It Matters Why the Church is Pro-Life

Edited with author’s note on the comments at end of post.

Abortion is a hot-button issue. Maybe the hot-button issue. That’s why–after finishing a draft of this post in November of 2019–I sat on it for almost a year. I’ve rewritten it and am posting it because I’ve realized it’s important to understand not only the what of the Church’s position, but also the why

This is tough, since the Church has a publicly available policy on abortion but no single, authoritative theological rationale for the policy. This provides a certain amount of leeway in interpreting and applying the Church’s policy, although not nearly as much as some Latter-day Saints would like to believe.  

Let’s begin with the Church’s official position on abortion:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

  • Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
  • A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
  • A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

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

Latter-day Saints who wish to reconcile this statement with a pro-choice political position tend to rely on the principle of agency. According to this notion, the Church might be morally opposed to abortion, but it doesn’t follow that the Church (or its members) must be legally opposed. After all, it says right there, “The Church has not favored or opposed…”

This misconception drew an explicit take down by Elder Oaks back in 1999. (The devotional address was republished in the Ensign in 2001.) Since a large portion of the article is expressly against the use of agency to support a politicaly pro-choice position, I urge you to read the whole talk. The one quote I’ll include here is Elder Oaks’ explicit repudiation of the morally pro-life / legally pro-choice position: 

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 on 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?

So much for the idea of being personally pro-life but politically pro-choice. 

The argument that got me to write my original draft of this piece was a little bit different, however. I encountered it on Facebook where Aaron Brown claimed:

There are many socially conservative Latter-day Saints who are very, very frustrated — even angry — with LDS leadership over the LDS Church’s position on abortion. Although the Church’s position is quite conservative by many standards — and a bit more conservative than many LDS progressives will acknowledge — it isn’t quite as conservative as very conservative Latter-day Saints want it to be. This is a source of great consternation and anxiety.

According to this view, the Church’s view on abortion is a moderate one between the pro-life and pro-choice camps. How so?

Folks bend over backwards to pretend that the Church sees no ethical or moral distinction whatsoever between the unborn and the born, even as it allows for morally-justifiable abortion in very limited circumstances (where it would not allow for termination of born life in analogous circumstances). And when you point out that this claim of moral equivalence simply isn’t true, the level of anger and frustration rises and rises and rises…

So the main claim here is that the Church allows the killing of unborn human beings when it wouldn’t allow the killing of born human beings in “analogous circumstances”. If this is true, then the Church has one set of principles for determining when it’s permissible to kill unborn human beings and another set of principles for determining when it’s permissible to kill born human beings. And if that’s true, then the Church is rejecting the fundamental premise of the pro-life movement that all human beings–born and unborn–merit the same legal and moral consideration. 

And I do appreciate that Aaron got the consensus pro-life view right. The proposition that all human lives are equal is the beating heart of the pro-life movement and the central tenet of the pro-life philosophy. So if the Church’s official violates that position, then it would make sense to say that the Church is materially not pro-life. 

So the question is: does it? Does the Church’s position contradict the principle that all human lives ought to be treated equally? That every human being has an equal moral and legal right to life?

No, it doesn’t. Each one of the Church’s exceptions where abortion may (not is, but may) be permissible is consistent with the principle that all human lives are equal. As long as it’s possible to derive these exceptions without reference to an intrinsic difference between born and unborn human beings, then the Church’s position can be reconciled with a pro-life position.

We’ll start with the simplest case. This is the second exception, where abortion can be permitted to save the mother from serious jeopardy to her life or health. It is possible to derive this exception from a general principle something like, “If one person is threatened by another person, they may act with minimum force to protect themselves, even if the threat is unintentional.” Since this principle doesn’t make any reference to a born/unborn distinction, exceptions that allow abortion in the case of serious threats to the mother’s life and health are compatible with pro-life philosophy. (Indeed, it is standard for pro-life legislation to include such caveats.)

Moving to the first exception on the list–for rape and incest–we can rely on Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion.” Insofar as this essay was intended to show that abortion should be generally permissible even if the unborn human being is considered a person, it fails. Thomson’s central thought experiment involves waking up and finding that somehow you’ve been surgically attached to a concert violinist who depends on you to stay alive for the next nine months, after which they can be detached without harm. Her point is that pregnancy can’t be enforced. 

It fails in the first case because pregnancies that result from consensual sex are not analogous to pregnancies that result from rape. There may be no general duty to sustain the life of another human being who is randomly attached to you in the middle of the night without your knowledge or consent, but that doesn’t hold up if you cause the violinist to be in that predicament in the first place. The idea that you don’t have to proactively save someone else’s life doesn’t handle cases when you’re the reason that a person that someone is in a precarious position to begin with. Parents–both of them, mother and father–do have a positive duty to sustain the life of their children.

It fails in the second case because, generally speaking, abortions are not accomplished by severing the umbilical cord to withdraw positive support from the fetus, whereupon they die. Such an abortion would be akin to a withdrawal of support rather than active, direct killing. But abortions, as they are accomplished in practice, do just that: actively kill the unborn human being (often through physical dismemberment). Even if there were a right to refuse to keep someone alive, that’s not equivalent to the right to kill them. A right not to share food with someone starving, should it exist, would not automatically extend to a right to shoot hungry people.

And so what Thomson actually proves is that some forms of abortion–those that do not entail the direct killing of a fetus–may be permissible in the exceptional case where the pregnancy did not arise from consenual sex. This is a pretty close match to the Church’s position, and once again we haven’t relied on any differentiation between born and unborn human beings. (That’s the whole point of Thomson’s essay.)

As for the third exception on the list–that of severe defects-I won’t sketch out an entire argument, but simply point out that the topic of mercy killing–and the line between it and palliative care that may shorten life–is technically, ethically, and legally fraught when it comes to born human beings. There’s no reason to expect cases involving unborn human beings to be any less so. 

What I’ve illustrated so far is that, although it allows for exceptions to the general prohibition on abortion, the Church’s position is indeed compatible with the pro-life principle of treating all human beings as person’s with a right to life. After all, it’s right there in the first sentence: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life.” There’s no distinction between born and unborn human life, and it’s therefore the task of the pro-choice advocate to invent and defend one.

That stops short of saying that the Church’s position necessarily entails the pro-life position. That is the position that I hold, but the Church has not been so explicit. Although this may frustrate some pro-life Latter-day Saints, it’s a far cry from the logical conflict Aaron described. 

It’s also not unusual. One of the distinctive features of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the lack of formal theology. The Church, as a general rule, does not exhaustively explain its positions. That creates a lot of room for individual variation, something that is vital to our growth, maturation, and independence as disciples.

But it doesn’t create infinite room, and on moral matters in particular the Church has staked out some pretty clear lines. Elder Oaks’ 1999 sentiments (cited above) have been consistently echoed, such as in (then) Elder Nelson’s 2008 Ensigh article, Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless. In the piece, President Nelson explicitly compares the death toll from major wars to the death toll from elective abortion. This comparison along with the rhetoric he uses throughout clearly imply an equivalence between the lives of born and unborn human beings. 

And this brings me to my final point. So far it may be possible to read this whole thing as an attempt to show the Church is on my side. I’d like to think that rather I’m on the Church’s side, but that’s not actually my point. My argument shows that the Church’s position is compatible with the pro-life position that all human lives merit equal moral and legal regard and also that it suggests this position, but stops short of asserting that it explicitly requires it (although it clearly rules out conventional pro-choice positions). There’s still a potential, theoretical gap between the pro-life position (all human lives are equal) and the Church’s anti-abortion stance. But in that case–if it’s not regard for human lives–then what is left to motivate the Church’s position? 

