Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) approved a policy on abortion and other reproductive issues at its November 2023 annual meeting. The move came after a year of discernment by Quakers at FCNL and in monthly meetings across the country. Previously FCNL did not take a stance on abortion because Friends nationwide were not in unity on the issue. Quakers called on FCNL to adopt a policy after the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had asserted a constitutional right to abortion.
“What we heard from Friends is ‘the silence is deafening,’” said Bridget Moix, general secretary of FCNL.
The policy states:
Quakers recognize that human life is sacred, and that Spirit can guide us individually and collectively. Based on these beliefs, members of the Religious Society of Friends have come to different conclusions regarding abortion. FCNL supports individual discernment in a spirit of love and truth in making reproductive healthcare decisions, as we do in other areas of conscientious moral choice. Government must ensure that people have the legal right to make these decisions. We oppose the criminalization of people seeking, undergoing, or involved in abortion services. We support equitable access to abortion services. FCNL also supports policies that reduce unwanted pregnancies by ensuring equitable access to contraception, sex education, family planning, fertility and adoption services, and support for all who decide to have children.
Moix explained that the policy does not mean that FCNL will lobby on abortion and reproductive issues. Abortion and other reproductive concerns are not legislative priorities for FCNL as they were not identified as such during its most recent legislative goal-setting process in 2022, according to Moix. Identifying legislative priorities involves discernment by meetings across the country which leads FCNL to prioritize issues on which to lobby Congress. Legislative priorities are updated every two years. FCNL invited Quakers across the country to discern the answers to several queries on abortion and other reproductive issues. The ten members of FCNL’s Policy Committee read through all of the more than 300 responses Friends sent, according to Ebby Luvaga, the outgoing clerk of the committee.
“We found out Friends were really engaged in this process,” said Luvaga.
The Policy Committee listened to invited speakers, including a representative from Amnesty International, the president of Feminists for Life, and the founder of the Susan B. Anthony List, according to Luvaga. The speakers spoke virtually at a Policy Committee meeting that was held in a hybrid format June 9–10, 2023. Amnesty International is a global human rights advocacy organization, according to its website. Feminists for Life seeks to prevent abortions by practically and emotionally supporting pregnant women, according to its website. The Susan B. Anthony List endorses anti-abortion politicians, mostly women, according to its website. FCNL also heard from Catholic partners.
The Policy Committee listened to feedback from FCNL’s Executive Committee, staff, and General Committee, according to Luvaga. Some points of agreement that existed from the beginning included support for individual discernment and opposition to criminalization of abortion seekers and providers.
Quaker support for the statement was broad but not universal.
“FCNL does not speak for each and every Quaker,” said Tim McHugh, FCNL’s director of media relations.