The abortion debate has been a peculiar tug-of-war, often finding church groups on opposite sides. Roman Catholic and a growing number of evangelical organizations are fighting to change the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark ruling, Roe v. Wade, which gave women the constitutional right to an abortion (with states unable to protect fetal life until the third trimester of pregnancy). At the same time, many mainstream Protestant groups are pulling to maintain a woman’s freedom of choice regarding abortion.

Most denominations that had national assemblies this summer spoke to the abortion issue, and the so-called prolife and prochoice groups have religiously pursued their respective causes.

The United Presbyterian Church reaffirmed its position favoring a woman’s right to personal choice regarding abortion—rejecting an explicit prolife resolution. The Southern Baptists, on the other hand, took a strong stand against permissive abortion. Its convention delegates favored adoption of a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion except in instances to save the mother’s life.

Most of the prolife groups in the Protestant mainstream are ad hoc: Lutherans for Life, Methodists for Life, and Presbyterians Prolife, to name a few. Denominational prochoice support has come mostly from official boards and agencies: the United Methodist Women’s Division, and the United Presbyterian Council on Women and the Church, for example.

Prolife groups cheered the Supreme Court’s June 30 decision upholding the constitutionality of the so-called Hyde Amendment. Named for its original sponsor, Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), the four-year-old measure bans Medicaid financing of all abortions except those necessary ...

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