Texas Pastor, Outspoken Supporter of Bill Criminalizing Abortion, Accused of Molesting Teenage Relative Multiple Times a Day

A former Southern Baptist pastor, who supported a strict abortion bill in Texas which would have made it illegal for women to undergo the procedure, has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a teenage relative.

Stephen Bratton, a former pastor at Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston, is accused of the continuous sexual abuse of a child after allegedly engaging in "sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week" with the victim between 2013 and 2015, Thomas Gilliland, spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, told the Associated Press. Police did not reveal how Bratton and the teenage girl are related.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Bratton was released from custody in May after posting a $50,000 bond. Court records also show that an emergency protection order was granted for his release.

The Grace Family Baptist Church said that they were made aware of the allegations against Bratton after he allegedly confessed to committing the abuse to fellow pastors Erin Frye and Aaron Wright on May 16. The Church said they contacted police the same day and confirmed that Bratton has been excommunicated and is no longer a member.

"As the weeks followed the pastors continued to make contact with the detective because they desired the case to be brought forward so that justice would be served," the Grace Family Baptist Church said in a statement. "Once the case began we continued to cooperate fully throughout the investigation.

"The elders have called upon Stephen Bratton to accept the full responsibility for his actions and to place himself at the mercy of the criminal justice system. We have deep grief for the victim and have sought to respect the privacy and identity of the victim throughout this process," the statement adds.

Bratton, a father of seven, previously voiced his support for the failed Texas House Bill 896 which would have made abortions illegal in all circumstances and seen women who underwent them facing homicide charges. Under Texas state law, those found guilty of criminal homicide can be punished by the death penalty.

"Whoever authorizes or commits murder is guilty," Bratton said during an April 8 hearing. "They're guilty already in a court that is far more weighty than what is here in Texas."

According to an extensive joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio-Express, more than 700 people have been abused by Southern Baptist church leaders over the past two decades.

Stephen Bratton
Stephen Bratton is accused of charges of child sex abuse after allegedly assaulting a teenage relative for two years. Harris County Sheriff’s Office