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What is the UM position on abortion?

In the Social Principles, The United Methodist Church affirms the sanctity of the life of both the unborn child and the mother. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News.
In the Social Principles, The United Methodist Church affirms the sanctity of the life of both the unborn child and the mother. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News.

The United Methodist Church affirms the sanctity of life in these two statements in the Social Principles:

Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion.

But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child

These statements, and others, place the United Methodist position on abortion firmly on the spectrum of life-based ethics rather than choice-based ethics. 

Life-based ethics place life at the center of guidance regarding situations where there may be conflicts. Life-based ethics call for as much life as possible to be honored and preserved in such situations. Choice-based ethics place the sovereignty of a person's right to choose at the center of such arguments.  

United Methodists affirm the sanctity of unborn human life. We similarly understand that the pregnant woman is also a life of sacred worth, and that there are circumstances in which there may be "tragic conflicts of life versus life." This may happen to any pregnant woman, anywhere, at any time during her pregnancy. 

Critical to preserving life is ready access to proper medical care. This includes access to medical care that may include abortion when that is the way to preserve the most life possible. That is why the Social Principles affirm that "in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.” 

Additional official statements of The United Methodist Church express the denomination's life-centered ethics. 

  • The United Methodist Church does NOT affirm abortion as a means of birth control.
  • We also “unconditionally reject” abortion “as a means of gender selection or eugenics.
  • And we reject late-term abortions except where the mother's life is in danger, or in cases of severe fetal abnormalities incompatible with life

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All Christians faced with such decisions are called to enter them with prayer, searching the Scriptures, and all other means of seeking God’s will, guidance, and wisdom. We also strongly encourage such persons to seek the counsel of parents, other family members, clergy, and professionals in both medicine and counseling.

When addressing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, “We particularly encourage… the option of adoption.” When a woman selects adoption as the outcome of her pregnancy, the Social Principles encourage churches to assist her with appropriate resources and support.

While we understand the need for women to have access to safe, legal abortions, we also “mourn and are committed to promoting the diminishment of high abortion rates.” We encourage ministries that reduce unintended pregnancies, such as sex education, access to voluntary family planning, contraception, and “initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.”

Finally, United Methodists are committed to ministering with those who have had an abortion, providing support and encouragement. Whatever situation led to a decision to abort, there is always much loss, and much need for healing. 

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

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