Summary of General Synod Statements on Abortion
Abortion: Seeking Common Ground
In 1996, the Office of Social Witness released this study guide to assist congregations in a biblically-oriented discussion. It remains relevant today and is available as a PDF document:
In 1973, the General Synod adopted a statement which read:
We believe the Bible teaches the sanctity of human life. [We] are given the precious gift of life from God and are created in the image of God. Therefore, we believe, in principle, that abortion ought not to be practiced at all. However, in this complex society, where many times one form of evil is pitted against another form of evil, there could be exceptions. It is our Christian conviction that abortion performed for personal reasons to insure individual convenience ought not to be permitted.
We call on all who counsel those with problem pregnancies, especially youth workers, campus pastors and staff members of our church colleges, to uphold the Christian alternatives to abortion.
We call on our churches to expand their efforts to support agencies providing a ministry of mercy to those seeking alternatives to abortion.
We call on our members to support efforts for constitutional changes to provide legal protection for the unborn. (MSG 1973: 106)
In 1984, the General Synod voted to deny an overture to urge federal and state governments, in complying with the Roe v. Wade decision, to allow the use of public funds for abortions. In denying the motion, the synod stated that
In light of prior General Synod decisions, the committee believes it is inappropriate for the Reformed Church in America to advocate any kind of governmental support for abortion. (MGS 1984: 257-258)
In a report from the Commission on Theology, the 1984 General Synod further noted that
although a society may accept abortion legally, abortion is not thereby morally responsible…Only in theory and in science-fiction can one imagine human life so totally individualistic that child-bearing can be a matter of parental convenience. (MGS 1984: 247)
In 1990, a report by the Commission on Christian Action stated that:
One way for the church to respond to the tragedy of abortion is to address those forces to which women are especially vulnerable: poverty, a lack of support services, the demands of the work place upon the family. Women should not be forced to choose between living in poverty or giving birth, between caring for their newborn or losing their job. They should not feel pressure to abort an unborn child because they have nowhere to turn for support. (MGS 1990: 101)
Abortion was also discussed briefly in the 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, and 2005 General Synods; the synod voted to uphold its 1973 and 1984 positions.