Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Pro-Choice Church

We all know (or at least, I hope we all know) that there are pro-choice Christians. There are Pro-Choice Catholics, there is the Disciples for Choice, there is SYRF, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and others. Today, I'll be writing specifically about the Lutheran Church and its statement regarding abortion.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has this statement on its website. Now, I'm warning you now that there's a lot of anti-choice language in their statement. However, that does not mean that the church takes an official anti-abortion stance. I find their position to be very progressive and liberal for a church.

Section III starts off with a bunch of anti-choice rhetoric (hey, I warned you).

"We mourn the loss of life that God has created.[A] The strong Christian presumption is to preserve and protect life. Abortion ought to be an option only of last resort. Therefore, as a church we seek to reduce the need to turn to abortion as the answer to unintended pregnancies."

This part plays into the "abortion is a bad word" sentiment or the "I support the right to abortion, but I do not like abortion at all" kind of sentiment that many pro-choicers express. It's not ideal, and it's a problem. However, look at what comes next:

"We also deplore the circumstances that lead a woman to consider abortion as the best option available to her. We are moved particularly by the anguish of women who face unwanted pregnancies alone. The panic and isolation of such pregnancies, even in the best of circumstances, can be traumatic. Poverty, lack of supportive relationships, immaturity, oppressive social realities, sexism, and racism can intensify her sense of powerlessness. The prospect of having and caring for a child can seem overwhelming."

This is a sentiment that anti-choicers hardly ever express. As pro-choicers, we should respect pregnant women, and try to understand the situations that they're in. Not all of them are in desperate situations, but many of them are. Those women need our help and understanding, not our judgment.

It goes on to speak about sexual responsibility, sex outside of marriage, contraception, etc. I won't get into that right now. In section IV, it states:

"Because of the Christian presumption to preserve and protect life, this church, in most circumstances, encourages women with unintended pregnancies to continue the pregnancy." and "This church encourages and seeks to support adoption as a positive option to abortion."

More anti-choice sentiments here. As pro-choicers, we should encourage the woman to do what's best for her. Adoption isn't always a more positive option than abortion, and abortion should not be portrayed as a negative option at all. However, it's important to note that encouraging a woman to go through a pregnancy is not the same as forcing her to do so. It's pressuring her, which is morally wrong, but this says nothing on their stance about legal abortion.

Okay, here's where it gets juicy!

"This church recognizes that there can be sound reasons for ending a pregnancy through induced abortion. The following provides guidance for those considering such a decision. We recognize that conscientious decisions need to be made in relation to difficult circumstances that vary greatly. What is determined to be a morally responsible decision in one situation may not be in another.

In reflecting ethically on what should be done in the case of an unintended pregnancy, consideration should be given to the status and condition of the life in the womb. We also need to consider the conditions under which the pregnancy occurred and the implications of the pregnancy for the woman's life.

An abortion is morally responsible in those cases in which continuation of a pregnancy presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman.

A woman should not be morally obligated to carry the resulting pregnancy to term if the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse.[E] This is especially true in cases of rape and incest. This can also be the case in some situations in which women are so dominated and oppressed that they have no choice regarding sexual intercourse and little access to contraceptives. Some conceptions occur under dehumanizing conditions that are contrary to God's purposes.

There are circumstances of extreme fetal abnormality, which will result in severe suffering and very early death of an infant. In such cases, after competent medical consultations, the parent(s) may responsibly choose to terminate the pregnancy. Whether they choose to continue or to end such pregnancies, this church supports the parent(s) with compassion, recognizing the struggle involved in the decision.

Although abortion raises significant moral issues at any stage of fetal development, the closer the life in the womb comes to full term the more serious such issues become.[F] When a child can survive outside a womb, it becomes possible for other people, and not only the mother, to nourish and care for the child. This church opposes ending intrauterine life when a fetus is developed enough to live outside a uterus with the aid of reasonable and necessary technology. If a pregnancy needs to be interrupted after this point, every reasonable and necessary effort should be made to support this life, unless there are lethal fetal abnormalities indicating that the prospective newborn will die very soon."
(emphasis mine)

So, the church disapproves of abortion in cases where the fetus is considered "viable". The church approves of abortion in cases of rape/incest, when the life of the woman is endangered, and in cases of fetal abnormalities. Keep in mind that, if a reason for abortion isn't listed in their list of abortions that they do approve, that does not necessarily mean that they take an official stance against it.

Later on, they recap on their stance.

