IN RESPONSE to the many requests for a position on the abortion issue as it relates to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the health care institutions it operates, the General Conference officers in consultation with its Department of Health have developed the following guidelines. It is recognized that these guidelines are not the final answer but perhaps can serve a useful purpose at the present time.
No attempt has been made to answer such questions as the following: When does actual life begin, or when does the product of conception come to possess a soul? Are we concerned with potential life or actual life, or both? Does life have its inception in the egg or ovum? Before or after it is fertilized? Does it begin at quickening when movements are felt, or does it wait until the fetus has breathed? Aristotle advanced the theory that a male embryo receives its soul at forty days and the female at eighty.
The basis for these guidelines exists on the person-image concept, which is governed by a system of priorities with an ascending scale of values. It is believed that this person-image concept is the Biblical basis en joined upon the church, is one that can be defended, and is one that we should support.
Agreed, To accept the following as suggestive guidelines for therapeutic abortions which might need to be performed in denominational hospitals in the United States.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church's position on specific programs in any country must relate to its world involvements. Thus, the church has taken no position establishing general regulations governing the per forming of abortions in church-controlled medical institutions everywhere. This does not mean that the church does not favor and does not uphold standards, nor that it does not establish regulations; but rather that these standards and regulations are established in the various countries in which the church conducts hospitals.
The church is cognizant that attitudes and laws relating to permitted abortions are changing in the United States of America today. It opposes a laxity of regulations and practice that might contribute primarily to the lowering of moral standards of society. It is the position of the church that regulations relating to the performing of abortions are the proper business of responsible medical staffs of hospitals, such regulations to be approved by the hospitals' controlling board, and always to be in harmony with the laws of the State.
The termination of pregnancy by therapeutic abortion is a surgical procedure and should be performed only by qualified and licensed practitioners in accredited hospitals.
This procedure may be performed only with the informed written consent of the patient and her husband, or herself if she is unmarried, or her nearest responsible relative if she is under the age of consent. Under no circumstances should a patient be compelled to undergo, or a physician to perform, a therapeutic abortion if either has a religious or ethical objection to it.
In considering the indications for a therapeutic abortion, the consultative opinion of at least two licensed physicians other than the one who is to perform the procedure is medically indicated, except in case of rape or incest. One consultant should be a qualified obstetrician-gynecologist and one should be recognized as having special competence in the medical area in which the indications for the procedure reside.
The hospital in which the procedure is to be done should have a standing committee, selected by the staff according to a method approved by the board, that is em powered to deal with abortion problems, to receive and to pass on the consultative opinion relating to a proposed procedure, and to review all cases including physicians who have requested and have carried out such procedures.
The board of trustees of a Seventh-day Adventist sponsored institution should insist that the performing of therapeutic abortions be well controlled, that the practice and clientele of the institution not be placed in jeopardy by the abuse of privilege, and that in all cases the staff act in accordance with the laws of the State, acceptable social standards of the community, and the moral principles taught by the sponsoring church.
It is believed that therapeutic abortions may be performed for the following established indications:
1. When continuation of the pregnancy may threaten the life of the woman or seriously impair her health.
2. When continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the birth of a child with grave physical deformities or mental retardation.
3. When conception has occurred as a result of rape or incest. When indicated therapeutic abortions are done, they should be performed during the first trimester of pregnancy.
GENERAL CONFERENCE OFFICERS