Presbyterian Church Will Battle Over Abortion at Upcoming Meeting

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 10, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Presbyterian Church Will Battle Over Abortion at Upcoming Meeting

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
June 10, 2004

Richmond, VA ( — The issue of abortion is likely to take center stage at a meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Richmond, Virginia, June 26. A number of presbyteries, or district governing bodies, have submitted abortion-related resolutions to this year’s General Assembly.

The Protestant church has been criticized in the past for its previous support for abortion.

The Beaver-Butler Presbytery in Pennsylvania and the Presbytery of Charlotte in North Carolina are asking church members to affirm the protection of unborn babies well enough developed to live outside the womb.

Meanwhile, the Presbytery of Upper Ohio Valley is lobbying commissioners to declare that the 2002 and 2003 Assemblies "erred in supporting abortion, especially late term partial-birth abortion." The presbytery adds that the Board of Pensions "errs in providing abortions" except in pregnancies that clearly endanger the life of the mother.

Presbytery members would also like to see a pro-life position on abortion incorporated into the church’s constitution.

But not all presbyteries are promoting a pro-life agenda.

For instance, the Lackawanna Presbytery wants to advocate for a restoration of money to the United Nations Populations Funds. The UNFPA has drawn criticism from pro-life lawmakers and the Bush administration has withdrawn funding from the U.N. agency because it supports China’s population control policies that include forced abortions and sterilizations.

Likewise, the Baltimore Presbytery is asking the church to support over-the-counter sales of the "morning after" abortion pill. Pro-life groups oppose the pills because it sometimes acts as an abortion drug.

In the past, pro-life Presbyterians have persuaded Assemblies to modify the church’s abortion policy.

The official policy remains "pro-choice." However, the church says it opposes abortion as a means of birth control and gender selection. The church also affirms adoption as a preferable alternative to abortion and says that partial-birth abortion is a "matter of grave moral concern."

Church policy also states that abortion should be the last resort in "problem pregnancies." Though it covers abortions in employee health insurance, Major Medical Plan dues paid by congregations opposed to abortion are set apart so that they will not be used to pay for abortions.

Last year’s assembly stated four circumstances in which post-viability abortion would be an acceptable "moral choice." Those cases included "when necessary to save the life of the woman, to preserve the woman’s health in circumstances of a serious risk…to avoid fetal suffering as a result of untreatable life-threatening medical anomalies, and in cases of incest or rape."

In a recent newsletter, Presbyterians Pro-Life, a group of clergy and lay people who are pro-life, said, "The very fact of the baby’s viability means that when the mother’s life or health is at risk immediate delivery of the baby would meet the goal of preserving her life and health. The baby does not have to be aborted in order to terminate the pregnancy. The baby can be delivered live with less risk to the mother–and to the baby–than if abortion is performed."

"Even where rape or incest is a factor in a late term pregnancy, immediate delivery and a plan for adoption would be easily accomplished as an alternative to abortion," Presbyterians Pro-Life added.

On its website, the pro-life group notes, "We call the Church to renew its historic and biblical stance of opposition to the destruction of innocent human life through abortion. We call the Church to renew its commitment to preserve and nurture life at every stage of development, from conception to natural death."

"We call the Church to cease its approval of abortion; to withdraw funding of abortion and abortion advocacy; to remove the unlimited coverage of abortion from the Presbyterian Medical Plan; to discontinue participation in and support for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice."

The coalition supports legal abortion.

Related web sites:
Presbyterians Pro-Life –