From the Archives: Is it okay to be a pro-choice Mormon?

January 22, 2008 | 122 comments
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Are church members required to be pro-life? (That is, opposed to legal availability of abortion). Or may they be pro-choice — (in favor of allowing abortion under the law)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(For original comments to this post, including some very good observations on both sides of the political spectrum, see http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=333#more-333).

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122 Responses to From the Archives: Is it okay to be a pro-choice Mormon?

  1. Timer on January 22, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    The more topical question is not “Is it possible to be a for-practical-purposes pro-choice Mormon?” (the answer is obviously yes) but “Is it possible to secure the Republican presidential nomination after having once been a for-practical-purposes pro-choice Mormon?”

  2. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Of course you would change your mind if the Church urged that we have “compassion” towards fetal humans, right?

  3. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I’m not real sure how you convert a statement that the Church has no position on embryo-destroying research into “lukewarm acceptance.” Matt Evans blogged on the subject here: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2321

    Anyway, to answer your question:

    A Mormon can be pro-choice without being excommunicated. It is not OK to be a pro-choice Mormon.

    Real, classy timing by the way.

  4. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Elder Oaks:

    “
    More than 30 years ago, as a young law professor, I published one of the earliest articles on the legal consequences of abortion. Since that time I have been a knowledgeable observer of the national debate and the unfortunate Supreme Court decisions on the so-called “right to abortion.” I have been fascinated with how cleverly those who sought and now defend legalized abortion on demand have moved the issue away from a debate on the moral, ethical, and medical pros and cons of legal restrictions on abortion and focused the debate on the slogan or issue of choice. The slogan or sound bite “pro-choice” has had an almost magical effect in justifying abortion and in neutralizing opposition to it.

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

    Most Mormon pro-choicers spend a lot more time arguing for pro-choice than they do arguing against abortion.

  5. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Incidentally, asking whether Mormons have to be single-issue pro-life voters is a different question. The answer is pretty clearly no.

  6. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    “It is not OK to be a pro-choice Mormon”

    By this you mean that a pro-choice Mormon would not “fit in,” right? It would be similar to being pro-beer, pro-gambling, pro-cage fighting–an LDS church member who holds such positions may do so for political reasons, may still adheres to the tenets of the faith, but this person does not get invited to teach Elder’s quorum.

  7. Kaimi Wenger on January 22, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    “Real, classy timing by the way.”

    What exactly do you mean by that, Adam G.? Is it unclassy to discuss abortion on a day when every blog in the universe is also talking about abortion? I’m not sure why you’re being so hostile.

    I think the post discusses the issue in a reasonable way. And I said, in an e-mail to our group, that I hoped that you or Matt or someone would put up a post as well.

    Your only response so far has been sarcasm and hostility in comments here.

    What ever happened to the Adam Greenwood who could reasonably discuss issues (even controversial ones) with people who disagreed with him? Take a look at your own comments at http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=333#comment-13759 and http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=333#comment-13821 . Where did that person go? When did you decide that your only response to my posts would be contempt and ridicule?

  8. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    You might be right about social acceptance, but that wasn’t what I had in mind. I view being pro-choice they way I would view being pro-choice on slavery. I’m going to think its wrong until God or the Prophet expressly tells me it isn’t, which clearly is pretty far from happening.

  9. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I’m fairly new to the blog debate, the debate seems to have some history and I haven’t read all the previous posts.

    What about the Mormon exceptions? In particular, why could a faithful LDS rape victim seek an abortion? If we’re going to align abortion with murder and slavery, why would we permit an abortion in a situation that seems to be for the emotional welfare of the mother?

  10. Joe on January 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    It would appear to me that every one of these legal arguments could be applied to just about any morally reprehesible act, or just about any law in one form or another. I could certainly think that murder is wrong, but due to my libertarian beliefs, it should not be against the law. Likewise, whether I beat my kid in the confines of my own home is a matter of privacy, and laws that outlaw it are an invasion of that privacy. The equal protection is a little tougher, but you could certainly apply the same argument to either side of a divorce and custody dispute. I doubt any divorce provides \”equal protection\” to both the husband and the wife. Of course who it favors usually depends on which party you talk to. While I am not a lawyer, I don\’t think it is hard to see that any law viewed from a single perspective could be effectively argued against using one or more of the above arguments. The reality is, there is not a single perspective, and most laws are in one way or another trying to protect an innocent victim.

    Why do I think murder should be illegal, even though it goes against my libertarian beliefs? Because there was another party involved and that has to mean something. Abortion is no different. If you believe that a fetus has no rights until it is born (or some other arbitrarily chosen point in time), all of the above legal justifications make sense. If, instead, you believe a fetus does have legal rights, all of these legal arguments must be weighed against that. Does a woman\’s right to equal protection outweigh a child\’s right to life? Any legal argument in support of abortion could be equally applied to infanticide. The difference is whether you believe the child (born or unborn) has the right to legal protection of its own and if so, when such legal protection should begin.

  11. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    That’s pretty involved, Josh Smith, but my short answer is two-fold–
    (1) where the pregnancy is not the result of voluntary action, as in the case of rape or incest, there’s a self defense argument. Abortion proponents commonly use an analogy about a violinist to justify abortion which actually could work in the rape or incest contexts, though it doesn’t in most, in my opinion
    (2) the church has not said that abortion in the case of rape is OK. The church has said that its not going to tell you if its OK or not and someone who’s in that position has to find out for themselves.

  12. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    equal protection is a little tougher, but you could certainly apply the same argument to either side of a divorce and custody dispute.

    You could criticize child support and paternity laws on equal protection grounds. They very, very disproportionately apply to men. Which is a good thing, in my opinion, but I don’t get hung up on equal protection arguments either.

  13. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    For Mormons, it seems, abortion isn’t quite murder. The emotional welfare of the mother could never sanction a murder–even nine months of emotional anguish and an agonizing delivery probably doesn’t justify a murder.

    That being said, for Mormons, abortion is pretty close to murder. Abortion isn’t gambling or liquor. Any pro-choice Mormon would have to be one h*ll of a libertarian to be pro-choice.

  14. Adam Greenwood on January 22, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Josh Smith,
    I’ll be posting links to a collection of Times and Seasons abortion discussions later this evening. Look for my post on “Abortion: Objectively Murder, Subjectively Only Like Unto It” which outlines an argument for how you could generally see the embryonic or fetal person as a full human life but still not excommunicate in cases of rape or incest, etc.

  15. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Thanks. I’ll look for it.

  16. Kathryn Lynard Soper on January 22, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Adam (#5), in your opinion how could someone simultaneously “stand up for the right choice,” per Elder Oaks, and vote for pro-choice leaders?

  17. DavidH on January 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    The Church website also states “The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.” http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/abortion

    I am pro-life, and have been since long before Roe v. Wade. But I think a thoughtful person can be a faithful member of the Church and be pro-choice.

  18. Joe on January 22, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Single issue voting only works if all else is held equal. Many people might say they would only vote for a pro-life candidate, but if the choices were Attila the Hun running on a pro-life platform and Mother Teresa running pro-choice, would they make the same decision. Any candidate should be weighed by the sum total of their positions. All else being equal, I think the right choice Elder Oaks is referring to would be the pro-life candidate. If you must take into account other candidate policy positions, the right choice may not be that simple.

  19. ECS on January 22, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I agree with Elder Oaks that “those who persist in refusing to think beyond slogans and sound bites” often ignorantly contribute to unfortunate results, including an intractable political stalemate that detracts from addressing real issues of why women seek abortions in the first place. Instead of fighting over labels such as “pro-choice” and “pro-life”, why not apply the same political energy and outrage over abortion towards making sure the millions of living children in the U.S don’t continue to go to bed hungry and without proper medical care.

  20. Kathryn Lynard Soper on January 22, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Joe, of course. But for voters like me, it’s not that simple. I have to choose between protecting the rights of the unborn and protecting the well-being of living citizens in dozens of ways. I hate it.

    ECS, I hear you.

  21. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    “But I think a thoughtful person can be a faithful member of the Church and be pro-choice.”

    DavidH, this whole post is about what rationale a faithful member of the Church could justify being pro-choice.

    ECS, agreed. But while we’re searching for cures to poverty, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, etc., what do faithful Mormons write their legislators on the issue of abortion? Is there just one form letter we all need to sign, or are there some Mormons justified in not signing or writing a different letter?

  22. Nick Literski on January 22, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I beileve one can condemn elective abortion, while simultaneously opposing the idea of allowing the government power to make what is ultimately a very personal, private, family decision. Most so-called “pro-life” activists do not seem willing to hold the same exceptions that the LDS church does. Why should an LDS member want these people preventing them from exercizing the kind of thought and prayer that LDS teachings allow with regard to certain abortions?

  23. Joe on January 22, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Kathryn, I agree with you. It looked like this thread may be splitting into two different discussions: Can a faithful member of the church also be pro-choice and can a faithful member of the church vote for a pro-choice candidate? I was trying to illustrate the difference between the two discussions.
    Regarding the first question, I think Elder Oaks laid it out pretty clearly. If you believe he is a prophet (part of my definition of faithful member of the church), I think the answer to the first question is no.
    The second one I think is equally clear in the affirmative. It is not hard to imagine a political situation that where voting for the pro-choice candidate would be preferable.

  24. Starfoxy on January 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  25. Brad Kramer on January 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Adam,
    Your slavery analogy takes the rights-entitled, full-legal status of the unborn as axiomatic. This is a question of creating enforceable laws within a framework in which government exists to protect individual rights. Because there is a dependent, inseparable relationship between an unborn baby and the mother, you cannot confer upon the unborn specific rights (even as fundamental and basic as the right to life) which the state is obligated to protect, without in the process altering the legal status of the mother. Period. Whether conferring legal status upon the unborn at the expense of the legal status if pregnant women is a preferable policy is up for debate. For me, that’s where the whole pro-choice/anti-choice (as opposed to pro-/anti-abortion) argument turns. The best answer to the question of how pregnancy problematizes the classically liberal concept of the rights-bearing individual in a society where we are increasingly capable of viewing (literally) the unborn as genuinely human is by no means self-evident.

