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Central Pennsylvania Conference opposes 'partial-birth abortion'

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington.

Contact: Joretta Purdue (#445) Sept. 10, 1996

WEIKERT, Pa. (UMNS) -- The Central Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference of the United Methodist Church made plans to communicate its support for a ban on what is being called "partial-birth abortions" to President Clinton and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The action was taken by the conference's council on ministries when it met here Sept. 4.

The council was authorized by the Central Pennsylvania Conference session in June, to respond on its behalf to a resolution presented by the Rev. Barbara C. Yorks, associate pastor of Baughman Memorial United Methodist Church, New Cumberland, Pa.

Yorks' resolution asked the conference to "voice support for the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (H.R. 1833) and urge President Clinton to reconsider his veto [of the bill, and] encourage members of the House and Senate to override his veto."

"I know our conference includes people with differing views on the issue of abortion, but we have united in the past when addressing such specific issues as opposing violence at abortion clinics and against doctors who perform abortions," said Yorks. She had collected 800 signatures from 20 churches supporting her resolution.

She argued that "this late-term abortion procedure, which suctions the brain matter of an unborn child moments before birth," was so extreme as to warrant the conference's unified opposition.

The proposed ban would allow the procedure if "the partial- birth abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother," she said.

A letter by Douglas Strum, a member of the conference committee on social justice and the poor and a conference delegate from Beaver Memorial United Methodist Church in Lewisburg, opposed passage of Yorks' resolution.

His letter said, "In the kinds of instances in which this delicate (and tragic) medical procedure is employed, that we leave the decision to the judgment of medical professionals and not try to dictate what they may or may not do as a matter of law."

The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said the board supported President Clinton's veto of the act.

"The United Methodist Church's position is one of choice. As an agency of the United Methodist Church, we are mandated to support that position. I abhor abortion, but we can not support a law that would limit a right to choose," Fassett said.

The board's support of the president's veto has caused "a lot of controversy," according to Fassett.

The conference resolution supporting the ban and opposing the president's veto will be mailed to the president and Pennsylvania's senators and representatives.

The Central Pennsylvania Conference includes more than 800 United Methodist congregations with 170,000 members in 27 counties.

* Snyder is director of communications for the United Methodist Church's Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference and editor of the conference newspaper, The Link.

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