Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries and other abolitionists opposed the long-standing "incremental" strategy, advocating for sanctions for women, ahead of a probable verdict to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Ascol argued that a woman who chooses to stop her pregnancy and a hitman are nearly identical. He told Christian radio host Pastor Jeff Schreve that both should face criminal charges because they paid someone to end a human life.
The comparison isn't unique, he said. Pope Francis has made similar "hitman" remarks. Ascol also believes that women who undergo abortions should face homicide charges and possible prison terms. Ascol also targets "pro-life industrial elites," whom he claims to obstruct efforts to stop abortion in the United States.
Ascol, a candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, is part of a tiny but rising movement of abortion abolitionists who oppose the premise that abortion should be permitted only if a mother's life is in jeopardy, or circumstances of rape or incessant violence.
The effort persuaded a bill that would have classified abortion as a homicide but the Louisiana House pulled the proposal.
Evangelical Pro-Lifers Opposed Abolition Movement
Abolitionists recently suspect the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of revealing the anti-abortion cause after the groups wrote an open letter contrasting criminal penalties for women who have the procedure.
Ascol, who denied an interview request, called for acting ERLC president Brent Leatherwood to be removed for signing the letter. The pastor set out his opinion that abortion should be treated as a homicide in an article for Founders Ministries, a conservative organization led by Ascol, and he reaffirmed his points on Twitter this week.
As evidence, Ascol cited a resolution approved at the SBC's annual meeting in 2021 calling for abortion to be outlawed and treated as murder.
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, who signed the letter to state legislators, said she and other leaders are focused on rescuing infants rather than incarcerating women. She is concerned that pro-abortion politicians and groups will use measures like the one in Louisiana to gain support for their cause.
According to Tobias, the letter was already in the works before the Louisiana measure made national headlines, but she believes such plans divert attention away from the goal of avoiding abortions. Tobias adds that criminal punishments for women who undergo abortions have limited public support.
ERLC Former President Richard Land also criticized SBC's abolitionist resolution. He supported the so-called gradual approach, claiming that it has reduced abortion rates. In a recent piece, he argued that this strategy is preferable to doing nothing while demanding a total prohibition.
If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in June, as expected, the debate between abortion opponents who call themselves "abolitionists" and those who call themselves "pro-life" will likely heat up, as rival anti-abortion groups compete over who will determine the shape of abortion limits in red states, according to Christianity Today.