    I take the position I do because, for my own reasons, I think that the negative effects of conferring legal status upon the unborn for the legal status of women outweigh the negative effects of keeping abortions legal (even morally wrong elective ones) and trying to proactively take social and political measures to make them safe and rare. Other rational, well-informed, well-intentioned, totally non-crazy, non-morally deficient people might weigh the costs or frame the questions differently than I do and draw different conclusions. But pretending that there is a manifestly self-evident causal relationship by which believing that elective abortion is morally wrong automatically triggers the duty to legally proscribe it isn’t the same thing as making a viable argument for what boils down to an essentially political question. Last time I checked, being pro-choice meant not believing that elective abortions should be criminalized. Staking a strong moral position on questions like abortion or harsh interrogation is certainly defensible from an LDS perspective. Taking an equally strong position on the public policy and legal questions connected with the regulation of such ethically salient actions is also defensible. Asserting that being LDS and pro-choice is not OK is not.

  26. Kaimi Wenger on January 22, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Interesting point, Starfoxy, but what about the potential counter-arguments?

  27. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Nick, the rule of law forbids some behavior. Many have the notion that civilization is impossible without rule of law because life would be brutish, nasty, and short. Our fine Constitution places religion (in almost all cases) outside the bad-behavior-that-undermines-civilization laws–It trusts the free exercise of religion. Abortion is not in the freedom of religion category. Abortion may be a protected practice under certain interpretations of the Constitution, but it is not protected per se. It is entirely consistent for a Mormon to support the free exercise of religion and consider abortion a moral evil worthy of being criminal.

  28. Brad Kramer on January 22, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Josh,
    Perhaps an LDS forum is not the best place for making sweeping claims about constitutional protections of the free exercise of religion. Though, since you do bring it up, the cost of overturning Roe might prove especially high for LDS since those current Justices who disfavor the notion of a constitutionally defined right to privacy are also in favor of gutting free-exercise. Scalia’s gleeful citing of the Reynolds decision in upholding the applicability of state laws criminalizing peyote to those Native-American Church members who ingest it sacramentally should give pause to those LDS for whom the country’s political future rises and sets on the possibility of Justices in the model of Scalia in order to overturn Roe v Wade.

  29. Kathryn Lynard Soper on January 22, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Brad, I’ll bet you’re lots of fun at parties.

    :)

  30. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Brad, I didn’t make many sweeping claims. I just tried to show that a thoughtful Mormon could distinguish between the free exercise of religion and the practice of abortion. That one could support the free exercise of religion, and at the same time forbid others from praticing abortion. I think you would agree. The confusion was no doubt my fault.

  31. jeff hoyt on January 22, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Do you really believe that Scalia poses more of a threat to the LDS church than Breyer? I am willing to take my chances with Scalia. It is those that adopt the “living document” line to impose government oppression (takings, political speech, etc.) that scare me.

  32. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Several of the posts seem to suggest another basis for a Mormon to be pro-choice, some form of cost-benefit analysis: the benefits of abortion outweigh the costs. The argument seems to be that abortion has many benefits to the living (a mother’s autonomy over her own body, mothers who can’t care for themselves aren’t burdened by caring for an infant, etc.). Surely there are benefits. The costs, well, the unborn life is the cost. We could think of other costs.

    Could a faithful Mormon be pro-choice based on benefits outweigh the costs?

  33. ECS on January 22, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Not so fast re: Scalia. His hybrid-rights analysis in Smith (the peyote case) would allow free exercise challenges to go forward if linked to a second fundamental right (See Wisconsin v. Yoder). See also Scalia’s vituperative dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, where he laments the end to morals-based (read: religiously motivated) legislation. Scalia is a devout Catholic with nine children. There’s no indication in Scalia’s own jurisprudence that he would “gut” free exercise.

    Back to abortion. . .

  34. Brad Kramer on January 22, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    ECS,
    Only to the extent that free exercise inscribes religious exemptions. “Laws are the laws of actions,” I think it goes. To claim that Reynolds did not gut free exercise or that Scalia’s position is a meaningful departure from the logic of Reynolds is tenuous at best. Free exercise was on slow but steady recovery mode in American constitutional jurisprudence for the better part of an entire century before Scalia et al set it back via Smith. Scalia literally defended hypothetical laws against submerging infants in water or consuming bread and wine in public provided that such laws were generally applicable.

  35. ECS on January 22, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I disagree with your analysis, Brad. Why don’t we take this offline, however, so as not to detract from the post? You can email me at fmhecs at gmail dot com.

  36. Josh Smith on January 22, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Don’t y’all law school folks have studying to do? Good heavens, we’re trying to figure out if a faithful Mormon could be pro-choice.

  37. Brad Kramer on January 22, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Well, Josh, that’s simple: yes. Many are (though, admittedly, far less than the number of faithful LDS who are pro-life). If the question were “can faithful LDS consider elective abortion to be morally justifiable?” things would be different. I personally don’t like even the asking of the question, since it presumes the possibility of a negative answer, which is really quite absurd. It’s a historically constituted public policy question. It’s like asking whether or not faithful LDS can favor farm subsidies. There might be strong arguments for or against from a public policy standpoint, but those have little if anything to do with the great and everlasting gospel.

  38. Johnna on January 22, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I know a Latter-day Saint who doesn’t want women to have abortions but is pro-choice, because she has concerns about the risks to women getting illegal abortions. She was born in the mid-1940s.

    I think abortion is repulsive, but due to my long association with her and the conversations we’ve had, I am not entirely against abortion being legally available. I am open to incremental measures, such as bans on third-trimester abortions. Basically, I offend both sides in the abortion debate, so I usually keep my mouth shut. I do a lot of listening.

    I don’t really think of myself as pro-choice, but that’s probably the label that would be applied.

    Not surprisingly, I have a couple times voted for “pro-choice” candidates, and I have once given money to a local women’s health clinic that provided annual exams and such, even though they did some abortions.

  39. Timer on January 22, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    1. It is obvious that there are lots of faithful “safe, legal, and rare” Mormons around and have been for decades, and the church is not trying to stop them from holding or expressing these views.

    2. It is also obvious and well known to everyone who has ever read his blogs before that Adam Greenwood feels very strongly that being pro-choice is far from “okay” for anyone (Mormon or otherwise). Of course, this is the opinion of Adam Greenwood, not the opinion of Mormons in general or the Mormon church. And you can ask Adam Greenwood to acknowledge the obvious fact that many faithful Mormons disagree with his views; but if you ask him to declare that it is “okay” or “reasonable” for people to disagree with his belief that anti-abortion laws should be implemented and enforced, then you are asking him to him to do something that would violate his conscious, and he simply will not and can not do that. (Have I got that right, Adam?)

    Anyway, once we make these two observations, what else is there, really, to discuss (short of actually getting into all of the pros and cons of abortion legislation, which can and will go on for years)?

  40. Mike L. (fka Horebite) on January 22, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    There’s a simple way to answer this question: Find a pro-choice member of the church that has a temple recommend. If there is even one, then technically the answer is “yes”.

    I’m only half joking. I think too many people see the church like they see the government or the police, setting up and enforcing rules on what is OK and what is not OK. But I see the church as an organization that is there to help people work out their own salvation. Supporting this is the notion that the Bishop doesn’t have authority to forgive people on behalf of the Lord. He can only help a person in the repentance process. Forgiveness comes from the Lord. It’s true that the Church has set some basic standards, such as the temple recommend interview, but even that is not meant to represent a complete picture of someone’s standing before God. They are meant only as imperfect measures developed out of a necessity to somehow determine who can go to the temple in a fair way.

    So the real question is not if its OK for a member of the church to be pro-choice. The question is a pro-choice position ever acceptable before God. Maybe I’m just nit-picking here, but to me that is an important distinction.

    Now, after much meta-discussion in my comment so far, let me answer the question once and for all:

    I have no idea. It’s between the person and the Lord, in my opinion. Church leaders have given their council on the matter, but as far as I can tell none of them has gone so far as the pronounce that pro-choice members cannot inherit the celestial kingdom.

  41. ZSorenson on January 22, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I think that this issue is being over-complicated. There are plenty of legal issues, we should discuss, think about them. However, this issue, even from a political/legal point of view seems settled. Elder Oaks\’ \’Weightier Matters\’ both in the arguments it makes, and considering the authoritative standing of its writer, seems to pretty clearly settle the issue of whether latter-day saints \’should\’ be pro-life.

    So, I think that this talk strongly suggests that a latter-day saint really \’ought\’ to be pro-life politically. That\’s of course a broad description, but you know what I mean generally.

    Now, a latter-day saint can be pro-choice \’politically\’, and it\’s \’okay\’. Such a person can still be worthy, they can fully participate in the church, but I suppose you could say they are not doing the \’right\’ thing. Does that make sense?

  42. mlu on January 22, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    #38

    I’m against abortions for me and mine. Strongly so.

    However, as to whether they should be legal for people who don’t have my religious beliefs, I’m less sure. I tend to be libertarian, and I’ve noted that abortion seems “not quite murder” among Mormons although it does seem “like unto it.” I haven’t forced myself to a conclusion because the question has been removed from the democratic process by the Supreme Court.

    I vote against pro-choice politicians, though things tend to cluster so I usually have more than that one reason for voting against them. I hate the promotion of abortion that goes on today and would readily support measures to suppress that.