The final piece to the puzzle–and the reason I decided to revise and post this piece–is that the Church’s position on abortion is really only intelligible in the context of the pro-life position. If unborn human beings do not deserve full moral and legal consideration, then abortion becomes a secondary consideration that merits neither the strong policy nor the strong rhetoric against it. There’s no compelling interest for the Church in staking out such a pro-life compatible position if it’s not largely pro-life. One would have to posit that the Church is acting out of something like habit or knee-jerk affinity with social conservatism, in that case, if not even worse, more nefarious motivations. 

But if the Church does share the pro-life consensus view that all human lives are equally valuable, then the Church’s position becomes indispensable. If the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are truly prophets, then it is their inescapable duty to speak out for the oppressed and vulnerable and voiceless. If all human beings are equal, than the most vulnerable constituency, now and forever, is not defined in terms of race, gender, or sexual orientation, all of which are imperfect proxies for vulnerability and power. No, the human cohort with the greatest exposure to harm from others and the least ability to deflect that harm is and always will be: children. 

So, when it comes to vulnerable groups in general and particularly when it comes to children, the Church has staked out some clear and definitive moral positions. Abortion is perhaps the most extreme case–where the very weakest are threatened with death–and the Church’s position is commensurately clear and strong. Not out of political consideration, but in furtherance of the ancient and solemn duty of all prophets to speak for the vulnerable and defenseless. 

Any discussion of whether the Church is pro-life or not is incomplete without the consideration of why the Church would take its position. And the only motivation that makes sense–and one fully commensurate with both the policy and the consistent words of the General Authorities–is that the Church is pro-life because it cannot shirk its duty to speak up for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. 

So, while I stop short of saying that the Church has any official statement that is explicitly pro-life, I insist that only a pro-life interpretation of the Church’s policy is rational. The imperative to speak up for the powerless, when properly expanded to cover the entirety of the human race, leaves the Church no room to equivocate on the matter of elective abortion.

Author’s note from July 15: Due to a technical glitch that I still haven’t fixed, I’ve been unable to post comments on my own post, which is the primary reason I haven’t participated. With some great exceptions, the conversation was more acrimonious than I’d’ve liked and also tended to miss the fundamental point I was trying to make. Yes, I’m pro-life. Yes, I argue that the Church is also pro-life. But these points are old news. What I hoped to contribute (and maybe didn’t make clear enough) is that the Church’s rationale for being pro-life is really important. The Church is not pro-life out of some kind of abstract commitment to general moral principles nor even out of a slightly narrower commitment to sexual ethics, which would lump opposition to abortion alongside the Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex or masturbation. No, the Church’s opposition to abortion–while obviously related by practical considerations to sexual ethics–is not essentially a question of sexual morality. It is–according to my argument–a commitment to defending human lives.

Even if you reject the Church’s pro-life stance in whole or part, I think it’s important to understand what is motivating it. Although the Church can and does speak against immoral sexual practices, that’s not where the opposition to abortion comes from. You will misunderstand the Church’s motivations for opposing abortion and the depth of its commitment if you don’t understand that abortion, for the Church, falls in the category of “Thou shalt not… kill, nor do anything like unto it.”

I’m closing comments on this post until I figure out how to leave them myself. (Which, practically speaking, means I probably won’t open them again at all.)

53 comments for “It Matters Why the Church is Pro-Life

  1. Thanks for this really interesting and intricate essay. You lost me at one point, though, with respect to the rape exception. It seems you are saying that it may be permissible for me to fail to preserve the life of someone whose peril I’m not responsible for, but not to engage in “direct killing” of that person. But you also say (correctly, I think, that abortion goes beyond mere failure to preserve; rather, it does consist of active, direct killing. So then why is abortion permissible in cases of rape? Maybe you explained this, but I couldn’t quite follow.

  2. Well said. Then there’s this D&C 59:6: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it.” Don’t kill–OR–do anything like unto it. There is nothing more “like unto” killing than abortion. Indeed, abortion is killing in most circumstances. But even against the argument that a zygote or embryo is not yet a “person” or “human being,” this scriptural injunction against doing anything “like unto” killing applies or else it has no meaning.

  3. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.”

    The above talks to individual persons making individual decisions. The above does not address public policy, or a person’s attitude (or vote) on public policy.

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

    The above talks to public policy. The Church has no stand on abortion as a matter of public policy, and does not require that it’s members have any particular stand, either.

    So, on other words, the Church teaches individual people to avoid abortion, and keeps silent on whether abortion should or should not be legal. The Church does not require its members to oppose abortion at the ballot box.

  4. SDS,

    The moral and legal considerations are a little different here, but I think it helps both to consider the case of rape not so much as a case in which abortion is directly justified by the rape, but that rape gives rise to conditions that we can presume threaten the life of the mother. That is to say that rape is so reprehensible that pregnancy and a child that result from that horrific act creates a trauma that can be presumed to have a high likelihood of permanent emotional, spiritual, and physical damage to the mother.

  5. Abortion is a medical procedure. Accept that fact, and you don’t have to get the vapors with worry about what the church or anyone else thinks.

  6. Thanks to Nathaniel Givens for his careful analysis of what he thinks the Church’s position on abortion is. I think he makes a very good case for his opinions, but, as SDS pointed out, the essay is intricate—perhaps a bit too intricate for my taste. I have read the essay twice and am still digesting it, trying to decide how I feel about it.

    Abortion is, as Givens warns, THE hot button issue. I have have had pro-life absolutists foam at the mouth, because I think there are exceptions that make abortion morally permissible. I have had pro-choice extremists get very angry with be, when they learn that I do not think there should be an unlimited right to abortion, regardless of circumstances. It took me awhile to realize that attempts to communicate with both sides always ended in failure.

    In parsing the Church’s position on abortion, I have focused on the phrase, “…opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience….”. That phrase means different things to different people; and those meanings, or interpretations, are not all equally valid. My understanding is that about 98 percent of existing abortions would fall under the category of “personal or social convenience.”

    There are practical, not just moral issues to be considered, here:

    To me, the problem is, how do we approach abortions that are not convenience-related? They are medically advisable because of the reasons cited in the GHI. I am disturbed by the trend in socially conservative states (Georgia, Alabama) to pass state laws that make abortions all but impossible, should Roe v. Wade ever get overturned. Daniel Webster made the famous statement that he would rather 100 guilty men go free, than one innocent man convicted, and I think this principle should be applied to abortion: better that 100 convenience abortions be allowed to happen, rather than 1 medically necessary abortion forbidden.

    Abortions of convenience are a sin, but sins can be forgiven because of the atonement. Church leaders have steadfastly refrained from equating abortion with murder.

    As to the recommendation that Church leaders be consulted before any decision is made on whether to have a non-convenience abortion, I have unfortunately seen situations in my 46 years in the Church where that has not always worked well. I am acquainted with a few women who were made pregnant by rape, and chose to have abortions, and whose Bishops were angry with them, sometimes threatening church discipline—which fortunately did not happen. The Bishops’ Personal positions on abortions were More hard-line than the Church’s. Bishop roulette is a real issue in the Church, and if the Church wants its members to counsel with them over difficult situations, then the leaders have to earn Members’ trust, and not drive them away. DSC’s point was well made.

  7. The reason the church doesn’t engage on this issue in public policy is a combination of:

    It’s tactical – abortion is a political football, a litmus test that the church wants to avoid drawing itself into government battles.

    It’s cowardice – the church will stand against marriage laws but not anti baby murder laws? Because some members or general authorities don’t want their kids to have a baby in some circumstances? The church will speak out on immigration laws but is quiet on abortion laws? There’s an element of cowardice here. If it’s principle, nowhere is that principle ever taught. “Guess which secret principle we’re applying here, we won’t tell you and will leave you guessing for a 100 years” isn’t exactly a good teaching technique.

