Is it okay to be a Pro-Choice Mormon?

We’ve had some extended discussions of abortion here in recent threads. One topic has not been discussed in any detail, and it’s one that I find interesting. Are church members required to be pro-life? (That is, opposed to legal availability of abortion). Or may they be pro-choice — (in favor of allowing abortion under the law)?

The church has taken a solid position on the morality of abortion itself. The church web site makes clear: “The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in [certain] rare cases.” However, this does not answer the question of whether members must oppose the existence of legal abortion.

There are certainly variations of the pro-choice argument which would run counter to church doctrine. Any theory that holds that human life is irrelevant (think Peter Singer), or that abortion is a moral good, seems to be contrary to church doctrine.

But many pro-choice positions are not based on the idea that abortion is a moral good or that life is irrelevant, but on other ideas which may not be in conflict with stated church doctrine. That is, there are positions which condemn the abortion itself but do not require that it be legally proscribed.

First, members might be pro-choice based on libertarian principles. There is a strong strand of libertarian thought in the church. The basic libertarian philosophy is that the government should enact the minimum required number of laws, and generally let people (and markets) make their own choices. Such a position is easy to reconcile with a pro-choice position on abortion. (This is not to say that libertarian arguments require a pro-choice stance on abortion. But, they seem to provide ground for a member to be pro-choice).

Second, members might be pro-choice based on standard liberal equal-protection arguments that laws against abortion are restrictive of women’s rights. While recognizing that the act is itself harmful, members could reasonably believe that society should not enact laws that have the practical effect of burdening women at a greater rate than they burden men.

Third, members could reasonably believe (as the cases state) that laws against abortion are an unconstitutional limit on the right to privacy. Again, such belief need not be a statement that the act of abortion is good. But it can be a belief that abortion restrictions are unconstitutional. (Many things may be required by the Constitution which we do not necessarily think are morally good).

None of these positions depend on assumptions or ideas that are contrary to church doctrine (such as a belief that human life is irrelevant or that abortion is morally good). Therefore, it seems that they are ways that a member could be a faithful, pro-choice Mormon.

Finally, it seems to me that church members have substantially more leeway to adopt a pro-choice position without running afoul of church doctrine than members of some other faiths. The church has consistently refused to proclaim that life begins at conception, and has even taken some acts, such as lukewarm acceptance of stem-cell research, that seem to imply that it does not. (See also this Slate piece about the political freedom that has given the church).

77 comments for “Is it okay to be a Pro-Choice Mormon?

  1. If I am reading this sermon (here: by Elder Oaks correctly (and I may not be), it is, in fact, not okay for a faithful (prophet-sustaining, temple-recommend-holding) Mormon to be “pro-choice” in their politics. Consider:

    “Pro-choice slogans have been particularly seductive to Latter-day Saints because we know that moral agency, which can be described as the power of choice, is a fundamental necessity in the gospel plan. All Latter-day Saints are pro-choice according to that theological definition. But being pro-choice on the need for moral agency does not end the matter for us. Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal. We are accountable for our choices, and only righteous choices will move us toward our eternal goals. In this effort, Latter-day Saints follow the teachings of the prophets. On this subject our prophetic guidance is clear. The Lord commanded, ‘Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6). The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience. Our members are taught that, subject only to some very rare exceptions, they must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. That direction tells us what we need to do on the weightier matters of the law, the choices that will move us toward eternal life. In today’s world we are not true to our teachings if we are merely pro-choice. We must stand up for the right choice. Those who persist in refusing to think beyond slogans and sound bites like pro-choice wander from the goals they pretend to espouse and wind up giving their support to results they might not support if those results were presented without disguise.”

    So, no pro-choice Mormons, I think. Does this above require that members of the church actively push for the criminalization of abortion, and the punishment of those who provide or have abortions? I don’t think so. But can you, as a Mormon, simply affirm “I believe that it is right for abortion to be available as a free, legal choice”? According to Elder Oaks, I don’t think you can.

    It’d be interesting to hear Cecilia Konchar Farr’s perspective on this (if anyone remembers her).

  2. I’d see it very difficult to be consistent with LDS belief and be pro-choice. However part of the problem is that “pro-choice” is somewhat vague. What about the 1st trimester, for instance? Many of us who feel abortion is wrong and ought to be illegal might be willing to make exceptions for first trimester.

    I’d add that I’ve never heard the church condemn “morning after” treatments, for instance.

  3. Russell,

    Thanks for the link, that certainly adds to the discussion. I’m not sure it completely answers the question. It may restrict the use of libertarian ideas to support a pro-choice LDS position. But what about (for example) the constitutional law scholar who actively believes that Roe was correctly decided as a matter on Constitutional interpretation? Or the person who believes that the rule of law requires strict adherence to constitutional decisions until they are overturned?

  4. I think you’re right, Kaimi, that a person can be against legal abortion and also acknowledge it as the law, even as part of the Constitution. A second person could even think that Roe was the law of the land, for now, without thinking the judges in Roe were even arguably correct.

    But that first person we’ve talked about would probably be considered pro-life, because I assume they would at least tepidly support overturning Roe or amending the Constitution to overturn it.

  5. Well, trying not to be too controversial, I have to say that I *hope* Russell is wrong. I think it is clear that Elder Oaks thinks that it is inconsistent to be a pro-choice Mormon. But does that mean that you can’t be anything along the abortion-rights spectrum except staunchly pro-life and still be temple worthy? I guess I question that. Being the prominent issue it is today, I think that such a question would be added to the temple recommend interview if that were the case.

  6. So Clark mentioned the “morning after” pill, and that it has not been condemned by church leaders. What should we make of that? What if it is taken three minutes after? Three days after? The church has greatly softened its stance on birth control over the years. Will this pose a difficulty as the distinction between birth control and abortion is blurred?

  7. Part of me is loathe to address this question, since I feel like it’s been beaten to death in the Mormon blogosphere (at T&S and elsewhere), not to mention in various conversations I’ve had with fellow Mormons over the years. At this point, I’m not sure there’s much to say that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. But here goes…

    “Are Church members required to be pro-life?” Let us assume, for the sake of argument only, that the answer is YES. Let us further assume that I’m a member who accepts this requirement and wants to faithfully comply with it as best I can. Question: So what do I do? Seriously, what is required of me as a Mormon once I understand this tenet of my faith? I’m stumped.

