Utah Legislature aims to challenge Roe v. Wade

“We’re talking about preserving the sanctity of human life. The state of Utah should lead the charge.”

With Utah’s high concentration of Mormons we expect it to “stand a little taller.” It’s good to see state legislators working to again place Utah at the vanguard, right where it should be.

News coverage: Pro-Life News, Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune

102 comments for “Utah Legislature aims to challenge Roe v. Wade

  1. The Romney campaign is certainly cheering, too: confirming the Utah=Mormon=Pro-Life connection will help Mitt in the Republican primaries.

  2. I’m glad to see this legislation has exceptions for rape, incest and the mother’s health. I think it is important for state legislatures to challenge Roe v. Wade. Hopefully, there will be some changes in that decision in the coming years.

  3. Wait, you mean some legislators are willing to score points with their conservative constituents while wasting millions of dollars in defending a bill that will likely be declared unconstitutional? Rock on!

  4. HP, can you propose another route for Roe v Wade — universally acknowledged even by many liberal legal scholars as bad law — to be changed?

  5. Geoff B,
    I just think that this has much more to do with legislators playing to their base than anything else. They have to know that it is immediately going to be challenged and that it will spend years in court (Mark Shurtleff, Utah’s Attorney General has said that he expects that the state will spend $1 million on it, $3 million if they hire an out-of-state law firm). It is, primarily, empty rhetoric and costly rhetoric at that.

    Also, I am concerned with the manner in which they define health of the mother, which will ultimately be its downfall, I think.

  6. Geoff, I don’t know. I think that this legislation is similar to the South Dakota amendment from last year, more chest thumping than thought. I don’t have much problem with Roe v. Wade as it originally read (albeit, I am not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer, but I have read the ruling). Laws designed to regulate how Roe v. Wade is enforced would seem to me to be the route to go. Laws written with the intent of creating a court challenge to Roe v. Wade seem to me to be a waste of time, unless you think your constituents don’t find you conservative enough.

  7. Geoff B,
    Actually, it was significantly changed, by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. But that’s not really the point.

    I’ve been thinking lately–what’s the big deal about overturning Roe (or Planned Parenthood, or whatever)? It seems to me that overturning Roe has become an end itself; what (most) anti-abortion activists want to do is end abortion, not criminalize abortion. Are they really the same thing? Or, in other words, (whether successful or not) will the $1-$3 million Utah will spend to defend this legislatioin prevent more abortions than that same money spent in a different way (be it on counselling, adoption services, or whatever)?

    I realize that this is an empirical question, and I have no data one way or the other, but I am concerned with what appears to be a unilateral push to change the law, without any discussion of how to fix the underlying problem.

  8. Sam B makes the good point: why spend time and money reducing the need for abortion? If people stop wanting abortions, will Roe/Wade matter? Worldwide, there are 26 million legal abortions every year, with one million of those coming from the US. Isn\’t that appaling? Another startling statistic: worldwide, there are 20 million illegal abortions. 46 million abortions total–that\’s horrid, right? and 20 million in countries where abortion is banned. So what do you want to do, overturn Roe/Wade to make it 21 million illegal abortions? Why not put all that effort into reducing unplanned pregnancy, promoting adoption, creating social and monetary incentives.

    Every election season, politicians bring up the abortion ban. Every year, little happens. Do they really want to end abortion, or do they just want your vote?

  9. It’s not just a matter of spending 1-3 million to defend it, but spending 1-3 million to fail to defend it. That’s a lot of money to spend on convincing yourself how righteous you are. That’s not standing a little taller. That’s buying a pair of very expensive platform shoes.

    There are lots of ways to spend that money to reduce abortions in much more effective ways than throwing a photo-op legal challenge.

    And of course, there’s no shortage of ways that that money could be spent to improve the lives of the already-born children in Utah that are crammed into overcrowded, underperforming classrooms…

  10. Well, if it’s just a matter of spending money wisely, then I look forward to the same criticism being levelled at those who while raise money to fight this bill, should it become law.

  11. I’m not a lawyer, but I took a few consitutional law classes at university in the early 1980s in a very liberal school. One thing that all professors agreed upon was that it was one of the most over-reaching and poorly written decisions ever by the court — but of course they all said it was still necessary law because of back-alley abortions, etc.

    The main problem with Roe is that it doesn’t leave these issues up to the states, which is where, for example, capital punishment is decided. I’m opposed to capital punishment as well, but the issue is that capital punishment is legal in some states and illegal in others, just as abortion would be if we allowed the people, rather than the Supreme Court, to decide this issue. And, by the way, if we could decide in Florida I would vote against a law that completely abolishes abortion (such as the one that was approved last year in South Dakota and, of all place, Nicaragua). I believe the exceptions for rape, incest and the mother’s health are necessary.

    So, I approve of the Utah legislators spending a few million dollars to challenge a flawed and over-reaching Supreme Court decision. Then we wouldn’t need to spend so much time and energy fighting over this issue — and we could address Otto’s concerns, among others.

  12. John,
    The problem is, those raising money to fight the bill aren’t doing it in order to reduce abortions; they may or may not want fewer abortions to happen, but their stated purpose is probably to defend a woman’s right to choose. Abortion opponents are presumably trying to reduce abortions. For the opponents of the bill, then, spending money wisely means using it in the best way to preserve the right to choose.

    If abortion opponents’ stated purpose were to end Roe (as an end in and of itself), that $1 to $3 million may be well-spent (subject to #9–the fact that they will likely lose).

  13. Evangelicals have been protesting at abortion clinics and taking stong strident positions against abortion for years. Some groups have used civil disobedience and other protest tactics to shut down clinics which they beleive has saved lives. Where has the LDS Church been? Where have our members been? If abortion is such a big issue for us why won’t we walk the walk and talk the talk? We applaud our legislature for doing the dirty work while we all just sit in our heated living rooms and comment on blogs.

    Utah will never be “in the vanguard” on this issue because our members are too lazy and/or passive to really get actively involved fighting abortion on all levels.

  14. HP,

    The people of Utah expect the state to be on the forefront of important moral issues, seeing it as part of our calling to be a city on the hill and an ensign to the nations. When new justices were appointed to the Supreme Court, pro-lifers wanted to challenge Roe and Casey again, and then wonder who should do it. Because the church’s position on abortion is so clear (exceptional evil except in limited circumstances) it should be expected that a state that’s 70% Mormon would take the lead.


    I wish more members would get involved, too, but having spoken with many members about the issue, I’ve decided that the 11th Article of Faith (honoring and sustaining the law) is responsible for Mormon ambivalence toward civil disobedience. But challenging the law head on — yessir!

  15. As a person of Utah, I would much prefer the state to work to actually reduce the number of unnecessary abortions in the less-flamboyant but more effective manner already outlined by Sam and others. I don’t believe that we, as a state, as a people, or as a church, have the moral authority to set ourselves up as an example to the world and am a little disturbed that you see this aspect as the primary reason to pursue this legislation. I don’t see the point in Utah State senators patting themselves on the back regarding what high morals they have (especially considering the tangled web our senate ethics rules are). If they had used the language used in the Church’s official statement on abortion, I would be less incensed, but they have gone beyond the church’s statement in the language they have chosen in this bill. It is a bad bill and it is a waste of taxpayer time and money.

  16. HP, we didn’t nominate ourselves to be a moral authority, that responsibility and obligation was given to us. Where much is given, much is required: we been given knowledge and it’s our duty to share it.

    It appears to me that the legislation was intended to parallel the church’s policy about the morality of abortion — where do you see them diverging?

  17. The church’s language is vague regarding the meaning of “health of the mother”. The bill uses very specific language.

    I don’t understand who gave it to us. Are you saying that God has chosen the Mormons to be a light unto the world? If God tells us to challenge Roe v. Wade, I will challenge it. In the meantime, I will do what I can to do God’s will as I best understand it. In my understanding, this bill doesn’t do much to further that goal.

  18. HP, my personal opinion is that God expects Israel, principally the tribes of Ephraim and Manassah right now, to lead on many issues. I think our primary responsibility is to bring people to Christ. We need to encourage them to repent and be baptized and receive the holy ghost. We need to help them progress and go to the temple and perform Church callings. And the Church believes we should be active forces for good and examples (a city on a hill) in our communities. One small example: I have heard many people praise both Mitt Romney and Harry Reid for how nice their families are. That kind of stuff is exactly where we should be. As for the political arena, I personally believe it’s a tough to know exactly where to stand all of the time. On the one hand, we should stand for good — on the other we should avoid contention (which is of the devil). It seems to me that abortion — especially late-term abortion — is a evil thing in our society. It is clearly wrong. The reason there are so many abortions now is because of the general deterioration of moral standards and because of a couple very bad Supreme Court decisions. So, I would agree that there are other things we can do to cut the number of abortions. I think education of pregnant mothers, letting them know about adoption alternatives, more abstinence education — these are all good things. But if we really want to tackle the problem, we need to look at changing the law. And as somebody who has shouldered the responsibility God has given me at this time, I believe I need to do my own small part in this matter.