    It’s Wisdom – the church leaves some great decisions to the members to have their hearts turned to God. If the church speaks on every issue, the members will never engage themselves. We need to choose the good for ourselves without the church laying down the law.

    It’s a combination of all of these. For good and ill. No one is perfect though. Maybe President Bednar will one day recognize this as the true victory for Satan.

    If gay marriage can disrupt society and generations, and I testify it can; surely mothers and fathers disposing of children in the womb and fleeing parental responsibility is far far worse.

    Needs the evil king Herod to dispose of the children when the mothers can be convinced it’s their right to do so?

  8. Abortion has been politicised by the republican party to persuade christians to vote for them even though much of their other policy is opposed to Christ teaching, like caring for the poor. There is ongoing disinformation campaign to this end on abortion.

    Making abortion illegal does not stop abortion, or even reduce them, but it does affect the rate of death of women, who have non medical abortions. 

    The main factor in how many abortions there are is the number of unwanted pregnancies.  So if you want to reduce the number of abortions reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. 

    How do you reduce the number of unwanted pregnancy?

    Sex education

    Affordable birth control. (Universal health care is one way?)

    Respect for women

    So who has a set of policies that reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?

    The affordable healthcare act (obamacare) required birth control, this reduced the number of abortions. The restrictions on availibility of abortions did not.

    Some facts to digest

    Note that 40% of abortions are now non surgical. Morning after pill.

    Also 75% of abortions in America are for women living below the poverty line.  (Lack of affordable birth control)

    There is an idea that a woman who has consensual sex should bear the consequences. What if that woman can not afford birth control, but is married, and already has numerous children. Does she really have the choice?

    Rates of abortion vary greatly from country to country. 

    Russia 37.4
    USA 18.6
    UK 14.2
    Belgium and Japan 9.2
    Switzerland 7.1
    Germany 6.1

    Germany has a female leader, has sex education in schools, has affordable birth control through their universal healthcare, and legal abortion. All these add up to respecting women and giving them the resources to choose wisely. This results in 6.1 abortions v America where men trying to impose their views, results in 3 times as many abortions.

    So with the right policies US could reduce its number of abortions to one third the present. There is not a policy that will result in no abortions, especially making it illegal.

    Democrats want to reduce abortion to the minimum. Republicans want to make it illegal.  When there is a democrat president the number of abortions reduce, more quickly than when Republican in power.

    America also funds NGOs in Africa that provide womens health care,  (including birth control, and abortion) when Democrats are in power. When Republicans are in, they remove funding if abortion an option, which also removes birth control.

    “Without US funding, from 2017 to 2020, over 1.8 million unintended pregnancies will probably occur; more than 660,000 abortions will happen and over 10,000 maternal deaths will not be averted,” says Effiom Effiom, country director for Marie Stopes in Nigeria.

    I think these figures are only for Nigeria.
    Nigeria makes up 20% of the population of Sub Saharan Africa. So electing a Republican President in US results in 3.3million more abortions and 50,000 more maternal deaths in Africa.

    It is very difficult to not sound partisan on this. So many lies from the right, and the left have given up trying to explain.  To hear a Republican say Democrats advocate infanticide is discusting and a lie. Democrat policy is more effective at reducing abortions, than Republican.

  9. Geoff, is it possible that you’re as dogmatic as you claim the Republicans are? Let’s try this.

    How often do you hear the brethren talk about Republicans or Democrats? Of often do you post a comment that doesn’t mention Republicans.

    You’re literally the pot calling the kettle black in every post. It makes sense, I suppose, that since your clearly reduce every issue to the political, that you see your own motivations after a fashion in others. But not everyone is actually like that. And your one dimensional caricatures that make everything political is so predictable.

  10. “If the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are truly prophets, then it is their inescapable duty to speak out for the oppressed and vulnerable and voiceless”
    I am not sure I have ever heard this happen.

    Sute, great deflection, don’t sddress any of the issues, just deflect. When a church leader, who is a republican, defends republican propaganda, he is speaking as a republican.

    Don’t think I’ve mentioned politics for a few comments. This on is all about politics.

    Most other first world countries abortion is not political it is healthcare.

  11. If abortion is acceptable in cases of rape and incest, then you can’t coherently say that it is murder. Would you be willing to say it’s OK to terminate the life of a newborn because it was revealed that it resulted from rape?

    Also if we criminalize abortion, who do we punish? The mother or the person performing the abortion? Even the most reactionary of anti-abortion groups do not call for prosecuting the mother, but the person performing the abortion. Anti-abortion terrorists have gone after abortion clinics and doctors, not mothers who decided to get an abortion. This doesn’t make any sense. If abortion is murder, then the mother is the murderer who should be held accountable, right?

    The “pro-life” narrative is nothing but a heap of reactionary, frothing-at-the mouth incoherence over some cells that are part of a woman’s body over which she should have full control. One of the phoniest narratives with the fakest name of “pro-life.” It is anti-human rights.

  12. “over some cells”

    This is scientifically illiterate nonsense. Not only does it contradict what can be found in virtually any biology or embryology textbook, but it demonstrates a complete ignorance of what the debate over abortion actually *is*. You should be both ashamed and embarrassed that you typed it. And you should do everyone a favor and see your way out of the conversation. Adults are talking.

  13. Ethan,
    Abortion in the case of rape is killing a baby. It’s certainly like murder or a type of murder. In any case abortion is disgusting and vile.

    The reason why people tolerate rape exceptions is entirely philosophical and it’s a rhetorical trap that results from arguing to extremes. Abortion is allowed in all instances now, so the rape exception is non existent, but gets talked about as if it means something.

    Rape is a tragedy imposed on the mother. Abortion is a tragedy imposed on the baby. The concept of this exception gets discussed too much in bad faith. Aborting a baby doesn’t solve the tragedy of rape, it might certainly add to it in many ways for the victim. It doesn’t prevent rape. The most it can do is reduce the physical burdens, which are real, for a period of time on the victim. That has some degree of positive, but if you take a step back generationally it’s still a tragedy. Ultimately, the concept he just a rhetorical thought experiment, as the abortionist sozial partei doesn’t ever intend to have this be an exception anyway.

    But to continue that thought experiment from a different perspective. Externally induced abortion is a form of technology. How many generations would never exist if we could retroactively apply that technology and save the burden on the mother? Would you eliminate 10,000 descendants today if you could spare a we woman rape 1000 years ago? This is a thought experiment, so no get out of jail free cards claiming a different line would exist. We don’t know that. We do know what wouldn’t exist if that life was hypothetically intentionally ended inutero 1000 years ago. Indeed, let’s imagine can actually happen when a woman gets to the pearly gates. St Peter says,

    “You have had a great injustice done to you, that causes pain your whole life. You suffered through the foul deed then carried the burden of the pregnancy. Your child was not of your own will, and that child will go on to have a family, who will have families and so on for 1000 years, bringing much joy and also sadness into the world. Because you were so afflicted, you can now have this choice – end that child’s existence and you’ll end the burden of pregnancy and subsequent care. The rape can never be undone, but the pain is beyond you know. What do you choose?”

    It’s an unfair thought experiment that places the generational weight of the action on the victim. But that weight is real irregardless. No one would arrive in heaven, after the burden had been carried and tell St Peter in that scenario to end those lives. They have an eternal future to look forward to. The tragic past is the past, but there were certainly flowers that bloomed for generations in the ashes.

    There’s a small window of common ground that can be found on the morning after pill in the case of rape because successful implantation it’s not certain always at that point in any case. That’s when there’s really a clump of cells as you crudely put it. It’s still a potential developing life, for sure, but it’s ironic that you and others bring up this imaginary olive branch purely as a rhetorical trick to claim some kind of moral virtue for the in-utero holocaust.