    One possibility is that the next time my state has a referendum on the question whether abortion should be legal or illegal, I must vote a certain way. But oh wait … that’s not going to happen, since Roe v. Wade has essentially imposed a national legal regime on the country that permits abortion in most circumstances.

    Another possibility is that Mormons should be actively striving to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Numerous questions arise: Am I required to support it if it doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest? Am I required to oppose it if it doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest? What religious principles do I use to sort out these questions? In any event, this is really a moot example, since there isn’t nearly enough political support to pass a constitutional amendment in this country anyway.

    (Of course, maybe what is required is my going out and starting an anti-abortion activist organization, or perhaps joining Matt Evans in running his. Noble as Matt’s efforts may be, I doubt even he would argue that the Church has mandated that ALL members dedicate as much time and effort to the cause as he has.)

    Finally, if we look at the question realistically, there’s only one meaningful thing we can do as LDS members to overhaul abortion law in this country: VOTE REPUBLICAN. Although it is by no means certain that George W. Bush will appoint Supreme Court justices bent on overturning Roe v. Wade, what IS certain is that a Democratic president will NOT appoint justices that would do so. In short, Mormons must support the Republican party (never mind the various General Authority pronouncements that suggest otherwise).

    If I’m wrong, and Mormons aren’t required to vote Republican, than I really have no idea what it means to say I’m “required” to be pro-life.

    So maybe my initial premises are wrong. Maybe the issue isn’t one of obligatory action, but one of where my sympathies lie. So I’m “required” to entertain particular “sympathies,” even though there are no necessary corollaries to these sympathies in the real world that mandate a particular course of political action. Doesn’t it seem odd to speak of “requirements” that have no necessary content?

    At the end of the day, I have to wonder if the contention that Mormons “must be pro-life” really boils down to the assertion that there must be some obligatory content to our chatter at cocktail parties, or at the next Ward social, when the subject of abortion comes up.

    Aaron B

    P.S. And I do have “pro-life” sympathies, by the way. I just don’t understand the nature of this supposed “requirement.”

  8. Russell, Cecilia’s view would be interesting, and I’d really like to hear her and Mitt Romney discuss their, um, varied experiences with church leadership after taking a public stance in favor of the legality of abortion.

    Greg, the line between birth control and abortion has been blurry at least since the introduction of the IUD.

  9. Russell, Cecilia’s view would be interesting, and I’d really like to hear her and Mitt Romney discuss their, um, varied experiences with church leadership after taking public stances in favor of the legality of abortion.

    Greg, the line between birth control and abortion has been blurry at least since the introduction of the IUD.

  10. Aaron: You’re not really asking, from what I can tell, whether or not Elder Oaks is correct in asserting that a proper understanding of the Mormon faith requires the adoption of “pro-life” positions. What you’re asking is: should “pro-life” positions be those primary ones which faithful Mormons are obliged to act and vote in respect to? Which isn’t a question about Mormonism and abortion; it’s a question about Mormonism and political priorities, or Mormonism and single-issue voting. An important topic, but a different one. (I routinely describe myself to anyone who asks as “pro-life,” and I voted for Ralph Nader for president (twice). In a democratic system like our own, that’s not necessarily an incoherent position to adopt.)

    Kristine: “I’d really like to hear [Farr] and Mitt Romney discuss their, um, varied experiences with church leadership after taking public stances in favor of the legality of abortion.”

    Ditto. Wouldn’t that be a packed panel discussion at your local Sunstone symposium?

  11. Deconstruction time again…

    from one:
    I think it is clear that Elder Oaks thinks that it is inconsistent to be a pro-choice Mormon.
    1. Yes. Elder Oaks, a prophet, seer and revelator, in precise words which allow little deviation, carefully chosen by this legal scholar under inspiration does make it clear that he “thinks” it is inconsistent. But of course we are free to disagree with him. Who is he to know after all?

    But does that mean that you can’t be anything along the abortion-rights spectrum except staunchly pro-life and still be temple worthy? I guess I question that. I think that such a question would be added to the temple recommend interview if that were the case.
    2. Question away. Yet, if every question re: worthiness had to be added to the temple recommend interview…it would never be finished. Didn’t someone (probably a lawyer) once try to trick the Savior with a similar question? The Savior answered with the two great commandments. I don’t think it’s hard to see in the “penumbras” of which questions the answer to this ‘recommend’ question lies.

    from another:
    Doesn’t it seem odd to speak of “requirements” that have no necessary content?
    3. No…not really. What does consecrating all your time, talents and efforts mean? can you put in a precise statutory answer to this question? I’m probably just more simple minded, but the answer is clear: Abortion is murder. This isn’t a question re: rights, or the constitution. It is a matter of Gods law and the sanctity of human life, aka the Plan of Salvation. Can we rationalize and feel goode about wanting to look PC in the eyes of the world? Sure. But I’m not raising my hand…such attempts surely stinketh.

  12. I’m with Aaron in that I feel like I’m “pro-life”. But posting a comment on a blog is probably all I’ll do about it. Is that bad? What should we be doing? I don’t mean to be a “fence sitter” on this, but it really is so much easier.

    This reminds me of an only-sort-of-related story I heard. It was about libertarians passing out toy guys to kids in a New York school to prove “guns are good” or something like that. Now, I tend to be libertarian in my views, but when people are turning red in the face trying to convince me of something (no, that comment was not directed only to Howard Dean), I just wish, in that instant, the issue didn’t exist. Because even if I pick a side, what am I going to do about it? Probably nothing.

  13. Sr. Fox:

    In a democratic system like our own, that’s not necessarily an incoherent position to adopt.)

    Um: It’s not? I think Elders Oak’s sermon speaks volumes. While we may have pareto whatevers, condorcet’s paradoxi, etc…if you vote for someone that supports murder…regardless of their other positions…I don’t think it works. I wonder if the Council in Heaven was like an American presidential election…and there were alot of other “Important Issues” involved besides agency. Glad that we all voted for life and agency. That must have been a close one

  14. “Part of me is loathe to address this question.” I know what you mean, Aaron.

    1. I guess you’ll have to spell it our for me, Lyle. Your statement didn’t tell me why we can’t hold different views than an Apostle.

    2. Are you saying that you have to be worthy to enter the temple in ways that aren’t covered in the interview? While temple worthiness may not include everything that we need for exaltation, I think it includes everything necessary for, you know, temple worthiness. Again, spell out the “penumbras” for me, as I don’t know what you are talking about.

