury or death of the pregnant woman.
Anyone performing an abortion after the 30-day period has elapsed will be guilty of a Class C felony. A class C felony carries a penalty of 3-15 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. There are no penalties for the person receiving the abortion.
The state has approved other legislation “that has made Tennessee prepared” for what happened on June 24, he said.
While Christians are celebrating the decision, it’s not the case for everyone, the governor pointed out. “This is a very divisive and highly impassioned issue,” he said.
“It’s a time for us to understand women in crisis. I served on a crisis pregnancy support center board some 20, 25 years ago and really came to understand just how complex and how difficult crisis pregnancies are and how much we need to support and surround the women, and at the same time, protect the children.”
Things need to be done — in Tennessee and nationwide — to be prepared to help women and children in crisis such as strengthening the foster care system in Tennessee and streamlining adoption laws nationwide, the governor continued.
Lee also called upon Tennesseans to look for opportunities to reach out to women in crisis in other states where abortion will continue to be available.
“This is an opportunity for us not just to celebrate, but to understand the concern that others have and to respond accordingly,” he said. B&R — Chris Turner contributed to this article.