    Nature has certainly placed a burden within the blessing of life and the continuation of the species on women. There’s nothing like it for men. But that doesn’t justify evil.

    The degree to which people froth over their “rights” on this issue is directly proportional to their knowledge they are truly arguing for a great evil, and they cover their guilt with false indignation.

    The day of judgement will come. It will compound the tragedy for them all too sadly.

  14. “Making abortion illegal does not stop abortion”

    Restrictions on abortion *do* reduce abortion. These include restrictions on abortion legality, restrictions on public funding for abortions, parental involvement laws, and required waiting periods and counseling. And there’s a ton of empirical evidence for this:

    – S. Philip Morgan & Allan M. Parnell, “Effects on pregnancy outcomes of changes in the North Carolina State Abortion Fund,” Population Research and Policy Review 21 (2002): 319–338.

    – Phillip B. Levine & Douglas Staiger, “Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European Experience,” Journal of Law and Economics 47 (2004): 223-243.

    – Phillip B. Levine, Sex and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy, and the Economics of Fertility (Princeton University Press, 2004).

    – Michael J. New, “The Effect of Pro-Life Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion among Minors,” Catholic Social Science Review 12 (2007): 185–215.

    – Michael J. New, “Using Natural Experiments to Analyze the Impact of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion,” Catholic Social Science Review 14 (2009): 339-362.

    – Amanda Dennis, Stanley K. Henshaw, Theodore J. Joyce, Lawrence B. Finer, Kelly Blanchard, “The Impact of Laws Requiring Parental Involvement for Abortion: A Literature Review,” Guttmacher Institute Report (March 2009).

    – Theodore J. Joyce, Stanley K. Henshaw, Amanda Dennis,Lawrence B. Finer, Kelly Blanchard, “The Impact of State Mandatory Counseling and Waiting Period Laws on Abortion: A Literature Review,” Guttmacher Institute Report (April 2009).

    – Stanley K. Henshaw, Theodore J. Joyce, Amanda Dennis, Lawrence B. Finer, Kelly Blanchard, “Restrictions on Medicaid Funding for Abortions: A Literature Review,” Guttmacher Institute Report (July 2009).

    – Michael J. New, “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” State Politics & Policy Quarterly 11:1 (2011): 28-47.

    – Ted Joyce, Ruoding Tan, Yuxiu Zhang, “Abortion Before & After Roe,” Journal of Health Economics 32:5 (2013): 804-815. (

    – Michael J. New, “Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era: A Reassessment,” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 14:3 (2014): 228-268.

    There’s more, but hopefully you get the point. And hopefully you’ll quit peddling your uninformed views.

  15. sute, thank you for confirming my point about frothing at the mouth.

    TT, there is no rational debate about abortion. There are people who stand up for female rights and then there are those who cry murder and create a culture of terrorism and insanity. Islam, freaking Islam, is more rational about abortion that US conservative nutjob trash. For in Islam the teaching is that the soul inhabits the body after 120 days of gestation. You know what, we should criminalize the intentional spilling of ejaculate that is not intended for a vagina. For that sperm forms the basis of life you know. So do some hard thinking next time you’re all alone with a computer. Keep those hands high. And you have the gall to lecture me about science? Pro-life = anti-science.

  16. I am dismayed by frothing-at-the-mouth shrill-voice zealots, regardless of which side they are on.

    In this thread, are we talking about abortion by (1) Latter-day Saints or (2) others?

    For (1):
    “Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.”

    For (2):
    “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”

    Seems simple enough to me.

  17. Thanks to ji for stating what had become painfully obvious. The essay by Givens WAS about the LDS position on abortion, and, all too predictably, the comments veered off into vicious personal attacks from several “contributors” against people who disagreed with them.

    Could we please return to Givens’ essay?

    If that is not possible, could the moderators and administrators of T and S please intervene?

  18. @GEOFF -AUS
    Do you believe that Heavenly Father holds accountable those who vote Republican in US presidential elections for the increased maternal deaths in Nigeria?

    What evidence do you have to back up your claim that Democrats want to reduce abortion to the minimum?,

  19. Ethan,

    Not only are you scientifically illiterate, you appear to be a religious bigot as well (“freaking Islam”).

    No biologist or embryologist thinks a lone sperm or a lone egg is a brand new human organism, you morally-stunted, intellectually-vapid hack.

    Sounds like you know a lot about keeping your hands full while at the computer (keeping though sex trafficking sites in business, eh?). It’s painfully obvious you’re not using the internet to browse an embryology textbook or listen to a biology lecture.

  20. Bryan, Yes, and the other policies they ignore when they vote on abortion, but not for the party that reduces it.

    Democrats are more likely to do the things that reduce abortion, respect women, sex education, and affordable birth control. Obamacare included birth control resulting in less abortions.

    If America did not have this politicized view of abortion, if republicans did not roll back the dems advances, you could reduce the number of abortions, And respect women at the same time. There is an assumption in the pro life position that women can not be trusted, when they have the resources they are responsible.

    TT, so you are now agreeing that making abortion illegal does not stop abortion? So then which is the most effective way to reduce the number of abortions?

    Can you list the countries where abortion is illegal, that have lower rates of abortion than say switzerland or germany?

  21. Seriously people: if you think onanism is the equivalent of abortion, you’re not even within the vicinity of understanding the abortion debate. You’re either woefully ignorant or a complete idiot and should step away.


    “Can you list the countries where abortion is illegal, that have lower rates of abortion than say switzerland or germany?”

    Can you tell me why controlling for unintended pregnancy rates rates would be necessary for this comparison to mean anything? (The fact that you asked me this question in the first demonstrates that you probably can’t.)

  22. Ji:

    Sadly, you appear to be right. I am reminded of a quote from Winston Churchill: a fanatic won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. T and S seems to have been hijacked by the fanatics. Fanatics who are so enamored of their hatred and screaming that they are literally incapable of listening to a differing opinion.

    I feel like I am watching a Mormon version of Judge Judy, on steroids.

    For Nathaniel Givens: thanks again for your original essay, which I am still digesting. As I said earlier, it was very well written and well-thought-out.

    But please think long and hard before writing a sequel!

  23. Just a couple of comments: 1) I’m personally tired of men making rules that apply only to women. Last time I check all the LDS major leaders are men. As are many of the anti-abortion leaders. 2) The Church policy does not specifically state that abortion is the killing of a human being. So we should stop with the overwrought phrases like the “killing of unborn human beings.” 3) The decision on whether to have an abortion should rest solely with the couple (particularly woman); the Bishop should only be consulted if the woman (and/or partner) desires a consultation. And then she or they should realize that she is dealing with an untrained individual. 4) The Church appears to have no doctrine on when the pre-existent spirit joins the body to create an unborn human being. Is it at conception? Is it at birth? Is it when the fetus is viable? If it is at conception, there are a whole list of problematic issues. 5) Stopping legal abortions only affects the poor; the rich can go to Canada or elsewhere for the medical procedure.

    The Church doctrine/policy on family size and birth control have changed dramatically in my lifetime. The same may happen with abortion. And quoting Prez Oaks doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me. He presents many of his personal opinions as Church policy.

  24. JPS,

    Abortion is a “medical procedure” in the same sense that lethal injection is a “medical procedure”.

  25. When I read the original post it is claiming the church position on abortion is pro life. I understand that pro life believers want abortion made illegal to stop it. Is this correct? If there is no evidence that making abortion illegal will stop it, what is the point of being pro life?
    The post goes into great detail to convince us pro life is right, but unless it stops or even reduces abortion, what is achieved. I think you are having the wrong discussion.
    I live in a country where abortion is not politicised, if there is discussion it is how to best reduce the number of abortions.
    I can’t see the point of having a discussion about whether the church or its members are pro choice or pro life, if pro life does not reduce the number of abortions, more than pro choice. You can perhaps claim the moral high ground, but if the practical application (making abortion illegal) doesn’t stop abortion or even reduce it more than the the pro life policies, then you are having a group delusion.

