Trump issues strong defense of religious liberty, unborn in State of the Union address

WASHINGTON (BP) -- President Donald Trump's defense of unborn children in his State of the Union address Tuesday night (Feb. 4) drew accolades from Southern Baptist leaders.

President Donald Trump's defense of unborn children in his State of the Union address Tuesday night (Feb. 4) drew accolades from Southern Baptist leaders.
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Speaking on the eve of a Senate impeachment vote, Trump urged the joint session of Congress to approve legislation "finally banning the late-term abortion of babies." He told the senators and representatives gathered in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol, "Whether we are Republican, Democrat or independent, surely we must all agree that every human life is a sacred gift from God."

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, thanked the president for including "the sanctity of human life" in his State of the Union speech.

"He is right that the abortion culture is an injustice that should be ended," Moore said in written comments. "The dignity of all human beings, regardless of age, development or power, should be a priority for all Americans and should transcend all ideological, partisan or geographical divisions."

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, also expressed his gratitude for Trump's call for congressional members "to pass legislation that will ban the practice of late-term abortions."

Trump apparently was endorsing a bill known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.

The Republican-controlled House passed the proposal in 2017, but the Senate rejected it. The House now is under control of the Democrats, who overwhelmingly oppose such a ban.

He looks forward to working with Trump and other public officials to adopt the prohibition, Moore said. "Moreover, I look forward to churches continuing to minister through alternatives to abortion, care for women in crisis, adoption and foster care, and other avenues of service to those who deserve better than what the abortion industry offers."

The president's support for religious freedom in his address also received praise from Floyd, who said the speech "was a very clear and strong message not only for religious liberty, but also for the sanctity and dignity of life."

Trump said, "In America, we don't punish prayer. We don't tear down crosses. We don't ban symbols of faith. We don't muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God."

In written comments, Floyd said, "These words were profound and powerful, words that every Christ-follower should celebrate. Today, I am so thankful for these compelling words. We need to pray for our president and for our nation."

Before endorsing a ban on late-term abortions, Trump recognized Robin and Ellie Schneider, a mother and daughter seated in the gallery as his guests. Ellie, a now healthy 2-year-old, survived after her birth at only 21 weeks and six days. The president asked Congress to approve $50 million more to support neonatal research on prematurely born children.

"Ellie reminds us that every child is a miracle of life," Trump said. "Our goal should be to ensure that every baby has the best chance to thrive and grow just like Ellie."

The third State of the Union address of Trump's presidency occurred the night before the Senate is expected to vote to acquit him of impeachment articles charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The rancorous division between congressional Democrats and Trump was on display before and after the State of the Union speech.

Trump delivered copies of his speech to both Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who were behind him, before he spoke but declined to shake her hand when she extended it to him. The president also did not reach out to shake Pence's hand, though it was not extended. During applause after the address, Pelosi stood and tore apart her copy of the speech.

The president told Congress and a national television audience the state of the Union "is stronger than ever before." He said "the great American comeback" that started in 2017 with his presidency had produced "incredible results."

"Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again," Trump said. "America's enemies are on the run, America's fortunes are on the rise, and America's future is blazing bright."

Among specific accomplishments the president cited were criminal justice reform, an across-the-board drop in unemployment, regulatory reduction that has made the United States the world's No. 1 oil and natural gas producer, the recently enacted U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact that he said will produce 100,000 American jobs in the auto industry and efforts regarding the southern border that have resulted in a 75 percent decrease in illegal crossings since May.

His promises included always protecting Medicare and Social Security.

Afterward, Pelosi described the State of the Union address as a "manifesto of untruths presented in page after page," citing specifically Trump's pledge in the speech to always protect patients with pre-existing conditions. She said the address "should be a call to action for everyone who expects truth from the President and policies worthy of his office and the American people."

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a Southern Baptist, described the president's speech as "powerful and inspiring."

"We have seen President Trump's bold agenda turned into reality," he said in a written release. "These are promises that have been both made and kept despite unprecedented and desperate political distractions."

Womack is a member of Cross Church Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark.

Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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