Abortion from a religious perspective.

The following is from TEXAS NOW TIMES, and was originally in the United Methodist Reporter, Aug 24, 1990.

Delegates to Annual (Methodist) Conference received a resolution on the abortion issue a week before Conference. Following official policy, the resolution will be considered by the Board of Church and Society this year for consideration next year. I submit this ward as part of the dialogue on this controversial issue.

The resolution would "deny access and use of all Methodist facilities, institutions, properties, or emblems to any and all groups whose agenda or purpose is to advocate abortion in any way." I know of no group that advocates abortion. The so-called pro-choice groups simply advocate that the choice belongs to the woman who is pregnant and not some government agency or legislative body. The term "pro- abortion" is only relevant in reference to a specific situation in which abortion is one of the options available. I am not aware or anyone or group advocating abortion in every situation, only individuals or groups advocating abortion as an option in some situations.

The resolution is, from my perspective, very unfortunate. The biblical references involve faulty exegesis. The language is inflammatory in using such terms as "Murder" and "shedding innocent blood" in reference to all abortions. The policy advocated is simplistic and does not consider the complexity of the issue nor the official stand of the United Methodist Church that recognizes that an abortion may be a responsible option in some situations. I shall now elaborate on these statements.

In using Psalm 139:16, the rationale for the resolution does not recognize that the Psalms are poetry. To literalize or factualize poetry gets us into nonsense. Poetry expresses existential truth and not scientific or wrought in the depths of the earth, which conforms to the ancient idea that the spirits were formed by God in sheal, enlivened the body at birth (spirit-breath), and returned at death to sheal. Obviously this is symbolic and poetic and not factual. We do not hold to sheal as a subterranean cavern, nor is most contemporary theology comfortable in designating when the developing organism reaches human status. An earlier verse speaks of God knitting the body together in the mother's womb which is a poetic testimony to the mystery of our creation. The commandment against murder, in its origin, meant no murder of another Hebrew. The ancient Jews did not apply this to other people which is obvious in surveying the wars with neighbors in which men, women, and children were killed. The use of these texts as justification of opposing all abortions is not exegesis but eisegesis: putting into the text one's own biases and not getting out of the text what is there.

The resolution and supporting material imply that the status of human being exists with the fertilized egg. No recognition is given to the fact that 40-60 % of fertilized eggs are sluffed off with body fluid. Fertilization occurs in the fallopian tubes and the resultant cell is not always implanted. To carry this point of vies (the fertilized egg is a human being) to its logical conclusion would involve the necessity of straining the body fluids to collect possible fertilized eggs and implanting them. Some would argue that the body's "making this decision" constitutes a natural or God-directed process. What this says is that God is killing 40-60% of new human beings. Theologically this is nonsense. The body "makes this decision" based on the godly or the mental/psychological state of the woman. Abortion decisions require evaluating the life situation of the persons involved. Is this natural or unnatural? Our mental processes are what makes us different from much of the animal world. I don't believe that we can judge the bodily process to be superior to the mental. Both are subject to making mistakes. Incidentally, over 90% of all abortions occur during the first trimester when the embryo is not regarded as a human being by most philosophers, medical doctors and theologians.

The resolution and supporting material indicates a distrust of women making right decisions. While it is true that some decisions may be made for frivolous or hedonistic motives, this is the risk of freedom which God took in creating us. If we deny this freedom of decision making, we are placing our trust in some law, policy board or agency. Women, I maintain, should be free to make such decisions with counsel from family, pastors, and medical doctors. The government or church agencies have no business usurping or preventing such heart-rending decisions. Our hospitals and agencies must be kept free to minister to all our people in their personal needs unencumbered by the moral judgements of a minority.

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