It seems that abortion giant Planned Parenthood is developing a habit of publishing pastoral letters in an attempt to garner support among Christians for abortion. The latest letter is an attempt to prove that abortion is not incongruent with religion. Bearing the title “A Pastoral Letter: About Your Abortion Decision,” and carrying the names of the Protestant and Jewish Clergy that make up Planned Parenthood Foundation’s Religious Affairs Committee, the letter begins with a cordial “Dear Friend,”:
If you are reading this letter you are probably pregnant or close to someone who is. The people who have signed this letter below come from a variety of religious communities. Our purpose in writing this letter is to support you in whatever course you choose. The presence of the “religious right” has been very strong in its refusal to accept abortion as one of the choices before a woman. We represent religious traditions which all have different opinions about abortion, but we do have some basic understandings that we would like to share with you.
The opening is pleasant enough, in a dangerously vague sort of way. One has to wonder about the sincerity of the phrase “Our purpose in writing this letter is to support you in whatever course you choose.” Given the organization publishing this pamphlet and adorning the letterhead with its logo, one would almost prefer they come right out and say, “our purpose in writing this letter is to convince you that having an abortion is the best choice you can make.” The reader get’s their wish in the first sentence of the first “basic understanding” that the Religious Affairs Committee wishes to elaborate on.
We believe, as religious leaders in our faith communities, that abortion is a morally permissible choice for a woman facing a problem pregnancy. No one thinks abortion is an easy choice. If we lived in a perfect world there might be no problem pregnancies and therefore no difficult choices about abortion. We realize that there are many things that can make a pregnancy difficult. Abortion is chosen for medical, physical, emotional, economic and relational reasons. It is a choice made by women, often in consultation with partners, families and friends. We support you and your ability to choose what is best for you.
Dripping with self-help speak and vocabulary meant to assuage reason and emotion alike, the letter launches into kiddie-pool level heresy. “We know it’s hard,” “the world isn’t perfect,” “you have good reasons,” “you can choose what is best for you.” Ah, the power of choice and the sweet salve of justified actions.
We believe, as religious leaders in our faith communities, that ultimately no one can make the choice for or against abortion except the woman herself. No one knows your life as you do. We trust that any decision you make will be made after serious thought and contemplation of the alternatives. You will make the best decision you can. We do not believe that it is appropriate for other persons or other faiths to judge you or the correctness of your decision. God gave us all the ability to think and pray and feel and choose. We are called to make the best decisions we can in our personal circumstances. If you have thoughtfully decided to have an abortion then you should be at peace with your decision.
Yes, God gave man the ability to think, pray, feel, and choose. God also gave us Scripture, and the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers so that we wouldn’t have to live by the whims of our own choices. As St. Paul the Apostle tells the Ephesians:
Some he has appointed to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, or pastors, or teachers. They are to order the lives of the faithful, minister to their needs, build up the frame of Christ’s body, until we all realize our common unity through faith in the Son of God, and fuller knowledge of him. So we shall reach perfect manhood, that maturity which is proportioned to the completed growth of Christ; we are no longer to be children, no longer to be like storm-tossed sailors, driven before the wind of each new doctrine that human subtlety, human skill in fabricating lies, may propound. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
While clearly stating that there are many things humans are able and allowed to choose, Scripture is also replete with teaching about how wisdom and God’s thoughts must be striven towards with effort and sacrifice, as well as warnings about the deceitfulness of the human heart. Scripture and the Church have made it clear for millennia that in fact, God knows our lives not merely as well as we know ourselves, but infinitely better and completely.
We believe, as religious leaders in our faith communities, that the decision to have an abortion will not threaten your relationship with God. We believe that God is a participant in the struggles of human life. We believe that God is compassionate and does not expect any of us to lead perfect lives. We believe the biblical record shows us a God who loves human beings regardless of our strengths, skills and aptitudes, and loves us equally despite our failings, mistakes and choices. God is not angry with you and will not punish you for any choice you have or might make. In fact, we believe that God loves you and will be with you helping you find strength and understanding and comfort for living through days of doubt and distress.
At this point the letter leaves behind kiddie-pool level heresy and takes a plunge into the deep end (sans floaties and with a rather large millstone about the neck). Yes God is certainly gracious and loving, slow to anger and not delighting in judgement. However, God also has incredibly high standards, righteousness, that none can lay claim to apart from our redemption in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23-24). Murder is expressly forbidden throughout Scripture and the punishment is severe. This is not to say that God cannot forgive someone who has had an abortion. What it does mean is that God gives the strength, understanding, and comfort for living through days when the consequences of our actions, such as an unplanned pregnancy, threaten to undo our paradigm for approaching the world. If you have a God who will help you through the aftermath of an abortion, why not forgo the abortion and aftermath entirely?
We believe, as religious leaders in our faith communities, that your life needs to go on from here, and that you are deserving of support and assistance. We know that the decision to have an abortion is a difficult one. You may wonder from time to time if you made the right choice. You may be sorrowful, doubtful or depressed because of your choice. These are natural emotions. Experiencing this does not mean your decision was a bad one. It may mean that you are a sensitive person. Nevertheless these feelings may also mean that you could benefit from talking with someone about your decision. It is important for you to find peace. If you have bad moments, we encourage you to seek support from professionals. If you think that it would be helpful for you to talk to a minister, Planned Parenthood keeps a list of clergy who would be supportive of you and the decision you have made. They will see you for no charge and not pressure you to become part of their congregations. We want you to have a peaceful road ahead.
God Bless you!
I will grant that emotions should not be the sole determinant of whether one has made a good or bad decision. However emotions are usually worth evaluating, tracing and responding to. This would ideally involve some helpful critique as well as prayer, scripture reading, and the advice of the Church, clergy, maybe even parents or friends. “A list of clergy who would be supportive of you and the decision you have made,” is not exactly conducive to evaluating and responding to emotions. Also, “If you have bad moments,”? The cheapness and triteness of this letter would be laughable if millions of lives were not lost and millions more forever affected by the decisions this sort of counsel propagates.
This is not the first such letter published by Planned Parenthood’s religious extensions. Earlier this year, another letter, urged that no one should force their beliefs, religious, or otherwise, on anyone else. The letter noted proudly that “The truth is that abortion is not even mentioned in the Scriptures — Jewish or Christian — and there are clergy and people of faith from all denominations who support women making this complex decision.” This earlier letter was published by the Planned Parenthood Foundation’s Clergy Advocacy Board.
While this blog post in response to the Pastoral Letters has been somewhat casual and tongue-in-cheek at times, I am very much aware of the grave nature of this topic. Counsel like this needs to be countered with caring, grace, salt, and light from our pulpits, books, and conversations with the [admittedly difficult but ultimately good and fulfilling] truth of God.