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Decision No. 821

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April 24 1998
In Re: Review of Decision of Law of Bishop S. Clifton Ives in the West Virginia Annual Conference on a Resolution on Partial-Birth Abortion.

Digest of Case

The decision of Bishop S. Clifton Ives that the West Virginia Annual Conference’s resolution entitled "Partial-Birth Abortions" is in conformity with ¶ 65(J) in the 1996 Discipline is reversed.

Statement of Facts

During its 1997 annual meeting the West Virginia Annual Conference passed a resolution entitled "Partial-Birth Abortion". That resolution "condemns" the use of a procedure known as partial-birth abortion and calls for forwarding a copy of the resolution to the President and Congress of the United States. Within the proper time frame, a lay member of the Annual Conference requested a bishop's ruling of law on the validity of the resolution. Bishop Ives ruled that the resolution was proper and did not in any way contravene the doctrine and Discipline of The United Methodist Church. Jurisdiction The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2613 of the 1996 Discipline. Analysis and Rationale Paragraph 65(J) in the 1996 Discipline addresses this issue. That paragraph, after stating The United Methodist Church’s position on the sanctity of unborn human life, goes on to say that ...we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. ...we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. That paragraph says further that "...a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel." The West Virginia Conference resolution conforms to ¶ 65(J) in the 1996 Discipline in its position on the sanctity of unborn human life. The resolution completely fails, however, to take account of the language of ¶ 65(J) regarding the life and well-being of the mother. Moreover, by "condemning" a particular medical procedure, the resolution effectively prevents counseling upon its use, even if in the sound judgment of the physician, the procedure would be advisable in a particular case. The bishop ruled that "condemning" a procedure does not preclude it. We believe that it does. To "condemn" is to declare wrong or to adjudge unfit for use. Thus, it would seem that "condemning" a procedure effectively precludes it.

Decision

The decision of Bishop S. Clifton Ives that the West Virginia Annual Conference’s resolution entitled "Partial-Birth Abortions" is in conformity with ¶ 65(J) in the 1996 Discipline is reversed. This copy subject to final editing and correction.

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