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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Why Don’t Church Members Uphold Some Abortion Laws? » Why Don’t Church Members Uphold Some Abortion Laws?

Why Don’t Church Members Uphold Some Abortion Laws?

Rusty - December 9, 2005

I’m not too bright in many things. It often takes me a while to catch on to something everyone else understood a long time ago so I preface this post with that understanding… that I’m a bit slow. But I’ve had this nagging question to which I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer:

If there are cases in which the Church allows abortion (rape, incest, health of the mother, each coupled with personal revelation) why do we as a Mormon community reject any and every law supporting it? In other words, rather than attempting to make it completely illegal, why don’t we try to make it legal to perform abortions only in those (above) special cases? Shouldn’t we applaud the laws that allow those cases?

If I were a female who had been raped and had gone through the necessary steps (sufficient contemplation, approval by authority, personal revelation, etc.) and come to the decision that I should get an abortion, then wouldn’t it be a bad thing if it were completely illegal?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m with the Church on this one. I’m not for legalizing any abortion outside of the Church’s policy, but it seems that the general membership opines that abortion, in and of itself is morally wrong and should always be illegal. If the Church isn’t black & white on this issue why is the general membership? (Or do I have my fellow saints pegged wrongly?)

Am I missing something?


  1. Contrary to popular opinion, I’ve always found official LDS theology about abortion to be remarkably moderate — although some of the political prescriptions that have been derived from that theology are not.

    For instance, unlike most “pro-life” belief systems, our theology and practice make a distinction between murder and abortion. This is clear in the fact that even unauthorized abortion is a forgiveable sin in Mormonism, whereas murder by a church member is generally not.

    With respect to the authorized exceptions — rape, incest, and health of the mother — I hate the idea of a legal requirement that abortion be predicated on meeting one of these three conditions. Can you imagine forcing a woman who has been raped to convince a judge of that fact? Or to prove that her conception was in fact due to the rape and not to some other act of intercourse? How brutal would that be to a woman who has already suffered one of the worst crimes on God’s green earth?

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — December 9, 2005 @ 10:43 am

  2. RT,
    I agree with you, it would be terrible to make a person go through that, but what do you think is the optimal solution?

    Comment by Rusty — December 9, 2005 @ 11:47 am

  3. This gets to a larger issue, which is that many LDS think that civil law should simply be a mirror of their own understanding of the commandments. In many cases it makes sense to have a law that happens to be a commandment, but that law needs to be able to stand on its own logic.

    It seems to me that most of the time it is sufficient for Church members to simply live the commandments themselves and get others to do so through conversion rather than legislation.

    It was recently announced that Utah has the lowest drunk driving rate in the nation (Rhode Island has the highest in case you were wondering.) This isn’t because it is hard to get drunk in Utah. There are other states that have more restrictive liquor laws. Utah could have the most liberal liquor laws in the country and it would still have the lowest drunk driving rate.

    Comment by a random John — December 9, 2005 @ 11:52 am

  4. RT:

    Does out theology make the difference? Or how mortals carry it out? I think the inference you draw isn’t very robust; it is just as plausible that this is the only workable solution avail and that any revelatory answer has not as yet been given.

    Rusty: I’m not puzzled. As you point out, it _may_ be allowed in certain circumstances; but never encouraged. Why should members fight to make legal a practice that is only potentially theologically permissive?

    Comment by lyle — December 9, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

  5. Lyle,
    Because if it became completely illegal then those who were raped (or the other two reasons) wouldn’t be able to have it done. Then it puts us in the extremely awkward/difficult situation of having to come up with a moral answer to how we deal with those unfortunate situations (and not having abortion as an option).

    Of course it isn’t encouraged, how could the Church (or anyone for that matter) ENCOURAGE abortion?

    Comment by Rusty — December 9, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

  6. It would seem logical that members should work to get abortion laws changed to conform with accepted church direction.

    If we did so would we then be “pro abortion” or still be “anti abortion”. In this black and white world where we label everything and everybody it could put us in an awkward situation.

    Comment by don — December 9, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

  7. Don,

    Why is it that members should work to have laws conform to church standards? I can see that our faith can and should inform our political decisions but I don’t see why it should dictate the details of them.