    Agree totally roger.

    Tiwan, I hope I am not screaming, or not hearing?

  26. @GEOFF-AUS
    Would would you say that Latter-day Saint Republican presidential voters are guilty of premeditated murder in the eyes of Heavenly Father? If not premeditated murder, for which sin would they need to seek forgiveness?

  27. TT, I only read one of the references you gave, and the closest it came to saying what you claim it said, were descriptions of women desperate for an abortion, putting it off later into the pregnancy because they could not afford it, because funding was cut. Nowhere does it say the number of abortions were reduced, by making womens lives hell. But it certainly didn’t paint a pretty picture of the lives of poor desperate women. Is this what pro life looks like? As roger says women with money can have an abortion. So mostly the poor are hurt.

    “Can you tell me why controlling for unintended pregnancy rates rates would be necessary for this comparison to mean anything? (The fact that you asked me this question in the first demonstrates that you probably can’t.)”

    I didn’t say you had to control for anything. I believe the facts show that by sex education, affordable birth control, respect for, and funding womens choices, you could reduce Americas abortion rate by two thirds, to German levels of 6 per 10,000 women. And you would not make women miserable in the process, but empower them.

    You seem to be claiming that taking the choice away from women, by making abortion illegal would be more effective, but without any evidence?
    From one of the sources you list above

    “Nearly every state had lower abortion rates regardless of whether the state had passed any laws related to abortion access. Some states with new restrictions saw their abortion rates increase.”

  28. Geoff-Aus:

    “I can’t see the point of having a discussion about whether the church or its members are pro choice or pro life, if pro life does not reduce the number of abortions, more than pro choice.”

    I understand that you can’t see the point.

    The discussion IS of interest to me, and to Nathaniel Givens, and to others in this comment thread. My interest is driven in part by the point made by Roger D Hansen, who accurately pointed out that the Church’s position on family size and birth control have changed dramatically, in his lifetime, and there is the possibility that the Church’s position on abortion will also change, in the future. In practical terms, I think the Church’s treatment of members who have had abortions, has gradually become more compassionate over the years, despite the official disapproval. I think Church attitudes are being influenced by so-called “trickle-up” revelation, in which our Church leaders are having to adjust to the overall membership’s personal encounters in their extended families with abortion. I am guessing that most extended families have had experience with this issue. I personally dislike abortion, and think most abortions are for personal and social convenience, but I want us to show as much Christian love as possible to those who have had one, because we are all, myself included, sinners in need of Christ’s love, and need Him to forgive us all the bad things we have done. If you read my previous comments, I commented that I disapprove of the attempts of pro-life zealots in socially conservative states like Georgia and Alabama to tighten abortion restrictions.

    Incendiary attempts on the part of pro-choice and pro-life zealots to convert and shout down the other side are exhausting. Maybe we can find different subjects in the future to discuss productively. Discussion is fine. Reasoned disagreements are fine. Insistent attempts to marginalize people we disagree with are demoralizing.

    One last general comment;

    William Butler Yeats wrote his poem, “The Second Coming,” in the early 1900s. It dealt with the Irish “Troubles” of the 1910s and 1920s, but one part in particular applies to the abortion debate:

    The best lack all conviction,
    While the worst all full of passionate intensity.

    I’ll leave the last word to others. Thank you.

  29. The church did not have a position on abortion at until the 1970s. My source says that when she sought church leader guidance on having an abortion n the 60s, there was no policy.

    Rape eliminates ability for a woman to make a choice to have sexual intercourse and/or pregnancy. If she has no choice, it is rape. And then abortion is justified in the church policy, from a moral standpoint.
    If she has no choice to have the sexual encounter we call it rape.
    A forced pregnancy whether or not the sex was technically consensual, could be considered a form of rape (stealthing) or at least something like rape. Why do I think that is in the same category as rape? Maybe because I have been married and been pregnant.
    First of all, is sexual intercourse within marriage completely consensual? Let me rephrase. I believe that my husband would be unhappy in my marriage if we did not have a good sex life. If he is unhappy, then he will treat me and our children badly that day, that week, or that whole year. If my husband leaves the marriage, and I have young children, I would worry that I could not provide for them since his paycheck barely covers the main stuff now when he uses his entire paycheck for his family. Does a married woman really have the choice to become abstinent without risk to the safety and wellbeing of her family? Can you completely eliminate that aspect of possible unintended coercion if a wife is not employed or has several children already? If her husband is a jerk or even an average guy, most people expect sex is part of the deal. My husband would be horrified at my line of thinking, that any of our sex could be akin to coercion. But, I am a practical person with life experience of myself and my peers to examine. Does a poor unmarried woman who has a child and a live in boyfriend who seems like a good guy and she is trying to make a family the best way she can so she is sexually active with the boyfriend even though she can’t afford another child right now. She uses birth control but it fails, does her choice to be sexually active really sound like a real choice to be pregnant?
    If these women make the choice to be abstinent, they risk NOT having the stable relationship which would be positive for them and their children. So do they really have a real choice?
    No. They aren’t victims of rape exactly, but I am uncomfortable with the idea that they could have avoided sex without serious consequences. Without the option of abortion,then their unintended pregnancies become forced pregnancies by default.
    Gentlemen and ladies, women often don’t have the mythical choice of perpetually avoiding sex to ensure no pregnancy.
    Most married LDS women I know have one or two pregnancies that were unintentional. I’m not saying that these middle class friends of mine hated being forced to give birth to our beloved children. But, I am saying that we didn’t have a choice in becoming pregnant. I witnessed the tears of some of those discovered pregnancies of peers. Birth control is not 100 percent effective. Husbands can be told they are infertile from chemo (yeah, that happened to me). And so many married young people (let alone unmarried) don’t have real accurate birth control facts. The amount of misinformation about breastfeeding and birth control (its complicated) highlights that women are seriously disadvantaged to get reliable, affordable birth control if they are poor, uneducated, or just have misinformed mothers or friends.
    I don’t discount that pregnancy can be a miracle of creation and a woman can love it. But pregnancy is still, without a doubt, something (embryo, fetus, unborn person) hijacking my body and taking it over.
    If I don’t want my body hikacked by another person or by the government, isn’t that an important consideration? If I didn’t choose the hijacking, isn’t that something like rape?
    If you think rape is bad, but forced pregnancies are ok, then you might want to think about why. Is it because you see a woman’s rape not as a offense on her body autonomy but a defiling of her body by the wrong man, because her body is receptacle for her husband’s lust? If you refuse her body autonomy as completely hers, her body’s other purpose is to grow children and she has no say in that?
    Anyone who cares for women wants to help them get access to education and the most effective methods of birth control which in turn, reduces abortions. The pro life movement refuses to concentrate on that. Remember, most women who seek an abortion In the US are already mothers protecting the family they have.

    The church policy, we know, was written by men in the 1970s. They did their best in their own sweet way. They knew babies are precious. They also knew that rape is wrong and that a woman risks her life when she gives birth. The rape “exception” is indicative of an understanding that a woman has body autonomy and the “life” exception acknowledges that a pregnancy hijacks a woman’s body.
    And that is why the church’s policy, to me, leads me to think that pro choice is the most in harmony with church policy and that pro life fails to protect a vulnerable people, women, in our society.

  30. Bryan, I don’t think premeditation. My message in this post is that members accept without thinking it through, an ideology that is sold by a political party/church. We should all be thinking through the consequences of our choices. If pro life hurts millions of women for no, or minimal reduction in abortions?

    But I don’t believe we are judged on our individual actions so much as who we become, who we are.

