On Thursday, July 1, 2004, the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted against restrictions on all abortions, including those performed in the second or third trimester of preganancy termed “partial birth” abortions.
The legislative committee brought a recommendation to modify the denomination’s current statement on abortion by affirming the “protection of viable babies in the womb.”
The proposed statement read: “In cases where problems develop late in the pregnancy, we urge our members to support the live delivery of the baby. In the interest of protecting the life and health of both the mother and the baby, late-term abortion should be considered only if the physical life or mental health of the mother is at serious risk and no alternative means of delivering the baby alive is available. Furthermore, we urge our members to provide pastoral and tangible support to women in problem pregnancies, seeking ways that the church can intervene to mitigate the problems in a pregnancy or late-term abortion. We affirm adoption as a provision for women who deliver children they are not able to care for and ask our members to assist in seeking loving, adoptive families."
The Assembly, however, voted 285-185 to override the recommendation, marking the third consecutive year in which the PC(USA) would follow a pro-abortive policy.
In arguing for the PC(USA)’s existing policy, the Rev. Margaret Anne Fohl of the Presbytery of Philadelphia contended, “the denomination's current policy fulfills the church's role to give moral guidance. It does not prescribe any sort of discipline. It offers compassion."
Meanwhile, the General Assembly Committee on Health Issues disapproved an overture that would call on the Food and Drug Administration to make emergency contraception available over the counter.
Emergency contraception – known as “the morning after pill” is a high-dosage hormone pill used to prevent the uteral implantation of a fetilized egg within 72 hours of conception. The pill is normally used in cases of unprotected sex or instances of rape.
The commissioners disapproved the overture by a vote of 41-21-1.