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e. Supports legislation to repeal abortion laws not in harmony with this statement and encourages responsible groups working for such repeal.

f. Urges the development and dissemination of biblical and theological materials on the issue of abortion in order to facilitate responsible dialogue.

g. Directs the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to urge synods and presbyteries to study and take appropriate action on the issue of abortion in line with sections a. through f. above, including training opportunities for pastors and laypersons in counseling on problem pregnancies.

h. Directs the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly to request seminaries to include appropriate consideration of the issue of abortion in courses in pastoral counseling and social ethics as well as in continuing education programs offered to clergy, and to request church-related colleges to consider the issue of abortion in appropriate courses, programs, or counseling services.





Believing that the law should provide for the optimal condition of physical and mental health, and should allow for the optimal exercise of private moral judgment and choices in matters related to the sexual sphere of life; and recognizing that religious convictions held by individuals should not be imposed by law on the secular society; the

2. Declares the artificial or induced termination of pregnancy is a matter of the careful ethical decision of the patient, her physician, and her pastor or other counselor and therefore should not be restricted by law, except that it be performed under the direction and control of a properly licensed physician.




In various human societies, primitive and modern, abortion has been utilized as a common means of birth control. In some, its use has been restricted to therapeutic situations where abortion is resorted to only as a means of preserving the life and health of the mother.

The extremely conservative attitude towards abortion which has prevailed in both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches during the last century has, in general, been based on the attitude that human life exists from the instant of the penetration of an ovum by a sperm, and that the cellular, foetal, and embryonic life that proceed from that moment all have equal spiritual status and deserve equal legal and moral protection.

A careful examination of the Judaeo-Christian tradition on the matter of abortion reveals that this attitude, while old, has not always prevailed, nor did it even enjoy status as the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church until 1869 (except for a three-year period between the promulgation and the revocation of a papal bull Effraenatum in the 16th century)." Various theological and hermeneutic traditions have concluded that no "person" exists in the form of nascent life until after forty days or after eighty days, or after the birth process, or after one day following birth, or in the case of premature infants after thirty days following birth. St. Augustine taught, in the 5th century, that an ensouled human life was present after the foetus had quickened (thus after eighty days), even though Tertullian and St. Gregory of Nyssa had earlier held the position that the soul entered the body at conception.

The continuing view of most rabbinical teachings during the post-Biblical era has been that abortion, while a grave proceeding, is not specifically forbidden in the Bible or the Talmud. Indeed, Exodus 21:22 and other instances of the old Testament laws concerning homicide suggest that the foetus is not to be regarded

1 Birth Control in Jewish Law, David M. Feldman. New York University Press, 1968, p. 269.

as a person, but as a part of (or property of) the mother, and that foeticide is not homicide.

With few exceptions, the structure of civil law in the United States reflects the most conservative interpretation of the meaning of abortion, permitting it only under circumstances which seem clearly to involve a choice between the life of the mother and the life of the child, in which instance the attending physician is permitted to favor the life of the mother. In a few cases, states have passed more liberal legislation embodying the recommendations of the American Medical Association. These permit exceptions to the normal prohibition against abortions only in cases where pregnancy threatens the health or life of the mother, where there is medical evidence that the infant may be born with incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency and where a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest may constitute a threat to the mental or physical health of the mother.

The main positions concerning abortion in our society are three :

1. Abortion should be permitted only when the mother's life is clearly endangered, and even then must be regarded as justifiable homicide, no matter what stage of development the pregnancy has reached. This is the position taken by the Roman Catholic Church and by the report of the General Assembly Committee on Responsible Marriage and Parenthood of 1962.

2. Abortion should be permitted under more liberally conceived conditions, such as those outlined by the American Law Institute and adopted by the American Medical Association in 1967. In this position, the question of when a human life with protected rights is involved is not formally faced, although the practical tendency of hospital abortion committed and of physicians performing abortions is to make a distinction between the problems of termination of pregnancy in the first trimester and the problems presented in subsequent trimesters, dealing with the latter more conservatively. It should be noted that there are specific medical reasons for that conservatism, aside from any philisophical or theological ones.

3. Abortion should be permitted at any stage and for any reason decided upon by a woman in consultation with her physician. This position also is not ordinarily accompanied by any explicit address to the question of when, in the development of a pregnancy, there is a human life with rights to be protected, although it clearly presumes the ancient Jewish assertion that a "person" does not exist until after birth. Justification of this position, therefore, rests on an assertion of the bodily rights of the woman, who should not be compelled to carry to term a pregnancy she does not want.

Our committee takes the position that the first alternative rests on a substan. tialist theological conception about the entry of a soul into a body which is without Biblical support and has neither philosophical warrant nor any wide currency today, except in some Roman Catholic theological circles. The Roman Catholic requirement (Canon 747) that all living foetuses be baptized in order that, having been denied life in this world, they be not denied eternal salvation as well, is one that we submit would have little appeal to or support by the theologians of our tradition. Furthermore, this first aternative perpetuates a punitive attitude toward sexual activity and one of its possible consequences which does not repre. sent the affirmative regard for sex to which we are committed.

