Hmm. The direction the responses took to my two points about ethical consistency and abortion remind of my (still unfinished) deck project, which started off simple enough, but soon spun out of control.
First, I would suggest that it is extremely difficult to reconcile Mormon policies and practices with the premise that a fetus/unborn child has the same ontological status as a born child–i.e., that abortion is murder. For example, one can be forgiven for abortion but not murder (baptism of those who’ve committed homicide require permission of 1st Pres, but not for those who’ve undergone/aided abortion), abortion is permissible in cases of rape, incest, threat to mother’s life, serious threat to mother’s *health*, stillborn children may listed on family group sheets but sealing ordinances are not to be performed on their behalf, etc. There are powerful arguments that an unborn child is a fully human being, but I don’t believe that LDS policies or teachings provide much support.
However, to say that an unborn child has a lesser status than a born child is not to say that it has no status, or only the status of an animal. It is perfectly coherent to maintain that abortion is not murder, but that it is a grievous moral wrong, because while the fetus is not a fully human being, it nevertheless is a being with an extremely weighty ontological status. Even if one is pro-choice, one is not necessarily committed to the position that an abortion is like euthanizing a pet.
Nevertheless, if an unborn child has a lesser ontological status than a born human being, then it is logically possible for there to be situations in which the interests of the latter properly outweigh the former. (Indeed, the Church’s policy lists four or five such situations.)
These are the premises which I assumed in posing the adultery and social welfare points. Those who reject these premises are, of course, free to reject them, but it hardly makes sense for us to talk about these points unless we proceed from these premises. Obviously, if a fetus is a fully human being with the same status as all of us, then adultery can be distinguished because it does not involve murder, and the social welfare point is ridiculous because it would allow murder in case the state does not provide certain social welfare benefits to the murderer.
Second, my questions were designed to explore whether, as a Latter-day Saint, one must choose between gender equity and the prolife position, given that women disproportionately bear most of the costs associated with unwanted/out-of-wedlock pregnancies. It is not a sufficient response, in my view, to say, “Too bad, we live in a fallen world,” any more than one can excuse violations of the law of chastity because, “gee, it’s really hard when sexual images are everywhere.” I also did not accuse anyone of not caring about the poor, though whether particular social welfare programs really work seems to be a very curious response anyway. Subsidized/on-site child care clearly makes life easier for single mothers. Many states do not require health insurance companies to cover birth control prescriptions. The rate of child support collection for custodial parents (overwhelmingly female) hovers around 50%; that figure could be improved dramatically with the investment of law enforcement resources. And so on.
But finally, at the conceptual level, what seems important to me is whether one may justify imposing the unequal burdens of immorality on women by a prolife position without also being committed to alleviating these burdens to the maximum extent possible. Liberal Catholics notwithstanding, we’re Mormons: How many Mormons are committed to both (besides Russell, whose terrific post went to the heart of the matter). (And, again notwithstanding liberal Catholics, I’m on firm ground with the observation that most prolifers do not link their anti-abortion views with support of social welfare programs or other means of alleviating the burdens of unwanted pregnancy.) The question remains, how can one coherently justify not alleviating those burdens while remaining committed to gender equity?
As to adultery, kudos to the posts who take it seriously. In the many discussions I’ve had with people over this point, until now no one has really argued for enforcing it. There would, of course be serious problems with it, starting with the right to privacy, but maybe 90 days in jail and a $5,000 fine would make people take their marriage vows more seriously.
Or not. :)