It had been a routine
church committee meeting. The committee had interviewed candidates for
a staff position in a local church. During the meeting the matter of
abortion had been raised. This subject had brought back memories to
one of the committee members. After the committee meeting had ended,
he had asked to speak with the pastor of the church.
In that pastoral conversation and in a later, follow-up
conversation, the story of an abortion was told. The story went back
to 1990. The now thirtysomething man, at age 20, was living with his
parents, working a minimum-wage job, and making car payments. His
life, following that of his parents, was a decent and well-ordered
life, though he had recently broken up with his high-school
sweetheart. Soon the order vanished.
Through social connections at work, the young man met another girl.
The girl had an abusive home life with her parents and was being
mistreated by her current boyfriend. She had dropped out of high
school during her senior year. In short order, this twenty-year-old
guy and this seventeen-year-old girl were infatuated with each other.
In a number of months, the then eighteen-year-old girl was
pregnant. After a dispute with her mother, she left her mother’s
house. With no place to go, the young couple lived together in a car
through four, wintry nights. They ended up taking over a bedroom in
the house of the young man’s parents. During their three-month stay,
the unmarried couple saved enough money to be able to take over a
one-bedroom apartment of their own. Assuming family-like
responsibilities, the young man was working 70 hours a week.
Once they had moved into their apartment, they considered an
abortion. They concluded that they could not bring themselves to
report the pregnancy to their parents, that they could not materially
provide for themselves and a baby, and that they were not ready to
raise a child. Therefore, the couple decided to obtain an abortion.
So the young man sold some of his belongings to obtain the
necessary $375, the cost of an abortion. Heavy with fear and shame
over what they were about to do, they drove to a nearby town, found an
abortion clinic near a hospital, made their way through some pro-life
"sidewalk counselors," received some "counseling" provided by the
clinic staff, and paid the required fee. Then the young man was shown
to the clinic’s waiting room, and the young woman to one of its
operating rooms. The abortion was performed. After two hours the
couple was reunited. The young man noticed the blank stare on his
girlfriend’s face. Then she cried all the way home, while her
boyfriend endured "the longest drive of [his] life."
The young couple experienced difficulty talking about the abortion.
He came to the realization that he had had the ability to stop the
abortion but had not. But they had silently agreed not to discuss the
As the months passed, the young man began to dream about marriage,
children, and a stable family life. But his dream was contradicted by
his current circumstances. His girlfriend’s mother found out about her
daughter’s abortion, and she blamed her daughter’s boyfriend. The
girlfriend, while living with her boyfriend, began to seek out other
boyfriends. The months turned into three years, and she was discovered
to be pregnant for the second time.
The boyfriend assumed the child was his, and the young couple
returned to his parents’ house for another three-month stay to save
money for a larger place to live. In time, the child was born on one
of the holiest days of the Christian year. At the birth, the father of
the child experienced anew the guilt related to the earlier abortion.
He felt as if he had "played God" in accepting this conclusion to the
life of his first child.
The young family then moved to a nearby city for a fresh start.
Within six months, the young mother was again going out with other
boyfriends. A legal fight followed, and the young father was given
full custody of the child. Some nine months later, the young woman saw
the error of her ways and returned to her original boyfriend and her
son. The young man welcomed her home.
After years of living together, while on an out-of-state trip, the
young man proposed to marry the young woman. They were married in a
civil ceremony. And in a matter of months, the young woman was again
seeing other men. On the advice of his lawyer, the husband moved his
wife out of their house, and he retained custody of the child.
After months of turmoil, the young man, in a broken state, fell to
his knees and prayed to God for help. Going against the advice of his
friends and family, he did not want to give up his wife. But she was
set on divorce, he finally conceded that divorce was in the best
interest of the child, and so a divorce was indeed granted.
Since the demise of the marriage, the father and son have been
found by Christ and His Church. The young man has repented of his sin
and received forgiveness. Though a residue of guilt and shame over the
destruction of "one of God’s creations" remains, the guilt and shame
do not control the young man’s life. In other words, there is a scar
from the abortion that is still carried in his life, but it is not a
debilitating scar. God in Christ has truly redeemed this man. For he
has no ill will toward his former wife, and he willingly speaks with
her to arrange for her regular visits with their son. Furthermore,
this father clearly sees his son, whom he is lovingly raising, as a
gift from God.