    If your decision is to do something else, well, that’s your interpretation of your responsibility, and I respect that.

  19. Geoff, I respect where you are coming from. I am always suspicious of people who make claims regarding how closely their political will aligns with God’s. That’s just my nature and the effect of growing up the Bible-belt south. I feel like this bill represents where these guys would like the Church to go, but I don’t believe the Church has gone there.

    If we want to bring people to Christ, I could think of many more effective ways to do it than leading the charge against abortion. Then again, some people have to tracted out.

  20. What can we do about unwanted pregnacies, especially for young girls? Part of the answer may not be an issue for the law or the courts. It may involve changing the attitudes of loving, but nieve mothers of the young girls who are pregant.
    One of the best outcomes for an unwanted pregnacy (especially for young girls) is to save the babies life by putting the child up for adoption. This allows the young girl to go on with her life while saving the baby’s life.
    L.D.S. Social Services offer a superb program of counseling for young mothers as well as an excellent service to place babies in loving, responsible homes. (There are far more such home available than there are babies.) However one of the major impediments to this approach is the frequent insistence by the mothers of the young girls that the baby be kept in the family. This sounds good. But it tends to ruin the life of the young girl and it frequently propels the baby down a life path that puts it at risk.
    If we want to make abortion less appealing, we might want to individually and collectively encourage mothers of young girls to let go and allow the babies to be put up for adoption. Killing the baby through abortion is usually very wrong. But so is a mother’s insistence that the young girl keep the baby and try to raise it. I suspect that young girls may intuitively know how their mother’s insistence on keeping the baby will ruin their lives. So some may opt for an abortions. Thus trying to avoid a second disaster by opting for a third one.

  21. Back in 1998 when the First Presidency letter came out instructing the encouragement of adoption of children of unwed parents, my stake president said something similar to what Richard O. wrote above. He said that in his experience it was the grandparents who oppose adoption, not the mothers.

  22. Geoff B,
    Like I said earlier, I’m not sure that overturning Roe would have a significant effect on abortion. It would have some effect, but it would not serve to criminalize abortion; rather, it would allow states to determine what their policies were. Presumably, Utah would ban most (if not all) abortions. Presumably New York would ban few, if any, abortions. Undoubtedly there would be fewer abortions, but I don’t know how many fewer.

    If the world were such that there were two choices for the $3 million–either fight to defend a law (and let’s assume successfully, a big assumption itself) that caused Roe and Casey to be overturned, or promote an educational program, the responsible thing to do would be to evaluate how many abortions would result in each case. If, after reversing Roe, there would be 50 abortions per year, and the educational funding would leave 55, then the money is well-spent reversing Roe. But if, at the end of the day, reversing Roe would leave 50 abortions per year, while the educational program would leave 45, it would be irresponsible to spend the money reversing Roe.

    As I said earlier, it’s an empirical question, and far more complicated than that. But I can’t get behind the reverse-Roe crowd, because I don’t see them running the numbers. Rather, reversing Roe (rather than reducing abortions) seems to be the end in itself–a symbolic, rather than substantive victory.

    Please note that I’m not talking about you, Matt, or anyone else on this thread–I’m talking about politicians who float these ideas in order to rev up their constituents. But, as their consituents, I think we need to make sure they’ve thought through the implications, and that their goals align with ours. I don’t care about Roe. You’re right that the decision is horribly obtuse, and Casey is worse. But if another route will leave fewer abortions than the reversal of Roe, Roe can stay the law of the land forever. IMHO.

  23. Sam B, I am open to your suggestion: what kind of education in high schools (or junior highs or elsewhere) could take place that is not already taking place? It seems to me that children are aware at a very early age these days how to get pregnant. They know all about condoms (all they have to do is watch a TV show). They know about other birth control. They know about STDs. Really, I’m curious: what else could we teach them that they don’t already know that would truly decrease the number of abortions?

  24. Geoff B,
    My answer is, I don’t know. I don’t even know if education, or better counseling after pregnancy, or better access to birth control, or a new pop singer, or what, would be the answer. For all I know, a state-funded daycare would encourage lots of people not to have an abortion, because they’ll have a place to leave their kids. I say education because that’s what I hear people say, and it’s an easy example to think of off the top of my head. But I’m a tax attorney; I don’t have any expertise the reduction of abortions. I just don’t like seeing the reversal of Roe treated as an end itself, because I don’t think it will have the dramatic effect everybody expects. At best, I think it would slightly diminish the annual number of abortions. But I could well be wrong–I just want someone to show me I’m wrong, or show me they’ve thought about the issue. Given the turbulant last thirty years, as well as the state of politics, forgive me if I’m suspicious of politicians’ motives–I’m afraid they’re more interested in the soundbyte than the underlying issue.

  25. Sam B: What if it turns out that the best way of reducing abortions is some mix of legal prohibitions, education, and counselling services, etc.? I suspect that this is most likely the case, although as you point out the answers are ultimately emperical. Still, it makes sense to me that you would want to work on both the demand and the supply side of the problem, unless you assume that the demand for abortion is utterly inelastic (in which case education is probably a boondoggle as well). The big problem with Roe and Casey is that it constitutionalizes the entire policy question and ultimately places it in the hands of the courts. Furthermore it warps any attempt to discuss the issue on BOTH sides of the question, as the pro-choice lobby goes ballistic over even modest attempts to discourage abortion as attempts to “chip away at Roe.” In short, I suspect that the deconstitutionalization of the entire issue (ie the repudiation of Roe and Casey) is the prerequisite for the kind of nuanced policy approach that you (rightly it seems to me) prefer. My problem is that I doubt that the Utah legislature has the intellectual and institutional capacity to craft a good vehicle for attacking Casey, and I certainly think that Shurtleff is a dimwit that I wouldn’t want anywhere near a serious piece of constitutional litigation.

    Incidentally, the presence of illegal abortions is not evidence that the legal prohibition of abortion does not reduce abortions. The question is whether there would be even more abortions in the absence of the prohibition. There are an enormous number of illegal thefts each year. It does not follow from this that the criminalization of larceny has no impact on the number of thefts.

  26. Nate,
    I agree, and I’m trying to leave out the presence of illegal abortions. I’m talking about abortions in New York and California and Nevada and other states where, in a post-Roe world, presumably abortions would remain legal. (Presumably, as well, a Utahn who wanted an abortion could legally cross over into Nevada and get one. Although it wouldn’t be a perfect number, I’d be perfectly willing to accept numbers that didn’t take into account illegal abortions. No number would be perfect.)

    And I agree completely that it is probably a mixed legal, educational, etc. solution. But in this case, Utah is gambling probably $3 million on an attempt to defend a law. A law which, in spite of the addition two new Justices, has a high probability of being overturned, which means that, other than symbolically, that particular money is likely not to reduce abortions at all (or, more accurately, we’d have to figure out the percentage chance of a reversal, and do all of that fun multiplication).

    I realize my example is super-oversimplifying, but so is the thinking that reversing Roe will end all of our troubles. Like I said, I’d love to see some numbers run taking into account all of the possibilities, and see a strategy pursued using the data gleaned from such an analysis.

  27. And sorry–I skimmed over the second half of your second paragraph. I completely agree. If I’d bother reading, I’d have seen that you, too, don’t see the end of Roe as the end of troubles, but as a necessary step in approaching the policy questions. I do agree that, sans Roe, the discussion would be a lot easier. The backlash from the reversal would, I think, delay those policy considerations for some long period of time, but eventually, we could probably get to them.

  28. HP,

    People who believe that the apostles and members have special access to God through revelation and the Holy Ghost believe they have special responsibility to be a light to the world and an ensign to the nations. People who don’t believe there’s anything unique about the relationship between God and the church do not see a unique obligation.

    Sam B,

    Thanks for your comment. I don’t believe overturning Roe will end abortion anymore than William Lloyd Garrison believed overturning Dred Scott would end racism. The law is more than rules — it is also effects the moral conscience. The symbolism of laws is not something to dismiss; part of the reason people view slavery so differently than people did 200 years ago is because slavery is illegal, because the government now tells them: slavery is evil.


    Why do you think the legal staff at the Utah legislature would be unable to craft legislation to defeat Casey? It seems to me that the best strategy is to write the law exactly as it should be, add defeasability clauses in every section, then let the court (read: Kennedy) prune the parts they (he) find(s) objectionable.

