FIRST-PERSON: Mobilizing for life

WASHINGTON (BP)--If you are pro-family and pro-life, it is a great time to be in Washington, D.C.

Everywhere I go, I meet men and women who are determined to protect the family and the unborn from the disastrous and failed left-wing policies our nation has endured for decades. Some of their selfless labor can be seen today in the form of crucial bills just waiting for action by Congress. The devaluation of life can be seen everywhere in our culture, but its effects are especially clear in the federal arena.

The recent decision in New Jersey to allow the cloning of humans for scientific purposes should send a shudder through the moral consciousness of our nation. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act (S. 245), which the House of Representatives already has passed, is the only safeguard possible to stop the atrocities about to occur in America's bio-labs.

It is frightening when one considers where some of these bio-labs will go once they have freed themselves of moral restraint. There is no doubt that some of these labs will even seek to patent their Frankenstein creations. Fortunately, there is a bill in Congress right now that will prevent this. The Weldon amendment on patent applications is crucial if we are going to stop these labs from owning human beings at any stage of life, including their earliest stage as embryos.

I am also very encouraged by the bills that will apply some brakes to the runaway abortion culture in our nation. The Abortion Nondiscrimination Act (S. 1397/H.R. 3664) will provide the pro-life medical community with the legal means to resist the immense pressure to participate in the promotion and practice of abortion. No one should be forced to abet or actively engage in such a practice as reprehensible as abortion.

The Informed Choice Act (S. 340/H.R. 195) is another tool that will be effective in our efforts to prevent abortions. This practical legislation will help pro-life organizations purchase sonogram machines so pregnant women can see their babies. It is a fact that many women decide not to have abortions once they see the very real human forms of the persons growing inside their wombs. Thousands of babies' lives will be saved through this bill, and thousands of women will be spared lifetimes of guilt and grief as well.

There is no federal law protecting the rights of unborn children from acts of violence, even if the mother wants her child. It is bad enough that women have the right today to kill their unwanted, unborn children, but it is even more incredible that there is no federal law to prosecute someone for harming a wanted, unborn child. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act (S. 1019/H.R. 1997) will finally provide some legal status to unborn children hurt or killed by someone committing a federal crime. It is the kind of common sense legislation that anyone should be able to support, and yet the Senate appears unwilling to act on it. This bill should be passed in this Congress, and it should be passed without dissent.

Then there is the whole matter of parental consent. Imagine not having the right to participate in something as life-altering as your child's decision to have an abortion. Incredibly, parental notification laws do not even exist in all the states, but, what is worse, parents who live in states with parental notification laws still have no protection from someone who seeks to bypass their God-given, state-mandated responsibility to care for the well-being of their children when it comes to something as important as abortion. While the Child Custody Protection Act (S. 851/H.R. 1755) will not prevent someone from transporting a minor across state lines to help her get an abortion where parental notification or consent laws do not exist, at least it will bring the power of the government to bear against anyone who interferes with a parent's right to participate in a child's decision about her unborn baby.

All of these pro-family, pro-life bills pending in this Congress make significant contributions to the restoration of a culture of life in our nation. They should all be passed. The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission looks forward to working with a vast army of people and organizations mobilized around the commitment that all life is sacred. It is my prayer that God will help us rally the world's greatest champion of human rights, the United States, to the protection of the most vulnerable among us, our unborn children, and to the strengthening of our families.


Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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