In case you had not heard, the Arkansas legislature just passed into law what is being called the “strictest abortion ban in America” (See “In the News” on page 2). To be specific, state Sen. Jason Rapert put forth the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act” in our neighboring state, a bill that effectively bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy or after the unborn’s heartbeat is detected, whichever comes first.
Medical research shows the fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
“Arkansas has made a significant statement,” Rapert said. “Hopefully, we can awaken the nation.”
And so he has. Major news outlets, such as The New York Times, are buzzing about the bill, which was passed by the legislature, vetoed by Gov. Mike Beebe, and then passed with a veto override by the state senate.
Critics of this law say it will not be upheld in court. Proponents, who are hoping similar measures will be passed in other states, admit it may not hold up to federal challenge, but argue it was the right thing to do.
“We’ve done our duty,” said Rapert.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973, America has been involved in a public debate on abortion that can even be compared to the question of slavery in the 19th Century.
Overseas, the issue is somewhat less controversial. In fact, abortion is more restricted than it is in the U.S. in other countries. Even Britain and France, who are not exactly known as bastions of social conservatism, more strictly limit when an abortion can be performed.
Time will tell if the new Arkansas law will be dismissed, but what does its passage mean for Oklahoma and the rest of the nation at the present?
It is important first to note that Oklahoma has a special connection to Arkansas. Not only are we bordering states, but we, at one time in American history, were one. The better part of Oklahoma was originally part of the Arkansas Territory from 1819-1824.
Further, Arkansas and Oklahoma are among the most religious states in the nation, dominated largely by Southern Baptist influence.
It is for these reasons and more, many Oklahomans are cheering the move by Arkansas to protect life. In the past seven years alone, Oklahoma, too, has become a pro-life leader among the 50 states.
While significant parts of the pro-life movement work toward a full ban on abortion in America, others have sought to take smaller steps along the way. Even the Arkansas law, for example, does allow for abortion, though in a more restricted way. It is only a step.
In spite of these incremental legislative victories, thousands of abortions still occur in our state each year, millions nationwide. In fact, it is hard to measure and is quite unclear what effect abortion restriction laws have on the abortion rate.
That is why it is incumbent on Christians to pray and work toward a day in which there is not only no supply of abortion in America, but no demand as well. In other words, it is our task to change hearts as well as laws. The burden to do this falls squarely on Christians.
After all, it is part of our identity as Christians to be for life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He is called “the Author of Life” (Acts 3:15) and is even titled “The Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). How could we believe otherwise? The pro-life movement is largely Christian-led, and therefore it will be Christians staying prayerful and involved in Oklahoma, in Arkansas—everywhere—who will determine the future of abortion in America. God help us.