  29. Speaking as someone who does not think it is necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade, here’s what I don’t understand about the church AND the legislature’s approach to abortion. Why are they bothering with the rape/incest/health of the mother caveats? Either they think abortion is the murder of an infant, or they don’t. It seems rather inconsistent to say that when the baby was conceived in a traumatic way or would harm the mother, well, then murder of an infant is perfectly acceptable. Why would it be acceptable if they think that abortion is murder? Does it just “not count” morally in those situations? Isn’t, in their view, a baby still being killed? What makes it o.k.?

  30. Geoff B (#26): Wouldn’t you say that the epidemics of teen pregnancy, STDs, and the like prove that teenagers DON’T get the education they need? The very fact that you point to television as the country’s source for educating our youth on birth control demonstrates how very pathetic the sexual education program in this country is. Children shouldn’t have to learn about abortion (or other things from TV), yet in too many cases parents are unwilling to educate their kids themselves or educate them irresponsibly and then do everything in their power to prohibit more appropriate education from taking place in schools, doctors’ offices, or the like.

  31. If I may, I’d like to take a stab at #33 and #34.

    Sue (#33), my understanding of the Church’s stand on the abortion issue is that we don’t know exactly when a spirit enters a fetus, and therefore we don’t know with exactitude when it become murder. If the prophet were to come out against emergency contraception (which he has not done), then we might have a better idea. So, we know that a body is created and then sometime later the spirit enters the body. What this means is that abortion is in a slightly different philosophical category than first degree murder because we don’t know when the spirit enters the body.

    The law also has room for nuance in terms of murder. There’s first degree murder, second degree murder, killing somebody in self-defense, etc. So, for example, you could argue that a mother who has an abortion because the baby will kill her if it is born is, in effect, acting in self-defense. And, we should not make illegal such an action.

    So, the Church’s stance, that there are some cases when abortion is justified, seems to be the most logical one.

    But there are clearly cases when abortion is murder. Killing a four-month-old baby in the womb out of convenience because you are just tired of being pregnant seems to me to be murder and should be illegal. It would seem that such an action is certainly abominable in the eyes of the Lord.

    N.G., I am completely open to the idea of more education for children regarding this issue. Then we get to the question: exactly what could teenagers be taught that they’re not being taught already. My 11-year-old has a very, very complete sex education class at her middle school. Everything regarding STDs, birth control and adoption, etc, is being taught. And this is in a relatively conservative school. So, I ask you: what more can be taught that is not being taught today?

  32. Geoff,
    Brigham Young taught that the spirit entered the womb at the quickening, for what its worth.
    “WHEN THE SPIRIT ENTERS THE BODY. The time of quickening is when the mother feels the life of her unborn infant. President Brigham Young has left us this explanation of the time when the spirit enters the body: “When the spirit leaves them [mortal bodies] they are lifeless; and when the mother feels life come to her infant, it is the spirit entering the body preparatory to the immortal existence. But suppose an accident occurs and the spirit has to leave this body prematurely, what then? All that the physician says is-‘It is a still birth,’ and that is all they know about it; but whether the spirit remains in the body [i.e, in its own body] a minute, an hour, a day, a year, or lives there until the body has reached a good old age, it is certain that the time will come when they will be separated, and the body will return to mother earth, there to sleep upon that mother’s bosom. That is all there is about death.”

    On other occasions, also, President Young taught that we should have hope for the resurrection of stillborn children. “They are all right,” he said, and nothing in the way of sealings or ordinances need be done for them.” (this is from Doctrines of Salvation, vol.2, pp. 280-281 (I’m using the gospelink version and can’t get the footnotes to go right, so I can’t figure the source for these quotes; can anyone else)).

    I don’t mind the brethren trying to be a light on the hill. I agree that they should. When the members of the church take it upon themselves to go beyond what the brethren have said and particularly when they do it in an effort to demonstrate their righteousness to the rest of the world, I find that offensive.

  33. geoff # 20

    and the radical muslim extremists think they have a the correct interpretation of what god’s expects.

    i can’t even begin to explain how wrong that line of thinking is.

    how bout this, when you get pregnant– don’t have an abortion and let the gal across the street decide for herself what is best.

  34. HP, I was unaware of that by BY. Thanks. Of course, I’m not sure if it’s official Church doctrine and it obviously brings up the question,”when is the quickening?”

  35. The quickening is defined as when the mother starts to feel the movement of the baby within the womb. Of course, it was a concept that was used prior to the development of baby sonar (sorry, I’m blanking, what do they call that?). As a result, the quickening is a moment that differs from mother to mother and is determined by the mother.

  36. As a reminder, this the wording from True to the Faith regarding possible (not automatic) exceptions to the prohibition on abortion:
    “Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.”
    I argue that the exceptions in the Utah law are more restrictive than this language.

  37. The exceptions in the bill appear to be as follows:
    “The bill provides exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to prevent a woman’s death or “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” “(This is from the SLTrib article above).
    I believe that goes beyond the True to the Faith language.

  38. RE 39

    FWIW, my wife had a miscarriage a year ago, and when we talked about it, we did not fill like there was a “quickening” yet. She was about 5 weeks along. On the Other hand, we have not discussed it about the child currently in utero*, and our first daughter seemed to immediately quicken even before we knew for sure we were pregnent. So in my limited experience, it varies child to chld as well as mother to mother.

  39. What more could be taught, done etc?
    Self-esteem. Teach children that they have more to offer than their bodies. Not just from a religious “say no” standpoint. Teach them that they can been intelligent, successful, and have plenty of time in their life for other things.
    When I was working in NYC, during a training it came out that I was a 25 year old virgin. A little embarrassing at the time, but no lie, every single woman in that board room came to me and said something to the effect of “now I understand why you are so successful. I wish I had realized at 15 that I did not need to let a boy sleep with me in order to make him like me. I would have done better in college if I did have all those pregnancy scares.” Etc, Etc. Not one woman that I spoke to was happy about loosing her virginity. I am now married and have a daughter, and I will share with her all those things I learned.
    Also, make pregnancy and motherhood a little less difficult, and abortion will not be so tempting. I had my first child married, in a successful career, and completely planned. Still, the process was expensive, my workplace not as understanding as could be, and child care is a nightmare. I am lucky enough to have a family member who can help.
    If a young girl decides to carry a baby, and give the baby up, she still needs time to recover. It is not easy to recover from birth. Yes, there is FMLA. Unpaid in most circumstances. How many of you can go three months without pay? Or they have to drop out of high school, ruining chances for a future. If they decide to keep the child, the problems are even bigger.
    So, they have the choice of another solution. Abortion. Pretend like this never happened. No one needs to know. Why is it surprising what they choose? And do we really think that outlawing it will change it? I bet a lot of these people do not want to “kill” a child, but have no way to bring the child into this earth. We want to turn a blind eye to the real problem, and turn everyone into criminals so that we can feel better about ourselves. Its horrible.
    Yes, people get abortions out of convience. And those who get them for convience will still get them for convience. Outlawing it will not make it go away. Meanwhile, we do nothing to help those who really need the help. Abortion is just one of the results of a very big underlying problem, not the problem itself.

  40. Geoff, regarding the BY quote, there has been no prophetic refutation of it, but I don’t believe it has been brought up in conference recently either. It was also a statement made in relation to helping women deal with the trauma of stillborns and figuring out what will happen to them in the resurrection. Finally, it was also made before abortion became the moral issue of our time. So there are a variety of environmental factors that might determine the stringency with which we abide by BY’s statement.

  41. HP,

    “When the members of the church take it upon themselves to go beyond what the brethren have said and particularly when they do it in an effort to demonstrate their righteousness to the rest of the world, I find that offensive.”

    Do you feel the same way about Sunstone? :)

  42. Frank,
    yes, although to be frank, in Sunstone they often go out of their way to demonstrate other aspects of their character.

  43. It seems clear to me that the proposed law does in fact go beyond the Church’s stated language. I am particularly concerned that the language about “competent medical advice” is absent. Who decides what constitutes a threat to the mother’s health? Chris Buttars? Oy vey.

  44. 39, 42:

    Ultrasound is what it’s called.

    My wife miscarried twice around 8 weeks. She is adamant that they were alive.

    I don’t think many people want the right to kill babies, but it is difficult to legislate when the baby is alive and has rights of their own. One extreme says at conception. The other extreme says not until birth. I think the church policy is right on in this area.

  45. My wife miscarried at 6-7 weeks and felt like there was no quickening yet, so between KyleM and I, I think we’ve narrowed it down.

  46. Um, dudes, missing the point. As Matt noted, it changes from woman to woman and child to child. There isn’t a “time”.

  47. HP,

    The church’s official position (HOI) is that “there is no direct revelation on when the spirit enters the body.”

