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Presbyterian Washington Office Defies General Assembly's Abortion Policy

"The Supreme Court decision ought to be applauded by all Presbyterian entities, including the Washington Office, because it supports Presbyterian belief in the sanctity of life." --Director of Presbyterian Action Jim Berkley


Contact: Loralei Coyle, 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton, jwalton@ird-renew.org; both with The Institute on Religion and Democracy


WASHINGTON, April 24 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which bills itself as "the voice of Presbyterian public policy," spoke its own thoughts yesterday, contrary to the late-term abortion policy established by the denomination's General Assembly. In its April 23 "Witness in Washington Weekly," the Washington Office reported that "Advocates of a woman's right to make the determination to carry a pregnancy to term or to end it, if necessary, have indicated that the decision [by the Supreme Court on partial-birth abortion] is vague and may cause confusion as it is written...."


The Washington Office chose to list several reasons why people would consider the decision flawed. At the same time, the Washington Office notably failed to report that the Supreme Court affirmation of the ban on partial-birth abortions actually accords with Presbyterian policy.


In 2006 General Assembly approved a statement that reads in part:

We affirm that the lives of viable unborn babies—those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered—ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted. In cases where problems of life or health of the mother arise in a pregnancy, the church supports efforts to protect the life and health of both the mother and the baby. When late-term pregnancies must be terminated, we urge decisions intended to deliver the baby alive.


Jim Berkley, Director of IRD's Presbyterian Action Committee, commented:


"The Presbyterian Church maintains a rather mixed position on abortion--reluctantly allowing it on the one hand, but discouraging it and seeking to limit it on the other. But in terms of terminating late-term pregnancies, the most recent General Assembly resolution is clear: Choices need to be made that allow both babies and mothers to live.


"By no stretch of the imagination would partial-birth abortion fit within Presbyterian policy. It gruesomely destroys an all-but-delivered baby. The Supreme Court decision ought to be applauded by all Presbyterian entities, including the Washington Office, because it supports Presbyterian convictions about the sanctity of life.


"This is simply another instance of the Washington Office advocating its leaders' politics, rather than the policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Washington Office cannot be allowed to continue to resist the authority that constituted it and for which it is supposed to speak."


The Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded in 1981, is an ecumenical alliance of U.S. Christians working to reform their churches' social witness, in accord with biblical and historic Christian teachings, thereby contributing to the renewal of democratic society at home and abroad.