How will United Methodists respond to Gosnell horror?

Matt O’Reilly tackles the important but admittedly difficult question of How will United Methodists respond to Gosnell horror?

First, O’Reilly makes the connection between Roe and Gosnell clear:

We must begin by recognizing that this tragic situation follows from the widespread efforts to normalize abortion in the United States. Not all will agree with that conclusion, but a variety of factors suggest its accuracy. Since abortion was declared a constitutional right in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement has worked hard to undermine the full personhood of the preborn. We have been told again and again that the child in the womb is a fetus, not a baby. We are told that abortion is not the ending of a life; it is the termination of a pregnancy. This cold and detached terminology is intended to downplay any emotional reaction to abortion.

The problem is that if a preborn child in the eighth or ninth month of gestation does not have the moral status of a person, why should we think a change of geography from inside the womb to outside the womb suddenly establishes personhood? There is no substantive difference between the preborn and the newly born. If we are desensitized to the death of the former, it will lead us to be decreasingly sensitive to the latter. The road from Roe to Gosnell is a downhill slope.


United Methodists need to recognize that we are where we are because the Roe decision started us on a path of devaluing the sacred worth of human life. That path has led us to the trial of Kermit Gosnell.

He then offers to responses that should flow from this recognition:

  1. The Methodist church “should break ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC).”
  2. The church should should “call upon General Conference to make a stronger statement in our Social Principles in favor of preborn and newly born human life.”

Lastly, he points out this is not just politics but an opportunity to live out the call for justice and righteousness in the world today:

United Methodists are supposed to be the people who speak up for those who have no voice, who take up the case of the marginalized, the abused and the victimized. If we want to be faithful to that heritage today and in the days to come, we must be the voice both of the preborn and the newly born, and so must our denominational agencies and Social Principles. We should be able to count on them to defend the defenseless and care for the destitute. This is our opportunity to stand for righteousness and against injustice. We must not miss it.

All I can add to that is a hearty Amen!

Read the entire editorial. It is, to my mind, a cogent and persuasive argument.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. My experience includes: a decade of work in state government, president of a free market think tank, new media director for a winning US Senate campaign and ghost writer of both op-eds and books. I have a Masters degree in history and have taught at the college level.

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