Taking a stand: Abortion
Taking a stand: Abortion
19 January 2021
Abortion – Salvation Army Statement of Position
The Salvation Army believes all people are created in the image of God and therefore have unique and intrinsic value. Human life is sacred and all people should be treated with dignity and respect. The Salvation Army accepts the moment of fertilisation as the start of human life. We believe that society has a responsibility to care for others, and especially to protect and promote the welfare of vulnerable people, including unborn children.
The Salvation Army believes that life is a gift from God and we are answerable to God for the taking of life. As such, The Salvation Army is concerned about the growing ready acceptance of abortion, which reflects insufficient concern for vulnerable persons including the unborn. We do not believe that genetic abnormalities that are identified in an unborn child who is likely to live longer than a brief period after birth are sufficient to warrant a termination of pregnancy.
The Salvation Army recognises tragic and perplexing circumstances that require difficult decisions regarding a pregnancy. Decisions should be made only after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, acknowledging the tremendous pressures that occur during an unexpected pregnancy.
There is a responsibility on all involved to give the parents of the unborn child, particularly the woman, appropriate pastoral, medical and other counsel. The Salvation Army believes that termination can occur only when:
• Carrying the pregnancy further seriously threatens the life of the mother; or
• Reliable diagnostic procedures have identified a foetal abnormality considered incompatible with survival for more than a very brief postnatal period.
In addition, rape and incest are brutal acts of dominance violating women physically and emotionally. This situation represents a special case for the consideration of termination as the violation may be compounded by the continuation of the pregnancy.
The Salvation Army affirms and supports professional people engaged in the care of pregnant women who feel on religious, moral or ethical grounds that they cannot be involved in any way with the procuring or undertaking of an abortion.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 25 per cent of pregnancies end in abortion with 56 million induced abortions each year – that’s 153,425 every day! These facts should be deeply worrying for people who believe unborn children are precious and made in the image of God.
Since the International Moral and Social Issues Council (IMASIC) was reformed in 2008, the General of The Salvation Army has approved 16 International Positional Statements (IPS) of The Salvation Army. The IPS that generated the most controversy was the one on abortion, approved in 2010. Some criticism came from Salvationists who believed the statement was too conservative, but most criticisms came from people who viewed it as being too accepting of abortion.
The Salvation Army’s statement of position is strongly against abortion. It does not accept the ‘woman’s right to choose’ argument. The Salvation Army believes human life begins at fertilisation, and thereafter, human life should be treated with dignity and respect. Criticism of the IPS has been voiced about the extremely limited circumstances where an abortion may be the lesser evil. These limited circumstances have been included in Salvation Army positional statements since the 1980s.
The first limited circumstance is when ‘carrying the pregnancy further seriously threatens the life of the mother’. This exception is for extremely serious and limited situations where doctors are choosing between saving the life of the mother or saving the life of the foetus. In these rare and tragic circumstances, The Salvation Army’s position is that the mother’s life may be given precedence. These circumstances are increasingly rare in well-equipped Western hospitals but may still regrettably occur in places where medical personnel do not have the resources available to save both lives.
The second limited regrettable and tragic circumstance when an abortion may be permitted is when ‘reliable diagnostic procedures have identified a foetal abnormality considered incompatible with survival for more than a very brief postnatal period’ – more than a few days maximum.
The IPS does not take a position on whether abortion is permitted in the case of rape, but it notes the deep, devastating impacts rape can have on women – especially when rape is used as a ‘weapon of war’ intended to humiliate both women and the whole community apparently too weak to defend themselves. Many women have been gang-raped. As a result, they not only carry unwarranted guilt but are shunned by their families. The magnitude of this harm is hard to overestimate. In such circumstances, everyone should give unlimited love and understanding. A child conceived through violence, and without consent, is still a child. However, the manner of its creation was sinful. The child is not to blame, and neither is the mother. Much grace is needed to accept a child conceived under such circumstances.
Download the complete International Positional Statement on Abortion by clicking here
KEY FACTS ON INDUCED ABORTION WORLDWIDE
• On average, 56 million abortions occurred worldwide each year in the period 2010-2014. This is an increase from 50 million annually in 1990-1994, resulting primarily from population growth.
• Each year, globally, there were 35 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 in 2010-2014, down slightly from 40 per 1000 in 1990-1994.
• The abortion rate has declined markedly –by 41 per cent – in developed countries since 1990 but has remained roughly the same in developing countries.
• The annual abortion rate is now higher in developing regions (37 per 1000 women) than in developed regions (27 per 1000 women).
• Globally, 25 per cent of all pregnancies ended in abortion in 2010-2014.
• In 2010-2014, 73 per cent of all abortions worldwide, or 41 million annually, were obtained by married women.
• The abortion rate is not significantly different in countries where abortion is highly restricted than in those where abortion is broadly legal.
• Although abortion is extremely safe when done in accordance with recommended guidelines, many women undergo unsafe procedures.
• Nearly 7 million women in developing countries are treated for complications from unsafe abortions annually, and at least 22,000 die from abortion-related complications every year.
To view all the International Positional Statements, click here
This series of articles was first published in The Officer magazine and has been approved by The Salvation Army world leader, General Brian Peddle, for publishing in territorial communications around the world.