Senator Pushes Back After Oklahoma Baptist Convention Opposes Bill to Abolish Abortion

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A Southern Baptist senator in Oklahoma is pushing back after the General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma issued an open letter this week expressing “concerns” over a bill that he proposed that would outlaw abortion in the state, remarking that while the entity is opposed to abortion, it “cannot in good conscience get behind [the legislation] as it is proposed.”

As previously reported, the “Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act,” Senate Bill 13, filed by Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, states that the definition of a human being includes the unborn, and “from the moment of fertilization.”

Therefore, under existing homicide statutes, which define the crime as “the killing of one human being by another,” the unborn would be equally protected, and specifically regarding “acts which cause the death of an unborn child committed during an abortion.”

“Any federal statute, regulation, executive order or court decision which purports to supersede, stay or overrule this [bill] is in violation of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma and the Constitution of the United States of America and is therefore void,” the bill also declares.

Silk had told reporters in November that he believes state sovereignty needs to be asserted in the face of Roe v. Wade, just like when a number of states sought to abolish slavery despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dred Scott v. Sanford affirming the “rights” of slave owners.

“The Supreme Court also ruled that slaves were private property and they were wrong. And so, the courts do need to be challenged,” Silk said. “The goal is to say we are a sovereign state and choose to abolish abortion.”

On Thursday, the General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma issued an open letter via The Baptist Messenger explaining why it does not support the legislation.

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The letter, signed by President Blake Gideon, Treasurer Hance Dilbeck, and Baptist Messenger Editor Brian Hobbs, outlines that while the Convention opposes abortion—and is working toward “even more aggressively toward the goal of ending abortion in Oklahoma”—it has “concerns” that the legislation will do more harm than good.

“Credible expert legal/policy analysis indicates SB 13 will be invalidated immediately by the courts, if it passes at all, and we cannot save lives with legislation that never goes into effect,” the three wrote.

They also stated that the bill “unnecessarily and purposely repeals hard-earned pro-life laws” in the state, such as parental notification requirements and bans on partial birth and dismemberment abortions. The Convention additionally expressed objection that the measure “even goes so far” as to repeal laws allowing exceptions for the life of the mother.

“We recently held discussions with the bill’s author, asking these concerns to be taken into consideration. In the meantime, we cannot in good conscience get behind SB 13 as it is proposed,” the letter outlined. “There are more proven and plausible life-saving policies Oklahoma could enact en route to ending the tragic practice of abortion, while simultaneously offering support and help for abortion-vulnerable mothers.”

Read the letter in full here.

On Friday, Sen. Silk released a letter of his own, pushing back against the assertions of the Baptist Convention, stating that as a Southern Baptist himself, he was “appalled” by the reasoning put forward.

He noted that SB 13 specifically says that the state will ignore the courts should it receive an adverse ruling, as the state “does not need permission from the courts to protect innocent children from murder.” Silk further outlined that even if the state waited on Roe v. Wade to be overturned, “abortion would still be legal in Oklahoma until we repeal all the [so-called] ‘pro-life’ laws and criminalize abortion.”

“We are either an abortion-free state or a state that simply regulates abortion,” Silk declared. “The ‘pro-life’ legislation that the BGCO is so proud of and protective of is the very legislation that is keeping abortion legal in Oklahoma.”

“The only way to end abortion is to abolish it and stop with the failed incremental/regulation policies,” he wrote. “The BGCO may be referring to other pro-life legislation that they have enacted over the years that, instead of ending abortion, has resulted in approximately 5,000 ‘legal abortions’ that were performed in Oklahoma last year.”

Silk urged Christians in Oklahoma to take a bold stand and not simply engage in pragmatism out of their own human reasoning.

“Will we, the Body of Christ in Oklahoma, be content to stand by and allow innocent children to be murdered day after day after day, or will we stand for truth and justice?” he asked. “Will our generation be the one that abolishes abortion and makes it a dark spot on our history, or will we be another generation that achieves nothing as we search for more politically correct, ‘proven and plausible’ options while 15-20 children are being murdered every day?”

He pointed to the words of vocal Holocaust opponent Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who once said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke in the wheel itself.”

Read Silk’s letter in full here.

Another open letter was also posted this week by a Southern Baptist pastor, which called the BGCO’s reasoning “insufficient and shortsighted.” It made similar arguments as Silk, noting that when abortion is completely abolished in Oklahoma, the parental consent and dismemberment laws will no longer be needed. And, if the courts did strike the legislation down, the existing laws would be restored.

Further, “[w]ith the advancement of medical technology, it is extremely rare that an abortion would be necessary to save the life of the mother. SB13 would merely require a doctor to do proper medical triage, and thereby everything within his or her power to save the lives of both the mother and the child.”

As previously reported, a number of doctors and nurses have spoken out against the assertion that abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, as if a situation arises, the doctor will simply perform a Cesarean section and deliver the baby early. There is no need to kill the child in the process.

A video featuring six Southern Baptist pastors who are likewise disturbed that the General Baptist Convention of Oklahoma opposes SB 13 has also been posted to social media. View the video below.

“We were all, quite frankly, shocked and upset,” stated Dusty Devers, a pastor at Grace Community Church in Elgin, “but all of us are trying to assume the best of our brothers.”

“The only consistent position to hold as a Christian is the immediate end of abortion,” declared Jay Jones, pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Lawton. “You cannot support these type of [incremental and regulatory] laws … Praise God they’re going to be repealed [by this bill], because they’re wicked.”

“If the Lord Jesus Christ came back on the day that they wrote that [letter], would He be for it? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. … You will give an account to Christ for every word you say, every action that you do. I cannot imagine standing before Jesus Christ and telling him I opposed the immediate abolition of abortion.”

“[The argument from the Convention] doesn’t convey faith in our God to me,” remarked Josh King of Meridian Church. “I think of Wilberforce laboring for four decades, and his legislation defeated 11 times before he saw the abolition of the slave trade. … If we don’t win, we don’t win, but it’s time to go for it.”

A “Baptist Rally to Support SB 13” is scheduled for Monday afternoon at the capitol building.

Health and Human Services Committee Chair Jason Smalley has stated that he will not allow SB 13 to have a hearing this legislative session as he similarly does not agree with the approach, although identifying as pro-life.

Further explanation from Executive Director Hance Dilbeck as to how the Convention reached its conclusion was not received by press time.

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