Human Abortion: Can It Ever Be A Moral Choice?

Mars Hill Forum #25, 25 January 1996, Chevy Chase, Maryland

The forum guest was Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). A summary of the event is reproduced below. (see here for original)

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RPD 1008 Thu Jan 25, 1996 at 00:32 EST


CHEVY CHASE, MARYLAND-About 40 people attended a three-hour debate on the topic, "Human Abortion: Can It Ever Be A Moral Choice?" at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, January 21.

The two combatants were Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopalian priestess who is President of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and Rev. John C. Rankin, President of the Theological Education Institute of Boston, Massachusetts. Ragsdale and Rankin made opening statements, dialogued with each other, took questions from the floor and made closing statements from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a brief break in the middle.

The event was sponsored by the pro-life National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL). Rankin frequently debates supporters of abortion rights throughout the country in what his institute calls "Mars Hill Forums," referring to when the Apostle Paul defended the Biblical Gospel in Athens as described in Acts 17. There might have been more attendees at the Ragsdale- Rankin debate, but a speech from Norma McCorvey, who was the "Roe" in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized most abortions in 1973, was taking place at Georgetown University at the same time. McCorvey now says she's pro-life.

Ragsdale said that ethical decision making is often ambiguous, asserting that many health clinic workers have told her that many of the most outspoken pro- life fathers have brought their daughters into abortion clinics seeking an abortion, saying, "This is different."

According to Ragsdale, "Too much of the radical pro-life movement has been built on lies." "The Bible never addresses abortion, never, ever, not once." Ragsdale says she refuses to give simplistic answers and that we must celebrate our sisters who give up the child for adoption, keep the child, or abort.

Rankin said that moral choices must be redemptive, noting the Biblical doctrines of creation, sin and redemption. He said when God created woman, He saved the "best for last." Rankin said that while the Bible assumes monogamy, abortion advocates believe in nonmarital sex.

"God destroys destruction," said Rankin, who added that God gives power to live in the light. He said the abortion ethos doesn't live in the light. Rankin quoted a number of Bible passages (Psalm 51, Isaiah 49:1, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41, Genesis 1:27, etc.) to show that God knew the humanity of the unborn infant before birth.

Rankin called Roe v. Wade "the worst decision in human history," "the opposite of informed choice." But Rankin said abortion could possibly be justified when the life of the mother is at stake. On rape and incest, Rankin said it was an "unqualified evil" and that he as a male can't even relate to its "hellish nature." However, he said aborting a child conceived through rape and incest would only add to the power of destruction.

Rankin said that mercy triumphs over judgment and that the sin of abortion can be forgiven, but that one must first confess the sin and need for judgment before forgiveness. He said abortion is not a moral choice except in those rare instances where the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

He later commented Scripture must come first and human reason last, suggesting that abortion rights supporters reverse that. Rankin quoted from the Bible far more than Ragsdale did. Ragsdale later took issue with Rankin's later comments blasting Planned Parenthood. Ragsdale said that Planned Parenthood clinics perform many routine medical services in addition to abortion, which she said amounted to perhaps 8-15% of their work.

A female questioner challenged Ragsdale that to say that she likes being a woman, mother, and grandmother and helping her family and others. Ragsdale related that in her opinion it is possible for a woman to fully serve God without being married and bearing children.

After the debate concluded, one observer commented that it was far more involved than he anticipated. Both debaters were skilled, candid, and generated more light than heat. The event was videotaped. Contact NOEL at 10523 Main St., Fairfax, VA 22030, 800-707-NOEL for information on this unique contest.

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