I am grateful to the editors of The United Methodist Reporter for the opportunity to write a piece on the trial of Kermit Gosnell and how the United Methodist Church should respond. I argue that the system that enabled Gosnell was built on the foundation of Roe v. Wade, and, on that basis, I call for United Methodist agencies to break ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), an inter-religious abortion advocacy organization. Here's an excerpt:
We must begin by recognizing that this tragic situation follows from the widespread efforts to normalize abortion in the United States. Not all will agree with that conclusion, but a variety of factors suggest its accuracy. Since abortion was declared a constitutional right in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement has worked hard to undermine the full personhood of the preborn. We have been told again and again that the child in the womb is a fetus, not a baby. We are told that abortion is not the ending of a life; it is the termination of a pregnancy. This cold and detached terminology is intended to downplay any emotional reaction to abortion.
The problem is that if a preborn child in the eighth or ninth month of gestation does not have the moral status of a person, why should we think a change of geography from inside the womb to outside the womb suddenly establishes personhood? There is no substantive difference between the preborn and the newly born. If we are desensitized to the death of the former, it will lead us to be decreasingly sensitive to the latter. The road from Roe to Gosnell is a downhill slope.
This connection can clearly be seen in a variety of recent arguments made by abortion advocates. In 2012, bioethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argued in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics for what they called “post-birth abortion.” They claimed that newborns, like fetuses, do not have the moral status of a person and, therefore, the killing of a newborn should be permissible even when the newborn has no disability or defect. Upon the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote a piece for Salon.com titled, “So what if abortion ends life?” in which she argued that the child inside the womb is as much a life as the one outside. She did not go as far as Dr. Giubilini and Dr. Minerva by arguing for infanticide, but when you agree that the preborn and the newly born are alive in the same sense, it is a short and logical step from pre-birth abortion to infanticide. More recently, a representative of Planned Parenthood argued to Florida lawmakers that the decision to offer life-saving care to a child born alive after a botched abortion should be left to the mother and her physicians rather than guaranteed by law.
The Reporter also published a response by Rev. Steve Copley on behalf of RCRC. The General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women are both members of RCRC, and both declined the invitation of the editors to respond.
The continued membership of United Methodist agencies in RCRC should disturb us all. Despite the official position of the UMC to support the legal option of abortion, our Social Principles declare: "Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion" (Book of Discipline para. 161.J). In contrast, rather than affirm the sanctity of unborn human life, RCRC insists on the sanctity of destroying unborn human life. In a collection of worship resources published and endorsed by RCRC and entitled Prayerfully Pro-Choice, abortion is described as a "God-given right" (8) and "a sacred choice" (88). The positions of the UMC and RCRC are mutually exclusive. United Methodists should hold our agencies accountable and call upon them to exit the abortion advocacy business.