Bishops of the (evangelical Lutheran) Church of Norway, the largest Christian denomination in the nation, have issued a formal apology for their anti-abortion stance.
While the Church is relatively progressive, permitting same-sex marriages for priests and followers, they have historically been anti-abortion. The nation itself is fairly restrictive on the subject, only allowing for abortions after twelve weeks if a panel of two doctors approves it. A proposal to make that rule even stricter was met with fierce resistance late last year.
In the face of a government that wants to curtail women’s rights, the bishops of the Church of Norway (seen below) released a statement saying their own position hasn’t made anything better for women across the country:
We acknowledge that the church has to a small extent taken over the situation that many pregnant women have been in, and has also failed to give credible expressions of understanding for women’s experience and the challenges women have experienced. On the contrary, the church, as an institution throughout history, has shown a lack of commitment to women’s liberation and rights. We are sorry. As a church we must change our way of talking about abortion and how we care for people who are affected.
A society with legal access to abortion is a better society than a society without such access. It prevents illegal abortions and promotes women’s health, safety and security. It is not least evident in a global perspective. Internationally, we see that churches are still contributing to the burden of many pregnant women in vulnerable positions.
To be clear, they are not supporting abortion. They are still very much against it. They still believe life begins at conception. But they’re acknowledging that laws restricting the procedure haven’t led to fewer abortions; rather, they’ve only led to more suffering for pregnant women.
It’s an incredible statement in part because it admits their religious and political goals are not in sync. As pro-choice advocates have long claimed, if we want to reduce the number of abortions (and especially abortions beyond the first trimester), then the solution isn’t making laws more restrictive. It’s making birth control more accessible. It’s teaching children comprehensive sex education. It’s making sure women have access to the procedure the moment they find out they’re pregnant.
The Church here is admitting that they have only made things worse for women by saying all abortions are awful in all situations and must always be prevented.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Catholic Church or white evangelical leaders to do the same thing anytime soon. They’ve never given a damn about the facts or advocated positions that would lead to less suffering for women who don’t want to be pregnant.
It’s not often religious leaders come right out and admit one of their core religious beliefs have made things worse for society. Give these bishops credit for saying it out loud.
(via Fri tanke. Thanks to Lars for the link)