Several Arkansas Democrat lawmakers are upset because a pastor led the state House in an opening prayer in which he thanked lawmakers for protecting unborn babies from abortions.

The Democrat Gazette reports three Democrats walked out as retired Pastor Happy Caldwell prayed Thursday in the state House.

“I would just like to say thank you for the pro-life legislation that’s come out of this state,” Caldwell told lawmakers. “Arkansas has set a leadership pace for the rest of the nation to follow.”

State Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, was one of the lawmakers who walked out. She said she was “offended and upset” because he mentioned abortion, according to the local news. Flowers said lawmakers voted on a resolution to support “civil discourse” and unity not long after Caldwell concluded.

House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, also slammed the prayer as inappropriate because Caldwell brought up a divisive political issue, the report states. She said she talked to Republican leaders afterward, and promised Democrats would “take a more proactive stance if it happens again.”

State lawmakers have been taking a number of actions to protect unborn babies this year. Earlier this month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act, a law to ban the killing of unborn babies in abortions throughout the state. On Wednesday, the House also passed a bill to inform mothers about the abortion pill reversal procedure.

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Both bills received strong support from lawmakers, but a few Democrats did oppose them.

Abortion is not just a religious issue or just a political issue. It is a human rights issue that crosses political and religious divides. Scientifically, it’s clear that a unique human life begins at conception, and the purpose of an abortion is to destroy that human being.

The Arkansas Department of Health reported 2,963 abortions in 2019.

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