A Texas Presbyterian pastor protested against pro-life legislation this week, claiming that “God alone is Lord of the conscience” and not the government.
Fox 7 reports Pastor Andries Coetzee of the San Antonio University Presbyterian Church joined a small group of pro-abortion religious leaders at the Texas State Capitol to pray and protest against the state heartbeat bill, which appears likely to pass the state legislature this week.
The bill would require abortionists to check for an unborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibit the abortion if it is detected. Because that typically happens at about six weeks of pregnancy, the bill would prohibit almost all abortions in the state. The legislation also would allow citizens to hold abortionists accountable through private lawsuits.
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Coetzee said he fears the bill also could open up pastors to legal liability if they advise a woman to have an abortion, according to the report.
“The relationship between a parishioner and a pastor is one of sacred trust and cannot be legislated. It cannot be legislated. As God alone is Lord of the conscience and not Caesar,” he said.
The bill does not mention anything about counseling. It includes penalties for abortionists who violate the provisions by killing unborn babies.
Another Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Jim Rigby of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, also attacked the legislation, claiming lawmakers are not doing enough to support women in need, according to the report.
“The same people who are doing this are blocking contraception, they are blocking a lot of the neonatal care being given as part of public service, it’s like you can’t slam doors in people’s faces without opening other doors,” Rigby said.
But pro-life Texas lawmakers are advancing bills to support mothers and babies as well as prohibit abortions. On April 22, the state House approved a $20 million increase in funding for pregnancy centers, adoption agencies and maternity homes that provide free services to families in need, according to Texas Right to Life.
In total, lawmakers voted to invest $100 million into the Texas Alternatives to Abortion program over the next two years. Through the program, agencies provide free counseling, parenting classes, diapers, formula, job skills training and more.
Another bipartisan pro-life bill in Texas, the Every Mother Matters Act, would ensure that women seeking abortions know about public and private support services, including assistance with housing, employment, resume development, child care, prenatal and postpartum medical care, mental health or behavioral counseling, adoption services, financial assistance, abuse- or neglect-prevention assistance, substance and alcohol abuse prevention assistance and health benefit plan coverage.
The Texas House is expected to hold a final vote on the heartbeat bill Thursday. Pro-life Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign it into law.