Ms. Julie Taylor works in the office of Children, Youth and Family Advocacy of the United Methodist Women, and Ms. Amee Paparella is the new Director and Organizer for Women’s Advocacy at the General Board of church and Society of The United Methodist Church. On January 18, they posted their article, “Clearly More to Be Done,” on the General Board of Church and Society website.
Co-written, their article serves as their personal response to the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But given their positions in denominational agencies, their article also functions like an official response of The United Methodist Church to Roe’s anniversary.
The United Methodist Reporter suggests as much by publishing “Clearly more to Be Done” in its February 8th issue. (The Reporter is to be heartily commended for also carrying, in the same issue, a thoughtful critique of their article by Rev. Teddy Ray.)
Unfortunately, the article by Ms. Taylor and Ms. Paparella does not accurately represent what The United Methodist church teaches about life and abortion. In fact, the article distorts United Methodist teaching on this crucial matter.
This is how “Clearly more to Be Done” distorts United Methodist teaching on life and abortion.
As is well known, The United Methodist Church’s official teaching on life and abortion is found in Paragraph 161J (pp. 112-114) of The Book of Discipline (2012). Paragraph 161J indeed contains the one sentence from the Discipline that the Taylor-Paparella article quotes:
“We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.”
Relying heavily on that one sentence from Paragraph 161J, the article makes its case that there is “clearly more to be done” to realize “reproductive justice” in American society and throughout the world.
However, Paragraph 161J says much more about life and abortion than the one sentence quoted above.
First, Paragraph 161J speaks explicitly about the little one carried by the mother. It refers to “the sanctity of unborn human life” and to “the unborn child.” In contrast, the article under review does not mention, even once, the unborn child. Given the fact over 55,000,000 unborn children have been aborted, since Roe v. Wade was handed down by the United States Supreme Court in 1973, that is a blatantly obvious oversight. That oversight distorts United Methodist teaching.
Second, Paragraph 161J, in one degree or another, stands against birth-control abortions, gender-section abortions, eugenic abortions, and partial-birth abortions. It also stands in favor of parental notification, “diminishing high abortion rates,” and aiding ministries that “help women find feasible alternatives to abortion.” The article under consideration overlooks these claims of Paragraph 161J, which aim to protect the unborn child and mother from abortion. Therefore, in a second way, this article distorts United Methodist teaching.
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The article under critique is dedicated to seeking “reproductive justice” for women. All United Methodists are for justice for women. However, true justice for women is never reached by neglecting or supporting massive, ruthlessly violent injustices against unborn children, half of whom are little women. True justice for women does not turn pregnant women over to an abortion industry that frequently harms them.
Roe v. Wade is one of the most morally problematic, legally contested, and societally unsettling United States Supreme Court decisions in American history. On its 40th anniversary, The United Methodist Church deserved a more thoughtful response, that more accurately reflects denominational teaching on life and abortion, than “Clearly more to Be Done.