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A crowd of people outside at an abortion rights rally. Someone is holding a sign that says Abortion is Health Care. Someone else holds a sign saying Keep Your Laws Off My Body.

Abortion, or reproductive health more broadly, has always been a sensitive issue among Friends, just as it has been with other religious groups.

FCNL was not part of the public conversation leading to the January 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protected an individual’s right to choose to end their pregnancy via abortion. Nor was FCNL vocal in the decades that followed as that decision was repeatedly challenged.

In June 2022, nearly 50 years after Roe, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 ruling with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, allowing states to again ban abortion. At that point, Section III.2.7 of The World We Seek: Statement of Legislative Policy stated that since Friends are not in unity on abortion issues, “FCNL takes no position and does not act either for or against abortion legislation.”

After the Dobbs decision, FCNL’s Policy Committee heard from Friends around the country that they overwhelmingly wanted FCNL to take a position on the issue. “Our silence was deafening,” said Bridget Moix, FCNL general secretary.

FCNL took a Spirit-led approach to addressing the issue. As an organization, we are committed to listening to the voices of the most impacted individuals across all our policy positions. Reproductive health would be no different. The 11-month process of discernment that followed was a bold attempt to do exactly that.

Moix described the discernment process as a faithful one, with equity and justice at the center of the process. “Though it demonstrated differences among members of the Policy and General Committees,” she said, “it ultimately brought members together.”   

The process began during FCNL’s 2022 Annual Meeting when the Policy Committee held an initial listening session to determine its direction. Then, in early 2023, the committee invited Friends to discern whether FCNL should have a policy position on abortion, and if so, what it should say.

The committee heard from more than 300 Quaker meetings, groups, and individual Friends—nearly 100 more than the typical response totals for FCNL’s priorities discernment process. Committee members carefully combed through each response and underwent their own collective discernment about Spirit’s leading on this difficult and emotional topic.

After the listening sessions, the Policy Committee met in September 2023 to revise the position they drafted based on the feedback. They reflected on several queries to ensure all voices were incorporated in the next draft. When they presented the statement during this year’s Annual Meeting, Policy Committee members reminded the General Committee and staff, that they had sought to “honor the Spirit of all this input and to honor the trust you have placed in us” in the process.

General committee members voiced appreciation for the process and the statement itself, offered wording and content suggestions, and at times, respectfully disagreed. The final statement that emerged, Moix says, “is not perfect, but it calls us to chart a different path beyond what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life.’ It is about our government’s duty to ensure equitable access to services and to support individual discernment.”

Here is the new section in the World We Seek: Statement of Legislative Priorities:

III.2.7. Reproductive health and abortion. 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.

While this update represents an important chapter in FCNL’s evolution, it will not shift our legislative priorities during the 118th or 119th Congress. It offers staff and governors guidance in discussing matters of reproductive health.

Kristen Archer is FCNL’s editorial and social media director.


Kristen Archer

Kristen Archer

Social Media & Editorial Director

Kristen helps to engage and expand FCNL’s online community and amplify its voice through social media. In this role, she also develops long-form editorial content and serves as an in-house writing trainer for Program Assistants and other colleagues.