Therapeutic Abortion and the Christian (Christian Apologetics)
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The Presbyterian Church U. The Religious Society of Friends generally avoids taking a stance on controversial issues such as abortion;  however, in the s the American Friends Service Committee advocated for abortion rights. The Christian Church Disciples of Christ General Assembly has "repeatedly affirmed its support for the principles of a woman's right to reproductive freedom, of the freedom and responsibility of individual conscience, and of the sacredness of life of all persons.
While advocating respect for differences of religious beliefs concerning abortion, Disciples have consistently opposed any attempts to legislate a specific religious opinion regarding abortion for all Americans.
The United Church of Christ has strongly supported abortion rights since as a part of their Justice and Witness Ministry. Community of Christ states they recognize that there is inadequacy in any simplistic answer that defines all abortion as murder or as a simple medical procedure, and recognize a woman's right in deciding the continuation or termination of pregnancy. As the Church of God in Christ COGIC is a traditionally pro-life Pentecostal Christian denomination, both male and female leaders and clergy of COGIC have always ardently voiced and actively taken opposition to all types of abortions, "except only in the absolutely necessary case of saving the life of the mother.
Catholics said they disapproved of the statement that "abortion is morally wrong in every case". Catholics held that abortion should be illegal in all cases. According to a survey conducted by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, fundamentalist Christians are more likely to be pro-life than all other respondents, including mainline Protestants. Twenty-eight percent of fundamentalists thought abortion should be illegal even if there was a strong chance of birth defects whereas only nine percent of mainline Protestants held the same opinion.
Seventy percent of fundamentalists felt that the desire not to have more children was not a sufficient justification for having an abortion while mainline Protestants were almost evenly divided on this question. However, an overwhelming majority of both fundamentalists and mainline Protestants indicated that they would support abortion in cases where the pregnancy endangered the mother's life.
In , the Guttmacher Institute reported that two out of three women having abortions in the U. Catholic women is about the same per capita as the average in the general U. The likelihood of a woman having an abortion is called the abortion index , with the value of 1. Using this metric in America, U. Catholics were assessed by Guttmacher Institute in the s, showing an index of 1. Protestants to have an abortion index of 0. In countries where the dominant religion is Catholicism, abortions are higher per capita than the worldwide average, says the Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Scholars generally agree that abortion was performed in the classical world, but there is disagreement about the frequency with which abortion was performed and which cultures influenced early Christian thought on abortion. The society in which Christianity expanded was one in which abortion, infanticide and exposition were commonly used to limit the number of children especially girls that a family had to support.
Yet there was some truth to the caricature: Catholics brought determination and national organization to the cause. The bishops could and did draw up a national plan for opposing abortion, while Protestant antiabortionists remained splintered and disorganized.
It is startling to review the change in evangelical feeling as reflected in the pages of this magazine. The November 8, , issue of Christianity Today carried several articles on contraception and abortion. One leading biblical scholar wrote, "Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul. The articles concluded with "A Protestant Affirmation," the consensus of 25 evangelical scholars.
On abortion, it read, "Whether or not the performance of an induced abortion is sinful we are not agreed, but about the necessity of it and permissibility for it under certain circumstances we are in accord. By the next year, though, red flags had begun to fly. An editorial noted that under a new Maryland law numerous abortions were being approved on the basis of mental health. Evangelist Francis Schaeffer, who had only recently become well known, was making an impact among evangelicals with his strong warnings against abortion. Harold O.
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Brown, who would soon write strong Christianity Today editorials against abortion, felt Schaeffer's influence. So did a Bible college student named Randall Terry, who would become the leading spokesperson for Operation Rescue. By there was no more talk in Christianity Today about therapeutic abortion. The direction reform was leading was clear. In the same year, however, the Southern Baptist Convention "urged Baptists to work for legislation permitting abortion under certain conditions. These include: rape, incest, deformity, emotional health. Few anticipated the complete victory that Roe v.
Wade gave to proabortionists in Though the Supreme Court claimed to offer no opinion about when human life began, it implicitly set the time at birth; and though the new law divided pregnancy into equal trimesters, allowing that the fetus might receive some protection in the last three months before birth, in practical terms—because it stipulated that abortions could be done at any time if the mother's mental health was believed to be in danger—the Court assured that an abortion could be done up until the very moment of birth. But CT was ahead of many evangelicals.
In its news report on Roe v. Wade, it quoted prominent Southern Baptist pastor W. Criswell : "I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed. It would be years before such a statement from an evangelical leader would be unthinkable.
According to Brown, evangelicals simply could not imagine themselves lining up with Roman Catholics, nor could they imagine that the Supreme Court of their beloved nation which they thought of as Protestant would support a cause directly opposed to Christian values. Few in the press seemed to understand how radical the justices' decision had been. Time gave it two pages in the back of the magazine; Newsweek gave it one.
An editorial in the Christian Century proclaimed that "this is a beautifully accurate balancing of individual vs. Roe v. Wade demonstrates that fundamental moral conflicts should not be decided by fiat. The absolute polarization we currently experience is directly traceable to the Supreme Court's decision to take abortion out of politics and declare it a settled question. Those who opposed abortion had suddenly no recourse except radical action. The discussion had been about where to draw the line among tragic choices; the justices erased the line completely and said there was no room for further discussion.
Antiabortionists may someday have reason to remember this lesson, if they gain the power to stop abortion by fiat.
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As we have seen, restricting abortion works best when it is based on a wider consensus about the value of life. The first centuries of the church gained this consensus through centuries of witness. They spoke passionately against abortion as a part of their faith; they also suffered for their faith. Ultimately, their faith triumphed, and legal changes followed. By contrast, the nineteenth century, though it passed antiabortion laws, seems not to have built a strong, public consciousness of the humanity of a fetus.
Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas touches on this issue when he notes the frustration of antiabortionists who fail to convince their opponents that a fetus is a human being. He says that more than logic is needed. That is what Christians in the first three centuries managed to do. They changed the world, not just the law.
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This article originally appeared in the October 6, issue of Christianity Today. Click for reprint information. Wade in a Nutshell presents abridged and full versions of the Justices' opinions in the case as well as the syllabus and transcriptions of the oral arguments.
A BreakPoint Symposium
Religious Tolerance. For further coverage of the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the current abortion debate, see Yahoo! Yesterday's Christianity Today Weblog included several links to abortion stories. Previous Christianity Today articles about abortion in the U. More Christianity Today abortion stories can be found at our life ethics archive. Already a subscriber?