Statement on Overturning Roe v. Wade
He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. —Mark 10:16
God loves his children, and this includes the young children among us. In fact, in many places in the Bible, God calls on his followers to care for, protect, and nurture children because they are precious to him.
On June 24, the the United States Supreme Court overturned its 1973 decision (known as Roe versus Wade) that allowed induced abortion in all 50 states. The overturning of this decision is of such importance in our mandate to care for children, and for the sanctity of human life, that we wanted to share some reflections with the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the broader community. While there is no such law against abortion in Canada, the following reflections are relevant in both countries.
First, a bit of background. In 1972, the CRCNA called believers “to a ringing testimony against the evils of abortion as practiced in our society, and encourage[d] them to promote action and legislation that reflects the teaching of Scripture.” As part of this synodical decision, the denomination expressed deep pastoral concern not only for children but also for women who have had an abortion and for women who have an unwanted pregnancy. These women are also God’s children and require our care and concern.
For women (and their male partners) who have had abortions, the CRCNA urged us all to “be careful to deal with such a person with loving concern rather than judgmental pronouncements” (Acts of Synod 1972, p. 64). For those with unwanted pregnancies, we urged “churches to give more attention to sensitive ministry to those who carry children to term, to the care of unwed mothers and their children, and the social ills associated with this issue. We further encourage governmental agencies to support programs which will address these needs” (Acts of Synod 1998, p. 401).
In many ways, the June 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a positive development for people in the church. We are thankful for increased protection of the lives of unborn babies, and we pray that it will ultimately reduce the number of abortions in the United States. Yet we also recognize the limits of this decision.
The Supreme Court decision did not outlaw abortion. Instead, by overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has merely remanded decisions about abortion law to the states. Right now, about half of the states in the U.S. will prohibit or severely limit abortions, and 17 states will continue to allow them.
We also recall reminders from past synods that abortion is not only about unborn children but also about their parents. The overturning of Roe v. Wade will not necessarily result in a cultural shift that supports men and women facing unplanned pregnancies. It will not walk alongside them during what can be an excruciating journey of panic, isolation, and shame.
Nor will this decision eliminate abortions in all cases. In fact, it is likely to have unintended consequences. For example, those with enough money will still be able to take time away from work for prenatal care and, in some cases, may travel to a state that permits abortions if that is what they choose. Those who cannot afford to take time off or who lack financial resources will not have those options.
This heightens the likelyhood of at-risk pregancies, illegal abortions, and attempts to abort the pregnancy alone. All of these things put both mother and child at risk. In many cases, ethnic minorities and socially marginalized families will bear the brunt of these outcomes.
God calls us to love his children. To reduce abortions and reduce the injustice and racism inherent in our health-care systems today, we need to love. This requires us to listen to what the CRCNA said back in 1972. As Christians, we need to “encourage governmental agencies to support programs which will address these needs,” such as proven public policy measures that reduce abortions. This includes affordable child care and affordable health care.
It is also requires us to remember that people who have had or are considering abortions include many within our churches. They need our love. As the Do Justice blog noted recently, “Four out of 10 women who have abortions are regular church goers, but only 7 percent of them talk to anyone at their church before making their decision (ProGrace). When the church is not a place where women feel they can seek support, we participate in making life less safe for unborn children and their mothers.”
Reducing or outlawing abortion must be accompanied by public policies and personal/corporate actions that address injustice, poverty, and racism and that honor the sanctity of all human life and demonstrate love to people facing the painful struggle of an unwanted pregnancy. To learn more about how you and your congregation can support the sanctity of human life for all people, see the extensive resources provided by our Social Justice ministry.
Rev. Zachary King, Ph.D.
General Secretary, CRCNA