J. Herbert Nelson misses the mark in his critique of Hobby Lobby decision

Anti-abortion demonstrators high five as the ruling for Hobby Lobby was announced outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

J. Herbert Nelson

By Marie Bowen

J. Herbert Nelson is Director of the PCUSA’s Office of Public Witness in Washington D.C. It is his job to advocate on behalf of the PCUSA to legislative branches of the U.S. government (as directed by actions of the General Assembly) and also to educate and inform Presbyterians of current legislation and equip the membership of the church for their own advocacy efforts.

His recent statements about the Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby were posted recently by the Presbyterian Mission Agency—Office of Public Witness. Nelson’s comments are, egregiously, filled with misinformation and hyperbole about both PCUSA policy on contraception and the impact of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision on women. His letter reads much like the social media rhetoric of the culture which we, as Christians, are called to stand against. One expects a more measured and informed communication from an office that speaks on behalf of the whole denomination.


Did Nelson really mean that a woman can determine ‘whether or not to become pregnant?’

According to the posted article, Nelson said:

“In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we affirm that each person is created in God’s image, and that each woman is endowed with God-given moral capacity and authority to determine whether or not to become pregnant.” (emphasis mine)

I’m sure Nelson knows that no woman can determine whether or not she will become pregnant. The power to create nascent life in the womb (i.e. “determine pregnancy”) belongs solely to God. No one can become pregnant by her own decision. No matter the methodology, women who desperately want a child and remain infertile after using every means available at great expense and effort can attest that becoming pregnant is completely outside their own power.  Once pregnant by God’s grace (Genesis 4:1, 21:1-2, 25:21, Psa. 127:3) the decision is whether or not to kill the child.