    I feel certain we should try to persuade everyone to freely choose not to have abortions.

    I’m less sure about the role of state coercion. Drawing lines doesn’t help me much, since it seems to me both the sperm and the egg were alive before conception, and that the Lord seems to also have opinions about the misuse of sperm that has not fertilized an egg (Gen 38:8-10).

    I feel I know enough that I can’t participate in abortions. I don’t feel like I know enough to make it a crime for nonbelievers, though I could be easily persuaded by anyone with some authority.

  43. MT on January 22, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Moses 4 says that Satan was cast out of heaven, in part, because he wanted to take away the agency (i.e. choice) of men. This seems to imply that anyone ever born was pro-choice in the pre-existence. I\’m curious how anyone who is anti-choice can justify the position after reading Moses.

  44. Brad Kramer on January 22, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    MT,
    As one pro-choice, I have to say that, provided your comment is not tongue-in-cheek, that is pretty weak sauce.

    mlu,
    I’m told Adam speaks as one having authority. :)

  45. Nick Literski on January 22, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    #27 Josh:
    I think you entirely misunderstood my post, Josh. I was not making a freedom of religion argument at all. Rather, I was pointing out that it is entirely consistent for a faithful LDS to oppose government involvement in a very personal family decision. Religion only played into my post in the sense that the majority of “pro-lifers” come from a religious worldview that does not allow the same exceptions that the LDS church does. If these people had their way, you would lose the right to prayerfully apply the exceptions outlined in the LDS position, regardless of whether they are religiously-based or not.

  46. Ray on January 23, 2008 at 12:36 am

    I am pro-life in the sense that I believe abortion is a terrible thing that requires exceptional circumstances to justify; I am pro-choice for the exact same reason.

    What Nick said in #45 is exactly how I see the political implications of abortion legislation. While I abhor the practice generally, I also want the option available to my wife if she is raped and bearing the child puts her in grave danger of dying in the process. I simply can’t support laws that take away that possibility – that do not allow for exceptional circumstances.

    If it comes to down to the extreme versions of “allow” or “outlaw”, I have to side with “allow” – even though the practice really does appall and sicken me.

    I also think the sound-bite labels are abominable. I hate each label.

    I haven’t even touched on the difficulty of enforcing a law that includes exceptions.

  47. ZSorenson on January 23, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I just want to reiterate. From Elder Oaks’ comments it seems clear that a ‘faithful’ LDS really ought to be at least philosophically opposed to government allowing most forms of abortion. In other words, pro-life. That doesn’t mean you can’t be pro-choice, without loosing your worthiness, but I suppose it would not be incorrect for your position to be considered inconsistent with church standards. Does that make sense?

    You ‘can’ be pro-choice, but you shouldn’t.

    As for MT #43, read ‘Weightier Matters’ by Elder Oaks, he addresses the issue of choice and the pre-existence as it pertains to abortion in that talk I seem to recall.

    I think Elder Oaks said what he did, and in the way that he said it, specifically because of these sorts of debates. He really does specifically come out against legal support for abortion, pro-choice positions. It really seems clear.

  48. Ray on January 23, 2008 at 12:42 am

    #47 – My point is that one can be pro-life in personal, spiritual perspective (longing for the day that the ideal can be lived in mortality) and be pro-choice in legal perspective – if the options are one extreme or the other.

  49. Starfoxy on January 23, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Ray- your #46 sums up my thoughts rather well.

    Kaimi (26) If you look carefully, the counter points are addressed in the second half of my statement (located in the sidebar). I’m sorry the formatting confused you, my toddler is rather poor at taking dictation.

  50. California Star on January 23, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Are LDS Democrats Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?
    How about the Senate Majority Leader?

  51. Johnna on January 23, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Hey ZSorenson, thanks for the pointer to the Dallin Oaks speech.
    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6647

  52. mlu on January 23, 2008 at 1:38 am

    #44 Yes. I will follow him. It’s whether all those other people should be forced to that I’m wondering about . . .

  53. Adam on January 23, 2008 at 2:11 am

    #50: NARAL has Reid listed as Pro-Life. As much as I’ve heard, he is indeed Pro-Life.

    #43 and #44 – Goes to show how some groups corner a name like Pro-Choice when (in my opinion) they are really masking the truth. The Pro-Choice moniker should be carried by those who believe that they will live with their choices (and not by those who want to amend their choices [yes, there are exceptions...]).

  54. we on January 23, 2008 at 2:25 am

    This issue of abortion is about a lot more than simply saying yeah or nay, or of following an Oaks or some other religious leader. Are we as members of society willing to take upon ourselves all of the responsiblilities necessary to make any woman or girl feel so loved that they will lack any motive to abort? I don’t believe we are there as a nation or even as a church. If we were, abortion would disappear, wouldn’t it? I am for the right to choose. I value my right to choose to help those in our midst who I can only imagine are worried sick of maltreatment and ramifications we dish out in our society. There is no higher value than choice.

  55. Adam on January 23, 2008 at 2:43 am

    #54 agreed.

    Is there a Pro-Life equivalent to Planned Parenthood (again, the misleading names…)?

  56. Mark D. on January 23, 2008 at 3:02 am

    #53: Perhaps there is room for Huckabee in the Democratic party after all…

  57. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 3:30 am

    Adam (#5), in your opinion how could someone simultaneously “stand up for the right choice,” per Elder Oaks, and vote for pro-choice leaders?

    Hmm. Publicly registering your objections to their pro-choice stance, and directly informing the pro-choice politician also? What do you think?

  58. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Asserting that being LDS and pro-choice is not OK is not.

    Feel free to write to my Stake President.

  59. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 3:35 am

    Though, since you do bring it up, the cost of overturning Roe might prove especially high for LDS since those current Justices who disfavor the notion of a constitutionally defined right to privacy are also in favor of gutting free-exercise.

    It already has happened. Since we’re stuck with that, why not gut Roe while we’re at it?

    Anyway, I’m more concerned with whether their Free Exercise approach is right than with whether it helps Mormons.

  60. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 3:40 am

    It’s like asking whether or not faithful LDS can favor farm subsidies.

    Hardly a neutral description. You might think its just a question of property rights, but those of us on the other side don’t.

  61. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Timer, yeah, you’ve got that right. And that ‘conscious’ joke never gets old.

  62. sg on January 23, 2008 at 4:11 am

    You people are mad.

    I simply do not understand how you can be a faithful member of our church and support a woman’s purported “right” to choose. Elder Oaks was clear enough. Do you honestly think that the Lord supports abortion? If not, why blather on in support of an unsupportable position?

    “Moses 4 says that Satan was cast out of heaven, in part, because he wanted to take away the agency (i.e. choice) of men. This seems to imply that anyone ever born was pro-choice in the pre-existence. I\’m curious how anyone who is anti-choice can justify the position after reading Moses.”

    MT, I hate to be rude, but that is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. We supported agency in heaven so there should not be any laws on earth to inhibit our right to do anything we want?

    “why not apply the same political energy and outrage over abortion towards making sure the millions of living children in the U.S don’t continue to go to bed hungry and without proper medical care.”

    Are you serious? Are you comparing killing a human fetus with social problems such as poor medical care and hunger? Are these equal considerations for you when choosing a candidate?

  63. Kaimi Wenger on January 23, 2008 at 6:06 am

    I simply do not understand how you can be a faithful member of our church and support a woman’s purported “right” to choose. Elder Oaks was clear enough. Do you honestly think that the Lord supports abortion? If not, why blather on in support of an unsupportable position?

    Well, as set out in the original post, there are potential libertarian positions, potential equal protection arguments, and so on. Do you have specific concerns with any of them, or do you simply think that it’s crazy to discuss the topic at all?

    Do you honestly think that the Lord supports abortion?

    Is there anything in the original post to give that impression? The church position on abortion itself is pretty clear. Abortion is considered a sin. Everyone agrees on that.

    Are all sins outlawed? Should we be in favor of laws against drinking coffee? Should we favor laws against missing your home teaching? At some point, most people separate God’s mandate’s from the state’s legal mandates.

    This isn’t to say that the two will never overlap. Clearly, there is a good deal of overlap between the two. But they don’t overlap perfectly, and most church members think that this is fine and normal. Most church members wouldn’t want the state banning coffee and or imposing a state-required tithing settlement.

    So simply saying that the Lord doesn’t support abortion, doesn’t really establish whether the state should permit it or not. The state doesn’t perfectly mirror God’s laws.

    MT, I hate to be rude, but that is one of the dumbest things I have ever read.

    You should try reading BCC some time.

    Seriously, though. Could you try commenting on the topic without insulting everyone else here? It’s our policy around here. And it’s not that hard, really. Substitute something neutral, like “I disagree,” for over-the-top and incendiary language like “that is one of the dumbest things I have ever read.”

    And if you can’t do that much, then please find another thread to comment in.

    Are these equal considerations for you when choosing a candidate?

    Some number of voters, LDS or otherwise, are indeed single-issue voters. Everyone else weighs a variety of different candidate positions, and takes them into account.

    There are interesting arguments that could be made in favor of single-issue voting on various topics. “Are you serious?” is not one of them.

  64. Carlos on January 23, 2008 at 6:09 am

    #4. That quote from Elder Oaks would be excellent fodder for the Huckabee’s and the religious right:

    “All Latter-day Saints are pro-choice according to that theological definition. ”

    How easy it would be to quote this out of context.

    sg- we, in church, do permit abortion in cases where the life or health of the mother is at risk (note that it also includes health) and in cases of incest or rape, as stated in that first presidency letter on abortion.
    These necessary abortions could not happen if the religious right pro-life clan manages to criminalize the procedure of ‘abortion’ as they fully intend to. Hence it is better to be pro-choice so that the option of abortion is there should the life or health of the mother be in danger or if your 12 year old daughter is raped and left pregnant with the rapists baby.

