This piece was originally written for the Love Your Neighbor Coalition newsletter for General Conference 2016.
My favorite piece of legislation that impact’s women’s reproductive health is the updated resolution of Responsible Parenthood crafted by United Methodist Women. Unlike much of the legislation that impact’s reproductive issues, this resolution theologically articulates parenthood in a post-modern world in a way that can move the church forward in a variety of ways.
One thing that I love about this renewed resolution is that it is proactive; so much of what we do is a reaction so it is refreshing to see legislation thinking of the future. We need this resolution because provides the framework for a holistic and comprehensive model into what responsible parenthood looks like. It breaks down into five parts:
- Biblical Basis for Families speaks of abundant life, and how the source of this is family: “The decision to have children is a decision to participate with God in the process of creation.” (DCA CS2 327) The decision to not have a child is just as important as there are many other ways to participate relationally with creation and that’s where contraception comes into play.
- Contraception is next: “Use of family planning and access to contraception around the world has had a dramatic impact on empowering women, on women’s economic development, and overall public health. Maternal and infant moralities have been reduced. By controlling the number and spacing of their children, women have greater opportunities for education and economic participation, resulting in an enhanced quality of life for everyone.” (DCA CS2 328)
- Barriers to Responsible Choice covers gender, financial, arranged marriage, spousal disproval, and lack of access and/or legal restrictions.
- Challenging Pregnancies and how we can start thinking about ending a pregnancy under a different Biblical basis: “The creation of a child is an incremental process whose beginnings stretch back to the creation of earth’s first life, and whose milestones include conception, implantation, quickening, viability, and live birth. The Bible affirms breath as the mark of a living human person. While respecting developing life at every stage, we reject the simplistic belief that the moment when egg and sperm unite is the sole marker of human existence.” (DCA CS2 328)
- It ends with mandates, which provide a call to action for education at the family level, local church level, and greater United Methodist connection.
This resolution is inclusive as it brings in the whole connection and doesn’t just focus on one country. Responsible parenthood is not only just about women, it’s about men too, and it’s about our larger faith community. It encourages dialogue and goes beyond face service to action, to seek justice and live out our Social Principle values. Those who are calling for the deletion of this resolution are citing their theological differences over abortion. The way to realistically approach responsible parenthood is to take into consideration rape, child brides, safety of the mother, socio-economics, and many other contextual factors. Removing this resolution based solely off issues with abortion writes off many other brilliant parts of the responsible parenthood framework.
What this resolution does not implicitly address is adoption, IVF treatments, and LGBTQ issues in terms of parenthood beyond inclusive language. It’s broad, yet there are other pieces of legislations that better and more specifically address these important issues regarding parenthood.
I fully support readopting the Responsible Parenthood resolution and it is my hope that you too will support this valuable and radical piece of legislation. As a young adult woman considering responsible parenthood in her future, I hope that The United Methodist Church will rally behind this legislation so that current and future parents have the love and support of our faith community.