" this church opposes:

* the total lack of regulation of abortion;
* legislation that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances;
* laws that prevent access to information about all options available to women faced with unintended pregnancies;
* laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable abortions;
* mandatory or coerced abortion or sterilization;
* laws that prevent couples from practicing contraception;
* laws that are primarily intended to harass those contemplating or deciding for an abortion.

The position of this church is that, in cases where the life of the mother is threatened, where pregnancy results from rape or incest, or where the embryo or fetus has lethal abnormalities incompatible with life, abortion prior to viability should not be prohibited by law or by lack of public funding of abortions for low income women. On the other hand, this church supports legislation that prohibits abortions that are performed after the fetus is determined to be viable, except when the mother's life is threatened or when lethal abnormalities indicate the prospective newborn will die very soon.

Beyond these situations, this church neither supports nor opposes laws prohibiting abortion."

Anti-choicers: Before you claim that the Lutheran Church is against elective abortion, please read that last line over a few times. Let me make this clear. The church lists situations where abortion is definitely justified (rape, incest, life of woman, fetal abnormalities), and it lists one situation where they consider it immoral (post-"viability" abortions). The last sentence confirms that the church is not necessarily against elective abortions. It states that it is neither for or against laws that prohibit those abortions. In other words, the Lutheran church does not take an official stance on those procedures.

I find the Lutheran Church's stance on abortion quite liberal and progressive for a church. I'm glad that it's the church that my boyfriend is apart of. :)


  1. Isn't that the definition of "pro-choice"? We let YOU, the woman, decide; we won't put laws on you telling you one way or the other.

    Proud ELCA Lutheran! :)

  2. I only read half of your blog post, but I've been following your conversation between you and Criss and pschlenker about this.

    I honestly believe that the ELCA is politically prochoice, but "personally" pro-life. It's a stance many Americans take, either because of the stigmatization of abortion or moral opinions. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being personally prolife for moral reasons, as long as you're politically prochoice.

    I'm loving prochoice Christians and prochoice religions. <3

  3. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with being personally prolife for moral reasons, as long as you're politically prochoice."

    Couldn't agree more, Christian Prochoicer :)

  4. "So, the church disapproves of abortion in cases where the fetus is considered "viable". "

    How can you PCG support a church that does not 100% support pregnancy termination for any reason throughout all trimesters? Slippery slope you're playing with here. This is how our rights disapeer. Please reconsider what you are saying to keep all abortions safe and legal.

    Proud PP Supporter

  5. "I find the Lutheran Church's stance on abortion quite liberal and progressive for a church. I'm glad that it's the church that my boyfriend is apart of. :)"

    I am very confessional Lutheran, and I can say you are dead wrong to pass ECLA off as THE LUTHERAN CHURCH.

    Before you pass off this ECLA denom as "the Lutheran church" to make it seem like the Lutheran church theologically in general is progressive and liberal, ECLA is Lutheran only in name. It is NOT Lutheran in doctrine, theology, historical beliefs, etc. It is like pro-life group claiming the name of pro-abortion then passing itself off by that title while being opposed to abortion.

    Theologically, it is hardly Lutheran on the issue of justification by faith alone. It signed the Joint Declaration with Rome, stating there are no real differences between the two churches. What does that say? Not Lutheran theologically. Lutheranism historically and today holds to that the key difference on justification is whether it is faith alone or faith plus works. Rome still holds to not by faith alone, while Lutheranism affirms justification by faith alone.

    ECLA has also compromised with another denoms and on morality in regards to Lutheran distinctives, rule of law for believer's life (third use of the law), such as real presence, closed communion, and traditional marriage.

    And most importantly as a denom, it does not see the word of God as infallible.

    So when it comes two of the most important doctrines that seperate Lutheranism from Rome, Scriptures alone and faith alone, it has compromised. When it comes to the key issue that seperates Lutheranism from Reformed churches, it compromises on the Lord's supper. When it comes to doctrines that distinguished Lutheranism from liberals, it compromised on Scriptures as infallible and on morality (gay and abortion as sins).

    Churches are leaving that denom in droves because it has pretty much forsaken what it means not only to be Lutheran, but also what it means to be both evangelical or church. It is neither Lutheran nor evangelical. It is a church denom, abeit a bad one IMO, in that while it has given into every wind of doctrine, at least the word and sacrament are still present, so there will always be believers in existence.

    There is very little left in ECLA that is Lutheran.

    ECLA sure does NOT speak for those who are theologically Lutheran like me.

    True Lutheran denominations that still hold to distinctively Lutheran confessions are WELS, LCMS, ELS, etc., etc.

    ECLA is not Lutheran whatsoever.

