By George Sinner

From the very beginning, American freedom guaranteed the rights of citizens to be free from religious domination by any group or body of thought. The abortion issue calls up the need to look carefully at the beliefs of serious American writings on the issue.

There have been many caring thoughtful people and groups of people who have commented on the public policy issues surrounding abortion. All of them, in one way or another, make it clear that the presence of a new human person from the time of conception is not a demonstrable fact.

The Lutheran Church in America, in its 1970 social statement on "Sex, Marriage and Family" stated:

"On the basis of the Evangelical ethic, a woman or couple may decide to seek an abortion. Earnest consideration should be given to the life and total health of the mother, her responsibility to others in her family, the stage of development of the fetus, the economic and physiological stability of the home, the laws of the land and the consequences for society as a whole."

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The United Methodist Church, in its General Conference in 1988, said the following:

"We support the legal right to abortion as established in the 1973 Supreme Court decision. We encourage women in counsel with husbands, doctors and pastors to make their own responsible decisions concerning the personal and moral questions surrounding the issue of abortion."

The American Jewish Congress, at its Biennial Convention in 1989, said the following:

"The American Jewish Congress has long recognized that reproductive freedom is a fundamental right, grounded in the most basic notions of personal liberty, individual integrity and religious liberty. Jewish religious traditions hold that a woman must be left to her own conscience and God to decide for herself what is morally correct."

The National Council of Catholic Bishops, on Nov. 7, 1989, adopted the following statement:

"Our long and short-range public policy goals include: 1) constitutional protection for the rights to life of unborn children to the maximum degree possible; 2) federal and state law and administrative policies that restrict support for and practice of abortion; 3) continual refinement and ultimate reversal of Supreme Court and other court decisions that deny the inalienable right to life; 4) supportive legislation to provide morally acceptable alternatives to abortion, and social policy initiatives which provide support to pregnant women for parental care and extended support for low income women and their children. We urge public officials, especially Catholics, to advance their goals in recognition of their moral responsibility to protect the weak and defenseless among us."

The policy of the Presbyterian Church, adopted in the General Assembly 1983, and reaffirmed in 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989, reads:

"...The church's position on public policy concerning abortion should reflect respect for other religious traditions and advocacy for full exercise of religious liberty. The Presbyterian church exists within a very pluralistic environment. Its own members hold a variety of views. It is exactly this pluralism of beliefs which lead us to the conviction that the decision regarding abortion must remain with the individual, to be made on the basis of conscience and personal religious principles, and free from governmental interference.

"Consequently, we have a responsibility to work to maintain a public policy of elective abortion, regulated by the health code, not the criminal code. The legal right to have an abortion is a necessary prerequisite to the exercise of conscience in abortion decisions. Legally speaking, abortion should be a woman's right because, theologically speaking, making a decision about abortion is, above all, her responsibility."

The United Church of Christ, in its General Synod 16, wrote the following:

(The Synod) "upholds the right of men and women to have access to adequately funded family planning services, and to safe, legal abortions as one option among others..."

The Reorganized Church of Jesus Chris of Latter Day Saints in 1974 (reaffirmed in 1980) adopted the following:

"We affirm the inadequacy of simplistic answers that regard all abortions as murder, or, on the other hand, regard abortion only as a medical procedure without moral significance.

"We affirm the right of the woman to make her own decision regarding the continuation or termination of problem pregnancies. Preferably, this decision should be made in cooperation with her companion and in consultation with a physician, qualified minister or professional counselor..."

The Episcopal Church, in its General Convention in 1988, adopted the following:

"We believe that legislation concerning abortions will not address the root of the problem. We therefore express our deep conviction that any proposed legislation on the part of national or state government regarding abortion must take special care to see that individual conscience is respected and that the responsibility of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter is acknowledged and honored."

In the United States, we must respect the opinions and rights of others.

This is part three of a three-part commentary about abortion by former North Dakota Gov. George Sinner, who in 1991 vetoed a restrictive abortion bill. That same year he signed a bill mandating the state's 24-hour waiting period for abortions. He was governor from 1984-1992 and declined to run for a third term. Sunday: Hypocrisy not the way of Christ. Monday: Should there be a law?