United Methodist representatives to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) are once again promoting a lopsided and jaundiced view of our denomination’s view of abortion. Staffers from the United Methodist Women (UMW) and the General Board of Church and Society recently marked the 40th anniversary of the controversial Roe v. Wade decision by bizarrely claiming “we seek to be a voice crying out to prepare the way for the Lord to bring about a new era of reproductive justice for our families and communities,” a warped apparent reference to John the Baptist. The Bible teaches that John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when he was in the presence of Jesus Christ, who was still in the womb of Mary.
As United Methodists, we do not believe that Jesus Christ came to “bring about a new era of reproductive justice.” Instead, Jesus said that the “Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Aside from making a mockery of biblical imagery regarding life and death, when will United Methodist personnel in Washington D.C. and New York stop acting like an abortion rights lobby group and begin to tell the whole truth about United Methodism’s position on abortion?
While United Methodism does recognize “tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion” (Discipline, Para 161J, emphasis added), our nuanced stand does not end there.
An honest portrayal also reports that United Methodism “cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.” (Guttmacher Institute consistently reports that more than 90 percent of all abortions are for birth control reasons. Additionally, studies have shown that more than 90 percent of pregnancies with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome are aborted.)
Furthermore, United Methodism overwhelmingly opposes “late-term abortion known as dilation and extraction (partial-birth abortion)….”
The Church and Society/UMW statement fails to mention any of United Methodism’s opposition to abortion.
There is a great disconnect between the men and women in the pews and pulpits in local UM congregations and the abortion enthusiasts associated with the RCRC, Church and Society, and the UMW. Local congregations will continue to struggle to justify sending apportionments to agencies who fail to tell the whole truth about United Methodism’s stand on abortion.
Why have we never seen the Board of Church and Society address the crisis of utilizing abortion as a means of birth control? Why have we not seen the briefing paper from the UMW addressing the sickening use of abortion for gender selection in the United States and around the globe? Why is there a deafening silence regarding the practice of late-term abortions? Where is the outcry over the abortion of mentally or physically challenged infants?
Instead, United Methodist abortion advocates utilize the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to repeat overused and vacuous slogans such as “keep abortion safe, legal, accessible, and rare.” (Their full statement is available on the General Board of Church and Society’s website.)
Nowhere in the Church and Society/UMW statement is there a hint of the modern-day tragedy of 1.2 million lives lost every year in the U.S. due to abortion or the widespread use of abortion for birth control, gender selection, or eugenics in the world. Where is the equal regard called for in our denominational position, where “we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child” (¶ 161J)? The narrow scope of the Church and Society/UMW statement is out of touch with the mainstream position of The UM Church.
Good News supports efforts to address maternal mortality by providing better “pre-natal services, birthing assistance, and post-natal follow-up.” We support access to contraception in keeping with the individual consciences of women and providers, as well as comprehensive sex education, to reduce unintended pregnancies. However, we firmly believe that the answer to unintended pregnancies and maternal mortality is not increased access to abortion.
Instead, the Church and the broader society need to provide emotional and material support to women with unintended pregnancies. That is why our denominational position says, “The Church shall offer ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. … The Church and its local congregations and campus ministries should be in the forefront of supporting existing ministries and developing new ministries that help [young adult] women in their communities. … We particularly encourage the Church, the government, and social service agencies to support and facilitate the option of adoption. (See ¶ 161L) We affirm and encourage the Church to assist the ministry of crisis pregnancy centers and pregnancy resource centers that compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion” (¶ 161J).
It appears that RCRC and our United Methodist representatives are not interested in ministries that would reduce the number of abortions. That is why they also call for a “careful analysis of the church’s support for crisis pregnancy centers that may not offer all options of counseling.” From their pro-abortion perspective, such suspicion of crisis pregnancy centers that provide “feasible alternatives to abortion” undermines their call to keep abortion “rare.” Instead, the extremists at RCRC favor no restrictions on abortion, at any time in pregnancy or for any reason.
Good News wants to know when our United Methodist agencies will advocate for the full and balanced position of our church on abortion. It appears that our agency staff persons have greater allegiance to the external coalition of RCRC than they do to our own denomination’s Social Principles. Our church’s membership in RCRC is distorting our advocacy in the church and public arenas. It is past time for our denomination to withdraw its membership from RCRC.
– The Good News editorial team