  65. Joel on January 23, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Just wanted to add my opinion. I think that I could support a very limited interpretation of the pro-choice position in that I believe that legal and safe abortions should be available in cases of rape, incest, and potential harm to the life of the mother. I believe that the Mormon perspective on the eternal nature of life allows some women in these unique circumstances to make affirmative decisions regarding abortion. Current Mormon policy definitely portrays murder as a more serious sin than abortion. That being said, I think that the term “pro-choice” has a lot of baggage that I find untenable. I think abortion is fundamentally wrong and that it carries social and spiritual consequences. I do not want to be lumped together with people that believe that women should have the right to abort how and whenever they want. I think the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” are drastic political oversimplifications (i.e. spin) created to confuse and deceive the American public about the true views of candidates. I think it is problematic to quibble over legalities in a predominately political position. By the way, I can vote for a pro-choice candidate if they think that abortion is wrong; I cannot vote for them if they believe that abortions carry no moral baggage.

  66. MT on January 23, 2008 at 9:47 am

    sg — I have a hard time believing you hate to be rude. Your summary of what I said is a little lacking. Perhaps if I had used a question word and a question mark it would have been more obvious that it was a question. How’s this for you: How can anyone who is anti-choice justify the position after reading Moses? ZSorenson obviously understood that I was asking a question and pointed me to Elder Oaks BYU talk titled “Weightier Matters”.

    I have to disagree with Elder Oaks interpretation that being pro-choice means thinking abortion should be legal in every circumstance. Unfortunately, those are the terms of the debate that rages in this country. However, given that there are situations where abortion is morally justifiable, I don’t see it as appropriate to legislate denying others to the right to make that choice. In all honesty, though, abortion is not an issue I really consider when I go to the polls. If there were two candidates that I liked equally well, and the only difference between them was their stance on abortion, then it might be more important to me. Usually by the time I get down the list of issues that are important to me, the all look the same when it comes to their stance on abortion.

    Lastly, suppose there are two candidates: one who opposes abortion, yet supports the death penalty, and another who supports abortion while opposing the death penalty. Which candidate should I pick based on this scripture: ‘Thou shalt not kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6)? Can I morally justify supporting either of them?

  67. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 10:26 am

    #25,
    I don’t think its right to do that kind of utilitarian cost-balancing to decide whether someone gets to live or not. But if you do do it, there’s not reason to limit it to the unborn.

  68. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 10:27 am

    These necessary abortions could not happen if the religious right pro-life clan manages to criminalize the procedure of ‘abortion’ as they fully intend to. Hence it is better to be pro-choice so that the option of abortion is there should the life or health of the mother be in danger or if your 12 year old daughter is raped and left pregnant with the rapists baby.

    Or you could oppose abortion except in cases in rape, incest, etc. Crazy, but it just might work.

  69. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 10:28 am

    #66,
    I think its hard to make the case that abortion and the death penalty are morally equivalent in Mormon thought, in moral argument, or in the number slain.

    Here’s Russell M. Nelson:

    More attention is seemingly focused on the fate of a life at some penitentiary’s death row than on the millions totally deprived of life’s opportunity through such odious carnage before birth.

  70. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Ummm…How about “Can a good Mormon refuse to buy into the overly simplistic dichotomy of pro-choice/pro-life and advocate for policies aimed at reducing actual abortions while resisting the urge to legally ban them?”

    That’s me.

    Enact policies aimed at reducing poverty, increasing education and awareness (especially among adolescents), encouraging adoption and responsible use of birth control, etc. Leave the legal bans to more serious social harms. (And please, don’t try to claim that abortion is a serious social harm.)

  71. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Adam,
    You’re a bit over-the-top in your rhetoric. I mean, “the number slain”? C’mon. A fetus is not the same as a person. A potential person, yes. A human-to-be (eventually), yes. But it’s not the same.

    By your logic, a fetus that self-aborts (miscarries) has what…committed suicide? What can we do to stop the pandemic of fetal suicides? Can we implement some kind of in utero counseling program? Do the fetuses need Prozac?

    Seriously. It’s okay to oppose abortions of convenience without pumping up the rhetoric to levels of in/uncredibility.

    Let me ask you this: Do you think that the spirit person who was to inhabit the body of a fetus that was aborted is thereafter prevented from coming to earth? Do you think that spirit is condemned thereafter to…what…eternal damnation (no progression without having obtained a body)?

    Personally, I don’t think that’s how Heavenly Father would operate. And if the spirit person gets another chance to come to earth, then abortion is not quite equivalent to murder, or to “slaying people,” or to “deciding whether someone gets to live or die.” It just isn’t. It is still morally wrong — it is still an impediment to God’s Plan — but it just doesn’t live up to your overblown characterization of it.

  72. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Russel M. Nelson:

    it is not a question of when “meaningful life” begins or when the spirit “quickens” the body. In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science.

    Since the Church has no official opinion on when life begins, Elder Nelson’s statement here is not obligatory on the Saints as a matter of obedience. But if you accept that human life begins at conception, can you still be pro-choice?

    I think you can. From a libertarian perspective, you might permit killing if it resulted from an autonomous adult’s free choice to conclude that the life in question didn’t exist or didn’t have the same moral worth that you thought it did.. From an equal protection perspective, you might sanction killing if the existence of the life in question put burdens on one gender that it didn’t on the other. Or you might conclude that humans are not all of equal worth and pick some criteria by which to judge their right to life. But what you can’t do is limit your permission to kill to the unborn.

  73. MT on January 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

    “I think its hard to make the case that abortion and the death penalty are morally equivalent in Mormon thought, in moral argument, or in the number slain.”

    If the D&C 59:6 is as black and white as anti-abortion proponents think it is, then why would it be so hard to make the case that the death penalty is not just as bad as the abortion? Is it just volume? If there were as few abortions performed in the US every year as there were executions would abortion be morally acceptable then?

  74. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Your point? The talk you cite does not justify your inflated rhetoric. It does not equate abortion to murder. Granted, it does use some inflated rhetoric of its own — calling abortion the “shedding of innocent blood” — but this is clearly metaphor (i.e., inflated rhetoric), because we believe that the shedding of innocent blood is the one unpardonable sin, and surely no one will claim that abortion is tantamount to an unpardonable sin.

    The most that can be said is that abortion is “like unto” murder. I have already conceded this — I believe it. That is why I would advocate policies designed to discourage and reduce abortions.

    But inflated rhetoric gets us nowhere. It only makes our job harder — because it is divisive, serving as red meat for the pro-lifers and bile for the pro-choicers.

    If the real goal is to reduce actual abortions, then the strategy must be to get large majorities of people to enact those laws/policies that will accomplish this goal. Advocating (with inflammatory rhetoric) sweeping bans on abortion will not accomplish this goal.

  75. JKC on January 23, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I don’t think the Elder Oaks talk says what militant “pro-life” Mormons want it to say. Even if it did, it is still the opinion of one member of the twelve, not a revelation to the church. Elder Oaks does not claim to have received a revelation on the point, nor to speak for the rest of the twelve. Not every word that proceeds forth out of the mouth of a general authority is a law unto the church.

    If the brethren actually wanted us to think that it was wrong for any mormon to be “pro-choice,” they would say so. They haven’t. As far as I can see, that ought to settle the question. The other option is that the church is sending coded messages to the members in an effort to surreptitiously circumvent the law to preserve its tax-exempt status. I refuse to impute such ill-intent to my leaders.

  76. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 11:06 am

    By your logic, a fetus that self-aborts (miscarries) has what…committed suicide?

    The child has died. Suicide requires a conscious choice.

    Do you think that the spirit person who was to inhabit the body of a fetus that was aborted is thereafter prevented from coming to earth? Do you think that spirit is condemned thereafter to…what…eternal damnation (no progression without having obtained a body)?

    I think the spirit has inhabited the body. The child is in the same position it would be if it had died anytime before the age of accountability.

  77. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Comment #74 is directed at Adam (#72).

    As for the death penalty vis a vis abortion…this is my favorite conservative hypocrisy.

    If we’re really as Christian as we claim to be, we would believe in a rehabilitative criminal justice system — not a retributive one. But the “Christian” conservatives see criminal justice in terms of punishment, not rehabilitation. Funny, because we call them “penitentiaries” for a reason. (Look up the sources for that word.)

    Go read what Joseph Smith had to say about prisons and criminals. If I recall correctly, he said he would prefer to forgive them all and set them free. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far — but I certainly would advocate a move toward rehabilitation and away from retribution.

    And I cannot approve the death penalty any more than I can approve abortion.

  78. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Steed, I appreciate your refusal to use inflammatory and inflated rhetoric. I hope my future comments can have as much calm restraint as yours.

  79. ECS on January 23, 2008 at 11:12 am

    The talk by Elder Nelson is fairly well balanced and instructive. (where did the link to the talk go, Adam?) Significantly, he points out that abortion may be necessary to preserve the health of the mother. And he states that abortion should be available for rape victims. Because he acknowledges these exceptions, Elder Nelson’s position, and the Church’s position, is pro-choice. Which answers Kaimi’s original question.

    Elder Nelson falls short, however, in presenting examples of troubled pregnancies that ultimately resulted in healthy babies (i.e., the “Browns” and Beethoven’s mother). Not all pregnancies end this happily, and the Church recognizes this by allowing for the abortion of babies with severe disabilities.

  80. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Even if we assumed that killing murderers after trial was the equivalent of killing innocent life, you still have the numbers to deal with. You just can’t hypothesize away 40 million versus a few hundred.