    As for going beyond the mark.

    First, “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” is a legalese equivalent of “severe risk to the life or health of the mother.” All the legislature has done is define “severe health risk” with greater specificity to ensure more uniform interpretation. They’ve used a standard similar to the one to define disability in the Americans with Disability Act.

    Second, the church’s abortion policy identifies abortions that are subject to formal church discipline. You, like other Mormons, support laws that go beyond the church’s standard for church discipline (DUI, buying tobacco for minors, etc.).

    Third, there’s no substance to the argument generally. Otherwise you’d have to admit that you’re going beyond the mark to oppose capital punishment, or to oppose the war in Iraq, because you’ve gone beyond the church’s position. Perhaps you’ve argued elsewhere that you too go far beyond the mark. Who knows. Even if you have, it’s not “going beyond the mark” for you to do so, or for Mormons to support bans on partially hydrogenated oils, even though they’re not forbidden by the Word of Wisdom.

  48. RE #51
    First, “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” is a legalese equivalent of “severe risk to the life or health of the mother.” All the legislature has done is define “severe health risk” with greater specificity to ensure more uniform interpretation.

    That’s an interesting way to spin that, Matt. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. Seems to me that, when we’re talking about either adherance to theological position OR constitutionality, it’s a little reckeless to dismiss deliberately more restrictive language as mere “legalese.” And I certainly don’t think it’s equivalent from a religious point of view; if the brethren decide not to specify the position beyond what they said, I don’t think it’s your place to say what’s “equivalent” to what they said. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion as to what conclusions to draw from what they said, but I cannot agree with you that the Utah legislature is arriving at the only possible logical extrapolation of the church’s position.

    Second, the church’s abortion policy identifies abortions that are subject to formal church discipline. You, like other Mormons, support laws that go beyond the church’s standard for church discipline (DUI, buying tobacco for minors, etc.).

    I don’t follow your argument. I also support the absence of laws that fall short of the church’s standard for church discipline. I’m not sure what you’re even trying to say here.

    Third, there’s no substance to the argument generally. Otherwise you’d have to admit that you’re going beyond the mark to oppose capital punishment, or to oppose the war in Iraq, because you’ve gone beyond the church’s position.

    I can’t speak for HP, but it seems to me you’re talking about two very different things here. I’ve often stated my political positions, and sometimes stated what I feel are religious criteria for taking those positions, but I don’t presume to posit that because I arrived at those positions in part through religious reflection that those positions are the only reasonable or possible conclusions someone of my faith could or should reach. You, Matt, are the one that invoked President Hinckley’s words (“Stand a little taller”) in insisting that Mormons should support this legislation, suggestion that to not do so would be akin to rejecting the prophet’s call. My opposition to capital punishment or the war in Iraq doesn’t “go beyond the mark” unless I start stating it as a Mormon position rather than my own position (informed as it may be by my reflection on my faith).

  49. Otto,

    1. The legislature intends to codify a moral view they must invoke legal language to do so. I didn’t suggest that the language they adopted was the only extrapolation of the church’s position; only that the legislation was patterned after the church’s position.

    2. HP accused supporters of the legislation of going beyond the mark. I pointed out that he and everyone else supports legal or political issues that cannot be deduced from the church handbook. It’s silly to suggest that the HOI is a polital or legal “mark” that we should not “go beyond.” Otherwise he’d be complaining about laws against DUI, selling tobacco to minors, etc.

    3. I’ve said that Mormons have unique knowledge of the evil of abortion. Others have deduced the evil; we’ve had apostles confirm it. Elder Russell Nelson even called abortion “a war on the unborn” in General Conference. That puts us in a unique role, and burdens with a unique duty, to oppose it. That is why, though it is not the only possible conclusion Mormons could reach, most Mormons support pro-life laws. I would expect, for example, that if the church were to condemn capital punishment, that Mormons would work to enact legislation that reflects their views on the issue.

  50. I didn’t suggest that the language they adopted was the only extrapolation of the church’s position; only that the legislation was patterned after the church’s position.

    “Patterned after” seems to me strikingly different from, as you put it before, “legalese equivalent.” How about “inspired by”? Or “reminiscent of”? Or…

    I would expect, for example, that if the church were to condemn capital punishment, that Mormons would work to enact legislation that reflects their views on the issue.

    That’s far from certain. Doubtful, in fact. On a number of issues over which the Church and ultraconservatives have disagreed, Utah legislators have rejected or resisted the Church’s counsel.

  51. Otto,

    On what ultraconservative issues have the legislature ignored the church’s counsel? The most famous political rejection of church counsel, of course, is Utah’s vote to repeal prohibition despite Heber J. Grant’s pleas (e.g., not something usually associated with the “ultraconservatives”).

    If you imagine that Mormons are pro-life despite their Mormonism, and not because of things like Mormon pro-natal beliefs, the First Presidency referring to abortion as foeticide, and Elder Nelson calling abortion a war against the unborn in General Conference, you’ve lost touch with your Mormon neighbors.

    (Incidentally, I didn’t intend “patterned after” to mean anything different from “equivalent” — imagine I used the same phrase both times. The point is that the church’s policy is inadequate as statutory language and must be modified for its intended purpose. Vagueness is okay for the church’s internal discipline guidelines but fatal for Supreme Court review. There’s a reason the church discipline guidelines simply include “theft” in a list of grievances, but the Utah Code spends 4000 words defining it.)

  52. On what ultraconservative issues have the legislature ignored the church’s counsel?
    Rejected: gun control
    Resisted: hate crimes bill

    To name a couple. More if you go back further (MX missile comes to mind). But anyway, my point here isn’t to claim that the brethren regularly make non-conservative political statements, but simply to show precedent for Utah legislators’ resistance when the brethren have done so. These few examples are adequate to demonstrate that your assumption in comment 54-3 is overly confident.

    If you imagine that Mormons are pro-life despite their Mormonism, and not because of things like our pro-natal beliefs and the First Presidency referring to abortion as foeticide, and Elder Nelson calling abortion a war against the unborn in General Conference, you’ve lost touch with your Mormon neighbors.

    If you think that’s what I imagine, you’ve lost touch with my comments on this post. You posted not about pro-life/pro-choice affilation in general, but about this particular bill, and your post suggested that being Mormon should automatically mean support for this bill. I can think of a dozen different reasons why a pro-life person might be opposed to this bill while still being pro-life.

    While we’re on the subject of being “out of touch with [one’s] Mormon neighbors,” let me remind you that I’m a Mormon neighbor, just as in touch with my co-congregants as you are, I dare say. I never suggested that most Mormons are pro-life despite their Mormonism. I never suggested that the Brethren are pro-choice but that somehow Utahns insist on being pro-life. All I did was call into question the facility with which you equated the Church’s stated position with this law’s stated goals. You seem to be arguing with a caricature that you’ve drawn of me.

  53. All I did was call into question the facility with which you equated the Church’s stated position with this law’s stated goals.

    Otto, the proposed legislation parallels the church’s position: abortion is evil but exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother. If your objection is that the legislation inadequately reflects the church’s position, how would you improve it?

    I’d be interested in hearing some of your dozen reasons why a pro-lifer might oppose this bill. Granted, some prefer the no-exceptions rule South Dakota tried, but this formulation is more likely to win Kennedy’s vote.

    (BTW, when did the church say owning or carrying guns was immoral, or that hate crimes laws were good? Those seem like big deals that I would have heard about and discussed to death with Mormon friends.)

  54. Geoff,
    Your defense against the questions raised in #33 entirely miss the point. She asked how to reconcile the belief that abortion is tantamount to murder with exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother and you answered by noting that abortion in the case of a pregnancy that threatens the LIFE of the mother can be rationally understood as self-defense, so there’s no discrepancy.

    Elder Nelson’s characterization of abortion as a “war against the unborn” has been invoked several times here, but no one has bothered to mention that in the same talk he also declared that abortion is not murder (see also the General Handbook on this issue). Any former missionary who has tried to baptize a woman under 50 in Latin American or Africa or Eastern Europe or Russia knows that someone who has had (or encouraged) an elective abortion must be interviewed by local leadership (a stake or mission pres); someone who has committed murder, on the other hand, needs a letter of clearance from the First Presidency.

    “The legislature intends to codify a moral view they must invoke legal language to do so. I didn’t suggest that the language they adopted was the only extrapolation of the church’s position; only that the legislation was patterned after the church’s position.”

    I can’t tell you how much I’m looking to day when Senator Buttars authors a bill criminalizing infant baptism.