    When one says one is Lutheran but rejects everything pretty much that is Lutheran historically, it seems to me to be intellectually dishonest.

    That's how me and many confessional Lutherans feel about the ECLA.


  6. Thanks Punisher for your words.

    That's how me and many Catholics feel about the Pro-choice Catholics.

    My bumper sticker: You can't be both pro-abortion and Catholic.

    Green Arrow

  7. I'm trying to figure out when "Rome" became a religion.

  8. While I think this stance is much better than one advocating for a total abortion ban, let's be honest here: calling abortion "morally justifiable" in the cases of rape, severe fetal abnormalities, and for potentially-fatal pregnancies strongly suggests that abortion for other reasons ISN'T morally justifiable. That's MOST abortions.

    I'm not convinced that this denomination can be called "politically pro-choice," and here's why:

    "This church opposes ... laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable abortions."

    What this says (clear as a bell, in my opinion) is that the church doesn't necessarily oppose laws that deny access to abortion services for women who haven't been raped and whose pregnancies are not potentially/severely abnormal. Do you consider someone pro-choice when they only think abortion services must be legal in extreme cases? I don't.

  9. Neither do I, but the thing with their statement is that they leave the door open, so to speak. It's sad that they don't take an official stance on women's reproductive rights in cases that are not necessarily deemed "morally justifiable", but they're still leaving the door open for religious pro-choicers. They're not like the Catholic church, which openly opposes reproductive rights in any case. I find the ELCA to be a very productive church when compared to other churches, on the issue of reproductive rights.

    Maybe it'd be more accurate to call the ELCA a pro-choice FRIENDLY church, as opposed to a pro-choice church?

    By the way, I've heard that The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America funds elective abortions for their church workers. It's just something I've heard from a few anti-abortionists w/ no source, so it's not necessarily reliable information, but it's an interesting thought.

  10. I think "pro-choice friendly" is probably an accurate term. I don't know whether or not the ELCA has ever actively opposed or advocated for legislation that would limit elective abortion access. They leave the door open for both.

    I absolutely agree with you that ELCA is far more progressive on these issues than most churches. I just think it's terribly sad that THIS is what pro-choice theists have to settle for - a church with a fairly vague stance that is at least somewhat antagonistic toward elective abortions (which it doesn't consider "morally justified").

    Admittedly, I'm not religious, and I don't see the point in distinguishing a religious organization from a non-religious one. Without a handicap for being religious, this seems to me to be a sub-par position for reproductive justice.

    On a positive note, I think far more Christian INDIVIDUALS are truly pro-choice than Christian CHURCHES. Let's hope they'll pressure their congregations to catch up with them.

  11. I think the ELCA was trying to cater to both pro-choice and anti-choice people by not taking an official stance on elective abortions.

    "I think far more Christian INDIVIDUALS are truly pro-choice than Christian CHURCHES"

    Definitely. I have lots of very pro-choice Christian buddies (including my BF).

  12. For a true pro-choice church, nobody's better than Unitarian Universalism. :-)

  13. I'm trying to figure out when "Rome" became a religion."

    Rome as a "religion" is identified with Roman Catholicism by virtue of the location of the papacy in that very city. It was one of the original apostolic sees alongside Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople.


  14. Aww, Punisher, you didn't understand my joke. )-:

  15. Aww, CP, I've just taught elementary school kids this week that they should never make jokes about someone's creed. They totally understood. You must have been absent that day when your class learned this.

    Since your are a self-proclaimed Christian, I feel obligated to point out to you that making jokes about other people's religions is just not a very Christian thing to do.):

    Thanks for understanding.

  16. Hey Anon, ever make jokes at the expense of atheists? Might you be one of the 64% of Americans who wouldn't vote for an atheist presidential candidate? I bet you are; off your high horse please and thank you!

  17. Hey NG. You'd lose the bet. I have never told nor heard an athiest joke in my life. I''d have no problem voting for an atheist candidate (might even be more likely to vote for one but it would depend on many issues).

    I have been guilty when I was younger of repeating way too many racist jokes. Now I confront people when I hear racist or other demeaning jokes. Hope you do too!

    P.S. I don't and never have owned a horse.



Due to constant spam and derailing coming from a few antis, I am now making this blog a "safe place". This does not mean that I won't allow opposing views. It means that I'm not longer going to allow hateful or unrelated/spammy comments. This will continue on until the anti-choice spammers get bored with harassing me and the people who post here, and is especially relevant when it comes to the topic of rape. I hope this doesn't deter any respectful people from commenting. :)