Introduction

Article excerpt

IT WOULD SEEM AN UNDERSTATEMENT to say that Christian teaching and tradition support the pro-life position. And yet, by and large, mainline Protestant churches have declared themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, to the frustration and dismay of some of their congregants. In this issue's lead article, "Saving Lives through the Churches," Mary Meehan explains how this came about; at the same time, she introduces the reader to the dedicated souls within these denominations who are working to restore, as a church priority, respect for human life. "Can you imagine what our country would be like today," exclaimed Karen Cross of West Virginians for Life, "if our churches did everything they could do?"

Meehan begins by examining Biblical teaching about abortion, because "those who wish to put a religious seal of approval on abortion like to say that the Bible does not forbid it, or even mention it." She then traces the historical reasons why some churches experienced great pressures to turn away from the defense of the unborn, chief among them, of course, the sexual revolution, but also the less well-known eugenics movement. "That movement," writes Meehan, "had such influence on universities and the entire culture that many clergy who had no formal links with eugenics were influenced by its attitudes, including its deep prejudice against people with disabilities and its commitment to population control." Review readers will recognize notorious figures like Dr. Joseph Fletcher, author of the 1966 book Situation Ethics, who is spoken of (often in our pages) as the father of utilitarianism in medical ethics. He was a former Episcopalian priest whose writing, Meehan observes, has had a great influence on those "who may not be aware of his early eugenics connection or later atheism." Lawrence Lader, the population controller and abortion advocate (and cofounder of NARAL), was instrumental in the start-up of what would become, in 1967 (when abortion was still illegal) the "Clergyman's Consultation Service on Abortion"-an abortion referral service founded by a Baptist minister, the Reverend Howard Moody.

In addition to painting the historic picture of the churches' involvement in the abortion-rights movement, Meehan has gathered together up-to-date accounts of the struggles currently underfoot in the Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ churches, where pro-life contingents are working steadily to change or at least modify the pro-choice gospel being preached. In Part II, which will appear in our next issue, Meehan will focus on denominations which are officially pro-life but whose local churches "vary greatly in the attention they give to life issues"-another understatement, perhaps?

We move from the pulpit to politics. In "The Road Ahead," Stephen Vincent considers what, now that Bush has been elected to a second term, the pro-life movement can-or ought to-expect from him. Vincent has surveyed a number of pro-life organizations and individuals, whose opinions are sharply divided, not only on President Bush and his effectiveness, but about pro-life strategy in general. The incremental approach, which works to pass laws limiting some abortions, is supported by those who see it as the only possible way to start saving lives and changing the culture; others reject it as "selling out"-they say legislation that allows any exceptions weakens the chances of eventually outlawing all abortions. The pro-life movement, however divided, faces a crucial moment, says Vincent, as "biotechnology speeds up to a frightening gallop, and political forces intent on skewing the issues converge for the 2008 election." We are also at an historic moment in the Supreme Court. As I write this, it has just been announced that Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. is the President's nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. The process has yet to unfold, but it seems the President has stayed true to his pledge to nominate a strict constitutionalist to the highest court in the land. …