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Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive OptionsPARO welcomes those who support the full range of reproductive options that ensure that every child is loved and wanted. They are committed to ensuring that the policy of the PC(USA) is articulated, understood, and preserved for future generations. PARO is one of ten volunteer networks of the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA), a ministry of the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, PC(USA).

Join PHEWA and take part in this ministry.

PARO Issues Response to Attacks on Planned Parenthood

Many people of conscience have been distressed by the recent campaign to discredit Planned Parenthood through the release of heavily edited and secretly recorded conversations between Planned Parenthood staff and anti-abortion activists. The Rev. Mark Pawlowski, a member of the leadership team from Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (PARO), has written a thoughtful and well-researched response to the accusations that were made.  

Also, scroll down on the ACWC page to read the statement issued by the PC(USA) Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns, “ACWC Responds to Attacks on Planned Parenthood.”

Dispelling the Myth: Fetal Tissue Research and Planned Parenthood

by the Rev. Mark R. Pawlowski, PARO Leadership Team, September 27. 2015

It's a little known fact - and a discomforting thought for those who have chosen to vilify Planned Parenthood because of recent "sting" videos - that fetal tissue research in the U.S. began before abortion was legal. As is the case presently, so too then, fetal tissue donations came from universities and hospitals.

That research was conducted sixty years ago with great respect and ethical sensitivity seems to be ignored, as well as the results which brought significant breakthroughs and major discoveries in the eradication of human diseases. To date, here is the partial list: vaccines against Chickenpox, Rubella/Measles/Shingles/Rabies, and Hepatitis A.

It's also a little known fact that the polio vaccine was developed from fetal kidney cells - an achievement for which the 1954 Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded.

As U.S. News and World Report noted in August, 2015, "Scientists use fetal tissue to study how the human body develops, to better understand and solve developmental abnormalities such as Down Syndrome or malformation of organs, the causes of miscarriages or sudden infant death syndrome. Fetal tissue research has helped medical providers diagnose genetic diseases before birth."

In 2014 the National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on fetal tissue research.

It can be argued and lamented that such significant and sensitive research continued throughout the years without proper interpretation and rationale by the medical and scientific communities to the larger society. Be that as it may, in 1993, the Office for Human Research Protections promulgated Public Law 103-43 which established the ethical procedures for fetal tissue research that continue to this day.

In defense of several (out of 600) of its health centers donating (not selling) fetal tissue, Planned Parenthood in part referenced the history of ethical and medical protocols and procedures it follows - the very same procedures that are identical to programs at hospitals and universities across the country.

The genesis of outrage initially against Planned Parenthood began with the release of eight videos alleging wrongdoing, i.e. selling fetal tissue for profit. It is significant to note that the organization that created the tapes is called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). It's leadership is documented as being connected with bombings of women's health centers as well as the murder of an abortion provider.

The video excerpts themselves, while perpetuating a myth of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, are problematic to say the least since they provide no context for CMP's allegations (the tapes spurred five state investigations into Planned Parenthood - in all five states no wrongdoing was found). Not helping their cause was the fact that the videos contained at least 42 splices that portrayed seamless conversations and statements that changed the meaning of what was actually said in order to reinforce the false claims being made.

Finally, Planned Parenthood in a press release stated, "that the secretly recorded videos were heavily edited and significantly distort and misrepresent actual events." Three teams of experts, including a video science instructor at the FBI National Academy, noted that supposed "full footage" that the group (CMP) has released "is edited, inaccurate, and unreliable," as are transcripts that the group has produced. The experts noted that "no unedited source footage has been released."

Planned Parenthood, for its part, acknowledged that several of its health centers participated in accordance with all ethical and procedural mandates in fetal tissue donation programs.

This brief overview of the facts and history of fetal tissue research, coupled with the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood, plainly reveals the reality of the anti-abortion movement's extreme motives. Those motives either deny or are unaware of the very reality of the life-saving medicines and scientific discoveries already discovered, and threaten those yet to come by the elimination of fetal tissue research.

NOTE:  The 213th General Assembly (2001) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirmed the use of fetal and embryonic tissue for vital research with careful regulation. Along with this, they recognized the “need for continuing, informed public dialogue and equitable sharing of information of the results of stem cell research.” (Minutes, 213th GA, Part I, 463)

For further reading:


False Dichotomies

By marciglass   October 3, 2012

Marci Auld GlassMany people presume that because I am a pastor, I must, therefore, be pro-life. It is presumed to be the “Christian” position on the subject, right?

And I want to be able to call myself “pro-life”. Really, I do. I am a big fan of life. I am thankful for it. I do my best to treasure it each day. I work hard in both my personal and professional life to try to make life better for the people I encounter on this journey through life.

Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is precious.

Who wouldn’t be a fan of life?

So I want to declare myself “pro-life”.

But, somehow, that term has already been taken. And the people who have claimed it have told me I don’t belong. That I can’t be in the club because, as much as I love life, I also believe women should be able to make their own choices about pregnancies and abortion.

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Free birth control cuts abortion rate dramatically, study finds

By Brian Alexander, NBC News Contributor, October 4, 2012

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November is National Adoption Awareness Month

Honor National Adoption Month All YearThe month of November has been observed as National Adoption Month for the past nineteen years, by proclamation of the President of the United States.  It is an initiative of the Children's Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, supported through AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway, members of the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network.  This partnership provides valuable resources and technical assistance to raise public awareness about the need for foster and adoptive families for children in the public child welfare system; and to assist U.S. States, Territories, and Tribes to recruit and retain foster and adoptive families and connect them with children.