    Comment by a random John — December 9, 2005 @ 1:54 pm

  8. ARJ,
    That’s a very good question. It could be a slippery slope though, couldn’t it? And how do you see the details being worked out? I mean, are you suggesting it’s best to legalize it (in all its forms) and do everything we can to not have to utilize it?

    Comment by Rusty — December 9, 2005 @ 2:17 pm

  9. I feel that there are excellent alternative routes to minimize the number of abortions, other than making the procedure illegal. Changing the adoption system to make that alternative more attractive might help. Setting up social support systems to make single parenthood a more attractive option would probably also help. Finally, increasing the availability of free birth control would almost certainly reduce the number of abortions.

    I think the social-policy goal with respect to abortion is clear from a theological and moral position: there should be almost no abortions. But the question of what policy mechanism to use in order to achieve that goal is wide open.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — December 9, 2005 @ 2:44 pm

  10. Maybe you have your fellow Saints mis-pegged. Or, maybe most of them have never thought about the issue.

    One problem with Roe v. Wade is that it forces public discourse on the question into an all-or-nothing, pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy.

    Most Americans (and I suppose most Mormons, despite appearances) find themselves somewhere between those two poles.

    I have run the hypothetical a few times myself: what if my daughter were raped, and a pregnancy resulted from it, and her fragile psyche was pushed near, or over the edge by the whole experience. After fasting, prayer, consultation (not approval, Rusty–it’s not written that way)with bishop, the decision is made to terminate the pregnancy. What then? Would she have to find a judge who agreed that the process she’d already gone through was legally sufficient? And what if he disagreed? We’d be off to a state that had more liberal laws.

    It’s enough to make one wish that the whole of the people could learn correct principles and govern themselves.

    Then we could dispense with abortion law (a blunt instrument at best) altogether, but the number of abortions would surely be a very small fraction of the current number.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 9, 2005 @ 3:34 pm

  11. (You’re right, Mark, it isn’t written that way (consultation vs. approval) and I didn’t really mean it that way either.)

    Comment by Rusty — December 9, 2005 @ 3:46 pm

  12. RT,
    Again, I agree with you, there are better ways to minimize abortion. I guess my question is why don’t we spend more political energy on these alternatives than on the pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy that Mark mentions? There are so many out there (Mormons and non-Mormons alike) for which there is only this one issue and none else.

    Like RT said above, our Church makes the distinction between murder and abortion, so why do we continue to hold (proverbial) signs saying abortion is murder?

    Comment by Rusty — December 9, 2005 @ 3:57 pm

  13. Most mormons that I know tend to view EVERYTHING in black and white absolutes (many of them have never heard of boggernacle). This comes from an iron rod approach being applied to everything instead of a liahona. Abortion, in my mind is one of those things that is generally wrong with a few rare exceptions. I would prefer teaching correct principles and letting people govern themselves. Morality is sometimes hard to legislate when there are legitamate exceptions.

    Comment by Eric — December 9, 2005 @ 5:22 pm

  14. I see nothing wrong with working polically to get laws in place that conform with the commandments and church policy. Why not? We have laws governing moral standards and conduct already, why wouldn’t we work to bring those to the level of the church.

    What are we going to do when Christ comes and governs the earth, whine about His laws not agreeing with the political climate of the day?

    I wouldn’t expect in our day that trying to get the laws of the land to conform with the standards of the church would succeed. But I do think we should be the voice declaring what God’s standards are and the benefits of living those standards…politically too!

    Comment by don — December 9, 2005 @ 5:27 pm

  15. In all my life I’ve always recieved the impression that members generally understand and readily accept the church’s policies and/or ideology on the issue.
    More on what don said, I don’t see any problem in pushing our ideology through into laws. The Nephite government had no problem doing it and they still gave everyone freedom of worship. As long as we do like ARJ talked about. We can say we want certian things done a certian way because God says it’s the way to do it. (of course that may not make it get passed)

    Comment by Bret — December 9, 2005 @ 5:44 pm

  16. I thought it happens quite often that we as members have VERY different “general opinions” from what the churches actualy policies are. For example how the general members feel about gays, or about men who dont/cant serve missions or get sent home from one. Theres all sorts of Offical Policies that the Church puts out that are different from the general members, but I think its due to our membership being widely conservitive with preimposed ideas, while the church makes the Policies for everyone, and then is viewed by the non-members. Like how we take the stand on Homosexuality so we dont apear to want to burn all gays at the stake when Ive met quite a few members who do…

