An Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Abortion as Moral Decision

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As religious leaders, we are committed to supporting people’s efforts to achieve spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being, including their reproductive and sexual health. We assist women and families confronted with unintended pregnancies or pregnancies that can no longer be carried to term. We are committed to social justice, mindful of the 46 million women worldwide who have an abortion each year, almost half in dangerous and illegal situations. We seek to create a world where abortion is safe, legal, accessible, and rare. Millions of people ground their moral commitment to the right to choose in their religious beliefs. While there are strong public health and human rights arguments for supporting the right of women to safe and legal abortion, here we invite you to consider the religious foundations for affirming abortion as a morally justifiable decision.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLife EthicsReligion & Culture

30 Comments
Posted September 30, 2009 at 11:09 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. William P. Sulik wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

September 30, 11:22 am | [comment link]
2. Chris Molter wrote:

Priests of Moloch for a better tomorrow…  How awful that anyone can try to twist the Christian faith to justify infanticide.

September 30, 11:27 am | [comment link]
3. Phil wrote:

In the past, millions of people have grounded their moral commitment to slavery or mass murder in their religious beliefs.  Sinful people can choose to ground their sins in whatever they like; it doesn’t change the eternal truth of the matter.

September 30, 12:05 pm | [comment link]
4. the roman wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

September 30, 12:15 pm | [comment link]
5. Jeffersonian wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

September 30, 12:19 pm | [comment link]
6. Words Matter wrote:

If the fetus is an unborn child - a human person - then all the pretty words don’t excuse what amounts to murder.  If the fetus is not a human person, then it’s not a big deal: why worry about it being “rare”. 

The status of the child as a human person - or not - is an objective fact.  Our society has de facto decided “not”. If we are wrong, then more than a million persons are murdered each year with approval of the U.S. government.

September 30, 12:24 pm | [comment link]
7. Jeffersonian wrote:

If we are wrong, then more than a million persons are murdered each year with approval of the U.S. government.

Not to mention these morally bankrupt “religious leaders.”

September 30, 12:27 pm | [comment link]
8. Philip Snyder wrote:

Abortion is a terrible sin, but a forgivable one.
However telling the people involved in abortion (mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, etc.) that what they do is not a sin is very, very dangerous to your soul.  I believe that there will be greater judgemetn for these religious leaders (what religion is open to question) than there will be for the mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses or anyone else involved in abortion.

God forgives those who repent.  Jesus, however, had some very harsh words for those who cause others to sin.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

September 30, 12:36 pm | [comment link]
9. WestJ wrote:

I believe “Thou shalt do no murder” is in the scripture somewhere. The murder of the innocent for the “health” of the mother cannot be condoned. Abortion is only justified when the life of the mother is in imminent peril. In those cases (which thankfully are extremely rare) the child would be unlikely to survive anyway

September 30, 1:09 pm | [comment link]
10. Branford wrote:

Anglicans for Life has a beautiful liturgy (actually approved by GC this summer) for those suffering from childbearing issues called “Rachel’s Tears, Hannah’s Hopes: Liturgies and Prayers for Healing from Loss Related to Childbearing and Childbirth” that includes a “A Liturgy of Repentance and Reconciliation for an Abortion” for those suffering post-abortion trauma (so far, it’s only published in TEC’s Blue Book here - http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/BlueBook-SCLM.pdf - starting on page 205).

This did get a mention in First Things in the Public Square section:

· Rachel’s Tears, Hannah’s Hopes: Liturgies and Prayers for Healing from Loss Related to Childbearing and Childbirth to the Enriching our Worship is a liturgical supplement adopted at the Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention specifically addressing women and men experiencing guilt and a sense of sin from abortion. Initiated in 2003 by Georgette Forney, president of Anglicans for Life, it took six years to convince Episcopalians that some women and men may indeed come to suffer for their role in securing an abortion. There is a deep, deep reluctance, previously noted on these pages, to acknowledge that women receiving an abortion may one day come to regret it.

