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Religious Views on Abortion

We understand that a decision can be right…and still be sad.

“Pregnancy is not a punishment from God for unapproved sexual activity, let alone for mistakes, misunderstandings, or poor judgment. If the world were that simple, being ‘in trouble’ would not describe a fate reserved for women alone.”
From “Considering Abortion? Clarifying What You Believe,” by The Rev. George Luthringer, courtesy of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Did you know?

Women with strong religious views on abortion are in the same proportion as all women. In fact, most religions support a woman’s right and responsibility to make their own pregnancy decisions. Here at Northland Family Planning Centers, we respect your religious beliefs and your spirituality, and we understand that your faith is important to you.

Some women feel conflicted about their pregnancy choice, especially the choice of abortion, and their religious teachings. This is not unusual. What you will find, as you explore your values, emotions and feelings, is that the decision of when to become a mother is a very personal one. The ability to make moral decisions – such as whether or not to continue a pregnancy – is the basis of an individual’s dignity and autonomy. Perhaps the following words and sources of information will help you. As always, our counseling staff is ready to listen and help you find the tools you need to make the decision that is right for you. We can refer you to pro-choice clergy, websites, or readings that will provide information about religion and abortion.

We encourage you to look a little deeper into your religion. You may find more tolerance than you expect.

Abortion can be a very moral decision

Many decisions in our lives are morally or spiritually challenging. We make thoughtful decisions based on what we know about ourselves, our situation and what we have to offer. Not all decisions are happy, but we have the strength to ask for help and guidance and then make a decision that is not only the best, but one we can feel at peace with now and tomorrow.

In times of moral decisions like this, many of us turn to our church or our religion for guidance, support and sometimes, forgiveness. Sometimes, we find all we need in the open arms of our church – and sometimes not. If you are worried that the choice of abortion may not be accepted by your church or religion, please read on or visit some of the helpful links listed here. You have the authority to consider this decision thoughtfully, to make a moral choice, and know that you have done the best for your life and those you care about.

The acceptance of ourselves as good, as loved and lovable comes from inside ourselves. We are our own toughest critic and the most difficult person to ask for forgiveness is our own self! Many of us see ourselves as religious and/or spiritual, and yet, hold ourselves to a standard of perfection that we wouldn’t expect of anyone else. An unintended pregnancy shines a bright light on your life – all we have been in our past, what we are and what we have to offer in our present, and all our dreams and plans for a bright future.

“Making a choice about your pregnancy can be a gift of learning and growth. It is an invitation for you to develop a larger vision of yourself. It’s a way to practice compassion and loving kindness toward yourself.”
From “Abortion: Finding Your Own Truth” by Corrintha Rebecca Bennett, pamphlet from Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

What is spirituality?

People use many different names for their spirituality. One name is God. Others are Creator, Holy Spirit, Greater Truth, Higher Power, Voice Within, Inner Light, Loving Spirit or Infinite Wisdom. Our spirituality is wise and loving, and we usually know when we are honoring it. When we step away from our spirituality, we may actually feel pain and feel like we have betrayed ourselves. Sometimes we know this from our dreams, our intuition or how we feel. It’s important to discover your own truth and honor it.

Is there support for women’s choice about abortion in religion?

For communities of faith, reproductive choice issues are difficult ones. People with equally committed religious convictions differ greatly in their opinions on this sensitive issue. Widespread denominational support exists for the right of women to choose safe and legal abortion, but the public has been falsely led to believe that all religions are opposed to abortion rights.

The religious pro-choice community has a deep respect for the value of potential human life and an equally deep commitment to women as responsible, moral decision makers. Sometimes though, the preachings we hear in our church do not recognize the complexity of pregnancy decisions or match the profound love and forgiveness that is the core of most religions. So, it may be helpful to you to actually look at the words in your religion’s guiding writings.

What religious documents have to say

Young Women’s Christian Association of the USA, National Convention, 1970, 1973, 1988: “As an organization rooted in the Christian faith, the YWCA is deeply conscious of the difficult personal and ethical choices raised by the issue of abortion.

