Mississauga, May 13, 1988 -- The Anglican Church will today [EDITOR: Friday] attempt to define a third choice in the debate on therapeutic abortion.
A task force report to be delivered to the church's national executive council meeting here this afternoon, says: "Too often the abortion debate is couched in terms of a woman's right over her own body as against a foetus's right to life." It suggests the issue may be addressed from a new perspective in which neither the mother nor the foetus is required to serve as "victim."
"Christians hold a spectrum of personal views about the morality of abortion, from utter rejection of it to conviction that it is a personal ethical matter for a woman."
Either approach, the report suggests, is one-sided: either it ignores the cry of the unborn while trying to raise the status of women; or it remains indifferent to the plight of women while trying to protect the unborn.
The task force was convened in March to consider the Anglican Church's stance on abortion in light of the Supreme Court's decision in the Morgentaler case. That decision declared the provisions of the Criminal Code dealing with abortions to be unconstitutional. The church had previously expressed its support for the law.
The 15-page report recommends that the church continue to oppose unregulated access to abortion. The church, it says, sees abortion as "always a tragedy fraught with moral ambiguity...To resort to abortion lightly or casually is to degrade our humanity, to deny the responsibility and responsiveness of human nature."
SEEKING "TRUE" CHOICE
The report spends its greatest energy addressing the circumstances in which women "choose" abortion. In many cases, it says, the choice is hollow: When women choose to abort, it is frequently in coercive, lonely and grief-stricken circumstances where they feel completely unable to bear their child. Often the biggest problem facing the woman is her lack of a real social and economic support system. Many women who choose not to bear their children, then, make their decision out of alienation and hopelessness.
"For us as Christians, such despair cannot be left as the motive force...True choice must involve alternatives to despair."
The report says new legislation to regulate abortion should "establish procedures to make abortion available equitably across the country as a therapeutic measure for women whose pregnancies endanger their life or their physical or mental health." It says counselling should be required.
The report rejects the concept of legislating easy access to early abortion and more restricted access later in the term (after 12 weeks for example): "Abortion is always the taking of a human life and, in our view, should never be done except for serious therapeutic reasons. Any such line is arbitrary and seems to argue that the value of the foetus and the seriousness of abortion in the early stages will be discounted."
ABORTION OR POVERTY TOO OFTEN ONLY CHOICE
Noting that many women have a choice of aborting a foetus or bearing a child to live in poverty, the report urges an extensive program of social action to reduce conditions which make the choice of abortion more likely. It stresses the need for:
* more affordable housing;
* pay equity for women;
* a guaranteed annual income, and other financial measures "to secure the dignity -- indeed the survival -- of mothers and children;"