JAN. 2, 2009 UPDATE: The General Board of Church and Society has withdrawn its support for the Freedom of Choice Act. Details here.
ORIGINAL POST: The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society is among 19 “religious groups and faith communities” urging President-elect Barack Obama to help eliminate state legal protections for unborn children.
GBCS is a signatory to “An Interfaith Call to Action on Reproductive Health,” an open letter to Mr. Obama calling for expanded access to “comprehensive sex education, abortion services and contraceptive information and options.”
Among other things, the letter asks the president-elect to “support the Freedom of Choice Act, which reaffirms a woman’s right to choose to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy, and urge its passage in Congress.”
(Given that it seems unnecessary in the U.S. to reaffirm “a woman’s right to bear a child,” the clear intent of the Freedom of Choice Act is to establish — in legislative law rather than in judicial action — the “right to… terminate a pregnancy.”)
During the campaign, Mr. Obama made clear his support for FOCA. “The first thing I would do as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” he told a Planned Parenthood conference last year (video here). FOCA has not passed Congress yet, but Mr. Obama is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill (text).
Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, warns that the Freedom of Choice Act “would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry.”
That view is shared by the pro-FOCA National Organization for Women, which notes that the law would “would sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies” by creating a federally guaranteed “fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
Specifically, the Freedom of Choice Act would overturn:
- State abortion-reporting requirements in all 50 states
- Forty-four states’ laws concerning parental involvement
- Forty states’ laws on restricting later-term abortions
- Forty-six states’ conscience protection laws for individual health care providers
- Twenty-seven states’ conscience protection laws for institutions
- Thirty-eight states’ bans on partial-birth abortions
- Thirty-three states’ laws on requiring counseling before an abortion
- Sixteen states’ laws concerning ultrasounds before an abortion
(Bullet-point information above was compiled by Tom McCloskey and Laura Myers at the Family Research Council.)
In the letter to Mr. Obama, the General Board of Church and Society and the other signatories also urge repeal the Hyde Amendment. That long-standing federal law prohibits federal (i.e., taxpayer) funds from being used to pay for abortions, except in those rare cases in which an abortion appears necessary to save the life of the mother, or when a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Again Professor Robert George:
The abortion industry laments that [the Hyde Amendment], according to the pro-abortion group NARAL, “forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead.”
In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment.
The letter to the President-elect also asks Mr. Obama to “[r]emove funding requirements for dangerously ineffective abstinence-only [sex education] programs,” and to “[p]rotect and strengthen access to birth control, including emergency contraception” (i.e. drugs that act to prevent fertilization or that induce abortion of a pregnancy already begun).
In addition to the UM General Board of Church and Society, the letter’s signatories include Christian Lesbians Out, the Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Board, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (full list of signatories here).
Thinking about this: The “prime responsibility” of the General Board of Church and Society, as set forth in Paragraph 1004 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, is “to seek the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the General Conference on Christian social concerns.”
The most recent General Conference, meeting earlier this year in Forth Worth, Texas, acknowledged “the sanctity of unborn human life,” saying that United Methodist are bound to “respect the sacredness of life and well-being of [both] the mother and the unborn child.”
Further, the Conference “support[ed] parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood.”
As in previous years, the Conference stated that the United Methodist Church “cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control” (¶161, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2008).
On this last point, findings from a 2005 study suggest that, at a minimum, nearly three-fourths of abortions are for reasons of birth control.
The study found that 74 percent of women having abortions chose to abort their pregnancies because having a child “would dramatically change my life.”
Other research suggests that birth control may be the paramount reason in more than 90 percent of abortion decisions.
In addition, a 2002 study discovered that 54 percent of women having abortions had used contraception during the month they became pregnant, suggesting that abortion is widely used as a “back-up plan” for birth control if other methods are not successful.
Thinking a bit more: The first general rule of the United Methodist Church is “do no harm.”
Since the U.S. the Supreme Court handed down its decisions in the cases of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, an estimated 48 million unborn children have born the brunt of legal abortion. About 25 percent of those children were African-American.
As for the mothers, a 2005 New Zealand study found that young women who have abortions subsequently experience elevated rates of suicidal behaviors, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and other mental problems.
Contact information for the General Board of Church and Society is here.
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