    My point here is that you can’t defend a law solely on the grounds that it seeks to codify into policy the moral position of the Church that you (and I) consider to be God’s true Church. If you want to argue that the unborn are persons with rights that laws must protect, then an exception to protect the LIFE of the mother (not for rape, incest, severe deformities, etc) is the only exception that is even remotely logical. It’s pretty clear that conferring clearly defined, enforceable rights onto the unborn will have some diminishing effects on the legal status of pregnant women. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily a reason not to grant the unborn legal protection, but it is a cost that we should be open and honest about–particularly in a society and political culture that places such singular emphasis on individual rights and autonomy. But, again, it does seem to me that granting legal status to the unborn is inconsistent with the position that abortion is not murder, and that allowing a sizable list of exceptions is not consistent with the position that it is.

    The debate is fascinating. We live in a culture that places a huge premium on individually rights defined in as atomistic terms as possible. Yet technology has progressed in a manner that allows us to put a real, human face on the unborn and cultivate attitudes and assumptions about them as real human beings. These two dynamics are on a collision course. I know the law is a tutor. And I don’t wish to turn back the clock on modern attitudes toward the humanness of the unborn. But I also don’t want women–in a society that devalues motherhood and treats pregnancy as everything from a career impediment to cosmetic flaw–to view a loss of civil autonomy as just one more reason to avoid pregnancy. For some women on the fence, the weakened legal status intrinsic to pregnancy (at least in a world where the unborn have enforceable, legally defined rights) might constitute the proverbial last straw on the question of secretly (think back-alleys or covert PP operations or trips to canada) terminating a pregnancy (and thereby regaining full legal status). I know that this all seems like theoretical hair splitting, but there’s a reason that the people who are most deeply and personally concerned about lost legal autonomy (“keep your laws off my body”) also insist most forcefully on viewing the unborn as mere “tissue” or “cells.”

    This is a debate that needs to be had and needs to be taken very seriously. I agree that overturning Roe might be a positive step in that direction. But don’t kid yourselves–the Utah legislature is nowhere near being the vanguard for having a nuanced, grown-up, thoughtful discussion on the topic of abortion. And that’s definitely not why they passed this bill.

  55. Matt,

    Re: gun and hate crime laws. The Church publicly supported legislation to keep concealed weapons out of churches. The legislature opposed it overwhelmingly. The Church publicly supported a recent hate crimes bill that included sexual orientation as a defining characteristic for protected groups. The legislature opposed it (none of the opposing votes came from non-Mormons). Personally, I think this is a non-starter of an issue because I’m categorically opposed to the notion that Mormon legislators ought to walk in lockstep with what the Church tells them, even indirectly via public positions on specific legislation.

    Interesting sidenote: the same year as the hate crimes bill in question, the legislature passed a pb abortion bill that the Church did not weigh in publicly on. In fact, the Church has never supported or opposed any law regulating abortion although it consistently takes formal positions on legislation–especially in Utah.

    You treat the leap from opposing personal behavior on moral grounds to supporting legislation criminalizing said behavior as though it were non-existent.

  56. Otto, the proposed legislation parallels the church’s position: abortion is evil but exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother. If your objection is that the legislation inadequately reflects the church’s position, how would you improve it?

    Well, for one thing, I’m not convinced that this is a case in which guidance given to the Church by its leaders should necessarily be reflected in law — precisely because of that gap that you refuse to admit exists between the language of the brethren’s counsel and the “legalese” that pins that counsel to governmentally enforceable laws. I’m not comfortable with the language that appears to take that role from “competent medical authorities” and had it over instead to judges or prosecutors.

    And of course, you’re trying to draw me into an argument that I don’t think should be going on: I’m not interested in improving the law because I don’t think it’s being put forth in an effort to reduce abortions but rather in an ill-fated, constitutionally-doomed effort to “make a statement.”

    I’d be interested in hearing some of your dozen reasons why a pro-lifer might oppose this bill. Granted, some prefer the no-exceptions rule South Dakota tried, but this formulation is more likely to win Kennedy’s vote.

    I, and I supect others on this thread, consider myself pro-life, and I (we) have already presented several of these. But it seems that doing so eliminates us from the pro-life category in your book, so that presents something of a vicious circle.

    (BTW, when did the church say owning or carrying guns was immoral, or that hate crimes laws were good? Those seem like big deals that I would have heard about and discussed to death with Mormon friends.)

    You have, Matt. Either you’re forgetful or you’re baiting me. But, to give you the benefit of the doubt and/or to refresh anyone else’s memory: After the Utah legislature voted down a hate-crimes law every year for several years in a row because it included homosexuals as a protected class, the Church made a statement saying that it did not consider the sexual-orientation language a reason to oppose the law. A rather conspicuous statement, made as it was just before the bill came up for the umpteenth time. And when Gayle Ruzicka took the liberty of “clarifying” the brethren’s statement and spinning it in the opposite direction, the church surprised Utah republicans and the Eagle Form by reseasing another statement rejecting Ruzicka’s interpretation and reaffirming the position. Yet even today, Utah is stuck with its older hate crimes law, which even prosecutors complain is worthless.

    As for the gun control point — Are you even capable of rendering anyone else’s position in anything but hyperbole or caricature? I simply identified gun control as an area in which a disagreement had occured — but of course you have to go and paint it as an assertion that the Church called gun ownership immoral. I was referring to a specific case a few years ago. The church publicly opposed a law extending concealed-carry permit rights to Church buildings, a position that met with substantial resistance in the Utah legislature. The legislature finally twisted the Church’s arm (not the other way around) and arrived at a truly Swiftian agreement that required churches to publicly apply for non-gun status. (Yes, that’s right: the lobby so opposed to gun registration insisted on non-gun-registration.)

  57. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking to day when Senator Buttars authors a bill criminalizing infant baptism.

    ROFLMAO. This gets my nomination for best comment on this thread.

    (Incidentally, I bet he already did, but cooler heads killed it in committee.)

  58. Matt, Geoff, my congratulations. I know this is an issue you feel strongly about, and it’s a big deal for you that a quasi-Mormon legislative body is taking exactly the kind of step you think is appropriate. (And Matt, I think your observation about the significance for the Romney campaign is pretty perceptive.) You might guess, and you’d probably be right, that I’m not terribly excited about this, and that I can imagine better uses for the money, but I have no doubt that this is exactly how a lot of Utahns do want their money spent (and, not living in Utah, I don’t have much say on the issue). I think the law would have been better if it had included abortion reduction measures like comprehensive sex ed and increased access to contraception, but that’s not the kind of law the Utah voters wanted passed, was it? Spearheading legislative efforts against abortion isn’t the issue I’d choose to associate with Mormon political engagement, but you and plenty of other Mormons feel differently. Political activism is everybody’s right. Congratulations on seeing some progress with something you care about, which never seems to happen often enough for anybody who cares deeply about any issue.

  59. Brad and Otto,

    It’s a different matter when the church lobbies their own interests, like how the gun control bill will effect them. The church has a right to NIMBY as much as anyone else. The legislators, however, have an equal right to distinguish the difference from the church’s NIMBY and their moral pronouncements. It’s the same distinction the NYT editorial board made when ridiculing the church’s opposition to the MX missile being in Utah. (Hopefully that will be the last time the church lets the NYT editorial board out-moral them.) If the church were to condemn concealing guns generally, as they have abortion, then I’m arguing we’d find little support for concealed-carry laws at the Utah legislature. That’s why I asked if the church had condemned carrying or owning guns. That is the kind of moral statement that, as in the case of abortion, would get results.

    Regarding the hate crimes bill, did the church teach that hate crimes laws are morally required, or that the rationale is morally sound, or only that they have no objection to including sexual orientation as a protected class if the legislature were to such a bill?

    Mormons use church doctrine to inform their views of right and wrong. Mormon political views and concerns reflect those views. If the church taught that capital punishment is wrong, I suspect Mormons would shortly begin to press their legislators to abolish it.


    Maybe the confusion surrounds your definition of pro-life. Pro-lifers are those who support laws prohibiting abortion. I’m actively involved in the pro-life community, speak at their events, and know most of the pro-lifers who’ve dedicated their lives to this fight. I don’t believe any of them would be unhappy with this bill. Even those who oppose the exceptions would welcome this as a step in the right direction. Your concern about competent medical authority is unwarranted — the courts rely on expert testimony to determine issues like “harm to bodily function” and the expert witnesses who could testify on this issue would necessarily be, by definition, competent medical authorities.

    If you’re pro-life you should be excited about this law. It’s the best comprehensive pro-life law in a long time; to my mind far better than the South Dakota law.

  60. Consider this:

    1. In the US, roughly 1/4 of pregnancies end in abortion, 1/4 in childbirth to an unwed mother, and 1/2 in childbirth to married couples.