  81. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 11:17 am

    ECS,
    –The church does not “allow for the abortion of babies with severe disabilities.” What the Church says is that there is possibly an exception with respect to babies where “a competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth,” and that individual members will have to find out for themselves. These are not the same. And I don’t see what right you have to judge Elder Nelson’s talk.
    –If your version of being pro-choice is that you oppose the abortion license except in cases of rape, incest, serious jeopardy to life and health, etc., then awesome!

  82. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I think the spirit has inhabited the body. The child is in the same position it would be if it had died anytime before the age of accountability

    You think the spirit inhabits the body at conception? Hmmm. So you’re just reaching out to take a stance that the Church has refused to take for over a century?

    The vast — vast — majority of abortions occur in the first trimester. I’m not at all convinced that the spirit has inhabited the body at that point. In fact, all that I know and believe tells me that it almost surely has not. (I do not, for example, believe that a miscarriage at 6 weeks equals a “death in the family.” Apparently you do — but you would have to admit that you’re far from the norm on that point.)

    I’m with you when it comes to babies that are viable outside the womb. (Though I don’t think that “viable” includes those who can live only thanks to the use of extensive medical technological advances — I mean naturally viable.) I think that externally viable fetuses have become little humans, and killing them is wrong, and about as close to murder as you can get. But I’m not sure where the line is between these two conditions (pre-human and little human).

    And I still think the goal should be to reduce abortions — and I think your approach is counter-productive.

  83. Adam Greenwood on January 23, 2008 at 11:24 am

    So you’re just reaching out to take a stance that the Church has refused to take for over a century?

    If you think that life does *not* begin at conception you are also taking a stance that the Church has refused to take. Not taking a position is not the same as taking a position. A is A. A is not not A.

    I’m with you when it comes to babies that are viable outside the womb. (Though I don’t think that “viable” includes those who can live only thanks to the use of extensive medical technological advances — I mean naturally viable.) I think that externally viable fetuses have become little humans, and killing them is wrong, and about as close to murder as you can get. But I’m not sure where the line is between these two conditions (pre-human and little human).

    Excellent.

  84. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 11:35 am

    The numbers shouldn’t matter when judging the rightness or wrongness of the act. Invoking the “40 million” number over and over again is one of your rhetorical flourishes. (All the pro-lifers do it.) But if the act is wrong, it’s wrong when done only once.

    You seem to want to diminish the importance of the death penalty issue because it doesn’t get implemented very often (relative to abortions). And conversely you want to inflate the importance of abortion because of its frequency.

    But a first-trimester abortion is relatively painless and non-intrusive. Indeed, these days it can be done by taking a pill — like taking an aspirin. And the fetus feels nothing — it has no consciousness whereby “feeling” is possible. And (in my opinion) it is not yet a human/person — the spirit has not yet inhabited the body, and will have another opportunity to do so.

    By contrast, the death penalty — no matter how it is applied — is a cruel and tortuous procedure. Even if the imposed death itself is physically painless (which it seldom is), there is significant mental and emotional anguish imposed on the person in the lead-up to the execution. Then their life is ended, and whatever opportunity they might have had to repent, to make good, to “progress” on this earth, is likewise ended.

    I think the NATURE of the act (which I attempt to describe above) is far more important to determining the rightness or wrongness of it than the number of times it is performed.

  85. Nat C. on January 23, 2008 at 11:35 am

    If we accept the church\’s position on abortion — especially the \”rare\” circumstances under which it is permissible — then we cannot logically be anti-abortion under the generally accepted meaning of the term because to do so would be to shut the door completely, thereby making it impossible to have an abortion even under the \”rare\” circumstances the church says are acceptable. It would not matter what an LDS physician believed was best for his or her patient; it would not matter what that person\’s church leaders thought. Neither the pregnant woman\’s physical condition nor her mental or emotional state would matter. There would be no abortions, anywhere, under any circumstances, period. So, to Mormons who support the church\’s position, the door must necessarily remain open, if only a little bit. The court, by getting so far ahead of society, really put us all in a box. But instead of trying to figure out how to get out of the box, many if not most Democrats reflexively defend abortion and do not want it challenged or limited under any circumstances. Many Republicans, on the other hand, seem more interested in using abortion as an issue with which to bash Democrats than as an issue that must be dealt with. Can anyone name a Republican president of the last 30 years who actually tried to do something to limit abortion? Mormons will believe what they will believe, they will do what they will do, but if we really accept the church\’s position we should be working to make abortion rare but not absolutely under any circumstances forbidden. How can we do otherwise?

  86. ECS on January 23, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Adam, thanks for the clarification on the Church’s position regarding a child with serious disabilities.

    Most Americans are pro-choice, meaning that they believe women should be able to choose abortion in certain circumstances. Once you recognize these circumstances exist, which the Church does, then you’re pro-choice. Contrast this with the Roman Catholic Church’s position on abortion, which does not recognize any circumstances that would warrant a righteous abortion.

  87. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Don’t equivocate, Adam. Saying “life” begins at conception is not the same as saying “the spirit inhabits the body” at conception.

    A sperm is “life.” Even before it reaches the egg. Biologically speaking, the cells scraped from inside my cheek are “life.”

    Yes, Church leaders have stated clearly that “human life begins at conception.” But they have also stated, just as clearly, that the Church has no official position on when the spirit enters the body. Clearly, “life” and “when the spirit enters the body” are not the same thing.

    You can’t possibly believe that “taking life” in the literal sense is equivalent to murder. If you did, then you would believe masturbation to be “like unto murder,” as it involves the expenditure of spermatozoa — to their certain doom. I must assume that by “taking life” we are referring to “ending the life of a human.” In my book, a “human” must at the very least refer to a united spirit and body. Some would say there must be consciousness. Some would say they must be outside the womb — separate as an individual entity. Maybe so. But at the very least, I think the spirit and body must be united for a “human” to come into being. Before that, it can only be a potential human, at best.

    And you can’t say that ending potential human life is equivalent to murder — or we’re back to the sperm problem….

  88. ECS on January 23, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Every sperm is sacred, Jason.

    You gotta give the Catholics props for consistency. No death penalty, no abortion.

  89. Kathryn Lynard Soper on January 23, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Jason (84), first-trimester abortion can be quite intrusive. Forcing the cervix open and sucking out the embryo with a vacuum=intrusive. And if the embryo can move, and has a beating heart, (both of which begin around week 7, and surgical abortions aren’t performed until at least week 6), how can we assume it cannot feel pain?

    Regardless–people can be killed in painless ways. That doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.

    But I, too, am frustrated by the way these debates quickly polarize. Taking a morning-after pill and dismembering a 24-week-old fetus are not the same thing, and as long as both sides insist on lumping these acts together, we’re never going to get anywhere.

  90. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Every sperm is sacred, Jason.

    You made me laugh. Well done. I actually agree — but only in the general sense that I believe everything is sacred.

    if the embryo can move, and has a beating heart, (both of which begin around week 7, and surgical abortions aren’t performed until at least week 6), how can we assume it cannot feel pain?

    This is a difficult question. Depends on what you mean by “feel pain.” If by “feel” you mean “nerve endings produce a stimulus to the brain,” then that’s not going to start happening until roughly week 20, or maybe later, so far as I can tell. (I’m no doctor, but see this: http://www.pregnancy.org/pregnancy/fetaldevelopment2.php)

    If by “feel” you refer to the mental reaction we have to physical stimuli (e.g., we describe a particular stimulus as “painful”), then I’d say we don’t have that until we have a kind of consciousness with which to recognize and process those reactions. I don’t think that’s coming until much later. Do you?

    Yes, an abortion CAN be very intrusive — particularly the longer you wait. But many first-trimester abortions are not, and especially with the pill I mentioned. And I don’t think there need be any concern for fetal pain during the first trimester — and perhaps well into the second, and even beyond (depending on what we mean by it).

    I should note, though, that I’m not trying to diminish the wrongness of the act. Just trying to cast it in a more realistic light (counter to the inflated rhetoric that often gets bandied about).

  91. Brad Kramer on January 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    “I don’t think its right to do that kind of utilitarian cost-balancing to decide whether someone gets to live or not. But if you do do it, there’s not reason to limit it to the unborn.”

    That’s a pretty principled position. Are you willing to carry it into war-and-peace, collateral-damage, peace-through-strength considerations as well? There is a reason to limit it to the unborn in my view. The relationship of dependency between the unborn and the mothers, whose potentially compromised rights and legal status is in question, is unique in human experience. Don’t equate my reasoning with Singer’s. I’m not making ethical-utilitarian arguments for the moral justification of elective abortion. I’m making political-utilitarian arguments against criminalizing it.

  92. Perry Shumway on January 23, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    A number of prominent social conservatives have called for an amendment to ban all abortions in the USA, on the grounds that abortion is essentially the murder of an unborn fetus. We already have laws against murder. It seems that if society were to define abortion as murder, we’d have to also concede that it is first degree and premeditated. Most participants don’t commit abortions in the passion of the moment; rather, it’s a deliberate, planned (in cold blood?) activity. Hence, if it is murder, then the corresponding consequence in many US states should be capital punishment, correct? I’m not sure that even the most staunch pro-lifer on this board would be willing to accept laws calling for the doctors, pregnant mothers, and other accomplices to be sent to death row for having helped commit an abortion. Maybe you would; I could be wrong?

    Likewise, the Church could simply choose to define life as beginning at conception; the Catholics did this long ago. We haven’t. Why not?

    Further, as others have noted above, the labels in this debate (pro life versus pro choice) have come to mean different things to different people. Elder Oaks says we should all clearly be pro life. We all are! No one, at least on this board, rejoices when someone we know has an abortion. If Elder Oaks’ meaning was that we all should consistently support every anti-abortion law that comes along, he would have made that very important distinction clear. He did not. Indeed, if it were “clearly” the case that all LDS members could not in good conscience support laws (or judicial rulings) giving women the right to choose to have abortions, the Church would certainly have said so. It has not. In fact, quite the opposite, as noted above. The Church takes no stance on any legislation, proposed or actual, relating to abortion. Why not? Obviously, the issue is not as black and white as some would like it to be.

