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."
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. :)