A United Church of Christ leader is trying to overturn a Missouri law that protects unborn babies, claiming pro-life lawmakers “weaponized” their Christian faith to pass the abortion ban.

Last week, 13 religious leaders, including four UCC pastors, filed a lawsuit challenging the Missouri abortion law as an alleged violation of their pro-abortion religious beliefs.

One of them, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, is the associate general minister of justice and local church ministries for the denomination. Blackmon also is an abortion activist who toured the country with the pro-abortion “Nuns on the Bus” campaign and received an award from Planned Parenthood, according to the UCC website.

In the lawsuit, she and 12 other pastors and rabbis argued that the state law prohibiting the killing of unborn babies violates their faith and the separation of church and state in the U.S. and Missouri constitutions.

“Our elected officials have violated their oath to uphold that Constitution by weaponizing their religious beliefs to deny abortion access in a state where studies prove these actions are not the will of the majority,” Blackmon said in a statement.

She accused pro-life lawmakers of being fakes and hypocrites, while refusing to offer a moral defense of her own pro-abortion beliefs.

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“I am not here to debate the morality of abortion with anyone,” Blackmon continued. “I’m here to defend women and birthing people’s right not to have to. And to expose the hypocrisy of legislators who hide behind a feigned pro-life agenda in a pro-death penalty state.”

Missouri is one of 14 states that protects unborn babies by banning abortions; exceptions are allowed for medical emergencies. The law went into effect last year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

In the lawsuit, the religious leaders claimed the ban violates a clause in the Missouri Constitution that requires the separation of church and state.

They pointed to several statements that pro-life lawmakers made about their Christian faith when they passed the law, as well as a phrase in the legislation itself that states, “In recognition that Almighty God is the author of life … it is the intention of the General Assembly to defend the right to life of all humans, born and unborn,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In the lawsuit, Blackmon and the others said they support abortions because of their religious beliefs, according to the Riverfront Times.

“Many people of faith support abortion access not despite, but because of, their religion,” their lawsuit states. “…[The] Plaintiffs, like other clergy and faith communities all across this State, have through their work providing care, counseling, teaching, and preaching, spent decades countering the false but all too common assertion that faith and abortion access are incompatible.”

The other plaintiffs are: the Rev. Barbara Phifer; Maharat Rori Picker Neiss; the Rev. Molly Housh Gordon; Episcopal Bishop Deon K. Johnson; Rabbi James Bennett; the Rev. Holly McKissick; the Rev. Krista Taves; the Rev. Cynthia S. Bumb; Rabbi Susan Talve; Rabbi Douglas Alpert; the Rev. Janice Barnes; and Rabbi Andrea Goldstein, the Times reports.

The Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Women’s Law Center and the law firm Arnold & Porter also are involved in the lawsuit.

Responding last week, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey promised to defend the protections for unborn babies.

“I want Missouri to be the safest state in the nation for children, and that includes unborn children,” Bailey said in a statement. “As attorney general, I will protect the Constitution and defend the right to life with every tool at my disposal.”

Bailey said several courts, including the U.S. and Missouri supreme courts, have rejected similar cases in the past. One was a 2019 decision against the Satanic Temple, which claimed a state informed consent law that requires abortion facilities to provide information about an unborn baby’s development, abortion risks and pregnancy resources violated its members’ religious freedom.

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