    This is the inner Pharisee in each of us, the person who wants his Church participation to be easily and clearly defined, so he doesn’t have to think too hard about any particular commandment. My inner Pharisee wants nothing more than a long list of dos and don’ts, in which everything is spelled out and I never have to do any personal soul searching or make any effort other than that required to comply with the items on the list. Without the spirit of the law, the letter is dead. Legalization of abortion, like so many other things, is not something with a clearly applicable one-size-fits-all answer for all Church members. God wants nothing more than for each of us to have to struggle, to make a mighty effort, to wrestle and study and ponder and finally come to grips with our own views on topics like this one. It’s not meant to be clear or easy or obvious.

    Having said all of this, I will say that personally, I think Roe vs. Wade is an abomination and can’t wait for the day when a majority in the Supreme Court will finally and victoriously throw it out with the bath water. But I have great respect for my LDS brothers and sisters who take a different view, who have studied the issue like I have, and who have arrived at different conclusions. I might debate with them on their assumptions and derivations, but I’ll never accuse them of being mindless Pharisees.

  93. Josh Smith on January 23, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    What about the morning-after blog? Does a faithful Mormon continue blogging when a thread already a day old?

    It looks like the language we use in this debate clutters the positions and there is probably a lot of overlap in the various positions. I’m not ambitious enough to set out definitions.

    On my way home from work I thought about leaving abortion as a pragmatic policy decision–a cost-benefit analysis. I really sympathize with the bloggers that suggest that there are situations where abortion must be allowed because of the benefits to the mother, and even the unborn (i.e. when the fetus is not going to survive). I also believe that abortion is morally evil; it undercuts a reverence for human life in ways that future generations will find repugnant (I hope). Abortion carries a significant moral cost.

    My concern about cost-benefit approach is where it will take us in ten years. Right now we have tests for down syndrome. In ten years I think we’ll have tests for a number of factors: temperament, intelligence, physical appearance, cancer, etc. In ten to twenty years we will have the technology to pick children according to the values of a particular generation. Characteristics we consider “good” will be benefits, and traits we consider “bad” will be costs. The cost-benefit approach could streamline how we produce humans.

    Yes there are situations when the benefits seem to outweigh the costs: rape, incest, life of the mother. But we have to find a more principled approach than weighing costs and benefits. The slope is too slippery.

  94. Kathryn Lynard Soper on January 23, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Jason, I understand your intent. But I’m very wary of any abortion rhetoric that uses the no-pain argument.

    I’ve seen a 24-week-old fetus in an NICU incubator. I’ve met a one-year-old that was born at 24 weeks. And I believe that any developing human with all its parts (I’d have to check, but I believe this is around week 18) deserves all the rights afforded to 40-week-old fetuses.

  95. Perry Shumway on January 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Likewise, the Church could simply choose to define life as beginning at conception; the Catholics did this long ago. We haven’t. Why not?

    Oops. I meant to say the Church could simply choose to define the point at which the spirit enters the body as beginning at conception. Sorry. My goof.

  96. bbell on January 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Somehow many pro-choice type LDS bloggers seem to think that the LDS Church is somehow a pro-choice organization or teaches a pro-choice theology. It amazes me that this feeling persists in light of repeated teachings against abortion in Church publications and from the pulpit at GC

    I offer up the following for consideration

    1. elective abortion for Birth Control or convenience represents about96-98% of abortions. Those involved in such abortions stand at risk of losing church membership. Some grey are in the final 2-4% does not make the LDS position a pro-choice one.

    2. Generally speaking when you examine the politics of abortion the LDS are considered Pro-Life.

  97. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Kathryn (#94) -
    I don’t mean to use “no pain” as an argument in favor of abortion, or even in favor of pro-choice laws. I brought up the issue of pain in comparing abortion to the death penalty. Whether the fetus feels pain is not really among my principle considerations when I am determining the rightness or wrongness of abortion. I do think it is somewhat relevant, though, to a discussion of whether the fetus is “human,” and of what the severity of the wrongness of the act might be.

    bbell (#96) -
    This all goes to definitions. If by “pro-choice” you mean “abortions of convenience, or abortions for any reason, should be allowed,” then you are correct to say that the Church is not pro-choice. But if by “pro-choice” you mean “women should have the right to an abortion” or “the govt should not be able to dictate to women whether or not they can have an abortion,” then I’m afraid you’re wrong — the Church’s stance is clearly pro-choice in this regard, or is at least receptive to the pro-choice position, as it clearly allows for times where a woman can choose to get an abortion.

    I suspect that all pro-choice Mormons use “pro-choice” in the latter sense — and, in fact, it is my experience that many, many non-Mormon pro-choicers use it in this latter sense, too. Most pro-choicers that I know (and I know a lot, given the circles I run in) are concerned about the basic right (freedom from govt restriction) to an abortion. This is different from advocating for the moral rightness, or even the amorality, of abortion.

    For example, most of us agree that fornication is morally wrong, I suspect. And adultery. But I think many of us would be uncomfortable with legally proscribing fornication and adultery. Such govt intrusion on the free choice of individuals is distasteful to most of us. It is in this sense, I think, that many pro-choicers are opposed to govt restrictions on abortion. It’s not that they think the behavior is good — it’s that they think their choice in the matter outweighs the govt interest in restricting their behavior.

    And you can’t really rely solely on the notion that we should outlaw abortion because of the harm it does — certainly one can make the case that adultery does far more harm, extended out over many people and even perhaps over generations, than a first-trimester abortion can do.

    Obviously, these are complex questions and issues. Taking the hardline pro-life stance, and all the heightened rhetoric that goes with it, is far too simplistic and reductive as an approach.

  98. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Actually, after some thought, I would revise my previous post slightly (#97). I think the Church’s stance on the morality of abortion — particularly the immorality of abortions of convenience — actually has nothing to do whatsoever with a stance that is “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” This is because the Church’s stance is a decidedly moral one, and not a legal one.

    As we use the terms in this country, “pro-choice” and “pro-life” refer almost invariably to the legal status of abortion — whether it ought to be legally available or legally restricted or prohibited. The debate over abortion is largely a legal debate.

    Granted, morality is a driving force in this debate — for BOTH sides — so the Church’s statements and stance are relevant to the discussion. But “pro-lifers” are wrong to claim that the Church is pro-life in its condemnation of abortion, because the Church stakes no claim on what the legal status of abortion ought to be. Condemning an act as immoral is not tantamount to advocating that it ought to be illegal. (The adultery example leaps to mind here — the Church condemns adultery far more often than it bothers to condemn abortion, yet there is no suggestion or assumption that this equates to advocating for a legal ban on adultery.)

    Likewise, “pro-choicers” are wrong to claim that the Church is pro-choice in its allowance for abortions in some cases, because again the Church stakes no claim on the legal status of abortion. Its statements merely allow for the possibility that abortions in some circumstances may not entail moral culpability. This is not the same as saying they ought (or ought not) to be legal.

    Both sides will, of course, continue to try to use the Church’s statements and other moral arguments to bolster their legal arguments. But careful thinkers should recognize that the moral debate and the legal debate are separate.

    Personally, I think there are many, many valid and compelling legal (and public policy) arguments in favor of leaving some right to abortion intact, and against govt restrictions on individual choice. Making the moral case against abortion (as most “pro-lifers” tend to do) only works if you’re willing to also make the case for bringing laws in general in line with our sense of morality. I don’t think many “pro-lifers” are actually willing to do that.

  99. Mark B. on January 23, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    That the Church counsels strongly against abortion is clear, and I can’t see how there can be any argument on that issue.

    That the leaders strongly discourage abortion, but acknowledge that an abortion may be performed in certain circumstances, shows clearly that they are pro choice.

    What purpose would there be for the policy that admits that abortion is the right decision in certain difficult situations if those women were barred by law from obtaining an abortion?

    That doesn’t mean that the Church is pro-abortion. But, I’m willing to bet that the Church would support abortion legislation that permitted abortion in the circumstances described in the CHI. On the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned, and the legislatures of the states begin debate on new abortion laws, look for Utah’s law to permit abortion in limited circumstances that mirror the Church’s policy. (Although I can’t think of a way that even the Utah legislature could work in a “counseled with spiritual leaders, prayed and received divine confirmation” requirement into the statute.)

  100. Adam on January 23, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    re: #82

    Jason, I saw a Church video prepared for the visitors center in Mesa that backs up your statement that the Spirit does not enter the body at conception. In the video, a young father and mother are holding their newborn child and the father says something like “Isn’t it amazing that just yesterday he was with our Father?” Now, I know this is just a video, but the Twelve scrutinize these official videos before releasing them.

    I have also heard (never seen an authoritative source) that the Spirit might go back and forth…

    Abortion aside, what is the doctrine? Any sources?

  101. Brad Kramer on January 23, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve been thinking a lot about why Adam and I are talking past each other (like so many on opposing sides of this issue). I must concede that he is right on several points as well regarding how abortion politics conjugates with LDS policy/theology. The Church’s not taking a position on when life begins is not the same as taking a position that it does not begin at conception. When life begins is a decision that is left to us to make given the light we have. And, saying that abortions are justifiable under certain circumstances does not mean that they are automatically justified under those circumstances. In other words: a) it is possible that life does really begin at conception, AND b) abortion is at least potentially justifiable under a series of extenuating circumstances. However, it seems rather unlikely that both can be simultaneously true. Taking the position that fully fledged human life — with all it entails morally, ethically, and politically — begins with the fertilization of an egg is manifestly inconsistent with the position that abortion could be justified in, say, the case of rape. In that case, it would be no more justified to kill an unborn child who was the product of a rape than it would to kill a 6 month old child who was the product of a rape. And killing an unborn with severe congenital defects that would prevent her from surviving beyond birth is no more potentially justifiable than killing a 6 month old with no chance of surviving beyond 9 months. The hard-line right-to-life position — no abortions period except when the life of the mother is severely and unquestionably threatened — is far, far more ethically consistent than saying that abortion is murder but allowing for all the potential exceptions articulated in LDS policy.