  15. um…my apologies. i let a lil too much emotion creep into this. how about we substitute ironic sarcasm for the tone? or lightly humorous?

  16. Does anyone believe that:

    1. Abortion is evil.
    2. Abortion SHOULD (morally) be banned.
    3. The Constitution, properly read, requires that abortion rights be protected.

  17. Lyle, you write: “if you vote for someone that supports murder…regardless of their other positions…I don’t think it works.” Leaving aside the debatable appropriateness of describing the act of endorsing abortion rights as “supporting murder,” I’m not sure what you mean by “works.” Why wouldn’t my position “work”? It’s perfectly coherent to vote for a candidate for the sake of highlighting an issue or set of issues that you think are being ignored by the other candidates, even if that means you are ignoring that candidate’s position on other matters that you disagree with strongly. Is it “moral” to do so? “Faithful”? That’s a different question. I’m not claiming my voting habits are a morally or spiritually adequate response to the priorities which Elder’s Oaks has laid down. All I’m claiming is that they’re a coherent response to such.

    I’m very open to the possibility that the Mormon position on abortion should oblige American Mormons to vigorously oppose the abortion regime (legal, ethical, and political) in this country. Indeed, I tend to think that some internal disciplinary debates over the political obligations of Mormonism (in the form that American Catholicism is always experiencing them) would be good for us. As I’ve written before, in some ways I’d like to see a more political church. However, again, all this isn’t actually an argument about being “pro-life”–it’s an argument about political activism. And those two topics are not joined at the hip.

  18. Nate, your nice question puts legal realism on parade. I doubt there’s a person on the planet who accepts premises 2 and 3. (You can make the point more starkly by omitting Premise 1 since it’s assumed in Premise 2). Everyone who believes #3 rejects #2.

  19. “And those topic are not joined at the hip.” Well, maybe not, but possibly at the ankle. It’s hard, Russell, for some to differentiate the two. If the political activists would leave the “pro-life-but-not-necessarily-political” crowd alone, then maybe so.

  20. Nate,

    I agree with 1 & 2, but not with 3. I don’t think the Constitution clearly defines a “right to privacy.” I’m more of a strict contructionist in that sense. But even if there was a right to privacy, I don’t think abortion qualifies because it affects not just one life but the life of the baby.

    People may argue that a developing fetus, in its earliest stages, is not fully human, but there’s no doubt that it is a living organism. We don’t know when the spirit enters the body, but we do know that the heart beats at 25 days and brain waves begin during the 2nd month of development.

    Animals, although not human, have the right not to be abused as shown by animal abuse laws and the standards for care of animals used for research. Yet a human fetus does not have these rights if the woman wants an abortion. However, if a woman is pregnant and is assaulted by someone else and she loses the baby, the perpetrator can be convicted of murder in some states. The only difference between the fetus in both cases is that in the latter case, the baby is wanted. There seems to be some kind of disconnect in laws that cover abortion and murder in this respect.

    Based on current science, the law needs to define what is a human being deserving of full constitutional rights and what is not. As the abortion laws not stand, I think that a fetus is deemed “human” only if it is developed enough to live outside of the womb.

    I myself am not oppsed to birth control or the “morning after pill” because I don’t think that the fetus becomes a human being until its heart starts beating. But people can disagree. Maybe some would argue that it becomes human when the brain starts to function. But again, that is in the 2nd month!

    What is disturbing to me is unnecessary third term abortions (partial birth abortions) where it is clear that the baby does feel pain and suffers. These should NEVER happen in a civilized society.

    Abortion is the primary reason why I can never vote for a Democrat. The Democratic party seems quite inflexible on this issue and so am I.

  21. It would seem that members, while opposing abortion in most cases, should support the legality of abortion in the five exceptions that the Church handbook provides (rape, incest, life of mother, serious health of mother, and deformities in fetus that will prevent extended life beyond birth).

    As for the political activism argument…

    I would assume that if you are pro-life, you implicitly are arguing that abortion is somewhat akin (but not the same) as murder. Or if you don’t like the “M” word, then you at least believe that it is a big enough deal that the government has a right telling a woman what she can/can’t do while pregnant. With that said, I can’t imagine how you could not politically support efforts to restrict the portions of abortion you object to.

    In other words, being pro-life but “not really interested in doing anything about it” is not all that dissimilar from declaring one’s opposition to child abuse, but declining to participate in political efforts to lessen its occurrence.

    I don’t think it’s a “joined at the hips or ankles” thing, being pro-life doesn’t make political activism optional, it requires it.

  22. Sounds good, Lyle. I think this discussion can get emotionally charged. I know I certainly don’t mean to challenge anyone’s testimony.

  23. Doug: “In other words, being pro-life but ‘not really interested in doing anything about it’ is not all that dissimilar from declaring one’s opposition to child abuse, but declining to participate in political efforts to lessen its occurrence.”

    But not all political activities necessarily turn on questions of whether or not child abuse will be lessened. Not all candidates run on pro- or anti-child abuse platforms. Some run on, oh, I don’t know, trade. Or taxes. Or foreign policy. Or a thousand other things. To vote, or engage any other kind of activism, primarily on the basis of one of those “other things” may not be an attitude and approach which is especially true to the “pro-life” position which I believe Elder Oaks was very clearly advocating. For all I know, maybe we should be single-issue voters regarding abortion. But as things stand right now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe otherwise.

  24. When I say “political activism” I’m not suggesting that pro-life Mormons need to all show up at the March for Life in DC, or put signs in their front yards.

    What I am saying is this: Taking the pro-life position isn’t like taking a position on, say, whether the government should regulate the amount of iron in children’s vitamins. Presumably you are pro-life because you believe that you are preserving “life.”

    Hence, a lack of political action to further such preservation, whether it be voting for pro-life candidates, or giving to pro-life causes, or what have you, seems to me to be completely contradictory to the position taken.

  25. Russell:”But not all political activities necessarily turn on questions of whether or not child abuse will be lessened.”

    True. But would anyone who opposes child abuse vote for a candidate who advocated its propogation? Do you see how abortion is more than just “another one of those issues” ?

    Nonetheless, I don’t think that this forces someone into a narrow pro-life straight ticket paradigm. All I’m suggesting is that for pro-life voters abortion trumps every other single issue out there. This isn’t to suggest that a confluence of other issues can’t make a pro-life candidate less attractive than a pro-choice one.

