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Statements of the United Presbyterian Church bear witness to the belief that motherhood should be a choice of free citizens and that women have a right to bear children when they are prepared in their own view to undertake this responsibility. Forced motherhood is not the basis on which a democratic society can function. It is against the best interests of children, women, the family, and the society itself. Only tyrannies insist that women must bear children as a duty they owe as citizens.
Furthermore, the positions of the General Assemblies of the United Presbyterian Church recognize there are competing rights within the situation of pregnancy: The rights of women, other family members, and the medical care personnel-but, the person most responsible for the consequences of the pregnancy, the woman, is the proper person to make the decision. Few women make an abortion decision without careful and soul-searching thought.
United Presbyterians know that a variety of Biblical and theological views on abortion have traditionally been held by people throughout history and across diverse religious communions. Significant and contradictory views of sincere religious groups with respect to abortion a re found in our country. While the General Assemblies of the United Presbyterian Church support safe and legal abortions, we know that some religious groups and their members believe that abortion is against their theological understandings. We regret the confusion and the sometimes heated debate between religious groups on abortion. It is important to note, however, that the Supreme Court decisions of January 22, 1973 on abortion do not force any person to violate a religious principle or moral law but allow each woman to decide on the basis of her personal religious or moral belief whether to continue or to abort a pregnancy. These decisions coerce no one and establish equal freedom of choice for all. On the other hand, the proposed constitutional amendments would compel women to bear children against their consciences and force particular religious and moral standards on every citizen.
In conclusion, let me briefly review some of the possible consequences of approval of the constitutional amendments against abortion rights:
1. The proposed amendments would severely limit the right of women citizens to privacy and equal justice under the law by removing their freedom to make decisions about their own bodies when they are pregnant. This is a most serious erosion of our individual freedom.
2. These amendments would cause return to the hazards and tragedies of illegal abortions, high maternal death rates, unequal treatment of poor women, uplanned large families, an increase in abandoned and abused children, and an increase in public assistance costs. In addition, severe laws would again be permitted with criminal penalties for women who feel they must prevent childbirth. To approve these constitutional amendments would create greater problems than it solves.
3. Severe stress between religious groups would result if either of these constitutional amendments come to the States for ratification. Because religious people hold deep and contrary views about their theology and abortion, the harmony of our religious institutions will be disrupted as persons on each side of this question marshal their arguments and prepare as citizens to influence each State legislature. The ecumenical movement will be tragically fractured.
4. Finally, the effect on American communities will be divisive. Where church members have strongly differing views about abortion, the State-by-State ratification of these proposed amendments will erode the mutual respect and goodwill upon which our democracy is built.
On behalf of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., I affirm the belief that freedom of personal choice in problem pregnancies is better than a return to uncontrollable illegal abortions and maternal deaths. I support the Supreme (Court rule which allows safe and legal abortions on the decision of the woman. I oppose the proposed amendments as a serious infringement on the rights of women to plan their families, and the rights of all persons to realize a full and healthy life and to increase the public well-being.
I urge this subcommittee to turn back these attempts to amend the ('onstitution and reduce valuable privacy and responsible freedom in our society.
Senator Bayu. Thank you, Mr. Thompson. I would like to ask a question or two if I might.
You came down pretty hard on the issue of concern over implementing, within the confines of the Constitution, the religious beliefs of one particular religious sect. Is that really a fair assessment of the opposition to abortion?
Mr. THOMPSON. I believe, Mr. Chairman, if you read the statement, that I have not attributed the views opposing those which I expressed to any one particular sect. I recognize they are held by many religious persons, and it would be the imposition of those views. upon the rest of the citizenry who hold the contrary view.
Senator BAYI. I just thought you had stressed rather strongly that this was imposing the beliefs of one religious group upon everybody else.
Mr. Thompson. This was certainly not my intention. If I gave you that impression. I regret it. I have reread my testimony, and I believe that my intenton is clearly stated in there. .
Senator Bayu. The full freedom of personal choice is an interesting question. Is it prudent to impose any limitations, in your judgment, on abortion? Is there a time beyond which it would not be wise to have an abortion?
Mr. Thompson. The position of my church does not make any distinction between one time as compared with another.
Senator BAYI. How about William Thompson?
Mr. Thompson. My own personal view? As a lawyer, I support the position of the Supreme Court. I think it is judicially sound. My church's position is much further beyond that.