This young man was once a teenage pagan with a conscience. Then,
for years, he lived a disordered life with a young woman. For a brief
time, he saw abortion as an answer to unplanned parenthood. As the
disorder persisted, he suffered guilt over many years. Then came his
son, who began to bring order and purpose to his life. And finally
came his redemption through Jesus Christ and His Church. The son, the
Son of God, and the People of God brought abundant life to this young
No, abortion is not just a "women’s issue." It is a matter that
involves men—in a guilt-crippled life or in a present salvation.
(For obvious reasons, the names of the people in
this account are not given. The three now live in the Southeast.)
RCRC’S ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN ITS WORDS
In the 12/1/01 issue of Lifewatch, on p. 3, your editor
wrote: "RCRC [that is, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice] is flatly opposed to any restriction on any abortion,
including any partial-birth abortion."
What an organization actually does…is far more important than what
Immediately after the Lifewatch Service of Worship, on January
22nd, Ms. Linda Bales, who is the Program Director of the Louis and
Hugh Moore Population Project at the General Board of Church and
Society and who had attended the service, respectfully mentioned to
the Lifewatch editor that the newsletter’s statement about RCRC
having a position on partial-birth abortion was in error. Ms. Bales,
in a January 30th letter, repeated her claim in writing: "I had shared
with you a concern about a statement in the most recent issue of
Lifewatch that stated that the Religious Coalition for
Reproductive Choice had taken a position supporting partial-birth
abortion. As I explained, that is not the case, and I appreciated the
chance to clarify this with you in an informal way."
Curious about this matter, the editor telephoned RCRC. Ms. Marjorie
Signer, who is RCRC’s Director of Communications, promptly and
respectfully returned the call and later sent a written statement
which contains this paragraph: "Regarding the matter of late-term
abortion, the Coalition believes that this issue should be left up to
the individual member groups. In a policy position taken March 5,
1982, the Board of Directors stated that late-term abortion should not
be a focus of the Coalition. The Board further stated that supporting
choice and striving for religious freedom are the foci of the
Coalition." Ms. Bales’ earlier claim, spoken and written, is most
certainly supported by Ms. Signer’s written statement.
Not satisfied with the positions of Ms. Bales and Ms. Signer, the
editor launched into a search of his files. There he found three
pertinent pieces of information.
First, on April 29, 1996, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice sent a letter to the members of the United States House of
Representatives. The first sentence of this RCRC letter states: "As
mainstream religious leaders, we write to express our agreement with
President Clinton’s veto of HR 1833, the so-called ‘Partial-Birth
Abortion Ban,’ and urge Congress not to override that veto." The
letter’s last paragraph begins with this sentence: "Again, we urge
members of Congress to vote against the veto override of HR 1833."
This letter is signed by these United Methodists, who were identified
in these ways: Ms. Lois Dauway (Women’s Division, General Board of
Global Ministries), Dr. Thom White Wolf Fassett (Executive Secretary,
General Board of Church and Society), Rev. George McClain (Executive
Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action), Dr. M. Douglas
Meeks (Dean, Wesley Theological Seminary), Bishop Susan Morrison, and
Rev. J. Phillip Wogaman (Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington,
The second, relevant document was a letter from RCRC, dated
September 17, 1998, to members of the United States Senate. It begins
with this sentence: "As national religious leaders and leaders of
religiously affiliated organizations, we write to express our support
of President Clinton’s veto of the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion
Ban Act of 1997, HR 1122. We respectfully urge the Senate to sustain
the veto." This letter was signed by two United Methodists: Rev.
Kathryn Johnson (Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social
Action) and Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr. (Holman United Methodist Church,
Los Angeles, CA).
There was a third bit of pertinent information. Also on September
17, 1998, RCRC sponsored a briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office
Building on the topic "Religious Right Distorts Religious Views on
Abortion." "The briefing," RCRC literature noted, "will highlight how
the Christian Coalition uses the human tragedy of late-term abortion
to advance a political agenda and try to impose their religious views
on the nation."
Where does all of this information lead us? This editor concedes
this point: in its stated policies, the Religious Coalition for
Reproductive Choice does not have an explicit, official policy on
partial-birth abortion. Therefore, I erred in my 12/1/01 Lifewatch
assertion. For that, I apologize.