    2. The vast majority of those who have abortions are unwed mothers.

    3. If pregnancy rates were unchanged and an anti-abortion law could be effectively enforced (the latter is a big if), we would have about 1/2 of children in this country born to unwed mothers and 1/2 to married couples.

    4. The median gestational age of an aborted fetus is about 8 weeks — at which point the fetus weights only one gram.

    Certainly, the death of a one-gram fetus is a tragedy. Some view it (although the church does not support this view) as comparable to the death of an already born child. But an entire life without a proper family is also a serious tragedy. We may disagree on which kind of tragedy is greater, but we can agree that if one wants to do more than replace one tragedy with another, the focus HAS to be on preventing unplanned pregancies to unprepared mothers.

    [The idea that one can solve the problem by aggressively encouraging unmarried parents to give their kids up for adoption to married parents is, of course, completely unworkable on a large scale. For this to work completely, we’d have to have married couples, on average, adopt as many children as they give birth to — with over half of the adopted children coming from disadvantaged races. There isn’t anywhere near enough interest in adoption for this to work — not even close. Maybe Matt Evans adopts as many poor black and hispanic children as he fathers biologically — I have no way of knowing — but most married couples just aren’t willing to do that. It would be nice if they were. But they aren’t.]

    The irony is that Utah is already a shining example in many ways. Abortions are much less frequent and marriage much more common than in other states — thanks largely to the religious emphasis on marriage, chastity, etc. Utahns do a lot of things really, really well. As a proud Mormon originally from Utah, I feel that this is what Utah should be exporting to the world. Not some quixotic and poorly thought out criminalization bill that does little more than tarnish Utah’s image and get a lot of people worked up on blogs.

    Of course, as Jonathan Green points out, Utahns are welcome to spend their money this way if then want to. But they shouldn’t be surprised when not everyone in the church applauds these efforts.

  61. Jonathan Green says:

    I think the law would have been better if it had included abortion reduction measures like comprehensive sex ed . . .

    Are there in fact data that show that comprehensive sex ed reduces either the incidence of unplanned pregnancy or of abortion?

  62. Matt,
    You’re still pretending that the distinction doesn’t exist. The Church has made abundantly clear that abortion as a form of birth control is immoral. But it has never declared that laws rendering elective abortion legal are immoral. And the Church takes position on plenty of pieces of legislation that don’t necessarily directly affect its legal or institutional status (like zoning, or the gun bill under discussion, or tax-exempt status of churches, etc). Indeed, it has repeatedly stated that it has a right and a duty to speak out on legislation with important moral implications for society. As snide as my comment about criminalizing infant baptism might have seemed, the burden is on you to convince me that a belief that our sense of right and wrong that we get from the gospel should dictate what kinds of actions and behaviors we are willing to use the power of the state to proscribe does not, rather inexorably, lead one to the conclusion that infant baptism (clearly a grievous sin and an abomination before God, according to our scriptures) must also be criminalized.

    I only harp on this issue because you seem to be convinced that the Church’s position on the morality of elective abortion is, in itself, enough to lead a person into the light of the pro-life position (abortion should be illegal). My singly biggest reason for not being willing to make that leap (notwithstanding the fact that I do, in fact, agree that elective abortion is immoral) is the Church’s position that it is not murder. If a fetus is a person with rights, then killing it/him/her is inescapably an act of murder. If a fetus is not a person with enforceable rights, then the “keep your laws off my body” makes a bit more sense than it dies otherwise. Just as pR-0nography, MTV, and Sean Hannity are the price society pays for free speech, perhaps elective abortion is the price we pay, in a society that places such a high premium on individual rights, when we seek to protect the individual autonomy of pregnant women by not conferring rights upon their unborn children, regardless of how much intuitive sense it makes to think of them (the unborn) as persons. If you can think of a justification for giving the unborn rights but not calling abortion murder (and countenancing abortion as a corrective for rape), I’m all ears. But I promise you, I don’t need convincing that the Church considers elective abortion wrong any more than I do on the question of baptizing infants, drinking tea, or looking at pR0n.

  63. Regarding #63, and following up on #65, I don’t know what kind of sex ed Utah kids get, but I can tell you that Florida kids get extremely comprehensive sex ed courses. I’ve yet to see anything that they could be taught that they are not being taught. I’m open to the possibility that Utah should teach more sex ed, but I honestly don’t know if there’s anything else they could be taught that they’re not already seeing in the classroom.

  64. It’s a different matter when the church lobbies their own interests, like how the gun control bill will effect them.

    I don’t see how this distinction figures into our current debate. You asked for an example of the church taking one position and the Utah legislature taking an opposing position. I gave you one. Also, I think you’re grossly simplifying the church’s concerns regarding the MX missile. The Church wasn’t just crying NIMBY, but addressing what it saw as “a pressing moral question of possible nuclear conflict.”

    the court system relies on expert testimony to determine issues like “harm to bodily function” and the expert witnesses who could testify on this issue would necessarily be, by definition, competent medical authorities.

    You’re missing the point again. I don’t see “harm to bodily function” as being equivalent to the wording in the Church’s position, and I don’t think I will no matter how many times you insist that it is simply so. Also, the church’s position doesn’t presume to identify suitable medical authorities (i.e., it doesn’t say “in the opinion of an MD at LDS hospital who happens to be a stake president…”), so there’s considerable gray area here: in the definition of “harm to the mother” and in the inevitably varying opinions from one competent doctor to the next. I’m uncomfortable with legislators presuming to pixelate that gray area into black and white through legislation, and I’m uncomfortable with Mormons insisting that my belief in the Church’s rather more “grayscale” position should equate to support of this “B&W” legislative incarnation.

  65. From the lds.org newsroom site on “abortion”:

    “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

    Any thoughts why we have an official position regarding same-sex marriage laws but not abortion laws?

  66. Matt,
    I do accuse them of going beyond the mark if showing what awesome morals Mormons have is the goal. Obviously that isn’t the goal (the goal being the get rid of Roe v. Wade). I was just kind of irritated with you and Geoff for taking the discussion in that direction.

    As you say, I am one of those members who do not, as a general rule, support legislation just because it is closely aligned with my religious beliefs, nor do I think it appropriate to legislate my beliefs onto others. I realize this is tricky with abortion, but that is really a separate issue.

    As to going beyond the mark, I believe that “life or health” can refer to both physical and mental ailments. “Substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” seems to me to restrict the exceptions to physical ailments, which I think goes a step beyond. So yes, I believe the difference is more than mere legalese.

    Certainly, we shouldn’t be writing temple or church ecclesiastical standards into the law of the land. My point was that if this was an attempt to show the moral superiority of Mormons, which is how you guys seemed to be reading it, it was setting a stricter standard that Mormons (by which I mean the public notices of the church) actually seem to set.

  67. Also, Matt, the church has condemned hunting at least once in conference in the past thirty years yet I don’t believe that there has been a legislative push to rid the state thereof. In fact, I believe they just lowered the hunting age.

  68. “Any thoughts why we have an official position regarding same-sex marriage laws but not abortion laws?”

    The simplest answer seems to be that the church does not try to stake out a comprehensive theologically systematic social teaching. It hasn’t done that and likely won’t at least in the near future. So it seems that there are no specific theological implications of the fact that one area of social and political teaching gets more attention than another. The situation reminds me of the saying “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil.” The church cannot make a full pronouncement about every salient moral issue on the mind of the public, for reasons that go beyond the mere moral truth of the matter. One general implication of this situation is that the church may or may not be on the moral cutting edge, if you will, of social policy.

    I know that commenters on this thread have tried to avoid getting into the general dispute over the question of abortion rights, but it seems that as an alternative to that dispute some have resorted to arguments which simply impute–without any real evidence–the worst kind of motives to the authors of this law, in an attempt to make it the law itself look bad. I don’t know exactly why legislators in Utah are making this proposal (if impure motives are involved then this political move will be no different than any other), but I seriously doubt that it’s pure, empty point-scoring; indeed it’s likely they believe that this may indeed work. I hope for abortion law which balances the protection of life with the helping and supporting women who are often in quite desperate situations, and I think this attempt has as good a chance as any of moving the country in that direction.

    Despite the reputation that Utah state government has with some people as extremely right wing on every issue (e.g. because of Utahns’ overwhelming conservativism in presidential politics), they’ve played the role of relatively moderate policy innovator in a good many areas. I have more confidence in Utah putting together a good challenge to Roe than South Dakota or Mississippi.

  69. I am the chief one speculating regarding their motives (or, at least, regarding bad ones). My chief reason is cynicism. However (unfortunately) it is rarely wrong in the realm of politics. I would be genuinely surprised to find a politician who isn’t motivated to a significant degree by what he or she thinks his or her constituents will like/put up with. Also pleased. (not that that means I would vote for this hypothetical person).

