Comprehensive Digest of Social Witness at the 220th PC(USA) General Assembly


Reproductive Justice

Item 20-02: Denial of Medical Benefits for Abortions

Disapproved by the Assembly. This item called for the PC(USA) Board of Pensions to provide a medical benefits plan that does not pay for abortions except to save the physical life of the woman. The overture sought “to protect Presbyterians, who believe abortion is a sin, from the sin of complicity in the taking of human life.” The Board of Pensions medical plan currently covers abortion under a wide range of circumstances.

The ACSWP Advice and Counsel points out that the Board of Pensions permits “churches and employing organizations that object as a matter of conscience to the use of their dues for abortion procedures” to apply for relief of conscience (less extensive than desired by proponents). Since 1970, the PC(USA) has strongly and consistently affirmed that women may face situations in which the decision to terminate a pregnancy may be a morally valid decision. Therefore, a woman’s right to have available to her the full range of reproductive options must also exist, and should be a part of the church’s own medical plan.

Item 21-03: On Providing Just Access to Reproductive Health Care

Approved with amendment by the Assembly. This item requested that the Assembly protect all women’s access to comprehensive health care, including access to health services that enable responsible family planning and honor the exercise of individual conscience. The amendment names access to health care as a “basic human right” and replaces some of the original overture’s language with direct quotations from a 1992 Assembly-approved report on “problem pregnancies and abortions.” New language, derived from the intent of the old, affirms that “no state or federal law should be enacted to defund or criminalize family planning.”

See the finished version in PDF.

Item 21-06: Commissioners’ Resolution on Calling the Church to a New Way Forward on the Issue of Pregnancies

Disapproved by the Assembly. This resolution called upon the PC(USA) to conduct a new thorough study of scripture and its Confessions, and to conduct a new survey on crisis pregnancies and abortion. It called upon offices of the church to advocate only “in areas of essential unity,” leaving “areas of division” up to the individuals. In disapproving this item, the Assembly commended the 1992 report for study.

The ACSWP Advice and Counsel notes that the 1992 Report of the Special Committee on Problem Pregnancies and Abortion is a comprehensive policy including an extensive study of scripture and Reformed theology. That 1992 policy honors the diverse opinions of Presbyterians and urges respect for women and their capacity as individuals to make faithful moral decisions in complex situations involving crisis pregnancies. In contrast, this item would have denied that an action of the Assembly represents the voice of the church for public advocacy whenever some Presbyterians disagree, essentially silencing the church’s public witness on many issues.

See also the reproductive health care section of the Human Rights Update located under the category of International Issues and Human Rights.

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