On this 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, some individuals, organizations and churches are celebrating, while others are protesting. Like many other topics of deep social concern, the church is divided on the issue of abortion. Our Book of Discipline (2012) speaks to the official position of the United Methodist Church by stating, “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” (Social Principles ¶161J).
On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as the United Methodist representatives to the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, we look back upon the four decades since the passage of Roe v. Wade as years devoid of widespread coat hanger abortions and unnecessary deaths. We recognize the significance of marking this day as we continue to face opposition to keeping abortion safe, legal, accessible and rare.
We also recognize that there continue to be many obstacles to reproductive justice, both nationally and internationally. In the United States, the maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years. Great racial discrepancies exist, as African-American women are 3.2 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than white women in the United States. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control reports that almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. According to the World Health Organization, every day approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 99% of maternal deaths occurring in developing countries.
The United Methodist Church has not been silent or inactive on this issue. Projects of the United Methodist Women and advocacy on the part of the General Board of Church & Society have addressed the issue of reproductive justice, but clearly much more needs to be done. We as the church must more fully devote our time, energy, gifts and service to the following priorities for national and international reproductive justice:
- Keep abortion safe, legal, accessible and rare.
- Ensure universal access to modern contraception, including but not limited to emergency and over-the-counter contraception.
- Increase access to pre-natal services, birthing assistance and post-natal follow-up.
- Provide accurate, scientifically based sex education in our churches and schools.
- Conduct careful analysis of the church’s support for crisis pregnancy centers that may not offer all options of counseling.
In the wilderness of political posturing and divisive blaming and shaming, we seek to be a voice crying out to prepare the way for the Lord to bring about a new era of reproductive justice for our families and communities. We actively await the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth, a kingdom in which all pregnancies are intended, sexuality is safe and celebrated, and families are healthy and secure.
We cannot afford to allow the heated politics of this issue to veil the fact that women are dying and that childbirth remains one of the most dangerous endeavors a woman faces.
May God use us to create a world where every pregnancy is a cause for celebration and not fear.
Office of Children, Youth & Family Advocacy
United Methodist Women
Director & Organizer for Women’s Advocacy
General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church