· One opponent to the liturgical resource, the Rev. Nina Churchman in Denver, Colorado, found herself “sickened to discover that the rite for abortion is couched wholly in terms of sin and transgression.” Well it is a service of confession and reconciliation. The rite is expressly intended for those women and men who have come, belatedly, to recognize the sinfulness of aborting their very human unborn babies. One rather presumes there must be something to confess if there is to be reconciliation with God. The Rev. Churchman believes nothing of the sort. She was especially distressed that the order includes such phrases as “I seek God’s forgiveness…” and “God rejoices that you have come seeking God’s merciful forgiveness…”

· In point of fact, says the Rev. Churchman, “women should be able to mourn the loss of an aborted fetus without having to confess anything. God, unlike what the liturgy states, also rejoices that women facing unplanned pregnancies have the freedom to carefully choose the best option—birth, adoption, or abortion—for themselves and their families.” Whether God rejoices over choice is a very much disputed assertion, but we are confident in asserting that among the “best” options among Churchman’s choices, the preferred option of the unborn child is not consulted.

· Possibly you noticed the goofy formulation in that Episcopal rite for abortion: “God rejoices that you have come seeking God’s merciful forgiveness.” We’re told it could have been worse. Initial drafts included invocations of the “Mothering God” and “Daughter Jesus.” By comparison, the God who rejoices in the other God’s merciful forgiveness doesn’t sound too bad.

· Georgette Forney, Anglicans for Life president, took up the Episcopal confessional rite for abortion and took it up very personally. She obtained an abortion when she was sixteen, and it was not until many years later that the weight of it hit her. She began asking for an Episcopal healing service for women like her. “This is a ministry,” she told us, “that is necessary in the [Episcopal] church. So many people hurt over it and experience a great distance from God. They have come to believe this is the ‘unforgivable sin.’ They need an opportunity to know God can and will forgive and love them.

September 30, 2:15 pm | [comment link]
11. Phil wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

September 30, 2:31 pm | [comment link]
12. The_Elves wrote:

[We have had to delete a number of comments.  This is a contentious topic on which feelings run very high.  It is also one where people including readers may have reason to be very distressed.  Please bear that in mind when commenting and avoid inflammatory language or being brutal to people whose particular circumstances you may not know]

September 30, 3:00 pm | [comment link]
13. Branford wrote:

If one truly doesn’t regard abortion as killing a child, then one would not need to mourn anything. But the truth is, as much as people might try to tell themselves it’s not a child, most know in their hearts it is. And at some point, they have to deal with those consequences.
Another resource is the Silent No More Awareness campaign, a joint project of Anglicans for Life and Priests for Life. Also, Project Rachel is a healing ministry (through the Roman Catholic church but open to all) for those suffering because of an abortion.

[Edited by Elf at the request of commenter]

September 30, 3:04 pm | [comment link]
14. Don R wrote:

This letter reminds me of when I first read the actual text of the Roe v Wade decision.  I was shocked at how vapid and arbitrary its reasoning was.  It still amazes me that anyone even bothers producing such puerile sophistry; that anyone might actually be swayed by it is just mind-boggling.  Why, for example, in the moral universe of this group, would abortion be “a serious moral decision”?  And that abortion can be construed as evincing a “respect for life” is risible in the extreme.

Anyone who doesn’t see documents like this as an insult to everyone’s intelligence should bear in mind that opposition to abortion is rooted in the notion that it is an unjust taking of innocent human life.  For a sense of how empty its rhetoric really is, re-read this document as if it were arguing against legal restrictions on murder.

September 30, 3:13 pm | [comment link]
15. teatime wrote:

The end of the letter claims that ours is one of the churches that has passed “policies” affirming abortion. Can someone enlighten me? The Anglican/Episcopal teachings on abortion have not changed, as far as I know. Many of us deplore having our church become a member of the RCRC—and only VGR seems enthused about that organization and PP, for some reason.

September 30, 3:27 pm | [comment link]
16. Undergroundpewster wrote:

The twisted reasoning of the following quote from the paper is astonishing.

The sanctity of human life is best upheld when we assure that it is not created carelessly. It is precisely because life and parenthood are so precious that no woman should be coerced to carry a pregnancy to term. We support responsible procreation, the widespread availability of contraception, prenatal care and intentional parenting.

I am totally befuddled.

