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While the biggest news to come out of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s 221st General Assembly in Detroit last week was the decision to allow clergy to officiate same-sex weddings in states where gay marriage is legal, pro-life groups are calling out the denomination for its weak stance on protecting babies who survive botched abortions.
By a wide margin last Thursday, the PCUSA's General Assembly voted 465 to 133 against a measure asking its members to reflect, for two years, on the plight of unwanted children, both the born and preborn.
The measure, brought before the members by the Presbytery of South Alabama, was spurred by the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, as well as abortion clinic employees going public about unsafe and allegedly illegal practices that led to the temporary closure of a Delaware Planned Parenthood facility, among others.
"Evidently, denouncing infanticide and praying for children born after an abortion fails doesn't fly in today's Presbyterian church," asserted pro-life group Live Action. "All the measure was asking for was prayerful reflection, and to denounce the practice of killing babies born alive after abortion."
While the PCUSA's Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy stated that the church's concern for the unborn is clearly stated in its current policy on problem pregnancies and abortion, titled, "Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly" (204th General Assembly, 1992), it also stated that members of the denomination "do not have substantial agreement on when human life begins."
The Presbytery of South Alabama stated in its measure that the "blood of little children cries out to God and to Christ's Church for protection and justice." And further noted that Gosnell's trial has forced Americans to look into Planned Parenthood and the abortion business for "tolerating medical abuse of both mothers and infants."
The measure that was brought before the General Assembly for consideration but ultimately failed, reads as follows:
1. Call for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and member congregations to enter a two-year season of reflection upon the plight of children unwanted by human society, both born and not-yet born; and to purposefully seek to enter the pure worship of God by offering aid, comfort and the Gospel to those responsible for the care of our most desperate orphans (including those who survive abortion procedures): parents, siblings, church and community leaders and the medical profession.
2. Direct the moderator of the General Assembly and the stated clerk to issue statements that denounce the practice of killing babies born live following an abortion procedure, such as was revealed in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia.
3. Direct the moderator to appoint a special committee on abortion review, carefully balanced with members representing both pro-life and pro-choice viewpoints to:
a. Conduct a thorough assessment of the financial, in-kind, lodgment, publicity and staff support that the PC (USA) provides to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and other abortion providers or pro-choice organizations. A similar review should be made of denominational support provided for pro-life organizations and pro-life crisis-pregnancy support centers.
b. Review existing policies and, if needed, propose new policies that will more accurately represent the PC(USA) in its breadth of conviction about abortion, taking into account our churches' desire to worship God in purest form (James 1:27). Any new policies shall incorporate more fully the voices of pro-life Presbyterians, who have to this point largely been kept silent in denominational advocacy.