The fortuitous visit of the Adventist world church president

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

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The very enlightened position on abortion taken by the Seventh-day Adventist Church President Dr Ted Wilson comes as a fortuitous contribution to the never-ending abortion debate, which is once again raging in Jamaica.

Pastor Wilson, who speaks for 22 million Adventists across the globe, is unmistakably against abortion and leaves no doubt about his stance on the sanctity of life. But it is his exception to the rule that shows the measure of the man… and perhaps the church that he leads.

“Most Seventh-day Adventists would be very supportive of the sanctity of life and not in favour of abortion, unless the mother's life was in danger or perhaps there was incest or rape involved, and that is left to the individual to decide, at least in some countries,” he told journalists in Montego Bay last week.

On both sides of the debate, there are people who are unbending, either saying that abortion is acceptable under any and all conditions, or that abortion is wrong under any and all conditions.

We have argued in this space that it is unlikely, even after any referendum, that the abortion debate will end. It is therefore to those who know how to strike a happy medium that we look for a reasonable position on such a controversial and emotive issue.

Pastor Wilson shows heart, and we daresay Christian compassion, in agreeing that there are conditions under which abortion may be allowable, such as in cases of rape, incest and most important, when the mother's life is at risk.

His position that in such circumstances the mother has the right to decide is, indeed, most enlightening. No one who is not bearing a child resulting from rape or incest, or whose life is not threatened, should have the right to decide what action to take in respect of that foetus.

As we have said before, we have no wish to tell any woman what to do with her body beyond suggesting to her that she does what is in her best interest and that of the foetus she is bearing, because that is an awesome responsibility, whatever decision she makes.

Neither do we seek to advise women whether to have or not have their baby, only that they should think long and hard as to the full import of any action they take and how it will affect others of their fellow men.

The American poet, essayist and critic Katha Pollitt says it well: “In the end, abortion is an issue of fundamental human rights. To force women to undergo pregnancy and childbirth against their will is to deprive them of the right to make basic decisions about their lives and well-being, and to give that power to the State… The whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary.”

Of course, we continue to be befuddled by those anti-abortionists who do not go much beyond the suggestion that the foetus should be allowed to come to term, ignoring the question of what is to happen to that baby after it is born.

If we start the abortion debate by acknowledging the large number of unwanted, unplanned-for children who are born and come to live in great misery, abject poverty, illiteracy and poor health, we might come to a sensible position.

Some will still disagree with Pastor Wilson, but they will not find him an unreasonable man.

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