From the Worldwide Faith News archives

HR 1833 and the United Church of Christ

Date 20 May 1996 14:58:55

April 1996
Office of Communication
United Church of Christ
Hans Holznagel, press contact
(216) 736-2214

On the World Wide Web:

Fact Sheet
Reproductive Choice, HR 1833 and the United Church of Christ

Recently, a number of United Church of Christ executives,
including the Rev. Dr. Paul H. Sherry, president of the
denomination, joined other religious leaders in sending a letter
to President Clinton supporting his veto of House Resolution
1833, the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion Ban."  Other signers
included the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the
Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Executive
Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the
United Methodist Church, the President of the Unitarian
Universalist Association and the President and President-Elect
of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.  The letter, sent
under the auspices of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice, was made public on April 30, 1996.  The full text of the
letter follows this fact sheet.

Q:  What is the position of the letter's signers?

A:  Religious organizations and individual members may hold
various views on abortion, but the signers of this letter
subscribe to the tenet that reproductive decisions, including
those involving an abortion, are best made by a woman in
consultation with her family, physician, pastor and faith
community.  Government intrusion, in the form of laws and bans,
has no place in the decision making.

Q:  What is at stake in this bill?

A:  Religious people supporting President Clinton's veto of HR
1833 oppose bans on late-term abortion because such bans
interfere in women's freedom to make morally and ethically
responsible decisions.  The bill was introduced as a step in
toward the stated goal of the antiabortion movement to make
abortion virtually unavailable, if not illegal.  Support for the
President's veto is also informed by medical opinion that this
procedure is often the only safe option to protect a woman whose
pregnancy has become dangerous to her health and, in some cases,
may even threaten her life.

Q:  What would the bill actually ban?

A:  HR 1833 would prohibit doctors from performing a rarely used
medical procedure to terminate a third-trimester pregnancy.  The
technical name is intact dilation and evacuation, or "intact
D&E."  Among women who have legal abortions in the United
States, only about 600 each year undergo a third-trimester
procedure.  Intact D&E is only one of a number of options and is
needed only in certain situations, usually involving a severely
deformed fetus.  In these cases, intact D&E may be safer than
other procedures.  It reduces blood loss and prevents tearing
the woman's cervix, thus protecting her ability to become
pregnant and give birth later.

Activists against abortion -- not the medical profession -- have
dubbed this medical procedure "partial birth" abortion as part
of their political effort.  The medical profession does not
consider it a partial birth abortion.  In the procedure, the
woman's cervix is first dilated over a period of time to make it
easier and safer for the fetus to be removed.  In some cases, in
order to remove the fetus without causing injury to the woman
cervix or uterus, a spinal needle is used to remove
cerebrospinal fluid, decreasing the size of the head enough to
bring it safely through the birth canal.

Q:  What is the United Church of Christ's position on abortion?

A:  While they cannot speak for each of the United Church of
Christ's 1.5 million members or 6,100 congregations, the
denomination's national boards and agencies do speak out from
time to time on matters of social concern.  The church's
biennial General Synod, consisting of some 700 delegates from
the church's 39 regional bodies, adopts pronouncements and
resolutions that speak to, but not for, the entire church. 
Local churches and members are asked to hold statements of the
Synod in highest regard, and yet are also encouraged to consider
difficult matters of life and faith, prayerfully, for

The directorate of the UCC's social action office first
addressed the abortion issue in 1970, affirming freedom of
choice for women, calling for church action supporting the
repeal of overly restrictive abortion legislation and
encouraging the expansion of sex education programs.  Freedom of
choice in reproductive matters was first affirmed by the General
Synod in 1971 and has been reaffirmed in one way or another by
several General Synods since.

APRIL 1996
Office of Communication
United Church of Christ

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