Presbyterian Church in America

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Beginning of Life


Official Statement: by the General Assembly and the Presbytery, from PCA Digest Position Papers: 1973-1998 (6th General Assembly, 1978, Appendix O, pages 270-281).[1] See also "Abortion: The Disruption of Continuity" (Study Committee on Abortion, 153rd GS MINUTES, MAY 30, 1975, pp. 98 - 108)[2]

Definition of abortion: “Abortion in distinction from miscarriage, is the intentional killing of an unborn child between conception and birth.”
Scripture Foundation:
“While Scripture may not provide a precise scientific statement in answer to this question, the theological understanding of man revealed in Scripture leaves no doubt about the continuity of personhood which includes the unborn child. Simply, yet profoundly, the life resulting from conception is designated "man" both before and after birth (Gen. 4:1, Job 3:3). A "man-child" is conceived; the unborn child is not less than a man.”
“The Word of God affirms throughout the continuity of personhood both before and after birth. Abortion, the intentional killing of an unborn child, is to destroy that continuity. Abortion would terminate the life of an individual, a bearer of God's image, who is being divinely formed and prepared for a God-given role in the world.”
“It would therefore be a willful act of defiance against the Creator intentionally to kill an unborn child whose conception is so intimately a Divine as well as a human act. No child belongs only to man. He is God's child. And His Word must govern the protection and care of that child both before and after birth.”
“Were there to be no support in the whole history of ethical and moral thought, were there no acknowledged confirmation from the medical sciences, were the history of legal opinion to the contrary, we would still have to conclude on the basis of God's Holy Word that the unborn child is a person in the sight of God. He is protected by the sanctity of life graciously given to each individual by the Creator, Who alone places His image upon man and grants them any right to life which they have.”

Medial Understanding of Abortion

“The conclusion of the First International Conference on Abortion held in Washington, D.C., in October of 1967, was that no point in time could be found between the union of sperm and egg and the birth of the infant which could not be considered human life. The changes described below are merely stages of development and maturation.”
Alleged Special Case — Actual rarity that a woman’s life is genuinely at stake in pregnancy due to advancements in prenatal care.
“It must be pointed out that there is a vast difference between the threat of death to the mother and the certain death (intentional) of the baby in the alleged special case for abortion. No man, trained physician or not, is able to say with 100% accuracy that a woman will definitely die because of a pregnancy. The woman's life is not in her own hand or in the hands of her physician, but it rests in the hands of a loving, sovereign God, who is holy and righteous. We do not pretend to understand all that God does, nor would we imply that this is an easy question for one who must face it. Like other areas of the Christian's walk, this calls for us to have a strong faith and trust in God to carry on a pregnancy in these circumstances.”
Legal Aspects of Abortion — The Church’s Relation and Responsibility to the State
The state is divinely ordained, and the church should respect its authority. Where the state wrongfully deviates from God’s word, the church should inform the state of this. The church is to proclaim the truth.
“On this basis we believe the intentional killing of an unborn child is a violation of God's command and authority. Scripture considers such a child a person and thus covered by Divine protection even as a person after birth. Any medical support or historical precedent can only be of secondary authority when we have a clear Word from God on moral questions.”
“We are convinced Scripture forbids abortion. The premise of the personhood of the unborn child and the premise of the universal validity of the Sixth Commandment, if true, necessitates the conclusion that abortion is wrong.”
“Abortion is wrong; it is sin. God as the righteous and holy Judge will not permit sin to be justified by human "situations." Thus the practical application in each of these cases is the consistent application of God's absolute prohibition and the comfort derived from the knowledge that our greatest good is dependent upon our obedience to God.”
“There is a danger of weakening our witness by either retreating from an absolute ethic revealed in God's Word or by uncritically associating ourselves with a humanistic philosophy of right to life based on human wisdom. The Church as the repository of God's revelation must speak from that authority and must do so without compromise or equivocation.”

End of Life

Extraordinary Measures

Official Statements: from PCA Digest: Position Papers 1973-1993 (16th General Assembly , 1988, p. 509, Appendix S and 16-83, p.186) "Report of the Heroic Measures Committee Presbyterian Church in America" [3]

Extensive discussion of extraordinary measures utilizing the language of "heroic measures".

Physician-Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia

Official Statement: from from PCA Digest: Position Papers 1973-1993 (16th General Assembly , 1988, p. 509, Appendix S and 16-83, p.186) "Report of the Heroic Measures Committee Presbyterian Church in America"[4]

"Euthanasia, or "mercy-killing" of a patient by a physician or by anyone else, including the patient himself (suicide) is murder." (PCA Digest: Position Papers 1973-1993 (16th General Assembly , 1988, p. 509, Appendix S and 16-83, p.186) "Report of the Heroic Measures Committee Presbyterian Church in America"[5])

Withholding & Withdrawing Treatment

Official Statement:

"To withhold or to withdraw medical treatment, as is being discussed here ["Report of the Heroic Measures Committee Presbyterian Church in America"),[6] does not constitute euthanasia and should not be placed into the same category with it."
"A decision to withdraw medical support from a patient should be based upon the same medical and ethical considerations as a decision not to initiate it. Of course, the withdrawal of treatment is more difficult when it seems likely that death will be hastened by that decision. Actually, a decision to withdraw life support is often based upon better medical evidence than a decision to initiate life support. Heroic measures are frequently started in an acute situation when physicians must make quick decisions about patients, but with limited information. Over the next few days or weeks, however, with continued observation and additional information, they may discover that a feeding tube or respirator may only be prolonging the dying process, whereas when these measures were started, some hope of recovery was realistic." (PCA Digest: Position Papers 1973-1993 (16th General Assembly , 1988, p. 509, Appendix S and 16-83, p.186) "Report of the Heroic Measures Committee Presbyterian Church in America"[7])


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