  70. Brad (Comment 66),

    I have never argued that the church’s position on abortion logically requires members to be pro-life. Nor does the church’s position on theft require members to support laws against white-collar crime. The reason most members of the church are pro-life, however, does stem directly from the church’s position on the immorality of abortion.

    The reason Mormons don’t try to use state power to police the doctrines of other churches, such as their belief in the necessity of infant baptism, is that like Alma, most Mormons think it *wrong* to punish a man because of his beliefs. (Alma 30:8)

    As for abortion not being murder. This is something I’ve written a lot about. Summary: murder requires purposeful killing and abortion is not necessarily a purposeful killing. This was the point of Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous hypothetical about the violinist. If a woman wakes up to find that doctors connected her kidneys to a dying violinist, neither she nor her doctors kill the violinist when they disconnect her. The violinist dies because his kidney’s don’t work. In the same way, a mother who refuses to continue the pregnancy, the mother (or her abortionist), do not necessarily kill the baby when they “disconnect” the baby, even though they know she will die.

    Because I accept that distinction I don’t consider abortion murder but child abandonment resulting in death. A grave crime, to be sure, but less than murder. I use my “stranded in a freezing wilderness with an infant” hypothetical to test the circumstances abandonment would be morally or legally permissible: under what circumstances could we set the baby down and walk home without her?

  71. Otto (Comment 68),

    1. I’m arguing that legislators, when acting as legislators, treat the church as an institution. They hear the church’s concerns as they do other respected institutions, and that’s what they did regarding the church’s PR or lobbying regarding concealed guns or hate crimes laws. The church’s real power at the Utah legislature is its ability to shape the legislator’s personal conscience when the legislators are not acting as legislators but as parishoners. For that reason I argued that if the church condemned capital punishment, in settings like Sunday School or General Conference, where legislators are learning morality, the personal consciences of the legislators would be affected, and Utah law would shortly reflect that change in their collective personal consciences.

    Another way to say the same thing: Utah legislators treat the church’s political concerns differently than its moral concerns, and the way they tell the difference is the church’s mode of communication. The church uses the PR department to communicate political concerns; General Conference, Sacrament meeting and Sunday School to teach moral issues.

    2. The church’s says abortion is not grounds for formal church discipline in cases where there is “severe risk to the life or health of the mother.” That standard is too vague for a legislative statute, so the legislature has to explain what “severe risk to health” actually means. You say you don’t like the legislature’s language definition of severe health risk (“substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function”), but that pixelation, unwelcome as it may be, is required by legal statutes. That’s why the legal code takes 4000 words to define “Thou shalt not steal.”

  72. Matt-

    if the church condemned capital punishment, in settings like Sunday School or General Conference, where legislators are learning morality, the personal consciences of the legislators would be affected, and Utah law would shortly reflect that change in their collective personal consciences.

    General Conference, perhaps, but not Sunday School. Chris Buttars is just as likely to be giving moral guidance as recieving moral guidance in sunday school. And in my opinion far too many moral teachings heard over the pulpit in General Conference are conspicuously absent from the agenda of the conservatives in the Utah legislature to buy your argument. How long ago did Pres. Monson say school teachers should be paid more?

    You say you don’t like the legislature’s language definition of severe health risk (”substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function”), but that pixelation, unwelcome as it may be, is required by legal statutes.

    That pixelation is required by legal statutes only when those legal statues are themselves required. And that’s the point we’re arguing.

  73. From mormon.com


    What is the Church’s position on abortion?


    In 1973, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement regarding abortion, which is still applicable today:

    “The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.”

    I don’t see making laws against abortion in that statement anywhere. Looks like the decision is made by the mother with the help of hopefully competent counselors. I see the Churches position as pro-choice leaning towards preserving the life of both the mother and child if possible.

  74. That pixelation is required by legal statutes only when those legal statues are themselves required. And that’s the point we’re arguing.

    Otto, you’ve been arguing against the particulars of the bill’s language, leading me to believe that you agree an abortion ban is required but don’t like the language of this one. Then you write this — well of course you won’t like the bill’s language if you don’t like the bill’s objective! If you don’t believe we need laws prohibitting abortion then it’s unsurprising you dislike this bill. : )

    By the way, how long ago did President Monson say school teachers should be paid more?

  75. People should be able to choose to use birth control,
    so as to avoid having to make another choice.

    Abortion is the MOTHER of all holocausts…

  76. What a lovely chorus of male voices this has been (Sue, Niobe, Maren and possibly HP, aside). I suppose for me this has been a reminder of why I don’t live in Utah, why I am not a mormon and why I am happy I lost my virginity.

    Lulu, a successfuly woman working in NYC

  77. pardon moi, that should read “successful”—haven’t had my morning coffee yet, this fine Sunday morning…

  78. Matt,

    You’ve yet to even attempt to answer the question of why opposition to behavior on moral/religious grounds should inexorably extend to needing to pass laws criminalizing said behavior. No one here is questioning that the Church considers elective abortion to be immoral. That means that you need to provide either a better reason than Church position for becoming pro-life or else any reason at all why you won’t get behind my anti-infant-baptism bill. Seriously–why can’t I get more support for it from LDS pro-lifers? How is it that people so concerned with protecting the sanctity of innocent life can be so casually dismissive of defending the spiritual purity of children and the dignity of the Atonement?

  79. Brad, I answered your question in comment 75. Mormons believe it is wrong to punish someone for their beliefs (Alma 30:8). Infant baptism is not an effective baptism, it’s a belief.

  80. Matt, I’m partial to your position, but don’t follow your logic.

    “Baptize” is an action verb and more than a belief for its practitioners. A baptized infant does not “believe” and has no choice in the matter.

  81. i noticed that on the womens blogs the stance is typically pro choice. on the other blogs (which tend to have more male commenters) it\’s anti abortion.

    and..the term pro life is just a politcal tool used to rouse emotions which says alot about who you are.

    EVERYONE OF US IS PRO LIFE! not just the really really righteous.

    what you really are is anti- right for a woman to choose becuase you feel that your version of morality(becuase your God said so) is superior to hers.

  82. EVERYONE OF US IS PRO LIFE! not just the really really righteous.

    anonfemale, I question that. We now live in a culture where a fetus that is diagnosed with a cleft palate stands an 80% chance of being aborted. You may call that pro-life, I call it stomach-turning.

  83. Matt,
    My bad. I somehow missed your entire comment #75 when I perused the thread this morning. You have a far more nuanced position than I was willing to give you credit for. Still, the child abandonment comparison only appears to logically apply only to mothers who choose not to continue pregnancies. Those (doctors, back-alley abortionists, whatever) who enable the woman to “abandon” her parental duties by terminating a pregnancy do so by killing the child in question. So even if you’re willing to mitigate the culpability of the woman seeking the abortion, you’re still dealing with a rights-bearing (unborn) person who through a direct act is having its life taken by another actor. Performing abortion is surely murder then, and, therefore, abortion is murder. As far as I can remember, Church policy makes no distinction between those who “have,” “encourage,” or “perform” abortions. They all must submit to a pre-baptism interview with a local priesthood leader during which they are told that elective abortion is morally wrong and that if they participate in one again they will be subject to Church discipline. In your formulation, a dependent but rights-bearing individual is abandoned by one party and murdered by another, making the former complicit but not equally complicit in the action of the latter. There is simply no way to terminate a pregnancy in a manner that preferences the physical health and legal status of the mother without killing the child.
    Which brings us back to the question of conflicting rights and the tenuous legal status (in a pro-life universe) of a pregnant woman. How is it possible to confer enforceable rights onto the unborn without diminishing the legal status of the mother? I’ve yet to hear someone from the pro-life side address that question (ever, not just on this thread). Is it that pro-lifers believe that the legal status of pregnant women will not be substantively changed, or that they believe that the negative of that diminished status is outweighed by the positive of ending elective abortion? If the latter is the case, then I think those here suggesting that males (myself included) should keep out of the issue are on pretty solid ground.

  84. Mark IV,
    I’d take you one step further by suggesting that almost no one is pro-life, since everyone I know that thinks that killing fetuses for any reason is wrong or that the evil of destroying embryos in the process of harvesting stem cells outweighs the potential good of curing devastating diseases also believes that the collateral damage of war (a euphemism for innocent people, largely women, children, and the elderly, dying when we drop bombs) is just an unfortunate but acceptable price to pay for the potential good of democratizing/stabilizing the Middle East, defeating international badness, earning a victory in the decisive struggle of the 21st century, whatever.

  85. World estimations of the number of terminations carried out each year is somewhere between 20 and 88 million.(likely 55 to 60)

    Over 3,500 per day / Over 1.3 million per year in America alone.

