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Are we pro-birth or pro-life?

Abortion rights activists demonstrate outside the floor of the House after the HB2 bill restricting abortion rights passed in Austin, Texas July 9, 2013 (Credit: Reuters/Mike Stone)The Texas House and Senate passed legislation last Friday that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, determine when abortion pills may be taken, require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and allow abortions only in surgical centers.

Why 20 weeks?  According to the legislation, at that point "scientific evidence suggests that preborn children are capable of feeling pain as all the neuro-receptors for pain are in place and functioning."

Why regulate abortion pills?  Because RU-486, the pill that induces abortion, was approved by the FDA for use under strict guidelines which the bill now enforces.  Why require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals?  "To increase the health and safety of a woman who chooses to have an abortion," according to the legislation.

Why require that abortion centers meet the requirements for ambulatory surgical centers?  This was the most contested part of the legislation.  The bill states: "Many women suffer from minor to severe medical complications as a result of surgical procedures, including abortions.  Women who choose to have an abortion should receive the same standard of care any other individual in Texas receives, regardless of the surgical procedure performed."

Opponents say this provision will shut down 37 out of 42 abortion clinics in the state since they will not be able to comply by the September 1, 2014 deadline.  Why is this such a bad thing?  According to Carrie Tilton-Jones, president of the Austin, Texas chapter of the National Organization for Women, this outcome will limit the provision of free or low-cost health-care services for women across Texas.  She states that these family planning clinics not only provide abortions, but also offer other health services including screenings for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, and high blood pressure.

I am grateful for legislation that will save lives.  At the same time, we want to be "pro-life," not just "pro-birth."  So we need to find ways to help women who will lose services as a result of these new laws.  And we need to provide positive support for women who choose to bear rather than abort children.  Churches can offer parenting skills classes, extend nutrition programs to children, expand adult literacy and remedial education, and encourage members to view adoption as ministry.

How does God feel about such initiatives?  "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).  How does he view your "religion" today?

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