Abortion and Contraception

Christians believe that human beings are created in God's image. All human life should therefore be reverenced.

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Ian Leck, Professor Emeritus and former Professor of Epidemiology at Manchester University, gave a presentation to a meeting of the Methodist Parliamentary Fellowship on the subject of the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967.

Download a copy of the presentation 'Abortion - 40 years on'.

A briefing from the Methodist-Baptist-URC Joint Public Issues Team on abortion and information about the current political debate.  Read the Abortion Briefing here.

What is the position of the Methodist Church on abortion?

The Methodist Conference Statement of 1976 states that abortion is always an evil, to be avoided if at all possible by offering care to single mothers during pregnancy, and the adoption of their children if, at full term, the mother cannot offer a home. However, the Statement also holds that there will be circumstances where the termination of pregnancy may be the lesser of evils. These include situations where the embryo is grievously handicapped, the pregnancy is the result of rape or the health, mental or physical, of the mother is at risk.

At what stage does an unborn fetus become a person?

The result of the coming together of human sperm and ovum is obviously human. The appearance of the 'primitive streak' (the beginning of the neurological system) after some fourteen days is an important stage. However for many weeks after this event, natural abortion will continue to bring about the termination of over 50% of embryos.

Fertilisation, implantation and subsequent development are parts of a continuous process. It is simply not possible to identify the single moment when a new human person begins. The right of the embryo to full respect clearly increases throughout a pregnancy.

Should there be a time-limit for abortion?

It would be strongly preferable that, through advances in medical science and social welfare, all abortions should become unnecessary. But termination as early as possible in the course of the pregnancy may be the lesser of evils. If abortion were made a criminal offence again, there would be increased risks of ill-health and death as a result of botched 'back-street' abortions. Late abortions should be very rare exceptions. To refuse to countenance abortion in any circumstances is to condemn some women and their babies to gross suffering and a cruel death in the name of an absolutism which nature itself does not observe.

Counselling and pastoral care should be available to the mother and, where the father is known, to the father. The mother should be told clearly of the alternatives to termination.

What about contraception?

The Methodist Church believes that responsible contraception is a welcome means towards fulfilment in marriage, the spacing of children, and the need to avoid pregnancy altogether, for example for medical reasons.

 

Resources

A Report on the Status of the Unborn Human, received by the Methodist Conference of 1990;

A Statement on Abortion adopted by the Methodist Conference of 1976;

'Pastoral Issues on which Guidance is Sought', 1992, all from the Methodist Conference. Text reproduced with permission from "What the Churches say on moral and social issues" (Christian Education Movement).

For further information The first point of contact is your local church where the minister can discuss your questions with you. 

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