About PPL

While most other pro-life groups focus on legislation and the political debate, Presbyterians Pro-Life is different. Our focus is on the Church. The central truths we hold as Christians should determine how we understand life-issues and how we minister to those who face pregnancies under difficult circumstances and those who have experienced abortion.

Presbyterians Pro-Life (PPL) is not a part of the structure of any denomination. Instead, PPL is an independent, nonprofit corporation made up of members and pastors in congregations in the Presbyterian and Reformed family of churches.

With the Christian Church throughout history, we believe that God, who made us in His own image, has forbidden us to shed innocent blood. PPL is committed to strengthening the bonds of family love and nurture, and to protecting innocent life.

PPL offers a variety of written resources to the broader Christian community to help Christians approach matters of life and sexuality from the perspective of biblical faith. The text of many of these resources is available at this Web site.



Our Mission PDF Print E-mail

Compelled by the gospel, PPL equips Presbyterians to champion human life at every stage.

Watch Video (2:42)

Compelled by the gospel

The gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone compels us to base our ministry efforts on Scripture as God's revealed word.

Equip

By God's grace and in the context of relationship, we holistically prepare and empower people to trust God and champion life: inform, educate, encourage, model, correct, warn, inspire, walk with, and more.

Presbyterian

The focus of our equipping efforts is on those who share our Presbyterian heritage. We remain open to ministry relationships with others as well.

Champion human life at every stage

We desire that those God equips through us will rely on His grace to consistently and carefully promote and protect human life from fertilization to natural death as a gift of God created in His image.

 
Our Core Values PDF Print E-mail

Gospel

We value God's gospel (salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone), as
revealed to us in Jesus and as made known to us authoritatively in the Bible, as the foundation for our ministry efforts.

Human Life

We value all human life from fertilization to natural death as a gift of God created in
His image.

Relationship

Because the love of Christ compels us, we value interpersonal connections as the
context for all ministry efforts.

Equipping

We value a holistic approach that prepares people to trust God and champion life by
informing, educating, encouraging, modeling, correcting, warning, inspiring, accompanying, and more.

Advocacy

We value communicating graciously and clearly on behalf of defenseless and
vulnerable human beings.

Presbyterianism

We value our Presbyterian heritage and focus on serving those in that tradition
while remaining open to ministry relationships with others.

 
A Firm Foundation: Christian Theology and Abortion PDF Print E-mail

A Firm Foundation: Christian Theology and Abortion

 
Position Statement on Stem Cells PDF Print E-mail

The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.

--G. K. Chesterton

 "We are the first generation to contemplate killing our very young children and grandchildren to use their body parts for our benefit."

 As the frontiers of medical research advance over time, the Church in each age is called to accurately evaluate the moral questions of its era and to live faithfully in the midst of new discoveries and possibilities.

 The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture . . . .(1)

 With those words, the Westminster Confession affirms the confidence of the Church that in every aspect of life, Christians can receive sufficient direction from Scripture to discern God's will and to respond obediently to all moral challenges, including those which have not been faced by previous generations. We believe that our limited and fallen understanding and reasoning must always be subject to the authority of Scripture.

Scripture commands us to love our neighbors and to demonstrate compassion for all who suffer. The Bible also teaches that we are forbidden to take innocent human lives and that there is a continuity between life before and after birth. Those key biblical principles provide the guidance we need to live faithfully when confronting new challenges and opportunities in the areas of life, death and biotechnology.

"Stem cell research" is a prominent contemporary topic. The popular understanding (though false) is that although "embryonic stem cells" could provide cures for those now suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and numerous other devastating illnesses, such research is being unreasonably opposed by uncaring people, who are unmoved by the suffering of others. It is a controversy in which emotions sometimes run high, but the scientific and moral dimensions of the discussion are seldom well elucidated.

 What are stem cells?

Human "stem cells" are cells present throughout the biological stages of human life, from human embryo, to fetus, to baby, to child, to adult. Stem cells have the amazing potential to make identical copies of themselves and to "differentiate" into the more than 200 types of cells with specialized functions that are needed to support a human life -- from a neuron in the brain, to a muscle cell of the heart, to a lymphocyte circulating in the bloodstream, producing antibodies to fight infection.

