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Moderator’s Pastoral Letter addressing the issue of Abortion Law Reform before the SA Parliament

Adelaide, 10 April 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I have been informed that a new bill to decriminalise abortion in South Australia was introduced to the South Australian Parliament by Greens MP Tammy Franks at the end of last year, and Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman MP has referred the issue to independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI). The SALRI is based at the University of Adelaide and they have been tasked to examine changes to the State’s abortion laws, with the legislation to be decided later this year through a conscience vote.

In their media release, SALRI has stated that “the State’s existing abortion laws, which have not been updated for four decades, will be examined with a view to making abortion a regulated medical procedure under health law as opposed to a criminal law issue” in order to “improve access and modernise the practice in South Australia”.

Some members of the Uniting Church in South Australia have contacted me about the Uniting Church’s position on abortion. 

Abortion raises many sensitive and complex ethical, social, legal and medical issues and, as in the wider society, many of us in our church community have strong and differing views from our faith perspectives. The issue of abortion is both personal and public and there are contentious and mutually exclusive views that are often categorised as “pro-life” versus “pro-choice”. As conflicting positions harden, unchecked information can replace thoughtful dialogue, and the issue can lead to painful divisions in our community.

I call the Uniting Church in South Australia to engage in careful, fact-based and prayerful discussion, seeking the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit with integrity and humility, as discussion and responses are made to this Bill.  

The Uniting Church National Assembly does not hold a position on abortion, and there exists a diversity of opinion among our Church members.

We as Christians are called to respect the sacredness of life and respond to the issue of abortion with compassion and justice, based on our belief that “God is the giver of all life, and because all human beings are made in the image of God, every form of human existence should be treated with respect, and life should be preserved” (Minutes 84.124 and 84.126, in Reports and Business Papers of the Eighth Synod Vol.2, UCA Synod of South Australia, 1984, p.500).

And “respect for the sacredness of life means advocating for the needs of women as well as the unborn child” (UCA President Statement in 2005).

In 1984, our Eighth Synod declared the belief that "the abortion of a foetus should only be undertaken after a serious consideration of all possible options, and with an awareness of the responsibility we have as Christians to protect life." In line with this, other Synods “have recognised that the final decision must be left to the pregnant woman and that the Church should support both women who have an abortion and those who continue with their pregnancy.” (Submission to Australian Human Rights Commission by UCA National Assembly, 2009)  Nevertheless, it seems to me, abortion is always a matter for lament.

Regardless of any difference of opinion on the issue, we must provide vulnerable women and their unborn, with adequate and appropriate pastoral care and support in compassion and prayer with non-judgemental sensitivity.

For individuals, congregations and faith communities that wish to explore changes to the reform bill, a list of websites and fact sheets have been collected and documented below. These web links are to provide information rather than particular positions on the subject matter. Any positions expressed within the web links are not necessarily the position of the Uniting Church in Australia:

“Uniting Church Teaching on Abortion,” in Australian Religious Studies Review https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/ARSR/article/view/8447
World Health Organisation (search South Australia) at https://abortion-policies.srhr.org/country/australia/
Pregnancy Help Australia at https://www.pregnancysupport.com.au/resources/fact-sheets/
Genesis Pregnancy support in SA at https://www.genesispregnancysupport.org.au
South Australian Abortion Action Coalition at https://saabortionactioncoalition.com/fact-check-what-abortion-law-reform-will-and-wont-do/  and at  https://saabortionactioncoalition.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/saaac-collected-fact-sheets-01-2019.pdf

God of life, in your love, have mercy on us.

Grant us wisdom and courage to act compassionately and justly.

Grace and peace,

Rev Sue Ellis             
Uniting Church SA

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