Current beliefs by various
religious and secular groups
A diversity of views exists within the U.S. and Canada concerning
abortion access. Many pro-life and pro-choice groups have been organized with opposing
goals. Surprisingly, they agree on a few very important points:
They both want to see the abortion rate decline.
In those cases where they feel that an abortion is acceptable, they
are both concerned that it present a minimal health risk to the woman.
Once human personhood is attained by the embryo or fetus, both
pro-life and pro-choice supporters are concerned that his/her life be
preserved, except in very unusual circumstances.
Unfortunately, the two sides cannot agree on when personhood is attained.
Most pro-life groups believe it happens at conception and are thus generally
opposed to all elective abortions. Pro-choice groups typically believe that it happens
later in gestation or at birth, and are thus generally supportive of a woman's
access to affordable, safe, elective abortions.
Liberal and some mainline denominations: In general, these either promote a woman's right to choose an abortion, or
are relatively silent on the matter. A number of liberal and mainline Christian
Jewish faith groups and organizations have publicly stated that abortions are sometimes an acceptable option, and
should remain legal. According to lists prepared by The Secular Web and
the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, they include, in
Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot,
Moravian Church in America-Northern Province,
National Council of Jewish Women,
Presbyterian Church (USA),
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice,
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,
Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
Unitarian Universalist Association,
United Church of Christ,
United Methodist Church,
United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.
Religious groups other than denominations:
Catholics for Free Choice,
Episcopal Women's Caucus,
Evangelicals for Choice,
Jewish Women International,
Lutheran Women's Caucus,
North American Federation of Temple Youth,
Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation,
Women of Reform Judaism,
Women's American ORT,
Women's Caucus Church of the Brethren,
Women's League for Conservative Judaism.
Secular organizations: A number of secular organizations promote
the right of women to have free access to abortions.
American Humanist Association
Pro-Choice America Foundation
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
A list of statements by many of these organizations may be found on-line.
Conservative and some mainline denominations: These are found
in most religions, and are generally opposed to abortions.
They have adopted a range of policies:
Some are unalterably opposed to all abortions, from conception to birth,
for any reason;
Some would allow abortion only to save the woman's life;
Some would permit abortion to save her life or when pregnancy was
caused by rape or incest.
There are approximately 1,000 denominations in
North America who take a pro-life stand and oppose abortion access. The
largest of these are:
The Roman Catholic Church, the largest Christian group
in the world with about one billion members.
They teach that abortions are a form of
murder, no matter what the situation or conditions leading up to the pregnancy.
The only exception is when a medical procedure needed that has the death
of the embryo or fetus as an undesired and unintended side effect. Contrary to the historical record, the church also teaches that its current
position has remained unchanged from the beginning of Christianity.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant
denomination in the U.S., also opposes elective abortions.
Other large pro-life groups opposing elective abortions are:
And hundreds of others, including all or essentially all
Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and other Evangelical
An exception among conservative Christian groups is the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They
are pro-choice to the extent that they believe that "The final decision
whether to terminate the pregnancy or not should be made by the pregnant
woman after appropriate consultation." However, they do not condone
abortions "...for reasons of birth control, gender selection, or
convenience..." They recognize that abortion can be a legitimate
option for some women who "face exceptional circumstances that present
serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the
pregnant woman's life, serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital
defects carefully diagnosed in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from
rape or incest." 4
A conservative Jewish exception is the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of
America. They support a case-by case analysis in accordance with
Jewish law. "We cannot endorse a public policy that does not reflect the
complex response of halacha (Jewish law) to the abortion issue. In most
circumstances the halacha proscribes abortion but there are cases in which
halacha permits and indeed mandates abortion. The question is a sensitive
one and personal decisions in this area should be made in consultation
with recognized halachic authorities." 5
Christian groups other than denominations:Priests for Life
maintain a listing of hundreds of such groups, too numerous to list here.
A small sampling includes:
American Liberties Institute,
The Work of God,
Your Catholic Store,
Your Catholic Voice,
Youth Apostles. 8
Groups that are not specifically Christian:Priests for Life also maintain a list of over 1,000 pro-life
groups that are not affiliated with religious denominations. They are also too numerous to
list here. A small sampling includes:
The General Board of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. adopted a
statement in 1988-JUN, and modified it in 1994-MAR. It recognizes that no
consensus exists within the denomination concerning abortion access. They did
agree that they opposed abortion "as a means of avoiding responsibility for
conception, as a primary means of birth control, and without regard for the
far-reaching consequences of the act." They condemn violence and harassment
directed at abortion clinics. They feel that physicians should be able to opt
out of performing abortions without sanctions and discrimination.
The membership holds diverse views concerning:
When human personhood begins,
Whether there are situations in which an abortion can be a morally
Whether there should be laws to protect the life of embryos and fetuses
by criminalizing abortion, and
whether women should be allowed to choose to have an abortion.
The statement concluded: "We affirm our commitment to continue to counsel and
uphold one another, to maintain fellowship with those whose opinions differ from
ours and to extend the compassion of Christ to all."
Inconsistencies in the pro-life and pro-choice movements:
There are two inconsistencies in the "pro-life" movement
from the viewpoint of pro-choicers:
There appears to be relatively little mention of IUD's (Intra-uterine devices). The
precise mechanism by which IUDs prevent pregnancy is unknown.
Some researchers believe that the IUD immobilizes sperm, preventing them from reaching
Others believe that it causes the ovum to pass through the fallopian tube so fast that
it is unlikely to be fertilized
Most believe that the IUD interferes with the implantation of fertilized ovum in the
If the third property is true, then IUDs terminate the development of a fertilized ovum
after conception, and cause its expulsion from the body. To a person who believes that
human personhood begins at the instant of conception, there is no
ethical difference between using an IUD, having a first trimester abortion, or having a
partial birth abortion,
or --for that matter -- strangling a newborn just after birth. Yet pro-life groups actively campaign
against PBA's, picket abortion clinics, and attempt to pass restrictive legislation
limiting choice in abortion. Some have made negative statements about IUDs. But none
have, to our knowledge, picketed IUD manufacturing facilities, or sponsored anti-IUD
legislation. This is surprising, because in those countries where IUDs are widely used,
the number of fertilized eggs which IUDs apparently expel from women's bodies far exceeds
the number of surgical abortions. About 43% of American women will have had a surgical
abortion sometime during their lifetime. Women who use an IUD will expel about one fertilized ovum annually
(assuming that they engage in intercourse once per week)
IUD's are becoming increasingly popular. Two studies have reported
effectiveness rates of 99.4 and 99.9%.
The Roman Catholic church has occasionally "held funeral and
burial services" for aborted fetuses. 7 However,
this has not been the general rule. Embryos and pre-viable fetus have
not usually been
considered full persons to the extent of being worthy of a formal requiem mass or formal
There is also a serious inconsistency among the pro-choice movement, as
viewed by pro-lifers:
There is little agreement among pro-choicers as to how late in gestation
elective abortions should be permitted. For example, some argue that elective
abortions should be restricted after fetal viability; some place the time
limit at about 26 weeks when the fetal brain's higher functions start are
initiated; some would allow pregnancy termination at any time up to