Two Daughters and an Uncertain Future
I have two daughters: a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old, as of this writing. Beginning with my partner’s pregnancy, and surely continuing through my daughters’ lives, women’s health is and will continue to be a primary concern of mine.
Since the women in my life will be covered under church insurance, hear church lessons spoken and sung, and have conversations with other women at church, then what the church teaches, requires, and legislates about women is important to me.
My church is The United Methodist Church, and while we are the largest denomination in the world that ordains women, we are not doing as well as we could be in caring for lay and clergy women alike.
Disregarding Women’s Health
Every four years, The UMC evaluates its doctrinal statements and its policies at General Conference, held recently in the middle of May.
There were a number of proposals this year that dealt directly with women that did not pass and did not move the church forward.
- A proposal to remove some unnecessary and invasive medical information (only from women, I might add) from the required health forms for eligibility for ordination failed to pass.
- Several Resolutions that had an 8 years shelf life and needed to be renewed in 2016 were not even voted on in committee, including Protecting Children From Mercury, United Methodist Response to Hospital Mergers in the United States, Status of Women, and The Girl Child. Another on Responsible Parenthood failed on a floor vote.
By failing to retain language affirming of women’s health, we fail to be a denomination that speaks with authority and gives language to current issues facing women worldwide.
Sacrificing Reproductive Health…
The biggest controversy when it comes to women, of course, is about reproductive health. Some updates are:
- Two petitions calling for The UMC to leave the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice passed. What this means is that we will no longer be at the decision-making table of a religious organization for women’s health that we co-founded in the 1970s.
- However, there were seven petitions that would have altered our statement on abortion (found here) to be less graceful and have more pro-life agenda items placed in it. All seven of those were not voted on in committee and did not get a vote with the whole body.
- What was added to our Social Principles was this sentence: “We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth.” Good deal.
- Multiple other efforts to incorporate pro-life agenda items into resolutions as varied as divestment from abortion-related industries to requiring church officials to give alternatives to abortion failed.
…because of a buzzword?
It seems like people just keyword-search for “abortion” and vote down irregardless of the rest of the proposal. I’m not alone in that sentiment, as United Methodist Women posted today:
Contrary to some reports, reproductive health care is not a code word for abortion. Women’s reproductive health is central to women’s total health care throughout the childbearing years and beyond, for as women age the reproductive system becomes more at risk for disease.
I believe women need access to abortion services but I don’t think people understand that reproductive health is a whole conversation about health, well-being, status for women around the world, and far more than just abortion. If the UMC is unwilling to even talk about reproductive health because an alarm goes off whenever the word “abortion” is used, and I do think that happened with regard to many proposals, then that’s problematic for us going forward.
As UM Women concludes:
United Methodist Women will continue to prioritize the needs of women and the girl child, including their need for comprehensive reproductive health education, care and nutrition. The health of women and girls has been an integral part of United Methodist Women’s mission outreach since our beginning in 1869, when our foremothers organized to send a woman doctor to India to serve women and girls who could not be seen by male doctors.
One of the denomination’s four areas of focus is global health. There can be no global health that does not include the health of women and girls. Reproductive health care is intrinsic to the health of women and girls. United Methodist Women will work to ensure women and girls are not left behind.
Shining Stars: UM Women, GCOSROW, GBCS
The biggest advocates for women’s health continue to be both the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and the official women’s organization United Methodist Women. The bulk of these advancements were penned by or supported by UMWomen and GCOSROW:
- Here’s United Methodist Women’s list of legislation and final tally (link)
- Starting here and clicking the related links, here’s GCOSROW’s legislative updates (link)
Update: I’m adding General Board of Church and Society as their wonderful proposal “Eradicating Sexual and Gender-based Violence” passed as well. After this blog went to press, GBCS penned a blog here about this petition, which you can read here. I apologize for missing it in the post-GC roundups.
Click through for the legislation items, which may surprise you. I am always thrilled at the intersections between women’s health and other justice areas.
I’m thankful we get informed, holistic advocacy and education through these organizations. It really is far beyond what a local church could provide or a caucus group, and that’s why we are in this connectional system that focuses resources on global concerns. It’s deplorable that we do not prioritize legislative time to these global concerns and then they fall out of our vernacular for four years or more.
I’m thankful for these official United Methodist bodies who keep naming what matters to my daughters’ bodies and to yours.
- Where are we moving forward in support of women?
- Where are we stalled or even moving backwards in support?
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