AUSTIN, Texas (BP) -- The eyes of America were on Texas on Monday night (July 3) as an estimated 2,000 pro-lifers rallied in support of bills moving through the legislature to stop most abortions beyond 20 weeks' gestation as well as increase standards of care and require abortion doctors to have privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their practices.
The slate of speakers, led by former Arkansas governor and Fox News host Mike Huckabee hit a common theme -- the inherent value of human life -- with several speakers making a point to state their Christian love for pro-choice orange-clad activists on the fringes of the crowd.
Huckabee followed Concerned Women for America Executive Director Penny Nance, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is expected to seek the governor's office after Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, announced earlier in the day he would not seek another term.
Southern Baptists on the platform included Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, both of whom prayed, and First Baptist Church of Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who kicked off the rally with a fiery speech characterizing the abortion debate as being between "light and darkness, good and evil, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan."
Richards, who closed the rally in prayer, reminded the crowd that more than 2,400 SBTC churches stand with them in upholding the sanctity of human life as part of their confession of faith.
Huckabee, in his keynote address, said "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are not ordained by a government document but by God. He framed the abortion debate in the context of the Holocaust and slavery. The foundation for both lay in the poisonous concept that one person or group is better than another.
The gas chambers at Auschwitz were built on that foundation, Huckabee said. On a recent trip to the infamous camp, he said he was overwhelmed with the question of how such an atrocity could happen.
"Thank God it's still there," Huckabee said of the gas chamber, because the structure serves as a reminder "that somewhere some people believed they were better than others ... and they had to die."
Huckabee said he would bet that most people in the crowd were raised to believe they are no better than anyone else and that others are no better than they are.
"We are all created equal. No life was deemed so insignificant that it was deemed disposable," Huckabee said.
Reality television's Michelle Duggar struck a similar note. Standing alongside husband Jim Bob Duggar and oldest son Josh, the mother of 19 children and co-star of "19 Kids and Counting" told the crowd their 3-year-old daughter Josie, held up by Josh, "could be the poster child for House Bill 2."
Under current Texas law, Josie could have been aborted at the time she was born -- 25 weeks of gestation. HB 2, due for a second vote in the Texas House this week, calls for tight restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. Texas law currently allows abortions into the 28th week despite polls indicating Americans overwhelming oppose late-term abortions. The Senate version of the bill is SB 1.
"In our nation a baby holocaust is taking place," Duggar said, urging people of faith to run for office or support those who do.
Abbott, the attorney general, told the crowd, "I stand for life.
"I say that with the irony of someone who cannot stand," Abbott said from his wheelchair. "But you don't have to stand to fight for life or what is right."
Abbott, who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to end partial-birth abortion in Texas, enthusiastically defended HB 2.
Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor and another potential GOP gubernatorial candidate, addressed a growing crowd of pro-choice activists on the perimeter of the gathering.
"We love you," Dewhurst said to cheers of approval from the pro-life crowd.
"As Christians we love you as much as we love that unborn baby."
But, Dewhurst added in his remarks, his respect for their free speech rights and their toughness as Texans would not overrule his drive to pass pro-life legislation.
The crowd responded with chants of "Pass the bill!"
Kyleen Wright, executive director of Texans for Life, lauded Sen. Eddie Lucio, D.-Brownsville, the lone pro-life Democrat in the Senate and a co-sponsor of SB 1, the companion bill of HB 2.
Jonathan Saenz, director of Texas Values, read a letter from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, calling late-term abortion "indefensible." Via Saenz, Cruz noted the tough abortion restrictions set by some European nations: "In Spain, Italy, Portugal and even France -- that bastion of progressive thought -- abortions are banned after 14 weeks."
The lineup of speakers also included authors of the legislation, Rep. Jodi Laubenberg, R.-Murphy, and Sen. Glenn Hegar, R.-Katy; Marilyn Musgrave, vice president for government affairs for The Susan B. Anthony List; Jeanne Monahan, president of March for Life; and Missy Martinez, national director of Students for Life.
Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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