The second of these alternatives is also unsupportable in our estimation. As a form of liberalization of abortion practice, it relieves society and the medical profession of some of the responsibilities they have had to assume in the past for permitting tragedies which could easily have been avoided. But the American Law Institute recommendations adopted by the American Medical Association perpetuate the assumption that abortion is justifiable homicide. Those recom. mendations only extend the conditions under which it may be committed. There are several problems it does not address at all.

It does nothing to resolve the foeticide/homicide question, thereby effecting none of the attitude changes which might be desirable.

By continuing to assume that abortion is a medico-legal problem, it confines the freedom of moral discretion of the woman and the therapeutic discretion of the physician. It leaves the law as the final moral arbiter of what is proper medical practice.

It does not deal with the problem of the bodily rights of the woman, and does not grant her the right not to bear an unwanted child.

It does not allow for consideration of the emotional, social, or economic welfare of other members of a family into which an unwanted child will be born. The majority of women seeking abortions are those with families of multiple chil. dren who wish to limit their family's size.

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It does nothing to affect the problem of illegal abortions, a major socio-medical disease, which leaves an important moral and medical problem to be solved by criminals, quack practitioners, and a handful of reputable physicians who are willing to risk their practice and their reputation to perform this procedure at the edge or outside of the presently prescribed boundaries.

It does nothing to relieve the burden which the present structure of laws and practice puts on the poor and on those who are unsophisticated about the ways of medicine and the law. Far more abortions are performed in private than in public hospitals in our country, and medically safe illegal abortions are only available to those who can afford their considerable cost. Further, the procedure for qualifying for a legal therapeutic abortion is complex and expensive, often involving consultations with several psychiatrists and other physicians. Legal abortions outside the United States also involve prohibitive expense.

The liberalization proposals advanced by the American Medical Association do nothing to insure the right of all children to be born as wanted children. Since child abuse is a major problem in pediatric medicine, this lack is serious from both a medical and a moral standpoint.

Our committee's position is that abortion should be taken out of the realm of the law altogether and be made a matter of the careful ethical decision of a woman, her physician and her pastor or other counselor. In the latter stages of pregnancy, serious consideration must be given to the competing claims of the developing fetus as well as to the increased risk to the life of the mother in surgical abortion.

We would underscore the need for discriminating counsel about the ethical aspects of a decision for abortion, especailly in view of the potential panic associated with many unwanted pregnancies. Ample opportunity must be provided to consider both the alternative means of resolving problem pregnancies and the possible effect of a contemplated abortion on both parties to the conception and on other family members. And since some unwanted pregnancies are established accidentally and others by "intentional accident,” the psychological and ethical significance of the conception needs to be understood as well.

In any case we do not think that abortion should be relied upon as a means of limiting family size. Contraceptive procedures are more desirable for many and obvious reasons. But when through misinformation, miscalculation, technical failure, or other reasons, contraception fails and an unwanted pregnancy is established, we do not think it either compassionate or just to insist that available help be withheld.

We also urge Christians to acknowledge and support the work of agencies and organizations which now offer counsel and help to women with problem pregnancies, such as the various Planned Parenthood Associations, Family Seryice Agencies, and Clergy Consultation Services, as well as those groups which responsibly work for the repeal of abortion laws.

As laws change and hospital abortions become more readily available, we ask that adequate protection be given to those who object to abortion by reason of conscience including physicians, nurses and prospective mothers.




Whereas, we believe that God has from the beginning of time given man the ability to share in creation. He has also given man the responsibility of caring for creation, physicially, mentally and spiritually ; God through his compassion as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ has shown his concern for the quality of human life and so orders life that only in our showing this same concern for each other can we ultimately survive.

Whereas, there are times when the natural ability to create life and the moral and spiritual ability to sustain life are not in harmony. At such extraordinary moments moral and ethical decisions are placed in a new and difficult

2 In November 1968, the American Public Health Association adopted a resolution calling for a repeal of restrictive laws on abortion so that pregnant women may have abortions performed by qualified practitioners of medicine and osteopathy. The resolution is based on a belief in the right of individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children, and recognition that contraceptives are not always obtainable, used, or if used, always effective.

dimension. They must be understood, however, before God, to be moral, ethical behavior. Christians believe the quality of sustained life before God is of ultimate significance.

Whereas, under present laws in most states it is a criminal offense for a phy. sician to perform an abortion for such reasons as incest, rape, physical and mental health, or potential fetal deformity.

