The South Carolina Pastors Alliance (SCPA) was the featured guest at a June 2nd press conference held by Sen. Lee Bright to promote a bill (S719, H4093), that if passed, will put a personhood constitutional amendment question on the November, 2016, general election ballot. The press conference was held in the second floor lobby of the Statehouse, between the Senate and House chambers, and was well-attended. After welcoming a group of legislators and pastors to the press conference, Sen. Bright turned it over to SCPA president, Dr. Kevin Baird of Charleston.

Dr. Baird founded the SCPA to help pastors engage the culture with Biblical values, and it was clear that he was very well versed in the fight to protect preborn life beginning at conception. Pastor Baird began with some general comments about life and abortion, stating that, “Every generation has a justice issue and ours is the place and the rights of the preborn. . . Abortion has been the national sore on this nation for 42 years. And the time has come to move courageously and expeditiously to right a wrong that we have allowed to exist for far too long.” He then zeroed in on the crucial issue by explaining, “In 1973 the majority opinion of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision left an open door to define in the future when a preborn baby could be considered legally a person. . . Today, biology, technology, ethics, and theology all agree that the preborn baby is a person from its earliest moments, even conception.”

The idea that the legal and constitutional status of personhood rightfully belongs to a human life from the moment of conception onward has been presented to the South Carolina legislature in the form of a personhood bill for years, but to no avail. After noting the lack of legislative leadership, Rev. Baird stated that this bill takes a different approach, saying “If our legislators will not lead then pastors of this state are going to step up and take the lead as they have done historically in times past and give voice to the voiceless . . We’re simply asking that the legislature move this amendment through and let the people of South Carolina decide what they want in their Constitution. Why not? Who could really argue with letting the people you represent determine the greatest social justice issue of our era. If it’s too difficult for our legislators to handle, then it’s time that the people had a direct say. . .The time has now come to do what is right before God and the call of history.”

Dr. Baird then welcomed pro-life activist and former US Senate candidate Richard Cash to the podium to explain how the current personhood amendment effort originated. Cash began by noting that although he expected to see his name on the 2014 Republican primary ballot, the ballot contained a surprise as well: “What I didn’t expect to see on the ballot was a question dealing and asking the voters of South Carolina to respond as to when a human life begins. . . I didn’t know that was going to be on the Republican primary ballot, but it was. Over 300,000 people voted in the primary election last June and almost 80% of ‘em agreed with the statement that life does begin at conception and deserves protection.” Cash stated that the June 2014 advisory question was the inspiration for the current effort, saying, “Several months ago several of us who are active in pro-life efforts latched on to the idea that if this could be an advisory question on the ballot, why couldn’t it be in effect a constitutional amendment put to the people of South Carolina in the next general election, which will be November, 2016.”

Cash went on to note that the current effort by pastors to provide significant leadership in  the pro-life arena is nothing new. Cash is well-known in the Upstate from working full-time with Pastors For Life during the 1990s, and he put the current effort in context with the original personhood effort, which was also led by pastors. “This is not a novel idea. In 1998 I was at this Statehouse with a group of pastors, called Pastors For Life, and they, through the legislators, introduced the first personhood bill in South Carolina. . . And ever since then there has been an ongoing effort to establish legal protection for unborn babies beginning at the moment of conception. So the fact that this is coming back around in this year is no surprise. But it is a renewed effort. It is one where we intend and hope to recalibrate what it means to be pro-life if you’re a South Carolina legislator.”

Cash concluded his remarks by noting that the SCPA has asked all legislators to sign a pledge to support and vote for S719 and H4093, without amendment. He noted, “We have already received a number of these pledges back. We are going to put the legislators in South Carolina on record whether or not they will sign to support this bill without amendment. That’s what we intend to do the next six months. We expect to have great success.”

The incoming director of the SCPA, Rev. Mike Gonzalez, was the last speaker. He also demonstrated a nuanced understanding of the ongoing fight against abortion, and the need to change pro-life political strategy to focus on ending abortion, not just incrementally regulating it. Pastor Gonzalez said, “We are still averaging over 3,500 abortions a day in our nation. . .Planned Parenthood has been opening mega abortion plexes. . .that will, as the President of Planned Parenthood says, and I quote ‘allow the organization to terminate unborn lives with an efficiency never before thought possible.’ That’s horrific. . .Today we say it’s time to change the playbook. It’s time for us to stop trying to move the football, instead let’s put the ball in the end zone. Let’s eliminate once and for all, all abortions in South Carolina.”

Pastor Gonzalez reminded us all that God is the source of life and the one who has the authority to determine its value. “Man cannot determine the value of human life, as life doesn’t originate from him,” said Gonzalez. “The source of all life is the infinite, eternal God, who deems its worth and its value. That is why every child must be fought for without exceptions and why the convenient wholesale murder of the unborn must be stopped immediately.”

Pastor Gonzalez reiterated the support of the SCPA for the personhood amendment, and quoted the text of the amendment for the audience: “The privileges and immunities of citizens of South Carolina and the United States shall not be abridged, so that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. These rights shall extend to both born and preborn persons beginning at conception.” Gonzalez concluded, “We call on the legislators to put this before the people. . . May the LORD grant us His will in passing this amendment.”

Dr. Baird wrapped up the press conference by acknowledging that the amendment will be challenged if passed, “(because) this is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. However, we believe that a door was left open for just this purpose. And we believe we’re just that generation.”

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