  26. We have an obvious case study for these questions: the current governor of the state in which I reside is a) a temple-recommend holding member of the church, and b) on the record as being pro-choice and not inclined to change Massachusetts’ (very liberal) abortion laws. Many members of the church in Massachusetts actively campaigned for and (presumably) voted for this governor.


  27. I voted for Romney. It is the only election in which I have voted Libertarian, Republican, and Democrat.

  28. 1. I guess you’ll have to spell it our for me, Lyle. Your statement didn’t tell me why we can’t hold different views than an Apostle.
    A. Hm. Well, We “can” hold different views…but I’m not really sure why one would want to. I haven’t spelled out all the steps in my logical chain…cuz i’m not even sure what they all are. here, I think the link is the slothful servant/actively engaged verses in D&C. Add Elder Oaks to this D&C Cite, and I get that a faithful Mormon shouldn’t wait to be “ordered” to oppose abortion, or cease apologize for the practice under the guise of the individual rights of one entity over another. No insult meant here.

    2. Are you saying that you have to be worthy to enter the temple in ways that aren’t covered in the interview?
    B. Yes, in the same sense that my Bishop told me that if I had to ask him if drinking caffeinated drinks violated the WoW after Pres. Hinckley’s anti-caffeine duo of statements on national TV. No, in the sense that the ‘ways that aren’t covered’ actually ARE covered in the temple interview quesions. The interview asks something to the effect of “are you in harmony with your family members”? It doesn’t ask “have you sexually abused a family member?” “have you emotionally abused your spouse?” etc. These are ‘lesser included’ offenses/potential violations of the “harmony” question. Similary, in this “lesser included penumbra” created by the affirmative statement of a Prophet of God that a member can’t be pro-abortion/choice and worthy of the spirit, because abortion violates the commandments of God. If one advocates, or allows to continue to exist (i.e. all good (wo)men have to do to allow evil to triump is nothing…) an evil practice…one is guilty of aiding & abetting.

    Russell, good clarification. I’m just suggesting that the ‘bundling’ of issues together, or diving the bundle of political platform stix, doesn’t equate to a rational/reasonable stand. It doesn’t work logically, for me, because one would have to be able to value the distinct preferences involved…and at least in this case…a Prophetic statement trumps all other considerations in my gospel math book.

    I appreciate the logical body checks. thanks! :)

  29. Kristine brings up a great point re: Romney. And I think Russell has the right idea…Mormons could use a systematiced method, if not result, in how to ‘live the gospel politically.’ Presumably, Romney has a temple recommend. Leaving that aside (either true or not), the only two results I see are that:
    a. Russells discussion re: single-issue voting and voting bundling/issue highlighting, is relevant and allows Mormons to feel comfortable about supporting the continuation of Abortion…esp. since SCOTUS took the decision out of the hands of the states and country.
    b. Romney has some type of CIA-esque ‘covert’ ‘sin pass’…which allows him to operate outside of ‘normal’ bounds in order to accomplish some kingdom building tasks (making mormons more well known, respected, etc.)

  30. That’s an interesting question Nate. I suspect one could argue for a limited version of the above in a manner akin to throwing out arrests due to “improper search and seizure” requirements. In those cases one could argue that it is moral to ban an act but simultaneously protect rights thereby limiting the police’s ability to effectively ban activities. i.e. drug use in a home.

    I’ve always thought that the way the Roe v. Wade was discussed in the public arena was odd. After all even if it is legal for the woman to do what she wants with her body due to privacy rights, it seems like the state could still regulate medical procedures. i.e. don’t ban the woman’s activity but instead ban the medical procedure.

    I recognize it hasn’t evolved that way, but I probably would be open to such an approach.

  31. Regarding Romney I truly wonder what he means by “Pro-Choice.” If he simply means he supports the constitution including the fact that the Supreme Court has the final world, then that’s one thing. I half-way suspect though that he was playing politics with the term.

    I should add that while I’m definitely pro-life I find it disheartening that so many tie so much on a belief that means so little. i.e. whether a congressman or Govenor is either makes little difference in practice. Let’s be honest nothing is going to change relative to abortion any time soon except situations on the extremes. (i.e. partial birth)

  32. Lyle: 1. When I think of not being commanded in all things, I think more along the lines of taking your understanding of the gospel and making decisions based on what seems to you (with the help of the Spirit) to be in harmony with its principles. You seem to be saying that even when we are not “ordered” to do something, there actually is only one right course of action, therefore there is still a kind of implicit commandment that we are specifically following or not following.

    It’s not that I *want* to hold views different than Elder Oaks’. But I do consider it to be morally compatible with my respect and reverence for him as an Apostle to see things differently.

    2. Back on the issue of temple recommend questions, one of the great things about them is that they’re left for you to answer in accordance with your own conscience. I don’t think that the reason all the “lesser included penumbras” as you call them aren’t included is to save time, as you suggested. If so, there could be a list distributed before you go so you could understand them all. Rather, for the most part they are meant to make you consider your life and how you are striving to be righteous. Take, for example, the question on tithing. Because of the tax code, that question becomes very complicated (a suggestion: don’t get Nate started explaing just how complex the issue is). The Brethren have not spelled out the proper method of paying tithing in every conceivable instance, but have laid out principles by which we can seek the Spirit as we determine our method. I think the other questions are largely similar. For many people, some of the interview questions may cause them to feel strongly that it is inappropriate to be pro-choice. But I’m not sure that there is a question inherently incompatible with the position.

  33. Russell: can we go back to your reading of Oaks’ talk? Your discussion assumes, or at least suggests, that sustaining an apostle implies a duty of obedience. While this belief is common, I’m not sure it’s entirely justified.

    Next, Elder Oaks is very careful in his language. He’s saying that we shouldn’t think that a belief in free agency (or “moral agency” i the currently fashionable phrase) implies or supports a “pro-choice” position. He’s making certain prescriptions about action: don’t have an abortion or pay for or encourage one, particularly for the sake of “convenience.” And he’s making some quite vague statements about the “weightier matters of the law.” After all, “standing up for the right choice” could be interpreted as influencing those in one’s social or familial sphere not to participate in abortion, teaching one’s children that abortion is wrong, etc. I don’t think he would be shy about saying that we should, for instance, “work to enshrine the right choice in our laws,” or something like that, if that’s what he meant. He had to know that there would be plenty of midrash of his text; he left things not quite closed. (Or, at least in the section you quote he did–maybe I’ll go read the whole thing and discover that I’m being a complete idiot.)

