The hottest agenda item at a number of this year’s denominational conventions may be abortion. Even in communions where the issue was thought to be “resolved,” a fresh round of debate can be expected as many responsible churchmen begin to rethink their positions. Sentiment for easy abortions, so evident as late as a year ago, is being increasingly countered at the level of public discussion, as well as at the legislative and judicial levels.

In a number of states, anti-abortion forces have been able to defeat liberalizing bills or to counter court decisions that struck down existing statutes. Last month the Maryland House of Delegates rejected by a surprisingly wide margin (77–59) a bill that would have permitted a physician to perform an abortion on request up to the twentieth week of pregnancy. The bill was similar to one approved by the Maryland legislature last year but vetoed by Governor Marvin Mandel.

President Nixon aligned himself with the anti-abortion movement this month in a statement confirming that he had overturned a Defense Department regulation issued last summer liberalizing abortion rules in military hospitals. “I have directed that the policy on abortions at American military bases in the United States be made to correspond with the laws of the states where those bases are located,” he said. The statement was issued following disclosure in the Washington Post of the policy change.

Nixon said he had acted partly because laws regulating abortion in the United States have been the province of the states, not the federal government. He went on to add, however, that “while this matter is being debated in state capitals and weighed by various courts, the country has a right to know my personal views.” He expressed ...

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