(RNS) — The way Florida Southern Baptist pastor Tom Ascol sees it, there is little difference between a woman who chooses to end her pregnancy and a hit man.
Both pay someone to end a human life, his argument goes, and so both should face criminal charges. “It’s like saying if I don’t murder someone, but I just contracted a murderer to murder someone I’m not culpable,” he told Christian radio host Jeff Schreve on Tuesday (May 17).
The analogy is not uncommon — Pope Francis has made similar “hit man” comments — Ascol also believes that women who have abortions should be charged with homicide and face potential jail time. And Ascol criticizes “pro-life industry elites,” who, he says, get in the way of ending abortion in America.
Ascol, a leading candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is part of a small but growing movement of abortion abolitionists who reject the idea that abortion should be allowed if a mother’s life is endangered or in cases of rape or incest.
The movement prompted a bill, now pulled by lawmakers in Louisiana, that would have treated abortion as a homicide.
Abolitionists recently accused the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of betraying the anti-abortion cause after the groups drafted an open letter opposing criminal penalties for women who have the procedure.
“We state unequivocally that we do not support any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women and we stand firmly opposed to including such penalties in legislation,” the letter read.
Ascol, who declined a request for an interview, called for Brent Leatherwood, acting ERLC president, to be fired for signing the letter. In an article for Founders Ministries, a conservative organization headed by Ascol, the pastor laid out his conviction that abortion should be treated as a homicide, and this week he repeated his points on Twitter.
To back his claim, Ascol pointed to a resolution passed at the SBC’s 2021 annual meeting calling for abortion to be abolished and for it to be treated as murder.
“Criminalization of mothers” is newspeak. Don’t be misled. Only actions can be crimes, not people. And the act of murder is a crime regardless of how old the murdered is or how sympathetic the murderer is. https://t.co/E1Re0B4DSU
— Tom @tomascol (@tomascol) May 13, 2022