Senator Bayu. So you feel the Court's three-trimester distinction makes sense to you from a legal standpoint?
Mr. THOMPSON. That is correct and is historically based upon common law developed over the past century or so.
Senator Bayi. The right to privacy, of course, is one of our basic rights. The Court decision commented on the right to privacy of the mother. Cardinal Krol today responded to a question I directed to
him with the following statement : "that the right to privacy of one individual has never been protected if it required itself the taking of a life of another individual.” As a lawyer, what is your professional opinion on this statement?
Mr. THOMPSON. I heard the cardinal's testimony. I think in this particular area that so much depends on how we define our terms.
The Supreme Court in its majority opinion said that the right of privacy includes the right of free choice in the case of an abortion, and it defines the right of the mother to make such a free choice as a part of the right to privacy projected to her under the laws of our land. If we define the fetus as a human being, which these amendments would do as a matter of constitutional provision, then we would come out where Cardinal Krol does. If on the other hand, we define the right of privacy as including the right to decide whether or not one would have an abortion, then we come out on the side the Supreme Court does. My own view accords with that of the Supreme Court.
Senator Bayu. I suppose there is a great temptation to determine where an individual wants to go and figure out how he gets there.
Mr. THOMPSOx. That is the hazard. I think that is characteristic of much argument, certainly in this field in which we are now engaged.
Senator Bayit. One of the most, if not the most, fundamental disagreement, of course, is, when does life begin? Do you care to say anything further relative to your views as to when life is really constituted ?
Mr. THOMPson. Well, let me again state the position of my church. In the view of my church, this is a question that need not be determined, because the position of my church is that an abortion should be a matter of choice for the entire period of pregnancy.
If you are asking me personally, my personal view, I share the views expressed by Mr. Justice Clark in the Law Review article. which I quoted and which Mr. Justice Douglas quoted in his concurring opinion.
Senator Bayu. Your closing concern about fragmenting the ecumenical movement, can you tell how, without violating the rights of all of our citizens to be heard in legislative halls, there is not going to be some significant development of ecumenical differences now after the Court's case ?
Mr. THOMPSON. I think, Mr. Chairman, that we all recognize that there are differences within the Christian church, using that term in the most inclusive sense. There are certainly differences of opinion within the United Presbyterian Church. But to create situations in which those differences of opinion are aired publicly is to do a disservice, it seems to me, to the unity of the church unless the particular discussion is absolutely essential.
Now, it seems to me that the arguments against submitting these amendments to the States for ratification are overpowering. But in the event that they are submitted to the States for ratification, one unforunate result will be that we will have a public forum in which the differing views of persons will be expressed with great emotional intensity, and the result will be an adverse effect upon the rather fragile ecumenical movement.
Senator Bayit. I am sure that is happening now. There have been some who have suggested the way to keep this from happening is to just not have any hearings.
But that seems to me then to jeopardize the basic concept of free expression.
Mr. Thompsox. I quite agree with you. I certainly do not wish to be understood as being critical of this subcommittee.
Senator Bayu. Oh, go right ahead. I did not bring that up to criticize either. I just wanted to get your view.
. Mr. THOMPSOX. Quite the contrary, I think it is very important that the subcommittee hear the views of people on all sides of the issue. And it seems to me that the substantive arguments against the proposing of the amendments are very convincing.
I merely mention that one of the effects of submitting the amendments to the States for ratification will be this adverse effect upon the ecumenical relationships that have developed.
Senator Bays. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Thompson. I do not think there is any need to delay you further. I appreciate your contribution and that of your church.
I understand that our next witness, Dr. Robert Moss, the president of the United Church of Christ, is unable to be here; and Dr. Howard E. Spragg, executive vice president of the board for homeland ministries of the United Church of Christ, is not able to be here with us. But we have Rev. Sidney Lovett, Jr., and Mr. Tilford Dudley present who will present his statement.
STATEMENT OF REV. SIDNEY LOVETT, JR., CONFERENCE MINIS
TER FOR THE CENTRAL ATLANTIC CONFERENCE, ACCOMPANIED BY TILFORD DUDLEY, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON OFFICE OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Reverend LOVETT. Mr. Chairman
Senator Bayit. Reverend Lovett and Mr. Dudley. I want to apologize for the lateness of the hour, which was something we did not anticipate. We should have but we did not.
Reverend LOVETT. Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the United Church of Christ I want to thank you for your openness and willingness to extend the hour and your patience and wisdom. I shall be very brief, abridging the message from our denomination for your consideration.