    Stepping back a bit, it actually makes perfect sense. Adam has always spoken with moral outrage about this issue in a manner that bespeaks his belief that the unborn are human beings. To those for whom the fully and completely human status of the unborn is axiomatic, my going on and on about balancing rights and undue burdens and problematic enforcement mechanisms likely seems ridiculous, straining at the proverbial gnat.

    I’ll reiterate here what I wrote on the blog that shall not be named. Maybe this makes me a horrible person, or simply the byproduct of a post-Roe culture that devalues human life. But as much as I find elective abortion ethically deplorable, I simply cannot equate the life of an unborn child with the life of a living (born) child. If I was running out of a burning building and had the chance to save either a freezer with, say 40 million frozen fertilized embryos or a single living child, I wouldn’t have to think about that decision for even a second. Or, perhaps a more relevant example, if in the same circumstance I had to choose between a brain-dead mother being kept on life support until her unborn baby reached full term and a living child (or even if it was 20 such mother/unborn-baby pairs), I might think a bit more about it, but I would absolutely save the single living child. I know that calling the child a “living child” seems to semantically relegate the unborn child to the realm of the “non-living” but I guess that’s a distinction, at least for the purposes this particular thought experiment, that I’m comfortable making. For me, the full and equal human status of the unborn does not have axiomatic status. That doesn’t mean I consider them to be lifeless, meaningless cell clusters, but it does mean that I’m uncomfortable conferring upon them full legal, rights-bearing, human status given the implications for the legal status of pregnant or potentially pregnant women.

  102. Aaron Brown on January 23, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Frankly, I’ve never understood the passion that is brought to this specific question. Is it “OK to be a pro-choice Mormon”? Well, if we were asked in the temple recommend interview process what our views on the legality of abortion are, the question would become interesting. If we were told we needed to vote a certain way as Churchmembers (read: for a Republican, or more specifically, for a Republican who promises to appoint judges that would likely overturn Roe), the question would become interesting. But absent either of those scenarios, why would anyone argue that other Churchmembers MUST hold such-and-such a position as to what an ideal legal regime would be with respect to abortion? Why would they argue this when everyone essentially acknowledges that there are no necessary affirmative duties that accompany the “MUST”?

    Debating the morality or legality of abortion is interesting and important, to be sure. But whenever the question is framed this way, as it very often is, I’m left scratching my head.

    Aaron B

  103. Brad Kramer on January 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Oh, and Adam #60,
    I’m not equating abortion with property regulation substantively. I was only pointing out that they are questions of public policy made in the public policy sphere — i.e. that the question with which this thread began was not “can faithful LDS be pro-abortion” but “can they be pro-choice”.

  104. Scott on January 23, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    # 102. I agree aaron. It seems like this question is a variation of \”is it ok to be a mormon and a democrat?\”

  105. Jason Steed on January 23, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Adam (#100) -
    So far as I know there is no established doctrine regarding the time when the spirit enters the body. I suspect — and this is purely personal conjecture — that this is because there is no specific time when the spirit enters the body. In other words, perhaps it varies. Women report feeling the “flutter” in the womb at different stages of their pregnancies. Could this indicate “life” in the sense of spirit-body unity? Who knows. But supposing it might, the fact that it occurs at different times for different women, and even at different times for different pregnancies of the same woman, suggests that “development” occurs at differing pace from pregnancy to pregnancy — and the coming together of spirit and body are certainly part of “development.”

    I also have heard it’s possible that the spirit comes and goes. I’m skeptical of that, but not closed to the idea.

    Bottom line: we don’t know. And the Church hasn’t said. And this undermines some of the “pro-lifer” arguments, in my opinion.

  106. Aaron on January 23, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Here is an interview with a doctor who used to perform abortions and switched over to a “Pro-life” stance. http://www.oneplace.com/Ministries/Focus_on_the_Family/Archives.asp?bcd=2008-1-21

    It also provides a good perspective on what the Evangelicals believe about abortion and why.

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

  107. Aaron on January 23, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Here’s another interview with a girl who was raped and got pregnant and what she had to go through: http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/Hope_for_the_Heart/

    This also provides an Evangelical perspective to abortion. Maybe this can help those of us who aren’t sure where we stand as Latter Day Saints.

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

  108. Carlos on January 23, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    #68 “Or you could oppose abortion except in cases in rape, incest, etc. Crazy, but it just might work.”
    Comment by Adam Greenwood

    Adam -if the baptist & catholics do get majority and ban abortions they will outlaw all abortions including abortions done due to rape & incest.

    But note that the First Presidency permits abortion if the ‘health’ of the mother is at risk not only in life or death situations (lds.org) And health would include emotional health surely, such as in the case of a physically healthy 19 yold college student who is pregnant, alone and considering suicide. If the pro-lifers do get their agenda through, even partly, that 19 can’t go anywhere to get an abortion. Or does she have one done by the next door lady using knitting needles?

    If the pro-choice people continue to win this argument then at least a safe abortion is available for the women, lds women, who need it and meet the criteria set by the first presidency, who can then live to recover from this difficult process and later on form a family and so on.

  109. sg on January 23, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Death penalty cannot seriously be compared to abortion. The death penalty is used to deter/punish criminals. If you have read the Book of Mormon, you would know that the Lord justifies such killing (Laban for one; Moroni compelling the kingmen ot defend their liberty or be put to death under the law – a law he enforced by the sword Alma 51:9). Killing a criminal is just not on the same as killing an innocent baby.

    I wish I had more time to post, but suffice it to say that I agree with everything Adam Greenwood has said.

  110. Latter-day Guy on January 24, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Jason, given the admitted uncertainty regarding the beginning of life, why does it seem like you are more willing to side against caution? Also, your assertions regarding \”consciousness,\” or the lack of it (#84), seem pretty certain, so which is it? Do you have an inside track, or are you just guessing? Considering the issue is such a serious one theologically, don\’t you think that your decision ought to be based on more than a guess?

    Planned Parenthood––because I\’m all out of hangers!

  111. Brad Kramer on January 24, 2008 at 12:57 am

    That’s a profoundly nuanced analysis, sg. I feel slighted that you lack the time to share more.

  112. Jason Steed on January 24, 2008 at 1:51 am

    sg (#109) -
    First, the death penalty was not being directly compared to abortion. I think the point was that, if pro-lifers oppose abortion because “life is sacred,” then why does the “life is sacred” rationale get tossed aside when it comes to the death penalty. In other words, the death penalty was brought up to question the basis for taking a particular stance on abortion — to ask why that basis evaporates when confronted with a different issue — it was not about comparing those different issues to one another. The point was this: If we shouldn’t kill a fetus because life is inherently, fundamentally sacred, then how can we justify killing an adult? There are certainly differences between killing a criminal and killing a baby — but those are differences in motivation (why you’re killing) — and the principle that life is inherently, fundamentally sacred would appear to disregard those differences, making the killing itself (regardless of motivation) inherently, fundamentally wrong. If you want to say that killing is okay in some circumstances (i.e., for some motivations, but not others), then you have to give up the “life is sacred” rationale for opposing abortion. Bottom line: Nobody said that “killing a criminal is the same as killing an innocent baby.”

    Second, Laban was NOT a “death penalty” case. He was not killed as punishment for a crime. He was killed as a means to accomplishing an end (the escape from Jerusalem with the brass plates in hand). Any attempt to read the Laban story as a “death penalty” case is way off, in my opinion. Yes, God commanded Nephi to kill Laban — thus, God saw killing in this instance as justified. But this is NOT the same as, and does not substantiate, the claim that God justifies the death penalty as a standing social policy. Moreover, Moroni’s compulsion of the kingmen to act was also NOT equivalent to the “death penalty” — and I see no reason to assume that just because Moroni enacted such a policy it must be “justified” by God. Isn’t it possible that Moroni acted of his own accord here? I don’t recall God commanding him to enact this policy, or approving it in any explicit way…. There are, of course, ways to use the scriptures to justify or defend the death penalty. But that’s not saying much. There are ways to use the scriptures to justify or defend lots of things…. Personally, I think the best reading of what Christ taught entails an extreme discomfort with the death penalty, and a strong preference for forgiveness, repentance, rehabilitation, etc. — as opposed to retribution and punishment and imposed death.

    Latter-day Guy (#110) -
    You ask me: why does it seem like you are more willing to side against caution?
    I’m not sure what you mean here. Before I try to answer, can you clarify?

    Also, you ask about a fetus’s “consciousness,” and whether I’m “guessing” or not in my assertion that a fetus has none. Seriously? I mean, are you going to suggest that a fetus/baby in the womb has consciousness? No, I don’t have any inside track here — but I am confident of my assertion. I think the best of our scientific and psychological knowledge would back me up in the claim that a first-trimester fetus does not have consciousness. I’m not even sure a newborn baby has it — though I am sure it begins immediately to develop, as the baby begins to experience the physical world and to interact with other persons and objects.

    You suggest my “decision” ought to be based on more than a “guess.” What decision?

  113. Latter-day Guy on January 24, 2008 at 2:45 am

    #112

    Because there is no clear definition regarding when a fetus is “alive” and when it should be considered a “person”, it would seem wise to assume that it takes place earlier rather than later… that is, unless you don’t have a problem killing someone who has reached, by your definition, the status of “person.” To do otherwise would be to “side against caution.” In other words, we give the benefit to the fetus of defining him/her as alive earlier to ensure we don’t destroy life. (Hope that’s a bit clearer.)