Whereas, the present laws on abortion which force a woman to continue a pregnancy regardless of her consent, are manifestly cruel and discriminatory, place an undue burden upon the poor, are hypocritical and unenforceable, interfere in the physician-patient relationship, foster abortion racketeering, present a major health problem, and deny a woman her basic right to decide what shall happen to her body and her own reproductive processes. We further believe that religious dogmas of some should not be forced by statute upon all women of the United States.

Therefore, United Presbyterian Women in National Meeting assembled July 10, 1970 in Lafayette, Indiana, resolve that:

1. All abortions should be voluntary. The decision for or against abortion should be without legal encumbrance so that women and physicians and pastors or other counselors may be able to exercise their individual best judgment.

2. That abortion by licensed physicians be subject only to the General Laws regulating medical licensure and practice, and not to special criminal penalties.

3. That present laws regulating abortion which do not conform to such criteria he repealed.

4. That abortion services be made available to all women regardless of economic status.

There were 476 Voting Delegates representing every State in the Union at this meeting. This resolution passed without a dissenting vote.

Mr. Thompson. The two proposals which this subcommittee is considering, Senate Joint Resolution 119 and Senate Joint Resolution 130, would each amend the Constitution of the United States to grant the rights of a “person" or "human being" to an unborn fetus from the moment of conception. While the proposals differ in particulars, cach would authorize the Congress and the several States to enact legislation to enforce the rights conferred by the proposed amend. ment. The effect would be to permit legislation restricting or prohibiting abortion.

Supporters of the proposed amendments have put them forward as a means of abrogating the effects of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decided January 22, 1973. These cases decided by a majority of seven justices, with only two dissenting, hold that the statutes of Texas and Georgia regulating abortions were contrary to the Constitution of the United States, particularly the due process clause of the 14th amendment. The majority in the decision written by Mr. Justice Blackmun rejected the concept that life begins at conception and continues throughout pregnancy and places emphasis upon the rights of the woman, emphasizing her rights of privacy and other rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

The proposed constitutional amendments take the contrary view that life begins at conception and that the fetus as a "person” is entitled to due process of law. The adoption of either of these amendments would enforce this view upon many citizens who hold conflicting views. Mr. Justice Blackmun noted "the wide divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question.” In a Law Review article quoted in the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Douglas, Mr. Justice Clark stated the other view:

To say that life is present at conception is to give recognition to the potential, rather than the actual. The unfertilized egg has life, and if fertilized, it takes on human proportions. But the law deals in reality, not obscurity-the known rather than the unknown. When sperm meets egg, life may eventually form, but quite often it does not. The law does not deal in speculation. The phenomenon of life takes time to develop, and until it is actually present, it cannot be destroyed. Its interruption prior to formation would hardly be homicide, and as we have seen, society does not regard it as such. The rites of baptism are not performed and death certificates are not required when a miscarriage occurs. No proseciltor has ever returned a murder indictment charging the taking of the life of a fetus. This would not be the case if the fetus constituted human life.

The United Presbyterian Church has long supported the concept embodied in the first amendment that no particular sect or religion should be preferred above another. The adoption of either of the amendments now under consideration would result in the constitutional embodiment of the most extreme position of one group of religious persons and the denial of views held with equal integrity by a large number of other religious persons. It would in effect impose the views of the first upon the latter by constitutional mandate. The concept of religious pluralism would be sacrificed and the erosion of the Bill of Rights would have begun.

Recent general assemblies of the United Presbyterian Church have studied and reviewed the areas of family life, sexuality, and problem pregnancies because we are concerned about the health and welfare of individuals, families, and the Nation. Positions adopted by the general assemblies affirm a Christian obligation to revere human life and its potential and to respect all the rights associated with human life. In this regard we have addressed the problems of unwanted pregnancies. It is our understanding that moral and ethical questions do arise from the natural ability to create life, and the moral, physical, economic, and spiritual ability to sustain it. While such questions are social by nature, they are not, however, primarily legal questions except that the law should provide for the optimal condition of physical and mental health for all persons and should allow for the optimal exercise of private moral judgments and choice in matters related to the sexual sphere, as well as other areas of the lives of individual citizens.

Consistent with this judgment, we have in the past supported efforts to remove laws restricting the exercise of full freedom of personal choice by women in matters concerning the termination of their pregnancies. It is our view that the Supreme Court decisions of January 22, 1973, insure the right of individuals to make decisions concerning abortion in accordance with their own consciences. We, therefore, believe that individuals and society itself will be best served by safeguarding the legal option of abortion according to the judicial decisions of the Supreme Court.

I would like to quote briefly from a resolution regarding freedom of personal choice in problem pregnancies—the entire resolution is in an appendix to my statement-adopted in 1972:

* * *, in support of the concern for the value of human life and human wholeness and the freedom of choice advocated * * * the 184th General Assembly (1972) *

b. declares that women should have full freedom of personal choice concerning the completion or termination of their pregnancies and that the artificial or induced termination of pregnancy, therefore, should not be restricted by law, except that it be performed under the direction and control of a properly licensed physician.

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