  34. Lile,

    I’m having a scary case of deja-vu here! Your conversation with Logan regarding apostolic authority is awfully reminiscent of the battle you and I had on LDS-Law on this issue a couple years ago. For the sake of those who already had to endure it once, I’ll abstain from recreating it with you here. :>

    Aaron B

  35. Uh, yeah, so I just read the whole thing and I was being an idiot. Here’s the passage which pretty conclusively negates my last comment:

    “If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins. I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law due to this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? of cruelty to animals? of pollution? of fraud? of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?”

    Off to find some ice cream to go with my humble pie…

  36. Even when we aren’t “ordered” I think that there is a clear implications that we ought to heed their counsel unless there is *clear* reasons otherwise. (i.e. personal revelation on the subject) I’d also say that the context in which an apostle speaks also counts a lot. One should also be aware of changing views by the apostles. i.e. not quote them from 20 years ago when the words of the current apostles suggests something else.

  37. Russell,

    In your first post, you accepted Oaks’ comments on whether Mormons can be “pro-choice” as a definitive answer to the question (in the negative). I am wondering about your views on prophetic and apostolic authority generally. In a previous thread on the Iraq War, you wrote “I should note that I don’t believe that a statement by a prophet is necessarily binding, and certainly not in this particular case.” So why is the statement of an apostle necessarily binding in this case?

    When you read Bruce R. McConkie’s talk on the “Seven Deadly Heresies,” do you definitively conclude that the idea that God progresses in knowledge is “false-utterly, totally, and completely. There is not one sliver of truth in it.” Do you likewise conclude that evolution is a tool of the Devil? If not, why not?

    Just wondering if you would flesh out your views on this question.

    Aaron B

  38. I can’t speak for Russell, but my own view is that if an apostle creates new doctrine he is exceeding his authority. If he asks us to *do* something he is not. The scriptures are rather clear that public doctrine can only come via the President of the church.

  39. Aaron and Kristine: I’ve gone back and looked over my original post, and I think both of you are assuming something that isn’t there. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself well. I never said the word “required,” nor “binding,” nor “obendience,” nor “definitive.” I wrote “if I am reading this sermon by Elder Oaks correctly…” and “according to Elder Oaks…” My firm belief, built on the basis of that sermon (as well as other sermons and statements by church leaders), is that Elder Oaks, and in all likelihood all (or practically all) the general authorities of the church, have a strong expectation that Mormons will be “pro-life”–that is, opposed to abortion rights. If you want to be “okay” with them–if you want to be, as I put it in another comment, “true to the ‘pro-life’ position which…Elder Oaks was very clearly advocating”–then that’s the reality of the situation in the present-day institutional church. (Though, as has been pointed out, Mitt Romney’s apparently very good standing in the eyes of the church, despite his public embrace of abortion rights, would seem to suggest that that reality can be “negotiated.”)

    Do I happen to agree with Elder Oaks that Mormons should oppose abortion rights? Absolutely. Would I have thought that even if Elder Oaks had never given that sermon? Considering that I believed that Mormons should oppose abortion rights long before I ever read the sermon, definitely. Am I willing to use Elder Oaks sermon to buttress my point of view? You bet. Do I think that Elder Oaks’s sermon makes what happens to be my position into orthodoxy? Well, it obviously may make things difficult for those Mormons who happen to (wrongly, in my view) affirm “pro-choice” policies. But do I think it’s doctrinally binding, in some formal or dogmatic way, upon the church? No, not really. At least, I don’t think I feel bound by it, though I respect Oaks’s spiritual authority. Basically though, I think I just agree with his argument.

    (I should also add once again that I don’t think agreeing with Elder Oaks’s argument–and indeed, perhaps Elder Oaks himself doesn’t even think his argument–necessarily entails taking political stands in which “pro-life” candidates and policies are always and in every case superior to any other consideration. In fact, I’m pretty certain I’ve read a talk by Elder Oaks wherein, in a different context, he expressed distaste for single-issue voters, a position I also agree with.)

    (Oh, and as for Elder McConkie: man, he sure said a lot of stuff didn’t he? Kind of like Brigham Young.)

  40. Kaimi,

    Given the argument you present as viable reasons to support legal abortions could not the same argument be used in favor of manditory abortion if demanded by the father? He certainly would have just as much at stake. Should he not also have the right to choose? Or if not manditory abortion, at least an “opt-out” clause that would allow the father to forego any resposibility financial or otherwise for the child. This only seems fair, don’t you think…

  41. Roc,

    I don’t believe the father has the same sorts of bodily control, bodily integrity and privacy issues that the mother has. At the very least, the third reason (right to privacy as discussed in the cases) would not apply to men.

    The second reason also probably does not apply to men. Men may undergo medical treatments and exercise control over their own bodies as they see fit. Both men and women are subject to the requirement of child support.

    A libertarian argument can be constructed that both genders should not be required to pay child support. I don’t know what libertarians would think of that idea (I can’t tell you — I’m not a libertarian).

  42. Here’s Mitt Romney’s position on abortion. He doesn’t quite say he accepts Nate’s propositions 2 and 3 (above), but it is not far off.
    “On a personal basis, I don’t favor abortion,” he said. “However, as governor of the commonwealth, I will protect a woman’s right to choose under the laws of the country and the commonwealth. That’s the same position I’ve had for many years.” Romney disclosed that he became committed to legalized abortion after a relative died during an illegal abortion. The disclosure came after Romney, who said he is personally opposed to abortion, was asked to reconcile his beliefs with his political support for abortion rights. “It is since that time that my family will not force our beliefs on that matter,” He said the abortion made him see “that regardless of one’s beliefs about choice, you would hope it would be safe and legal.”

  43. Clark: I find it disheartening that so many tie so much on a belief that means so little. i.e. whether a congressman or Govenor is either makes little difference in practice. Let’s be honest nothing is going to change relative to abortion any time soon except situations on the extremes.

    I disagree. If you are saying that it is “unreasonable” or “unlikely” that abortion law will change…fine. But that is talking about probabilities, not moralities.

    If we only voted for Congressmen and Governors and others who would work to overturn Roe v. Wade, then abortion would not remain legal. The Media tries to say that abortion is now entrenched in society…esp. as it gains increasing acceptance across the world/EU, etc. However…again, acceptance is re: probability, not morality. I’d also note that the polls (of which i’m usually skeptical) show that more and more americans now view abortion as wrong. Yet…the morality and democracy of the majority is held back by the Supreme Court, and individual voters who have written off the issue as an not changeable.