My name is Sidney Lovett and as the elected conference minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, I am appearing today on behalf of Dr. Robert Moss, president for our denomination and the Rev. Howard Spragg, executive vice president of the board for homeland ministries of the United Church of Christ both of whom were unable to be here at this time.
I would like to have their statement entitled "Freedom of Choice Concerning Abortion" submitted into the record.
Senator Bayh. Without objection. [Statement of Robert V. Moss and Dr. Howard E. Spragg follows:]
STATEMENT OF DR. ROBERT V. Moss And Dr. Howard E. SPRAGG OF THE U'NITED
CHURCH OF CHRIST ON “FREEDOM OF CHOICE ('ONCERNING ABORTION” This statement is submitted by the Rev. Dr. Robert V. Moss, President of the United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Dr. Howard E. Spragg, Executive Vice President of the Board for Homeland Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
The United Church of Christ was formed in June 1957 by the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General ('ouncil of the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States. It has just under two million members in about 6,900 local churches, which are grouped in area associations and state conferences. The top deliberative body is the biennial General Synod, with about 800 delegates chosen by the churches through their conferences. The U.C.C. national office is at 297 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y. 10010. Its local office is at 110 Maryland Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.
The Board for Homeland Ministries is an independent agency, founded many years ago to render service in the fields of home missions, church extension, Christian education, evangelism and research, health and welfare services, higher education, race relations and church publications. When the l'nited Church was formed, BHM was recognized as a United Church instrumentality. Its top full time officer is its Executive Vice President.
I'NITED CHURCH PROCEDURES ESPECIALLY SIGNIFICANT
Great emphasis is placed in the United Church on the preferences of individnal members and of the local churches. Consequently the Standing Rules require that Pronouncements proposed for General Synod action, and Proposals for Action in application of a Pronouncement, must be submitted to the national Secretary at least four or two months, respectively, before the opening of the Synod. The Secretary is to send the proposed Pronouncement and/or Proposal for Action to the local churches, conferences and known delegates at least three or one month, respectively, before the Synod. Each local church and/or individual is asked to study the proposals and to send in any yotes, opinions, remarks or other reactions offering guidance. Copies are given to the proposal's sponsor to the Synod Committee.
At the Synod the Committee on Pronouncements holds an open hearing, receives presentations from delegates and instrumentality representatives, consults with interested parties to produce maximum agreement and prepares its own recomendation to the Synod delegate body. At the plenary session the floor is open for the usual parliamentary motions, debates and votes.
HISTORY OF ABORTION DISCUSSIONS IN UNITED CHURCHI
In the late 1960's, many of our local clergy in New York, California, Ohio, Minnesota and numerous other states were voluntarily involved in the original inception of the Clergy Consultation Service on Problem Pregnancies--a network referral service that served thousands of women across the country. In time, United Church Conferences in such states as New York, Ohio, Minnesota, California, Washington, Connecticut, Indiana and Kentucky supported through formal policy statements and direct voluntary action a position of freedom of choice for women facing problem pregnancies.
In mid 1970 the l'nited Church Board for Homeland Ministries adopted and issued a statement calling for the repeal of all laws forbidding or limiting abortions. In September 1970 the ('ouncil for Christian Social Action, an official agency established by and within the United Church of Christ, adopted a statement entitled: "Toward Freedom of Choice in the Area of Abortion." This statement found that many abortion laws "are neither just nor enforceable" and "compel many women either to bear unwanted children or to seek illegal abortions.” It noted a "wide variation in theological and scientific views as to when personal human life begins" and called for a wise law" which would repeal “legal restrictions on physican-performed abortions during the early months of pregnancy.” The ('ouncil called upon the l'Of churches and their members to involve themselves in the "repeal of overly restrictive legislation."
The Council for Christian Social Action also voted to submit its statement to the next General Synod scheduled for June 1971. At its next meeting, on Feb. 6. 1971, the Council noted the disagreement between itself and the Board for Homeland Ministries, the Council favoring no legal restrictions during the "early months" of the pregnancy and the Board supporting no legal restrictions at ans time. Hearing that attempts at reconciliation had failed, the Council voted again to submit its statement to the next Synod and to face there any amendments proposed for liberalization.
The Council also voted in February to submit a proposed Pronouncement entitled “Women in Church and Society." This included, inter alia, a call to "Support legislation to repeal restrictions on physician-performed abortions during the