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Language in overture on violence against pregnant women spurs debate

Debate over semantics detracts from intention, one delegate says

July 6, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS

Amid discussion that ranged from amicable to acrimonious on Monday, the Health Issues Committee of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) worked through its business of HIV testing, violence against pregnant women, coerced abortions and being an HIV- and AIDS-competent denomination.

The majority of the debate centered on the overture, “Making a Statement Regarding Violence against Pregnant Women.”

Young Adult Advisory Delegate Andrew Spencer of the San Jose Presbytery summed it up: “We keep going back and forth with one and two sentences … we’re losing focus of the reason we’re here, and that’s to make a decision on this motion.”

Participants in word wars over terms such as reproductive life and rights versus responsible choices, women versus female, and pregnant women versus all women eventually came to agreement, and the overture was approved.

Another overture, “On Taking a Stand against Forced and Coerced Abortions,” passed with virtually no discussion.

“Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action,” was brought to the committee by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).

ACSWP committee member Kezia Elllison, when asked her response to the commissioners’ hour-long discussion on their two-year study, responded, “So far, I feel they have a reasonable understanding of what we did … but we’re not done yet.”

With the omission of the research costs and minor amendments, the overture passed.