GA NEWS: Health Issues Committee considers abortion policies

SAN JOSE — The General Assembly Committee on Health Issues, on their first full day of meeting (June 23), considered an overture to recommend the development of a comprehensive HIV and AIDS policy for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that reflects the ways the disease disproportionately affects Latino and African-American segments of the United States population, and the magnitude of global pandemic.

However, the committee has yet to act on the final version of the proposal.

The bulk of the committee’s time was spent considering an overture from Pittsburgh Presbytery calling for fairness and equality in funding and publications to reflect both sides of the abortion issue.

During the open hearings, those in favor of the overture repeatedly called for “fairness and balance,” asserting that the policy on problem pregnancies adopted by the General Assembly in 1992 affirmed a wide diversity of opinions, including the pro-life position. Speaking in favor of the overture Karen Greene said, “In 1992, the General Assembly adopted a policy of recognizing a wide range of views, but our pro-life position is not included in writings. If our church does not reflect this policy, is it a policy or a neglected document? It seems the pro-life position has been officially silenced and it’s time to bring balance to the church’s position.”

Those opposed to the overture asserted that current materials adequately acknowledge the diversity of opinion on issues related to abortion, while fulfilling the mandate of 1992 policy, which concerns the protection of women’s full range of reproductive options and the public policies that assure the availability of that range.

During the question and answer period, Gloria Albrecht of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) explained ACSWP’s opposition to the overture: “The overture mistakenly believes that the church stopped at recognizing diverse views. It did not. The church’s public policy protects the right of the woman to choose. It honors and protects the diversity among us, everything from a strict pro-life position, to a broader pro-choice position. Balance and fairness is protected by protecting all of the options, including choice, counseling, and the right to choose not to have an abortion.”

The committee adjourned for the night, after considering a number of substitute motions, without reaching a resolution. Also remaining on the agenda are a policy on serious mental illness and an overture calling for support of single payer, universal healthcare.