Presbyterian Church Will Debate Abortion Proposals at National Meeting

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Presbyterian Church Will Debate Abortion Proposals at National Meeting Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 31, 2006

Louisville, KY ( — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will again be embroiled in a controversy about abortion as it will debate three abortion proposals at its upcoming annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama in June. The mainline Protestant church has come under fire for years for its pro-abortion position.

The abortion battle within the Presbyterian church has been ongoing since 1983, when the church officially adopted its position in favor of abortion, which virtually no limitations.

Pro-life advocates within the church have successfully been able to get it to modify its position — it now opposes abortions for reasons of birth control or sex selection — but the church still backs abortion.

This year, the Mississippi Presbytery has submitted a policy change that would have the denomination oppose all abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

Abortions would also be tolerated by the church in very rare instances “where there is a finding by a competent, licensed physician that carrying the unborn child to term would, more likely than not, result in serious, long-lasting and debilitating mental and emotional distress of the mother.”

Meanwhile, the Beaver-Butler Presbytery has submitted a proposal that would cease funding from the national church offices of any organization that either supports or opposes abortion. The proposal would allow local churches to make those funding decisions.

Abortion funding has been a source of contention within the church as the church employee health plan pays for abortions. The church eventually established a “relief of conscience” program, where the dues paid by objecting churches were segregated and not used to pay for employee abortions.

A more modest proposal from the Redstone Presbytery seeks to get the denomination to call for limits on late-term abortions.

It asks the Assembly to “affirm that the lives of viable unborn babies — those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered — ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted."

The proposal asks the church to affirm the life of both mother and child in cases where the pregnancy is causing the mother severe health issues and to support all efforts to keep the baby alive if the pregnancy poses problems.

In 2004, the church assembly upheld their pro-abortion position in favor keeping partial-birth abortions legal. It rejected a pro-life proposal that would have encouraged women with problem pregnancies to carry the baby to term.

Members defeated the pro-life measure 260-256 and then voted 298-219 to authorize a mailing to all Presbyterian churches announcing the denomination’s policy on abortion.

The Presbyterian Church has faced declining enrollments over the years in part because of its pro-abortion position. The denomination lost over 43,000 members during 2004 — the third straight year it has lost over 40,000 members.

It’s lost 12.9 percent of its total membership since 1983 and nearly half of its membership since 1965. In the last two years, the percentage of members leaving the Presbyterian Church is at its highest since the early 1980s.

Presbyterians Pro-Life has worked for years to get the denomination to renounce it’s pro-abortion views and withdraw its membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a group that advocates abortion.

"We call the Church to renew its historic and biblical stance of opposition to the destruction of innocent human life through abortion," Presbyterians Pro-Life says on its web site. "We call the Church to renew its commitment to preserve and nurture life at every stage of development, from conception to natural death."

Instead of reforming its abortion views, Rev. Timothy Simpson, a pastor in the PCUSA, formed a new pro-abortion "Christian" group last year called the Christian Alliance for Progress. Simpson told reporters the organization is meant to counter pro-life evangelical groups.

The Assembly of the PCUSA is scheduled to meet in Birmingham from June 15-22.

Related web sites:
Presbyterians Pro-Life –