The process that leads a fertilized egg, over time, to produce all the cells, organs, and complex structure that characterize an adult human being is an incredible one, which science has barely begun to understand. The beginnings of that process provide the background and terminology used in discussions of stem cells. At the time of fertilization–the union of a sperm and an egg–a new, genetically unique individual is formed. In the earliest stages of development, the fertilized egg ("zygote") divides and forms a ball of cells. That ball of cells develops a cavity (blastocyst stage) and comes to consist of two portions, the "trophoblast" (which will develop into the placenta and umbilical cord) and the "inner cell mass" (which will become the fetus). The "inner cell mass" will produce the three primary "germ layers" of cells that will later give rise to all the cell types of the body.(2) The "ectoderm" (external layer) is the source of cells which include skin cells and neurons of the brain. The "mesoderm" (middle layer) produces cells including muscle cells and blood cells. The "endoderm" (internal layer) yields cells such as pancreatic cells and alveolar cells of the lung.(3)

Scientists use the term "totipotent" to describe a cell having the potential to generate all the cells that make up the embryo plus its supporting structures (placenta and umbilical cord). The term "pluripotent" is used to describe stem cells which can give rise to all the cells of the human body (cells from all three germ layers). The term "unipotent" describes more limited stem cells which can produce cells of only one of the three lines.(3) The zygote is described as totipotent. Scientists have found embryonic stem cells to be pluripotent. It was initially believed that adult stem cells were unipotent.

However, "studies have shown that blood stem cells (derived from mesoderm) may be able to generate both skeletal muscle (also derived from mesoderm) and neurons (derived from ectoderm). That realization has been triggered by a flurry of papers reporting that stem cells derived from one adult tissue can change their appearance and assume characteristics that resemble those of differentiated cells from other tissues. The term plasticity . . . means that a stem cell from one adult tissue can generate the differentiated cell types of another tissue."(4) Adult stem cells are present in relatively low numbers and are mixed with differentiated cells in the tissues, therefore it is more time-consuming to isolate them, but adult stem cells have been isolated which developed from all three germ layers and adult stem cells have demonstrated the capability to differentiate into tissues other than the ones from which they originated.

 What is the moral issue?

 When stem cells for use in research or for treatment of disease are obtained in a manner that does not harm the donor, there is no ethical dilemma. The situation is analogous to a healthy person donating a unit of blood to benefit others, or to a person with two healthy kidneys donating one to help another. No one is harmed and there is great potential to save or significantly improve the life of someone else. "Adult stem cells" pose no moral problems because they can be obtained without harm to the donor. The list of adult tissues reported to contain stem cells is growing and includes bone marrow, peripheral blood, brain, spinal cord, dental pulp, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, epithelium of the skin and digestive system, cornea, retina, liver, and pancreas.(4) Bone marrow transplants, in which stem cells capable of producing all the types of blood cells are transfused into a person who needs them, have been performed successfully for a number of years. Umbilical cord blood from newborn babies(5) is a readily-available source of stem cells. Recovering stem cells from cord blood poses no moral problems and may have some advantages since the cells are younger and have not undergone the deleterious effects that aging may have on stem cells recovered from adults.

The only types of human stem cells which raise moral concern are human "embryonic stem cells" or fetal stem cells which require the killing of the donor to obtain the stem cells. The "embryonic stem cells" causing current controversy are obtained by allowing an embryo to develop in the laboratory to the "blastocyst" stage (a stage that occurs just before the embryo would implant in the uterine wall in a normal pregnancy) and then, in a process that ends the development of that individual, the embryo is destroyed and cells from the "inner cell mass" (which would have developed into the fetus) are separated from the others. Those cells are then propagated in the laboratory as embryonic stem cell lines for various uses, but they will not develop into a baby because the baby's life was ended when its stem cells were removed.

The embryo is very small and is only about a week old when it is destroyed to obtain embryonic stem cells.   In most discussions of abortion, the prenatal life being ended is one to which we can easily relate. Even very early in a pregnancy, say from eight to twelve weeks, the fetus already has easily-recognized features and a beating heart which can be seen on ultrasound. In the destruction of human embryos to create embryonic stem cell lines, the life that is being destroyed may appear, to our examination, to be just a collection of cells. But it is no ordinary group of cells. At the time of fertilization, when the 23 chromosomes of the sperm merge with the 23 chromosomes of the egg, a new human life comes into existence as a single, 46-chromosome cell called a "zygote." The zygote is just one cell, but already the genetic characteristics of that future human adult -- gender, blood type, hair and eye color, and all other genetic characteristics -- have been determined.

