A new billboard campaign promoting abortion services in conservative states cites a Bible verse with the words of Jesus as an apparent endorsement.
Last Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom posted images on social media showing billboards set to go up in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and four other "anti-freedom" states where abortion is prohibited or significantly restricted.
Newsom's tweet read in part: "To any woman seeking an abortion in these anti-freedom states: CA will defend your right to make decisions about your health."
Newsom tagged several Republican governors, including Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, with whom he shared a billboard image that reads: "Need an abortion? California is ready to help."
The billboard partially quotes Mark 12:31: "Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these."
Funded by Newsom's reelection campaign, the billboard omits the context of the exchange in the previous verse, in which Jesus is asked by a scribe, "Which commandment is the most important of all?"
Jesus is quoted as reciting the Shema prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, saying, "This is the most important: 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One."
He then says in verses 30-31: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these."
Another billboard features the words "Texas doesn't own your body." A similar billboard was also made for Indiana.
In all, billboards are set to go up in seven states — Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Oklahoma — all of which are roundly pro-life.
Joy Stockbauer, a policy analyst for the Center for Human Dignity at the Washington-based Christian conservative advocacy group Family Research Council, told The Christian Post that Newsom's reelection campaign is "disturbing."
"Governor Newsom's disrespect for the sincerely held religious convictions of Bible-believing Americans is disturbing, but sadly nothing new from far-left extremists within the Democratic Party," wrote Stockbauer via email.
"Perhaps Newsom wouldn't be so desperate to draw vulnerable women to California if his actual constituents weren't fleeing the state in droves due to his unwillingness to address the rampant violent crime problem."
In recent months, California has taken several steps to position itself as an abortion "sanctuary state" after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, allowing states to restrict abortion access.
Last week, California launched a $1 million state-run website promoting abortion to minors, immigrants and women who live in states that restrict abortion. The website is funded through a $200 million budget package funded by taxpayers as the state seeks to be a sanctuary for abortion.
"Abortion is legal, safe and accessible here in California — whether or not you live here, know that we have your back," said Newsom following the website's launch. "As Republican states continue rolling back fundamental civil rights and even try to prevent people from accessing information online or crossing state lines for care, you're welcome here in California and we'll continue to fight like hell for you."
The website offers residents and non-residents information about abortion facility locations, how to access abortion pills, financial help and assistance with traveling for an abortion.
The website also states that California law allows minors to "independently consent to their own abortion care" despite any objections from their parents. The website links to TeenHealthRights.org, which tells minors they "do not need your parents' or caregivers' permission to get an abortion if you are under 18" and that it is their "choice whether to tell your parents about it if you do get an abortion."
The state's website also informs undocumented migrants seeking an abortion that they may be able to obtain California Medicaid coverage for the procedure.
Earlier this summer, the California legislature passed over a dozen bills this week expanding and protecting abortion access and protecting abortion providers from criminal prosecution.