Month: November 2013

Texas abortion law takes effect as 5th Circuit reverses ruling

AUSTIN—A Texas law regulating abortions may take effect as drafted, the United States 5th Circuit appellate court in New Orleans ruled on Thursday (Oct. 31), arguing that challenges to the constitutionality of the law would likely fail. The ruling will likely force the closure of 12 or 13 Texas abortion clinics, according to abortion provider Planned Parenthood. 

The decision reverses an Oct. 28 ruling by a U.S. district judge who declared a provision in House Bill 2 that an abortion doctor have hospital privileges within 30 miles of his practice unconstitutional. Judge Lee Yeakel also partially blocked the law’s more stringent guidelines for how the abortion drug RU-486 is administered. 

Texas Attorney General and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott said in a statement of the latest ruling, “This unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women.” 

“God is so good,” said Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life. 

The three-judge panel—Jennifer Walker Elrod, Priscilla R. Owen and Catharina Haynes—wrote that, “There is a substantial likelihood that the State will prevail in its argument that Planned Parenthood failed to establish an undue burden on women seeking abortions or that the hospital-admitting-privileges requirement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. … We also conclude that the State has made a strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits, at least in part, as to its appeal of the injunction pertaining to medication abortions,” namely the use of mifepristone (RU-486) and misoprostol. 

Wright said she is thrilled with the decision and believes it will have a significant impact on the abortion industry in Texas. According to information from the Oct. 28 district court hearing, clinics in Lubbock, Killeen, Waco, McAllen, Fort Worth and possibly Dallas will cease providing abortions because their staff physicians do not have admitting privileges. 

The Fort Worth Women’s Whole Health Clinic, which opened in June, meets all standards outlined in HB 2 with the exception of the physician privileges provision, even though the clinic sits across the street from a hospital. 

The clinics could close temporarily and reopen when their doctors become compliant. But they might not be able to recover from the loss of revenue generated by abortions, Wright said. 

NARAL called the decision “devastating.” The pro-abortion organization retweeted a post from Planned Parenthood, “Abortion providers in #Texas are cancelling their patients’ appointments: ‘It’s a sad and dark day.’” 

In a report from Dallas CBS television affiliate KTVT, Marva Sadler with the Whole Women’s Health Clinic in Fort Worth, said, “Those who were scheduled to come in Friday had to be notified about the last-minute change. We called a total of 15 patients this morning and, of those 15 patients, 14 of them agreed that they’re going to be forced to be mothers.” 

Social media feeds from pro-choice advocates decried the decision, with one notable exception.

The Twitter feed for Wendy Davis, Abbott’s presumed Democrat opponent in the governor’s race, was conspicuously silent following the ruling. In July Davis stood for an 11-hour filibuster in a failed attempt to stop the pro-life legislation. She received national notoriety for her efforts and joined forces with NARAL and Planned Parenthood in their “Stand with Texas Women” campaign fighting to maintain the late-term abortion standards. 

According to the Think Progress website, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women’s Health and owner of five abortion clinics, said, “We have regressed backwards about 30 years.”

Three of her clinics were forced to close Friday, she claimed. 

“It’s a big financial hit for her,” Wright said. 

Planned Parenthood, the primary complainant named in the suit against the State of Texas, could appeal the 5th Circuit Court’s ruling to the Supreme Court, but Wright said she thought that was doubtful. Abbott has asked for and was granted an expedited appeals hearing, which could go to court by late January.



SBTC board endows Turner-McCall scholarships for African American MDiv students

AMARILLO—Grants from year-end reserves will benefit seminary students in the West and a new Baptist college in the East following action of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Board members authorized releasing $100,000 to endow two education scholarships for African American master of divinity students at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The awards will be made at the discretion of the seminary and honor current and former trustees, Terry Turner and E.W. McCall, both of Texas.

Turner joined five families in planting Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church, which has grown to more than 2,100 members. He just completed two terms as SBTC president. McCall, an SBTC consultant, pastored St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, Calif., which grew from 35 to more than 4,000 members during his 37-year tenure. At his retirement McCall returned to his native state.

At the request of the Baptist Convention of New England, the SBTC board authorized $20,000 to purchase new furniture and equipment for the Northeastern Baptist College, a newly formed school in Bennington, Vt.

The board also approved from reserve funds a grant of $250,000 to the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation to supplement the budget of the eight-year-old foundation, and up to $100,000 to cover any line-item overages not covered by operations and contingency funds. Additional funding from reserves will serve to refurbish the SBTC office in Grapevine that has been utilized since 2004 and provide year-end Christmas bonuses for staff.

Twenty-five new requests from churches seeking affiliation with the SBTC were approved as the convention continues to grow. The number of affiliated churches stood at 2,442 with 13 removed, 11 of which had disbanded and two that became independent or exclusively related to other groups.

Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported that Cooperative Program receipts are $723,276 ahead of 2012 receipts with a net operating income of $1,134,175 through September.

Contributions from SBTC churches to both Southern Baptist mission offerings were higher this year with giving through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions reporting $2,263,093 for the first nine months of the year, while giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions stood at $544,649 for the four months since June. Giving through the Reach Texas Offering for state missions was slightly lower than last year at $27,005 for the first month of reporting.

Ministry relationships with Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist Family Ministries were extended through 2014. ETBFM, an affiliated ministry that received budgeted funds, will receive .75 percent of annual in-state Cooperative Program budgeted receipts.

Newly elected board officers are Chairman Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Vice Chairman David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, and Secretary Paul Garcia, pastor of Bobtown Road Baptist Church in Garland.

The board welcomed new members including Bart McDonald, executive teaching pastor at Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield; Mark McHargue of Round Rock, a member of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Austin; Russ Ponder, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farwell; Michael Postell, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Mansfield; and Joe Rivera, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie. Newly elected SBTC officers are board members by virtue of their offices.