Add new comment

Moral and spiritual aspects of abortion

In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, we have had a pro-choice position statement since before 1973 (when Roe v. Wade decision was made). The UCC's statement on abortion reads, “to have reverence for life, does not mean to make an ideal of the possibility of life. To have reverence for life means to want the best for those children who are born. Our society needs to show as much reverence and respect for those who do the demanding work of parenting as we do for the potential life of the fetus. Throughout the Bible, scripture affirms that it is not simply the fact of life alone that sacred; it is rather our relationships, with God and with one another, that make life holy.”

This theology of relationship shapes how I understand the spiritual and moral aspects of abortion. The question of when a fetus becomes a child is not just a biological determination, it is a theological one. I have come to believe that a fetus becomes a child is when a covenantal relationship is established between a mother and the developing fetus.

For some pregnancies, this covenantal relationship is made early and by many as we gather around and rub a woman’s belly and wait with excited anticipation for the birth of a wanted child. An expecting mother might show you an ultrasound photograph of her fetus and listen to its beating heart with great excitement. She may already have names picked out.

Whereas, under different circumstances, a woman might find out she is pregnant and never create a bond or relationship with the fetus.

This emphasis on relationship allows me to honor the variety of feelings and experiences people have related to reproduction. If a mother (and potentially a father) has established a covenant with a fetus from the moment of fertilization, a miscarriage can be devastating.

Understanding others and being understood

I would genuinely like to better understand how the pro-life movement views contraception and it's role in preventing abortion. The official Roman Catholic teaching is against contraception and there has been a lot of publicity about pharmacists refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions. But, I wonder if there are other denominations who discourage contraceptive use, and if so, what their theolgocial reasoning is for doing so.

Personally, I would like a genuine conversation about the best way to reduce the number of abortions. I do not know anyone who is "pro-abortion." And it seems like having a pro-choice position statement is a litmus test for some political candidates. However, banning abortion does little to reduce the need in the first place. We need to have a real discussion in this country about sexuality and reproductive health.

I facilitated a day-long discussion with 80 clergy in South Dakota in 2006 before the vote on the abortion ban. These were clergy with a variety of opinions about abortion. But, even in that context, dialogue was possible. And, at the end of the day, some of the self-identified pro-life clergy said that they believed there were ways to work together to reduce the need for abortion and they thought that an abortion ban might not be the best way to reduce the need for abortion. I believe that if respectful dialogue is possible in South Dakota with a looming abortion ban, it should be possible anywhere.