The position of the YWCA is not “pro-abortion.” It is a position supporting a woman’s right to make an individual decision based upon her own religious and ethical beliefs and her physician’s guidance. This is the position taken by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, in the case of Roe v. Wade. The Court recognized that science cannot tell us “when life begins,” for to science, all life is continuum. The answer to the question, “When does personhood begin?” must remain in the ethical and religious realm.

American Baptist Churches, USA, General Board, 1988: As American Baptists, members of a covenant community of believers in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge life as a sacred and gracious gift of God. We affirm that God is the Creator of all life, that human beings are created in the image of God, and that Christ is Lord of life. Recognizing this gift of life, we find ourselves struggling with the painful and difficult issue of abortion. Genuine diversity of opinion threatens the unity of our fellowship, but the nature of covenant demands mutual love and respect. Together we must seek the mind of Christ. We grieve with all who struggle with the difficult circumstances that lead them to consider abortion. Recognizing that each person is ultimately responsible to God, we encourage women and men in these circumstances to seek spiritual counsel as they prayerfully and conscientiously consider their decision.

American Jewish Committee, 1989: Abortion is an intensely complex and personal decision, one which raises profound moral and religious questions which the government cannot and should not attempt to answer for every individual. Furthermore, the decision to terminate a pregnancy must remain a private one because of the unique physical, emotional, and psychological effects on a pregnant woman and her family.

AJC has adopted the following principle(s) to guide us in the area of reproductive rights: A pregnant woman has the right to make her own decision regarding whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy, free from any coercion or restrictions on her access to abortion.

Episcopal Church, General Convention, 1988: All human life is sacred. Hence, it is sacred from inception until death. The Church takes seriously its obligation to help form the conscience of its members concerning this sacredness. Human life, therefore, should be initiated only advisedly and in full accord with this understanding of the power to conceive and give birth which is bestowed by God.

It is the responsibility of our congregations to assist their members in becoming informed concerning the spiritual, physiological and psychological aspects of sex and sexuality.

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.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), General Assembly, 1983 (reaffirmed 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989): Any decision for an abortion should be made as early as possible, generally within the first trimester of pregnancy, for reasons of the woman’s health and safety. Abortions later in pregnancy are an option particularly in the case of women of menopausal age who do not discover they are pregnant until the second trimester, women who discover through fetal diagnosis that they are carrying a fetus with a grave genetic disorder, or women who did not seek or have access to medical care during the first trimester. Prior to viability, human responsibility is stewardship of life-in-development under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1974 (reaffirmed 1980): We affirm that parenthood is partnership with God in the creative processes of the universe.

We affirm the necessity of parents to make responsible decisions regarding the conception and nurture of their children. We affirm a profound regard for the personhood of the woman in her emotional, mental, and physical health; we also affirm a profound regard and concern for the potential of the unborn fetus.

We affirm the inadequacy of simplistic answers that regard all abortions as murder, or, on the other hand, regard abortion only as a medical procedure without moral significance.

More religions are reviewed in the links below. Please take a look.

Resources

Faith Aloud: Promoting Reproductive Justice through the Moral Power of Religious and Ethical Communities

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is the religious voice for reproductive choice through the moral power of religious communities.

Catholics For A Free Choice: A social justice organization devoted to research, policy analysis, education and advocacy on issues of gender equality and reproductive health.

National Council of Jewish Women is a volunteer organization that works through a program of research, education, advocacy and community service to improve the quality of life for women, children and families and strives to ensure individual rights and freedoms for all. The council believes that comprehensive, confidential, accessible family planning and reproductive health services for all, regardless of age or ability to pay.

This Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Resolution After an Abortion is very helpful to work through feelings after an abortion- both for the patient and for partners, friends and family members.

Portions of this section adapted from: “Pregnant? Need Help? Pregnancy Options Workbook”, developed by Margaret Johnston, Director, Southern Tier Women’s Services

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