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 express the complexity of a topic that does not lend itself to easy answers.
We 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 the needs of the woman may justify abortion.
Additional official statements of The United Methodist Church express our reluctance to affirm absolute perspectives either supporting or opposing abortion which do not account for the individual woman’s sacred worth and agency.
Several important points are contained in the Social Principles.
- The United Methodist Church does NOT affirm abortion as a means of birth control. By this, we mean that reproductive health practices including contraception and family planning, comprehensive sexuality education, and initiatives improving the quality of life for women and girls should be pursued in order to reduce unintended pregnancy and improve outcomes for desired pregnancies and parenting.
- We also “unconditionally reject” abortion “as a means of gender selection or eugenics.”
The Social Principles also recognizes, however, “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 by certified medical providers.”
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 faced with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, “We particularly encourage… the option of adoption.” When a woman selects adoption as the outcome of her pregnancy for which she feels best, 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, we are committed to ministering with those who have had an abortion, providing support and encouragement.
To learn more:
- Ministry to Those Who Have Experienced an Abortion
- Gender-Selective Abortion
- Healing of Post-Abortion Stress
- Maternal Health: The Church's Role (Book of Resolutions #3203)
It’s important to note that the Church's statements represent the church's effort to speak to human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation. They are intended to be instructive and persuasive.
Rev. Thomas E. Frank said the church “asks all United Methodists to consider these positions and accept them as the collective wisdom of the church, but it does not expect all United Methodists to agree with all such statements.” (Source: Polity, Practice, and the Mission of The United Methodist Church)
The Book of Resolutions explains, “You may find that your denomination's policies give you more "food for thought." Maybe you will agree with the denomination's position. On the other hand, you may disagree. Either is all right. At the least, you know your church cares and wants you to be a knowledgeable and caring Christian about the issues of the day.”
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.