    I am assuming that by “consciousness” you mean “self awareness,” yes? (Your last comment clarified this. I was unclear earlier as to what you meant.) If that is your defining line, then how late is it prudent to terminate “life” (loosely defined)? I don’t imagine that passing through the birth canal has an instant effect regarding this. If abortion shortly before birth is permissible, what about a few minutes following birth? A few hours? Days? We all draw lines. The difference is largely a matter of where we place them.

    Your decision on the issue, was what I meant; deciding where you stand. Or, if you prefer, a hypothetical decision regarding a hypothetical pregnancy/abortion. I say “guess” because we don’t really have a way of measuring the presence of a spirit in a fetus. Any position taken must therefore hinge to some extent on guessing when life begins, which leads us back to the initial question regarding caution.

  114. Jason Steed on January 24, 2008 at 3:24 am

    I think you’ve misunderstood the purposes of some of the points or claims I’ve made in previous posts. I have not, for example, offered the lack of consciousness as a reason for allowing abortion. I believe I brought it up as one of several things that might distinguish the victim of abortion from the victim of the death penalty. In other words, one might say, “If abortion is wrong and it involves the killing of a fetus that has no consciousness and can’t feel pain, etc., then what about the death penalty, which involves the killing of an adult who does feel pain and is conscious of what is occurring?” This is the basic context in which the question of consciousness arose. I didn’t mean to suggest that the consciousness of the fetus (or lack thereof) should be a principal basis for deciding one’s stance on abortion.

    You’re right: it’s all about where to draw the line. But allow me to clarify my position by basically reiterating what I said in my very first comment to this thread. I think abortion is morally wrong, and I would like to see the number of abortions drastically reduced. But I do not think legal bans on abortion are the best means for accomplishing this goal. (And, as noted, I think the immorality of abortion does not necessitate the illegality of abortion.) I believe enacting policies that seek to increase education and social awareness (especially among adolescents), to eradicate poverty, to provide decent healthcare, to encourage adoption and good use of birth control, etc. — these are the means that will most effectively reduce abortions. Slapping a legal ban on something for which there is a high demand has never worked (cf. drugs, alcohol, illegal immigrants, etc.). The answer is to come up with ways to lower the demand.

    As for the whole “erring on the side of caution”…your argument here seems to consider only the possibility of ending a “human” life. What about the reality of impinging on the woman who is carrying that possible “human” life? Seems to me that we ought to be cautious about requiring (by govt force) a woman to endure 9 months of unwanted physical strain and hardship, no? Like I said, I think abortion is morally wrong — but I’m uncomfortable with imposing legal bans when it’s likely that there isn’t actual “human” life involved (at least in the first six weeks or so), and it’s certain that the ban will have an adverse effect on the woman. I’d like to be at least as cautious about restricting a person’s freedom to choose as I am about “taking the life” of a zygote.

  115. gecko on January 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Intersting (and sensitive) topic.

    Prior to being active in the church, I was Pro-Choice. Now I’m an active member, and I’m still Pro-Choice.

    Personally I think abortion is wrong, but I think everyone has the right to make the decision whether or not abortion is right or wrong for them.

  116. Joel on January 25, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I just wanted to point out that the Church never portrays personal choice based abortion as permissible. The exceptions given (i.e. rape, incest, and the health of the mother) always involve situations where the agency of the mother has been compromised out of no fault of her own. Unwanted pregnancy is always the consequence of exercised agency (sexual intercourse). Thus, in a purely moral sense I believe that personal choice is made before conception can even occur. This is something that we as members all know.

    If a legal pro-choice position means that medically safe abortions must be available in certain circumstances, than I think most members of the church using this legal definition would probably agree with the pro-choice position.

    The problem occurs because many people believe that the moral reasons for an abortions should be defined much more broadly (i.e. the comfort and happiness of the Mother). Thus, for these persons the legal pro-choice position means not only the theoretical availability of safe abortions for cases in which the agency of mothers has been compromised, but also expands those circumstances under which abortion can be justified. What I am trying to argue is that there are many legal pro-choice positions of which the Mormon outlook is only one.

    In the political realm, the pro-choice label is used as a blanket identifier for many of the various possible pro-choice legal positions which creates a tone of ambiguity about whether a Mormon can politically espouse the pro-choice position. The pro-life political label also can refer to a variety of legal and moral philosophies. Although these political labels are purposefully ambiguous, individuals often interpret these political positions using their own moral or legal lens instead of finding out what this referent really means to a particular candidate or party. I think that arguments can be made that Mormons can be either pro-choice or pro-life, but that it depends on which of the various moral, legal, or political positions to which you are referring.

  117. HappyBack on January 26, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Most Pro-Choice members I have met are far more concerned with being seen as anti-establishment members than they are with their political viewpoint. In other words, when their pro-choice stance is challenged, rather than argue the merits of their stance, they launch into the \”IN MY TEMPLE RECOMMEND INTERVIEW MY BISHOP DOESN\’T ASK ME MY POLITICAL VIEWPOINT!\” mode. Fine, fine, you\’re not voting for Mitt or Orson, that\’s swell. Me neither. Can you get back to the point at hand?

  118. Jaime on January 26, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I am a faithful Mormon woman, and I\’m also very adamantly pro-choice. I grew up in a very conservative household, so I have only arrived at this conviction after some serious soul-searching and internal debate. I believe abortion is a terrible, tragic occurence, but only under very, VERY limited circumstances do I think the government should proscribe it as an option for women. (I\’m disappointed that this thread has had such sparse input from women so far, being that we are the only ones for whom abortion should ever be a potential decision anyway.)

    I think too often as Mormons we hear the phrase \”elective abortion\” and we picture ambitious career women (with all the negative connotations associated with that image in Mormon culture) who are necessarily callous and masculine and have no qualms about killing fetuses if it helps them stay on track in the corporate world. Personally, I think this image is a straw man–we condemn these women, but they mostly don\’t exist. Most women who get abortions are poor and poorly educated, and get them out of extreme desperation, not because they are somehow amoral, unfeeling creatures. I think the fact that most pro-life people (Mormon and non-Mormon) have this image in their minds reveals a persistent strain of misogyny in the larger American culture.

    There are plenty of circumstances where I could feel empathy for a woman who wanted an abortion even if it fell under the \”elective\” category. How about a woman stuck in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage to an alcoholic, who has three or four children already, who works full-time and then some but who can barely make ends meet, who gets pregnant only because her birth control pills fail? Technically, her decision to abort wouldn\’t be based on rape, incest, or a severe threat to her life, which are the only standards most Mormons view as acceptable. Maybe, though, she knows that another child would mean she wouldn\’t have enough money to pay the mortgage or buy groceries. Maybe another child would make it that much harder to leave her abusive husband and save her other children from his vicious temper. Maybe abortion seems like the lesser of two evils in her mind. The point is that I wouldn\’t want to take the option of a legal, safe abortion away from her. It\’s her body, it\’s her fetus, it\’s her future, it\’s her decision. Do I think we (both as a church and as a government) need to strengthen the social supports that women like her have available to enable them to choose otherwise? Absolutely. But ultimately it\’s the woman\’s decision.

    (Speaking of conservative hypocrisies, here\’s one I don\’t understand: Why do most people who want to make abortion unconditionally illegal also want to cut federal funding to impoverished women who are otherwise unable to support the children they would be forced to bear? If you believe in the sanctity of life so much, why abandon those children once they are born? A poor woman who chooses to have an abortion is a monster, but a poor woman who chooses to have a baby while on government assistance is a \”welfare queen\”? It just goes back to the underlying misogyny thing again….)

  119. Ray on January 26, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    “women . . . are the only ones for whom abortion should ever be a potential decision anyway.”

    I’ll finish reading the entire comment in a minute, but I can’t let that statement go unchallenged. To cut all husbands and fathers out of the entire decision-making process in all cases simply is wrong.

  120. Sheri Lynn on January 27, 2008 at 6:10 am

    I don’t know if I’m pro-choice or what given that I believe that defining murder is a right reserved to the states, and so this topic shouldn’t be in national politics at all. States should decide whether or not medically-induced abortion is legal within their boundaries or not. Organizations looking to change the law could then aim their efforts at those states in which their battle is lost.

    I personally will vote for strict standards on this…generally the same ones my church uses, allowing the procedure in some instances but banning abortions induced for convenience. I consider deliberately killing a viable fetus for reasons other than the health and safety of the mother to be absolutely wrong and that it is reasonable for states to put the unborn under equal protection.

    I think this topic distorts politics at the national level and that it absolutely doesn’t belong there, nor should federal tax dollars be given to research that results in the destruction of fertilized human eggs, embryos, fetuses, whatever. Whether or not such research is to be done needs to be regulated at the state level. That is my belief concerning the Constitution’s limitations of the role of the federal government.

    Maybe that’s a cop-out because I stand to benefit from this kind of research? The research will be done somewhere.

  121. Rick on January 31, 2008 at 2:42 am

    I was a good friend of one of President Spencer W. Kimball\’s grandsons while we were both at BYU back in 1970 or so. Several of us guys and dates were fortunate to be gathered in a home in SLC where President Kimball gave a fireside for us( he was at the time President of the quorum of the twelve ). I vividly remember one statement President Kimball made: \”abortion is the most damnable heresy in the world today\”. From a prophet of God can it be any clearer than that ! !

  122. Mark D. on January 31, 2008 at 3:50 am

    I think this topic distorts politics at the national level and that it absolutely doesn’t belong there

    The Supreme Court deserves all the credit for that.

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