At the same time, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice,
it must be admitted, engages in political activism beyond (or
against!) its stated, official policy on late-term abortion. For in
1996 and in 1998, RCRC aggressively lobbied, first the US House of
Representatives and later the US Senate, to maintain the legality of
the late-term, abortion procedure known as partial-birth abortion.
Evidently, in 1996 and in 1998, RCRC staff set aside the fact that
RCRC does not have a policy on late-term abortion, drafted a letter to
support the Clinton veto of the partial-birth abortion ban, solicited
signatories from various religious communities (including The United
Methodist Church), mailed the letter to federal legislators, and then
notified the press of its letter-writing campaign. All of this was
done to protect the legality of partial-birth abortion in American
society. This organizational activity clearly establishes that the
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, even if it has no
official position on late-term abortion, is strongly committed to
working to keep partial-birth abortion legal in our society.
Is there a lesson here? Most definitely. And
this is it: what an organization actually does—in this case, advocate
for the legality of partial-birth abortion—is far more important than
what an organization officially states—in this case, a declared,
neutral policy on the matter of late-term abortion. That is, actions
speak louder than words. (PTS)
PRESIDENT BUSH ON HUMAN
Here are some remarks that President George W. Bush made, on
April 10th, to support legislation that would ban all human cloning in
the United States. This legislation (S 1899) is proposed by Senators
Brownback and Landrieu. The Brownback-Landrieu bill is nearly
identical to legislation passed last year by the US House of
Representatives by more than a 100-vote margin. Because the
President’s remarks are consistent with the Church’s teachings on
human dignity, Lifewatch is pleased to offer them.
"All of us here today believe in the promise of modern medicine.
We’re hopeful about where science may take us. And we’re also here
because we believe in the principles of ethical medicine.
"As we seek to improve human life, we must always preserve human
dignity. And therefore, we must prevent human cloning by stopping it
before it starts...
"We live in a time of tremendous medical progress. A little more
than a year ago, scientists first cracked the human genetic code—one
of the most important advances in scientific history. Already,
scientists are developing new diagnostic tools so that each of us can
know our risks of diseases and act to prevent them.
"One day soon, precise therapies will be custom made for our own
genetic makeup. We’re on the threshold of historic breakthroughs
against AIDS and Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer and diabetes and heart
disease and Parkinson’s Disease. And that’s incredibly positive.
"Our age may be known to history as the age of genetic medicine, a
time when many of the most feared illnesses were overcome.
"Our age must also be defined by the care and restraint and
responsibility with which we take up these new scientific powers.
"Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense
of human conscience. As we seek what is possible, we must always ask
what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do
not justify any means.
"Science has set before us decisions of immense consequence. We can
pursue medical research with a clear sense of moral purpose or we can
travel without an ethical compass into a world we could live to
regret. Science now presses forward the issue of human cloning. How we
answer the question of human cloning will place us on one path or the
"Human cloning has moved from science fiction into science.
"One biotech company has already begun producing embryonic human
clones for research purposes. Chinese scientists have derived stem
cells from cloned embryos created by combining human DNA and rabbit
eggs. Others have announced plans to produce cloned children, despite
the fact that laboratory cloning of animals has led to spontaneous
abortions and terrible, terrible abnormalities.
"Human cloning is deeply troubling to me, and to most Americans.
Life is a creation, not a commodity. Our children are gifts to be
loved and protected, not products to be designed and manufactured.
Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society
in which human beings are grown for spare body parts, and children are
engineered to custom specifications; and that’s not acceptable."
"I believe all human cloning is wrong, and both forms of cloning
(reproductive and research) ought to be banned, for the following
"First, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be
unethical. Research cloning would contradict the most fundamental
principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or
extinguished for the benefit of another. Yet a law permitting research
cloning, while forbidding the birth of a cloned child, would require
the destruction of nascent human life.
"Second, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be
virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for
research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms.
Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place.
Even the tightest regulations and strict policing would not prevent or
detect the birth of cloned babies.
"Third, the benefits of research cloning are highly speculative.
Advocates of research cloning argue that stem cells obtained from
cloned embryos would be injected into a genetically identical
individual without risk of tissue rejection. But there is evidence,
based on animal studies, that cells derived from cloned embryos may
indeed be rejected. Yet even if research cloning were medically
effective, every person who wanted to benefit would need an embryonic
clone of his or her own, to provide the designer tissues. This would
create a massive national market for eggs and egg donors, and
exploitation of women’s bodies that we cannot and must not allow."
