|220th GA Report: Part II - Late, late night abortion decisions|
There was little doubt at this assembly that the definition of marriage and divestment in the Middle East upstaged other weighty matters at the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA). Ordination requirements, changes to mid-council structure, per capita, and rules about how business comes to the assembly received little attention in spite of their potential to bring major positive change to the denomination.
Discussion of abortion coverage in the Board of Pensions plan, advocacy for abortion access, and advocacy for government funding of abortion caused barely a ripple in the fabric of the Assembly. Actions taken by commissioners on those items of business were only covered by the briefest mention by one or two news sources.
Maybe abortion received little attention because it came to the floor after midnight on Friday of the assembly. Perhaps it received little notice because it came disguised as "reproductive health care" in a Human Rights Update (Item 14-04) authored by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. The lengthy report covering a broad range of topics in a tiny font size was approved and sent to the church for study without any debate. The GA affirmed the committee's decision on 14-04 in a unanimous voice vote.
Testimony given by PPL team members and others in Committee 14 did impact commissioners who added a fifth recommendation to ACSWP's report. In open hearings, PC(USA) members shared information and stories about even more horrific human rights violations that were ignored by ACSWP, such as forced abortions in China, gender selective abortions in India, and wide spread abortion of U.S. babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome. That testimony spurred commissioners to add a direction to the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to "include forced abortions, gender and disability selection based abortions, and infanticide within its next Human Rights Update study."
Unfortunately, language accusing Catholics of obstructing the access of women to contraceptives remains in the document. Catholics organizations have recently exercised their legal rights to protest a recent Health and Human Services Mandate that forces employers to pay for contraception and abortion services, even if the employer believes that such practices are immoral. Catholics who are taking a stand for religious freedom might expect their ecumenical protestant friends to stand with them. Instead the PC(USA) has accused them of violation of women's reproductive rights. They are not the only ones attacked in ACSWP's report—now a document for study in the denomination. Also to be opposed is anyone working for legislation that places health and safety requirements on abortion clinics, that seeks to require waiting periods before surgical abortions, or supports parental consent for minors seeking abortion. Anyone seeking to limit public funding of abortion through the tax dollars—even of those who believe abortion is against God's prohibition of taking human life—would also be accused of obstructing women's rights.
With several long-time abortion rights proponents on that committee who are now required to focus their next report on the unborn, PPL will be monitoring ACSWP meetings over the next two years and informing the church how they are fulfilling this direction of the 2012 General Assembly.