Texas Baptists celebrates passage of pro-life bills

by George Schroeder on July 6, 2023 in News

AUSTIN – Texas Baptists recently celebrated the passage of three important pro-life bills during the 88th Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature. In a ceremony June 16 attended by representatives from Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission (CLC), as well as other “like-minded” pro-life advocates, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 12 and Senate Bills 24 and 379.

HB 12 extends Medicaid coverage for mothers from two months postpartum to 12 months. Among other things, this provides access to doctors and medications in a critical time for both mothers and infants.

SB 24 creates the Texas Thriving Families Program, providing a continuum of care for families from conception through the first 36 months of a child’s life. The program was previously known as “Alternatives to Abortion,” but is now codified and overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services.

SB 379 adds maternity clothes, feminine hygiene products, diapers, baby wipes, baby bottles and breast milk pumping products to a list of items that are not taxed.

“There was a strong bipartisan effort this session to protect and support moms and families in Texas,” said John Litzler, public policy director for Texas Baptists. “These bills are evidence of that.”

Litzler noted that the emphasis in pro-life advocacy efforts “shifted a little bit” during the legislative session. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022, which overturned Roe v. Wade, previous Texas laws went into effect, effectively banning abortion.

While Texas Baptists have always pursued holistic pro-life policies, the Supreme Court’s decision “freed up the legislators to consider bills that were pro-life post-birth,” according to Litzler. He said the laws help not only babies, but their mothers and families, and said he was encouraged by the achievements of pro-life advocates in the recent regular legislative session, which ended May 29.

“There is much more work to be done on pro-life priorities,” Litzler said, “but we made amazing strides this session in passing laws to help Texas familie

Pro-life legislation was one of four approved public policy priorities for the CLC in the 88th Legislative session; the others were religious liberty, predatory financial practices and adequately funding public education. Many Texas Baptists participated in the process along the way.

Litzler said Texas Baptists had tremendous impact in the shaping and passage of SB 24. Where Alternatives to Abortion was a rider inserted in the state’s budget and had to be approved every two years, the Thriving Texas Families Program is codified. It also significantly expands the scope. While it continues to fund crisis pregnancy centers, additional care includes counseling, education in parenting and life skills, education in job readiness, referrals to governmental and social service programs including child care, supplies for infant care (car seats, cribs, maternity clothes, diapers and formula) and housing services.

“It’s not just a rebranding,” Litzler said. “It’s really a new philosophy of care, from conception through the first three years of life.”

Each of the bills, Litzler said, had bipartisan support – sometimes including Democrat and Republican co-sponsors. He described Texas Baptists’ efforts as part of “coalition-type building,” saying several pro-life and religious groups came together in advocacy, including Buckner International and the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The Baptists have a strong voice in Austin, but not strong enough to carry the day on our own,” Litzler said. “We can do more together than individually. So we get together with other like-minded folks.”

Litzler noted: “That’s what it’s gonna take on these and other things in the future.”

To learn more about the Christian Life Commission, visit texasclc.org.

Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.

The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.

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