By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Pro-life supporters must be proactive in opposing a possible bill that if passed during the upcoming legislation could legalize abortion in the case of rape or incest in the state, Louisiana Right to Life Executive Director Ben Clapper said during the “Keep Louisiana Pro-Life! RV Tour” stop at the Louisiana Baptist state mission center, March 15.
“We’re concerned about that type of legislation passing in Louisiana,” he said. “That’s why we have decided to canvass the state, cross the state, to engage with legislators, engage with pro-life citizens to make sure people are educated and talking about these critical issues in our society.”
Clapper was among those who spoke during a tour that began Feb. 27 and ends May 10 at Pro-Life Day at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. During each stop, speakers have encouraged the crowd to defend life and provide support to women in need. Participants also have been encouraged to sign a petition that asks Gov. John Bel Edwards and state legislators to oppose any legislation that would legalize abortion.
The tour comes on the heels of a June 24, 2022, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade. Though the ruling did not itself ban abortion nationwide, the decision triggered a 2006 state law, updated during the 2022 legislative session, that instantly outlawed abortion in Louisiana.
Edwards, who previously had voiced his opposition to all abortions, reversed course last year and publicly supported abortion in the case of rape or incest. State legislators are expected to take up the bill when the legislative session convenes April 10.
“We know there is going to be a piece of legislation that’s going to be brought forth to legalize abortion in these cases,” Clapper said. “And our hope is that we want to go forward. We don’t want to go backwards. We’re going to have a tough time to stop that effort.”
‘PLANT THE FLAG, MOVE FORWARD’
Will Hall, director of the Louisiana Baptist Office of Public Policy, reminded the crowd they helped in a large way to pass the 2020 state constitutional amendment, the Love Life Amendment (which prevents a rogue actor in the judicial system from suddenly finding a right to abortion in the state constitution that is not actually written in it). The statewide ballot initiative garnered 1,274,167 favorable votes, the most in Louisiana’s history for either a candidate or ballot measure.
He said that successful ballot measure as well as some legislative victories in 2022, which shored up Louisiana’s abortion ban trigger laws, led to the closure of the state’s three abortion mills.
However, pro-abortion activists have not rested, he said, and they are pushing for rape and incest exceptions in the law under the guise of “compassionate reasoning.”
But Hall pushed back on that notion, saying that whether conceived by rape or incest, a baby should not be killed “for the sin of the father.”
Additionally, Hall said, he is pragmatic, explaining that these exceptions would allow Planned Parenthood to advise clients to claim rape or incest in order to obtain an abortion. Historically, he said, fewer than one percent of abortions were due to rape and fewer than one-half of a percent of abortions were due to incest.
He encouraged Louisiana Baptists to continue their fight for life.
“We can’t give up any ground,” Hall said. “You take the ground, you plant the flag and you move forward. You keep advancing from the ground you have taken.”
Kim Lyons, director of the CENLA Pregnancy Center in Alexandria, shared that the facility has served more than 1,500 women and provided more than 5,000 services, including most recently abortion pill reversal services. The center is listed on a national hotline that connects CENLA Pregnancy Center staff with women seeking to reverse the effects of the first pill taken for chemical abortion.
“We so excited to know that when these moms are facing these crisis situations, the world is telling them if you have an unplanned pregnancy, you take the chemical abortion pill,” she said. “That’s the mentality our society has been breeding and festering. To know the love and the non-judgmental place we are everyday to our moms in need is really a safe haven.”
Dustin Bertrand, Louisiana Right to Life outreach director, shared how his mother chose to give him life even though he was conceived through rape.
“I’m really excited and I’m passionate and I’m mission driven to partner with Louisiana Right to Life to increase our courage and our boldness, to keep on being a pro-life state from the womb to the tomb with no exceptions,” he said. “I’m definitely compassionate to women that undergo physical abuse. I don’t condone it. I don’t believe in it. But we also must protect innocent babies’ lives. Because God had a plan for this unplanned man. How much more would he have for all of us here?”
State Rep. Mike Johnson, also a member at First Baptist Church, Pineville, thanked the crowd and asked them to contact their legislators now and get a commitment they will support pro-life bills that will be voted on this session.
Johnson said he will be pushing legislation during the upcoming session that would make adoption more affordable to families in the state.
“I hope I can count on you to be just as enthused about being pro-life beyond birth for our children and for our mothers,” he said. “You can make a difference. It’s this group that has made a difference thus far with your help to bring us to this point. We’ve considered one of the most pro-life states in the nation. We want to continue to be that way, protecting these young lives and these great gifts from God.”
Abby Rose Nichols, youth director for Louisiana Right to Life and CENLA Pregnancy Center, shared about how students can be involved in pro-life efforts in the state. The organization offers presentations, retreats and camps that train students to be pro-life leaders in the state.
“There is a startling statistic that says 47 percent of American women enter college identifying as pro-life but only 27 percent remain pro-life after graduation,” she said. “I went to a Christian university and I still knew how difficult it was to remain pro-life in the midst of our culture,” she said. “We know one of the most important things we can do is equip our youth with education and empowerment.”
For more information on future tour stops, how to sign the “Keep Louisiana Pro-Life” petition or ways to become involved in pro-life efforts, visit prolifelouisiana.org.