You may be interested in The Spirit of Adoption; At Home in God's Family, by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, published in 2003 by Westminster John Knox Press.

“In this heart-felt theology of adoption, Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner argues that while the church has long understood the grounding self-concept of a Christian as a "child of God," it has failed to underscore that we all come into the family of faith by adoption. She explores adoption as a central theme in Scripture, as a doctrine of faith, and as a theological metaphor. Further, in using her own experience of adoption to inform her scholarship, Stevenson-Moessner offers help to all those touched by adoption, including adoptive parents…”

Of Power, Women, Voting, and Prayer

By The Rev. Bebb Wheeler Stone, Ph.D., President of the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA)

Bebb Wheeler StonePolit­i­cal rhetoric is always about power. As a woman lis­ten­ing to cur­rent polit­i­cal rhetoric, I am con­vinced that the polit­i­cal con­test among some has been framed to gain power over Amer­i­can women. The gains for Amer­i­can women to full cit­i­zen­ship and full moral agency made through great strug­gle over the past 90 years are threatened.

My Repub­li­can grand­mother and great-grandmother were suf­frag­ists from cen­tral New York. In the early 20th cen­tury, the two of them—dressed in their best dresses, hats, and gloves, and armed with call­ing cards—knocked on doors, cir­cu­lated peti­tions, and argued for their right to vote. They and their suf­frag­ist allies orga­nized from the base­ment of the local Pres­by­ter­ian Church. My grand­fa­ther fully sup­ported their efforts.

Orga­niz­ing for the right to vote in a place of prayer makes per­fect sense when one con­sid­ers the ety­mol­ogy of the word “suf­frage,” which means both “to vote” and “to pray.”[1] Indeed, in a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy when cit­i­zens vote, they are in a very real sense pray­ing for their val­ues to be car­ried for­ward as poli­cies by the indi­vid­u­als for whom they vote. The demo­c­ra­tic process has a spir­i­tual com­po­nent. The effort to sup­press vot­ing in some states is, to my mind, a much greater threat to reli­gious free­dom than the state requir­ing insur­ance cov­er­age from all insti­tu­tions that accept pub­lic funding.

At the moment, women vot­ers are being asked to pray for their own return to silence and cer­tainly more fre­quent preg­nan­cies. One is tempted to ask whether the next sug­ges­tion will be for women to cover their heads as well? It’s bib­li­cal, after all: see Paul’s first let­ter to the church in Corinth, chap­ter 14. One won­ders whether a cer­tain seg­ment of the Amer­i­can male pop­u­la­tion has become secretly envi­ous of those cul­tures where women are veiled, or can’t drive, or are excluded from civic power.[2] Per­haps it’s sim­ply racist: based on fear that white women are not hav­ing enough babies?

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What does pro-choice really mean?

By Sylvia Thorson-Smith

Pro-choice—for choice. So simple and yet so complex.

The most basic definition for pro-choice,and the one offered by Webster’s dictionary, is “favoring the legalization of abortion,” which is clearly what was meant when the term was first used in the mid-1970s. Following the Roe v.Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973, the legality of abortion was challenged and increasingly debated. Pro-choice became the common self-description of people who supported the Court’s legalization. Since then, the term has come to describe those who support the right of women to make decisions about the full range of options regarding their reproductive lives.

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Prayerfully Supporting Women and the Choices They Make

Problem Pregnancies and Abortion

The 204th General Assembly (1992) Response to The Report of the Special Committee on Problem Pregnancies and Abortion (Majority Report)


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has worked for years to address the diverse opinions concerning individuals and families who face problem pregnancies and the question of abortion. In an effort to be an agent of healing in the life of our denomination, a diverse special committee was formed and composed a majority report, “Problem Pregnancies and Abortion,”  that was adopted by the 204th (1992) General Assembly and has remained Presbyterian policy for 15 years.

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Theological Principles

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Reproductive Options


This material is from “Problem Pregnancies and Abortion,” pages 4-10 (a report received and approved by the 204th General Assembly [1992]). Our Presbyterian Understanding of Scripture

The unique and authoritative witness we have for the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is Scripture … Scripture is not a book of formulas, of directions in a mechanical sense. It is a book of history, of poetry, of letters, of stories, and in the midst of these forms are commandments and teachings

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Reproductive health information: Separating fact from fiction

Myths are common in the often heated discussions around reproductive health. PARO is dedicating this space to exploring those myths. Check back often to see additional myths "busted."

Myth: The number of abortions could be reduced by making abortion illegal.

Myth: Abstinence-only sex education decreases the likelihood that teenagers will engage in sexual intimacy before marriage.

Myth: Sex education courses are more likely to result in teens having sex than in preventing sexual activity.

Myth: When teens have true faith in Jesus they do not need sex education.

Myth: The Bible is clear in its opposition to abortion.

Myth: Women who have an abortion are more likely to have emotional problems.

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC)

RCRC button“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was among the founding members of The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in 1973, with leadership of our much beloved Mary Jane Patterson,  then serving as Director of the PC(USA) Washington Office. RCRC’s website says, “The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is the national community of religious and spiritual people, denominations, and organizations from all faith traditions dedicated to achieving reproductive justice. For people of faith, reproductive justice is a moral imperative, grounded in centuries of sacred texts.

Through education, mobilization and advocacy, we are leading the religious movement to advance the health and well-being of women and families.

RCRC mobilizes the moral force of thousands of clergy, religious leaders, and other people of faith. Together, we work for ethical and responsible policies, laws and resources that make reproductive health care and rights accessible to all. Our religious traditions call us to this sacred work.”

They offer prayers and sermons and other resources and educational series.