Even more remarkable, contained in that zygote are all of the instructions for how and when that cell will divide, which genes will be turned on and off at what times, and what types of specialized cells will be created in what locations in order to produce the more than 200 types of cells that are needed. The cells are not randomly produced and distributed, but rather are organized into the appropriate organs. For example, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and neurons are located in the brain while the insulin-producing cells reside in the pancreas. The various organs and tissues assemble into a complex structure, the human body, with head and trunk, arms and legs, right and left, front and back all in proper position. The cells in the brain capable of sight extend forward in the face forming eyes, a beating four-chambered heart connects to a network of blood vessels, propelling blood, delivering nutrients and oxygen to every cell of the body and removing toxic cellular waste products. The nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system are all intricately formed to provide for life. As in post-natal life, programmed cell death is part of the process of life. In utero, this means that instead of webbed fingers and toes, certain cells destroy themselves so that fingers and toes develop as separate structures.(2)

The zygote and early embryo may not be impressive to the human eye, but given the opportunity to implant in the uterine wall, in nine months that group of cells -- that embryo -- will be a baby, capable of independent life.

 How should we treat an early human embryo?

 Does the early embryo qualify as a human life which we are required to protect rather than to destroy?   Scripture clearly teaches that God places a higher value on humans than on the rest of creation, that the meaning and purpose of God for each human life begins before birth, that God forbids us to kill innocent human life, and that we are to protect and care for innocent life. (6) The biblical theme of continuity of life before and after birth is particularly relevant.

The biblical writers did not use different words to label prenatal and postnatal life. The same Hebrew and Greek terms are often used to refer both to the born and the unborn. For example, Geber is a Hebrew noun usually translated man, male, or husband. In Job 3:3, Job curses the night in which it was said, "a man-child [geber] is conceived." Yeled is a term in Hebrew commonly translated child or boy. Yet Genesis 25:22 refers to yeladim (children) struggling inside the womb of Rebekah. Moses recites a law in which a Yeled (child, boy) comes forth from a woman (born prematurely).

In Greek, brephos is often used of infants and the newly born (Luke 18:15; 1 Peter 2;2; Acts 7:19). But in Luke 1:41 and 44, brephos is used of John the Baptist leaping in the womb of Elizabeth. Huios in the Greek means son and is used in Luke 1:36 of John being conceived by Elizabeth: "'And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.'" (7)

 Although it might seem convenient if the facts were otherwise, neither Scripture nor biology gives us a basis to treat the zygote and embryo as anything other than the unique human lives that they are. By using the same words to describe prenatal and postnatal life, Scripture shows continuity between life before and after birth. The biological process of human development from zygote, to embryo, to fetus, to baby, to child, to mature adult is a continuous biological process. The only beginning point is fertilization, when a new individual is created. There is no basis for drawing any other conclusion.

If embryos are going to be destroyed anyway, isn't it better to use them to obtain stem cells? Some have suggested that it is morally acceptable for "leftover" human embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics to be donated by their parents to be used as a source of stem cells since these frozen embryos will never be implanted and therefore will never develop into children. Two professors at the University of Minnesota effectively addressed the assertion that since no relative harm is done, such a practice would be moral:

The argument that research is justified as long as no relative harm is done to the subject and there is potential gain for others appears powerful at first inspection, and indeed it has proven powerful in the past. Gilbert Meilaender -- the Richard and Phyllis Duesenberg professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics -- cited two previous applications of the argument in a lecture at the University of Minnesota this past November.

The Tuskegee syphilis trials allowed black men with syphilis to go untreated to determine the effects of the disease. Access to "comfort" care for those men actually was improved by their participation in the trial, since their usual access to care was so poor. The fate of these men had been determined (by others) prior to the study. If no relative harm was done to them by participating in the study, and there was the promise of some gain for others, why not proceed?