    I do think someone who allows their life/actions to be determined by ideologies that hurt other people, might be asked how that fits with loving our fellow beings. In this discussion voting for a devisive leader, a party that gives to the rich at the expense of the poor. Having an ideology that says a woman who is raped is not responsible for her pregnancy, but a woman who is married, but is deprived of birth control (by that ideology), is responsible for her pregnancy, and should have to suffer the consequences. If that vote also is for someone who creates conditions resulting tens if not hundreds of deaths from the virus?

    If that ideology causes you to overlook all that and vote a second time, I think there is a moral deficit, that might be a problem to explain at judgement time.

    Does that explain?

  31. Jks, understand and agree.
    If the same ideology that opposes the availability of abortion, also reduce the availability of affordable birth control, and also allow millions of women to remain in poverty? Then says those women chose to become pregnant.
    Certainly not respectfull of women.
    Can they claim to love their fellow woman?

  32. Tw the vast majority of abortion fits within a special category of sinners. Can sin be covered by the atonement? Yes!

    But consider the case of a Alma who suffered so greatly he wished he could be destroyed. That’s at a minimum to what those who perform and undergo abortions will experience.

    It’s not a matter of “please forgive me God for my failings, ok, I’m better now.” If a person doesn’t recognize the great sin in their actions and have that abject misery feeling now, they haven’t really undergone the mighty change of heart unto repentance. Now, I’m not worried about going around judging whether a particular person has repented. God knows and putting off the problem or lying to yourself only makes it worse. There will be a terribly exquisite accountability in the future.

    While sex abusers and child abuser often habitually perform their vile deeds in a manner resembling compulsive addiction, and while those perpetrators have often been abused themselves, we still don’t look kindly and generously on their actions and tell them it’s ok you can just repent. Abortion is surely on that spectrum. It’s a disgustingly, shockingly violent act committed on a developing, innocent life. Those who perform and receive such acts, like abusers, perpetuate it down to the next generation with their justifications and legal machinations. Even if that child – and it surely still is, doesn’t understand or fully feel what’s happening to it, the entire concept of abortion represents the worst of humanity.

    Mothers and fathers with the love of God in their hearts know how cruel and disgusting this “procedure” is. Those who have lost children before child birth know feeling of emptiness. It’s the same as if a child is lost, because that’s what happened.

    Taiwan missionary- this might have become more emotional, yes, it might be fruitless. It might make you cringe. But were Hitler to be before you comparing his Jewish victims to lost ej acu late on the keyboard you’d hopefully stand up in disgust, even if your host hoped otherwise. Emotions are strong because you have people here essentially saying they only care deeply about this despicable loss of life because of Republicans or Trump and other demogagues. Imagine someone defending the Jewish people as humans deserving dignity and sanctity and then being reduced simply as frantic people who really just he actually hate Hitler and want political power themselves.

    Abortion is a real tragedy and is surely a component of the blood and sins of this and prior generations, for which the destroying angel is crying to be unloosed.

    Lincoln said the immense loss of life and suffering was a blood atonement in many ways (my words, his sentiment) for the sins of what the United States had legally done to blacks for generations. Surely, the inhumane destruction wrecked across Germany was of similar retribution.

    When the USA does finally fall, and it will be a great fall, there will no doubt be many sins across the generations in the accounting of it, from the scourges of the native tribes down to our self-seeking pleasures while the world suffers; BUT abortion will not be among the least.

    Surely, a heavenly mother and father both weep and hate at such systemic destruction wrought by those who intentionally pluck out their eyes to the truth so they can live in the comfort of the dark.

  33. It seems many hearts are stirred up to anger, and the spirit of contention is strong in this matter, on both sides. I cannot listen to either side.

  34. Much of the anti-abortion sentiment on this thread seems to be because the commenters see it as killing children. However, until the spirit enters the body it is not a full and complete being. It is simply a potential vessel and there is no specific doctrine in the CoJCoLDS regarding when that merger happens.

    I have friends who had miscarriages in middle and late pregnancy who have absolutely firm testimonies that that spirit later joined their family in a different body. Other friends lost children at similar timing and have equally firm testimonies that that spirit then had a body that they will be reunited with at resurrection. It is incredibly personal revelation that each of those grieving parents received, and it is not the same answer for everyone. The counsel they received from their local church leaders was even more varied.

    By the same token, all of the members of the Church that I know who have had an abortion do not regret the abortion. They regret the circumstances that led them to make that choice (JKS’s comment beautifully addresses some of that), but know that it was the correct decision for them. Who am I to question their knowledge of their own circumstances, and the process and prayers by which they chose their course of action?

    Much of the OP’s reasoning rests upon the parenthetical aside that “(Indeed it is standard for pro-life legislation to include such caveats.)” The caveats in question are to “allow abortion in the case of serious threats to the mother’s life and health”. Unfortunately, that is not actually the case. That is only mostly true of pro-life legislation that has both (A) survived the legislative process, and (B) survived judicial challenges. As Taiwan Missionary mentioned @ 9:41 PM on July 9, there are multiple states that have passed laws that would make obtaining an abortion impossible under almost every circumstance. Some of those laws led to the arrest and imprisonment of women for loss of a pregnancy, at least until appeals (and a governor’s pardon in one case) freed them. For a more detailed look at this, I recommend reading’s-health-policy/issue-brief/understanding-pregnancy-loss-in-the-context-of-abortion-restrictions-and-fetal-harm-laws (sorry I don’t know how to link directly to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s page).

    Can you imagine losing a pregnancy, only to have to go through a criminal investigation to determine if you were at fault in any way? You’d better hope you never missed a prenatal checkup (thanks blankety blank pregnancy brain!), or commented to a friend that you were completely overwhelmed by the thought of another child.

    I think what it comes down to is: how does being pro-life influence your actions and what do you hope to accomplish? (By their fruits he shall know them and all that.) I think that’s where GEOFF-AUS’s comments come in. Do you want to make sure every woman who gets pregnant carries it to term? If so, that is contrary to the pro-life position. To answer Bryan in VA’ s question @3:57 on July 10, the evidence I have is everyone I know who is pro-choice, although some of them do consider themselves Independent, Libertarian or Republican. Almost all of the them describe their position as “nobody should be pregnant who doesn’t want to be.” That leads them to look at the reasons why women seek out abortions, so that they can try to address the root causes rather than simply treating the symptom. If your goal is to reduce the number of abortions, that is how to do it.

  35. I am a woman who has never had an abortion, but has had many miscarriages (and several children). I am pro-choice, but I am comfortable with the churches perspective and appreciate how the OP outlined it. It seems right to me that the church would say that abortion is wrong and damaging with some situation exceptions.

    I agree that is a horrible thing. I would never do it. I’ve only once truly felt a friend was in a situation where an abortion would honestly be the best choice (an extreme abuse situation).

    What’s hard to put into words is the spiritual aspect of this. That pregnancy and loss of pregnancy can tie woman deeply to deity. My latest miscarriage was at 13 weeks. It was traumatic and I went through a grieving process that involved much prayer and a strong conviction that I hadn’t lost anything. None of my children had died, they were all still waiting for me. What had been lost was an opportunity only. I fully understand that other women have had very different experiences and I accept that as being right for them. My LDS friend in the abuse situation had all of this times a thousand going on for her.

    As a spiritual choice I find it wrong to mandate that everyone must see it the same way. Let the church set a standard of morality, but let the choice be between a woman and her God.

  36. Nathaniel, super personal question here (though if you’re publicly proscribing in a blog what women do with their bodies I feel it’s actually not very personal at all): has your view on abortion come about in the absence of any late-ish miscarriages by your wife? And by late I’m thinking past 10 weeks.