September 30, 3:36 pm | [comment link]
17. GrandpaDino wrote:

“The sanctity of human life is best upheld when we assure that it is not created carelessly.”

So when human life is created ‘carelessly’, it is to be destroyed?  I think not!

September 30, 3:37 pm | [comment link]
18. Branford wrote:

Teatime - #15 - the official Episcopal Church position is in the 1994 resolution A054 - which says, in part:

. . . We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community.

While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.

In those cases where an abortion is being considered, members of this Church are urged to seek the dictates of their conscience in prayer, to seek the advice and counsel of members of the Christian community and where appropriate, the sacramental life of this Church.

Whenever members of this Church are consulted with regard to a problem pregnancy, they are to explore, with grave seriousness, with the person or persons seeking advice and counsel, as alternatives to abortion, other positive courses of action, including, but not limited to, the following possibilities: the parents raising the child; another family member raising the child; making the child available for adoption.

It is the responsibility of members of this Church, especially the clergy, to become aware of local agencies and resources which will assist those faced with problem pregnancies.

We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state governments regarding abortions must take special care to see that the individual conscience is respected, and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored as the position of this Church; and be it further

Resolved, That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.


In 2006, the Executive Council voted for TEC to officially become a member of the RCRC (TEC is the only Christian church to do so), a group which supports abortion in all cases, as well as euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, etc.

September 30, 3:54 pm | [comment link]
19. Bernini wrote:

The “safe, legal and rare” trope is a twisting of logic and a soothing of conscience. If it’s safe, if it’s legal, then pray tell, why should be concerned whether or not it’s rare? Why not just line up and get ‘em as often as one needs to? Why inject “rare” into the conversation if the first provide the appropriate level of justification?

Satan at work. Nothing less.

September 30, 4:00 pm | [comment link]
20. Bernini wrote:

sorry – “...if the first two provide the appropriate level of justification?”

Typing too fast for my own good.

September 30, 4:01 pm | [comment link]
21. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Branford (#10, 13),

Thanks for calling attention to the outstanding work of Georgette Forney and Anglicans for Life, and for providing the links.  I too can’t praise them enough.

And I likewise second what Philip Snyder said above (#8).  To entice or deceive others into committing such a horrendous sin as abortion is a very, very serious thing indeed (better a millstone be hung around their necks…).

But we need to remember that people like the authors of this open letter, or the noxious Katherine Ragsdale, the former president of the odious RCRC and now dean of EDS in Cambridge, Mass., aren’t the enemy.  We wrestle not against flesh and blood…  No, in many ways, they are POW’s, captives of the true Enemy of our souls, who as the Father of Lies has so completely deceived and ensnared them.

David Handy+

September 30, 4:07 pm | [comment link]
22. Ross wrote:

#18 Branford says:

In 2006, the Executive Council voted for TEC to officially become a member of the RCRC (TEC is the only Christian church to do so)

Is that right?  The RCRC member organizations page also lists the PCUSA, the UMC, and the UCC.

September 30, 4:12 pm | [comment link]
23. Branford wrote:

Yes, Ross #22, that is right. Certain groups within those denominations are members of RCRC - just as TEC’s Women Ministries group was a member prior to 2006. TEC is the only Christian denomination that AS A WHOLE is a member.

September 30, 4:26 pm | [comment link]
24. CBH wrote:

RFe:  SCRIPTURE - Scripture neither condemns nor prohibits abortion.
Standing between God and Creation is no small error.  Yet, He is a merciful God who loves us and graciously gives us His commands to help us.  I often wonder what if one day the veil of blindness and ignorance is lifted and we will behold a failure unparalleled in history.  And all this time, we have a merciful
God who would have forgiven us.

September 30, 5:29 pm | [comment link]
25. Harry Edmon wrote:

Notice who is not on the list - LCMS!  At least we get at least one thing right!

September 30, 7:15 pm | [comment link]
26. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

If Christian leaders had been party to such a document in the UK it would be a HUGE SCANDAL.  How odd that in a country with so many Christians as the US that such a thing could see the light of day.  The Episcopal Church should hang its head in shame!