Meilaender's second example was Nazi medical experimentation on prisoners at Auschwitz. Upon arrival at Auschwitz, prisoners were graded according to their "life prospects," and some were condemned to death (by others). If no relative harm was done to these prisoners -- already condemned to death -- and there was the promise of some gain for others, why not proceed? (8)

Such illustrations sharpen the focus on the moral issue involved in using "unwanted" embryos to obtain stem cells: What is wrong is wrong, regardless of the potential good that might result for others. "Shall we do evil that good may come of it?" (Romans 3:8) We are the first generation to contemplate killing our very young children and grandchildren to use their body parts for our benefit.

 Embryonic vs. adult stem cells

 Although all stem cells are believed to have wide potential, early research indicates that embryonic stem cells behave differently than stem cells from other sources. At this time, in fact, embryonic stem cells have not been shown to be helpful in alleviating any medical problems whereas work with adult stem cells, which poses no moral problem, has resulted in a number of successes. Doctor Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ph.D., chair of the Advisory Board for The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and founding editor of the international journal Ethics & Medicine, summarized the status of stem cell research this way in July 2004:

Even the more honest advocates of embryo stem cell research have admitted that cures are a long, long way off. This is patently clear to those who have followed the animal experiments, which have so far yielded very little evidence of cures and many problems . . .

I gave a presentation at the Experimental Biology conference in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago, where I was surveying the ethical pros and cons of stem cell research. Alongside me were other speakers who are experts in embryo and stem cell research. The embryo research expert talked about basic research. The adult stem cell expert, on the other hand, talked about patients with what had been thought to be incurable diseases going home from the hospital cured. (If you want to read some of the latest research go to www.stemcellresearch.org . . .(9)

Even if human embryonic stem cells were to be effective and even if they were the only means of obtaining effective treatments, the principle that it is wrong to take an innocent human life still applies. Doctor Cameron articulately summarized the moral challenge:

For the question we face is distinctly ethical in character. At the heart of our conception of civilization lies the principle of restraint: that there are things we shall not do, shall never do, even though they may bring us benefit; some things we shall never do, though the heavens fall.

As we stand on the threshold of the biotech century, we could hardly confront a decision that is more onerous, since the promised benefits from this technology may be great . . .   If there are things that we should not do, it is easy for us to refuse to do them when they offer no benefit. When the benefit they offer is modest, the choice is still not hard. The challenge to morals and to public policy lies precisely here, where the benefits seem great. Yet it is here also that our intuitive respect for the early embryo requires us to pay a price.(10)

 We are hopeful that adult stem cells will one day provide new avenues for treatment of diseases which are currently untreatable and will alleviate the suffering of many. Research done thus far suggests that work with adult stem cells has great potential and promise. But even if it were true that adult stem cells do not accomplish the cures that embryonic stem cells might achieve, we must limit our work to that which can be done in a way that is morally right and does not kill one human life in the hopes of helping another, even if the human who must be killed is small -- even a very tiny human embryo, which each of us once was.    

 -------------------

Endnotes

  1. Westminster Confession, Book of Confessions, 6.006.
  2. Stem Cells: Scientific Progress adn Future Research Directions. Appendix A: Early Development. Department of Health and Human Services. June 2001. http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/scireport
  3. Ibid., Chapter 1: The Stem Cell.
  4. Ibid., Chapter 4: The Adult Stem Cell.
  5. During the process of development in the womb, the placenta and umbilical cord are tissues produced by the baby to support its growth. The blood that circulates from the baby, through the umbilical cord, to the placenta, and back to the baby is the baby's blood, produced by the developing child, and is different from  the mother's blood. Because the umbilical cord is discarded at birth, stem cells can be obtained from the blood remaining in the umbilical cord after birth without harming the baby.
  6. Position Statement on Abortion, Presbyterians Pro-Life Research, Education and Care, Inc., Allison Park, PA, adopted June 1988, rev 9/93.
  7. Fowler, Paul B., Abortion: Toward an Evangelical Consensus, 1987, Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon, pp 144, 145.
  8. Dowd, Bryan and Chris Macosko, "Key question for research on human embryos is whether it is moral,"   Commentary, Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 12, 2004.
  9. Cameron, Nigel, "The stem cell debate gets hotter," Biotech Commentary, Council for Biotechnology Policy, July 19, 2004. http://www.pfm.org/BiotechTemplate.cfm?Section=Biotech_Home&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13134 .
  10. Testimony of Nigel Cameron, Ph.D., given August 1, 2001 before the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, adn Related Agencies Hearing on Embryonic Stem Cell Research http://www.thecbc.org/redesigned/research_display.php?id=61 .