    Aaron, I think you are right re: prophetic/apostolic authority and our past discussion. Perhaps i’ve backslided/retrenched? I do remember having an excellent exchange that made me realize I needed to re-think my position.

    In any case, the cite pulled up by Kristine seems to spell it out clearly. The desire not to impose one’s morality on others…doesn’t wash with at least one apostle.

    Logan: “You seem to be saying that even when we are not “ordered” to do something, there actually is only one right course of action, therefore there is still a kind of implicit commandment that we are specifically following or not following.” YUP! Good call. I’m not actually sure about this, but am struggling with it. Basically, one trite statement says that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Yet, this presupposes that there is a law to be broken. Yet…do we always know what the law/the commandments are? Is adultery still adultery in a culture where it has been accepted? Should Judah have been stoned for sleeping with a prostitute according to the dictates of the law of Moses? Basically, I’m presupposing that given Elder Oaks position, and the Church’s opposition to abortion in general, that there is a ‘right’ answer in the temple recommend interview that can be discerned by the individual putting 2+2x+3y together to equal…no voting for pro-murder/choice candidates.

  44. Russell, Lyle: Any support for your notion that Elder Oaks’ sentiments are general among the apostles? I still think that if that kind of consensus existed, we’d see more overt church involvement in the political processes around this issue (e.g. endorsement/funding of pro-life groups, efforts by the church’s lobbying organization in behalf of anti-Roe judges, more frequent instruction to get involved from the General Conference pulpit, etc.)

  45. Lyle, you’re welcome to those presuppositions. I guess I just disagree.

    By the way, I’m still wondering which recommend interview question you feel is inherently incompatible with a pro-choice position (did you mention it and I just didn’t notice?).

  46. Logan, thanks. I appreciate the input and comments because maybe i have the ‘formula’ wrong.
    I don’t have a list of the questions handy, but i’m sure there is something there about murder, and aiding & abetting murder. I think the LaCrosse way is def. the Mormon way too…no communion for the Mormon politician that is pro-murder/choice to murder.

    Kristine, my ‘guess’ would be that the feeling is general. however…that is my guess. on the practical side, the Church faced an IRS audit once over its activities, and PETA is currently under IRS scrutiny for funding domestic terrorist groups. While I agree there isn’t a big official letter movement similar to that of the ‘save marriage’ campaign…Its def. in the same camp. Killing babies is the same as killing families by allowing same gender ‘groupings.’

  47. Kaimi,

    I follow your argument regarding privacy/body integrity, and possibly even the equal protection (a bit more of a stretch). But how can you reconcile either of these with the issue of conjoined twins. Don’t they each have these same rights? Using your logic, shouldn’t one be able to exercize these rights and “abort” the other? Which one? Maybe you can explain how this situation is different.

  48. “If we only voted for Congressmen and Governors and others who would work to overturn Roe v. Wade, then abortion would not remain legal.”

    If *we* were the only people in the country that would be true. However the reality is that the country is deeply divided and congressmen and governors have relatively little impact on the decisions of the Supreme Court. i.e. the reality is that these issues will not change until public views change. So deciding on your choice for congress based upon this matter is pointless. It is a litmus test that accomplishes nothing while other issues that *can* affect things are ignored.

  49. I think Mitt Romney’s position shows another stance that a pro-choice member could adopt:

    Recognition that abortion is a sensitive issue upon which reasonable people could disagree, and reluctance to impose restrictions on another given the possible non-existence of any correct position.

  50. Incidentally, Kaimi, that stance is close to the official Libertarian Party position. From their website,

    “Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question.”

  51. Mitt Romney’s position is one that can be taken, but, as Russell has pointed out, such a position would be contrary to church teachings.

    As I have commented before, we are talking about the taking of human life, regardless of where someone comes down on the issue of “when life begins”, a human fetus has a separate heartbeat and separate DNA. It is a human life. We should champion the preservation of human life. Abortion may be a “sensitive” issue, and one on which people do disagree. (I do question the reasonableness of many of the pro-abortion crowd, however.)

    I was listening to Elder Holland’s conference talk on my way in to work today and he recounted the experience of Enoch who viewed the Lord weeping over his creation. When asked why he was weeping and why the heavens wept, the Lord said “Because these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; and unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.”

    Is there a more apt description of those who champion abortion–without affection and hating their own blood? Do you not think that the heavens weep to see the promotion of “choice” over life? I do not think that members are “required” to be pro-life, at least not in terms of having their membership be at stake. However, I do believe that the pro-life position is more consistent with our beliefs and doctrines, and that legally limiting abortion except in certain situations, is consistent with such beliefs and doctrines. We should stand up for to protect innocent life.

  52. If one wants to find church resources on this topic go to the church web page and under “Gospel Library” do a search in the church publications on “abortion law”. You will find a large number of discourses and other materials. Here’s just one cite:

    Reverence for Life
    Russell M. Nelson, “Reverence for Life,” Ensign, May 1985, 11

    I think the question really seems to boil down to whether we favor protecting innocent life, or allowing “choice” to the detriment of such life. I don’t know that it is a difficult question as to what is the more appropriate view.

  53. I just don’t buy the argument that reasonable people disagree about abortion, and therefore the government ought not to get involved (Chapter XVII in why libertarians make me rave. Sorry, Nate).

    The underlying issue–what is life–is just too important for me to decide to let us all go our own moral ways. Once I’ve made up my mind that the foetus is human life, I have moral obligations. I can’t lay the child on the altar of the Moloch we call moderation, no more than the abolitionists could ignore the issue of slavery because reasonable Southerners disagreed about the full humanity of the slaves.

    ‘Getting government out of the question’ is the same as recognizing the justice of the pro-choice position on the foetus. True neutrality, is for some reason we aspire to it, would seem to assign a partial human value to the foetus (i.e., killing a foetus is like pointing a six-chambered, three-bulleted revolver and pulling the trigger), along the same lines as Nate’s wager argument for some governmental regard for religion on the basis of neutrality between religious and secular viewpoints.

