Abortion is for some a means of birth control, for some a way to manage a dilemma, for others never an option because it ends life. Abortion is not new, nor is the debate about it likely to end.
While a relatively small sample of French Mennonites reflect divergence of opinion (fewer favoured abortion), the reasons were likely personal rather than theological. Women, more directly involved, proved less rigid on the issue. Japanese culture is less driven to reproduction, so abortion can be more routine. Opposing all birth control, traditional Russian Mennonites have also been sparse with sex education. For example, Old Colony and Kleine Gemeinde members in Belize long to have children and see birthing as a woman's prime reason for being. For her to be pregnant every year is common and God willed. Having a child out of wedlock is not unusual in Zaire; having a child there is what makes a woman a woman. Abortion has been strongly opposed among Mennonites in both Switzerland and India.
The 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that no state may interfere with a woman's right to obtain an abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy highlighted the topic for Mennonites in the United States. A decision by Canada's Supreme Court in 1988 heightened the debate for Canadian Mennonites. As with other sexual matters, men have given primary input and shaped church statements. That in itself is an ethical problem never owned up to. Nor have men, for example, via Mennonite Medical Association, duly noted male involvement with conception that leads to abortion trauma.
Instead, focus and debate have been on when life begins, ideal church care, biblical principles, and moral factors of ending life. Mennonites have tended to compare war and abortion, ignoring points of difference. Critique of "abortion on demand" has seldom connected to socialized "sex on demand." Responsible sexual activity, beginning with due credit of woman's worth and mutual esteem, had yet to become primary in 1990. Economic justice for people worldwide needs to follow that.
Responses to a mid-1970s questionnaire indicated that, while the majority of North American Mennonites favoured abortion when a mother's health was a risk, one-half approved legalizing abortion if rape was involved or if the baby was likely be defective. Believing that human life is a divine gift created in God's image, that each is responsible to care for the sacred in those who are defenseless, and that what is required of believers is not expected of society in general, early Anabaptists and Mennonites today realize that abortion is not an ideal solution to problem pregnancy. Churches need to establish more genuine community with those confronting abortion.
Kauffman, J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder. Anabaptists Four Centuries Later: a Profile of Five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Denominations. Scottdale : Herald Press, 1975, 180-82.
Brenneman, George, "Abortion: Review of Mennonite Literature, 1970-1977." Mennonite Quarterly Review 53 (1979): 160-72.
Alderfer, Edwin and Helen. Life and Values. Scottdale: Mennonite Publishing House, 1974.
General Conference Mennonite Church Family Life Committee. Abortion Packet. Newton, 1979.
Friesen, Duane K. Moral Issues in the Control of Birth, and Muriel T. Stackley, A Leader's Guide for Moral Issues in the Control of Birth. Newton, 1974.
Papers from a conference on life and human values (with particular reference to abortion), sponsored by Mennonite Medical Association, Chicago, Oct. 5-6 1973.
Hofman, Brenda D. "Political Theology: The Role of Organized Religion in the Anti-Abortion movement," Journal of Church and State 28, no. 2 (Spring 1986): 225-4.
Minutes (Evangelical Mennonite Church (1984), 34-35.
Conference statements on abortion are available from the Evangelical Mennonite Conference; General Conference Mennonite Church; MCC Committee on Women's Concerns; Executive Committee and Peace and Social Concerns Committee of MCC Canada; Mennonite Brethren; and Mennonite Church (MC).
Abortion (Mennonite Church, 1975)
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 1. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Nyce, Dorothy Yoder. "Abortion." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A244.html.
APA style: Nyce, Dorothy Yoder. (1990). Abortion. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A244.html.