Approved by PPL for distribution, Oct. 7, 2005

                               

 
Position Statement on Sexuality PDF Print E-mail

Brochures Available: Position Statement on Sexuality - Spanish , Position Statement on Sexuality - Korean, Position Statement on Sexuality - Youth, Position Statement on Sexuality

The Bible is God's written Word (1). We declare our commitment to its infallible truth (2), especially in the areas of marriage and sexuality where its teaching is under attack in our day (3). Our Reformed tradition has always stood on the absolute authority of Scripture in these matters (4).

The Bible tells us that male and female alike are made in God's own image (5), and are intended by God to express sexual love for one another only within the bonds of the life-long covenant of marriage (6).


Christian marriage is ordained by God (7) and designed for three purposes (8):

  1. The mutual help of husband and wife (9).
  2. The safe-guarding, undergirding, and development of their moral and spiritual character (10).
  3. The propagation of children (11) and the rearing of them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (12).

We call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to join with us as we follow the Bible's teaching (13) and our Reformed confessions and tradition across history in declaring that sexual relationships within this context (14) are the only possible expressions of sexuality that are not in direct rebellion against God's revealed will (15).

In this day of sexual promiscuity, perversion, and sensual idolatry with the resultant epidemic in AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, crisis pregnancies, abortion, and pornography, the Church of Jesus Christ must speak prophetically in support of God's laws concerning sex and marriage and against all violations of God's laws in these same areas (16). To do less than this is to be less than faithful followers of our Lord Jesus Christ who said both "Your sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48), and "Stop sinning" (John 5:14) (17). The words of our Heavenly Father as well as the words of His followers call the unrepentant to repent (18) and the repentant to believe in the forgiveness offered to us through the blood of Jesus (19).

Appendix

"Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders not thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)

"Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction: the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal 6:7,8)

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." (Ephesians 5:3)

"The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." (1 Corinthians 6:13b)

"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." (Hebrews 13:4)

"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:16)


Endnotes

1) II Peter 1:20,21; I Thessalonians 2:13; Book of Confessions, 3.18, 6.002-6.004.
2) II Timothy 3:15,16; Book of Confessions, 6.005.
3) Isaiah 8:20; Book of Confessions, 3.20, 6.006-6.007, 6.010, 6.136.
4) Matthew 22:29,31; Luke 10:26; Book of Confessions, 3.20, 6.001-6.002, 6.010.
5) Genesis 1:27; Book of Confessions, 7.127.
6) Genesis 2:23,24; I Corinthians 7:2,39; Matthew 19:46; Hebrews 13:4; Book of Confessions, 4.108-4.109, 6.133, 6.137, 9.47.
7) Genesis 1:27,28; Mark 10:9; Book of Confessions, 5.246, 6.136, 7.130.
8) Book of Confessions, 6.134.
9) Genesis 2:18,24.
10) Genesis 1:27,28; Ephesians 5:22,23; Colossians 3:18,19; Genesis 2:18,25; I Corinthians 7:3-5,9,36.
11) Genesis 1:27,28; Genesis 9:1; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 18:5; Matthew 19:14.
12) Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:20,21; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17.
13) Book of Confessions, 5.001-5.002.
14) Book of Confessions, 5.245-5.246, 9.47.
15) Book of Confessions, 4.108-4.109, 6.136.
16) Book of Confessions, 5.001-5.014, 9.47.
17) Book of Confessions, 3.18, 3.20, 4.085, 5.163-5.165, 9.47.
18) Acts 11:18; Luke 24:47; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; Ezekiel 19:30,31; 36:31; Psalm 51:4; Jeremiah 31:18,19; II Corinthians 7:11; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30; Proverbs 28:13; Book of Confessions, 4.087, 5.093-5.102.
19) Titus 3:5; Acts 5:31; Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; Isaiah 55:7; Romans 8:1; Isaiah 1:18; I Timothy 1:13,15; Psalm 32:5,6; Psalm 51:4,5,7,9,14; I John 1:9; Book of Confessions, 4.001, 4.084, 6.081-6.086.

(Adopted March 1988)

 
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