  54. Adam,
    To continue your slavery/abolition analogy, let me pose a hypo. Imagine a southern man in the 1840s who believed that slavery was immoral and evil, refused to employ slave labor, taught his children that slavery was immoral, and told everyone who inquired that he was opposed to slavery on moral and religious grounds. But he voted for other otherwise supported politicians who, among their other political commitments that he agreed with, vowed to protect the peculiar institution. And he refused to join the public abolitionist movement because he either questioned the abolitionists’ motives or because he thought that the movement was futile.
    How should we think of such a man?

  55. I think there are many elements in your comments Adam I don’t agree with. After all we can consider a fetus human and alive, without necessarily asserting that it is a living human the same as we are. Many pro-life people require a false dichotomy. That’s why they have trouble with say Hatch’s views on stem cell research which adopts (in my view) the more nuanced view compatible with LDS doctrine.

    Greg, your analogy fails since it pushes things too far. For one it assumes that there was only one group of abolitionists (or anti-abortionists). And in answer, I certainly could see and respect such a person in the 1860’s. Indeed you are speaking of quite a few of the early members of the church.

  56. Following the logic of Elder Oaks’ talk, should Mormons also seek to promote anti-smoking laws? Prohibition? How about laws against fornication, sodomy, and adultery?

  57. Clark, I was just trying to tease out Adam’s analogy a bit and see how far he would take it. And I don’t think it assumes anything about the actual makeup of the abolitionist movement, just about how this hypothetical guy reasonably *viewed* the abolitionist movement.

    And I agree with you that such a position toward slavery was probably not uncommon among early church members.

  58. Greg and Adam, to push the analogy a bit:

    If it was reasonable for church members in the 1840s to believe that slavery was immoral and evil (and refuse to employ slave labor, and tell everyone who inquired that they were opposed to slavery on moral and religious grounds), but to vote for other otherwise supported politicians who (inter alia) voted to protect slavery, and for such members to refuse to join the public abolitionist movement (as Greg has posited) (and I believe that many early church leaders took this route); then

    Why would it be inappropriate for a church member to take such a position today relating to abortion? I.e., a belief that abortion is wrong, coupled with a decision to (1) vote for candidates who favor abortion, because of their positions on other issues, and (2) decline to join with current anti-abortion political groups.

  59. Clark,
    I’m not sure that it makes sense to speak of the unborn child as alive and human but not a living human. Nor do I think that LDS doctrine requires that I accept this view. I have already made several arguments explaining why I think the LDS position is compatible with the full humanity of the unborn child.

  60. Grasshopper,

    There are political considerations (some things are more possible than others) and moral considerations (some moral failings–killing the unborn–are simply more important) and tactical considerations (one battle at a time, no use marginalizing a good cause by associating it with an impossible one), but Yes.

  61. Greg,
    I responded to your comment a while back and saved it when I discovered that we’d entered the Commentuda Triangle. I’ll post it as soon as I discover where I saved it.

  62. Holy cow! My brain is fried scrolling through this. I’ll admit up front that I stop at a certain point and scrolled down to make a comment. So I apologize if any of this is has been covered already.

    1)While I’ve read quite a bit online of LDS folks with libertarian streaks, I don’t get it. We do not live on isolated islands. What people do affects other people. Libertarianism would work great – if everyone had the same goals, ethics, and objectives – but society holds a heck of a lot of people WAY across the spectrum of ethics, goals, and objectives. This desired utopia isn’t going to work out.

    2) I’m no legal eagle but I was under the impression that the numbers of so-called back alley abortions was vastly inflated in Roe v Wade. In retrospect, was the case a fair one?

    3) The number of abortions has skyrocketed and it devalues life. I used to be pro-choice. I used to say, “I’d never do it but I respect other’s right to do it. It’s a hard choice to make.” That was before I had 2 close friends elect to do it out of convenience and not wanting to tell their parents (hello, they were both adults). Then there’s my old co-worker who had THREE of them. I used to think that abortion was a horrendous act that people would only choose to do it traumatic cases. I was wrong. It is a convenience factor, little more. I can’t abide by that if I want to follow Christ’s example. How could any Christian? Sometimes killing someone is necessary like in self defense. Does that mean we should legalize murder? I don’t think so. For that same reason, I think abortion should be illegal with legitimate exceptions (ie awful or dangerous circumstances. Not, oh gee I don’t want to deal with this responsiblity or tell my mom.)

    4)It is okay to vote for a non-Republican candidate! Abortion is not the only issue out there. There are plenty of practices supported by Republicans that are decidedly not inline with the gospel. I’ve agreed with positions from candidates across the political spectrum. When will my elusive candidate come along who embodies all these qualities? :) Hope springs eternal. LOL

  63. Grasshopper:

    To echo Adam…YES! For those that haven’t taken econ 110, the items you mentioned all have externalities that impose costs upon others than the individuals involved. Abortion is simply the easiest among these to see…i.e. the “choice” of the mother (yes, mother…not just a woman) imposes a rather drastic cost upon the baby. Same goes for drugs, alcohol, smoking, porn, non-marital sex, etc. Hopefully if we stick close to light and truth…we’ll get more of it and understand how to measure/see these externalities in a way that can be communicated to others that don’t have testimonies to shed ‘light’ on the subject.

  64. You’re trying to answer a different question, Greg.
    Let’s agree that a faithful Mormon can be a Democrat (support pro-choice candidates on other grounds).
    Let’s also agree that a faithful Mormon might question the motives of the pro-life crowd (on what grounds, I don’t know. My motives are certainly uncomplicated). Let’s also agree that a faithful Mormon might feel that the Supreme Court has made the pro-life position legally impossible, so he’s better off concentrating on other issues.

    Let’s not, however, agree that a faithful Mormon can be against prohibiting abortion to a greater extent then the law currently does. I mean, a faithful Mormon obviously can because apparently Kaimi does, but I just don’t see it.

    So, to take your Southerner. If he’s opposed to slavery but does not at least passively wish to abolish the institution, I think he’s laboring under the weight of an insupportable contradiction.

    Anyway, even as earlier as the 1840’s, a Southerner who vocally opposed slavery on religious and moral grounds would be subject to such oppobrium that he might as well be damned for a saint as damned for a sinner.

  65. Enough sophistry…we can either support the creation and maintainance of a society that doesn’t sanction sin…or watch our children grow up ridiculed for having religious beliefs.

  66. How starkly (and well) you put these things, Lyle.
    You trying to put a little backbone in the board, Lyle. If so, thanks, I can use it.

  67. Lyle,

    You clearly fall into the “black-and-white” or “Iron Rod” (or however the designation is made) group of members.

