Atlanta bishop backs personhood amendment

The Right Rev. Robert Wright, the new Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Atlanta, has expressed support for the "personhood" amendment to the Georgia constitution, which would define life under state law as beginning at the moment of conception.

In a two-part interview with WABE radio in Atlanta, he said: “As someone who was adopted personally and as someone who has adopted, I am grateful, in a profound way, that … my mother, my biological mother, brought me to term, and gave me the opportunity to live the life that I have lived,” he said. “I am grateful to God for that.” He added that the personhood amendment could help shape thinking about the death penalty and eldercare.

Listen to part 1 of Wright's WABE interview here, and part 2 here.

Comments (16)

How nice that Bishop Wright's biological mother had that option. Does he presume that her experience is the experience of every woman who has an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy? Such as the experience of a couple, with a very much wanted pregnancy that experienced complications at 17 weeks? Personhood laws such as that one the bishop supports can put women's lives at risk, as the world has witnessed recently in Ireland (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/savita-halappanavar-death-irish-woman-denied-abortion-dies_n_2128696.html).

Furthermore, his views run counter to the ECUSA position on abortion.

It's very sad to read about a bishop who would see the rights of his female parishioners subjugated to the "rights of the unborn."

Kirsten Sherk

Oh my! As the adoptive father of two, I am also grateful that their biological mothers brought them to term. And it didn't take a "person-hood" amendment to have them do it.

I don't even know where to begin to express my distress. If the "potential for life" = "personhood" then every woman who discards a tampon or a sanitary pad and every man who has a nocturnal emission ought to be charged with murder.

I think I understand the bishop's intentions but the poor man desperately needs a basic biology class.

Probably fair to remember, too, that the Bishop says he respects "people's right to choose..." Not quite as reductionist as the headline makes it seem.

Stephen - please sign your name when you comment. Thanks ~ed.

Building on ElizabethK: what about GOD's culpability here? (I understand that *most* fertilized ova do not implant---nevermind later miscarriages). The Biggest Violator of "personhood" of them all!

But seriously, this isn't funny. To "define life under state law as beginning at the moment of conception" is a direct ASSAULT on the Imago-Dei-Made-Female.

JC Fisher

While I don't agree with the good bishop's stance, I think political diversity in the church is a Good Thing. Something is amiss when we treat our historic doctrinal formulas as optional but elevate support for abortion rights to the status of "the position of the Episcopal Church."

This is unfortunate. I was adopted, too, and figure that I dodged the abortion bullet; I recognize how hard it can be to separate one's personal history from this issue. I hope the bishop reconsiders backing this ill-considered amendment.

As far as his views running counter to the ECUSA official position on abortion, that's really a two-edged sword and I'm not sure how much weight to put on the fact. Bishops sometimes take positions on issues that are contrary to the Church's, while being hailed as "prophetic." At any rate, I'm willing to be that the average Episcopalian in the pew is pretty hazy as to what the Church's official position on abortion actually is.

Bill Dilworth

"willing to be" should be "willing to bet"

Bill Dilworth

Something is amiss when we treat our historic doctrinal formulas as optional but elevate support for abortion rights to the status of "the position of the Episcopal Church.

I don't know which more disturbing, Warren. That you're introducing a red-herring second subject matter ("historic doctrinal formulas as optional") on a Personhood discussion, or that you're asserting that second issue w/o any proof.

JC Fisher

Warren (and JC) support for abortion rights is at least an important part of the Episcopal Church's official position on abortion, judging by various resolutions of General Convention. That position is more complicated than it's usually presented. For example, see the 1994 resolution: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution.pl?resolution=1994-A054

But as I said, I'm not sure how much weight the Church's official positions on any number of subjects will bear if they are used as standards for the behavior of bishops.

Bill Dilworth

This is distressing and disappointing. I hope the good bishop will make it clear that this is a personal position and not one taken on behalf of the church. The church's traditional position is that personhood begins either at "quickening" or at birth (there are differing positions in the historical texts). Certainly not at conception.

An Atlanta Episcopalian, I heard Bishop Wright's interview on WABE, our NPR station, and he made it quite clear that this awkward position is his, personally, and places no obligation on the rest of us in the diocese. I know enough of the intelligent and articulate Rob Wright to think that he understands exactly the intent of the legislation that he said he supports, though I could hope differently. And as an obstetrician,the absurd constuct of "personhood" at conception is,well ,anathema.

John Donnelly

As roughly only one third of fertilized eggs make it to implantation, this is an absurd position as it places random chance (DBA God) as a mass murderer that would put to shame.

The new bishop also said that blessing same-sex couples is the most that the Diocese of Atlanta can do for same-sex couples because the State of Georgia prohibits marriage equality. The church can always say that it considers all committed couples married for purposes of religion.

The so-called personhood amendment would declare a fetus a person and implies that abortion should be outlawed, no matter what the Bishop's personal opinion. Women would be disrespected. The text reads:

"Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each innocent human being from his or her earliest biological beginning without regard to age, race, sex, health, function, or condition of dependency?"

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Gary Paul Gilbert

Wow, that amendment proposal is so vague as to be meaningless. "Earliest biological beginning" can mean pretty much whatever you want it to mean.

The thing is, life doesn't begin at the moment of conception - it begins well before that. Both sperm and egg are alive and have the potential to become a person. The difference in potential between a separate sperm and egg and sperm and egg joined together is relative. Furthermore, you could argue that life begins way back when the first cell divided in two. When that happened the potential for my birth became real.

Being grateful for someone allowing the potential of one's own personhood to become a reality is highly selective gratitude. What about all the sperm and eggs that did not become Bishop Wright? At the end of the day either we need to accept that "personhood" is about something else other than sex or we need to protect every particle in the universe because every particle in the universe could one day become part of a person (whatever a person is).

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