Abortion Is Not Funny

social principles

Let me put my cards on the table. I agree 100% with the official United Methodist stance on abortion. You can read the full text here, but let me highlight some of the most important aspects of our official stance:

Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.

But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.

We 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 by certified medical providers. We support parental, guardian, or other responsible adult notification and consent before abortions can be performed on girls who have not yet reached the age of legal adulthood. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection or eugenics.

Two things jump out at me almost immediately when I read these excerpts:

  1. We believe in the sanctity of unborn human life.
  2. Our approval of abortion is intrinsically connected to the concern for the mother.

We even go on to say that “We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control.” The answer behind 92% of women surveyed in 2004 about why they were getting an abortion was birth control. The United Methodist Church is not a blanket “pro-choice” denomination. We allow for abortion in extreme circumstances with which most pro-life people would agree.

So when the Director of Civil and Human Rights at the General Board of Church and Society decides to be funny on a day filled with emotions around the issue of abortion, it makes me upset. His apology is that it was meant to be a joke, but i don’t know if that makes it any better. Is this an issue to be humorous about?

Maybe I should reveal another card. I don’t think abortion is funny because my wife and I cannot have biological children; so, we have been foster/adoptive parents for two years. We have seen unwanted children; we want them to know that they are wanted. There is nothing funny about unwanted children. Thousands of children are in the system today because they are unwanted, but there is a growing number of us who want these children to know that they are loved and that they are wanted. Everyone I know who is a foster/adoptive parent would tell you that they are pro-life. We put our money where our mouth is every single day. We believe that all babies and children need and deserve a loving home. They should be allowed civil and human rights too! We can never affirm abortion as a means of birth control.

Want to know something really ironic? People who are foster/adoptive parents are Republicans and Democrats, Christian and non-Christian, gay and straight, rich and poor, black and white. We became foster/adoptive parents thanks to a lesbian couple who were members of my church. Being pro-life is an issue for many us foster/adoptive parents that bridges a lot of different divides that we have in the church today.

And nothing about abortion is funny.


  1. I think this post is amazing! Despite your likelihood to upset folks on the left and right, this is who we are, and this is the witness we need. I just wish we could articulate the beauty, nuance, and depth of this position more easily.

    Only pushback from me, FWIW, the birth control language can be a bit divisive and unfair. Other studies have women citing economic reasons at over 40%. That’s a serious issue women and families face in their decisions that deserves the sort of nuance you’ve given with the rest of your post. Imagine what work could be done around abortion reduction if the pro-life and pro-choice communities could work together on that.

    1. absolutely, i probably need to nuance the birth control argument even more. I would offer the push back on the economic reasons to say abortion is very racist in the way it is done. Poor minorities are far more likely to have an abortion than any other segment.

      1. Thanks. Much appreciated.
        And yes, the economic factor is problematic for multiple reasons–including it’s connections with how persons of color almost become pawns in the fight.

  2. I appreciate the current statement regarding abortion in our Social Principles, and I disagree with extremists on both sides. As a pastor, I have walked with several women as they faced this conflict of “life with life” and it is indeed not funny. I believe that on the RARE occasions when abortion is deemed to be the best alternative, it should be both safe and legal. I get frustrated by the “right to life” movement which seeks to close the door to all abortions. I also get frustrated by irresponsible women who get pregnant when they are not capable or ready for parenthood. The United Methodist Church is RIGHT on this issue.

    Thanks for taking a stand on this issue in the most positive way. Fostering and adopting children is a great witness to the sanctity of life.

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Stephen, and especially for your foster/adoptive parenting. You do realize, right, how the GBCS has taken that single sentence endorsing abortion (since we have not yet gotten the clarifying amendment that we are talking about conflicts of “PHYSICAL” life with life) as trumping every other sentencing and as a broad mandate to pursue a political agenda that is 100% aligned with NARAL and Planned Parenthood, lobbying against even the most popular, commonsense, abortion-reducing mild restrictions? Here are some examples: http://juicyecumenism.com/2013/01/22/shameful-united-methodism/
    In my years of observing GBCS, I see the problem as less with Bill’s sign as with the fact that that was completely in character and quite faithfully representative of both the values and approach the GBCS has long pursued in its uncritical support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which calls elective abortion “holy work” and decries using such language as “the sanctity of unborn human life.”

  4. PS – and remember, at the last General Conference, the GBCS actually tried (unsuccessfully) to remove our support for crisis pregnancy centers that “compassionately help women seek feasible alternatives to abortion” and to weaken our opposition to abortion as a means of birth control.

    1. John,

      Unfortunately the ambiguity in our statement on abortion allows for a variety of interpretations. Surely affirming the totality of RCRC’s work goes too far, and I look forward to said discussion actually occurring in 2016; likewise, affirming the entire agenda and tactics of the militant pro-life groups (including the religious right’s pregnancy crisis centers) is also problematic.

      Knowing that on these issues, we are by and large, people of the via media, how about we become more focused and effective in supporting the unborn, women, and families.

  5. Thanks for your comment, Karl. It honestly seems to me that the only objection one would have to supporting crisis pregnancy centers that “compassionately help women find feasible alternatives to abortion” (I have been privileged to know compassionate Christians involved in such ministries – have you?) in favor of the GBCS’s preferred language of “helping women explore there options” is that they neither believe nor want the church to say that there is something definitely preferable about non-violent alternatives to elective abortion.
    I will admit being pleasantly surprised to read you say that you look forward to RCRC “discussion actually occurring in 2016.” In my experience, beginning at the C&S GC2004 committee when we first met, in EVERY General and Annual Conference debate over RCRC I have seen, without exception, RCRC defenders have resorted mainly to the tactics of (1) blatantly lying, and (2) resorting to heavy-handed tactics to try to shut down substantial discussion. No one on the pro-RCRC side seems to have a problem with how one year’s GC committee only supported the UMC’s continued blank-check endorsement of RCRC after a woman from the Cal-Pac conference assured fellow delegates that RCRC “is NOT a pro-abortion, or a pro-choice group.” (I could cite plenty more examples.) That helped get the pro-RCRC job done, so that must be okay. And I have yet to see a single individual, outside of the renewal movement, have the courage in any major public way to say that Amy DeLong and her Love Bullies threatening to forcibly shut down General Conference to prevent a plenary vote on the committee-endorsed petition to withdraw from RCRC is completely out of bounds for how decisions should be made within the body of Christ, and that basic all necessary steps should be taken to prevent such abortion-violence-defending bullies from getting their way.

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