ABORTION

Introduction to the Resolution
On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion a constitutional right for all women. The WELS noted this sad development. In the February 25, 1973, issue of the Northwestern Lutheran an article read, "To approve of abortion as an expression of the right of a woman to have control over her body is not biblical. Neither man nor woman are masters of their own bodies. Both are responsible to God Himself for how they use them. . . . It is fervently hoped that no Christian woman will permit herself to be misled. Just because abortion may be legal, does not make it right."

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which had adopted its first pro-life resolution back in 1971, adopted another such statement in 1977. In 1978 the Evangelical Lutheran Synod adopted a resolution calling abortion a "grievous sin except in the rare instance of it being used to save a mother's life." That resolution resolved to "encourage its congregational members to confess publicly that the unborn child is a living person whose right to live must be protected."

Such public and formal proclamations may appear to be a startling departure from traditional conservative Lutheranism. In the past the Wisconsin Synod hesitated to take any such action in fear it may be a first step into a diluted theology marked by social activism. While that concern is legitimate, significant external factors compelled WELS to be silent no longer.

First, the number of abortions had risen to a startling level. When abortion was legalized nationally in 1973, proponents suggested the abortion rate would not vary much from the expected 300,000 per year. Within a few years that number jumped to around 1.5 million annually and has remained at that level.

Secondly, the religious community appeared divided on the issue in the public forum. In 1974, one year after abortion was legalized, the U.S. Congress held public hearings on the prospect of a Human Life Amendment. Among those testifying were the following religious leaders: Bishop A. James Armstrong, president of the Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church; Mr. William Thompson, Executive Officer of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America; and Rev. Sidney Lovett, Jr., Conference Minister for the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ. Each spoke in favor of the right to abortion.