    50% of that 1.3 million claimed failed birth control was to blame.

    A further 48% had failed to use any birth control at all.

    And 2% had medical reasons.

    That means a staggering 98% of unwanted pregnancies may have been avoided had an effective birth control been used.

    People have to stop using abortion as birth control.

    People should be able to choose to use birth control,
    so as to avoid having to make another choice.

    I’d like to see effective birth control made available to all who can’t afford it.


    Implanon is new to the US but has been widely used in Aus for about five years.
    The only bad report iv’e heard is if your a smoker you can’t use them due to increased risk of cardiovascular conditions.
    Good incentive to give the cigs a miss…………
    any way my daughter has one, and no problems, no pills to remember,and she is protected from unwanted pregnancies for three years.

  86. Ah, come on, Brad. You’re smarter than that. I’m talking about using abortion for purely cosmetic purposes. It happens all the time, and it is something we all should be ashamed of.

  87. Mark,
    I agree. It is something to be ashamed of.

    I’m just saying that I don’t think the rigorous, ideological pro-life position (conjugating as it so often does with opposition to SC research) is particularly consistent with support for spending the way America does on building up its military might and a peace-through-strength, destroy-all-enemies mindset which many of the bloggernaccle’s most famous pro-lifers evince the moment the discussion turns to war on terror, torture, foreign policy, etc.

    I’m not trying to trivialize the tragedy of cosmetic abortion or abortion as birth control. I’m just saying that Americans on all sides of the political divide are embarassingly selective about when they are or are not comfortable about treating human lives (and deaths) as a means to an end.

    I honestly cannot think of a more vacuous term in the American political lexicon than “pro-life.”

  88. To Russia with love: ………………….(some facts and figures from mosnews.com)

    Russia is the only nation in the world where abortions consistently outnumbered live births by a ratio of about 2 to 1.

    In 1970, for example, there were 1.9 million births and 4.8 million abortions.

    Today, with more access to real contraceptives, that number has decreased:

    For every live birth there are between 1.3 and 1.5 abortions, depending on the statistics you look at.

    Two million abortions are performed in Russia every year, with only 1.5 million children actually being born.

    The quality of abortions performed is often very low and the women’s health is often at risk.

    Moreover, badly performed surgeries kill every third patient and leave many infertile for the rest of their lives.

    There are more than 6.5 million infertile women in Russia today.

    More than 650,000 women die trying to abort each year.

    In 1970 around 1.6 million woman died trying to abort.

  89. We have a little grandson, Josh, who is adopted. When I hear phrases like \”pro-choice\” it quickly gets very specific in my mind. Josh is more than a \”choice.\” He is a delightful little three year old boy. Josh could have been killed if not for the wise intervention of a Young Women\’s leader that led the very young teenager and her mother to the door of LDS Social Service. What are the statistical odds of a child being killed in an accident compared to a \”fetus\” being killed inside of its mother. Puts a contemporary spin on the old phrase, \”back to the wom\” as the ultimate symbol of a really safe, warm place.

    There was mention of abortion for birth defects. Those too have names for me. My sister Diane had Downs. Our daughter Bevin was born severly mentally handicapped. Our nephew Kenji was born with a cleft pallet (by the way he just finished a very sucessful mission and is currently a scholarship student at a top ranked private university).

    Europe seems to be committing cultural and demographic suicide because of their low birth rate. But not from any lack of sexual activity. Isn\’t it interesting that the more that a culture flaunts public sexuality, the fewer happy results they have to show for that sexuality in the form of children and committed two parent families.

    Several times there have been comments that what is needed is more \”sex education.\” I\’m with Geoff on this one. He asked what more could be taught about sex education, even to fairly young kids, that isn\’t already being taught. I remember reading an article some years ago that showed that there was actually a significantly higher rate of teenage pregnancies in some school districts (I believe it was in New Jersey) after extensive sex education than in control districts that provided much less agressive sex education.

    What are the odds of legalizing sex education cirriculum where much of the focus was on the importance of committed marriage and how to get there, as well as raising children, instead of the mechanics of conception and contraception? I think that the Church provides a very useful addition to any sex education program by teaching about the importance of chasity, marriage, children, and family.

    Still, I\’m very glad that this discussion is happening. Roe Vs Wade seems to have sort circuited the discussion and a legislative response to that discussion years ago. Perhaps a repeal of Roe Vs Wade might allow the natural legislative process to take place. After a cooling off period of course.

  90. Greg B.,

    Thanks for your question. I labeled infant baptism a belief because the part Mormon found offensive was the belief that little children were condemned without baptism. He saw it as a form of blasphemy. Mormon had no gripe with the _act_ of getting a baby wet.


    The abortionist isn’t necessarily guilty of murder, either. If a woman’s doctor disconnects her from the hypothetical violinist, he would not be guilty of murder even though his act will lead to the violinist’s death. In theory, no one kills the aborted baby. The baby dies because the mother is unwilling to care for it, and given our current technology, the baby is unable to survive outside the womb. (In fact, however, abortion is different from the theory. Many healthy babies are injected with potassium chloride — the stuff used to execute Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh — to kill her so the abortion is easier on her mother. That’s the standard “treatment” for 80% of babies with cleft palates, as someone commented above.)

  91. HP #72,

    President Monson is a lifelong pheasant hunter. He has even told hunting stories in Conference in the last couple of years.

    There are a couple of other members of the Q12 who also hunt. One of whom I know first hand hunts deer. This is why the SWK talk has not been repeated. There is no consensus in the FP and the Q12 on the issue.

    On to Abortion…… I witnessed the denial of baptism to a woman who had been a surgical nurse at an abortion clinic. The denial came from the highest levels of the church. Does anybody else have an experience like this? Any comments on it?

    I find the idea that somehow males voices on abortion should be silenced or not given as much credence as women to be somewhat offensive. Actually pro-choice folks should be wary of this idea. Women according to opinion polls are slightly more pro-life then men.

  92. bbell,
    I don’t doubt it (about the Q12’s ambiguity). Matt was just making a point on how if the brethren told us to do something, we would see legislation along similar lines.

    I am not how I feel about the denial of baptism. I suppose it would have to do with the woman felt about it (if she had genuinely repented). I know that women in Russia were regularly baptized in spite of having almost universally undergone abortions (without the involvement of the FP). So, there’s that. It might be different for the practictioners than for the patients.

  93. bbell, a woman moved into my last ward that had previously worked at an abortion clinic back East. I’m not sure exactly what she did (she told us she was a nurse), but she was baptized a year or so later. I also baptized a woman on my mission that had two abortions before we met her. Were there other factors in her being denied?

  94. If you think the point of conception is NOT when life begins, and all you have is a clump of cells and not a living human being.
    Then at least concider this –

    Soon after you were conceived you were no more than a clump of cells.
    This clump of cells was you at your earliest stage, you had plenty of growing to do but this clump of cells was you none the less.
    Think about it.
    Aren’t you glad you were left unhindered…. to develope further.
    Safe inside your mother’s womb until you were born.

  95. I hate moral arguments based on bad english. Everyone seems to have lost conception of what conception means.

    To conceive is a verb. The woman conceives. It’s an action of the female body. In scientific terms, that maps over to implantation, not fertilization.

    To say that I was a once a blastocyst is like saying that I was once a sperm or an egg. A Blastocyst, on its own, cannot grow into a person. And if you slice the blastocyst in half, and implant both halves, they can grow into two persons.

    Even if it implants, not all of the blastocyst becomes a person. Parts become the placenta. Only some cells in the blastocyst become a *parts* of a person. And stem-cell research will also allow these cells to become parts of a person.

    What’s the problem here?

  96. To say that I was a once a blastocyst is like saying that I was once a sperm or an egg.

    No, blastocysts (embryos) are distinct organisms. Sperm and eggs are not distinct organisms but parts of other organisms. One of the reasons embryologists and biologists make this distinction is because prior to fertilization the organism isn’t fixed: a thoroughbred female of the species Equus caballus, for example. Prior to fertilization there was the possibility that there would be no organism, or that the organism would be a mule, or a pinto horse, etc. Upon fertilization a new organism exists that will manage its own development until its death.

    A blastocyst, like human organisms at every stage of development, manage their development and will grow into an adult, all things working properly, so long as it is in a suitable environment. Like any other organism, if the human blastocyst is removed from an hospitable environment it will die. (The fact that a bottlenose dolphin will die out of water, or at 4000 feet under, has, of course, no bearing on the question of it’s being a distinct organism of the species Tursiops truncatus.)

    It is fallacious to conclude that the possibility that one organism can divide into two organisms means there is no organism there now. Otherwise we would have deduce, from the fact that we could clone Tiger Woods, that Tiger Woods is not a distinct human organism now.

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