A friend told me about several couples whose babies had a serious genetic condition that results in severe deformity and death. One baby died in the sixth hour of labor. Another died three days after birth. The third couple decided not to carry their baby to term and had an abortion.
Our denomination asserts that the latter couple violated the sixth commandment and is guilty of murder. It asserts the same about those who have an abortion because of rape, incest, or other "hard cases."
In his January 2011 editorial, Banner editor Bob De Moor calls us to encourage the "countless CRC folks who quietly and steadfastly continue the battle against abortion" in a variety of ways. That's excellent advice. He also calls us to bring our official position to the attention of governments in both the United States and Canada. Some of us cannot do that, however, because we believe the official position is pastorally insensitive and lacking in Christian grace toward those who wrestle with the "hard cases."
The Christian Reformed Church's official position is this: "An induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the prospective mother is genuinely threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy." Synod 1993 did say that our members could be guided by material in the Reformed community that indicates that abortion in the hard cases is permissible (Acts of Synod 1993, p. 515). Regarding in vitro fertilization, Synod 2003 was asked to declare that "it is morally wrong to intentionally cause the death of a human embryo . . . except when it must be done to save the life of the mother (our official position)." It defeated that request (Acts of Synod 2003, p. 644).
On paper, Synod 1972's decision on abortion is still our official position. In reality, it is not. Many church members, including delegates to synod, are no longer willing to say that an induced abortion is an allowable option only when the life of the prospective mother is threatened. Rather, an induced abortion is also morally defensible in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic disorders, and other "hard cases"—something asserted by the 1972 study committee but not adopted by Synod 1972.
It's past time for us to demonstrate pastoral sensitivity to fellow members who wrestle with the hard cases. It's time for us to adopt the original recommendations of the 1972 study committee. Then all of us would have no difficulty bringing our official position to the attention of our governments.
About the Author
George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.