An Initiative for Unborn Children, Focus 4

There are few issues more gut-wrenching, emotional, and polarizing than abortion.

After the 1972 General Conference narrowly approved legalized abortion, the late Albert Outler, noted United Methodist theologian and ecumenist, observed the tragedy awaiting our church and society: “Without radical reform of the consultative process by which the UM Church pretends to determine serious moral and political questions, we shall go on becoming more and more a part of the problem (namely, the literal demoralization of modern society) and less a part of its Christian solution.”

Forty years later, his words have become reality. Abortion has created division instead of unity, and promoted injustice for the most vulnerable members of the human family. Planned Parenthood reports that more than 90 percent of abortions are done for birth control reasons — accounting for more than 1,440,000 abortions a year.

Redemptive ministry to abortion-vulnerable persons is the bright future that can end our present darkness, but we must care enough to address the abortion issue with justice and compassion for both the mother and the child.

Currently, our Book of Discipline states: “We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.” United Methodism had previously voted overwhelmingly to oppose partial-birth abortion by a vote of 622-275.

For many years now, our denomination has been used by political extremists. Using the good name of Women’s Division and the Board of Church and Society, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) has lobbied for issues such as taxpayer funded abortions and partial-birth abortions. That needs to end. Our church should not be used as a pawn by abortion extremists.

Despite the myths being floated in legislative committee, the RCRC does indeed promote abortion, is indeed a lobbying organization, and does indeed promote partial-birth abortion.

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life,” writes German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his notable book Ethics.

“To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue,” he continues. “The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind… All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder.”

The official documents of our denomination need to reflect the careful and judicious discernment of the entire United Methodist Church, not professional abortion apologists. We need to encourage boards and churches to welcome abortion-vulnerable women, to offer life-saving resources, and to strengthen partnerships with maternity homes, and abortion-alternative centers.

For too long, we have put off this basic Christian calling of hospitality and justice for the vulnerable and weak. We have failed the gospel and those described in Scripture as the “least of these.” The United Methodist Church needs to become a sanctuary for those escaping abortion.