    However, not all members see all questions as so black-and-white, and not all attempts to work through issues are sophistry.

    I challenge the validity of your dichotomy. Your statement that “…we can either support the creation and maintainance of a society that doesn’t sanction sin…or watch our children grow up ridiculed for having religious beliefs” presents a grossly false choice (do you actually believe that those are the only two options!?!). There are many other choices; for example, we can also support a society that tolerates beliefs, religious or otherwise.

    And to put one (anecdotal) data point on the table, I live in New York City, which is in s state that allows abortion. My child who attends public schools has never, that I’m aware of, been ridiculed for his religious beliefs.

  68. Adam,

    If I understand you, then, you find nothing objectionable about a Mormon who “passively” wishes for abortion to be done away with, but never does anything to that end publicly, and always votes Democratic.

  69. We can and must tolerate beliefs, but we should not tolerate certain beliefs being put into action. Abortion is one of those areas in which people are free to believe what they want, but the law ought not to support the belief system of those who would kill unborn children for convenience. That seems to be what lyle is saying. Look at the society set up by Mosiah in Mosiah 29. They prohibited certain sins, but did not punish belief. Thus, people like Nehor could preach their belief system, but immorality was still proscribed.

  70. I’m making a more modest claim, Greg. There might be something wrong with such a person, but I am not willing to think of them as beyond the pale. I would hope that this person would, like your abolitionist, make serious public statements about the immorality of abortion, even if it cost them.

  71. Sorry, just read the article at top and won’t be here to defend my comment. One thing I think about being pro-life is that the Democrats also have a pro-life issue of their own – protecting the environment. 50 to 250 million people could be displaced from their homes or killed in 2050 if something is not done soon, and millions die each year from global warming, according to David A. King and seemingly unanimous other experts. Of all peer-reviewed articles on climate change, none say man isn’t causing it.

    I could present a lot more evidence of this, but suffice it to say I think Republicans are the ones who need to come up with justifications for their stance on the environment that doesn’t seem to be pro-life at all. I am LDS and believe we are not globally replenishing the earth for its carbon and if you have any suggestions for how they can justify this feel free to e-mail me. Thank you.

  72. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
    17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
    18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
    19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
    20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

    This is an answer to Kaimi’s second argument that prohibiting abortion puts unequal burden on women. Men and women were created differently. That is not to say unequally. The world we live in today is a place in which these equal roles are distorted and uprooted, and find no foothold in God’s plan.

    I agree completely with the view that pro-choice is instrinsicly connected to free agency. A government should never make any rules dictating to the people on the rightness or wrongness of abortion; however, this should be the case for all other such restrictive legislation. Hence my understanding of Libertarian thought. This would also allow for the Church’s influence to be more profound in the lives of its members.

    The current Church standpoint is that we/they, follow the laws of the land. Niether is the Church (these days) at any time willing to make a declaration denouncing the actions of our current government, or the laws which they make. (For those who are not aware, this is for tax-exemption reasons.)

    While the Church is buisily telling people to obey the laws of the land, the laws of the land are quickly marching towards the antithesis of the fundamental teachings of the Church. And as a result, the church needs, to greater and lesser degrees, to keep up. This is the only reason why it could even be contemplated that one could be a pro-choice Mormon. If one were to study the church docrines (the true fundamentals of it), there is no way that one could accept pro-choice as a virtue. All else is carnal, selfish and devilish.

    The rightness or wrongness of an issue is for the individual’s conscience to decide. That is called free will/agency. What we will never have the right to decide is what the consequences will be.

    By the sweat of his brow, man shall eat his bread. He is also to provide this for his wife and children. This is his purpose and tribulation. In sorrow, women shall bring forth his children, and her desire shall be for him, her husband. This is her purpose, and tribulation. It doesn’t say “unless…..” anything. Our purpose is to produce life, and never to take it, for look what happened to Cain after he killed Abel.

    The truth of the matter is that we are and should be pro-choice about everything. We are free to break or keep as many different laws as we like. But adding to what I said before, we are neither in this world or the next free to choose the consequences of our actions. But please bear in mind, the laws of this world, are not the laws of God, as the LDS church more or less teaches.

  73. I’ve just stumbled onto this site and I’d like to stand up for a moment in favor of the pro-choice side of the debate. Here are, in my opinion, the relevant words from Elder Oaks:

    “…In today’s world we are not true to our teachings if we are merely pro-choice. We must stand up for the right choice. Those who persist in refusing to think beyond slogans and sound bites like pro-choice wander from the goals they pretend to espouse and wind up giving their support to results they might not support if those results were presented without disguise.”

    I find this very interesting, because to me it does not say “you can’t be pro-choice”. Elder Oaks is asking a simple question — what are your guiding principles for being pro-choice? Notice that he says we have to stand up for the “right” choice. I don’t think there’s a simple answer to what that choice may be, and indeed Elder Oaks says that we have to move beyond slogans and catch phrases. I’d say the pro-life folks are in the same danger, in that you have to really examine what the political realities are before you jump on the bandwagon.

    As I’ve watched our current president run the country into the ground, and as I’ve been exposed to the political ideas of the folks hailing from his side of Christianity (and if not his side, that of his political supporters), I’ve become more resolute to defeat their particular brand of “pro-life”. They would outlaw abortion under _all_ circumstances, and that includes cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the possibility of severe deformities of the fetus, etc. If “pro-choice” is the only way to preserve that option and provide for the legal and safe medical environment where such an abortion can take place, then I am “pro-choice”. I am vehemently against abortion as just another form of birth control (although I’m in favor of “morning after” drugs, another target of the current crop of pro-lifers who seem to dominate the debate). Our problem as Latter-Day Saints is we have a much more nuanced view of the truth that doesn’t fit well into the usual left-right debates. Not only that, but I think the “right” choice depends entirely on the circumstances. In today’s political climate I feel that we need a strong pro-choice contingent to ensure that abortions are legal, safe, and rare — one based on a rational approach to contraception and birth control and grounded in the idea that abortion is to be preserved as medical option when it is medically necessary. As medicine gets better at offering options shortly after conception for birth control, I think the need for abortion as a method of birth control will decline, and thus I’m in favor of “morning after” medications and the like.

    Anyway, just wanted to throw in my two cents, as I think we have to consider these issues more deeply and within the context of our political climate (whatever it may be) and in view of advances in science. For while the morality of the issue doesn’t change, the means to preserve those choices does change, and we need to be willing to change with them.

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