By Chris Turner
Director of Communications, TBMB
“I Stand for Life” is a petition campaign to garner thousands of signatures from Tennessee Baptists in an effort to let Tennessee’s lawmakers know that Tennessee Baptists would like to see legislation passed that protects the lives of unborn children. The petition officially launched July 23 and can be found at istandforlife.org.
Also, there is a downloadable hardcopy version of the petition that churches can use if they choose. The petition would need to be mailed to the TBMB by Aug. 8.
The petition campaign was initiated by Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. He said he believes legislation that is currently being debated by state legislators is “too important,” and that it is legislation about which Tennessee Baptists need to be informed and heard.
“I believe Tennessee Baptists are strongly pro-life and the laws being considered are too important for us to miss an opportunity to be heard on the issue of life and abortion,” he said. “As recently as the 2015 Summit, messengers from churches across our state made a clear and strong statement in support of protecting the lives of the unborn, affirmed life from conception and denounced the practice of abortion. This petition reflects our collective and unified position.”
Davis said it is critical that lawmakers hear from Tennessee Baptists now even though state representatives are currently not in legislative session and won’t be until January.
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However, some representatives are in summer committee to discuss “heartbeat” legislation that was considered, but not passed, during the spring 2019 legislative session and sent to the committee for further study.
“Many times, bills that don’t get approved and move forward to become laws are sent to committees and often die on the vine,” Davis said. “We don’t want to see that happen. We’d like to see those representatives keep these bills alive and recommend they be brought back to the full legislature in January 2020. What we as Tennessee Baptists would like to see come out of this is a law that acknowledges that life begins at conception and also outlaws the practice of abortion except in extreme cases.”
Two bills were introduced during the 2019 legislative session; House Bill 77 and Senate Bill 1236.
Legislators could not reach a consensus, and some felt the bills were Constitutionally flawed, prompting the motion to move the bills to the summer committee for further study.
Some legislators desired that the bills more closely resemble “heartbeat” laws that have recently passed in neighboring states. Georgia’s law, for example, will take effect beginning in 2020 and will prohibit most abortions once doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat, a milestone that occurs before some women know they are pregnant.
The limit on abortion in Georgia will now begin at week six of pregnancy rather than week 20.
The law does grant exceptions to prevent death or serious harm to the mother, and in cases of rape or incest when a police report has been filed.
“I believe abortion is a blight on our culture and a sin in the eyes of God,” Davis said. “I believe Tennessee Baptists believe so too, which is why I am asking that they’ll sign the petition. This is one of those poignant moments in history when men and women must stand and be counted for what’s right.
“My hope is that legislators will legally acknowledge that life begins at conception,” Davis added, “and also end the murderous practice of abortion in Tennessee.”
The online petition can be found at istandforlife.org along with a video from Davis that offers an explanation of it.
The petition requires name, email, church affiliation and city. (Note: Your email will not be made public.)
“I’d love to see 1,000 Tennessee pastors and thousands upon thousands of Tennessee Baptists sign the petition,” Davis said. “And I’d love to see that and more pray for our state representatives and our governor.
“These are serious times and a seminal moment,” Davis said. “Our leaders need God’s wisdom as they discuss this weighty issue.”
See Davis’ “Clarity” column for additional information.