From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Assembly to consider late-term abortion limits

Date 15 Jun 2002 13:31:19 -0400

Note #7216 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

Assembly to consider late-term abortion limits
June 14, 2002

Assembly to consider late-term abortion limits

Overtures reflect moral reservations about PC(USA)'s pro-choice policy  

by Jerry L. Van Marter

COLUMBUS, OH - Very few issues generate as much impassioned debate in the Presbyterian Church (USA) as abortion, which has been on the agenda of every annual General Assembly since 1983.

This year's 214th GA is no exception. No fewer than four presbyteries have submitted abortion-related overtures to this year's Assembly. Moreover, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) and the Advisory Committee on Litigation (ACL) have submitted a "clarification" of the denomination's current abortion policy.

The PC(USA)'s basic policy was adopted in 1983. It supports, with virtually no reservations, a woman's right to choose what to do in "problem pregnancies."

Over the years since 1983, pro-life Presbyterians have persuaded other Assemblies to modify the policy, most substantially in 1992. While the PC(USA) policy is still basically pro-choice, it opposes abortion as a means of birth control or of gender selection; affirms adoption as a preferable alternative in cases of unwanted children; and says the "intact dilation and extraction" procedure commonly called "partial-birth abortion" is a "matter of grave moral concern." 

In short, the policy holds that abortion should be the choice of last resort. The clarification from ACSWP and ACL states: "The ending of a pregnancy after the point of fetal viability is a matter of grave moral concern to us all, but may be undertaken only after prayer and when necessary to save the life of the woman, to preserve the woman's health in circumstances of a serious risk to the woman's health, to avoid fetal suffering as a result of untreatable life-threatening genetic anomalies, or in cases of incest or rape."

In recent years, the PC(USA) Board of Pensions has established a "relief of Conscience" program, in which the Medical Plan dues paid by congregations conscientiously opposed to abortion are segregated so that they cannot be used to pay for abortion procedures.

Redstone Presbytery has submitted an overture (02-48) that calls for a ban on the use of Board of Pensions funds to pay for intact dilation and extraction abortions.

An overture from Huntingdon Presbytery (02-37) would have the GA "elaborate" on its late-term abortion policy by declaring that "abortion is to be considered at this stage of the baby's development only when a live delivery threatens the physical safety of the mother."

Donegal Presbytery is asking the Office of Theology and Worship (02-52) to prepare pastoral resources for women and men "in our local churches who suffer from adverse spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical effects of abortion."
A related overture (02-10) from Muskingum Valley Presbytery seeks the appointment of a special committee to study "the Christian and Reformed view of human life in relation to abortion, as well as euthanasia, assisted suicide and infanticide." 

Hearings on all the abortion-related overtures will be conducted by the Assembly Committee on Health and Social Issues on Monday, June 17, starting at 10 a.m. Voting on abortion-related matters will take place on June 18. 

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