This Open Letter From The Uniting Church Proves That Christians Can Support Abortion Rights
Other churches, take note.
NSW is currently in the midst of a push to decriminalise abortion, and as you’d expect, many Christian churches are busy releasing outraged statements on the issue. The Uniting Church, however, has released a very different kind of open letter, throwing its support behind decriminalising abortion, and explaining why that stance is compatible with Christianity. It’s worth a read.
The letter manages to retain a lot of the nuance that is often lost in heated debates on abortion: affirming the Christian belief that life is sacred, but also acknowledging that this belief does not mean Christians must oppose abortion.
“The Uniting Church affirms that human life is God-given from the beginning,” the letter, written by Reverend Simon Hansford, begins. “We believe that all human beings are made in the image of God and that we are called to respect the sacredness of life. We also believe Christians are called to respond to life with compassion and generosity.”
“When abortion is practised indiscriminately, it damages respect for human life. However, we live in a broken world where people face difficult decisions. Respect for the sacredness of life means advocating for the needs of women as well as every unborn child.”
The letter goes on to explain that the Uniting Church rejects “two extreme positions: that abortion should never be available; and that abortion should be regarded as simply another medical procedure.” Instead, Hansford argues that the Christian response to abortion should be to trust that women seeking abortions do not decide to do so lightly and to offer them compassion and support regardless of whether they choose to have an abortion.
“The Church’s role should be to offer care and support leading up to and following a decision, not stand in judgement,” Hansford concludes.
“There are a range of well-informed spiritual, medical and emotional support services available to women and it is offensive to imply that these decisions are made lightly or without access to suitable consultation.”
“The decision to have an abortion is not just a moral issue but a social one. While some aspects of the current debate attempt to pass moral judgement on the act itself, it ignores the many emotional, physical, financial and social issues that often create a situation where a woman is forced to consider an abortion.”
Wow this open letter from the Uniting Church is completely at odds with the rhetoric of most church groups (and anti-abortion MPs) so far. “Abortion is a health and social issue and should not be a criminal issue” #nswpol pic.twitter.com/i97cahC7Ja
— Gina Rushton (@ginarush) August 2, 2019
Hansford also appeared on The Project last night, where he made similar points. “There seems to be a tender saying women can’t be trusted to make decisions, and I find that deeply troubling,” he said.
“We believe human life is God-given, but to take the responsibility for a decision away from a woman is to misunderstand the value of her life, and the importance of her decision.”
Those views were in stark contrast to those of the other Christian leaders interviewed on the program, including Presbyterian minister Kamal Weerakoon who agreed that Christians were called to offer compassion, but argued that “the question is, are we having compassion on the foetus?”. Weerakoon insisted the only way to show compassion for women is to “surround them with love”.
Over the course of the interview, The Project hosts really grilled Weerakoon, asking him why he’s entitled to speak for women on this issue, what it means to “surround women with love” without giving them a choice about what happens to their bodies, and pointing out that decriminalising abortion in other areas has actually decreased demand for late-term abortions. Even when faced with new information, Weerakoon was unwilling to consider that Christian values might call for a different response.
“Is a criminal record for a woman who makes a decision — potentially because she’s not in a right situation, she might be in an abusive relationship, she might not be in a financial situation or a mental, emotional situation to have a child — is that looking after a woman, having compassion for a woman?” a presenter asked.
“We grieve the burden that this is having on the women, but the compassionate response is to surround her with love and care and encourage and enable her to have that baby, even if she does not want to keep the baby,” Weerakoon said.
“I call on all churches to surround vulnerable women with the kind of support and care so that they are enabled to have children even if they are poor, even if this child was conceived without the woman’s choice, without the woman’s preference — I totally understand those circumstances, but the compassionate response is not to terminate a life.”
You can see the difference between those responses on The Project below, and read the Uniting Church open letter here.
"There seems to be a tender saying women can't be trusted to make decisions, and I find that deeply troubling," – Rev. Simon Hansford from The Uniting Church on one of the reasons his church is backing the bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW. pic.twitter.com/mhzHUEM6gw
— The Project (@theprojecttv) August 4, 2019