In the light of the Government's announcement of a new Abortion Bill, the Anglican Church reaffirms its position that both the rights and needs of women, and the rights and needs of the unborn, require protection.
The Church welcomes a non-gestational approach. This accords with the Church's opposition to any arbitrary division which would make early abortion available on demand. The Church's fundamental position is that "abortion is always the taking of human life and, in our view, should never be done except for serious therapeutic reasons". However, the Church's Abortion report affirms that:
-an upper limit should be established at which "there is no reasonable prospect of viability"
- there should be a waiting period during which time counselling to women should be made available
- other alternatives to abortion explored including "social and financial supports to meet the needs of the woman, in housing accommodation, child care, employment, retraining, welfare benefits, and income support, as well as consideration of adoption of the baby expected."
The Church further affirms that there should be a conscience clause, so that "the conscientious right of health care personnel to refrain from participating in abortion procedures be guaranteed."
The Church also is "opposed in principle" to "anticipated genetic defect in the foetus as automatic grounds for abortion", because as Christians we are "called to be the voice of the voiceless and powerless (and) must speak out when those different from or less able than the norm are to be denied the full rights accorded their fellow humans".
The Church's Abortion Report also recommends legislation to "ban commercial transactions in human genetic material"; or any possibility of deliberate abortion for purposes of "foetal cell farming" for human transplants, and welcomes the recent announcement of a Royal Commission on reproductive techniques "as a vehicle to examine these concerns and develop legislative measures".
The Anglican Church sees abortion as a public justice issue, challenging Canadians to build a society that affirms human life, which values children and welcomes a new generation, and which provides legal and social protection for women caught in the trauma of problem pregnancies. Such extensive social legislation, to reduce conditions which make the choice of abortion more likely, would include:
- programs and education to combat violence against women
- more affordable housing
- pay equity for women
- a guaranteed annual income, and other financial measures
- universally accessible, publicly funded day care
- an intensified national program to collect child support payments from delinquent fathers
- better educational programs about sexuality and contraception in schools
The Church does not see abortion as simply a "woman's issue" but rather a community issue, which takes place on the battleground of women's bodies. Concerned that women are frequently forced to choose between marginalization and poverty or abortion, the Church believes that in many circumstances women are not "free" to choose to bear their children and so, because society fails to provide supportive structures, "abortion has become a means of `restructuring the woman' by emptying the womb". Many Canadian women who choose not to bear their child make their decision out of alienation and hopelessness. "True choice must involve alternatives to despair" the Report concludes.
Abortion In a New Perspective: Report of the Task Force on Abortion, is available from: The Anglican Book Centre, 600 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2J6
For further information contact: The Reverend Michael Ingham, Principal Secretary to the Primate, 600 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario, (416) 924-9192; Mrs. Diane Marshall (Family therapist, Report co-author) (416) 487-3613; Mrs. Phyllis Creighton (Research historian, Report co-author) (416) 978-2245
The right to life involves not only the right to existence but also the right to human dignity and the opportunity for healthy development; and recognizing the increasing need for assistance to people of all ages in their mutual relationships especially with the basic unit of our society -- the Family:
- (a) Requests the Government of Canada to modify the legislation relating to abortion so that consideration of health of the pregnant woman may include concern for emotional and sociological factors which bear directly upon her ability to cope with the pregnancy.
- (b) Urges government at all levels, as appropriate to strengthen legislation in support of a Family Counselling, Family Planning and Family Life Education within the school system and the community at large.
- (c) Urges all dioceses to support and assist in the development of Family Life Education programs both within the Church and in the community.
Moved by: Dr. D.H. Gould
Seconded by: Dr. J.E. Merriman
That this Resolution (on abortion), be tabled, and that the National Executive Council set up a task force of theologians, physicians, social scientists and lawyers to study the question of a definition of 'human life' in its applications to the question of medical morals and ethics on subjects such as abortion, transplantations and medical experimentation for report to the next General Synod. CARRIED
The Assessors ruled that this motion was really two motions, and at this point in the debate it was agreed that the question should be re-opened.
Moved by: Miss Betty C. Graham
Seconded by: Reverend E. Bull
That the question be re-opened. CARRIED
That this Resolution on abortion be tabled. CARRIED
That the National Executive Council set up a task force of theologians, physicians, social scientists and lawyers to study the question of a definition of `human life' in its applications to the question of medical morals and ethics on subjects such as abortion, transplantations and medical experimentation for report to the next General Synod. CARRIED
A revised motion was then introduced.
Moved by: Reverend P.R. Ellis
Seconded by: Reverend H. McSherry
Building on the work started by the meetings of General Synod in Ottawa, this 25th Session endorses the statement of the Primate's Special Study Committee on Abortion as our authoritative position, and commends the Canadian government for the changes made in the criminal code.
The revised motion was DEFEATED.
[Recorded as No. 126 in Acts of Synod, p. 72. List of Acts includes actions which are NOT resolutions/acts.]