    Comment by Bryce — December 9, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

  17. What’s the point on taking a position on U.S. abortion law, an issue removed from the democratic process long ago?

    Comment by Steve EM — December 10, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  18. All these comments are interesting, along with this subject (as well as touchy). It is important to remember that the church teaches us the rule Not the exception-which in this case would be to get an abortion because of rape, etc. and with the proper counseling and authority. Since this (the rule)is what is generally taught, it’s almost unavoidable that some of the LDS faith would think that the ‘rule’ is the only right way. Through these readings I sense a lot of bitterness and seemingly from bad experiences. Bryce, you seem particularly bitter. You seem to give off the notion that you did not go on a mission or (i am too bold, I know) are gay. Bad experiences?

    Comment by me — December 11, 2005 @ 3:55 am

  19. Don,

    Would you support a law to outlaw coffee? Why or why not?

    If church leaders haven’t commented on how mmebers should vote on a particular law or issue is the default to vote in favor of laws that conform to the commandments?

    I am unaware of church leaders asking us to take this as a default position. Please correct me if I am wrong. Given the lack of prophetic directive in this situation should members assume that the Lord wants them to vote to restrict others to live the commandments as Mormons understand them? Is this the case in all countries?

    Comment by a random John — December 12, 2005 @ 12:13 am

  20. A random John,
    I know I’m justing butting in here (as I am an unknown user and I have just starting using this site – I find it interesting), with what you asked Don, but I was flipping through channels once and caught a BYU devotional given by Elder Oaks. He was speaking of the the “weighter matters of the law” and spoke of abortion. He basically chastised everyone who was against it personally (because of their LDS faith), but still voted pro-choice because they didn’t want to impose their beliefs on everyone else. I actually got the talk from the internet. I can’t remember exactly where, but if you want to know I’ll look it up again and direct you.

    Comment by me — December 12, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

  21. Yes, you are right. I am bitter for the most part, and in most my posts on here I am the voice of the bitterly oppressed and/or pissed off member of the church who hasnt had some(well a lot) very goodly and “church-like” things happen to ‘em. I’ve had more expirence than I care to recall of things in the church members have been astonished to hear happen. Yet, it continues more and more as time passes and not just to me, but to a suprising number of members just like me.
    Now dont get me wrong, every member I have EVER talked to about these things has been sympathetic on an individual bassis, but as a mass, things still(and probably will) stay the same.
    I’d just like to(in my posts) express a different opinon of a member who has seen the church from an “ugly” side and to give my two cents standing from this side of the fence.
    Dont get me wrong, I have my testimony and have a great knowlege of who christ is for me and what his gosple means to me. I’ve just seen this church and its members do things that have lead me to the where I am today, and its a large and ignorant assumtion to make that I dont know what I am talking about.

    (Thread Hijacked)

    Comment by Bryce — December 13, 2005 @ 3:18 am

  22. me,

    How do you square this with the moderately pro-choice policy of the Church for its members that Rusty has brought up?

    Comment by a random John — December 13, 2005 @ 9:51 am

  23. A random John,
    I knew someone who was on the other side of what Rusty’s brought up. He was pro-choice and his logic was that the people could not really enforce when or not an abortion could be preformed. How would it be proven it was rape and not just the women forgetting to take her birthcontrol? Since he thought that the church’s policy could not be enforced properly, it shouldn’t be enforced at all. Rusty has brought up people who basically think the same thing, but choose to defend the other side. So, I don’t know. This is why this subject is constantly debated, even within the church.

    Comment by me — December 13, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

  24. Bryce,
    I was not trying to assume you didn’t know what you were talking about. I’m sorry if you read my inquires that way, it was not intended.

    Comment by me — December 13, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  25. No I didnt assume you did, just stating for the record.

    Comment by Bryce — December 13, 2005 @ 7:18 pm

  26. Bryce,
    I’m now overly curious as to what bitter experiences you’ve had. If you don’t feel inclinded to share, I completely understand (especially as this is a rather public bog site and all). But I would be interested if you felt comfortable.

    Comment by me — December 15, 2005 @ 2:16 am

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