"I stand firm in my opposition to human
YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT
In this issue of Lifewatch, you will find a brochure
entitled "What can I do about abortion?" As you would expect, it
contains many practical suggestions about things any United Methodist,
who sits in a pew or stands in a pulpit, might do to advance the
culture of life and resist the culture of abortion. We encourage you
to make copies of this brochure and to distribute them to your
congregation through your Sunday bulletin or through your monthly
newsletter. Also, our heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Cindy Evans of Holts
Summit, MO for thoughtfully creating this brochure.
Please do remember to include the Lifewatch ministry in your
congregation’s 2003 missions giving. Any amount, small or large, from
your congregation will bolster the Lifewatch witness in The United
Methodist Church, and be gratefully received. Thank you for
considering this request.
"Beyond Regret: Entering into Healing and Wholeness after an
Abortion" is a 35-minute video that lives up to its name. Indeed, by
joining together a series of compelling statements from women and a
man who have aborted their first children, this video presents the
transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ in a personal, understated yet
moving, engaging, and beautiful way. That is, this is an outstanding
video on a challenging topic. It involves people facing the truth of
abortion in the light of the truth of the Gospel. In this video
repentance and forgiveness are presented as experienced realities, not
as speculative descriptions. This video would make an excellent
addition to any church library. It would be ideal for church school
classes for teens, young adults, and adults. For $69.95, plus $5.00
for shipping and handling, you can order it from Paraclete Press/
PO Box 1568/Orleans, MA
Here is a good idea. Name a child while the child is still in the
womb. That is, after a sonogram has revealed the gender of the unborn
child, the child can then be appropriately named. Naming the unborn
child would accomplish several very positive things. It would
personalize the child. It would advance the bonding of the child with
the parents, with the larger family, with the church, and with the
community at large. Furthermore, it would help to announce that here
is a new, developing member of the human community—not just a "product
of conception," not just "human tissue, not just another "fetus."
Therefore, such early naming would be a strong witness for the
protection of this child and this child’s mother, and against
abortion. Thanks to Mr. Willard Stone [3353 Racine Street/Box
301/Bellingham, WA 98226] for this excellent suggestion, which would
certainly promote the cause of human dignity.
The current, official position of The United Methodist Church on
abortion is found in The Book of Discipline (2000), in The
Social Principles, in Paragraph 161J. Early in this paragraph,
reference is made to "the sanctity of unborn human life" and then to
"the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother." Therefore,
in these stated assumptions at the beginning of the paragraph, The
United Methodist Church declares both the unborn and the mother to be
human, from God, and with special standing (as the words sanctity
and sacredness indicate). But then the paragraph goes on to
"recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify
abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion
under proper medical procedures." That is, The United Methodist Church
argues that there are times when the most powerful party of the two
may destroy the powerless other party. However, if our denomination
truly believes in "the sanctity of unborn human life" (that is,
believes that the unborn is considered holy, set aside by God, and
deserving of reverence and protection), how can the church possibly
justify the destruction of this life? After all, the faithful Church
through the ages has consistently ministered to "the least of these"
(Matthew 25), not justified their destruction. However nuanced its
language, Paragraph 161J of The Book of Discipline, which is
the official United Methodist teaching on abortion, remains an offense
against the Gospel.
Never forget that The United Methodist Church’s official teaching
on abortion, which is found in The Social Principles of The Book of
Discipline, strongly influences the congregations, laity, and
clergy of our denomination. For example, consider this e-mail message
[in slightly edited form], which was received in early February: "I
came across your Lifewatch Web site [www.lifewatch.org] recently, and
I was very impressed. I left The United Methodist Church 15+ years ago
because I was so disturbed with its radical social positions.
Abortion, for me, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I could
not understand the church’s position. I currently work with a good
friend who has been horribly scarred by an abortion that his wife had,
after his United Methodist congregation continually encouraged them to
have an abortion because of some medical problems the baby had. The
baby was terminated at six months through the encouragement of his
United Methodist church .… Be encouraged, dear brother, that you are
on the right track. Stay true, and please do not be discouraged. Being
on the pro-life side of this position is not comfortable, I’m sure.
But Micah 3-6 gives us no option. The results of irresponsible
leadership, that does not recognize issues involving justice, are
extremely costly. Keep up the great work. I will continually remember
you in my prayers."
