A United Methodist Church leader is promoting the notion that killing an unborn baby in an abortion is okay as long as the mother makes a “thoughtful and prayerful” decision first.

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Pastor Robert Vaughn Jr., director of the General Board of Church and Society for the UMC, told Baptist News Global that the denomination takes a “reluctant pro-choice” stance on abortion. And his board is in charge of supporting that position.

“Terminating a pregnancy isn’t just a medical decision; it requires advanced pastoral care so that a person can look at the whole picture,” the Herndon, Virginia pastor said. “The United Methodist principle requires you to think through a decision, to seize the whole complexity of the question. It’s not as simple as some easy slogan.”

Vaughn said he once counseled a young, pro-life woman who became pregnant while she was taking medication that meant “she couldn’t carry the pregnancy to term,” according to the report. Rather than give her child a chance at life, she aborted her unborn child – a decision that Vaughn said was “moral.”

“I remember walking with her as she and her family went through that situation,” he said. “… It was good to be part of a denomination that respected her as an independent moral decision-maker, that gave her the right to choose.”

Vaughn described abortion as “health care” – though thousands of medical leaders and professionals disagree. He also brought up the struggles with poverty and other problems that pregnant women face – though aborting an unborn baby does not solve any of them.

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The United Methodist Church believes: “Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, family, pastoral and other appropriate counsel.”

The denomination’s official statement on abortion recognizes it as a “tragic conflict of life” but does not explain why it is a tragedy, namely because it kills a unique, living human being created in the image of God. The UMC believes abortions are ok in certain circumstances as long as abortion is not used for birth control, sex-selection or eugenics.

Vaughn is not the only UMC pastor who counsels women to get abortions.

Church historian William B. Lawrence began doing so before abortion on demand became legal nation-wide in 1973, according to the report.

Lawrence criticized Texas for passing its heartbeat law, which prohibits abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. He pointed to a unique private enforcement provision that allows private citizens to sue abortionists and those who help them, saying pastors who counsel women to have abortions could be targeted under the law. None have been thus far.

“If the newly passed anti-abortion law in Texas had been in place 50 years ago, my ministry could have ended soon after it started,” Lawrence said. “I could have faced civil court actions for which my $5,800 annual salary would have been inadequate to finance a legal response. I might have left the ministry because I could not afford to stay in it.”

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