  37. Lehcarjt
    That’s a good perspective (lost an opportunity). Thanks for sharing.

    Of course, the reality is that the case across the board for any belief in an after life. In the eternal scale this mortality is both everything to our destiny, but also a small duration of it.

    The choice of course is what is key. A lost baby due to accident, natural selection, what have you is still sad. But actively chopping that baby up for convenience, more personal opportunity, concerns about whether or not you’re fit for motherhood etc; while personal, they are degrading of that life which has prior claim on your body.

    Sorry, it’s the case. Your body will literally give everything it can, right down to sucking the nutrients from your teeth to sustain that body. It’s not the baby or fetus doing it. It’s your body prioritizing that life. And if your body detects that life is unlikely to survive or there’s some defect in the process, the development ceases. That’s a reality we all acknowledge. Just as we acknowledge that carrying for our elderly parents can sometimes drain out resources, time, energy, emotions and so on. And sometimes after all that sacrifice they still don’t pull through when sick. Eventually they all do. No excuse to hasten the day though.

  38. It’s virtually impossible to prove rape. Anyone who believes that they would consider abortion in the case of rape should be pro choice. How could you access abortion if you were raped without the ability to prove it?
    I accompanied someone to a rape medical exam last week. The emotional trauma after rape is real, and there were more important things for her to think about and process, so if I hadn’t called this person so soon after the incident, there would have been no exam. Or if this person had needed to go to work or had had other responsibilities, then my encouragement to have the exam would have been met with refusal. But what does the exam even show? What kind of proof is there that it was nonconsensual?
    My point is that to have a rape condition to get a legal abortion is impractical because it would add red tape and time to actually process and approve rape exceptions.
    These are not only hypothetical or theoretical situations. It is real people who need to actually get an abortion and the current church policy says that if a woman chooses abortion under those circumstances it would be acceptable.
    So clearly, pro choice is the stance most in line with the current church policy.

  39. Jks- In addition, multiple states allow the rapist at least some parental rights if a pregnancy results from the assault. The 32 states that allow parental rights to be terminated usually require a conviction or “clear and convincing evidence” to even consider it. Since only a small fraction of rapes are reported and only about a third of the reported ones are even prosecuted, I imagine that would come down heavily in the “I cannot go through with this” category.

  40. Sute, you have again confirmed my assessment that the self-described “pro-life” arguments are only anti-woman and thinly veiled. You deem my life so worthless that even a hypothetical, non-existant person (and, in your 3rd comment, their equally hypothetical and nonexistent descendants) command more of your concern than I do. Literally I am worth less than nothing to you. You go on to state that hypothetical, potential people have “prior claim” on my body. Over me??? Really? If that’s the way your appraisal comes out, you really tell on yourself that you are measuring me as an interchangeable part with breeding value only. It won’t hold up if you think of my body and my individual, unique, personal life as having value in more arenas. This is objectification.

    Next you argue that it’s the proper, natural order of things that my body itself would prioritize a progeny’s survival over my own, even “sucking the nutrients from my teeth,” even if it kills me. You could hardly make a more explicitly anti-life statement. News flash, my brain and nervous system are also part of my body, and are vigorously opposed to suffering, dying, inopportune reproduction, leaching out the nutrients from my teeth, or losing any autonomy. You want to appeal to biology to reveal the ideal energy allocation between self-care and reproduction for females? Let’s talk about the prevalence of infanticide in human societies across time and geography, and by female animals of many species. Let’s talk about the evidence that females across species trend toward prioritizing quality over quantity of progeny, and hence actively limit and delay their bouts of reproduction, both behaviorally and physiologically, especially in response to stressors. How will you explain the behavior of women who have died by suicide rather than undergo an unwelcome pregnancy, or undertaken tremendous personal risks to end a pregnancy? Any biological framework must account for these data too. It looks to me like my body goes to extensive lengths to limit the personal costs of reproduction and to try to maximize my control of the situation. Your idea is a compact example of how prejudice can derail scientific inference, though.

    And how rapidly you launched into rape apologetics! How nice for us all to know that you are happy to comfort yourself that rape, involuntary parenthood, and the resulting women’s suffering are ultimately for the best since the species is thereby propagated. But conspicuously no exertion or rhetoric from you towards societal measures to eliminate rape, secure women’s autonomy, or develop birth control advances that would preclude interest in abortion… The kindest possible wish I can point in your direction is to shut up and stop heaping verbal and emotional abuse on women with the grave misfortune to encounter you, both online and in person. It might be very healthy for you, however, to have somebody dispassionately assess your remaining breeding value relative to everyone else occupying space, and then reallocate or confiscate your remaining person hours, political power, and resources accordingly. Hope you’re not over 40.

  41. Marissa,

    I think you’re arguing a straw man here. At the risk of engaging in precisely the fallacious argumentation you’ve adopted, pro-choice arguments often distort and twist the pro-life argument into something unrecognizable. A woman is not less valuable than her child. But the right to live is more valuable than the right to bodily autonomy in the case of a pregnancy resulting from consensual sex.

    But you’re clearly not interested in actually understanding the pro-life position, so I’m not sure why I bother.

  42. Dsc, Are you mainly saying that you don’t accept Sute’s views as representing your interpretation of “pro-life”? My comment was very clearly directed at Sute.

    I find that if I go look directly at the websites of the orgs actually driving the “pro-life” political movement, and blogs of key players etc., Sute is pretty representative. Sute is unquestionably engaging in rape apologetics, objectification, and prioritizing the nonexistant “1000s” of descendants over the autonomy of real, living women now. Sute’s top concern is being pro rapid population growth, including if that’s at the expense of women’s autonomy. I’d agree that there are lots of less engaged people who think of themselves as “pro-life” whose views are less extreme. But, again, the people who primarily define the term and its popular connotations are the ones who are lobbying, politically organizing, crafting the “pro-life” legislation, and so on. If you don’t like being grouped with them, that may be as much a problem of your alliances as with my perceptions.

  43. “But the right to live is more valuable than the right to bodily autonomy in the case of a pregnancy resulting from consensual sex.”

    This is the heart of the conflict, I think. I don’t believe the fetus has this right at early development. The mother has the right to make the decision. I do believe it is morally reprehensible to get an abortion of convenience. The church should state it is morally reprehensible. But the government should stay out of it.

  44. @GEOFF-AUS
    1. Regarding the woman who is married and pregnant but “deprived of birth control”, you seem to assert that responsibility for the pregnancy then falls on the political party opposing abortion. I could not disagree with you more. The political party had no role in arranging the marriage, and had no role in the decision to become pregnant. The married couple and the married couple alone is solely responsible for that pregnancy.

    2. To assert that US COVID-19 infection rates also show a problem with voting Republican is problematic. Some of the states with the highest infection rates such as New York, Washington, and California are controlled by Democrats. Also you may be unaware that recent rioting in the US has occurred mostly in areas dominated top to bottom by democrats such as Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago, Seattle, and Washington DC. Would a devout latter-day Saint need to explain a vote for a Democrat president at the final judgment also?

  45. Bryan, you might want to read jks at 3.57. If you oppose birth control, and or sex education, as well as abortion, and actively defund these things, you set up a situation where a poor married woman (who has limited opportunity to not have sex unless she wants to get pregnanty) is very likely to have an unwanted pregnancy. Might that explain why 70% of abortions in America are for women forced to live below the poverty line? Do you think the circumstances you voted for might contribute to pregnancy? a0995001503 I do.

    When I was married the church opposed birth control, we had 3 children in the first 4 years. Now the church does not teach this, some of my children have 3 children in 10 years, and do not have to live in poverty like we did. So yes there are other inflences on whether or not you get pregnant, than just the couple.

    You might think you are not responsible for the consequences of your vote. I think you are.
    Suppose you voted for universal healthcare, which provided affordable birth control, and that reduced by half the abortions of women who could not afford birth control, who now could; could you claim credit for a 35% reduction in abortions? I think you could.

