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"In 1969 the American Friends Service Committee published a book, Who Shall Live: Man's Control over Birth and Death, written by a committee of Quaker doctors and ethicists, including Henry Cadbury, arguing that abortion in the first trimester is acceptable, as well as that persons had the right to choose their own time of death. Later, with the rise of the women's movement, many Quaker women of liberal persuasion advocated a woman's right to choose, and participated in public marches and organizations taking this position. Some liberal Friends, male and female, objected, feeling that the concept of life as sacred, so essential to the peace movement, should not be compromised. But to the evangelical and biblically oriented Friends, the issue was absolute, and the actions of liberal Friends deeply distressing."
-- from historical update & notes, Friends for 350 Years by Howard H. Brinton (2002, Pendle Hill Publications), p. 279
"I must give witness "for life" as consistently and as unambiguously as possible.
This witness needs to weave its way throughout all human experience, from the womb to the tomb. This means seeking ways to protect the unborn. This means standing against all forms of prejudice which would dehumanize people precious to God. This means working to eliminate poverty and other dehumanizing social conditions. This means witnessing for peace and reconciliation everywhere possible and laboring hard for genuine alternatives to war. This means seeking out creative alternatives to capital punishment. This means rejecting euthanasia and instead working for a more compassionate end of life environment."
-- from "Growing Edges", an article on civic responsibility in Renovaré's Newsletter for October 2004 (www.renovare.org)
(discussing the aspect of science dealing with its limitations -- "because there is no scientific experiment which can determine any of them" -- in this case, ethics)
"Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology produce arguments which claim to give complete explanations as to where our ethical views come from. There are many problems with those attempts, the first being they do not explain ethics, they explain it away . . . The second is that this is a typical fundamentalist argument which looks at some of the causes in operation and ignores others . . .
The third is that if you did follow those precepts, you would rapidly end up in very dangerous territory, namely the domain of social Darwinism. That has been one of the most evil movements in the history of humanity, causing far more deaths than any other ideology has done . . . Yes I know there is a substantial literature on the evolutionary rise of altruism, but as a historical fact the influence of evolutionary theory on ethics in practice has been to provide theoretical support for eugenics and social Darwinism, not for any movement of caring for others. The historical record is quite clear on this: see Richard Weikart in From Darwin to Hitler. He demonstrates that many leading Darwinian biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics, especially the view that human life is sacred. Many of these thinkers supported moral relativism, yet simultaneously exalted evolutionary "fitness" (especially intelligence and health) to be the highest arbiter of morality. Darwinism played a key role in the rise not only of eugenics, but also euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination."
-- from Science in Faith and Hope: An Interaction (2004, Quaker Books), pp. 20-21
"Perhaps nowhere are these tensions clearer than on the issue of abortion. Generally, pastoral Friends, especially those in EFI, are pro-life, while among unprogrammed Friends (except some Conservatives), pro-choice Friends are more visible and articulate. Neither group is monolithic, and both include many shades of opinion. At the extremes, the two sides begin from different vantage points. Pro-choice Friends see abortion as an issue of women’s rights, while pro-life Friends, when they do not understand it as a matter of applying the Peace Testimony to unborn life, view it as one of basic morality.
Evangelical Friends are virtually one in opposing abortion. “If there were ever an issue that all churches and all Christians should unite on, it is opposition to abortion,” wrote one. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, said another, was based on “lies from the master of all lies, Satan.” Most of the pastoral yearly meetings have taken stands against abortion, at least to some degree. Typical is Northwest Yearly Meeting’s statement that is should not be used for “personal convenience or population control.” Some Friends link opposition to abortion with opposition to war – both are wrong because God forbids taking the life of another human being. Others see abortion as simply immorality compounded, a way out for women who have engaged in extramarital sex. “If anyone should have to make a choice about abortion they have already made one mistake,” wrote one Friend. Thus many pastoral Friends have been active in the pro-life movement. Others, however, especially those who think of themselves as relatively liberal on doctrinal matters, are more flexible, seeing abortion as unfortunate, become sometimes the least objectionable choice.
Among unprogrammed Friends, a majority probably take a pro-choice stance. Even some who believe that life begins at conception believe that abortion should ultimately be an individual decision. A few FGC Friends are outspokenly pro-life, like one in New York who argued that nothing – rape, incest, danger to the life of the mother – justified abortion: “any of these situations can be transformed and healed by God.” Rachel MacNair, a Missouri Friend, has served as president of Feminists for Life. Such Friends have prevented some yearly meetings from reaching unity on statements on abortion. But probably most unprogrammed Friends, even some who are personally opposed, see abortion as an individual matter and any attempt at legal restriction as another example of patriarchal oppression of women or a violation of individual conscience. Thus when the Supreme Court’s 1989 Webster decision, which sanction limits on abortion rights, coincided with FGC’s Annual Gathering, protests were vociferous. When a group of pro-life Friends tried to meet during the gathering, pro-choice activists disrupted them. Others began to talk of resurrecting the Underground Railroad to assist women seeking soon-to-be-illegal abortions. Such rhetoric has faded in the last few years, but support for abortion rights remains strong among unprogrammed Friends."
-- from The Quakers in America (2003, Columbia University Press), pp. 192-193