September 30, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
27. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

I think comments #6 and #19 have revealed the logical fallacy of the “religious leaders” supporting abortion.  If there is nothing morally wrong with abortion, why do they have the caveat to make it rare?  If there is something morally objectionable to abortion, such that it should be rare, why are they supporting it?  If abortion advocates were truly concerned with just cases of rape or incest which comprise just 0.3% of all abortions in America; or cases of risk to maternal health or life which comprise just 1% of all abortions in America; or cases of fetal abnormality which comprise just 0.5% of all abortions in America; why do they support the approximately 98% of abortions in the United States that are elective?  98% of the about 40,000,000 abortions performed so far have been elective.  That is not rare!

September 30, 7:25 pm | [comment link]
28. CBH wrote:

I really am sorry this Open Letter was even cited since the comments were felt to be in need of editing.  The entire paragraph in the Open Letter on Scripture I find reprehensible.
There was an entry not in need of editing:
Notable and Quotable   Posted by Kendall Harmon
The biblical writers take the opposing view [of the (post)modern mentality]. Truth statements do indeed correspond to what is out there.Biblical affirmations are neither arbitrary nor provisional but have all the weight of eternity behind them. And the biblical authors clearly assume that despite capacities for misreading our own desires into this truth, seeing only what we want to see, refusing to see what is actually there, we can still know this truth. And this is so despite the many innocent mistakes we might make in reading the Scriptures.

—David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), page 80

October 1, 8:30 am | [comment link]
29. Dilbertnomore wrote:

Safe - certainly not for the murdered baby and arguably not safe for the mother given the potential for long-term psychological issues as well as physical concerns.
Legal - based on a capriciously formed court opinion which was based on tortuously flawed logic bent to achieve a predetermined end.
Rare - a soothing palliative descriptor to give Planned Parenthood’s eugenic program cover to meet its blood-stained budget which benefits hugely from access to our tax dollars indirectly underwriting the murder of babies.

God have mercy on us.

October 1, 12:25 pm | [comment link]
30. Didymus wrote:

I stopped reading after the line “unintended pregnancies”.  Okay, I didn’t, but I should have, because what I read after made me want to tear out the section of my brain that holds memories.  I’m sure I have become stupider by the paragraph.

“Unintended pregnancy”- so, how do we justify raising taxes on sugar just because a few more people found themselves in “unintended obesity”?  “All I wanted to do was eat, I never intended to get fat!”

“Men have a moral obligation to acknowledge and support women’s
decision-making.”- I call this one “Yes, Eve, that apple certainly DOES look delicious!”  On a political blog I would stay out of an abortion topic on account of my maleness, but this is calling on my religious support, of which I have none.  So, what is a male’s responsibility regarding abortion?  First, never ever have sexual relations with someone who is not your wife.  Second, never EVER marry a woman who is in favor of abortion as a means for contraception and has made it clear she wants no children.  Third, ALWAYS keep in mind the first responsibility.  Break rule one and I want to hear no crying about “my rights” should the woman decide against keeping the child.

And finally, the change-over- As with gay “marriage”, the ordination of gay ministers, and other problems that seem to plague the Church these days, I cannot help but feel that we (Christians) have some responsibility for contributing to the problem to begin with.  In the rush to combat the sexual revolution and it’s new social problems we were alarmed by the rise in single mothers.  The Church rightly wishes that all children were born into a family where both mother and father are married and care for their children.  While this was going on, certain political movements seeking to reduce the growing welfare state latched on to the problem of single-motherhood among the poor, pointing out that the poor were having so many babies and we were the ones footing the bill.  Finally, there was the episode of Murphy Brown, and Dan Quayle’s speech afterward.  This created a perception in the public that the Church’s stance was “Single motherhood is the greatest of stains on our society”, and made it seem like we condemned women for the mere act of having children out of wedlock.  This does create something of a paradox, for it seems as if we are demanding that women enter the state of marriage with guys that they probably regretted having sex with the moment the act happened.

Of course this is all a misrepresentation, the Church has always had the same sexual policy: “Between a husband and wife.”  So long as this policy is followed there are no single motherhoods or abortions.  Where the Church failed to make herself clear was that even single motherhood is preferable to abortion.

[Edited by Elf]

October 1, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
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