Which major American denominations accept legal abortion?


Are there any Christian denominations that accept the legality of abortion?


Yes, there are. To make things manageable the following discusses only Christianity in the U.S. in the era of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion nationwide. Although some predominantly white “mainline” Protestant churches are officially neutral or opposed, five major denominations of this type provide significant support for abortion choice in various situations. Representative policy statements:

Episcopal Church: The 1976 General Convention opposed abortions “for convenience” but found them “permissible” in cases of rape, incest, serious threat to the mother’s “physical or mental health,” or “substantial reason to believe that the child would be born badly deformed in mind or body.” The policy opposed civil laws that would limit or deny the right to “reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them.” To see some key archived Episcopal texts, click here.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Three denominations united to form the E.L.C.A. in 1988, and the 1991 Churchwide Assembly issued an abortion policy while acknowledging members’ “potentially divisive” and “serious differences” on this. The statement opposed absolutism on the rights of either the mother or of the “developing life in the womb.” It encouraged women not to abort “in most circumstances.” But until the fetus is able to live outside the womb, abortion could be licit with rape, incest, a “clear threat to the physical life” of the mother, or “extreme fetal abnormality.” The policy opposed flat prohibitions in civil law, and endorsed the provision of “safe and affordable services” when abortions are “morally justifiable.” A key .pdf document is found here.

Presbyterian Church (USA): This denomination was formed in 1982 by a two-way merger. Its 1992 General Assembly adopted a committee report that affirmed women’s “ability and responsibility ... guided by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit” to “make good moral choices.” Despite the “strong Christian presumption” to protect “all life,” abortion could be the “least objectionable of difficult options” and “morally justified” though not required as a “last resort.” The policy opposed abortion for mere “convenience” or birth control. ...

Continue reading "Which major American denominations churches accept legal abortion?" by Richard Ostling.

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