    So suppose you voted for a party that removed poverty, respected women, and funded their choices/options, that could reduce abortions by another third, and also make life better for millions of people, could you claim some credit? Yes.

    As for the virus, I believe national leadership could have made a lot of difference. You had actively obstruction from your president, you will have 200,000 deaths by November. In Australia we had united leadership between states and federal, your population is 11 times ours. We have had 108 deaths so far, so with your population 1188 deaths, but you have 137,000. So 135,000 too many. The fact you nominate democrat governors, and , ignore the other governors, and the president now, shows how politicised your response/and country is.

    The fact that you call demonstrations, riots, also says something about your point of view.

    Yes if you vote Republican, and they create conditions that make it impossible for there not to be unwanted pregnancies, you are partially responsible for the number of abortions. So whether you claim to be pro life or not you are responsible.

    If a Democrat president has policies you vote for that have harmfull consequences, yes you are partly responsible. If she introduces universal healthcare that saves millions of lives, and restores the environmental reforms Trump has removed, and the climate action, you might earn some reward/gratitude.

  46. Interesting essay. I agree with your general point, however, I don’t think it’s quite right to say that only a pro-life interpretation of the church’s position is rational, if by “pro-life interpretation” you mean to refer to the traditional Christian position on abortion, which I think depends on two ideas that simply don’t exist in Mormonism: (1) the doctrine of double effect, making the moral distinction between intended and foreseeable effects and (2) something like the Aristotelian view of the human person. The lack of (1) allows Mormons to abort a fetus for reasons that would never be allowed under the traditional position. And the lack of (2) in favor of Mormonism’s generally Cartesian dualist view of the human person (e.g., the glove-hand way of teaching about the body and spirit) allows one to argue that a fetus isn’t a human until some point after (and perhaps long after) it is first formed. In other words, the traditional Christian pro-life position isn’t based solely on your principle of human equality (which Mormonism does indeed adopt). Because of the lack of (1) and (2) in Mormonism, it simply isn’t true that only this traditional pro-life interpretation of the church’s position is rational. Of course, maybe you meant “pro-life interpretation” in a more general sense.

  47. The Church’s position is certainly not the same as the position the Republican Party has gravitated toward in recent years, which is an extremist position the Church certainly could not support, even though many members do (as I’ve said before, many Latter-day Saints are more Republican than Mormon). I have a neighbor who insists that abortion is “infanticide,” a term the Church would never officially use.

    But what most people on either side of this issue do not recognize is that the Church’s official position leaves a gap on which it has not taken a stand. Here’s an excerpt of the Church’s official position:

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

    The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

    Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
    A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
    A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

    What does the Church oppose? Elective abortion for personal or social convenience.

    It also allows exceptions for rape, incest, the jeopardized health of the mother, and severe defects in the fetus.

    None of these statements cover a very broad category of abortions that are not for convenience. Often they are a matter of the survival or well-being of a family. Take, for instance, the case of a single mother who is barely scraping by in a minimum wage job (because she is not qualified for better work). She becomes pregnant, and the future father is a deadbeat, who disappears from the scene and who, anyway, would not be able to support either her or her children. If she has the baby, she will lose her job, her apartment, and, likely, her children. The decision here does not involve an abortion of convenience. It’s the life of the baby vs. the survival of a struggling family. Neither the pro-life position nor the Church’s official policy have an answer for this situation and hundreds like it.

    The Church does, however, subscribe to some utilitarian thinking regarding the value of some lives over others. Take Nephi, for instance, when he is standing over Laban’s senseless body with a drawn sword. The Spirit “constrains” him to kill Laban, which would be murder, and it uses a utilitarian argument. The death of this one man is outweighed by the need of an entire population to have the scriptural record Laban possesses. So it’s not even one life vs. another life. It is one man’s life vs. the ignorance of many. Of course, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, this is a false choice. If Nephi had not received the plates, God could have revealed to him anything on those plates that Nephi’s people really needed. So, the story has some inherent flaws in it, but that’s another topic altogether. What’s important here is that LDS scripture insists that it is okay to kill a living man (not an unborn fetus) in order to accomplish a greater good. This seems very relevant to the situation I presented above of the struggling single mother.

    In my own opinion, the Church needs to fill the gap in its policy by addressing circumstances that are not “convenience,” but do not involve the exceptions spelled out in the policy. And perhaps this is the best argument for a pro-choice position: There are countless circumstances in which the abortion is not for “convenience.” Perhaps this is why such weighty decisions should be left in the hands of the mother, the doctor, and maybe the clergy. These circumstances are too numerous and too individual for a blanket law that prohibits an act that may be more morally defensible than Nephi’s slaying of Laban.

  48. Marrissa,

    I’m sure I disagree with Sute on a variety of issues, particularly the applicability of a potential rape exception to an abortion ban, even though I consider myself pro-life. I’m sure you disagree with Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva (look them up), even though you and they consider yourselves pro-choice. Most people view this and most other issues on a spectrum.

    But whether I disagree or not isn’t really the issue. What I’m saying is that I think you’ve read more into Sute’s comments than is merited. You say that Sute is engaging in “rape apologetics”, but I see nothing in his comment that excuses rape. The question is what to do with a baby who was conceived as a result of rape.

  49. “In my own opinion, the Church needs to fill the gap in its policy by addressing circumstances that are not “convenience,” but do not involve the exceptions spelled out in the policy.”

    Maybe it would be better not to fill the gap? That would leave some space for individual prayer, autonomy, and decision-making. Sometimes, a little ambiguity is a good practice when drafting policy.

  50. The church does not say it is pro choice or pro life, which is good. (These are just US political terms anyway) and I agree with ji that it is better for them not to clarify any more on the subject.

    The fact that they say their advice is only for members, is also good.

    To me these together say they are not pro life, because pro life means they want to impose their ideas on others. So I disagree with Nathaniel.

    There seems to be a gulf between the official church position, and what suit believes, but also what Oaks, and Nelson say.

    Another time when I am glad I live in Australia, where we have none of this public angst. Life is much more peacefull, when there are no fights about the hot button American problems, like abortion, universal healthcare, guns etc. We do have laws that women going for an abortion must not be harrased by protestors . Must stay back 100 meters.

  51. When the missionaries interviewed me and the abortion question came up, I answered truthfully that I had assisted my freshman roommate in seeking out and obtaining an abortion. It turned out she’d had an hysterical pregnancy, and was not actually pregnant, so technically no abortion happened. It still warranted a call to the mission president, and no one asked me if I felt godly guilt for what I did. And I didn’t, and I don’t. It is 100% on me that I did not vet the organization on its LGBTQ+ policies before joining (I have been given the gift of divine experiences since I was a young child, and had one at the cusp of adulthood that laid out my service to LGBTQ+ folx), but I had checked on its abortion stance, finding it the moderate one with which I agreed. Safe, legal, and rare. I look to the countries that have achieved this.

    As a woman who willingly joined a patriarchal society, my years in the church have taught me that many programs and laws treat the symptom, not the cure. A patriarchal disregard for women pervades the church and the United States, and The cancer is so deep, extrication would be akin to Brigham Young tearing up the foundations of the SLC temple because it was not done correctly. I like that story, and feel it demonstrates what is needed in so many areas of church AND state. Neither will do it, though, because those in charge of both are comfortable and secure. A great human failing is seeing others’ experiences through our own lens, and not even trying to understand theirs.

  52. Now TT, be nice. Ethan is just endorsing Elder Packer’s “little factories” analogy. I’m sure he, along with the other pro-choicers here, fully and zealously support all aspects of the law of chastity in all of its applications as binding upon males as well as females. Right, guys?



Comments are closed.