In late March and early April of this year, this story surfaced.
In January 2002, Bishop Elias Galvan, of the Seattle Area of The
United Methodist Church and the president of the Council of Bishops,
appointed The Reverend Monica Corsaro to be a full-time chaplain of
Planned Parenthood of Washington State. (Please keep in mind that
Planned Parenthood is the leading advocate for, and the largest single
provider of, abortions in American society.) According to reports,
Rev. Corsaro is the first full-time chaplain for Planned Parenthood.
Furthermore, according to reports, her duties will include counseling
women considering abortion, supporting abortion-facility staff,
reaching out to the larger religious community, and lobbying for
abortion in the public arena. Consistent with her claim to be both
"pro-choice" and "pro-faith," Rev. Corsaro has said: "It’s important
to have someone [on staff] who can speak as a person of faith,
speaking from her faith, for people of faith. And it’s important to
have a religious voice for choice."
Clergy have always been warned not to "baptize" (that is,
legitimate as Christian) the institutions of this world. Therefore, at
their most faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, clergy have not
baptized the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, the National
Rifle Association or the AFL-CIO. But in this instance, The United
Methodist Church, through the Pacific Northwest Conference’s
appointment of Rev. Corsaro, is baptizing Planned Parenthood, its
pro-abortion ideology, and its abortion services. This Planned
Parenthood chaplaincy undercuts the faith of the Church, for the
Church’s faith through the ages has advanced, now advances, and will
advance the protection of unborn child and mother from abortion.
Some suggest that United Methodists should write to Bp. Galvan to
protest the appointment of Rev. Corsaro to Planned Parenthood of
Washington State. That is quite understandable. However, according to
official, United Methodist teaching on abortion (Paragraph 161J in
The Book of Discipline, 2000), Rev. Corsaro’s appointment is
fitting and proper. Therefore, Rev. Corsaro’s chaplaincy at Planned
Parenthood is yet another sign that The United Methodist Church’s
current teaching on abortion is deeply flawed and in need of
correction. (AgapePress, 4/2/02 and Seattle Times, 3/30/02)
Here is another bit of correspondence. It is from Mr. Richard R. Haight, who is the president of Over Twenty-one, Inc. Over Twenty-one
is "dedicated to telling the truth about alcohol and other drugs," and
it is located at 9434 Horizon Run Road/Gaithersburg, MD 20879. On
March 5th, Mr. Haight wrote: "It was astonishing to read in
Lifewatch (3/1/02) that there is a deafening silence from the
Council of Bishops, on abortion, in The United Methodist Church—just
as there is a silence from our bishops on the contemporary temperance
movement. The Council’s silence on abortion is contrary to Methodist
tradition, to Christian principles, and to the tenets of The United
Methodist Church as set forth in The Book of Discipline. Under
"Adoption" in the Discipline (Paragraph 161K), children are
understood as gifts from God to be nurtured and cared for. To me, this
sounds contrary to abortion.
"We, in today’s temperance movement, find exactly the same problem
with the bishops. They totally ignore the long-standing principles of
the church regarding the use of beverage alcohol. We have written
Bishop May seven times with no response of any kind. His silence is
not only contrary to good business practice, but also contrary to the
manner in which Christians should treat each other. His silence
portrays his disrespect for the Discipline and for other
people. It is the old go-away-and-don’t-bother-me syndrome. We have
also written to Bishop Galvan, who is the president of the Council of
Bishops, with a formal letter of complaint, and with a second letter
asking for an acknowledgment, but we have received the same silent
treatment from his office. What is one to think?"
Answer: that our bishops should be more responsive to matters
related to the Gospel, to the Discipline of The United
Methodist Church, and to those who are patiently seeking justice. They
should never be evasive.
United States Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) has risen to become
one of the most outstanding politicians in advocating, eloquently and
faithfully, the dignity of the human person. (For example, see the
above article on President Bush’s remarks against human cloning.) His
commitment to human dignity has led him to speak and vote
consistently, in the US Senate, for legislation that aims to protect
the unborn child and mother, defend the human embryo from destruction,
and ban the cloning of the human embryo. And Sen. Brownback is listed
as a United Methodist. Thank God for this brother, whose pro-life
political work represents the very best of Christian thought and
practice in the political arena. And be sure to pray for him and his